July 3, 2015 Oven Roasted Broccoli and Carrots

DSC_3357aMy original idea for this post was to make a salad, but sometimes the simplest things are the best. Freshly harvested broccoli and carrots are tossed with a good quality extra virgin olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and my favorite ingredient to add to the roasting mix, aleppo pepper. Aleppo pepper, as I have mentioned before in a previous post is one of my favorite new ingredients of the past several years. It is dark red in color, flaky and somewhat oily in texture. It’s flavor profile is rich, sweet and fruity with hints of cumin.  Aleppo’s heat profile is moderate, only just a little hotter than paprika.

Begin by cutting your vegetables in relatively uniform pieces; in this case; the broccoli in individual florets and carrots in one inch lengths so they will roast in the same time as the broccoli.  Remember that vegetables shrink when roasting so always cook more than what you might if you were steaming or sautéing.

Although some recipes have you do it right in the pan, vegetables are more evenly oiled and seasoned in a bowl . Use just enough oil to give an even coating, about two tablespoons for this quantity should be enough. Season generously with salt, freshly ground pepper and whatever herb you might choose. In addition to Aleppo pepper, I have used paprika, chipotle pepper, cumin, thyme, it all depends on what compliments your vegetables best.

Roasting should always be done on a large shallow sided sheet pan. The ones I use are called “half size” and have a 18″x13″ dimension. They are relatively inexpensive and available in most big box stores. I consider them indispensible and have about a dozen from my catering days. Using a pan or baking dish with high sides will cause them to steam rather that roast because of the high water content of vegetables.

Give the vegetables room for roasting, everything should be in a single layer on the pan with a little room between each piece. I like to roast on a relatively high heat, 425°F to 450°F to insure they will caramelize on the outside and be nice and tender on the inside.  I like to stir or shake the pan every five minutes or so to roast every surface.  Time may vary for desired doneness, that’s why I check them frequently. The larger your pieces are, the longer it will take them to cook.

For a finishing touch to my roasted vegetables I added some cashews and a little fresh cilantro. In this case, simple was the best.

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Cut vegetables into uniform pieces and spread out evenly on a sheet pan.

Oven Roasted Broccoli and Carrots

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of broccoli, florets chopped off the stalk, about 6-7 cups
  • 3 medium carrots, cut in half and into 1″ lengths
  • 2-3T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3t kosher salt
  • 2t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1t Aleppo pepper
  • 1/4c unsalted cashews
  • 1/4c cilantro leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.In a large bowl, toss the vegetables together with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
  2. Transfer vegetables to a large sheet pan, spreading them out evenly.
  3. Roast vegetables, shaking the pan every five minutes or so to be certain all surfaces are roasted. My vegetables were very fresh and took about 15 minutes total to cook. Your time may vary.
  4. Transfer vegetables to a serving bowl. Garnish with cashews and cilantro.

June 14, 2015 Crustless Spinach, Mushroom and Canadian Bacon Quiche

DSC_3155aConsider a humble little package of frozen chopped spinach, a convenience and a staple in many kitchens, including mine. You might be quite surprised how many cups of fresh spinach it takes to make that 10 ounce brick of frozen. That was the information I was looking for this week.

Our spinach plants are going to seed and it was time to do one last serious pick before pulling them out and getting the space ready for another planting. When picking spinach, especially in the extreme hot weather (95°F) it is important to not use a metal bowl or colander, they will put your freshly picked leaves into immediate wilt that will be hard to revive from.  I prefer using a clear plastic “pebble” bowl, sturdy hard plastic bowls I used in my catering business. I snip off the best leaves with scissors, leaving the plant and damaged leaves behind for the mulch pile. Next, I soak the spinach in a clean sink of cold water. I start the process by swishing the leaves around in the sink. I let them sit for a few minutes, the spinach will float to the top, and the dirt and debris will sink to the bottom.  Then I gently lift out the leaves and transfer them to a colander. I will repeat the process again to be sure all the dirt is removed. I refrigerated the spinach in the large bowls with some plastic wrap draped over the top.

Now it was time to find ways to use up this bounty.  Spinach is a powerhouse of nutrition, low in calories, a rich source of iron, vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, calcium and magnesium. End of the season spinach is still very good, but not necessarily something you would want to use in a salad. So I was on the hunt for recipes with cooked spinach. Frittata, quiche, spanakopita, all good choices but many recipes just call for that ubiquitous ten ounce package of frozen spinach. I needed to find the conversions to take that very large bowl to the amount of cooked spinach I needed.

Spinach is 90% water in composition and when cooked, 1 pound of fresh spinach is equivalent to 10 to 12 cups and will cook down to 1 cup. One 10-ounce package of frozen spinach is the equivalent of 1 1/2 pounds of fresh spinach or about 15-18 cups of spinach. In my pictures you will see a before and after of the spinach. To reduce it, I cooked the spinach in a 10″ sauté pan using just the water that clung to the leaves. Then I drained it thoroughly in a fine mesh colander, squeezed it dry and chopped it roughly.

My efforts paid off. With the spinach I picked, I was able to make all three, frittata, quiche and spanakopita. This quiche can be put together in minutes since the most time consuming part is eliminated, making the crust.  I added some sauteed sliced mushrooms and Canadian bacon. In case you didn’t know, American bacon comes from the fatty belly of the pig and Canadian bacon is cut from the loin.  Of course a 10 ounce package of frozen spinach can be substituted in this recipe. It makes a nice breakfast or light lunch and reheats well the next day.

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Fifteen to eighteen cups of fresh spinach.

Cooks down to this!

Cooks down to this!

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Crustless Spinach and Canadian Bacon Quiche

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1c finely chopped onion
  • 1c sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1T vegetable oil
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach or 1½c cooked and chopped fresh spinach
  • 2/3c finely chopped Canadian bacon
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3c shredded swiss cheese (other cheeses will work too like cheddar or Monterey Jack)
  • 1/8t freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, sauté onion and mushrooms in oil until tender.
  2. Add spinach and ham, cook and stir until the excess moisture is evaporated.  Cool slightly.
  3. Beat eggs, add cheese and mix well. Stir in spinach mixture and season with pepper; blend well.
  4. Spread evenly into a greased 9-inch pie plate or quiche dish.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

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June 10, 2015 Arugula, Strawberry, Snow Pea and Radish Salad

DSC_2927aJune’s warm temperatures are making an appearance again this week, but technically it’s still spring until the 21st. This end of spring salad brings together four elements that are a part of the early June gardens in our area. All salad greens love the cooler temperatures of spring and arugula is no exception. We have been enjoying pea shoots for several weeks now and the peas started making their appearance last week. They  will probably only last to the end of this month when warmer temperatures will cause the vines to die off.

I just harvested our most currant crop of radishes, another vegetable that doesn’t like mid summer heat.  At my request, Joe planted a strawberry bed this spring.  In fact, some of the plants are already flowering. He has removed the flowers from these ambitious plants to give them time to establish themselves before producing fruit.  So there is a good chance that the plants that bear two times in a season will produce their first strawberries late in the summer.

A strawberry vinaigrette is the perfect accompaniment for this salad. I chose a strawberry balsamic vinegar from The Tubby Olive, a store that is always inspiring new salad combinations for me. For the dressing I combined garlic, shallot, Dijon mustard, strawberry balsamic, just a touch of honey and a good extra virgin olive oil. When making a salad be sure to use a bowl that gives you plenty of room to combine the ingredients.  I start by tossing the greens first with dressing to coat them lightly and then add some of the other components and toss again. I leave the rest to top the salad with, this ensures the last person who is served doesn’t get all the heavier ingredients that end up in the bottom of the bowl.

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Arugula Strawberry Snow Pea and Radish Salad

Serves two

Ingredients

For the dressing

  • 1t finely minced garlic
  • 3T minced shallot
  • 1t Dijon mustard
  • 3T Strawberry balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4t honey
  • 1/4c extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the salad

  • 4-5 cups of arugula, washed and trimmed
  • 1c strawberries, stemmed and sliced in half
  • 1c snow peas, strings removed, lightly steamed
  • 1c radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/4c slivered almonds, lightly toasted
  • 2-3 slices of prosciutto, crisped in a non stick pan
  • 1/4c creamy feta, crumbled
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until evenly combined. Taste and adjust if necessary. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.
  2. Place the salad greens in a large bowl and toss with some of the vinaigrette and taste. Add about half of the other ingredients, toss again, adding more of the dressing if necessary. Top the salad with the remaining ingredients. Season each portion to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Reserve remaining vinaigrette for a later use.

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Our new strawberry patch. They need to be “nipped in the bud” to produce stronger plants.

Joe will plant more arugula in the fall.

Joe will plant more arugula in the fall.

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June 6, 2015 Spinach and Chickpea Curry

DSC_2863aStill on the hunt for spinach themed dishes, I found this recipe for Spinach and Chickpea Curry in Fine Cooking. It is similar to a northern Indian dish called palak  chole, palak being the Punjabi word for spinach and chole the word for chickpea. The dish can be made in no time at all with some basic pantry ingredients.

Curry powder, a staple in many kitchens, is not a single spice like basil or oregano but a combination of ingredients and will vary by region and country. Most curry powder recipes include coriander, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, ground ginger and mustard seed. To add to the confusion, there is also a curry plant that is supposed to smell like curry and a curry leaf plant. The leaves of the curry leaf plant are used mostly in the cooking of southern India.  The leaves look like small bay leaves but are edible and have a lime-lemony taste.

Garam masala is the other spice blend in this dish. Garam is the Indian word for warm or hot and masala is a mixture of spices. Garam masala is a blend of dry roasted ground spices from northern India. Dry roasting adds to the complexity of garam masala and it is not as hot and spicy as other blends. It may contain up to 12 spices including black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, cardamom, dried chilis, mace, nutmeg and other spices.  As with all spice blends they should be kept in a cool dark cabinet and have a shelf life of about six months.

Saute onion, ginger, spice blends and cayenne over medium high heat. The fragrance is absolutely intoxicating. Stir in drained and rinsed chickpeas, canned diced tomatoes and a little kosher salt. Next, add handfuls of spinach, stirring to wilt as you go. The recipe calls for baby spinach but I used garden spinach that I cut down to size and removed large ribs and stems from. This was a dish that came together in less than an hour, and that including picking, washing and trimming the spinach. Serve garnished with cilantro and some plain yogurt to stir in if you choose. Next time I think I will make some naan to sop up the juices. Leftovers are fabulous, that is, if you have them.  This dish was so good, it was requested two days in a row.

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Spinach and Chickpea Curry

Ingredients

  • 3T canola oil
  • 1/4c chopped red onion
  • 2T finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1T curry powder
  • 1t garam masala
  • 1/8t cayenne pepper
  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14½oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1¼t kosher salt plus additional for final seasoning
  • 7-8c fresh spinach, torn into 1″ pieces
  • ¼c chopped cilantro
  • Plain Greek style yogurt for serving

Directions

  1. Heat canola oil in a 12″ sauté pan over medium high heat. Add onion, ginger, curry powder, garam masala and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring often until the onion is softened, 2-3 minutes.
  2. Stir in one can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, one can of diced tomatoes and 1¼t salt.
  3. Add spinach by the handful, stirring to wilt as you go. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the spinach is completely wilted and the flavors have melded, 4 to 5 minutes more. Season to taste with more salt. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in ¼c cilantro.
  4. Spoon onto a platter and serve with Greek yogurt for dolloping on top.
The curry leaf plant.

The curry leaf plant.

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June 2, 2015 Spinach, Sun Dried Tomato and Feta Frittata

DSC_2848aI was looking for a different way to use some of our abundance of spinach and decided a frittata would be a good choice. Frittata is the Italian name for a flat open faced omelet. They are quick to make and can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature, not only just for breakfast, but at lunch and dinner as well.  In the late Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook, she deliniates three distinctions between the omelet and the frittata.

  • An omelet is cooked briefly over high heat, a frittata is cooked slowly over low heat.
  • An omelet is creamy and moist, just short of runny. A frittata is formed and set, although by no means, stiff and dry.
  • An omelet is rolled or folded over into an oval tapered shape. Frittatas are flat and perfectly round.

This recipe’s framework came from a recipe on the Cooks Illustrated website. It called for a dozen eggs and just a few tablespoons of half and half to add some creaminess. The original recipe was for a frittata with broccoli rabe, sun dried tomatoes and fontina cheese. I substituted four cups of lightly packed spinach with the large stems and ribs removed for the rabe. The spinach was just picked and washed so I was able to cook it down quickly with just the water that clung to the leaves, so very little oil was needed in the pan. I substituted my favorite French feta for the fontina, since spinach and feta are such a good combination. The sun dried tomatoes called for in the original recipe were oil packed. The sun dried tomatoes I used were ones I made last summer with Sun Gold tomatoes from the garden. They just needed to be reconstituted in some warm water for about ten minutes to bring them back to life. I was surprised (and pleased) that the skin came off in the process. I chopped them roughly before adding them to the frittata.

A heavy bottomed oven safe non stick skillet is absolutely necessary to make the frittata. Before you proceed with the recipe be sure the skillet fits comfortably under the broiler without a great deal of maneuvering. The handle on my skillet was a bit high and made getting it in and out of the oven quite challenging. Have thick potholders at the ready so you don’t burn your fingers pulling the pan out of the oven. Once out, leave the potholder over the handle to remind yourself the pan is still hot. Use a spatula to loosen the frittata from the pan and transfer to a platter or cutting board. Of course, there are countless variations of the frittata and as the season moves on my add-ins will change.  Whatever you put in yours, it’s a great quick weeknight supper to serve alongside a simple green salad.

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Spinach, just a few weeks ago.

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That same spinach a few days ago.

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Spinach, Sun Dried Tomato and Feta Frittata

Makes one 12″ frittata

Ingredients

  • 12 large eggs
  • 3 T half and half
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 c loosely packed spinach, large ribs and stems removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/8t red pepper flakes
  • 3/4c lightly crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4c coarsely chopped sun dried tomatoes

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Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper middle position, about 5 inches away from the heating element. Heat broiler.
  2. Whisk eggs, half and half, ½t salt and ¼t freshly ground pepper in a medium bowl until well combined, about 30 seconds. Set eggs aside.
  3. Heat oil in a 12-inch non stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering; add spinach and cook until it wilts, about 1 minute. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir crumbled Feta and sun dried tomatoes into eggs; add egg mixture to skillet and cook, using spatula to stir and scrape bottom of skillet, until large curds form and spatula begins to leave wake but eggs are still very wet, about 2 minutes. Shake skillet to distribute eggs evenly, cook without stirring for 30 seconds to allow the bottom to set.
  4. Slide skillet under broiler and broil until frittata has risen and surface is puffed and spotty brown, 3 to 4 minutes; when cut into with a paring knife the eggs should still be slightly wet. Remove skillet from oven and let stand 5 minutes to finish cooking; using spatula, loosen frittata from skillet and slide onto platter or cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve.

 

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May 30, 2015 Cucumber, Radish and Turnip Salad

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Cucumbers and radishes will never co-exist in our garden. Radishes need the cooler temperatures of spring while cucumbers didn’t make an appearance in our garden last year until August. This salad, loosely adapted from one in Bon Appetit, also utilizes another spring offering, sweet mild Hakurei turnips. Hakurei turnips are harvested at about the same size as a radish. They are pure white and their flavor lends nicely to salads.

In this salad, small chunks of cucumber, radish and turnip are combined with toasted almond slivers and tossed with a vinaigrette.

I made a vinaigrette accented with spring’s most etherial and delicate herb, chervil.  A cousin to parsley, it’s leaves look like delicate lacy ferns. Our chervil was originally planted in the garden but a new larger healthy patch has seeded itself in the back of the house, nowhere close to it’s orginal location. It is a plant that also prefers cooler temperatures and partial shade. The flavor is subtle, mildly anise with just a touch of parsley. Because of it’s delicate nature, it’s rare that you would find chervil in any market, farmers or otherwise. However it is easy to grow and fortunately often seeds itself.

Toasted almonds lend a nice crunch to this dish. Rather than the oven you could alternately toast these in a dry skillet on the stove top. Whatever choice you make, watch nuts carefully, one minute they’re a pale tan, the next they are too dark. Toss the nuts occasionally, and as soon as they turn uniformly golden in color, remove from the baking sheet because they will continue to cook and darken in the pan.

I cut all the vegetables into small uniform chunks, slicing all of them would make for a different texture and would make an interesting salad as well. I like a touch of sweetness in most of my vinaigrettes, I used honey from a new vendor at my local farmers market in Wrightstown. Truly Pure and Natural carries a whole line of natural products, including local honey. They have an entire line of delicious flavored honeys, everything from lavender, to coffee to one they call “hottie honey”. I availed myself to quite a few “tastings” and came home with a three pack.  I added just a touch of the hibiscus honey to my vinaigrette. I’m sure I will be back for more!

As with many salads, this one needs to be assembled right before serving.  If you don’t have chervil, flat leaved parsley can substitute.

This large patch of chervil surprised us at the back of the house.

This large patch of chervil surprised us at the back of the house.

We use both the turnip greens and the sweet  Hakurei turnips.

We use both the turnip greens and the sweet Hakurei turnips.

The first cucumber flowers didn't appear until later in the season last year.

The first cucumber flowers didn’t appear until later in the season last year.

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Cucumber, Radish and Turnip Salad

Makes four servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2c slivered almonds
  • 1 or 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4c raspberry champagne vinegar or your vinegar of choice
  • 1t honey (I used Hibiscus infused honey)
  • 1/4c extra virgin olive oil (more to taste)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1c English hothouse cucumber chunks, peeled, seeded and cut into ½inch chunks
  • 1c radishes, trimmed and cut into ½inch chunks
  • 1c Hakurei turnips, trimmed and cut into ½inch chunks
  • 1c chervil leaves and more for garnishing the salad

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds out evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes; let cool.
  2. Whisk onion, vinegar, honey and olive oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add cucumbers, radishes and turnips, chervil and almonds; toss to coat.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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May 27, 2015 Radish Raita

DSC_2740aRaita is a yogurt based condiment or salad, Originating in India, it is served as a cooling counterpoint to spicy stews and curries. It is most commonly made with cucumbers, but I have seen recipes with beets, tomatoes, carrots and even pumpkins! In this recipe from Bon Appetit, crispy and slightly spicy radishes are combined with yogurt, herbs, red onion and a serrano chili.

Joe has already put in three separate plantings of radishes and with temperatures anticipated to reach 90 this week, it’s time to pick them before they get very hot and go to seed. Like all root crops, wash radishes well from any dirt that clings to them. This year we started saving the radish tops and use them in our cooked greens. I grated the radishes on a box grater, leave a little of the stem on to spare your fingers from hitting the sharp edge. Alternately you could use a food processor with the shredding disc in place. The recipe calls for a combination of mint and cilantro or just whatever one you prefer. This is good news for cilantro haters.

Joe isn’t the biggest fan of mint, most of the mint we grow gets fairly intense and can often overwhelm the other flavors in a dish.  He has given the thumbs up to Vietnamese mint, at least that’s what Well Sweep Herb Farm calls it. It’s botanical name is mentha x gracilis, but when I looked that up it gave the common name of ginger mint, another mint in our garden and one that certainly looks different than the Vietnamese. The mild flavor works well in this recipe.

This recipe comes together very quickly.I used standard garden radishes, daikon radishes would make this spicier. If you want to make this just a little bit ahead of the time you are going to use it, combine all the ingredients except the grated radishes.  They should be added at the last minute because if the radishes sit too long in the dish they will make it watery.  I served the radish raita as a topping for salmon. I am sure it work well with other types of fish, or even as a dip for vegetables.

The radishes are literally popping out of the ground.

The radishes are literally popping out of the ground.

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Grated radishes remind me of chopped candy canes!

Grated radishes remind me of chopped candy canes!

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Ginger mint or menthe gentilis

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Vietnamese mint or mentha gracilis

 

Radish Raita

Makes 1½ cups

Ingredients

  • 1c plain whole milk or low fat Greek yogurt
  • ½c chopped mint and/or cilantro
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2T finely chopped red onion
  • 1T fresh lime juice
  • 1c coarsely grated red radishes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Mix together yogurt, mint, chile, onion and lime juice. Gently fold in radishes, season to taste with salt and pepper.

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May 17, 2015 Shaved Asparagus Salad with Aged Gouda and Hazelnuts

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Long before the term “Farm to Table” entered our vocabulary, chef, cookbook author and food and wine educator, John Ash authored the cookbook, From the Earth to the Table. His restaurant, John Ash and Company in the wine country of Santa Rosa, California, was one of the first to focus on local seasonal ingredients in his dishes. We have had the pleasure of dining in Mr. Ash’s restaurant on several occasions when visiting Sonoma County. It was for this reason I knew his recipe for Shaved Asparagus Salad with Aged Gouda and Hazelnuts in Fine Cooking magazine would be one worth trying.

Asparagus celebrates the arrival of spring and is one of the first local offerings of produce at our farmers market. The season is fleeting so I try to use it as often as possible.  When you bring asparagus home it’s important to store it properly. I store it the same way I store fresh herbs. Stand the stalks upright in a wide mouth glass or jar with an inch or two of water in it. Be sure that all the cut ends are in the water. Cover loosely with a  clear plastic gallon storage bag. The green in this salad is arugula and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. The temperatures here this past week have been far from spring like. The heat made it feel like it was mid July rather than May. That meant it was time to pick the arugula while it is still in it’s prime. Days of warmer temperatures make arugula’s peppery flavor even hotter and causes the plant to bolt or go to seed.

Begin the recipe by making a simple vinaigrette. Rice vinegar, lemon juice, honey, extra virgin olive oil  and shallot complement and allow the flavors of the salad to shine through. The only change to the original recipe I made here was to use a plain rice vinegar rather than a seasoned one. Seasoned rice vinegar contains sugar, corn syrup, salt and MSG. I knew the honey would bring enough sweetness to the dressing, and I prefer not to add the extra salt and MSG.

Remove the tips from the asparagus and set aside. The original recipe calls for thick asparagus but the vendor I buy asparagus from at the farmers market already has them bundled; purple, green, thick, thin, all in the same bunch. I found that medium stems are just as easy to peel as long as they are firm. A vegetable peeler does double duty in this recipe, use it to shave the asparagus stalks and the Gouda. Discard the first shaving of the asparagus, that will contain the more fibrous outer skin. The inner stalk is crisp and tender and is delicious raw. Marinade the tips and the shaved stalks for 15 minutes, long enough to blend the flavors and soften the asparagus a little.

How aged should your Gouda be for this salad? The complex caramel flavor of a five year Gouda is best on it’s own as a wine and cheese pairing. The Gouda at Wegmans that is aged for three months has a buttery flavor with a tangy finish and is just right for this recipe.  You may want to pop the Gouda in the freezer for about 10 minutes for easier shaving. The cheese will quickly come up to temperature.  The rich toasty flavor of hazelnuts is an excellent contrast to the Gouda.  If you are not a fan of hazelnuts, walnuts or pine nuts would be a good substitute.

Shaved Asparagus Salad with Aged Gouda and Hazelnuts

Serves 6

Ingredients

For the vinaigrette

  • 3T rice vinegar
  • 2T lemon juice
  • 2T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1T fragrant honey such as wild flower or orange blossom
  • 1T finely chopped shallot
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Our first crop of arugula this season.

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For the asparagus

  • 3/4 lb. medium to thick asparagus
  • 3c baby arugula
  • ½c toasted and chopped hazelnuts
  • 2½oz. thinly shaved aged Gouda

Directions

  1. Make the vinaigrette. Whisk all the ingredients together, cover. Can be refrigerated up to 3 days.
  2. Make the salad. Remove the tips of the asparagus and put them in a large bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, shave a stalk, discarding the first shaving. If shaving the first side becomes awkward, turn stalk over and repeat. Add shavings to the tips. Repeat with the remaining stalks.
  3. Toss the asparagus with 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette and let sit 10 to 5 minutes, this helps the asparagus to soften a bit and blends the flavors.
  4. Add the arugula and hazelnuts and toss, adding more dressing as needed to lightly coat the arugula. Arrange on plates and top with the shaved cheese. Serve immediately.

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May 10, 2015 Raincoast Crisps with Raisins and Rosemary

DSC_2581aThere’s a cracker I love that I have to buy whenever I stop in at Whole Foods, Raincoast Crisps. Created by Parisian trained chef Lesley Stowe, she started her own cooking school and catering company in Canada’s raincoast, Vancouver, over 25 years ago. The crisps originated from a bran bread that she served in her catering business with smoked salmon. Always looking for new and original ideas, on one occasion she sliced the bread and dried it out. It was met with approval from her kitchen staff so she decided to “pump it up” with additional ingredients.  That was the beginning of the Raincoast Crisp.

The crisps are toasty and nutty, loaded with ingredients like pumpkin seeds, raisins, and pecans.  They are delicious to nibble on their own or maybe just a spread of soft cheese or your favorite preserve. One never tastes like enough and it’s easy to justify munching a box full because they are so good.  So what’s the problem? At 7.99 and up per 6 ounce box they are a pricey indulgence. So some intrepid bloggers came along and cracked the code and a rather similar recipe is available to any one who is able to whip up a quick bread.

The DIY recipe is very simple to make. Stir together the ingredients and bake in mini loaf pans. Alternately you could bake them in two square cake pans for longer skinny slices. Be sure to thoroughly cool the loaves after baking before proceeding to slice. You could give them a short stay in the freezer to firm them up or just wait till the next day to proceed with the recipe.

The next step is to slice the crackers as thinly as possible. Most of recipes I read said that it makes about 8 dozen crackers. That meant I needed to make 24 slices from each of the 4 loaves. I came fairly close, or maybe that had something to do with slices I had to “test” before baking! I used my thin blade serrated Cutco knife to make the thinnest and most even slices. I experimented with a food slicer which was ok, it’s important to maintain even pressure to keep the slices neat.

Bake the slices like super thin biscotti until they are crisp and golden. Now that I know the proportions of the recipe I am looking forward to customizing it.  Different flours,  dried fruits, spices and nuts, the possibilities are endless.  I served mine with a delicious soft goat cheese from Giggling Goat Dairy, a new vendor at my local farmers market in Wrightstown. The goat dairy is located in Dublin Pa and they make and sell fresh French-style goat cheese known as chèvre, a traditional style Feta as well as spreads and dips. I’m certain I will be frequenting their stand quite often this summer.

Raincoast Crisps with Raisins and Rosemary

Makes about 8 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 c flour
  • 2t baking soda
  • 1t sea salt
  • 2c buttermilk
  • 1/4c brown sugar
  • 1/4c honey or maple syrup
  • 1c raisins
  • 1/2c lightly chopped pecans
  • 1/2c roasted unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4c sesame seeds
  • 1/4c flax seeds
  • 1T chopped fresh rosemary

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Stir together flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar and honey and stir to combine. Add the raisins, nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds. flax seed and rosemary and stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  3. Pour the batter into 4 mini loaf pans that have been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake loaves for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating halfway during baking time. The loaves should be golden and springy to the touch. Remove loaves from the pans and cool on a wire rack.
  4. Allow the loaves to cool completely, then freeze for about an hour. This will allow you to slice the loaves as thinly as possible. I used a serrated edge knife for the neatest cut.
  5. Place the slices on baking sheets that have been lined with parchment paper. Bake the slices at 300°F for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes until crisp. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
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Slices on a parchment lined sheet ready for their second bake.

Delicious on their own or with a spread of goat cheese, this is the fresh garlic peppercorn from Giggling Goat Dairy.

Delicious on their own or with a spread of goat cheese, this is the fresh garlic peppercorn from Giggling Goat Dairy.

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May 4, 2015 Claytonia Salad

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Claytonia is not a small nation tucked away in the Alps, nor is it the latest addition to the periodic table of elements. Claytonia perfoliata, it’s full name, is a cold hardy salad green that grows wild up and down the west coast of the United States.  The plant grows up from thin, succulent stems. The leaves are delicate and small, shaped almost like a spade. Eventually tiny white flowers will grow out from the center of the leaf. The entire plant is edible from stem to flower with a texture reminiscent of spinach with a very mild flavor that is slightly sweet when first picked.

During the California gold rush, miners learned about claytonia from local Indians. It became an important part of their diet because it was plentiful and it’s vitamin C content helped to ward off scurvy, hence it’s other name, miner’s lettuce. It was because of it’s nutritional value, British settlers brought claytonia from America to Europe, and later to settlements in Australia and Cuba.

Joe first learned about claytonia from his readings in the books of his gardening hero, Eliot Coleman. Joe planted claytonia in the greenhouse and under a cold frame late last fall.  This time the plantings were successful but when the cold weather came on with a vengeance, the plants stopped growing. Since the plants can survive the freeze/thaw cycle, they were the first to start growing in the spring. Claytonia is supposedly an easy self-seeder but if not, Joe will plant it earlier in the fall to give it a better head start for winter salads.

I like to use it alone in a salad or with other similar greens with a delicate texture.  In this salad I paired the claytonia with other spring vegetables, carrots, beets and radishes. Since it bruises easily, I prefer to toss the greens first with the vinaigrette, then layer the other ingredients on top. The sweet tartness of apricot vinaigrette pairs nicely with the greens.

Claytonia or miner's lettuce thriving in the spring garden.

Claytonia or miner’s lettuce thriving in the spring garden.

 

Claytonia Salad

Serves two, the salad components are all approximations

Ingredients

  • Enough claytonia to fill the bowl of your choice
  • Shredded carrots
  • Finely julienned raw beets
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Chopped walnuts
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Apricot vinaigrette (recipe follows)  or the vinaigrette of your choice

Directions

  1. In a large bowl lightly dressing the claytonia with the vinaigrette. With tongs transfer the greens to salad plates. Top the dressed greens with the carrots, beets, radishes and walnuts. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Apricot Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • ¼c apricot balsamic vinegar
  • 1t honey
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼t Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 to ½c extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. In a small bowl whisk all ingredients together. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

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