Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: Fried Onions

It’s been a while since I tried something new at Beast Craft BBQ, but I’m back with one of my favorite items on the menu yet!

I am a sucker for fried, or tobacco, onions. Not onion rings (although I do like those, too), or the gross ones in the can, but fresh, fried onions that are thinly sliced and breaded and hot and get tangled together when you try to pull one out of the pile. Pretty much anytime I go anywhere that has good fried onions on a sandwich, I comment that I would buy a box of just those, and Beast made my dreams come true. Perfect as a starter or a side dish to share (I mean, if you can…I can’t!), their fried onions are topped with cotija cheese, cilantro, and their awesome fry sauce. They’re crunchy and salty and have just a bit of a kick from the sauce. It’s seriously the perfect side dish! (Or lunch, as the case may be.)

In case you’ve missed it, David Sandusky, the genius behind Beast Craft BBQ, has been competing on BBQ Brawl on the Food Network. Next week is the final episode, which means he’s in the final four, and I can’t wait to see what happens, and what kind of amazing dish he comes up with next!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

It actually grows quite well this year!

I have actual radishes this time around–last year, I planted seeds, and they sprouted, but I never got to the radish stage.  The herbs are growing well (although the cilantro has pretty much lived out it’s life span already!) and we’ve already used fresh basil and cilantro in meals.  I have lots of squash blossoms and jalepeño flowers, but no actual fruits of those yet.  And the carrot leaves are just beginning to peek through.  Not bad for having been planted just over a month ago!

The onions and garlic have been interesting.  The garlic grew really nice, and I thought it was “done,” so I pulled it, and it came out looking like a loose bunch of green onions.  I’m assuming it wasn’t quite ready to be picked, but it appears to still be usable, so I’ll just chalk that up to a learning experience.  The red onions were growing well, but I’m pretty sure that our resident rabbit, who I’ve seen a few times, (once in the garden bed, sniffing around the garlic), is eating the tops, because I’ve found lots of bulbs with the tops mysteriously down right to ground level.

The tomatoes are doing the best.  And by the best, I mean producing at an alarming rate.  It was finally dry enough for me to really inspect them the other day–I knew there had been lots of flowers, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to look for actual tomatoes.  Well, I started finding them, and I got curious, so I counted, and there are approximately 45 tomatoes growing out there right now!!!  And that’s just the first growth cycle of the summer.  I hope they do well, and keep growing at this rate–there’s nothing I like better in the summer than a fresh tomato sprinkled with salt, or a nice BLT, or some homemade pico de gallo.

Gardening is a lot of work, but the rewards certainly make it worth it!

To Market, To Market

Farmer’s Market that is. I was on the way home from getting Turkey’s hair cut, and he and Bunny begged to stop by the Farmer’s Market. We didn’t really have anything else to do, and even though this is usually an outing I save for a morning when Daddy is home to accompany us, it was a pretty morning, so I acquiesced. Unloading the double stroller and all four children from the van is always interesting, but if we didn’t get out of the house once in a while, I’d go crazy (or crazier, depending on who you ask!)

I didn’t buy anything this week, partly because we didn’t get there until 11:30, so it was kind of picked over, (usually we try to go before 9:00), and partly because I accidentally left my wallet in the car, and I wasn’t going to go back for it, but I was impressed with the selection. This is the first week that I saw lots of stuff I normally would buy, even with the late hour. There was an abundance of zucchini and yellow squash, quite a few cucumbers, radishes, red and white potatoes, and even some onions, with a few other items mixed in. I wouldn’t have minded getting some of those zucchini and squashes–a few of my favorite summer recipes involve those vegetables, and the children love zucchini bread (hey, any attempt to get them eat vegetables counts, right?).

There’s just nothing like fresh, locally grown produce–I can’t wait until all the varieties of onions and tomatoes are in, along with fresh corn, melons, peaches and (please let it be soon!) garlic. Going to the farmer’s market every Saturday was one of our favorite weekly outings last summer, and I can tell that this summer will be no different!

A Pioneer Woman I’m Not

I’ve decided to venture into the world of vegetable gardening this year. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not because of rising fuel and food costs–with all the money I’ve sunk into the blasted thing so far, I could probably do a full week’s worth of grocery shopping. No, I did it for two reasons. 1.) I’ve always liked the idea of gardening. It’s some kind of primitive thing I guess–tilling the land, growing something for my family to eat. The whole hard labor followed by the fruits of my labor thing. And also B.) I thought it would be a good learning experience for my children to see how something grows from seed (or seedling in a lot of cases) to a vegetable bearing plant.

So, aside from the effort that went into digging the rows for the garden, (I had no idea that what is I guess is a clay based soil would be so hard to dig through and so heavy!), and the lugging around 40 pound sacks of topsoil, there are many gardening struggles I was previously unaware of. For example, I am familiar with the concept of drought. I’ve heard about it on the news since I was a kid, read about it in the Little House books, etc., etc. I know that too little rain is a big problem for farmers. I had never considered, however, the problem of too much rain. As it is right now, I appear to be down one cucumber and two broccoli plants because of flooding. It also remains to be seen how many of the carrot and radish seeds may have been washed away. Part of this is, I’m sure, due to poor drainage and a bad slope in the backyard, but I think it’s also partly just that there has been so darn much rain the last few weeks, and plants only need so much water. Lesson learned.

Problem two, which I had considered, but kind of brushed off as not a threat–something eating my plants. Bigger threat than I anticipated. Not only did something (rabbit? skunk? bird?) have the nerve to go after on of my beautiful and amazing smelling basil plants, it apparently had no taste at all, and decided that the basil was no good, leaving the poor leaves to wilt on the ground. And it wasn’t enough to take just one leaf, but whatever it was took every leaf off of one plant. I was really looking forward to fresh pesto, too…

The third problem, which was actually the first one I ran into, was also not something unfamiliar to me, but something I certainly wasn’t expecting in late April–a late season frost. The only things that survived that calamity were the broccoli that can’t hold up to rain, celery, and the onion sets. I suppose I should have known better, but I was eager to plant, and in my defense, my experiences with living down here so far have suggested that late April is a great time for planting.

Problem four, which didn’t actually cause any damage, thankfully, but easily could have, was hail. Good thing for me, the hail was mostly pea sized, but I could see how quickly plants, especially small ones like my seedlings, could be flattened by hail.

Problem five–lack of sun. Now, I know there are some rays of light getting through, even with the crappy weather we’ve been having, but my plants are looking decidedly not green enough, so I’m guessing they’re lacking in the photosynthesis department. Both the plants and I have had enough clouds, thank you very much!

So where does that leave me? I’m just waiting for a plague of grasshoppers or a horde of hungry blackbirds (I read the Little House books a lot as a child, and I’ll admit, also as an adult!) to attack the garden next. I can’t really imagine what else could happen, but I’m sure if it can, I’ll find out about it soon enough. It’s really sobering to consider what trials farmers face–how many things can go wrong each year, and how much of it is completely out of their control. It makes me quite grateful that I don’t have to depend on the land for my survival, and that there are grocery stores and farmers markets where I can get all of the fresh produce I desire, without having to do the work or depend on the weather and wildlife to cooperate with me! I’m happy to have my little garden as a learning experience and pleasant diversion that gives me something fun to do outdoors.

To summarize what I’ve planted, even though I’ve already lost some of it–four broccoli plants, three cucumber plants, three jalepeno plants, three each summer squash and zucchini plants, three roma tomato and six beefsteak tomato plants, three celery plants, one cilantro, four basil, one set of onions (why are they called a set?) and an envelope each of carrot and radish seeds. So, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, and if I actually get any produce out of this garden this year at all!