When I looked outside my window this morning and saw this patch of purple in my flower bed, I swear my heart itself felt like a flower unfurling.
A week of headaches and heartaches, preceded by the coldest and iciest of Virginia winters, has left me craving the sight of lush greenery, not to mention the feeling of relaxing in the sunshine with a cold beverage and a fat steak sizzling on the grill.
I am eager to clean out my flower beds and lay down fresh mulch, clean up the broken limbs left by heavy snow, spruce up my herb garden and decide which new herbs I will add this year. It’s time to start thinking about what vegetables I will grow this year and whether I want to start any seedlings. According to a cool new book I just received, “Starter Vegetable Gardens” by Barbara Pleasant, I had better hurry. The following growing times are necessary for seedlings:
5-8 weeks: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, lettuce and other leafy greens, pepper, tomato, basil, cilantro and dill.
3-4 weeks: cucumber, cantaloupe, squash, sweet corn and watermelon.
If you plan to buy vegetable and herb seedlings at the nursery, Pleasant offered these tips: Although you may be tempted to buy the biggest seedlings, go for the smaller ones because they have not suffered the stress of cramped roots. She also suggests planting any extra seedlings in roomy containers and placing them in a sunny outdoor spot. That way, if one of the plants in your garden falls victim to disease or a hungry critter, you’ll have a replacement plant.
I have joined a fruit and vegetable CSA this year, so I don’t want to go too crazy with the plantings. At this point, I’m planning on adding cilantro to my herb garden, planting some rhubarb in the yard and starting a compost pile. I will also see if I have learned enough in the past two years to grow better tomatoes this summer, and I’ll probably put in a row of zucchini. How about you all?
Since we are talking about the start of outdoor dining season, I’d like to share the most recent recipe I received from the Weber grill company, Turkish Chicken Kebabs with Red Pepper and Walnut Sauce. Enjoy your weekend.
Turkish Chicken Kebabs with Red Pepper and Walnut Sauce
Prep time: 15 minutes
Marinating time: up to 1 hour
Grilling time: 8 to 10 minutes
Special equipment: metal or bamboo skewers (if using bamboo, soak in water for at least 30 minutes)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 6 ounces each
1-1/2 roasted red bell peppers (from a jar), drained
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. In a large bowl mix the mustard, granulated garlic, salt, cumin, and pepper. Add the oil and stir to combine.
2. Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise and then cut each half crosswise into 1- to 1-1/2-inch pieces. Place the chicken pieces in the bowl and turn to coat them evenly.
3. Skewer the chicken pieces so that the pieces are touching but not crammed together. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 hour.
4. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the sauce ingredients and process to create a pesto-like consistency. For a thinner sauce, add a bit of warm water.
5. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F).
6. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the kabobs over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the meat is firm to the touch and opaque all the way to the center, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or twice. Remove from the grill and serve warm with the sauce.
Source: Weber-Stephen Products Co.