Archives for the month of: May, 2012

Yesterday my husband and I spent the whole afternoon in our garden.  My hands are a bit worse for the wear and I was tired and cranky last night but it was well worth it.

For those of you who garden, you will really understand the joy of watching your seedlings come up and urging them along.

We face several challenges gardening in the Rocky Mountains at 8000 feet.  First off, you can get frost up until the middle of June and as early as late August.  We have set up a system to cover the garden this year.  Last year we had several tomato plants with lots of green tomatoes and corn and zucchini we lost to the frost.  We are much more prepared this year.  I also learned you can pull up the tomato plants and hang them upside down in a sunny spot in your house and the tomatoes will continue to ripen.

Then there are the critters.  Ground squirrels, rabbits, prairie dogs, deer and elk all menace my garden.  We have a garden that has been dug underneath at about 4-5 feet and with heavy-duty mesh wire sheets laid down so the burrowing creatures cannot help themselves to our crops.  The garden is actually above this mesh with dirt about 4 feet high over the mesh. This wire mesh continues up the sides of the fences and the fences are 7 feet high to discourage the deer.  Now as for the Elk we just have to cross our fingers that a huge bull elk does not decide to push the fence over to get at our goodies.  It has not happened yet!  Cross your fingers for me.

My husband spent about a week this spring re-building the door and reinforcing the fence around the outside so there are not any holes for ground squirrels to get in.  I had a lovely crop of cabbage and collard greens that the ground squirrels enjoyed last spring because we had a hole in the fence.

It is such a gamble to try to garden under these conditions that the chance we will succeed with gardening is pretty small but we also learned a lot last year to help us protect the garden this year.  If this project fails at least we had fun doing it.  I loved hanging out with my husband in the quiet mountain air and listening to some classical music on his smart phone while digging in the dirt.  Yesterday afternoon was priceless.

Before we started out to the garden plot we sat down for a tasty and light salad for lunch.  We talked about how fun it would be to eat our own salad greens.  The ones we were eating came from Whole Foods.  Our salad rows are looking like they have been chewed on by the moths that come out in the early evening.  Do any of you experience gardeners know how to deal with this?

Spring Salad with Chevre, Chicken and Red Onions

Serves 4

1 lb Mixed Spring Salad Greens

1/4 red onion sliced thinly

1/2 carrot grated on a box grater on the small holes

1/2 lb Laurels Chanel Chevre crumbled

8 chicken tenders

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs balsamic vinegar

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Place chicken tenders in a roasting pan and drizzle 1 tbs balsamic vinegar and 1 tbs olive oil over the top.  Season with sea salt and cracked pepper.

Bake until cooked through but not tough on the outside.  About 15 minutes or until internal read thermometer reads 160.

Cool in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Toss salad greens, grated carrot and sliced red onion together.

Top with shredded chicken, crumbled goat cheese and 1 tbs balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Season to taste.

Yesterday was bright and sunny when I woke up.  There was a bit of a chill in the air but overall it was sunny and clear.

I went up to the lodge and got the grill ready.  My mother in law, sister-in-law and nephew were coming up for Sunday brunch.

It was a perfect spring day.  I was even thinking we may set up a table on the deck and eat outside.  Was I wrong.   Weather can change fast in the mountains.

I starting grilling and decided to take some pictures from the deck.

It was warm and sunny.  Next thing I know I spot a white mass out over one of the hills.  It almost looked like smoke.

As the mass began to move and drift toward the lodge I realized the it was bringing a chilly wind.  It began to spread out and when it reached the lodge I realized it was snow.

Snow….in May.  Well I do live in the Rocky Mountains.

So here I am standing on the deck in cut offs and sandals grilling in the snow.  It made me laugh because almost every time I pull out the grill it starts raining.  I should grill more often since we are having a dry spring.

Thankfully I was done grilling and could move in a light the fireplace and relax with my family.

Ok, so back to the food….I was planning on featuring a summer salad.  This is a salad that we make nearly everyday during the summer.

But how can I feature a salad when it is snowing?  Shouldn’t I feature a stew or soup?  Well since the rest of the country is not blanketed in snow I will go ahead with my summer salad.  It kept snowing all night.  Most of the snow melted on impact but we got some great precipitation that was needed.

In the warm spring and summer months my  family enjoys salads nearly every dinner.  Sliced ripe red tomatoes, rich and creamy cheese, and bright fresh herbs is our favorite combination.

This salad is made with tomatoes (Compari vine ripe tomatoes from Costco), fresh mozzarella, balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh thyme.

Fresh Tomato, Mozzarella and Balsamic Salad

The key to getting the best flavor from this salad is to thinly slice the mozzarella which can be done if you freeze it for about half an hour or until slightly firm but not hard.  With the thinner mozzarella you can marinate it with balsamic and olive oil and the flavor will permeate the creamy cheese.

8-12 vine ripe compari tomatoes (I used the tomatoes from our local Costco but the salad is best with fresh tomatoes in season)

1 lb fresh mozzarella ( I used Bel Gioioso brand)

1/4 cup good balsamic vinegar (I used my trusty Kirkland Signature Brand from Costco, yes I know I love Costco..)

1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove minced finely

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (you can also use basil, oregano or mint)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Slice your mozzarella thinly and marinate with balsamic, olive oil and garlic.  Let marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours in your refrigerator. 

Slice tomatoes and arrange tomatoes, mozzarella with marinade and fresh herbs on a plate.  Drizzle a bit more vinegar and olive oil and top with fresh herbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.   Serve as a first course with crusty fresh-baked bread or as a side dish with a nice piece of grilled meat.

Here are a few variations on this salad:

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, mint and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, oregano and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, blue cheese and bacon and arugula

Fresh tomato, brie cheese and pancetta

More great tomato salad recipes:

This one from Jamie Oliver. (I just love how he uses tomatoes of different sizes and shapes.)

Or try this one from Martha.

Here is Elsies’ beautiful version of the tomato mozzarella combo.

I enjoy to just sitting and watching my tomato starts and dream that this season will be long enough for us to actually harvest some tomatoes.  Last year our crops froze before they had a chance to ripen.  We are much more prepared this year.  Wish me luck!

If I am not successful I will have the Boulder Farmers Market at my disposal and in late summer the farmers in the area will have a dizzying array of tomatoes to choose from.

Now I will resume my fresh tomato dreams…..

May is a busy month at Cal-Wood and I am cooking everyday but the blogging does not happen as much as I would like.  Today my mother in law, sister and nephew are coming up for brunch.  I will blog some of the menu items.  Here are some mountains pictures to enjoy until then!

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