Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Turnip Greens Soup

Turnip greens soup is one of my favorite spring guilty pleasures. I like the soup so much, I'm surprised it didn't appear on my Soup Project because I have to have it every spring. I usually make it when I return from the market because you should eat turnip greens within a day.  They wilt quickly in the refrigerator no matter how you store them. 

Yesterday I made this soup as a main dish for dinner by adding sauteed vegetables.  I like cornbread with soup, and we had a huge salad on the side.


In Roots by Diane Morgan, I learned turnips belong to the mustard family along with horseradish, rutabaga and radish.  She wrote that turnips are also one of the the world's oldest domesticated crops.  They certainly don't look that old in person, but then maybe I've been watching to many old Marx Brothers movies.

More people seem familiar with the purple top turnips we see in winter. They're more starchy than spring turnips. 

Spring turnips taste like mild radishes.  As far as nutrition goes, Diane Morgan says turnips are low in calories and  the greens have lots of vitamin A, C and K and also contain calcium, folate, and potassium. Turnips are almost like a different vegetable in the spring. The roots are super mild and the greens are a little spicy hot.  If you find wasbina (a green that tastes like wasabi), definitely get some and add it.  Wow!  This soup was amazing with the flavors kicked into high gear.   

Turnip greens have a mild kick and they don't have bitter tones that characterize dandelions and mizuna.  They are almost always attached to their roots, which is an indication of freshness because the leaves are delicate and don't last long after they're picked.

Diane Morgan's book Roots

The soup

I don't follow an exact recipe for this soup.  All I know for sure is it involves steamed pureed turnip greens. And I usually consider five flavors before I begin--salty, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy(hot).  Rockridge Orchards apple cider vinegar fit the bill for sour.

My Cooking Assistant insists on participating in the photo shoot.  He's not sure which end to eat.

I hope you like my favorite soup.  Don't keep it a secret if you do.  Share and spread the good news about turnip greens.

Turnip Greens Soup
(Serves 2)

1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon powdered hot pepper (like cayenne)
1 bunch spring turnips with greens, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 to 2 tablespoons apple cider
1 cup rice or soy milk
2 tablespoon kuzu, ground into powder
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon agave nectar
Sea salt to taste
2 cups roughly chopped sauteed vegetables (asparagus, peppers, onion, summer squash, mushrooms)
Croutons (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Saute onions in oil.  When soft, add garlic powder, hot pepper and the stem end of the turnip greens.
Stir and cook until green stems soften.  Stir in apple cider, then add  the remaining greens.  Cover and steam until greens soften.  

2. Combine soy milk and kuzu.  Blend into the greens with apple cider and agave nectar.   Heat over medium heat until soup begins to thicken.   Remove from heat.  Puree 1 cup at a time.  Return to pan and add sauteed vegetables.

3. Remove from heat.  Serve with croutons and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Caution: This soup is higly addictive

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spicy Asparagus with Garlic-Chive Butter

Asparagus season

I know for sure spring has arrived when local asparagus appears at farmers' markets. I use recipes from my own book every year, but this season, I wanted to see if someone had an asparagus recipe that was different from my own stand-by recipes

I hadn't made asparagus recipes from my cookbook since last year, and I didn't bother to check my cookbook at first.  But I quickly found an interesting recipe, in Deborah Madison's new book Vegetable Literacy, which, if you haven't looked at it, you simply must.   

I picked a recipe called Griddled Asparagus with Tarragon Butter.  But the minute I saw it, I thought it would taste better with chives, garlic and lemon.  So I changed the recipe a bit and after I had the proportions of ingredients down, I flipped through my own book, only to find Roasted Asparagus with Lemon-Garlic Sauce.  It's a bit different, but the flavors I chose are so similar to my recipes, I had to laugh.  At least I know what I like.

You can find green and sometimes purple asparagus at the market. I haven't ever seen white but apparently it takes more work since it must be kept in the dark.  At the local markets, you find mostly organic and  of course, local to Washington.  That's why the price seems a bit higher.  Five dollars a pound is last year's farmers' market price.  But no matter what it costs, it's still worth it to try some local asparagusthis season.

When you get asparagus, stand it upright in a jar and fill the jar a couple inches with water.  Then put it the asparagusin the refrigerator.  Sometimes it will last a week like this, but I can't usually wait that long.

My Cooking Assistant loves asparagus bones.

Side dishes to main dishes

I love recipes that are so versatile, they can be used for a number of dishes.  You could probably double the recipe and use the asparagus for more than one dish.  I'd add this asparagus to rice dishes, whole grain salads, casseroles, soups and sandwiches. ( Yes sandwiches--which are really quite amazing).  Expand your imagination with this one.  What will you do with it?

Spicy Asparagus with Lemon-Garlic-Chive Butter
(Serves 4)

2 pounds asparagus spears, tough ends removed
Oil from Mama Lil's Peppers to season 
(or add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne to 1 tablespoon olive oil)
1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
1 tablesppon finely chopped lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 to 2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup butter or Earth Balance buttery sticks
Fresh lemon
Crunchy sea salt (Fleur de Sel)

1. Break the tough ends off each asparagus stalk (about 3- to 4- inches).  Toss the stalks with Mama Lil's oil until each one is thoroughly coated with oil.

2. Heat a heavy ridged skillet over medium-high heat.  When skillet is hot, place spears on the griddle and cook until the bottom begins to brown.  Turn them with tongs.  No need to be turn one at a time says, Deborah Madison in Vegetable Literacy, just pick them up and redistribute, but remember to keep the heat on medium-high, cooking them for several more minutes, or until they are fork tender.

3. Blend the butter or Earth Balance with the chives, lemon zest and garlic, while asparagus cooks.  When asparagus is done, transfer to a platter and gently toss with the Lemon-Garlic-Chive Butter.  Squeeze lemon juice over all and sprinkle with Fleur de Sel.

4. Use this as a side dish or slice it and toss with chopped tomatoes and fresh baby spinach into cooked pasta.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Broccolini and Avocado Salad

Broccolini or Broccoli Raab?

I love buying broccoli raab at the market, and when I saw something similar in a bag at a grocery store with an organic label, I wondered what exactly is broccolini?  It looks like skinny broccoli and has a resemblance to broccoli raab, so are they the same thing? And more importantly, does broccolini offer the same bitter tones I love in broccoli raab?

Both greens are members of the cruiciferious family of vegetables. WiseGeek says broccolini is a trademarked name and the vegetable was developed by crossing broccoli with gailan or kai-lan, a Chinese broccoli, a vegetable only slightly more bitter than broccoli.

The cross makes broccolini have sweeter tones.  The flavor is like eating baby broccoli.

But what about the cruciferous raabs?

Broccoli raab (rabe or rapini) is more closely related to turnips than broccoli.  It has been used extensively in Italian and Chinese cooking.  Broccoli raab offers more bitter tones than broccolini, so if you want to use raab instead of broccolini for this recipe, add a bit of sweetener to the dressing.

There's no place like the Northwest for vibrant greens.

Organic broccolini

Check out Elizabeth Schneider's The Essential Reference of Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini or Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy

Elizabeth Sheneider's Vegetables From Amaranth to Zucchini

Start with a lemon.  Why not, if you have too many.  If you only have oranges, why not try that in this salad? So many dishes shine when fresh citrus is added especially greens.  

Citrus and vinegar leech the color from greens if left too long, so plan to consume this salad the day you make it, if possible.   And if you have leftovers use it in a veggie wrap with fresh vegetables and tofu the next day.

I also used hot peppers I'd picked up at the farmers market in Phoenix, Arizona, my favorite balsamic vinegar and this amazing extra-virgin olive oil from Spain that came as a gift a few months ago.

My Cooking Assistant is little too curious about hot peppers. 

Use caution with hot peppers

I wanted to extract the essence of the pepper in the dressing without having it too spicy, so I allowed the pepper to soak until it softened.  Then I pressed it, and then (unfortunately) I left it in the salad.  Do not do this!   When my husband turned to me and said, "What was that pepper?" Yikes!   As his face turned red, I knew exactly what happened.  I hadn't informed him it wasn't part of the salad.  And then, I never did confess that I'd meant to take it out and it was supposed to be hotter than a habenero pepper.  Would you?   

Just remember whatever you do-- take the pepper out in the end.  Use it again if you like, but don't let your guests gulp it down by mistake.

Broccolini and Avocado Salad
(Serves 4)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
2 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon powdered garlic
1small dried hot pepper (habanero or hotter)

4 cups broccolini (or use broccoli raab), stems finely chopped and tops roughly chopped
1 avocado, pitted. peeled and diced
Smoked sea salt
1/4 to 1/2 cups toasted bread crumbs or croutons 

1. Combine balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic powder and the dried pepper.  Blend well, place in the refrigerator and allow mixture to soften the pepper for about an hour.  Press the peppers.  Break it open if you like really spicy food. Then remove the pepper and use in another dish, if you like.

2. Steam broccolini or broccoli raab until tender--3 to 5 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Place in a salad bowl with the avocado.   Toss gently with the dressing.  

3. Sprinkle with bread crumbs or croutons before serving.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Potato Salad with Peppers and Olives

Three Cheers for Potatoes

Potatoes belong to the nightshade family whose members are both loved and loathed, depending on which dietary advice you follow.  Potato relatives include tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers and chilies, which all contain alkaloids which have been reported to aggravate symptoms of arthritis, gout or inflammation, says Deborah Madison in her new book Vegetable Literacy.  Potatoes have also been reported to interfere with the absorption of calcium. But if having a potoat once in awhile is a guilty pleasure, why not go ahead and enjoy them on a splurge day.

The words potato salad trigger memories of picnics and potlucks, of sunshine and the beach.  But the potato salad of my younger years was laden with mayonnaise, and lacked the color and flavor I crave today. Now, I'm more interested in cutting excess calories from dishes.  Always experimenting, I create lost variations of potato salad. And when people ask me what potatoes I use, I often mention Olsen Farms at the U-District Farmers Market.  You can use red, purple, or white potatoes for this salad.

If you've got it, add it

If you've got parsley growing like wild, add that to the salad too. It's one of the most nutritious vegetables you can use. It's worth it to stash an extra bunch in your grocery or market basket and add finely chopped parsley to side dishes and casseroles.  It's excellent in green smoothies, too. I use it so often now, think I'm going to grow a whole patch this year.

And consider that warm colors improve the eye appeal.  Think carrots, red kidney beans or red or yellow peppers.  

If you want to use local foods year-round, remember to dice and freeze local peppers at the end of summer. I don't even bother to blanch them.  Also, if you buy peppers from the grocery store, remember to choose organic because peppers are one of the dirty dozen, with about 50 pesticides detected in post-harvest peppers.  During summer, grow your own peppers or ask a local farmer how he farms before purchasing.

Peppers aren't in season in the Northwest right no, but these are a few pretty specimens from the Bellingham farmers' market during late summer.  

Finally, I always have plenty apple cider vinegar from Rockridge Orchards.  I love the flavored varieties with dark cherries, raspberries and blueberries.  Use raspberry or even balsamic if you want. 

Wade Bennett of Rockridge Orchards

Potato Salad with Peppers, Corn and Olives
(Serves 4 to 6)

2 cups red or white potatoes, cut into small bite-size pieces
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons nayonaise or garlic aioli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup diced red pepper (or use frozen chopped peppers or peppers from a jar)
2 stalks celery, diced
1 cup frozen corn or drained canned corn (use fresh in season)
1 cup finely chopped curly parsley
1/2 cup chopped olives (use your favorite)
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Steam the potatoes until they are fork tender--5 to 7 minutes.  Do not over cook.  Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside. 

2. Blend apple cider vinegar, nayonaise, olive oil and mustard together.  Combine the potatoes, dressing, red pepper, celery, corn and parsley.  Mix in olives and add freshly ground pepper to taste. 

My Cooking Assistant sometimes can't resist sneaking a taste.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sweet Potato and Parsley Salad

Last week I mentioned my favorite  new cookbook by Deborah Madison.  Let me just say, as a long-time vegetable lover, this is the book that I've been waiting for ever since I started cooking vegetables.   And I urge anyone who loves vegetables and wants to learn more about the families they belong to, history, nutrition and tips for preparation--get this book.  An ode to vegetables this book  belongs in every cook's kitchen.

I didn't get this book free, nor am I paid a fee for endorsing it.  I just happen to have fallen in love with this useful book.  It's a book I can turn to over and over again.

That said, Deborah Madison organized this book by vegetable families, each is a fascinating read.  She begins with the Carrot Family and finishes chapter twelve with the  sweet potato or Morning Glory Family.

Since my focus this week is sweet potatoes, let's get right to the Morning Glory Family.   Madison says sweet potatoes are the sole crop in the Morning Glory Family and that the United States' commercial crops thrive in "the subtropical South, including Mississippi, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee." 

She writes that the sweet potato has also found a home in California.  Also in the past few years, Oregon and Washington have found sweet potato varieties that produce well in the Northwest.

If you want local sweet potatoes in Seattle, one farmer at the U-District Market in Seattle sells them right now, but there may be more farmers who grow and sell them at the Sunday Ballard Market.

What about yams?  You might ask.   Deborah Madison says: "There is a perennial confusion about the difference between sweet potatoes and yams."  

Botanically they are two different vegetables.   The yam in West Africa and the Caribbean is a dry starchy tuber and  Madison says "many of us wouldn't recognize" if one was placed on a plate in front of us.  The word yam, "crept into sweet potato nomenclature out of an old misuse of it, but also because there are two basic kinds of sweet potatoes, those classified as firm (or dry) and those referred to as soft (or moist),"  writes Madison.

Madison writes about how to eat the shoots, leaves and stems, if you should be lucky enough to get them.  As for keeping them--don't refrigerate sweet potatoes, but "keep them in a basket until ready to eat."  Wash the skins just before cooking, no need to peel them.  

I also love Madison's tips with each vegetable family that include "Good Companions."  Try butter, sesame oil, ginger, cardamom, chile, coconut milk, cinnamon, allspice, lime, oranges, tangerines, brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, bourbon and smoked salt.

This recipe wasn't in Madison's book.  I made it up from a sweet-tart sweet potato dish I'd gotten from a deli this past week.  It took about two sweet potatoes, washed and cut into tiny pieces.  I like them to look uneven, not perfect like a factory.

We have parsley everywhere in our yard.  I love easy keepers and curly parsley is nutritious and it helps cut costs when we can use a lot in salads and side dishes.

I imagined a sweet-tart flavor.  My first choice was dill, but I was fresh out, so I picked a flavorful berry apple cider vinegar from Rockridge Orchards. My main goal was make it easy.

Here's the recipe:

Sweet Potato and Parsley Salad
(Serves 4)

2 medium sweet potatoes, washed and tough ends removed (no need to peel)
2 tablespoons berry or cherry vinegar
2 tablespoons aioli spread or mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked sea salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper powder or cayenne
2 cups finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives 

1. Steam yams until fork-tender.  Do not overcook.  Rinse in cold water when done.  Set aside.

2. Combine vinegar, aioli spread, garlic powder, smoked sea salt and hot pepper.   Whisk with a fork.

3. Blend sweet potatoes, dressing, parsley and kalamata olives, stirring gently.  Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.