Monthly Archives: April 2011

I have huge plans for my garden this year, but before planting, I decided to make sure that I am able to keep Pablo, the new puppy, out of the garden (yes, he is a 60+ pound, 8 month old Aussiedoodle).

Pablo the puppy


So, I prepped this 8’ x 8’ garden bed, including placing chicken wire around the entire bed, 2 weeks ago. And as of last weekend, I felt quite successful as there had been no puppy break-ins .

Pablo-proofed garden bed

Thus, feeling all cocky in my Pablo-proofing capabilities, I prepped this 4” x 4” garden bed and PLANTED some great lettuce, cipollino onions and spinach seeds.

Pablo-proofed, yes. Critter-proofed?

Looks lovely, yes?
Once again…success! Pablo did not get in to the garden. BUT SOMETHING HAS! And twice “it” has dug up the onions. Not sure who the mystery onion thief is, but it was a good reminder that there is far more to backyard gardening than keeping the new puppy  out.

So, I seek advice…..any thoughts for keeping the critters out?

BTW: I will be planting more plants this weekend. And, for those of you here in Boise,  I will make sure to share information on the wonderful Farmer’s Market vendor(s) selling the plants.


Thanks to my local farmer’s market I have become more aware of the seasons. Moving beyond the knowledge that daffodils open in the spring and trees drop their leaves in autumn, my awareness has expanded to which herbs and vegetables are available locally during the first of the three growing seasons we have here in the Northwest.

Locally grown asparagus

Last Saturday the tables at the Capitol City Farmer’s Market in downtown Boise were brimming with lush heads of leaf lettuce in contrasting shades of vibrant green and deep purple, trays of shallow water holding upright bundles of asparagus, and colorful clusters of bright red radishes.

I brought home one of those bundles of ripe asparagus. The stuff grows like a weed in this area and I have been told by more than one local that before the construction boom two decades ago, the plant used to thrive in springtime along the many open ditch banks around town. Anyone with a sharp eye and a sharp knife could cut stalks for free and have them with dinner. I incorporated the bundle I bought at the farmer’s market into spring rolls stuffed with smoked trout, mint and basil. They are especially tasty dipped into a Thai vinaigrette made with salty fish sauce, minced jalapeno, and tart lime juice sweetened with a little sugar.

Asparagus and Salmon Spring Rolls

From Eating Well magazine, March/April 2011, p. 71

Asparagus and salmon spring rolls

Makes 12 rolls

24 thick or 36 thin asparagus spears (about 2 pounds)

2  3- to 4-ounce packages smoked wild salmon

12  8-inch rice-paper wrappers

1 ripe avocado, cut into 24 slices

1 cup shredded carrot

½ cup chopped fresh basil

½ cup chopped fresh mint

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large skillet. Trim asparagus spears no longer than 6 inches; add to the boiling water. Partially cover and cook the asparagus until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain; refresh under cold water. Cut each spear in half lengthwise. Cut salmon slices into 12 strips no longer than 6 inches each.

Soak one wrapper at a time in a shallow dish of very hot water until softened, about 30 seconds. Lift out, let excess water drip off and lay on a clean, dry cutting board.

Center a strip of smoked salmon in the bottom third of the wrapper, leaving a 1-inch border on either side. Arrange 4 thick (or 6 thin) asparagus halves (overlapping as necessary) over the salmon. Top the asparagus spear halves with 2 avocado slices, 1 tablespoon carrot, and about 2 teaspoons each basil and mint. Fold the wrapper over the filling and roll into a tight cylinder, folding in the sides as you go. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling. Cut each finished roll in half.

Thai Vinaigrette

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Healthful Cooking, p. 93

Makes about ¾ cup

6 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons sugar

2-3 teaspoons minced fresh hot chiles with seeds [I use jalapenos]

In a small bowl, stir together the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chiles until blended. Serve alongside spring rolls.

I was fighting a nasty cold recently and got my hands on a huge reference volume called “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” by Phyllis A. Balch. The author is a certified nutritionist who offers drug-free remedies like whole foods, herbs, vitamins, and mineral supplements for ailments like the head congestion, sore throat and annoying cough I’d been dealing with for too many days.

In the common cold/sore throat section, there was a suggestion for easing irritation by using herbal tea with lemon and honey. “I have lemon tea and honey in the pantry,” I thought to myself. In the chapter on bronchitis she recommended shitake extract for its immune boosting and antiviral properties. “Got some dried shitakes in the pantry, too.” Along with a hot mug of tea, a nice bowl of miso soup with sliced shitakes sounded utterly soothing.

Inspired, I decided to start a pot of lemon tea in my coffeemaker. Oh, I know it sounds unconventional, but I brew tea with my countertop coffee pot. So, using a ratio of one tea bag to three parts water, I put two lemon tea bags into the carafe and filled the water reservoir with enough water to brew six cups. (I used the coffee pot’s measurements, not an actual one-cup measure.)

Then I got to thinking: what about making lemon-miso-mushroom soup? I could reconstitute the dried shitakes in the lemon tea and add some mild white miso after the brew had steeped. Well, twenty minutes later I pulled the spent tea bags out of the carafe and put the softened shitakes on a cutting board. I added about three tablespoons of miso to the lemon-mushroom tea, then sliced the shitakes while the mellow yellow soup base was heated by the coffeepot’s warming plate (you don’t want to boil miso). I stirred the mushrooms back into the broth and gave it a taste.

The light, lemony brew needed just a dash of kosher salt and a few leaves of basil leaves, cut chiffonade, to round out the flavor. The result was soothing, refreshing, and delicious. My husband agreed that if he didn’t know I’d used tea as a base, he would have thought he was eating miso soup and meaty shitakes lightly seasoned with lemon juice. And he would have never guessed I made it in the coffeemaker.

Last Saturday was the 2011 season opener at the Capital City Farmer’s Market in downtown Boise. It was good to see several familiar vendors, like the man from the Almond Tree, whose reliable presence and stoic stance make him a familiar fixture. Susan and I always swing past his table for a sample, and he often greets us by wryly commenting, “These aren’t very good, you know.” His crunchy, candied almonds top my first salad of spring.

This year Susan and I have a mission. We’ll shop the farmer’s market on Saturday, purchase the same foods, then compare what each of us does with the ingredients. This week we selected fresh beet greens, candied almonds, organic leeks, wedges of Petite Basque (an aged sheep’s milk cheese), and the “Southern” dried seasoning blend from Molly’s Mills.

I opted to create the obvious: Soothing bowls of leek-miso soup to counteract chilly springtime breezes, and a tender beet green salad with a simple dressing made using freshly squeezed orange juice and tangy orange zest. The following recipes will make two salads and two small bowls of soup. Add a loaf of crusty bread (fresh from the market, of course) to round out the meal.

Organic leeks

2 small leeks, split lengthwise, rinsed and cut into ¼ inch slices

1 TBL butter

1 ½ cups water

2 TBL white miso

Dash of salt

Melt butter in medium-size skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Pour water into pan. Add miso. Heat until almost simmering. Do not boil. Maintain gentle heat and allow to steep while preparing the salad. Before serving, season to taste with a dash or two of salt.

Beet green salad:

1 bunch beet greens

1 Fuji apple, cored and diced

1 small wedge Petite Basque cheese, cut into small dice.

A handful or two of candied almonds

Wash and tear beet greens. Divide between two salad bowls. Top each with half the diced apple, half the cheese, and a handful of almonds.

Leek-miso soup and beet green salad

1 large orange

About ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ tsp Molly’s Mills “Southern” seasoning (smoked garlic, dried lime, sea salt, rainbow pepper)

Using a microplane grater, zest half the orange. Place zest in a glass one-cup measure. Juice the orange; pour into one-cup measure with zest. Measure juice, then add half the amount of olive oil (you should have 2 parts orange juice, 1 part olive oil). Add Southern seasoning. Adjust taste. Pour over salad.