Sunday, September 10, 2017

September 10, 2017- No rain or too much rain

There is so much work to do that this post will be short today.

Watering continues as here in Iowa City we will hit the three week mark with no rain Tuesday. None is in sight.

At the same time there are obviously places right now in this country where there is much too much rain, and wind, and water.
We give a special prayer this morning to those in harms way in Florida.
Be safe. We are thinking of you.

This little air plant came from Florida this summer.
Our garden has a definite Florida connection.
That is where the caladium come from.

But there were pictures last week. There was voting.
Last week's winner was the White and Yellow Lantana
What a wonderful flower. It has such contrasting sections.

The full voting the results were:
White and Yellow lantana 16
Toad Lily 14
Orange zinnia 12
Jack in pulpit seed head 6
Pink Zinnia 3
Lantana #2 2

This week's pictures

I was not sure I would find enough worthy pictures this week. I did, particularly after I looked closely at the zinnia pictures.

#1  Fall crocus group

There are crocuses that bloom in the fall. This clump has been a fixture in the garden the past 6-8 years. They just pop up, emerging sometime in September.
They do transplant, something  I learned this year. I dug some up in the front yard and planted them somewhere else. They have come up nicely.

I should add that fall crocuses can actually be planted in August and will bloom that fall.
They are a perfect gift for the impatient gardener.

#2 Yellow ghost pepper trio

I really liked the color and the shape on these peppers that I doubt anyone will eat.

We have one plant that has red ghost peppers and one that is yellow. I hesitate to inquire which is hotter.

They really do look like Christmas ornaments.

#4 Purple Zinnia

Sometimes you just want to immerse yourself in a color. That is this great purple.

Who knew about those little gold stars in zinnias.

Please remember that I planted these zinnias from seed on July 1.
They look wonderful now that it is September.

#4 White Japanese anemone

This variety, which probably is Honerine Jobert, is more stately than the more prolific pink cousin.

I like this picture as it came with a buds which you may recall I really like.

The center is good too. I will find one for this coming week.

#5 Asclepias going to seed

I know having a bigger picture can be an advantage in a contest. But I thought this artistic vision might need some help in competing with all that color.

#6 Peach Zinnia

I just liked this somewhat muted flower. Notice the absence of stars in the center.

#7  Orange zinnia center

I think I found the inspiration for some of those Dale Chihuly sculptures.

#8  Mystery white flower

Do you know what this is? It is blooming at the moment on the backyard fence. I see it quite a bit as I drive around town.

It is the fall blooming clematis. I think the name is peniculata. It grows all over and has many little white flowers now.
It is the type of clematis that you cut all the way back to the ground. But you should do that in February or March.

#9  Red Zinnia, with stars

That is it for this week. You may vote for 2.

Julia's Recipe

Moussaka is a Greek dish, an eggplant and meat sauce casserole with a topping. One could think of it as a Greek version of lasagna, but one would be wrong. Moussaka has no noodles and not much cheese and the spices are different. I am sure I had moussaka at family gatherings years ago, but I remember figuring it out myself, using several similar but slightly different recipes in my Aunt Julia's Greek Orthodox Church Ladies Auxiliary cookbook (St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois). The cookbook (called Our Kouzina, meaning our kitchen) is part Greek cookbook and part ladies auxiliary cookbook, including recipes for moussaka and pastitso and vasilopita and baklava and also recipes for jello concoctions and "salads" with canned pineapple and cut up marshmallows. Eclectic.

Here are the moussaka ingredients, or most of them anyway. I started with a good-sized, firm, oval shaped eggplant, not a skinny Japanese eggplant. And an onion, olive oil, tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, and hamburger.

Actually we bought 2 eggplants at the farmer's market, one for moussaka and one for a terrific eggplant salad (yes, really; eggplant salad) that Philip makes. I used the larger one. At some point, I will persuade Philip to share the eggplant salad recipe.

I started by peeling the larger eggplant and slicing it into thin (say 1/4") rounds. I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees, and I put the eggplant rounds on a big rimmed baking sheet.

I brushed the up-sides of the eggplant rounds with olive oil and baked the slices for about 15-20 minutes until they looked wilted and maybe a little beige. Then I turned them over, brushed the newly up-sides with more olive oil and baked the rounds for another 10-15 minutes.

Then I did it again - I had about 1-1/2 rimmed baking sheets of eggplant rounds. I used about 1/2 cup of olive oil in all.

Some recipes say you should salt and weight down the eggplant slices for a period of time before cooking to deal with bitterness. I do not do this, and I do not have a problem with bitterness. I think that peeling the eggplant helps, and it undoubtedly helps that the eggplant I use comes from my local farmer's market so it has not been traveling across country for days. Some other recipes say you should fry the eggplant slices in olive oil, but if you have done any business with eggplant, you will recognize this as madness because eggplant can absorb alarming amounts of olive oil which is not so good for one's health or pocket book or the texture of the final dish.

While the eggplant was baking, I chopped up 1/2 cup of onion, and I cooked the onion with the hamburger in a big skillet, with about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.

One could use ground lamb, and at times, I have. On this occasion, I had ground beef in the freezer, which is just fine.

After the meat had browned and the onions were soft, I added one 15 ounce can of tomato sauce and about 1 cup of canned diced tomatoes that were in the refrigerator. Fresh tomatoes would be fine, as would extra tomato sauce. I added about 1/2 cup of white wine which I used to rinse out the tomato sauce can. Water would be fine too. Then I added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, stirred everything together and let it simmer while I made the next part...

which was a very thick and enriched white sauce. I started with 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick) which I melted and then I whisked in 1 cup of white flour. The result is at left. Not very sauce-y. Then I added 2 cups of milk slowly and whisked like crazy to eliminate lumps and make the sauce come together. And it did. I let the sauce bubble (stirring constantly) for about a minute, then I took it off the stove...

to a trivet on the counter, and I whisked in 2 eggs and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.

Then I started assembly. I moved the skillet of sauce to another trivet and positioned the pan with all of the eggplant rounds nearby. I sprayed an oval pyrex baking dish that is about 11" x 9" (and 3" deep) and spread a 1/2 cup scoop of meat sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.

Then I put down a layer of eggplant rounds, overlapping a little, followed by1/2 of the remaining meat sauce, then all of the rest of the eggplant rounds and then all of the rest of the meat sauce. So the pattern is: a little sauce in the bottom of the pan followed by 2 layers each of eggplant and sauce.

Then I spread the thickened white sauce over top of the whole thing. I put the casserole on a rimmed baking sheet because one never knows how much bubbling and seething and burgeoning there will be. And I baked the casserole in the 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes until it was bubbly and delicious looking, as below. The casserole is served by being cut into squares and levered out of the pan with a spatula. It is easier after the first portion.

One could make this in a 9" x 13" pan, and then you would probably not overlap any of the eggplant slices.

In case you are wondering about leaving out the cinnamon, don't even think about it. The cinnamon is important. Greek recipes use cinnamon (or sometime cloves or nutmeg) the way Italians use oregano and basil.

Odds and Ends

In this dry time, with so much to do,  garden catalogs help get one through the week.
This week I found a few little bearded iris to add to the garden.

The end comes early this week.

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