Book Review

I love books. But I don’t have an unlimited supply of bookshelves. So I have to be very selective as to what goes on my shelves. Cluttering my shelves with numerous books on one topic just will not due.

Here I hope to offer insight and help you chose some books that will compliment your bookshelves and provide information to help your gardens grow.

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening – Louise Riotte

If you want to know if it is ok to plant onions in between your cabbage plants, then this book is for you. It’s like listening to my grandmother as she walked thru her garden planting the peas.

First published in 1975, it has served millions of gardeners, both serious and casual.   Many of us prefer to utilize pest-resistant planning over the use of chemicals. This book provides the information on what you should plant near another plant to not only resist pests and help deter them, but to help the sister plant thrive.

It also provides recipes for herbal sprays to control insects and what wild plants you should be encouraging in your gardens.

If you don’t have a lot of garden space this book will guide you thru utilizing a window box garden.

This is one of those books you will pick up year after year as you rotate your crops and want to maximize a variety of produce. For instance, did you know if you plant parsley with your carrot seeds you’ll repel carrot flies. Not only that but planting tomatoes and asparagus will give added vigor to both. Now go buy the book, I don’t want to give away the ending here.

I give it a 4 out of 5 wheelbarrows!

WheelbarrowWheelbarrowWheelbarrowWheelbarrow

Duck a Perfect Comfort Food

So tonight for dinner I embraced techniques, inspiration and bad weather. Technique was making gnocchi which is actually quite fun. Inspiration came from the recent issue of Food and Wine magazine, October issue. Bad weather? Yep, when it’s cold, raining and blustery out I can’t do yard work or get in my garden so I head straight for the kitchen.

And what did I reach for you might ask? What type of dish says “I know it’s cold and raining, but I shall make you warm, I shall make you smile softly and say ‘I am glad I stayed in because I have you on my plate’?” Duck. That glorious meat that is delectable, always consistent in color and taste, and needs very few embellishments to be a dish of exceptional flavor.

Side dishes – homemade gnocchi and roasted carrots. The last of my carrots for the season I might add. (I have made a note to grow many more and at least 4 varieties)

So I buy whole ducks as just buying duck breasts can be very expensive. I fabricate the duck into 2 breasts, 2 legs and 2 thighs. The wings and carcass were used to make a batch of duck stock. Tonight I only needed the breasts so the legs and thighs will be grilled tomorrow.

Here’s where it might get a bit odd for someone not familiar with cooking duck. Duck Fat. It is liquid gold!! I cut all the extra skin and fat from the carcass and render it down and usually end up with about 1/2 a cup of this wonderful fat. If you have never had potatoes fried in duck fat you are missing out. OMG it is phenomenal! Ok back to my post…

Pan searing duck breasts is very easy. You season your duck with what ever spices you wish to use (recipe links below) and score thru the flesh, but not the meat. This will allow the fat to cook out so your meat is basted in goodness.

Gnocchi, which is an Italian dumpling, is made with potatoes. (who doesn’t love potatoes?!) Rolling the gnocchi out on a gnocchi paddle is very easy. If you don’t have a paddle you can use a fork!

Place the cut gnocchi with the cut edges to the sides. I’ve found rolling it the other direction makes it more difficult to get the right shape. Gently push the gnocchi forward, it will start to curl. Remember to keep your pressure light.

Cut side out

Cut side out

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2

Step 2

Step 3

Step 3

Once it’s all rolled out let it chill about an hour. This will firm it up. Matter of fact I put mine in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and then the freezer. This will help remove a bit more moisture so they won’t gum up.

They sure don’t take long to cook. Place into a pot of boiling water. They will sink but soon will start to float. Cook them in batches if you are doing a lot. Let them cook about 3 minutes after they start floating. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl. If you’re using a sauce now is the time to gently toss. Options include brown butter and sage, marinara or for me mushroom ragu. Matter of fact if you are doing gnocchi do a full recipe and freeze the rest for another day.

Don't overcook

Don’t overcook

I cooked 3 different types of mushrooms for my ragu. You can use whatever types you like best. For me it was cremini, shitake and chanterelle’s.

Variety is best.

Variety is best.

Once you have all of the components you have a dinner that is luscious.

Dinner is Served

Dinner is Served

For the duck and carrots I used this recipe. Being as it’s only hubby and myself, I cut the recipe in half.

And here is the gnocchi and mushroom ragu recipe. Again I cut the recipe in half, but I think next time I’ll make a full serving of the mushroom ragu because the leftovers would be fabulous to play with! Matter of fact with the bit of duck and gnocchi we had left I plan on making a duck and gnocchi frittata for breakfast 🙂