Eleanor Sullo

Eleanor Sullo
So it's 104 in the shade and you want me to smile?

Friday, January 27, 2012

SHOVEL--Our Winter Garden

            About the only thing obviously growing in our 3/4 acre garden this time of year is the snow. Drifts of it, smooth and white, sparkling in sunlight. Patterned with bunny footprints, bird scratchings, bigger, mysterious prints, but mostly pure, pure white snow.
            Which is fine by me, as I’ve just finished the complicated task of ordering seeds—for an extended family of nine!-- for the coming season, flowers, vegetables, fruits, garden products and garden food. And I need a rest before it’s time to start planting in that good old  garden soil, or indoors in tens of flats where I start the seeds. Here are a mention of what I consider the best seed catalogues for seed selection, and why:

            PARK SEEDS is Number One in my book. They have 90 per cent of what is on my list, after a brief consensus is reached among the gardeners. For example, they are one of the few who carry “personal-sized” Chinese Pak Choi, called Toy Choi, a tasty, healthy green in a small size, perfect for stir fry or other Asian dishes, but a veggie you can have too much of in the regular size, unless you’re cooking for a crowd. They also carry Swallow eggplant, a new variety said to mature in just 51 days and to be “cold tolerant and very early.” Since we have trouble getting our eggplants to mature before fall,  perfect for our Connecticut garden.
            PARK is also the first I know of to carry Hybrid Rainbow carrot seeds, a new variety, which look so cool in the serving dish and taste as good. They advertise a new variety of spinach called Space I’m eager to try, and in their sale products, offer Ancho peppers at a ridiculous price. Price is one of the best things about PARK, and I hope they never change it: their seed packets are the lowest price of any I’ve seen. Where their average price for a packet is $1.50—ranging from .95 to 2.95 for newer hybrids, many popular catalogues, like Burpee’s or Gurney’s advertise most seeds from to 2.99 and up.
            In addition, PARK carries a huge variety of both annual and perennial flowers. Their Sunny Lady Impatiens, in a riot of glorious colors, are the only impatiens that grow defiantly in non-shady locations without fading or bleaching out—and that’s us.
            Henry Field’s Seeds comes in second, their desirability being based on having items we love but which are not always available elsewhere. Tops in that category are shallots, a mild onion we can’t live without and that always produces an excellent crop. We also like their treated corn seed, which manages to keep the hungriest birds away. Their corn seed includes Japanese Hulless popcorn, something rarely available in other catalogues and a favorite with us.
            Two catalogues we discovered about two years ago are devoted entirely to tomato and pepper varieties, many of which we can’t locate elsewhere: Totally Tomatoes, and Tomato Growers. They really bring it, and the pictures are to die for.
            Occasionally we find something rare and outstanding in Thompson and Morgan, an old English seed purveyor. Seed tapes for planting lettuce were a big prize, though we can’t locate any in this year’s pages. Their flowers are outstanding. The big news this week is that they currently have a sale going on, 10% off seeds and free shipping—something worth looking into.
            Harris Seeds used to be a favorite but prices have jumped there, often up to $3.00, $4.00 and beyond. Vermont Bean Seed is great for bean varieties, but if we can get them elsewhere and we’re trying to keep shipping costs down, it’s probably best to stick with two or three purveyors instead of four or five.
Most catalogues are also available online, and one we count on, Reimer, we only use online. That’s because we use it every year to order only our absolute preferred tomato—a HUGE, one-pound, slightly elongated, plum type perfect for canning and just as tasty fresh.
Now while I dream of a lush garden spilling over with its fruits of our labor and these wonderful seeds, let me shine up my shovel for a new year’s work.
And then take a nap.

Next week: Wooden Spoon: Back to the kitchen and seafood recipes inspired by our vacation on the southern coast.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


WOODEN SPOON: Cooking “Souvenirs” from Faraway Places

As I mentioned last week, bringing home recipes from our travels can recreate the mood and memories of those wonderful times. Cooking these two special appetizer recipes I connived to get from the generous chefs also happily sharpens my cooking technique. Of course, eating and sharing them with you makes me even happier.


Albondigas, a Tapas from Unknown Bar in Madrid

1 pound ground meat, about ¾ beef or veal with ¼ pork
1/2 cup whole milk
1 eggs

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup breadcrumbs
flour to coat meatballs
salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying


1/2 large onion finely diced
1/2 cup white wine
scant oil for frying


--Place the meat in a large bowl.
--In a separate small bowl, soak breadcrumbs in the milk.
--Add egg to the breadcrumb mix, stirring with a wooden spoon.
--Mince the garlic, chop the parsley and add both to the breadcrumbs, blending with fork
   or in blender until smooth.
--Add blender contents to the meat and stir with wooden spoon until blended.
--Form meatballs, then cover the balls in flour.
--Heat a deep frying pan and fill 1 ½ inches deep with frying oil; when very hot, place 
   meatballs in and brown all over. (They don’t have to be cooked inside at this point.)

For Sauce

--In  separate fry pan, place a thin layer of olive oil in and heat; add onions and fry 
   until golden.
--Add a rounded tablespoon of flour to the pot, stirring until blended.
--Add the white wine and 1/2 cup of water; keeping the pot on medium high heat and
   adding the browned meatballs.
--Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for 20-30 minutes during which time the
   meatballs will cook fully inside.
--Add salt and pepper to taste. Double the recipe for a party.
   Bet you can’t eat just one!

Serve with a full bodied Spanish wine.
                                                                         * * *

Tiny Greek Stuffed Peppers as served at Nikos Bar, Moraitika, Corfu

18-20 small frying pepper (2-3" long)
1 med. onion, chopped
2-3 anchovy filets, finely chopped
1 1/2c. bread crumbs
2 TB. raisins, chopped
1 1/2 med. tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 TB. grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
pinch of hot pepper flakes
2 TB. olive oil

-Remove stem end of peppers, seed and carefully remove pith with fingers or narrow 
-In 1 TB. olive oil, sauté chopped onion until transparent.
-In small bowl mix bread crumbs, onions, tomato, raisins, anchovies, cheese and pepper
-Mix well with fork or fingers; if not moist enough to hold together, add a few drops of
-Stuff peppers fairly firmly with the mixture.
-In same sauté pan as used for the onions, heat 2 additional TB. olive oil over medium-
  high heat.
-Add peppers, turning frequently to lightly brown all sides, and lowering heat to medium
  if necessary.
-Remove from heat and place in oven casserole in single layer; cover with aluminum foil
  and bake additional 15 min. at 350o or until fork tender.

Delicious served alone or with a crusty baguette.

Next Friday’s Blog will take us back to the Shovel, and our Winter Garden

Friday, January 13, 2012


This week’s Friday blog is under the “fork” banner—my symbol for traveling and dining in faraway places. Soon we’ll depart for some weeks away in the deep-down south, where every day we’ll gaze out the breakfast window at the beautiful, and the rugged boats as well, traversing the Intercoastal Waterway.
At the beach we’ll find a spot not too far from the water, so we can hear the shwoosh of even little waves up on the beach. When that baking Florida sun gets too warm we’ll find a shady spot under the palm trees at the top of the beach, and greet the friendlier folks passing by en route to the beach house or snack bar, or deeper waters. Take a deep breath, soak it all in. What joy.
Later we’ll explore the unknown tastes of a Thai or Cuban or Down-South restaurant, and say, “We’ll have to come back here another time!”
Travel is so good for the soul. Just to breathe different air, see the sun set over different water, watch the fishing boats come in and smell that super salty tang of their catch. And there’s always so much to learn. Last year a multiple horse owner from the local harness racetrack stayed in the same complex as we did, and he and his sweet wife welcomed us to their stables to meet the animals and to return on race night. That never would have happened in our own backyard. True, getting away is easier for us than some--we’re extra fortunate to have family members right next door to water the plants, feed the cat and sort out the mail—those are benefits we can’t pass up.
But wherever you go, or however you get there, new sensations will swoop you up, send endorphins coursing through your brain, and get you home renewed and recharged—and ready to plan your next trip. And never mind the souvenirs—collect recipes from the chefs you get to meet, and you’ll always remember those new, exotic tastes.
A friend says she doesn’t care to travel because she likes her home too much to leave. Oh, honey, take a little romp—to another region of the country, the next state over, or across the pond, if you can, and you’ll love it even more when you get back.

Next Friday’s Blog—Wooden Spoon--Some of Those Saved Recipes from Trips Gone By—Care to Share Yours?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

From My Garden in Winter

Think there's not much to write about gardening in winter? Wait, I think I disagree. Winter's a good time to enjoy the seed catalogues filling my mailbox, count up last year's leftover seeds and meditate on the hard, frozen ground. Here's a favorite quote of mine I often look to at this time of year:

Notes from THE FAITHFUL GARDENER in the depths of winter--
Eden lies underneath the empty field, the new seed goes first to the empty and open places—even when the open place is a grieving heart, a tortured mind or a devastated spirit.
What is this faithful process of spirit and seed that touches empty ground and makes it rich again? It’s greater workings I cannot claim to understand. But I know this: Whatever we set our days to might be the least of what we do, if we do not also understand that something is waiting for us to make ground for it, something that lingers near us, something that loves, something that waits for the right ground to be made so it can make its full presence known.
I am certain that we stand in the care of this faithful force, that what has seemed dead is dead no longer, what has seemed lost, is no longer lost, that which some have claimed impossible, is made clearly possible, and what ground is fallow is only resting—resting and waiting for the blessed seed to arrive on the wind with all Godspeed.
And so it will.