Saturday, April 7, 2012

Yay, Bugs!

Every year, I release upwards of 10,000 ladybugs into my garden to fight those pesky little white flies called aphids that munch on my rose bushes.  You can buy ladybugs at the garden store - I get mine at Sloat Garden Center and release a couple thousand of them every month.  It's way easier than crushing the aphids with your fingers or spraying stuff all over the plants.

Turns out, one in five flowering plants are attractive to ladybugs and other beneficial insects.  Sloat has a recipe for planting a "Good Bug Tub" which includes flowers native to California:

Blue bedder penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus var. purdyii)
Dwarf blue lupine (Lupinus nanus)
Seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus)
Coyote mint (Monardella villosa)
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Tidy tips (Layia platyglossa)

 More details on the Sloat website:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Awesome Sauce Redux

Rice paper salad rolls with a side of Awesome
Biz gave me this recipe a few years ago. It's fresh, lively, and herbal. Biz, our friend Tim, and I ate it on everything for an entire summer: salad, cooked veggies, rice, quinoa. Play around with the herbs, and throw in handfuls of whatever's handy.

It's basically a pesto, sans diary, and it's vegan, if you replace the honey with a hippie sweetener (agave, maple, etc.). I always think I've made too much, but then it disappears in a couple of days.

One batch = about a pint
 Recently, I found my original hand scratched recipe (no doubt dictated by Biz over a bottle of wine on her porch, on a lovely summer evening in Woodacre). I thought I'd share the written recipe, instead of typing it out. The paper version is so homey and used; I love it.

You can make substitutions where you see fit, and make it thinner or thicker by adjusting the water (I use just a tablespoon or two), just don't leave out the orange juice (squeeze it yourself), ginger, or garlic. Substitute avocado for the oil, if you want. You can exclude the soy sauce, and up the salt (or not). Also, I add four or five cloves of garlic. Is one clove ever enough for anything? And I throw in loads more herbs than the recipe calls for.
The original recipe, c. 2006 (you won't need that much water!)

Instructions: Chop up the herbs by hand first, then throw everything in a blender. I always start with the garlic, ginger, and seeds, so I can be sure they are blended to a fine consistency, then add the herbs and liquids. Blend until smooth. Awesome Sauce will thicken, and the flavors will meld in the fridge, but you might not be able to wait that long. Keeps for about 5 days. Enjoy!

Kale, No Excuses

OK, one more kale recipe - this one's got a fantastically light yet flavorful peanut dressing.  We have now gathered here no fewer than four, count 'em, four delicious recipes for kale, ensuring you have plenty of options and no excuses for not getting enough dark leafy greens, a crucial source of calcium, fiber, iron, and a million other good-for-you things.

I promise to move onto another food group with my upcoming posts, but this one I couldn't resist sharing.  Thank you, Judy Lewenthal Daniel, for turning me on to the website TheKitchn ( from whence this recipe and the accompanying photo hail.

When I make this salad I screw around with the ratio of kale to peppers to carrots depending on what I have in the fridge, but recommend you always have one of the sweet red/orange variety to balance the bitterness in the kale and the acidity of the vinegar.  The dressing recipe is perfect, so don't mess with it.

This salad is so freakin' delicious!

Kale Slaw with Peanut Dressing
serves 6 to 8
2 large bunches curly or lacinato kale, about 2 pounds
2 red bell peppers, cleaned and cut into fine strips
1 large carrot, peeled
3/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts, divided
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
Fold each leaf of kale in half lengthwise and slice out the center rib. Discard ribs. Roll a stack of the leaves up and slice in half lengthwise, then crosswise into very fine ribbons. You will have 10 to 12 cups of finely chopped kale in the end. Wash and rinse thoroughly in a salad spinner.
Toss the kale with the sliced bell peppers. Slice the carrot very thin, either by creating curls with a peeler, or by running the halved carrot lengthwise down a mandoline. Toss with the kale, red pepper, and 1/2 cup of the peanuts.
In a chopper or small food processor, briefly puree the remaining 1/4 cup peanuts, oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper flakes. Pulse it just a few times; the peanuts should be partially pureed, but with some nibs and nubs still left in the dressing. (The texture difference between the whole peanuts, ground peanuts, and pureed peanuts in the sauce is one of the things that makes this slaw so wonderful.)
Toss the dressing with the slaw and let it sit for at least a few minutes before serving.