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Archive for the ‘greens’ Category

Chive Blossoms

We’re bursting out with spring all over here, and the Ozark region’s first strawberries are coming into season.  When I was growing up, we had strawberries most often served over pound cake, which we called “strawberry shortcake.”  (I know people in other regions of the country use sweetened biscuits for a dessert by the same name.) A lot of people hear strawberries and think dessert, but unsweetened strawberries go as well with savory dishes like salads as do tomatoes.  Tonight we had a big salad of baby greens, herbs (chervilchive blossoms), and root vegetables (sliced carrots and radishes) from our garden,and sliced strawberries.  We topped everything off with a simple strawberry vinaigrette.

Here’s the salad on its own.  Can you spot the lime green lettuce called Black Seeded Simpson? the endive?  how about the little purple chive blossoms?  and the carrots and radishes?  and, of course, the strawberry slices?

Fresh Strawberry Vinaigrette: about 4 generous servings

  • 1/4 cup chopped strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil (try 2 tablespoons if 1 doesn’t seem like enough)
  • 1-2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon prepared hearty brown mustard

Blend everything until the strawberries are processed and the mixture is bright pink.  Oh, yes, this dressing is bright pink!  It might work well for a bridesmaids luncheon. My husband made fun of the color until he tasted it.  Then he ate a spoonful by itself.  And then he had another spoonful.  I think he liked it.

I served this salad with more seasonal favorites:  asparagus and smoked salmon with whole-grain penne pasta, finished with fresh local cream and a little non-local lemon zest; braised local snow peas; and for dessert more organic, local strawberries, garnished with a tiny scoop of ice cream.

What seasonal favorites do you look forward to each spring?  Do you have any family traditions for strawberries?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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We went from wondering if another ice age was on its way to believing in global warming again this week.  The unseasonably warm weather cried out for a cooler dinner, and gigantic chives and Asian mustard that went from salad size to mandatory cooking overnight made me think of some of our favorite pseudo-Asian meals.  Tonight we’re having spicy peanut-sesame noodles with broccoli, coconut-crusted chicken, and a mess of mustard greens finished with hoisin sauce.

I first had peanut-sesame noodles a couple of decades ago at a Chinese restaurant in a country house outside Madison, Wisconsin.  Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if the place was licensed as a restaurant, but it got a big following quickly.  The food was good, but the most fun was the owner’s enthusiastic teenage daughter, Sunshine.  After we’d visited a few times, Sunshine told us that she was going to order for us that night, not from the menu but one of her favorite things that her mother made for the family.  Out came the noodles.  I was in love.  These probably bear little resemblance to those, but I can make them with ingredients I have on hand.

Spicy Peanut-Sesame Noodles

This recipe will make more than enough noodles for a whole family of four (or more).  I used whole-wheat spaghetti noodles, but you could use udon noodles or thick rice noodles too.

Serves 4-6

  • 1/2 box whole-wheat spaghetti noodles
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (or veggie–also okay to use water, but then you’ll need to increase the other ingredients a bit)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup good peanut butter
  • 1 hot pepper (chile), diced finely–I used a red peter pepper I had in the freezer.  Feel free to use more peppers if you like it spicier.
  • 1 crushed garlic clove or several garlic chives, diced finely
  • 2-3 dashes rice wine vinegar
  • 6-7 dashes soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • optional:  freshly grated ginger or pickled ginger, slivered
  • 2-4 scallions or chives, sliced across the grain (both whites and tops)
  • carrot, slivered or coarsely grated
  • optional garnishes:  cilantro, coarsely grated radish, snow peas, shelled edamame

Begin by prepping the sauce for the noodles.  Heat the peanut butter and broth to get everything moving.  I heat them in a one-cup pyrex measuring cup in the microwave and then use the measuring cup for mixing everything else. Add in the hot pepper, garlic, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.*

Now prepare the noodles according to package directions.  Pour off the cooking liquid and while the noodles are still hot, add the sauce and stir well to combine.  Stir in some of the scallions, carrots, and garnish and pile the rest artfully on top.  Set the noodles aside or refrigerate.  You’ll serve these noodles at room temperature or even cold.

Do you want to make this a vegetarian one-dish meal?  Use the veggie broth, and toss in shelled edamame or stir-fried tofu.  By the way, this sauce is an excellent appetizer dip for vegetables!  When we take it to parties, people love that it’s not the same-old ranch or bleu cheese dip, and it’s a lot healthier for you.

Go ahead and take a closer look.

Quick Broccoli

I used two cups of florets, fresh from our garden, and tossed them in salted water in the wok.  That’s all!  Then I used them as additional garnish on the noodles.

Coconut-Crusted Spicy Chicken

serves 2-4

  • 1 chicken breast, about half a pound, cut into strips (half of the thickness of the breast, about 3/4-inch wide each)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2-4 tablespoons lime juice
  • optional:  2 tablespoons rice vinegar (use if you only use 2 tablespoons of lime juice)
  • 1 large jalapeno or other chile, diced fine (or more to taste)
  • 1 egg, beaten  You don’t need to double the egg if you double the recipe.
  • 1/3 cup coconut

Start by making the marinade by mixing together your liquids and prepped jalapeno.  Process everything with a stick blender or in a regular blender.  It’s okay if some of the pepper remains unprocessed.  If you do not have a blender, just chop the pepper even more and let it meld with the marinade for a little while..

Pour the brine/marinade over the chicken breast strips and let everything soak for several hours, turning regularly to make sure that the marinade reaches all parts. (If you’d like to let the chicken soak overnight in the mix, add 1/4 cup water to make a brine.  Otherwise, the acid in the juice and vinegar will “cook” the chicken and make it tough.)

To have un-crusted chicken, pour off the marinade or brine and stir-fry the chicken in a little coconut oil.  To crust the chicken, pour off the brine, dry the chicken well, and dip it first in the egg and then in the coconut.  Place the chicken pieces on a greased cookie sheet and bake it in a 325 degree F oven for about 20 minutes, turning the chicken over half way through, until the chicken is golden brown on the outside (and, obviously, cooked through inside.)

I also served dinner with mustard greens in hoisin sauce (pictured in the upper right corner of the bowl).  Simply prep a mess of greens (see photos above and below for what constituted a “mess of greens” tonight!) by stripping off the tough stems, chopping everything roughly, stir-frying quickly in sesame oil, and tossing in some hoisin sauce to finish wilting the greens.  As hot as it’s been outside, the greens were really sharp.

*If you have a family member who’s a little leary of new things, reduce or leave out the toasted sesame oil altogether and add a bit more chicken broth and vegetable oil to thin the noodle dressing. Sesame oil has a distinctive (some say acquired) flavor.

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Tonight we’re feasting on sweet roasted root vegetables, beet greens, and roasted chicken breast.  Except for the chicken, goat cheese, and olive oil, the meal is coming from our garden, a harvest of root vegetables that got a head start over the winter and are now yielding Yum! Whether you’re feasting on fresh root vegetables from your garden, a spring-opening farmers market, Community Supported Agriculture, or a veg box, roasted root vegetables that are really fresh are a wonderful treat that may make the whole family like beets and turnips.

I roasted the vegetables in a cast iron fry pan, covered with a cast iron lid, at about 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes.  I included leek slices, beet wedges, radishes slices, carrot chunks, and turnip wedges.  I roasted the vegetables simply, with olive oil, salt, and a little dried oregano.

I slathered red pepper relish (red peppers, vinegar, sugar, salt) on our chicken breast (briefly brined) and then baked and sliced it after it rested.  Even though the breast was boneless and skinless, the relish helped it retain moisture.  The breast was really juicy.

I braised the beet greens in a little oil and then added a little of the chicken cooking liquid.  Finally I sprinkled on the goat cheese.

The sweetness and savoriness of the red pepper relish and  the vegetables balanced with the tanginess of the goat cheese made for a delicious meal.

Beware any woody vegetables.  Roasting will not make them better.  If you can’t easily cut through the veggies when they’re raw, they are woody.  Discard them.  Feed them to your farm animals or your compost pile.  They’ll appreciate them.  And, yes, I learned this the hard way.

What are you favorite preparation for root vegetables?  What sort of seasoning do you like to use?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me to use photographs.

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Spring is spinach season, so today I offer you spinach lasagna.  Chances are if you grow or if you buy veggies through Community Supported Agriculture, you’ll have spinach soon, if you don’t already.  We’re going to just barely wilt the spinach before we bake the lasagna, so it will remain as green as Spring, with no bitterness!

Some people think they can’t get their kids to eat spinach, but with no bitterness in this recipe, you may find it’s easier than you think.  If they’re still not believers, tell them that you’re serving “Great Green Globs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts,” and teach them the song!  (Yes, there really is a song.  Just Google it.) Given kids’ desire to gross out other people, you’ve just made spinach lasagna a hit.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 whole-grain lasagna noodles  (you may need to trim them to fit the pan measurements)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • several leek leaves (green part):  about two loose cups–If you don’t have leek tops, use 1/2 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped.
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup (or a little less or more) milk–start with about 1/4 cup and go up to 1/2 cup
  • about 8 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • 1-2 ounces parmesan cheese (I use real Italian parmesan cheese.  Even though it’s not local, it’s so special that nothing else compares.)
  • optional:  select fresh oregano (about two teaspoons-1 teaspoon dried) or basil (2 tablespoons fresh, thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Remember:  try to buy organic and local if you can.

Prepare whole-wheat lasagna noodles according to package directions. (I used 5 noodles for this recipe, prepared in a 6-cup Pyrex dish, about 6 inches by 8 inches.)

Slice the leeks very thinly across the grain and saute in the olive oil.  Crush the garlic and add it too.  Let the leeks and garlic sweat but not caramelize for about 5 minutes.  Now add 1/4 cup milk and heat gently.  Add in about half of the spinach and start to wilt it.  Add the rest of the spinach.  Cut the parmesan into small pieces.  Using a food processor, process everything you’ve prepped up to this point, pulsing to chop the spinach.  Add a bit more milk if you need it.

Lightly grease a baking dish.  Spoon some of the most liquid of the spinach mixture into the bottom of the pan to cover it.  Now put down layer one of lasagna noodles.  Spoon on spinach mixture and spread out.  Dab on ricotta cheese.  Sprinkle on grated mozzarella.  Repeat twice more, so that you have three layers. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.  Let sit for a few minutes before you slice and serve.  Enjoy–and be sure to sing the song!

Do you want to make lasagna while camping?  You can do it!

Do you have a favorite variation on lasagna you’d like to share with readers?  How about a special way to prepare spinach?  Share in the comments section.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Tweets and short excerpts are welcome, as long as you include the full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Wait!  Stay, while I move you beyond thinking about yellow mustard for your hotdogs or overgrown, overcooked, bitter, abused mustard greens and into the realm of mustard greens bursting with flavor and health.  When I was a kid, my mother would send my sister and me to the garden to pick mustard greens–in high summer.  We would invariably come back claiming that there were none ready, but she could look out the window and know we were fibbing.  She’d cut the greens, wash them, and then cook them to death.  The whole house would smell.  They tasted awful, but I ate them because that was what a good kid was supposed to do.

Fast forward many years and a culinary lifetime later.  I’ve had mustard greens lightly braised, and I’ve eaten them fresh in salads.  And I liked them.  Today I want to encourage you to like them too.  As I understand it from around the web, a lot of people have been getting mustard greens in their CSA baskets and veg boxes.  Hopefully this little primer will help you enjoy them like I do.

Why Eat Mustard Greens

Mustard greens are phenomenally good for you.  In my post-operative state, the high rate of Vitamin K in mustard greens (more than 500% of the RDA!) is excellent news.  Mustard greens are also chocked full of other vitamins, and they are superior for fighting cancer and aging.  Like kale, they pack a huge wallop of nutrition for a tiny number of calories.  I don’t just eat them because they’re good for me.  I eat mustard greens because, properly raised and properly prepared, they also have a wallop of flavor.

The Flavor

Step one in thinking about whether you’ll like mustard greens is thinking about whether you like prepared mustard, which is basically mustard green seeds and vinegar.  If you’re okay with prepared mustard, you can like mustard greens.  The trick to enjoying them is eating them in season–that is, before it gets too hot outside.

Using Mustard Greens

You can eat mustard greens fresh or cooked. Just please, please don’t boil them to death.

  • Fresh baby mustard greens give a kick to salads.
  • A few days ago we had fresh medium-sized mustard greens one of my favorite ways, instead of lettuce on turkey-ham sandwiches.
  • You can also braise more mature mustard greens.  Just remember that you’ll need what Southerners call a “mess of greens”–that is, big pile–because they’ll cook down so much.  Begin removing the tough center rib.  Then roughly chop the greens and wilt them in a little hot oil (or bacon drippings, if you have any around) in a large pan.  As the greens start to wilt, add a lighter vinegar (balsamic may be too strong) and, if you want, a squirt of honey or splash of soy sauce or sprinkle of salt.  Some folks add tabasco too.  Serve them as soon as they get tender.
  • Consider add mustard greens to Asian-inspired stir fries.  They’re classic!

Growing Mustard Greens for the Sweetest, Mild Flavor

Mustard greens naturally have a sharp flavor, but that flavor is balanced by a green sweetness when you pick the greens in cooler seasons.  If you want to start liking mustard greens, try them when they’re growing temperatures have not exceeded 80 degrees F for the daytime high.  Honestly, I do not think that variety makes that much difference in mustard greens’ sharpness, although some Asian varieties (mizuna) may be a little sharper.  Mostly it’s the temperature.

A Few Recommended Varieties of Mustard Greens for the Home Garden

Mustard greens are incredibly easy to grow.  Three versatile favorites in our household are red mizuna (the purple Asian mustard featured here), mizuna (a lacier leafed, more delicate Asian mustard), and Southern giant, a bright green, frilly edged mustard.

Do you have questions about cooking or growing mustard greens?  Would you like to know some of the seed sources I use?  Do you have a favorite recipe for mustard greens you’d like to share?  Please let me know in the comments area!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me via comments for permission to use photographs.

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