January 21, 2018 Cauliflower Tortillas

Does any vegetable come close to having the versatility of cauliflower? It has a nutty sweetness when roasted and a creamy sumptuous quality when steamed and puréed. It’s a low carb, paleo, gluten-free option that substitutes for rice, couscous and even pizza crust. Let’s not neglect to mention the nutritional benefits as well. Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C. vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and dietary fiber and an entire head of cauliflower is only 156 calories!

Here’s a recipe to help keep you on track for a new year of healthy eating and a creative addition to your cooking repertoire, cauliflower tortillas. They have a texture similar to the real thing and a mildly nutty flavor.

Preheat your oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper, a Silpat liner works too. I use a little nonstick spray on the edges to keep the parchment from curling up. Start with a medium cauliflower, the one I used was 2 lbs, including the greens. Cut the cauliflower in quarters, remove the greens and most of the core. In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower into granules finer than rice, but don’t get to the point of liquefying it. I do this in batches so no chunks are left behind. If you don’t have a food processor you can go low tech and do this step with a hand-held box grater. The cauliflower needs to be cooked to remove as much liquid as possible. You can do this in either a microwave or a steamer. The next step is crucial to get the right consistency for the cauliflower “dough”. Gather the steamed cauliflower granules in a clean cloth dish towel (a thin one works best) and wring out all the excess liquid. Use rubber gloves or an extra towel to protect your hands, the cauliflower will be very hot. If you have the time, you can wait until it cools down a bit. When you think you have squeezed out all the liquid you possibly can, squeeze some more. The end result reminds me of masa dough, the ingredient corn tortillas are made from.

Place the well-drained cauliflower in a medium bowl and mix in two well beaten eggs and salt and pepper to taste. Many of the recipes I read add additional herbs and spices at this point and you are welcome to do so if you choose. I prefer to keep mine plain like a regular corn tortilla to showcase the flavors of what I fill it with.

Divide the cauliflower mixture into six portions and use your hands to press them evenly into six small circles, about five to six inches in diameter. Bake in the preheated oven for ten minutes, take them out of the oven and flip them to the other side and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes. I used convection heat and that helped them brown in the oven. You can also brown the tortillas in a pan to give them a crispy edge and a more nutty flavor.

The resulting tortillas are soft and pliable like the real thing and they hold up well to a variety of fillings. On my first attempt I filled them with taco seasoned ground turkey, guacamole and salsa. They would be great for quesadillas or enchiladas too. You don’t have to limit your choices to just Mexican, they would make a great breakfast wrap or with some smoked turkey, avocado slices, lettuce and tomato for a low carb lunch. Joe gave them two very enthusiastic thumbs up. Today we made breakfast tacos with scrambled eggs, cheese and chicken sausage topped with guacamole and salsa, delicious! Next to try, chicken enchiladas.

 

The cauliflower head, also known as the curd.
Pulse the cauliflower into fine granules.
Gather the cooked cauliflower into a dish towel, cheesecloth works here too.
After several minutes of squeezing the liquid out of the cauliflower, the finished product looks like this.
The resulting cup and a half of liquid that was squeezed out.
Mix the dried cauliflower with eggs and salt and pepper to taste.
Divide the mixture into six portions and form into circles on parchment lined baking sheets.
Cauliflower tortillas hot out of the oven.

Cauliflower Tortillas

Makes 6

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cauliflower (about 2 lbs total including the greens)
  • 2 large eggs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (I used convection heat) with racks in the upper and lower shelves of the oven. Line two large baking sheets with parchment. I use a little non stick spray on the corners to keep them from rolling up.
  2. Cut the cauliflower in quarters, remove the leaves and cut out most of the core. In a food processor pulse the cauliflower into granules, smaller than rice. I ended up with 6 cups lightly packed cauliflower.
  3. Place the riced cauliflower in a bowl and microwave on high for two minutes, stir well, microwave two minutes, stir and microwave again for two minutes.Alternately you can cook the cauliflower in a steamer.
  4. Dump the cooked cauliflower in the center of a cloth dish towel or a doubled layer of cheesecloth. Gather up the ends, careful, it will be extremely hot and squeeze out any excess liquid.  You may want to protect your hands with an additional towel or rubber gloves. When you think you have removed all the water, give it one more squeeze.
  5. Return the cauliflower to a bowl, add two beaten eggs, salt and pepper to taste and mix well until combined.
  6. Scoop out the cauliflower into 6 fairly equal portions on the baking sheets and form into circles.
  7. Bake with trays in the upper and lower half of the oven for five minutes then reverse the upper and lower positions and bake for another five minutes. Remove both trays from the oven and peel the tortillas off the baking sheets, flip them over and return to the oven for another 5-6 minutes.
  8. Transfer cooked tortillas to a wire rack to cool.
  9. Heat a medium-sized non stick pan over medium heat and brown the tortillas on both sides to crisp the edges.
  10. Store in well sealed freezer bags. To use, reheat tortillas over medium heat in a small non stick pan.

January 13, 2018 Herbed Ricotta Zucchini Ravioli

  

Normally I wouldn’t share a recipe for zucchini in the middle of January, but this time I had to make an exception. I am always looking for new ways to prepare for the buckets of zucchini that our garden produces every summer, so I had to try out this recipe I saw on The Chew, “Herby” Ricotta Zucchini Ravioli. In this recipe, very thinly shaved zucchini slices take the place of pasta and are filled with a herbed ricotta filling.

The zucchini could be sliced on a mandoline, but to simplify things, a Y peeler works just as well. Remove the first strip of skin, then a few more slices until you have a flat surface. Make slices down the length of the zucchini until you reach the seedy core. Look for medium length zucchini. I found that strips 5-6 inches long and 1½ inches wide were the right size to accommodate a generous tablespoon of the filling. Place the slices on baking trays lined with paper towels and lightly salt to draw out any excess liquid.

The filling is very simple, ricotta cheese with an egg, grated Parmesan and seasonal herbs. Fresh ricotta is always best but one without preservatives is a good second choice. Drain the ricotta in a fine strainer to draw out excess liquid then squeeze it out in cheesecloth to make it as dry as possible. There aren’t any fresh herbs in the garden on this very cold January day, but Joe has brought some into the conservatory. For this recipe I used parsley, thyme and a little dried oregano. Let the ricotta herb mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Now it’s time to make the bundles. Put enough tomato sauce on the bottom of your prepared pan to lightly coat it. Blot any excess liquid from the zucchini. On a clean work surface, lay two strips of zucchini so that they slightly overlap lengthwise. Lay two more noodles on top perpendicular to the first two strips, it should look like a plus sign. Place a generous tablespoon at the intersection where the strips meet. Starting with the bottom strips, fold them over the center, repeat with the second set of strips. Place the ravioli seam side down in the prepared baking dish and repeat with remaining zucchini strips until you fill the baking dish. Top with sauce and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes, take out of the oven and sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan.

The verdict? Joe and I both thought they were delicious and didn’t feel cheated with the zucchini wrapper. As Chew co host Clinton Kelly said,” this is an amazing alternative to pasta.” The calorie savings are pretty amazing too with regular ravioli coming in at 785 calories while the zucchini ravioli is 260 calories! The portion size wasn’t mentioned though. This is not the best dish for the freezer. Zucchini is 95% water so I think this dish would best be served fresh. This is a great meatless dish whether for lunch, dinner or as a side. Pesto would be a good addition to the ricotta filling and a cheesy Alfredo sauce could take the place of the tomato sauce. Can’t wait until summer to try these with zucchini from the garden and my own variations.

Drain the ricotta in a fine mesh sieve for a half hour.

 

Wrap the ricotta in cheesecloth and squeeze out any excess moisture.

Using a Y peeler, slice the zucchini into long thin strips.
Combine the ricotta, beaten egg, herbs, spices and cheese.
Slightly overlap 2 strips of zucchini and overlap two more strips, forming a plus sign.
Place a generous tablespoon of filling where the strips intersect.
Fold the bottom strips over the filling.
Fold in the other 2 strips to the center to completely enclose the filling.

Add the ravioli, seam side down to a baking dish lightly coated with tomato sauce.
Top with additional sauce.
Top with mozzarella cheese and bake .

 

Herby Ricotta Zucchini Ravioli

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Olive oil for greasing the baking dish
  • 2 c ricotta – whole milk or part skim
  • 4-5 medium zucchini
  • 1/3 c plus 2 T grated Parmesan (divided)
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ c fresh herbs, finely chopped (parsley, thyme, chives etc.)
  • ¼ t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 2 ½ c tomato sauce-homemade or your favorite store brand
  • 1 c shredded mozzarella
  • Basil chiffonade for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Cheesecloth – that will be used with the ricotta

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Lightly grease a 8×12 baking dish with olive oil.
  2. Place a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl and add the ricotta. Set aside and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Using a Y vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini lengthwise into thin strips, avoiding the seedy core. Place strips on a paper towel lined baking sheet, lightly sprinkle with salt and set aside.
  4.  In a medium bowl, add ricotta, 1/3 c Parmesan, egg, chopped herbs, nutmeg and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and stir until fully combined. Set aside for 10 minutes to let the flavors combine.
  5. Blot excess moisture off zucchini slices. On a work space, overlap 2 strips of zucchini and then overlap 2 additional strips on top and across the first 2 strips, forming a cross shape.
  6. Using a spoon or cookie scoop, place a generous tablespoon of the ricotta mixture into the center of the zucchini formation.
  7. Fold the bottom layer of the zucchini strips over the filling and into the center so that they are overlapping. Fold in the other two strips to the center so that the filling is completely enclosed. Repeat process with remaining filling and zucchini.
  8. In prepared baking dish, spread ½ cup sauce evenly over the bottom. Place zucchini seam-side down. Pour remaining sauce over zucchini. Top with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella. Transfer to oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until zucchini is al dente.
  9. Garnish  with basil and serve.

December 3, 2017 Creamy Kale and Goat Cheese Gratin

 

Kale and goat cheese gratin is the ultimate winter comfort food and a great addition to any potluck or holiday feast. The original recipe from Fine Cooking called for dandelion greens but I have made it with baby chard greens and spinach as well, depending on the season. This time I used the bounty of fall kale from our garden. Joe planted several varieties, for this recipe I used a combination of Lacinato or Tuscan, Red Russian with its purple veins and stems and curly Dwarf Blue Curled. If we’re lucky, some of the plants that don’t die off this winter will provide us an early spring kale crop.

When shopping for kale look for moist, crisp, unwilted bunches, unblemished by tiny holes, which indicate insect damage. The leaves should not be yellowed or brown. Wrap unwashed kale in paper towels, then store in plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper for a few days. When you are ready to cook, submerge the leaves in a sinkful of cold water, swishing them around to remove any dirt. To trim for cooking, lay a leaf bottom side up on a cutting board and run a paring knife along each side of the center stem. I like using a Cutco steak knife in this step for the traction it gives. Repeat until all the stem are removed. Then cut the leaves in the size your recipe calls for, in this case, 2 inch strips. If you are so inclined, chop the stems into smaller pieces, store them in freezer bags and add them the next time you make a vegetarian stock.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil and cook the kale for 3-4 minutes or until tender. You can do this step in batches if necessary. If you are doing this in batches, remove the kale with a Chinese strainer and allow the water to come back to a boil before adding the next bunch of leaves. Transfer the blanched leaves to a colander to drain well and cool. Put the cooled leaves in a clean cotton dish towel and gently wring the greens and get rid of any excess moisture. There’s nothing worse than a watery gratin!

Chop the greens coarsely and put in a large mixing bowl and combine with Parmesan and a creamy goat cheese. Combine well, don’t be afraid to use your hands for this. Spread the greens in a buttered baking dish and add cream that has been infused with garlic and lemon. Be sure to use a shallow gratin dish rather than a deeper, smaller one. The larger surface area helps reduce the cream. Top with the breadcrumb mixture and bake until the crumbs are brown and the liquid is bubbly and has reduced below the crumb level.

The kale and goat cheese gratin can be prepped in advance. Prepare the kale filling and add the cream to the dish but hold off on adding the crumb topping until right before you bake it. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. If you have refrigerated the dish, bring it back to room temperature, or if baking right from the fridge, add a little extra time to your cooking.

Creamy, cheesy greens topped with a crunchy Parmesan crumb crust, what’s not to love? This flavorful dish is great served with lamb or turkey (of course!) and makes excellent leftovers.

Lacinato, Tuscan or Dinosaur kale.
Dwarf blue curled kale
Red Russian kale
It takes a lot of kale to make a pound.
Trimming the leaves.
It just needs a breadcrumb crust now.

Creamy Kale and Goat Cheese Gratin

Serves six or more

Ingredients

  • ½ t unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. kale, stemmed, leaves cut into 2-inch strips
  • 1 c coarse fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3 T plus ¼ c finely grated Parmesan
  • 1-1/3 c heavy cream
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • ¼ t finely grated lemon zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 oz fresh soft goat cheese

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Coat a shallow medium-sized gratin dish with the butter.
  2. Bring an 8-quart pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Working in batches, boil the kale just until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well.
  3. Use a dish towel to gently wring the greens and get rid of any excess moisture.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, 3 T Parmesan and a pinch of salt.
  5. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, bring the cream and garlic to a boil, about 5 minutes. As soon as the cream has come to a vigorous boil (but before it boils over), remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the lemon zest and season with a little salt and pepper. Stir well and remove the garlic cloves.
  6. Transfer the greens to a cutting board and chop them coarsely. Put them in a large mixing bowl and add the remaining ¼ c Parmesan and the goat cheese. Using your fingers, mix well. Spread the mixture in the prepared gratin dish. Pour the cream over and stir gently with a spoon to distribute evenly.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top the gratin evenly with the breadcrumbs.
  8. Bake the gratin until the crumbs are browned and the liquid has reduced below the crumb level, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.

November 26, 2017 Butternut Squash Gratin with Rosemary Breadcrumbs

 

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner I am a traditionalist. For the main course, it’s always a juicy roast turkey and another one hot off the smoker. Not to mention the additional variations we tried in previous years, wrapped in puff pastry à la Martha or cooked outdoors in a deep fryer, not advisable on a windy day on a wooden deck. But when it comes down to it, I am most excited about the side dishes. For many years we hosted Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends and I was driven to make countless side dishes featuring every fall vegetable I could think of.

Now we are part of a collaborative effort of family, friends, and friends who feel like family. Our offering is a smoked turkey and a few side dishes. Fortunately I was able to draw from the bounty of our garden to make a butternut squash gratin. At Thanksgiving dinner I was asked what a gratin is and I shared the following. A gratin is always baked and/or broiled in a shallow dish. The topping is traditionally cheese and/or breadcrumbs that should get crispy in the cooking process. Gratin is derived from the French word gratiner-to broil.

This recipe begins with lots of thinly sliced onions sautéed in butter until softened and golden brown. Butternut squash cubes are added next and sautéed along with the onions until both are caramelized. This recipe can be made much easier with the advent of peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash, available in many supermarkets. As for me I will be hacking away at my stash of butternut squash all the way to spring.

Pour the vegetable mixture into the buttered baking dish, cover and bake. Another plus is this step can be done a day ahead, just cool and refrigerate until you are ready to finish the dish. Make the breadcrumb mixture ahead as well and store separately in the refrigerator. If you are making components ahead of a special dinner, label them well so that your well-meaning kitchen help doesn’t mix them up! On the day you are cooking the dish, reheat for about 10 minutes, sprinkle with breadcrumb, cheese and herb mixture. A sharp cheddar is a good contrast to the sweetness of the butternut squash. Not just for your holiday table, this would be great as a side dish for weeknight suppers, any fall gathering or even as a brunch dish.

Saute the onions.
Next in is the cubed butternut squash.
The vegetables are placed in a 13×9 glass baking dish
Joe picked fresh rosemary for the breadcrumb topping.

Butternut Squash Gratin with Rosemary Breadcrumbs

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • ¼ c (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 c thinly sliced onions
  • 2½ to 3 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ¾ inch cubes
  • 1 t sugar (optional)
  • ½ t salt
  • ½ t freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ c chicken broth
  • 2 c bread crumbs made from soft white bread
  • 2 c packed grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 ½ T chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ t dried thyme

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.
  2. Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add onions; sauté until onions are light golden about 8 minutes. Add squash; sauté 4 minutes. Sprinkle sugar, salt and pepper over vegetables; sauté until onions and squash begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes
  3. Spread vegetable mixture into prepared dish. Pour chicken broth over. Cover tightly with foil and bake 45 minutes. (Squash mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Reheat in a 350° oven until heated through, about 10 minutes.)
  4. Increase oven temperature to 400°F. Mix breadcrumbs, cheese, rosemary and thyme in a medium bowl. Sprinkle over gratin.  Bake uncovered until top is golden brown and crisp, about 30 minutes.
Delicious!

September 7, 2017 Green Bean Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Feta and Parsley

Whether you call them snap beans, green beans or string beans, our garden has produced a steady stream since early July. Joe plants both bush and pole beans and not just green beans. We grow purple beans that look pretty on the vine but as soon as you plunk them in a pot of boiling water, they turn a dark green color. This is due to a plant pigment, anthocyanin, that deteriorates in high temperatures. If you want to preserve the bean’s  purple color, choose a crisp young bean that doesn’t require cooking.

Yellow or wax beans also add color to the garden. According to Cook’s Illustrated, yellow beans are just green beans bred to have none of the chlorophyll pigment that gives the green bean its color.

Snap beans are low in calories, a good source of fiber and vitamins A and C. Their grassy, nutty flavor is appealing to just about everyone. In the cooler months we are most likely to do a warm preparation of beans with garlic and thyme. In the summer I like to blanch them and make a green bean salad. This combination is a creation of my own and a dish I have made countless times this summer.

I start with approximately a pound of beans. I wash and stem the beans and sort out any that are significantly fatter and or older. Bring a large pot of water that has been well salted to the boil and add the large beans first. I give them an extra minute or two to cook. Then I add the rest of the beans and start my timer at a generous four minutes. I taste (careful, it will be hot) one bean, and if I can bite through with no resistance, they are done. If not, set the timer for another minute, then taste again. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse with cool water. Spread the beans out on dish towels to let the excess moisture evaporate.

In a large bowl combine the beans, chopped parsley and tomatoes. A bite-sized cherry tomato works best here, cutting them in half makes them easier to eat. I have used different varieties over the summer. On this particular day I used a white cherry tomato. They aren’t really white but a very pale yellow. Toss the ingredients with the vinegar and oil. Next add the feta and tamari almonds. My preference is French feta, it is milder (less salty) in flavor and creamier in texture. Tamari almonds bring a umami flavor and a pleasant crunch. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, leftovers taste great the next day.

Green Bean Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Feta and Parsley

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 1 lb green beans, washed, stemmed and trimmed into 2-3 inch pieces, can be wax or purple beans also
  • 15-20 small tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 c finely chopped parsley
  • 1/3 c crumbled feta (I prefer French feta in this salad)
  • 1/3 c tamari almonds
  • 3 T grapefruit or another light balsamic vinegar
  • 6 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the beans, bring back to the boil and turn back the heat to a simmer and cook beans for 4 ½ minutes. Test one bean to be sure they are tender. Drain in a colander and rinse with cool water.
  2. In a bowl large enough to toss the ingredients comfortably, add the beans, tomatoes and chopped parsley. Toss with the oil and vinegar. Add feta and tamari almonds and toss again.  Season well with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

August 11, 2017 Green Beans and Cucumbers with Miso Dressing

I couldn’t bear to do it, smash the cucumbers and green beans as called for in this recipe that is. This very easy and flavorful dish from the June issue of Bon Appetit uses a technique popular in many Asian countries. Smashing the cukes and beans with a cleaver or a rolling pin tenderizes them and makes lots of nooks and crannies for the dressing to permeate. But not with the first green beans and cucumbers from the garden this season. Maybe in a week or two but for now I will use a more traditional approach. This recipe is quite similar to pau huang gua, a Sichuan cucumber salad, typically served with rich spicy food.

Start the recipe by peeling the cucumber, I like to leave a small strip of skin for color contrast. Chop into bite sized pieces and toss with a little salt to draw out excess moisture. The beans were an interesting addition, the original recipe in Bon Appetit didn’t call for cooking them, I presume they thought dressing them would do the job of tenderizing them. I chose to blanch the beans for just a few minutes to make them crisp-tender and ready to absorb the dressing.

The dressing couldn’t be easier, the ginger, garlic and serrano pepper are all grated, a Microplane makes quick work of that. Combine these ingredients with white miso, rice vinegar, olive and sesame oil. Miso is a fermented soybean paste traditionally used in Japanese cooking. White miso will provide a more delicate flavor, switch in a red miso for a stronger and saltier flavor. You will find miso in the refrigerated section of Asian grocery and health food stores.

Place the well-drained cucumbers and green beans in a bowl and toss with some of the dressing, just enough to coat the vegetables. You will have more than enough, which is a good thing. Toss sautéed eggplant and zucchini with halved cherry tomatoes with the dressing for another version of this dish.

Cucumber vines in the greenhouse, circa 2015.
Joe is growing both bush and pole beans.

Green Beans and Cucumbers with Miso Dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 Persian cucumbers or 1 English hothouse cucumber
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb green beans, stems trimmed
  • 1 1½ piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 serrano or Fresno chile, finely grated
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1/3 c unseasoned rice vinegar
  • ¼ c white miso
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • ½ t toasted sesame oil
  • Toasted sesame seeds and scallions or thinly sliced shallots for serving

Directions

  1. Peel cucumbers and chop into bite-sized pieces. Toss with a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Let sit to allow salt to penetrate.
  2. Bring a medium sized pan of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Add beans and cook until just tender, 3-4 minutes. Drain beans in a colander.
  3. Whisk ginger, chile, garlic, vinegar, miso, olive and sesame oils in a medium bowl until smooth.
  4. Transfer the beans to a bowl for serving and toss with the dressing. Drain cucumbers well and add to the bowl, toss again. Top beans and cucumbers with toasted sesame seeds and scallions.
Toss cucumber chunks with a pinch of salt to extract excess water.
The beans I used were just picked, blanching them for a few minutes tenderizes them and brings out their flavor.
The original recipe used scallions, I used shallots from our garden.

 

July 15, 2017 Tomato Salads

This is a space to record Joe’s creative tomato salads throughout the summer. The pictures won’t always be the best since they are taken in the kitchen. Just a way to commemorate these wonderful salads.

July 10 salad – Sun Gold, Gold Nugget and Super Sweet tomatoes, raspberries, purple basil, mozzarella with peach vinegar and blood orange olive oil.

July 12 – Sun Gold tomatoes, ricotta and purple basil with peach vinegar and blood orange olive oil.

July 15 – Super Sweet 100’s, Sun Gold, Gold Nugget, Snow Cherry, Chocolate Cherry, Fourth of July, mozzarella, purple basil, raspberries, blueberries, Cascadian raspberry vinegar, Persian lime oil.

July 16 – Brandywine, Sun Gold, Super Sweet, Gold Nugget, Snow Cherry, Chocolate Cherry, purple basil, mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan, purple basil, Cascadian raspberry vinegar, Persian lime oil.

July 17 – Fourth of July, Gold Nugget, Snow Cherry, Super Sweet, burrata, Persian cucumbers, purple basil, Cascadian raspberry vinegar, Persian lime oil.

August 14

August 16

August 17

July 4, 2017 Quick Pickled Baby Beets

The hot days of July are upon us so it’s time to harvest the root crops planted in early spring. that are still in the ground. We said good-bye to the radishes several weeks ago after the first heat wave of the summer. Warm temperatures cause radishes to bolt and become woody in texture. They will be planted at the end of summer for a fall harvest. The first planting of Japanese turnips have been harvested and now it’s time to harvest the rest of the beets.The”life cycle” of our beet consumption began with very small thinnings we add raw to our salads. The second thinning produces slightly larger leaves the size of spinach that are sautéed in olive oil with a little garlic and red pepper flakes for a wonderful side dish. Baby beets are sliced as thinly as possible or julienned and added to green salads.The Chiogga beets look pretty in salads, a slice looks like a candy cane bulls-eye and the Golden beets bring a pop of bright yellow.

I love beets, especially pickled ones. I have canned pickled beets in past summers for long storage, this year I thought I would make refrigerator pickles. Quick pickled baby beets couldn’t be simpler to make. These refrigerator pickles require very little prep and they are ready to eat after a few hours in the brine. Divide your beets by colors or they will bleed into each other. The brine is a touch sweet with a little spice. These pickles will last for several months in the refrigerator.

Just picked beets from the garden.
After a good clean up.

 

Quick Pickled Baby Beets

Makes 2 pint jars

Ingredients

  • 1 lb baby beets,  separated into colors
  • 1 c white wine vinegar
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • ½ c sugar
  • 2 T honey
  • Fresh ginger slices
  • 1 t coriander seed
  • 1 t black peppercorns
Trimmed and ready for pickling.

Directions

  1. Wash beets well, trim off the leaves and leave about an inch of stem on the beets. Separate beets into colors if you don’t want them to bleed into each other.
  2. Bring a medium pan of water to a boil. You can put all the beets of one variety in the pan, start checking the smaller beets at the two minute mark. Beets should be easily pricked with the tip of a knife, larger beets will take a few more minutes.
  3. Drain beets well in a colander. Place in a heat proof container like a canning jar, separating out the varieties.
  4. Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, honey and spices and bring to a boil. Pour the hot canning liquid over the beets and set aside to cool. Once cool, store in the refrigerator.

 

June 11, 2017 Carrot Top Pesto

Spring is an ideal time for planting root vegetables like turnips, beets and carrots. They especially love the cooler temperatures that we have been blessed with this spring. We try to be frugal with seeds, so the ones that aren’t planted are saved from season to season. I catalog them alphabetically like a card file in clamshell plastic containers that in a previous life held spinach or lettuce from a big box store. I use 3×5 cards to separate them into specific categories, beets, cucumbers, fennel etc. This year I even did a little clean up, getting rid of all packets before 2013.

Last year a friend gave Joe quite a few packets of carrot seeds he purchased on sale. Some were planted but most went into storage in the fridge over the winter. He wasn’t certain how many of them would germinate this season so he planted them very densely. As luck would have it, every carrot seed germinated.  Now it was time for some serious thinning.

Thinning is a necessary step in vegetable gardening if you want to have mature healthy plants. This can be done in stages. Armed with my Cutco scissors, I did the first thinning when the plants were about four inches tall. Pulling out the unwanted seedlings can often pull out the ones you wanted to leave growing. I snipped the plants at the soil line. With a colander full of the lacy feathery tops I thought about how I could use them. I remembered that parsley and carrots are related so I tasted a few of them. They have an herbaceous flavor, that to me was reminiscent of parsley.

I have made pesto with basil and arugula, why not carrot tops? I used a basic formula that I have used to make other types of pesto, herbs or a green, in this case carrot tops, garlic, nuts, a hard cheese and olive oil. Baby carrot greens are more delicate in flavor and are a special reward for the gardener. Organically grown full-sized carrot greens can be used too, eliminating any thick stems. I used my pesto as a topping for roasted salmon. It would work with chicken breasts and of course, roasted carrots.

Time to thin the carrots.
The first thinning of carrot greens.

Carrot Top Pesto

Makes about a cup

Ingredients

  • 3 cups lightly packed carrot tops
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 3 T pine nuts
  • ¼ c extra virgin olive oil, more if needed to make a paste
  • ¼ c grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place the carrot tops, garlic and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Pulse until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil until a paste forms. Add cheese and pulse several times to combine.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Use immediately or cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

May 17, 2017 Spinach and Butternut Squash Salad

Spinach and butternut squash salad certainly isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a spring dish, but right now it makes perfect sense to me. I still have a few squash to use from last fall’s harvest and spinach plants that still have some nice leaves to offer before they go to seed.

Begin the recipe with a medium-sized squash, 2 to 2 ½ lbs, using a sharp knife, cut off a half-inch piece at the stem and base ends. Cut the squash in half where the neck meets the bulb. I find it easiest to use my Kuhn Rikon peeler to remove not only the skin but also the white flesh and green fibers below the surface, the peeled squash should be completely orange. Scoop out the seeds, I like to toast mine for snacking and can also be used to garnish salads and soups. Cut the squash into 1 inch cubes, they will shrink during the roasting process. Toss the cubes with olive oil and spread them out evenly on a lined baking sheet and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

While the squash cubes are roasting, make the warm bacon dressing. Fry four slices of bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Place the cooked bacon on a paper towel lined plated to drain. Pour off the bacon fat into a metal bowl, the hot oil might melt a plastic bowl.  In the residual fat that is left in the skillet, saute a medium chopped shallot until soft. Stir in the other dressing ingredients along with some of the warm bacon fat, keep over very low heat.

Place the spinach leaves in a large bowl and toss with the warm dressing. I prefer to place the other ingredients on top of the individual salads rather than tossed with the spinach, since they are heavier and inevitably sink to the bottom. Rather than the traditional fall version of this salad that would include dried cranberries or pomegranate arils, I added some thin strips of roasted pepper. I used toasted pecan halves, some creamy feta, and some of the bacon crumbled on top to complete the salad. Make it your own with toasted walnuts or butternut squash seeds and crumbled Roquefort instead of the feta.

 

Spinach and Butternut Squash Salad

Serves two

Ingredients for the Salad

  • 5-6 cups of spinach
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 T or more of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ c toasted pecan halves
  • ¼ c roasted red pepper slivers
  • 1/3 c crumbled feta
Spinach that is going to seed but perfectly good enough for a salad.
Peeled whole butternut squash.

Ingredients for the Dressing

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1 medium shallot
  • ¼ c apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • 1 T or more honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions for the Salad and Dressing

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F convection or 425°F standard. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.
  2. Peel and seed the squash, cut it into 1 inch cubes. In a large bowl toss the squash with olive oil and place evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown, about 20 minutes, at the halfway point carefully move the cubes around on the sheet to ensure even browning. Set cubes aside to cool. You will have enough for several days worth of salads.
  3. In a large frying pan, cook bacon over medium high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and pour the bacon fat into a small metal bowl.
  4. Cook the shallot in the same pan until soft, 4 minutes. Stir in vinegar, mustard and honey and mix well. Whisk in two tablespoons of the bacon fat and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Place the spinach leaves in a large bowl and toss with the warm dressing. Divide the salad onto two plates. Top each with about a half cup of butternut squash cubes, pecan halves, pepper strips, feta and some of the crumbled bacon. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper.