Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Don't Eat These Mushrooms!

Strange mushroom growing in my backyard, May 2011.
Thanks to several knowledgeable readers I have now learned that the mushrooms growing in my backyard are definitely NOT for human consumption.  I mistakenly thought the weird, drippy brown substance on the mushroom I tentatively (and incorrectly) identified as a morel was just mud from my tomato patch.  It turned out to be something far more intriguing.

Bharati writes:
You have two species with very interesting spore propagation methods.
Suspect # 1 is likely Phallus impudicus (a Stinkhorn species). The spores are in the stinking gelatinous substance on the head of the mature fungus. The aroma of rotting carrion attracts flies, who then spread the spores.
The second photo is of one of the Coprinus species (Inky caps) - in this species the gills digest themselves at maturity, turning into an inky black fluid that drops on the ground and helps spread the spores. Cool and ghoulish, huh? 
A second unidentified species of mushroom in my backyard, May 2011.

Sadly, I threw away both mushroom patches before either had time to propagate.  Of course, mushrooms are mysterious and surprising so perhaps I may see them again some day.  I am grateful to all of the readers out there who weighed in on this topic.  I appreciate all your advice and knowledge.

My friend Daniel also wrote in and reminded me that I missed a great opportunity to add to my stereoscopic collection of phallic plants.

Daniel writes:
I hope you took a stereophoto of the Stinkhorn Fungus, Phallus impudicus, to accompany your series of stereoscopic views of the Amorphophallus gigantum or titanum when it first bloomed at The Huntington.
Naturally, I'm kicking myself over this one.  But I'm posting two Amorphophallus stereo cards as a reminder to myself to keep the stereo photos coming!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Recipe Held Hostage: The Recipe Has Been Released!

I am thrilled to report that the recent hostage situation regarding Daniel's Turkey Thighs and Roasted Vegetables has been safely resolved.  And I can now offer up Daniel's recipe, but please note that since we at ESD received his ransom note, Daniel has changed the title of the dish.  I am reprinting the photo of the dish below for those of you who missed the original post.
Daniel's Dinner in a Cast Iron Skillet, 2011.

Dinner in a Cast Iron Skillet
By Daniel Marlos

Turkey Thighs are cheap, and you get much more bang from your buck with turkey thighs than either drumsticks (too many tendons and splinter bones) or turkey breast (too expensive and can dry out).  The local market had turkey thighs for sale and I decided to experiment.

  • I rubbed olive oil liberally on both sides of the thighs, leaving the skin on.  
  • Season with salt and pepper.  
  • Place in a 10 inch cast iron skillet and roast for an hour and a half until the skillet is full of juices.
  • Cut up carrots into small pieces and potatoes into thin slices.  
  • Place in skillet around turkey thighs and season liberally with fresh rosemary.  
  • Toss the root vegetables so they are covered in pan drippings.  
  • Return to oven and continue roasting another 1 1/2 hours.  The carrots and potatoes that are in contact with the bottom of the skillet with caramelize nicely, so you might want to mix the root vegetables several times while roasting.  
  • The final half hour I moved the thighs on top of the root vegetables so the potatoes and carrots formed a layer on the bottom of the pan.  In the last 15 minutes, I added some baby bok choy on top, making sure to baste it with pan drippings.

FYI:  The bowl of peaches is for peach cobbler recip, previously published online on American Homebody and here on the ESD site.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Recipe Held Hostage

Daniel's photo of his roasted turkey thighs, recipe NOT included, 2011.
I don't normally support the idea of paying off blackmailers or negotiating with kidnappers, but my friend Daniel sent me this photo with the following message:
I know Eat Sunday Dinner is dying for this recipe.  Once the photo is posted, I will supply the recipe.
I didn't read the message immediately and therefore didn't post the photo... or even think about it.  By the following morning I had this message in my inbox.
I can't remember the recipe.  Is the photo online yet?  It just might jog my memory.  The leftover sandwich (no photo) was incredible.
Between two slices of Semolina Bread, begin layering thick slices of roasted turkey thigh.
Two slices of spicy Sopresetta.
Top with slice of Swiss Cheese.
On other slice of Semolina Bread drizzle olive oil and wine vinegar (old wine, a crock and a Vinegar Mother).
Top with homegrown baby lettuce.
Press together and eat.
Against my better judgement I've decided to violate my principles and give in to Daniel's demands to get my hands on his recipe for Turkey Thighs and Roasted Vegetables.

Ok, D.  Your turn.  Where's the recipe?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Know Your Mushrooms?

There are many skills in life I wish I possessed-- the ability to sing, a better understanding of the stock market, and the capacity to identify wild mushrooms.  Sadly, I suspect I won't develop any of these talents in my lifetime.

I remember my grandfather roaming the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains behind his house to forage for wild mushrooms.  He'd leave the house with a golf club, a single golf ball, and a brown bag.  He usually came back with a dripping honeycomb from his neighbor's beehive and a bag full of mushrooms.  At the time, I  was much more excited by the idea of chomping down on a thick slab on honeycomb slathered onto the bottom half of one of my grandmother's homemade rolls.  Today I wonder what kind of mushrooms he used to collect and whether or not he could answer this question:

Is this a morel mushroom I found growing in my backyard?
Wild mushroom growing at the base of my tomato patch, May 2011.

Because I frequently have several curious little people running around my backyard, I felt I had no choice but to uproot this happy little fungus before figuring out what it was.  Here's a second, closer view of it.  (This is a family-friendly blog so I am resisting the urge to write phallic jokes.  Feel free to invent your own.)  But if you can identify this mushroom, please write to me and tell me what it is!

My backyard is home to several different types of mushrooms-- all of them unfamiliar to me.  I suppose I should start trying to identify them, but frankly it's a lot easier to just let my daughters stomp on them before throwing the pieces into the yard waste bin.  I suspect that mushroom-lovers will flinch at my heartlessness treatment of these beautiful fungi, but when it comes to mushrooms, I believe it's better to be safe than sorry, especially with children around.  I must admit that I feel bad about my callous attitude towards mushrooms-- at least until I see the gleaming eyes of one of my sweet daughters gleefully smashing these delicate specimens to smithereens. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How Our Garden Grows: Back in the Saddle Again

Regular readers of this blog know that I've been offline for a while and only yesterday sat down at my computer to write my first brief blog report in over a month.  The easiest and most dignified way to explain my absence is to say that I injured my rotator cuff.  (No need to mention double strollers, babies who are no longer babies, and a giant hill with a 45 degree angle slope.)  My shoulder is getting better-- slowly-- much more slowly than I'd like.  But with a cup of coffee and a handful of Advil surging through my body, I'm ready to start the day with the latest crop report, much delayed.
Watering our garden, May 2011.

We planted our garden in early April, and it's been doing pretty well, with the exception of the basil and parsley seedlings that the squirrels dug up.  The watercress has been neglected, but I still have some hope that it will survive if I water it more regularly.  In spite of my shoulder injury, we've managed to keep the rest of the garden watered, thanks in part to recent rains and the fact that we turned on the automatic sprinkler system during a dry spell.

Strawberry plants doing their stuff, May 2011.
The strawberry plants are thriving-- they seem to love the self-watering container we planted them in.  And they're doing equally well in our small garden plot in the backyard.

The green bean plants are small, but are already starting to produce beans.  I think I'll let the girls pick the first of the crop this weekend.

We've already harvested chives and some of our other herbs (sage, thyme, and rosemary), but that's no big thrill since many of those plants have been in our garden for quite a while now.

Perhaps the most exciting change in our garden is the growth of the tomato crop.  We planted six tomato plants this year and I must say it doesn't feel like nearly enough.  The Mortgage Lifters are going to town-- although plant is much larger than the other.  This is interesting because they came from two different sources.  Sadly, I can't remember which came from which nursery anymore.

We're even starting to see a few small plum tomatoes.  We didn't label the tomatoes very well, mostly because it's pretty easy to tell them apart when they ripen.   I think they're some of the San Marzanos, but they don't seem as pear-shaped as I remember them.  They could also be the mystery plant-- the one I chose so carefully, but forgot to label or even write down the name in my gardening journal.  I suppose that will be one more surprise for later this summer.  In the meantime, I am content to watch them grow and wonder what they will become.  That is, if they make it to maturity.

Our tomato crop faces an even greater danger than our hit-or-miss watering practice-- my youngest daughter.  I've had to watch her like a hawk to stop her from picking the hard, green fruit and chomping down on them.  Who knew that the biggest threat to my tomato crop would be my own tomato-loving daughter?!
Small green tomatoes in our backyard, May 2011.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fruit and Espresso Shelving: Dreams of Loft Living

The expertly measured espresso shelf in Lisa's downtown loft kitchen, 2011.
Not too long ago my friend Lisa sent me these photos of two new additions to her downtown loft kitchen-- a shelf for espresso-making supplies and large wall unit of shelves for ripening fruit.  I'm not sure which I like better, but I'm pretty jealous of them both.

The shelves and cabinets in my tiny 1920's kitchen are crammed full of a mishmash of objects and I love the idea that these shelving units are perfectly sized to fit the objects they're meant to corral.  It seems decadent to be able to create the ultimate in custom shelving whenever a new need arises and to have the space to do it.

The shelves were made by two of Lisa's loft-mates-- Aaron and Michael-- and it's easy to see that these shelves come from the talented brains and hands of artists.  (Yet another reason to love loft-living.)  Maybe it's my Type-A personality shining through or just an overwhelmed brain longing for order, but I'm now staring at the walls of my kitchen with an eye for destruction... and transformation.
Fruit shelves in Lisa' s kitchen, 2011.