Archive for Vegetable recipe

Just Right Bread-and-Butter Pickles

As it turns out, when pickles are good, we eat lots of them. If they are too acid or too sweet, they languish in the pantry. I’ve tried many vegetables and many styles over the years and have concluded that we really only eat a few: “cornichons”, tiny tart cucumber pickles that are a staple of French picnic along with saucisson, baguette, butter, and a pot of “moutarde extra forte”; and bread-and-butter pickles… but only if they aren’t too sweet.

The pickling cucumber plantings are doing fairly well this year. Not well enough to make a lot of cornichons, but well enough to make bread and butters. So bread-and-butters we’ve been making, not too sweet, just right. We eat them with or piled in sandwiches, potato salad, sandwich between fried eggplants, with cold chicken or cold meat … you name it!

Happy to share my recipe below.

bread & butter 3

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Beet & Chocolate

beet chocolate cake IMG_1699

I am firmly in the beet lover camp: a well grown garden beetroot  tastes of clean sweet earth. And that’s a good taste, intense, earthy, crunchy when raw, silky when cooked, deep garnet. But I know that the beet is as fervently disliked as it is loved. As much for taste as for its uncanny ability to color everything sanguine.

But that perceived flaw is also a strength. One can turn beets into a natural food coloring. Years ago, I made preserved cherries from a Greek recipe that called for dropping a chunk of beet-root in the jar of preserve to enhance its color. The cherries tastes faintly of beet – fine with me since I like beets.

Then, a few days ago, at breakfast, leaving through an older issue of Saveur magazine, I stopped turning the page at the gorgeous photo of icing in the most lovely shades of pink. Colored by beet powder! According to the article, beetroot powder has some earthy sweetness but  does not have a strong taste. I was intrigued.

I made beet root powder. Because right now we have beets. The recipe for DIY beetroot powder is here. A mandoline is helpful to slice the beet paper-thin. After drying the beet slices in my yard-sale food dehydrator (they looked like rose petals!), I pulverized the dehydrated slices in my Vitamix. Worked like a charm!

beet powder IMG_1679 beet powder IMG_1684

Then I wanted to make icing. And use it. Read more

A Perfectly Pretty Watermelon Salad

 watermelon salad, small

It took me a long time to accept the idea of fruit in my salads. Too gimmicky, if you had asked me! As a properly raised French child, the only acceptable fruit that was not dessert was an appetizer of charentais melon with port (or maybe Jambon de Bayonne, the French Basque version of Prosciutto).  But now? Now… I toss blueberries in massaged kale salad; I mix cantaloupes, canaries, and honeydews with purslane, shallots & jalapenos; I love peaches everywhere, including in salsa, or sliced thinly on a goat cheese open sandwich with black pepper & a drizzle of honey… and when it comes to watermelon, there is almost no limit.

Not only is this particular salad pretty, you can prepare all the ingredients ahead, keep them refrigerated in separate containers, and assemble at the last minute.. which makes it perfect for entertaining or even for potluck. Imagine the exclamations! Edible flowers bring a nice touch to the dish – in fact they are part of the WOW factor, something we can all relish occasionally. Read more

Beet-root Pesto and Beet-leaf Pesto

beets colorful IMG_1605

As one who loves beets, I have yet to find something made with beets that I don’t like. Raw beet salad, roasted beet and goat cheese sandwich, borscht, pickled beets (a favorite), beet ice-cream, savory beet tart, sweet beet tart (see Bar Tartine, by Courtney Burns and Nicolaus Balla), and, of course (thank you Nigel Slater) beet and chocolate cake – yep, over here, please!

It’s possible that this love for beetroots goes back a long time…. As kids, when we had a cold/sore throat, my mother would thinly slice beet root, layer them with sugar, let them sit until the sugar dissolved and the beets released their juice and give us spoonfuls of the most delicious medicine one can imagine. Cold, unctuous, sweet, and beet-y. In fact, something good enough to feign a cough! Totally unlike cod liver oil!

And although homemade kvass has not been a success (it got to be pretty sticky and literally oozed out of the jar), I have not yet given up on that.

Yet, beet seems to be one of those polarizing flavors – one loves them or hates them. Over several trials and error (and the desire to serve beetroot as hors d’oeuvre without a mess), I came up with a recipe that many people who told me they don’t like beets have enjoyed: Beet root pesto (no cheese). Read more

For the Love of Purslane

When my neighbor went to Turkey a few years ago, she was fortunate to spend time with a Turkish family, and taste true Turkish cuisine prepared at home. She also had a grand time at the Istanbul Bazaar and came back with amazingly fragrant spices, some of which she gifted me. She really enjoyed many vegetable dishes and was particularly intrigued by a vegetable she never had before… and had I ever heard of it? such a funny name:  purslane?

Basil & purslane both like hot summer weather

Purslane & basil both like hot summer weather

I burst out laughing, and told her I’d bring her a big basket the following morning, wanted to harvest it when it was cool. Which I did. Fair is fair: a basket of “weeds” for a basket of spice.

Because, as you know, many Americans consider purslane (Portulaca oleracea) a weed. In fact, many don’t even know it’s edible. It’s a cousin of the ornamental  moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora), sometime also called purslane. Don’t confuse the two  when buying seeds (you are unlikely to find Portulaca oleracea plants for sale)

Yet – it is. It’s also nutritious, mild (vaguely lemony) & crunchy – and for me it grows when lettuce does not. In the garden, it’s an annual succulent. It self-sows (and how!) but does not germinates until it is quite warm. In poor soil, it can look “weedy” indeed. But in good garden soil, it becomes a handsome plant that hugs the ground. Pick often to delay flowering and to encourage more leaves.

Leaves, stalks, buds, flowers and seeds are all edible. But the younger, firmer, leaves are preferable – so pinch out shoots to harvest (and encourage branching at the same time).  I dislike the texture of the tiny seeds, so I swish my harvest in a large bowl of cold water to dislodge the seeds that sink to the bottom of the bowl.

A cultivated “improved” version of purslane exists. The pale-golden green leaves are fleshier than the ones growing wild in my garden, but also more fragile and the plant is not as robust. I prefer the unimproved version.

So how do you eat purslane? Read more

On Cardoon

My husband says “cardoon” sounds like something out of The Lord of The Rings. I say it’s more like Deep Space 9.

Either way, we love it here. It’s beautiful in the garden and it’s delicious (recipe at the end of the post)

cardoon

While I normally start cardoons from seeds, this year I was too lazy/too late/too swamped to start seeds, and so I bought 6 healthy seedlings at one of our local small family-run nurseries Morningside Farm & Nursery. They have a super nice section of herbs, succulent, tropicals and perennials. Morningside sells cardoon as an ornamental – perennial in zone 7 or lower. For us in the Nothern Virginia Piedmont, it’s a perennial if we have mild winters — which we  have had for the last several years. Certainly cardoon is a very striking plant in the garden, with its statuesque presence (if grown well, it can reach 6 feet when in flower — the 2nd year), its large silvery felt-like leaves and its oversized thistle flowers (assuming you let it bloom). It IS a gorgeous plant. And gorgeousness is the reason most people will ever grow them for. But it’s also eminently edible: it’s an artichoke grown for its stem. When properly prepared, they do indeed taste of artichoke. The other artichoke, globe artichoke, is grown for its flower bud. Yep, you are eating a thistle bud when you eat an artichoke!

Cardoon

Cardoons growing with Swiss chard. Both vegetables produce stems that make sumptuous gratins.

Plant them out at the same time the morels emerge. Read more

Mushroom & Crème Fraiche Pizza

Homemade pizza is one of the simple pleasures of life. Make dough. Let rise (as many as 4 or 5 days in the fridge if needed). Roll out dough. Spread toppings. Put in a very hot oven. Open a bottle of beer or pour a glass of wine. Patient 10 minutes. Enjoy.

PS – use a pizza stone: it will immensely increase the quality of your pizza. One word: perfect crust!

PPS – neither tomato nor pepperoni necessary (although sometimes they have their use!)

Mushroom & Crème Fraiche Pizza Read more

Winter Swiss Chard

Lard crostini, with spicy Swiss chard & fresh farm cheese

It got down to 5F (-15C) last week and the high for a few days reached low 20sF ( -4 to 66 C) —  cold by our standards, especially with no protective snow covering. especially after the mild fall and winter to date. And yet! yet, how is the Swiss chard doing in its rustic cold frame (the one made with reclaimed storm windows)? Good enough to pick from.

It was even a late planted Swiss chard (that was started in the fall, sat too long in their containers and where finally transplanted in the cold frame in late October (see how it looked back then)

Newly transplanted Swiss chard back in November

But today? today after a really cold week? A very pretty bouquet!

Pretty good looking Swiss chard for January 29, after a long week of a very cold spell

It founds it way into a split pea, sausage and Swiss chard soup – a riff off the classic Tuscan cannelloni, sausage & kale soup (although when I made it, I was not conscious of the riff… this is how one cook after all when cooking without recipes – from memory or from unconscious influences).

I don’t like raw Swiss chard (I never use its baby leaves in salad for example), but I like it a lot cooked. It’s very versatile for one:

  • quick wilted in the frying pan with lots of chopped garlic, then thrown into a soup, with pasta or served as a side vegetable;
  • blanched, refreshed and squeezed dried, they can be tossed with a bean salad, with pasta, into a tart or quiche, in a gratin or on top of crostini.

I don’t really like the ones with all the brighter colors either. They might be pretty raw, but they don’t look so appetizing cooked (the red ones bleed all over!), their texture is rougher, sometimes vaguely unpleasant. I prefer green Swiss chard, and I am always on the look-out for new cultivars to try in the garden.I also really like the ones with a very thick stems – I use them as a separate vegetable. They are perfect in a garlicky cream-based gratin with a sprinkling of hard cheese and bread crumbs.

The recipe below is ideal for a quick lunch or appetizer as you can prepare the Swiss chard (and the cheese if using homemade) well ahead and refrigerate it – bring back to room temperature before using. All that’s needed is to toast the bread, before topping it with cheese and the greens.

Lard Crostini With Fresh Farm Cheese & Spicy Swiss Chard Read more

Parsnip Soup

Parnip roots

I love parsnip. Don’t you?

I don’t grow parsnips (not that I have not meant too…): mostly it’s because I run out of garden-bed space when I would need to direct-seed it. And parsnip holds on its real estate for a long time as it requires a long growing season — so do I grow parsnips? or do I grow a crop of lettuce? followed by bean? followed again by fall & winter greens? oh, and did I mention voles?

So until I have a special parsnip growing box like Deirdre Armstrong ( who has a “parsnip palace” built out of corrugated metal, hog panels and a few feet of compost), I will buy parsnips. They are fairly easy to find, inexpensive and like carrots, keep well in the fridge. A creamed-colored sturdy and homey root, parsnips look like white carrots (to which they are related). Their natural sweetness makes them a favorite for roasting (chunks roasted by themselves or mixed with other root vegetables) or for cream dishes (slices layered in a potato gratin or mashed with potatoes).

Parsnip particularly shines in soup. I offer here the “rich” version with chicken broth and cream. Water can be used and cream omitted for a leaner (but still flavorful) soup (that then becomes vegetarian or vegan). The soup freezes beautifully, so don’t hesitate to make a big batch.

Parsnip Soup Read more

Preserving Peppers

A sample of peppers I grew this year.

Three bushels of peppers picked in the last 3 weeks. We are eating plenty of peppers, but still…  Something MUST be done. I have used several techniques to preserve them. Peppers are still available at farmers’ market and you may have had a good harvest before the frost too. So here is what I do to preserve my peppers: drying, freezing and several ways to pickle, including hot chunky sauce. Read more