Surviving the hard freeze

I managed to eek the tomatoes and peppers through a hard freeze Thursday night–it hit 27 degrees F!  Two layers of protection–plastic over the hoops and row covers inside that–and it almost wasn’t enough.  The frost tipped a few of the peppers and tomatoes, and it got most of my okra (which hadn’t even flowered yet…so yeah, that wasn’t going to happen this year anyway).  But I was very pleased to discover Friday morning that things looked to be in good shape.  And here’s the kicker…it’s supposed to be back in the 70s and 80s this week!  So there’s still a chance that I’m going to get some yellow, orange, and more red peppers off those plants after all.  To be a happy (and I guess I would argue, successful, gardener) gardener, one must be an eternal optimist.

My bounty from the garden this morning was more impressive than I thought it would be:

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I ended harvesting more than I thought I would, especially the rhubarb and herbs.  A lot of stuff I have just let grow and grow and grow and I finally had enough–it was time to do something productive with it.  My broccoli I got from my neighbor across the street, so I have no idea what I got from her, but some of it is more like broccoli raab than heading broccoli.  Some of it was too far gone to harvest (maybe the chickens will eat it) but I cut quite a bit and left some to continue to develop–there’s still a few plants that are just beginning to put out florets.  I had big plans for this broccoli: broccoli casserole.  And the recipe is below.  It had been a while since I last made broccoli casserole, but this one is my new recipe forever.

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Once I got all the veggies out of the bowl I hauled in from the garden, I realized I had a lot of work to do today to prep these for drying, freezing, or eating.  The tiny potatoes I harvested only because they got no protection from the frost the other night and the plants bit it.  Some of the potatoes are big enough to use as seed potatoes next year, so that is my plan for them.  I still have several plants in the ground and I hope to get some more potatoes big enough to roast whole.  They are blue potatoes, one of my favorites!

The chives and sage are in the dehydrator, but there is still more waiting for space to open up.  The sage plant I bought at the farmer’s market in May as a little transplant in a 3-inch pot.  Now the plant is probably 2 feet in diameter and 15 inches tall!  It has grown a tremendous amount this summer!  This is my first harvest from it–and it’s difficult to tell that I even took anything.  The chives are similar, except that I have been harvesting and drying them periodically throughout the summer.  I glanced under my mature clumps of chives this morning to discover that about a bazillion seeds have sprouted and I have a bazillion new chive plants coming up.  I can’t eat that many baked potatoes!  And the damn things are flowering again….

The rhubarb got chopped and frozen–another gallon to get me through the winter, and there’s still more in the garden to harvest if I want it.  The beet, carrots, and onions got diced along with a sweet potato, combined with some olive oil, a little salt, and a little bit of fresh oregano and sage.  I roasted them in the oven for about an hour and WOW!  Not only is the color gorgeous (red and purple carrots look stunning with maroon beets and orange sweet potatoes) but it tasted fantastic!

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And now for the best part of my day (besides my run this evening with The Stinker): broccoli casserole!  This recipe was inspired by a blog post I happened across last weekend where the casserole had wild rice in it.  I’m not sure why, but this struck me as genius, and I felt like a complete dummy for not having thought of it myself.  In addition to the wild rice, I used faro as the bulk of the grain component–I really like its chewy texture and it pairs very well with the wild rice.  I found some mushrooms in a paper bag in the fridge that were pretty dried out, but they also provide a nice chewy texture.  The good thing is that I get to eat the entire thing myself because Hubby doesn’t eat broccoli.  I’ll cook him something special so he doesn’t feel left out.

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Broccoli casserole with faro and wild rice

1 cup faro (you can substitute wheat berries)

½ cup wild rice

Cook farro and wild rice according to package directions.

3 cups large broccoli pieces, with some stem if you like

Steam broccoli for about 10 minutes.  Cool and chop into small pieces, reserving a few larger pieces for decoration if desired.

1 ½ cups milk

3 ounces cream cheese

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

3 cloves roasted garlic

1 teaspoon salt

2 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded

1 cup chopped mushrooms

Heat milk in small saucepan over low heat.  Add cream cheese and whisk until melted and incorporated into milk.  Add Parmesan cheese, roasted garlic, salt, and mushrooms.  Stir in shredded gruyere and remove from heat.  Combine farro, wild rice, and broccoli in large bowl.  Pour milk mixture over broccoli mixture and stir well.  Pour into shallow baking dish and top with remaining pieces of broccoli, pushing the broccoli into the rice slightly.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

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