Late Summer Veggie Garden Update

Late Summer Veggie Garden

Things have been a little hectic here, so the garden hasn’t been getting that much attention other than automated watering.  I walked outside today to check the damage and was met with lots of overgrown tomato plants.  When these seedlings were first put in, I was hoping they would become giant and bountiful like the pictures I see in magazines. I think they’re getting there.

Late Summer Veggie GardenLate Summer Veggie Garden

Lots of tomatoes, but not many that are red yet. The Japanese cucumbers seem to finally be taking off while our zucchini plant is tapering down.

Raised Vegetable Bed

A weekend project I’ve been meaning to undertake was to create a raised garden for extra vegetable growing space. Right now, our backyard has a medium piece of lawn, which I hate because it uses up water and I can’t eat it.  The solution: put in a 4’x8′ raised bed for planting vegetables in.

Will and I went to Eagle Rock Lumber & Hardware, one of the few lumberyards open on a Sunday and they couldn’t be nicer. The guy working at the lumber department knew exactly what I needed and cut all my pieces to size and even threw up two scrap pieces to use as stakes for the long sides of the bed. We used untreated redwood.

Then we stopped by the San Gabriel Nursery (which I highly recommend) to get some soil, compost, and vegetables. I drew out a handy little diagram to help in planning.

raised bed

First, we had to build the bed, which probably took the longest time.  Just four sides secured to four posts.

raised bed

Then, we put in one layer of cardboard and hosed it enough to be soggy.  This is one step I learned while looking up lasagna gardening.

raised bed

Then, a layer of newspaper, also hosed down to be soggy. These two layers of paper should help in killing the grass under as well as compost and become nutrient for the soil.

raised bed

Then, a layer of dried leaves that were raked last week. Finally, the soil. The people at the nursery recommended us using this potting soil. I guess we got too little of it because it didn’t exactly go as high as I planned. I’ll need to pick up 4 more bags tomorrow.

raised bed

The last step (not shown because we didn’t complete it yet) is to put in a layer of compost.

After that, it’s only a matter of putting the plants in, watering them, and hopefully, watching them thrive.

Hedgehog Mushrooms in Farro Risotto

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I love mushrooms and I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know about hedgehog mushrooms sooner. I always thought that ‘hedgehog’ was just another name for morels.  It wasn’t until I ordered a dish of farro risotto with hedgehog mushrooms that I realized they were completely different!  Since I had that dish up in SF with my co-workers, I wanted to recreate it at home, but I was afraid that hedgehog mushrooms would be scarce in LA.

Mushroom Man to the rescue! I happened to be near the Santa Monica Farmer’s market on Saturday and popped by the Mushroom Man’s booth and he had hedgehog mushrooms! At $20/lb, they’re more expensive than my usual mushroom purchases, but I couldn’t let this opportunity pass.  Lucky for my wallet, I let the opportunity of buying black truffles from him pass.

The first time I had risotto was when Will cooked it for me.  He had been slaving for hours over the stove with his home-made broth and risotto making. I took one bite and said, “Huh, it just tastes like porridge.”  The big deal of risotto didn’t really click with me. But farro risotto, I can get behind!

I didn’t want to do anything too complicated with the mushrooms since I wanted their natural flavors to shine through, so I just sauteed them with some shallots and white wine.  I probably went a little heavy-handed with the wine, but it still tasted pretty good.

Combined with some slow-cooked dinosaur kale, and farro risotto, it made for an easy Saturday meal.  Will even contributed with a simple but delicious salad of mixed greens, and sliced kumquat and fennel.

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Farro risotto:

2.5 cups farro
1 medium sized carrot
1 medium sized white onion
1 stalk celery
2 sticks of thyme (roughly 1/2 tsp dried thyme?)
3 cups veggie broth mixed with 3 cups water
olive oil

Dice onions and cook them in some olive oil until translucent. I wasn’t trying to caramelize them, so I didn’t wait for them to color.  In the meantime, dice the carrots and celery in roughly the same size.  When the onions are translucent, put the carrots and celery in. Cook these on medium heat till tender. It’s okay if they caramelize a little.  When the vegetables are tender, pour in a few more teaspoons oil, and then the farro risotto. Stir to mix. Turn the heat up to high and pour in enough broth + water mixture to barely cover. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Let that come to a boil, turn the heat down to low, throw in the thyme, and simmer with the lid on.

Every 10 minutes, take the lid off, give it a stir and top off with more broth+water if it gets too dry. It should be somewhat soupy in there, but not as if the farro were all submerged in water. Cook like that until the farro’s done, adding broth+water when needed. I’m not sure how long that took since I was prepping the rest of my meal and I can never figure out how long it takes for farro to cook.