Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Greens’ Category

Fresh salad greens, including leaves of sorrel.

Fresh salad greens, including leaves of sorrel.

Sorrel is one of those herbs that I put in my garden because someone described it to me and it sounded good, although I couldn’t remember ever having eaten it. I figured eventually I’d try it and be glad I added it to my collection.

In the last two years, I’ve added small fresh leaves to my garden salads and loved the lemony taste that they added to the mix. I’ve also discovered that my chickens LOVE sorrel and will decimate it in short order if given the chance! I’m hoping to add a few more plants just for that reason – I’ll bet it’s splendidly good for them, and it will give me a chance to snip off more than just the most bedraggled of the leaves to share with them. However, I’ve cooked with it or explored any other possible uses until somehow, for some reason, I came across the idea for sorrel soup.

I modeled my experiment after this recipe for one basic reason: I had all the ingredients on hand. Most of the lovely-sounding recipes out there called for a potato (and often cream) and I just didn’t have a potato (or cream) at the moment. And I don’t know about you, but I just don’t want to go to the store for a potato! I end up spending $30-40 and bringing home all sorts of other things I don’t need like bread, ice cream, or some kind of funky condiment – when all I wanted to do is try a new fresh treat from the garden.

After searching high and low for a recipe that was even easier than those calling for cream and potatoes, I found what I was looking for. I’ve adapted mine from the Gastronomer’s Guide version to be vegetarian and to accomodate the fact that for now, I just have one good sorrel plant – I cut the entire plant for this recipe and it gave me about half what I figured the original recipe needed (and I’m amazed at how rapidly it’s growing back!). This recipe is so basic, all you need is olive oil and some eggs. And the way I ended up making it, it makes a really small serving – just enough for two people to enjoy it as a refreshing lunch, an appetizer, or a light summer supper with some crusty bread and a salad.

 Sorrel Soup

1 bunch (about 1/2 pound) sorrel leaves, washed and trimmed of stems
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
3 teaspoons sugar
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large or 2 small eggs, beaten
several dollops plain yogurt

Heat oil in a medium pot or saucepan. Add shallots and saute over medium heat until translucent and beginning to turn golden. Tear sorrel leaves into large pieces and toss into pot a handful at a time. Cook, stirring often, until sorrel breaks down into a soft “sauce” and turns greenish-brown (this goes quite quickly!). Add broth, bring to a boil, and simmer 15 minutes.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender or in small batches in a food processor (working carefully so as not to burn yourself!). Return to pot and add sugar, salt and pepper to taste, then slowly stir in the beaten eggs and stir until fully cooked and dispersed into soup. Cook soup for a couple more minutes. Ladle into bowls and top off with 1-2 Tbsp plain yogurt for each serving.

P1150802

This lovely soup is very light and lemony (which is probably why it pairs so well with the egg and – in my opinion – with the tangy yogurt; it reminds me of the recipes for the Greek soup Avgolomeno). We polished it off in no time and I wished I had more for the next day, but the speed of the sorrel’s regrowth in the garden is promising many more opportunities to enjoy this simple and healthy soup throughout the growing season. Next test: will it freeze well? (I bet yes, as long as you freeze it just after pureeing it and add the eggs later!).

Check out these other great-sounding and easy sorrel soup recipes:
Terra Brockman in the Chicago Food Examiner

Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune, in New York Magazine

Read Full Post »

Well, it’s high time I revived this blog. Way past high time, really. I have spent far too many months feeling way too busy to craft something as complete and complex as an actual post. So I’m going to try a different tack, and write really short little notes – just a few minutes’ commitment – and see if that creates a little life here on this page. Because sometimes doing something half-assed IS better than not doing it at all.

So until I can get some more current photos of my chickens and finish describing all 5 of the girls – who are now laying beautiful eggs – I’m going to write about the only other food- and garden-related topic that I can think of at this time of year: the contents of my freezer. Riveting, I know.

I’m sure we all have equally pathetic freezers at any time of year, but I really did try to take a step in the direction of being a good urban homesteader last fall and preserve/freeze/put up some food from the garden before the growing season was over for good. Here’s approximately what I managed to accomplish:

Dried: some tarragon (I hung it upside down as they tell you to, in the garage – a nice dark, dry place. I don’t actually know if it’s still there, or if it’s since crumbled to green dust. I also froze tarragon so if I really needed any, I’d go for the frozen stuff first anyway).

Stored: some god-awfully ugly, gigantic, not totally ripe Green Striped Cushaw heirloom squash. These guys are huge. I wouldn’t know how to get started on one. I grabbed one really small one, about the size of an average butternut squash, with the idea that I’d make some soup or something. When I cut it open, it really didn’t look ripe – too pale – so now the rest of them are just sitting there in the garage, serving as doorstops for my car. I know when I’ve pulled in far enough when my tire hits the big squash on the floor. I’m hoping they’ll make good chicken food.

Frozen: here’s where I actually got a bit of something done.

I chopped basil and froze it in little ice cube trays. Those are the most useful thing EVER. When I need fresh basil for a recipe, I just pop a cube out and toss it in. I was anal enough about this to ensure, during the prep process, that each cube equaled 1 Tablespoon of chopped basil. It’s awesome. Forget the dried stuff – I just need to do a bunch more trays of this next year. I did the same thing with parsley and oregano. All I have left right now is oregano. Apparently one uses far less of that in soup recipes.

I shredded zucchini and froze it in bags of 2 cups each. For those moments mid-winter when you really just want to make zucchini bread. I envisioned such a moment last fall; it hasn’t happened yet, but with the zukes being about the only green thing left in the freezer, it’s going to have to happen.

I made and froze several little containers of regular and walnut pesto. Yum. This stuff is so amazing; it makes a dinner into something special. Curiously, I still have one container left. One more special dinner. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

When I realized we’d never keep up by eating it fresh, I finally capitulated and chopped, blanched and froze several cups of collard greens and swiss chard. Again, I froze these in bags measuring 2 cups of greens each for ease of adding to recipes. What a lifesaving idea. I’ve used them for quiche, stir-fries and on the side of scrambled fresh-from-the-garden eggs. With baked beans of course. Now it’s January and unfortunately, all the greens are gone. They were just so good. Next year: more of this.

A couple of containers of roasted tomatillo salsa verde. This too has the magical ability to transport you back to summertime and the garden bounty with a single punchy bite. It gets lots of raves from people stopping by for a drink in Tomas’ living room bar – a convenient quick snack to have around.

And that is all of it. Everything else seemed too sacrilegious to cook, or freeze, or otherwise alter, when it had just come out of the garden fresh. Or when it was still growing there, green and beautiful. We slowly ate all the last tomatoes – they lived on the counter for weeks – and I just blew it when it came to saving all the basil, parsley, and greens. A lot of that froze (outside – argh!) or fell prey to the marauding chickens once the garden was mostly deconstructed and they were given free rein in the yard.

Wow, that was so not just a short little note! One can wax on about pretty much anything, I guess, when it’s cold enough outside. (10 degrees now, if you really want to know).

The moral of the story, as I see it, is that there’s room in the freezer for a lot more bags of greens, trays of basil cubes, pints of pesto, and many more such ideas. These are the ingredients you CRAVE when the dark days of winter are at their worst. They remind you that there is life out there. There are long days of sunshine, rich moist soil and healthy, homegrown plants that are willing to give, and give, and give. Enough for you to eat it all fresh AND put up as much as you can get around to. Next year.

Last year's basil in the garden - an open invitation (or is it a challenge?)

Last year's basil in the garden - an open invitation (or is it a challenge?)

Read Full Post »

Basil is beyond bountiful again in my garden. Last time (just a few weeks ago) I managed to chop up and freeze a good-sized load of it in ice cube trays. I found out that if I really pack the cubes, I get a tablespoon of basil into each square. Perfect quantities for soups or sauces, when the occasion arises. I also made a batch of the incredible maple-basil balsamic vinaigrette that I can’t stop eating. Stuff like that seems too good to also be good for you.

Here’s something else that’s good for you. I decided to whip up a batch of pesto this time, since it’s the only way to reliably use up decent quantities of basil. In my eagerness to harvest the best of my herbs, however, I picked far too many and as a result I made two batches – it worked out to 3 generous cups, or one for the week and two for the freezer. Naturally, the first has already been polished off tidily. This recipe – which substitutes easier-to-find, superfood walnuts for the expensive pine nuts – is adapted from Biba’s Italian Kitchen – perhaps a sign of my renewed obsession with all things Italian, at least culinarily speaking. (I made her recipe for potato gnocchi the other day too, but that’s another, very lumpy, story). In terms of ratios of ingredients, pesto recipes run the gamut. This one seems to me to have the right balance of basil, oil, nuts, garlic and cheese. I did omit the salt on the second round though – there was plenty of it in the parmesan cheese.

Walnut Pesto

2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (I went for a little less to keep the consistency thicker)

1/3 cup shelled, chopped walnuts (since I was using a food processor, I sort of skipped the chopping part and just filled the cup a bit more to compensate for the size of the nuts)

2 garlic cloves

salt to taste

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Put all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the bowl in between as needed. Set aside or refrigerate (or freeze) until ready to use. Makes about 1 cup.

I found that “sealing” the sauce with a thin layer of olive oil before storing in the fridge or freezer helps prevent the rapid discoloration that happens once basil is cut and exposed to light. My batches came out a bit more than a cup each. Not that I’m complaining about ending up with more pesto than predicted.

Mangia!

 

Read Full Post »

We had a little party for our 5 new baby chicks last night – they are one month old and getting ready to move out to their new digs in the garden, so we called it a “coop-warming party” and invited all our friends. Everyone was quite entertained by the idea – one couple, who it turns out also has 3 chickens of their own, thought it was the coolest party they’d ever been to: proof that other “normal” people have chickens too. 

In addition to tours of the just completed chicken coop and plenty of time for everyone to pet and play with the chicks, we served up a buffet of summer patio fare: in addition to the obligatory brats and whole grain rolls, we had salad of watermelon, feta cheese and red onions, grilled tricolor bell peppers, zucchini and yellow squash, grilled polenta cakes, orange cream cheese frosted brownies, a white balsamic custard tart with fresh fruit that went over very well indeed, and cream cheese with fresh chives and garlic from the garden stirred in. The most popular item of the evening, though, appeared to be the chard and onion quiche (I’d made two in the hopes that we’d have generous leftovers to enjoy this week – both were polished off in their entirety, so we will have to cook again tonight – too bad).

1 pie crust

large bunch chard, stems trimmed off and chopped separately, leaves roughly chopped

red onions, sliced – I used several small ones, but I’d say 1-2 large ones would work

grated Pecorino-Romano cheese (again guesstimating, I grated about a saucer full)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup milk (I used 1%)

1 cup cream (I used table cream that was left over in the fridge)

 a few toasted pine nuts

salt, fresh ground pepper, dash nutmeg and dash cayenne pepper

Directions:

preheat oven to 400 degrees

Saute chard stems in olive oil until softened; set aside

Saute chard leaves in olive oil, seasoning occasionally with salt and pepper, until wilted and tender; set aside

put onion slices in pan with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and a generous dash of sugar; over medium heat let them cook until well softened and beginning to caramelize; try not to stir much to allow the caramelization to begin to take effect

line a pie plate with pie crust and fold over edges

fill bottom of pie with onions

layer chard stems and leaves on top of onions

sprinkle most of the grated cheese over the chard

mix together cream, milk, eggs and season with salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg

pour egg mixture into pie crust

top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with pine nuts

bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes

lower heat to 325 and bake for 35 more minutes, until golden brown and slightly crusty

let sit for a while before serving – at least 30 minutes, but quiche will taste fabulous hours later or the next day

I was paid the highest compliment on this quiche when a native French woman had some and pronounced it truly excellent; she commented on people’s tendency to overbake theirs until the eggs turned runny, and on the excellent flavor of the vegetables. You might as well just call it “garden quiche,” because it could just as well have had any other combination of greens and veggies in it; this is just what was ready for the taking yesterday. I can see by my fast-growing vines that we will soon have the opportunity to try cherry tomato and zucchini quiche, for example. Any good cheese and any tasty combination of vegggies, sausage or other kinds of meat would surely be just as wonderful. Let your imagination run on this one – as long as you have the basic base down, you can’t mess up a quiche!

Read Full Post »

Today is the first day of the rest of my life – my life without store-bought salad dressings, that is. Not that I haven’t ever made my own salad dressings before… but they were always a luxury, something you did for a special dish that called for it, or when you were really motivated, or found an irresistible recipe (like this one, which I will always go to for an extra-indulgent special occasion dressing – at least until I find something better, which may very well never happen).

But today, in the early hot days of summer, as I was trying to restore order to the jungle that I returned to after 10 days away from my newly planted vegetable garden, I saw herbs gone wild, overflowing their raised beds. I remembered last year, when I planted all these lovely culinary treasures and then let them go to seed – only to find myself needing fresh oregano or fresh thyme when I should have had it, and didn’t. This is not going to happen to me again, I thought; I am going to harvest and preserve this stuff if it kills me.

But it’s only May! Ok, June 1st. But the specter of being functionally herb-less in the middle of summer haunted me. The tarragon has been flourishing there in the back of the garden since March, and all I’ve done is pinched off a few leaves to garnish a salad – once. Am I going to let these $3 plants pay for themselves this year, or not?

So right now in my kitchen, there is an alarmingly large pile of oregano drying on 4 paper towels, waiting to be picked over and frozen. The tarragon plant was even scarier – two feet high and almost as thick, waving happily in the breeze. For some reason, that one screamed out “salad dressing.” Maybe because I once had a bottle of tarragon vinegar that I never did much with and still feel I tragically wasted. Maybe because my greens are growing faster than I can eat them, and the selection of bottled dressings in the fridge is getting really depressing, and wholly unworthy of the endless bounty of melt-in-your mouth fresh lettuce. So after harvesting two armfuls of 8-inch long tarragon clippings, I dove into the recipe books. Martha Stewart whetted my appetite with a lovely-sounding herb vinaigrette, but I didn’t have a shallot handy (though I regret that, because I often do and I think they’re an overlooked staple), nor sherry vinegar. Silly me. The Mediterannean Herb Cookbook suggested a dreamy-sounding creamy yogurt dressing, but alas, no yogurt (we usually have tons, but we just got back from Europe and the fridge is still empty… an odd sight).

Time to improvise. After a quick visit to Google to look at basic dressings and a reference back to Martha for quantity tips on the extras (sea salt, garlic), here is what I ended up throwing together, and BOY IS IT GOOD drizzled over a salad of just-picked spinach, mesclun mix, baby romaine lettuce, radishes, green onion, chopped walnuts and sunflower seeds. I’m full.

Tarragon Vinaigrette

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

3/4 cup olive oil (I went for the good stuff, a bottle from Hania, Crete – it is strong though – and expensive – so I would consider diluting half of it with standard EVOO next time)

1 large clove garlic, minced

generous grind of fresh black pepper

1 tsp sea salt

1 heaping Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon

1 tsp chopped fresh chives

Whisk together ingredients in a small bowl. Toss with fresh greens and enjoy!

Does it get any easier than that? Hardly. This recipe makes 1 cup of delicious summery dressing, which is plenty more than 1 serving so I have a nice little jar left over to use for the rest of the week. That gives me just enough time to whip up something else, maybe using some of the mint we planted last month or a bit of the forest of chives in my rock garden. Suddenly, there’s just no excuse for buying bottled dressings at the store. Except maybe just one for backup – a nice Newman’s Balsamic or something basic like that…

I should note that this recipe used up only the teeniest, tiniest fraction of the mountain of tarragon I hacked out of the garden today. But in my recipe research, I read that tarragon freezes ridiculously easily, and can just as easily be hung up to dry – and the dried stuff you buy in a jar apparently loses its taste within a year, so mine must want to be replaced. So I’m off to find some twine with which to string up my tarragon bounty. Who needs to spend $5 for a tiny spice bottle at the store when there are more herbs in the garden than you can shake a stick at?

 

Read Full Post »

I just returned from a long weekend away for Christmas, and was faced with the customary refrigerator full of mysterious tupperware containers – *oops*, what was that again? when did I make it? In my case, a box of baby spinach, a container with some freshly cooked navy beans, a small tub of leftover brown rice, some carrots, tofu in various stages of freshness, and all the various cheeses that Tomas likes to buy and eat –  to which I had added some special samples that I acquired at Trader Joe’s over the weekend (a wedge of Spanish Manchego, a sheep’s milk Gouda, and a small package of local New Mexican pesto-flavored goat cheese).

And today, Tomas is sick with a cold. Suddenly, the stacks of cheeses and tins of Christmas cookies are out of the question. So are the rich leftovers from Christmas dinner (vanilla-bean whipped sweet potatoes, red cabbage and roasted pheasant). I opted instead for something clear, brothy and healing. Into the pot went a shredded carrot, several minced cloves of garlic, cubed tofu, the leftover rice and some miso for a nice hot miso soup.

But as lovely as miso soup is, it’s rarely a meal in itself. I needed a starter or something solid to munch on. So I turned to the beans. Got to use those somehow… they still smell ok, we know that won’t last much longer…

Here is the result, which was flavorful and healthy enough that it prompted this post. No exact quantities are listed because I didn’t use any measurements, but I’ll give my best guess.

White Bean and Spinach Saute (prep time: 5 minutes; cook time: 5 minutes)

1 cup cooked white beans (navy or cannelini)

two generous handfuls baby spinach

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp (or less or more, to your taste) grated Parmesan cheese

splash lemon juice

Heat the olive oil in a small frying or saute pan. Add the white beans and stir to coat with oil. Add the spinach and turn frequently, mixing in with the beans as it begins to wilt. When spinach is mostly wilted, toss in parmesan cheese and a splash of lemon juice. Mix gently and serve immediately.

Since I’m trying to eat a serving per day of beans as well as leafy greens, this was a perfect supper for me; a perfect way to use up some oddball leftovers; and a perfect way to fix dinner in 10 minutes or less. Possible added side effects may be extra nutrients and energy for the sick one; a cleaner fridge; and a new recipe for the blog. You can hardly even call it a recipe, but that’s why I like it!

Read Full Post »