Thursday, June 28, 2012

Green pancake

The thing about trying to eat more fresh vegetables is the amount of cooking it requires.  And I’ve been busy with weekend social engagements, meetings, and appointments after work.  So my veggies were piling up; I eat a salad every day at lunch but that just doesn’t make a big dent.   

With another CSA share rapidly approaching I had to step to it.  Yesterdy, after getting home late, I used my bok choy, from the previous week’s share, by grilling it on my counter top compression grill along with some reduced fat kielbasa, and I chopped some scallion which I mixed into a side of brown rice.  The whole meal took 15 minutes to prepare and was balanced enough but I had plenty of greens left. 

Not surprisingly, what I had left were my least favorites.  My beloved toscano kale was long used up but beet greens and carrot tops?  Those I had.

Cheese to the rescue.  

Trust me, its hard to make carrot greens taste good.  In fact there are plenty of people who just don’t ever bother with carrot tops; at my old CSA they were collected at our pick up area (an environmental center) as rabbit food, not for human consumption. Not only are they not all that tasty, but they are a hassle.  Somehow carrot greens have a super power ability to stick to everything: the bowl, the pot, the spatula, the knife, the sieve, the sink and most annoyingly, your hands.  So why bother?  Well simply put: they’re good for me, and I have them.

Carrots are super healthful.  Carrots have been shown to aid in warding off cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.  Admittedly the studies pretty much focus on the root, the carrot, of the plant not the greens. But I figure there has to be some carry over to the leaves.

Mixing the carrot greens with the beet greens and cilantro helped cut their bitterness, and the onion rounded it all out.  The rice and flours were added just to give it some body and add a grain element to the meal, the egg as a binder.  It was the cheese blend (NY white cheddar and Parmigiano Reggiano) that really made the flavor tip over into tasty, complimented by the deliciousness of pan frying in butter (and olive oil) – what doesn’t taste great when cooked to a crispy golden?

Green Pancakes (6 pancakes, 3 servings)
1 bunch beet greens, stems trimmed
1 bunch carrot greens, stems trimmed
1 bunch cilantro, stems trimmed
¼ red onion
1 cup mixed whole grain flours (whole wheat, buckwheat, flaxmeal)
1 cup brown rice with scallions
1.5 cups shredded cheese
2 eggs
butter & olive oil

Quickly boil the beet and carrot greens.  Drain and add to the food processor along with cilantro, onion, and rice. Process until finely chopped.  In a bowl, mix the veggies with the flours until fully in corporated.  Then mix in cheese.  Once its well mixed, add the eggs and mix in well.  Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan. Form greens into patties and put in pan.  Cover and cook 4-5 minutes, then flip and cook another 4-5 minutes covered, over medium high heat.
Enjoy hot.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cilantro chicken, and some pesto

Spring and early summer are leafy green season, which brings us kale and arugula and lettuce and spinach, and cilantro.  Now I like cilantro alright, but this year is a particularly cilantro-y year.  See, my lovely stepmother also a CSA member, is one of those people who has (or is missing, however it works) the cilantro gene.  Apparently there is a long evolutionary explanation, but some people genetically dislike cilantro – to them it tastes like, well, I don’t know because I’m one of them, but not like food is probably a fair description they would all agree on.  To me, it just tastes like not-quite-as-good oregano.  Not my favorite, but definitely tasty food.  Well anyway since I do eat it, I got not only my own bunch of cilantro in my last CSA share, I got my stepmothers as well.  That’s a lot of cilantro!

One sure fire way to use excessive herbs is with chicken.  I mean “herbed chicken” – could there be a more classic sounding food?  I think not.  And so simple – just finely chop (or have a food processor finely chop for you) a big handful of whatever fresh herb you have, along with a bit of olive oil and a nice pinch of salt.  Use chicken with skin still on and rub the herb paste under the skin, gently breaking the membrane holding the skin to the meat.  Bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes.  The skin with have a nice golden crunchy look and the juices will be coming out clear.

Since I certainly had the greens on hand, I served it with some sautéed spinach & onions (spinach, onion, olive oil & butter and a pinch of salt).  It was a simple meal, and very green,  and bursting with the taste of spring.

The rest of my cilantro was used sparingly in some salads, and then to make a pesto.  The cilantro pesto was delicious although odd looking mixed with quinoa, to make a nice side dish to some chicken sausage a few days later.  It made a great salad dressing thinned out with some vegetable broth.  And there’s still some left in a jar in the fridge.  

Pesto is traditionally made with basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and olive oil - and that's certainly a delicious way to prepare it. But really "pesto" just means ground herbs.  I made mine with cilantro, almonds, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and vegetable broth.  I put everything except the broth in the food processor and start it going, then slowly drizzle in the broth until its a paste-like consistency (stopping occasionally to spatula down the sides).

Its tasty and a fun ingredient - use it as a sauce, thin it out and use it as a dressing, use it on sandwiches as a condiment, mix it in with grains like rice or quinoa for a squishy green tasty side dish.

And lucky me, there’s two more bunches of cilantro coming this week.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Greens pie, revisted

I made these little greens pies Sunday, knowing I had a busy week ahead of me.  They take a lot of time, but its not hard to make them, and you can do just about all of it in advance. With meetings Monday and Wednesday, and my fiance's band playing Tuesday, and then veggie pick up and dinner plans Thursday I wanted something on hand I could get ready without too much effort.

They are packed with a cup of cooked greens each, full of flavor and a super handy side dish. I can just pop them in the oven and go about my other chores and have an elaborate serving of nutrient dense vegetables.

I've made greens pie in the past and looking back, I simplified the recipe quite a bit, increasing the greens and cheese, while reducing the egg, and of course using leek and onion.  I have also over the course of multiple tries found letting the greens cool before mixing with the egg and cheese, and increasing baking time results is a flakier crust.  I've probably made 20 different versions over the years, I just use whats on hand. Its also tasty with a good, hard Italian cheese instead like Romano or Asiago, or with peppers cooked in.

My one caution is to watch the salt, as feta and other cheeses can be very salty to begin with, especially if you are using salted butter as well.

Greens pie, again

1 bunch turnip greens, stems removed
1 bunch red kale, stems removed
1 medium/small leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed, minced or through a press
1 cup crumbled feta (I used fat free)
1 egg
Salt, pepper, seasonings (roasted tomato, crushed green jalapeño)
4 sheets filo dough, defrosted
Olive oil, butter
4 8oz ramekins

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Chop and rinse turnip greens and kale. Put in a large pan and cook in the water clinging to the leaves, over low, covered, for about 3-5 minutes, until well wilted. Push the greens to the perimeter of the pan, add a dab of butter and a drizzle of olive oil to the center.  Add chopped leek and crushed garlic and sauté.  Once the leek is softened, mix in the greens and cook it all together another few minutes together.  

Remove from heat and let cool.

Mix greens, feta, seasonings and the egg.

Take a piece of filo dough and mist with olive oil. Fold in half. Mist with olive oil and fold in half again. Tuck into a ramekin, fill with greens mixture. Fold down one corner, mist, fold the next clockwise, mist, repeat, to seal.

Bake 1 hour and serve.  Or bake 30 minutes, let cool and wrap in plastic wrap and store. When ready to serve, bake at 350 for 10 minutes, carefully tip out of ramekin and bake upside down for another 20 minutes, serve.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rhubarb compote

Ahhh rhubarb.  What a very peculiar piece of produce you are.  Rhubarb leaves are slightly poisonous but the stalks are edible.  But edible and delicious are two very different terms.  And as such rhubarb is typically served with lots of sugar, whether it be straight white sugar or sugary other ingredients like strawberries, such as the American classic strawberry rhubarb pie. Although I have read its quite nice sliced thinly and tossed into a savory salad… an application I have yet to try.

My CSA farm provided a recipe for rhubarb cake and I know many of my fellow CSA members made it.   I opted for an easier recipe as I don’t keep white flour on hand and a whole wheat rhubarb cake really just wasn’t calling to me; I made rhubarb compote.  I got this recipe off the Golden Earthworm Farm’s site my first CSA year, and made it then.  Last year I actually bought some rhubarb at my local grocery and made this. Then and now, I did not re-refer to the recipe, I just remade it from memory.

Normally and ideally one would make this recipe with lemon juice as the acid.  And I really should have just walked the 2 blocks to the store to buy some.  But I didn’t, and opted for vinegar instead.  Having made the recipe previously I knew the acid didn't make a huge flavor difference.  And really if using vinegar, one should probably use a sweet one like apple cider vinegar, but I didn’t, again because I didn’t have any on hand.  Now mind you I didn’t go crazy and use the hot pepper infused rice vinegar, at least my odd substitutions took a turn for the mild – I used regular white vinegar.  And it’s still really tasty.  But really, if you have lemon (or lime) juice, use that.

Compote is super easy to make and super versatile.  Serve it over ice cream, or plain cake, or swirl it into oatmeal, or spread some on toast – its good anywhere gooey sweetness is welcome.  And it can be kept in the fridge for… well at least 2 weeks.  I’ve always eaten it up by then, so I can’t really tell you how long it would take to turn.

Rhubarb Compote
6-7 stalks of rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp acid

Mix in a pot over medium heat, cover and cook until goo. Enjoy hot or chilled.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Strawberries CSA 2012

Its CSA season once again.  This year is my third summer with Golden Earthworm Farm, but my first year with a new CSA – one I helped create!  Thursday was our first pick up date and despite a few easily fixable hiccups, we’re up and running.

As always, week one included strawberries.  Unlike years past, these strawberries were bigger and firmer and more like grocery store berries then the small, more like wild berries I’d expected.  And there seemed to be significantly more of them.  Well, no complaints from me, strawberries are one of my all-time favorite foods.  

Of course fresh strawberries  also have a very limited shelf life, so I had to eat them quickly. Strawberries are beautiful, aromatic and tasty.  And they are high in antioxidants like vitamin C and high in fiber.  But they are also really high in sugar, and therefore calories, so I wanted to pace myself.

Friday morning I rinsed a few, cut off their greens and had them for breakfast with a handful of almonds.  No sugar, no salt, no anything other then farm fresh strawberries and raw unsalted almonds.  It was a great breakfast – portable (I tend to eat breakfast on the bus during my morning commute), included fiber and protein, and delicious.  And it kept me full until lunch.

Later that evening, my after work snack was a strawberry-banana smoothie made with fat free, high protein milk, raw honey and wheat germ.  A few ice cubes and good blender and it was awesome.  I know most people make smoothies with yogurt, but I prefer milk; I think yogurt had a distinct and less delicious taste.  The wheat germ adds a nice nutty flavor and really compliments the banana.  The shake would have been great with strawberries alone, but I had a banana that also had a limited life span left and this smoothie was a pretty main component of my dinner, so I put it in.  Not to mention I wanted the extra potassium as I’ve recently been kicking up the jogging regimen.

Still, I had more strawberries.

So Saturday afternoon, after a late breakfast and with plans for a late dinner, I decided a summer salad was the perfect mid-day meal.  Fresh arugula from my CSA share, rinsed and stems snapped off, chopped strawberries, walnuts and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.  The perfect bite contained some of each flavor. I served it to my fiancé who was not nuts about, well nuts, at least not in a salad.  Fruit in salad isn’t his thing either.  But he tried it and even he liked it.  It probably would have been even better with crumbled goat cheese and I lamented not having any when I was making it.  But even without it was a refreshing and elegant way to break up a sunny Saturday spent doing mundane personal tasks like housework and filing.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie
4-6 strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 ripe banana
6-8 oz fat free milk
2 tbsp wheat germ
1 tbsp honey
2-4 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Serve with a straw.