Monday, May 27, 2013

Super Green Guacamole

Eat your greens--I don't need to tell my Cooking Assistant twice.  In fact, I can't get him out of the long grass in this abandoned yard.   His favorite yards are the unkept ones filled with knee high greens.

Greens have lots of  fans in the Northwest.  I'm cultivating more dandelions, purslane and amaranth greens in our garden this year--things that grow easily and take little care.   And I'm continually musing about what to do with them in the kitchen.

Recently I read this post by Deborah Madison on Culinate about using the whole vegetable.  She wrote about radish leaves, of all things.  Check out the article and get some ideas--smoothie, salad, soup, saute--who knew?

Funny, on Saturday I'd asked people at the market, while standing in line, what they intended to do with their radish greens.  I got a lot of blank stares which is kind of unusual at the farmers' market.  Usually someone can come up with something. But people just wanted the radishes this time. 

More people need ideas for these greens or they'll get tossed into the compost heap prematurely.

I started concocting my own recipe as I stood in line.  Soup usually works, but I was thinking dip for a change.  It involved avocado, and what isn't good with avocado?   I was thinking guacamole, but I didn't have a lime, so I'd make it work with lemon.  

How much dip you get depends the size of the avocado you use.

Don't stress if you don't have radish greens.  Use what comes with your CSA or harvest something from your garden, if you want.  Looks like some chard or spinach here.

 Whispering Winds Farm, near Mount Vernon.  I love the flags here.

Lemons in Arizona
Lemons take special care in the Northwest (if you want to grow them), and only a few varieties survive.  For fresh lemons from trees, you'd have better luck in Arizona or California.  Get them organic if you want to use the peels. Winter months are best for citrus, but I love the tangy bite all year long.

Avocado adds the perfect texture.  This dip isn't just about healthy--it's about vibrant flavors and a decadent texture.

Even my Assistant agrees--this is a flavor you could get addicted to.

Here's the recipe:

Super Green Guacamole
(Serves 2 to 4)

1 spring onion, diced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups of washed chopped seasonal greens (use radish, turnip, spinach, chard or mustard greens)
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's, or use cayenne or chipole chile powder to taste
1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic scrapes
1avocado, peeled and seeded
Smoked sea salt, to taste
Fresh lemon juice, taste

1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and oil.  Stir and cook until onions are soft.  Add Mama Lil's and the seasonal greens.  Cook until greens are soft but still vibrant green.  

2. Remove from heat.  Puree with garlic scrapes.  Set aside and allow to cool. Mash avocado, then stir and mash greens, adding smoked sea salt and fresh lemon juice to taste.  

3. Serve with chips or fresh veggies. This puree is also good layered on sandwiches, blended with noodles like pesto, or added as a topping for rice.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chive and Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

If you plant chives in your garden, the blossoms are a bonus. A lovely shade of pink, they add color and flavor to soups, stir fries and salads, but a little can go a long way.  The problem is so many come at once, I often give them away or don't use them all. 

Last week, I saw this fabulous idea for using chive blossoms on Facebook.  So after looking at a few recipes like this one and this very casual one, I came up with my own version.  You can follow my recipe or just toss some blossoms into vinegar and use your own proportions.

Chive Blossom-Apple Cider Vinegar  

Up to 2 cups of chive blossoms
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

Put the blossoms in vinegar in a glass jar with a lid.   Place jar in a dark place for 2 weeks.  Turn the jar once or twice a day.   When the vinegar is a nice shade of pink, discard the blossoms and store the vinegar.  

My Cooking Assistant isn't impressed with vinegar.
Use the best ingredients for this vinaigrette--organic oils, locally sourced garlic, and  a good quality balsamic vinegar.

And for the salad check out the greens at the farmers markets.  We planted micro greens.  I love the idea of eating tender young greens from spring through fall.  These will come up in 15 days.  Some researchers say these tender young greens are also more nutritious.  My idea for our garden was to stick with things that grow really well here.

It's a good thing we all like greens.  We also plant edible flowers.  I found this great list from Swanson's  Nursery.   I'm partial to johnny jump-ups, a kind of viola.  They grow like wildflowers in the Northwest.

We've grown lettuce ever since I was a puppy.  Here's me with our first crop--it was love at first sniff.

I'm not partial to vinegar, I wish it wasn't so tart.
Technically, we have to wait a few weeks to make this vinegar, so last night,  I used plain apple cider vinegar to make this recipe.  I got the original recipe from Jeff Miller at Willie Green's Organic Farm.   The recipe is listed in my book as Willie Green's Sun-dried Tomato-Balsamic Vinaigrette.  This version is slightly different because I used sundried tomatoes from a jar and omitted summer savory.  I'd serve it over a green salad and I'd also try it in a quinoa salad with corn, shredded carrots, chopped parsley and roughly chopped kalamata olives.

Chive and Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette
(Makes 1 1/4 cups)

3 tablespoons chopped sundried tomatoes (soak and soften, if dried)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chive vinaigrette
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons mixed shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar or honey

Combine all ingredients in a shaker bottle.  Shake well, then let marinate the covered container, at room temperature for 2 hours, shaking every 30 minutes.  Store this vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Orzo With Arugula and Shiitaki Mushrooms

Greens--you've got to love them if you live in the Northwest.  Most every farmer grows some.  This is Willie Green's in Monroe.

With our cool, rainy climate, greens thrive here.  You could plant some seeds or go pick up some plant starts at a nursery or even a grocery store and start your garden with those.

Or you could get some fabulous tasting greens from the farmers market.

If you get turnip greens, these must be used within a day.  Arugula is one of my favorites and even though we have some growing in my garden, I like to try the different varieties at the farmers market. I never get tired of the peppery flavor.

And if you're using olive oil, always use good quality.  I'm a big fan of these Spanish varieties

What was I going to make?  I flipped through a few cookbooks and then I remembered this recipe from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.  The recipe is easy.  Orzo pasta takes about 15 minutes.  I changed it to add the shiitakis.

Orzo with Arugula and Shiitaki Mushrooms
(Serves 4)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 spring onion, diced
1 /2 to 2 cups baby shiitakis or chopped larger shiitakis with the stems removed
Pinch of Cayenne (or chopped Mama Lil's Peppers to taste)
1/2 cup dry Riesling wine
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
2 cups chopped arugula
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
Lemon wedges

1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat

2. Add oil, onions, cayenne and shiitakis.  Stir and cook until onions and mushrooms are soft.  Add Riesling and stir.  Add water and salt and bring to a boil.  Add orzo pasta. 

3. Reduce heat, stir and cook for 13 minutes or until liquid is absorbed by pasta.  

4. Blend in arugula and cook until wilted (2 or 3 minutes).

5. Garnish with pecans.  Serve with a lemon wedge.

Sometimes the Cooking Assistant feels entitled.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Seasonal Berry Sorbet

 Found Treasures

A few years ago I got a box freezer.  I'd never had one before and wondered just how different is it?  It's more energy efficient. You can pack a lot in it, but if you've packed a lot in, some things end up on the bottom. And those berries you thought you had, could end up buried until next spring.

That's how I got the strawberries to make this sorbet. I found two bags at the very bottom of that box freezer! (And one luscious bag of mulberries!)  Wow--was I thrilled! I love berries, and I remembered that I'd used my Food Sealer on them as an experiment. I froze the strawberries first.  I lopped off the tops off and placed the juicy berries on parchment paper on a baking sheet.  I froze them, then put them in a food sealer bag.  These frozen berries are usually gone by December for us, but then last year was my first season with my food sealer.  And with the food sealer, strawberries don't have the freezer burn issues, because all the air is sucked out of the bag.

During the spring and summer, I get berries at the farmers' market.  

Berries at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco
Ring around the strawberries 

I usually buy enough strawberries to freeze.  I froze about four pint sized bags, and we'd gone through all the blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, so I thought we'd tasted the last strawberries long ago. I  never expected to find two overlooked bags. So making this sorbet felt a little like a gift.

Spoiler alert:  Hidden treasures can be found in your own freezer!  And, I think I saw a least one container of pie cherries on my way to the bottom of the freezer.

I had some blood oranges and satsumas.  What's up with the long citrus season?  I don't recall blood oranges lasting till May last year.  What ever the reason, I'm crazy about blood oranges and it sounded like a perfect pairing with strawberries.

My Cooking Assistant and his apple, posing with the ingredients

If you have fresh strawberries, they can work too, but freezing berries breaks the cell walls and renders them juicier for the sorbet.

I was recently told that frozen foods don't taste as sweet as they do at room temperature. Oh, so that's why ice cream and commercial sorbet is so sugar laden.  Most people like a sweeter strawberry, so you may want to add a bit of sugar, or why not sprinkle a little stevia over the berries, if you don't want additional sugar.

Check out how much liquid is released from the frozen berries.  Don't be fooled into thinking this tastes like the frozen strawberries from the grocery store.  Those are generally laden with lots of sugar and taste quite a bit sweeter.

Real fruit sorbet can be so beautiful with the red, purple and golden colors of fresh summer fruits.   And so healthy if you make it yourself.  The only downside is, it's not a keeper.  If you leave it more than a few days in the freezer, the molecules link up and it becomes very hard with grainy crystals.

Commercial ice cream and sorbets have "stabilizers" and additives to prevent the texture from becoming hard.  

I like the idea of enjoying real food right now.  It's the perfect time for a backyard part.

Enjoy life at your own pace

Blood-Orange and Strawberry Sorbet
(Serves 6)
Remember to freeze the base of your ice cream maker for 24 hours before making this recipe.  If you don' t have an ice cream maker use the stir and freeze method.  Place in the freezer, then remove and blend every hour, until it becomes too stiff.  (This method  takes a long time and the sorbet does not get as smooth as the icre cream maker method.) The sorbet that comes straight from the mixture is very mushy.  You can let it keep churning for 40 minutes, but it will still be soft.  Leave it for an hour or two in the freezer and the texture will be perfect.  Enjoy the moment with this recipe.

4 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup fresh squeeezed blood orange juice
1 ripe banana, sliced
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup sugar 

1. Puree berries, juice and banana.  Add sugar as desired.  More sugar brings out the strawberry flavor a little more.  Place mixture in the freezer for about 15 minutes before starting.  

2. Pour into the frozen freezer base and churn for about 35 minutes.  Mixture may be slushy.  Freeze.  Remove from freezer after an hour and stir.   It should be the texture of sorbet in a few hours.  This dessert does not keep well because the liquid molecules link up, making it the texture hard.  It is best eaten soon after making or leave it out to thaw a bit before eating.

Please may I have some now?