Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Vanilla Sunday

Vanilla Sunday is a delicious little event at the Atlanta Botanical Garden celebrating the amazing vanilla orchid. On March 18, visitors indulged in vanilla sundaes, tea samples, chair massages, and cooking demonstrations. The unusually warm weather allowed us to use the Edible Garden Outdoor Kitchen to showcase Chef Jennifer Etchison of Pricci. Her delectable crema catalana recipe incorporates vanilla into each of the three elements of the dessert. You may have missed Vanilla Sunday, but here are a few photos and Jenni’s recipe to make you feel better.

Crema Catalana
serves six to eight

Vanilla Custard:
1 qt. whole milk
2 vanilla beans, split
zest of one orange and one lemon
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 t. salt
6 egg yolks
80 g. sugar
30 g. cornstarch
2 t. vanilla extract

Combine milk, vanilla beans, zest and salt. Bring to a simmer and allow to steep for 20 minutes. In a kitchen aid, whip the egg yolks and sugar until very pale and light. Add cornstarch and whip until combined. On low speed, pour in a small portion of the hot milk to temper the mixture together. Pour this back into the pot of milk, turn the heat on low and cook until bubbly and thick, whisking constantly. Strain and add vanilla extract. Pour into molds and refrigerate at least two hours.

Almond Shortbread:
1 lb. soft unsalted butter
3/4 c. sugar
4 c. all purpose flour
1 t. salt
2 c. sliced almonds
1 vanilla bean, split

In a kitchen aid with paddle attachment, combine sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla bean. Paddle until light and smooth. Add all other ingredients and beat until just combined. Split dough into two flat discs and refrigerate until firm. Roll to 1/4 in. thick and cut into desired shapes. Sprinkle tops with sugar and bake at 325° until just browned. Cool completely and store in an air tight container.

Vanilla Caramel:
1 c. sugar
1/4c. water
1/2t. salt
2 vanilla beans

Put sugar, water, and salt in a heavy bottom small saucepot and caramelize until golden. Whisk in two split vanilla beans and an additional 1/2c. plus 2 T. water. Boil for one minute and allow to cool at room temp. Keep refrigerated.

recipe by Chef Jennifer Etchison, Pricci

Friday, March 9, 2012

Early Spring Harvest

Colleen Golden, Atlanta Botanical Garden Senior Horticulturist in charge of the Edible Garden, writes about a recent switch out of greens and veggies.

With warm temperatures arriving, it’s time give the winter vegetable garden a face lift and welcome it into spring! Earlier this week my volunteers and I said good-bye to a few of our hard working hardy winter greens and replaced them with some new transplants.  

We harvested Cabbage ‘Wirsoa’, a lovely savoy type with large round heads of dark green tight crinkled leaves.  

We also picked our Kale ‘Lacinato’, an Italian heirloom with blue green strappy leaves and a great flavor.  We had quite a bountiful yield of these two veggies that we donated to the Atlanta Community Food Bank!  

To harvest, we went through the Edible Garden cutting off cabbages and kales at their base.  We removed any yellowed leaves and were quick to get the greens out of the sun and into the cooler to cut down on wilting and increase their storage life.  Then we used a shovel to dig out each root ball.  As first I thought I would be able to pull the root balls by hand, but I was sorely mistaken. These leafy greens were very happy indeed and had grown an impressive root system that needed a little more coaxing to remove than my muscles could provide (and I’m pretty strong too). We tidied up by raking any remaining plant debris and smoothing out the planting bed for our new transplants. 

Next, Swiss chard ‘Golden Sunrise’ and Broccoli ‘Beaumont’ were planted into the beds.  To ensure proper spacing, I first laid out all the transplants into the bed.  When the volunteers and I started planting, we took care to loosen the roots of each transplant to make sure the roots could stretch out and establish quickly.  A good watering and some kind words of encouragement finished up the planting festivities of the day.  While we’re still a month and a half out from the exciting vegetable change out of summer, right now is a great time to squeeze in a mini cool season crop.  Great plants to try are lettuce, garden peas, Swiss chard, carrots, collards, mustard, potatoes, radish and spinach.  Finding them as transplants would be the quickest way to enjoy fresh produce from the garden, but all of these could be started from seed if transplants were unavailable.