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Living tapestry in Santa Fe; easy-care garden uses ground covers and stone for color and texture.

Easy-care garden uses ground covers and stone for color and texture

Year-round beauty in the garden isn't easy to achieve when you live in a climate that's hot in summer and snowy in winter. But Russ and Helen Hedrick made it an important goal of their garden design, since many rooms in their Santa Fe house offer expansive views of the landscape.

Living in a dry climate, they chose plants that require little water and maintenance. Using ground-hugging plants, lichen-covered boulders, and thickets of aspen trees, landscape designer Ben Haggard, of The Well-Tempered Garden, created a living tapestry of colors and textures.

Lemon thyme and four kinds of sedum cloak the heart of the garden. For most of the year, the ground cover is a handsome carpet of green and red-tinged foliage. In summer, Sedum acre, S. album, Thymus praecox arcticus 'Citriodorus', and three varieties of penstemon create a brilliant show of color. In the shadiest areas grow Campanula rotundifolia and coral bells.

Mugho pine and Juniperus chinensis 'San Jose' add texture and character through the year, and boulders and aspens look particularly distinguished in winter.

Shaping the garden

Haggard created the garden's initial structure by gently contouring the soil to alleviate its flatness and provide a realistic setting for the boulders. Sinking them halfway into the ground made them "look as if they live there," says Haggard.

The contouring also solved a potential drainage problem. A manmade but natural-looking swale now channels any runoff from summer monsoons.

Trees were large-at least 20 feet tall, with 4-inch-diameter trunks.

To develop the tapestry effect, Haggard used 2,250 plugs of thyme along the swale's lowest elevations. The remaining ground covers nestle beside the thyme and around rocks. For instant results, all were planted 6 inches apart on center.

A compost-based nitrogen fertilizer at planting time gave the ground covers a boost (within six weeks, they'd doubled in size). Once established, they like water once a week in summer.

Gardeners living in water-short areas may want to wait until fall to plant.

A rare treat, genuinely fresh mozzarella is remarkable for its delicate, clean flavor and tender texture. To appreciate it at its best--within a few hours of making--you can produce your own fresh mozzarelia.

Michael Chiarello, chef at Tra Vigne in St. Helena, California, perfected his technique through repetition, and, even though your first batch or two probably won't match b is for looks, the taste will be comparable. Cheesemaking is a multipleday procedure. Plan to set aside several hours, mostly devoted to watching a thermometer, and then wait at least another day for the curd to ripen. This recipe yields up to 3 pounds of cheese, probably more than you can use at once; for mealsize servings, shape portions of it on different days.

The Italians call fresh mozzarella pasta filata, meaning spun paste, because you literally stretch it. Don't mistake this kind for the aged cheese on pizzas.

Be sure to follow steps carefully, especially sterilizing, to ensure freshest flavors.

Fresh Mozzarelia

Rennet, tablets or liquid, is found in pharmacies and health-food stores.

3 cups whipping cream

1 3/4 gallons plus 1 cup nonfat milk (29 cups total)

1/4 rennet tablet or 1 teaspoon liquid rennet

1/4 cup cool water (about 70')

1/2 cup freshly opened buttermilk

Brine (directions follow)

Before you begin, sterilize all tools and containers by pouring boiling water over them or immersing them in boiling water. During the cheesemaking process, have boiling water on hand to pour over tools spoons and thermometer in particular each time you return them to the milk mixture. This prevents certain bacteria from affecting the cheese's flavor.

To make the curd, pour cream and nonfat milk into a 3- to 4-gallon pan; stir with a metal spoon to mix. Place pan on lowest heat until milk is 90[deg], stirring occasionally and checking temperature often; if liquid is cold, this may take up to 1 hour, But be patient, since higher cooking temperatures are harder to control.

As the milk heats, combine the rennet and cool water in a small bowl. Let the mixture stand until completely dissolved, about 15 minutes; you may need to crush the tablet with the back of a spoon. (Or mix liquid rennet with water in a bowl.)

When the milk reaches 90[deg], add buttermilk and stir thoroughly with a spoon. Ladle out any butter lumps.

Slowly pour rennet mixture in a spiraling pattern over milk, stirring. Continue to stir for 3 to 5 minutes, using an up-down circular motion to distribute the rennet evenly.

Keep the milk at 90[deg] until it forms a clot firm enough to hold its shape in a spoon, 30 to 45 minutes; check temperature about every 5 minutes, removing mixture from heat intermittently, if needed. As you check the temperature, insert the thermometer gently to avoid breaking clot more than necessary.

Next, to create crosshatch pattern and to release clear-colored whey, cut through solid clot to pan bottom with a tong knife. First cut clot across, then at right angles for 1/2-inch squares. Then cut diagonally, holding knife at a 45[deg] angle; turn pan at right angles and repeat. Let curds stand on low heat at 90[deg] for 15 minutes longer (remove pan occasionally, if necessary, to keep temperature from fluctuating), then stir with a slotted spoon for 30 seconds.

From this point on, you need clean but not sterilized equipment. Quickly line a large colander with at least 2 layers of cheesecloth, edges overlapping rim; set in a sink with an open drain. Ladle curds into colander. Let stand until curds stop dripping, about 1 hour.

To protect cheese's flavor, place colander in a large pan; cover airtight with plastic wrap. Chill until curd is ready to shape (see below), 1 to 4 days. Each day, replace cheesecloth and discard whey.

Testing the curd. To determine when curd is ready to shape, cut off a small 1/4-inch slice and cover with hot water (170[deg] to 180[deg]). If after 15 to 30 seconds the slice begins to soften and melt and, when held by 1 end, the piece stretches from its own weight, it's ready. If the slice doesn't stretch but tears, chill remaining curd, testing daily, up to 4 days. If curd still won't melt milk got too hot or sufficient acidity did not develop slice and cover with hot water (170[deg] to 180[deg]), stirring. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again. Season with salt; eat like cottage cheese.

Shaping the curd. Divide the ready curd in 4 equal portions; let the number of portions you want to use come to room temperature. Cover and chill remaining curd in cloth-lined colander until you want to shape it no more than 5 days from when you started.

Working with 1 curd portion at a time, trim off and discard any dried-looking bits. Cut curd into 1/4-inch-thick slices and put into a large bowl. Pour about 1 quart hot water (170[deg] to 180[deg]) over slices to cover; let stand 1/2 to I minute to warm and begin to melt. With the back of a large spoon, gently push slices together and lift them from beneath, also on spoon back, so the weight of the cheese makes it stretch. Repeat lifting cheese along the length to stretch it; don't let rope fold back onto itself.

When cheese is flowing softly, as shown above, lift 1 end of the rope from the water and roll it under itself to form a smooth-surfaced ball 1 to 2 inches thick; pinch from rope and drop into brine. Working quickly, repeat to shape rest of cheese; if handled too slowly or roughly, cheese looks uneven but it's fine to eat. Keep cheese in brine 5 to 15 minutes to flavor (saltiness depends on length of time in brine); lift from brine. For tenderest texture and most delicate flavor, rinse and serve at once; or keep cold, covered, no more than 4 hours. Flat to bitter flavors develop when cheese is past its prime, although it is safe to eat.

Repeat to shape remaining cheese. Makes 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, depending on how long the curd drains before shaping.

Per ounce, estimated only: 60 cal; 4 g protein; 4.5g fat; 1 g carbo.; sodium varies with time in brine; 15 mg chol.

Brine. In a corrosion-resistant bowl, make enough brine to cover cheese, using 1/2 cup salt for each 1 quart water.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jun 1, 1989
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