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Georgia Kalamidas’ Purslane Salad (Another weed made useful!)

12 Aug I haven't yet met Georgia, but her last name suggests that the Greeks know how to manage this bad boy right

We were a bit bemused to find this thick-leaved rubbery-stemmed plant called purslane (Portulaca oleracea) in our pick-up and completely unsure of how to use it. It seemed to be the exception to the CSA rule of thumb: “When in doubt, saute in garlic and oil.” What to do?

Purslane is a succulent. those fat leaves hold water during drought.

Purslane is a succulent. those fat leaves hold water during drought.

Fortunately, our Restoration Farm grower Caroline Fanning provided a recipe from someone I think is another another member, Georgia Kalamidas (duly credited here) and the Internet provided more info on what this thing is. Apparently, some folks think it is a beautiful edible ornamental. Others think it is a weedy, resilient pain the gardener’s ass.

University of Illinois Extenson educator, Sandra Mason in a very funny and informative piece called “Purslane: Weed it or Eat it?”  discusses the relative merits of purslane in the garden. For example: “Purslane is an annual reproducing from seeds and from stem pieces. Seeds of purslane have been known to stay viable for 40 years in the soil. You may find that fact either depressing or exciting.”

Use it or lose it. One day after pick-up this needed using

Use it or lose it. One day after pick-up this needed using

The edible nature of this useful weed is another story. In young plants you can use the stem. My pick-up partners, Lori and John, and I tasted the stems and were not impressed. So we removed the leaves (it takes a while, so factor in time for that), rinsed thoroughly (purslane generally grows close to the ground) and followed Georgia’s recipe. The purslane is a bit like watercress without the nuttiness, and a bit like parsley but milder. In fact, you could substitute either in this salad, which was absolutely refreshing and delicious, with a lot of brightness and crunch. And by the way, you can apparently saute it in garlic (the rule stands!), and also in soups, but don’t cook it too long or it will become mucilaginous (slimy, like okra). Also, next time I might substitute oregano for the mint and add feta. Click for basic recipe! Continue reading

Beets: A Variety Pack of Easy and Delicious Techniques

21 Jul El amor entra por los ojos -- This dish is love at first sight!

Beets are popping up in CSA boxes, farmer’s markets and gardens (except mine, because I haven’t planted any this year since I wasn’t going to be consistently available to thin and tend them).  I never liked them as a kid, because when I was a kid they only came out of a can and were floppy and disgusting! Today I know better and I love them.

David and Goliath

David and Goliath

They are available year-round and store well, but are really a cool season crop. Grilled, roasted, boiled, or steamed…there are many ways  to skin this veg. We usually keep one around to grate raw onto salads for extra crunch, flavor, and color, paring just enough to grate some off the bulb and then sticking it back in the fridge.

Rinsing the beets

Rinsing the beets

Any vegetable that colorful has to be good for you and beets prove the rule. They contain phytonutrients called betalains which are supposed to be rich in anti-oxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties (for more on the healthful properties of beets, click here) , so eating them is a good thing. And they are very sweet, which is also a good thing, because they stand up to a lot of interesting flavors. THE GREEN ARE EDIBLE AND DELICIOUS so make the most out of your purchase following the instructions below, or try out one of the easy-peasy recipes here.

Beets are available year-round, but are best from June to October and that's when the beet greens are best too!

Beets are available year-round, but are best from June to October and that’s when the beet greens are best too!

For advice from Cornell on growing your own, go here.

BASIC PREP

Trim off the greens about an inch from the actual beet. You can eat them and they should be used within a day or two, taking out larger ribs before cooking. They can be used like most other leafy greens.

The unwashed beet roots will last about three weeks in the fridge. To use, scrub gently and do not remove the root. Do not peel before cooking. You can wrap in foil and roast at 400°F for 1-1.5 hours or simmer in salted boiling water for 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. Another option is to steam in a vegetable steamer for 30-45 minutes. the beets are done when a fork goes easily through the center. The skins will come off easily and should be removed while the beets are still warm. Use kitchen gloves or put your hands in plastic bags to handle them, as they will stain*. Flavor affinities include goat cheese, tarragon, herring and ham.

Zesty Orange Beet Salad with Beet Greens

El amor entra por los ojos -- This dish is love at first sight!

El amor entra por los ojos — This dish is love at first sight!

 USE THOSE BEETS GREENS! 

How to select, store and saute these excellent greens that come attached to your beets!

I like to mash mine into bolied yuca or boiled potato with olive oil...and that's just what I did after taking this photo.

I like to mash mine into bolied yuca or boiled potato with olive oil…and that’s just what I did after taking this photo.

Grilled Beets (No Oven Required)

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts (or feta)

Roasted Beets with Feta and Walnuts

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

Golden Beets (sauteed with garlic and parsley)

Golden Beets, sauteed

Golden Beets, sauteed

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zucchini: 7 Superstar Supereasy Recipes

12 Jul Light and luscious, the abundant corn kernels make this fun to eat

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all love summer veggies fresh from the garden. Except — admit it! — when there are piles and piles and piles of zucchini sitting around your kitchen counters waiting for a purpose. For that time there is this post.

I have collected some of my favorite zucchini recipes here to inspire you and yours to enjoy zucchini in different ways (and overwhelmed gardeners can send this to their friends as they pass off some of the overabundance of zucchini from the backyard).

Enjoy! You will remember these days fondly in the dark of winter.

Rosemary-Manchego Zucchini Fritters

 

Zucchini Rosemary Manchego Fritters Yum

Zucchini Rosemary Manchego Fritters Yum

 

 Remoulade (Easy Summer Squash Slaw…cooooool)

 

Zucchini Slaw

Zucchini Slaw

 Crunchy Creamy Zucchini Corn Fritters

Light and luscious, the abundant corn kernels make this fun to eat

Light and luscious, the abundant corn kernels make this fun to eat

 Easy Stovetop Lemon-Oregano Zucchini and Yellow Squash

How this dish looked at our campsite on the beach

How this dish looked at our campsite on the beach

Healthy and Happy Grilled Veggie Kebabs Continue reading

Sugar Snap Peas: Five Italian and Spanish Style Recipes You’ll Love

30 Jun Rich flavor that doesn't overwhelm the peas.

It is the season for sugar snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon), and we have had a wonderful harvest of sugar snaps in our yard, and we expect more from Restoration Farm, our CSA.

Almost too ready for picking

Almost too ready for picking

So today I made a special sweet pea dish — Pasta with Chorizo and Peas - for my seven-year-old swee’pea who is in charge of peas at home, from planting to watering to harvesting (he gets assistance in stringing the poles as our peas need strings to climb on with their delicate tendrils. We buy sugar snap seeds from Botanical Interests).

Someone eats a lot of peas as he is harvesting. Someone's mother doesn't mind at all.

Someone eats a lot of peas as he is harvesting. Someone’s mother doesn’t mind at all.

He collected peas between World Cup matches today and then we spent a companionable half hour shelling the peas and eating many of them as we watched Costa Rica play Greece in the World Cup and I put the water to boil. At halftime I made dinner to eat during the second half.

Quite a haul! We can freeze what we don't use. But we'll use it all before that happens.

Quite a haul! We can freeze what we don’t use. But we’ll use it all before that happens.

So the following Pasta with Chorizo and Peas  is a new recipe and below that you’ll find links to some of our perennial favorites: Spanish tortillas and Italian pastas. This recipe uses only the peas, but the pods are edible. I sliced the pea pods into my salad, as he doesn’t like those and I find them wonderfully crunchy and sweet.

Rich flavor that doesn't overwhelm the peas.

Rich flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the peas.

Continue reading

Garden Update (Whew! Maybe I wasn’t too late after all)

25 May First haul, baby French breakfast radishes

In the past few years I have assiduously reported on our developing vegetable garden. This year, shame and nothing doing and too busy with other stuff has kept me from sharing.

These we planted back in October...of 30 garlic cloves planted, 29 are looking fab and the other, well who cares?

These we planted back in October…of 30 garlic cloves planted, 29 are looking fab and the other, well who cares?

BUT, it turns out my lackadaisical approach, followed by periods of intense industry that last about an afternoon, have worked out so far!

Will they be ready in time to plant outdoors?

tomatoes from saved seeds: Will they be ready in time to plant outdoors?

Maybe it’s that the raised beds make life easier. Maybe we know what we are doing somewhat more. Maybe the crazy cold winter and early spring meant that a late start was all one could do.

baby kale and chard: forgiving and vigourous (and delicious when you put the ones you thin into raw salads

baby kale and chard: forgiving and vigourous (and delicious when you put the ones you thin into raw salads

Whatever the reason, the vegetable garden is going WELL and we’ve started harvesting and I might even have Puerto Rican calabaza going this year.

This may or may not be arugula babies: I need reading glasses these days so I can't tell! but in the garden I just taste

Peas are also very forgiving: plant early whenever and they just go for it!

So…garden pictures. And especially for parents who are trying to garden with their kids, a cool idea for radishes that engages their interest (even if your handwriting sucks). Write their name in radish seeds and watch the early sprouts delight them!

The first few letters looked great. The last few...well it's N-D-R-O

The first few letters looked great. The last few…well it’s N-D-R-O

Looking good! Who woulda thunk it?

Looking good! Who woulda thunk it?

Keep your dedos cruzados that this Puerto Rican pumpkin works out...didn't think it would work, so I don't have a transplanting location or plan!

Keep your dedos cruzados that this Puerto Rican pumpkin works out…didn’t think it would work, so I don’t have a transplanting location or plan!

The Garlic is Planted!

16 Nov Tuck them in and let them sleep until spring!

Since garlic was one of the few things we managed to grow successfully in this summer of failures, I decided we should plant more than last year.

It can be tough for little hands to get the head started in separation, but if you get them started, they can separate them.

It can be tough for little hands to get the head started in separation, but if you get them started, they can separate them.

I followed the lead of our CSA, Restoration Farm. Since they planted last Saturday (and we went to help for a little while, which refreshed our memories on how to plant) and Caroline said she follows biodynamic practices for most auspicious sowing moments, we planted a day or two later, which was about as soon as I could manage.

note that the bottom end is free of the root residue, but not cut off. Leave it intact!

note that the bottom end is free of the root residue, but not cut off. Leave it intact!

We used the tomato bed, since it is a good idea to rotate vegetables every year. If any pests or blights have made a home in the bed, when spring comes they won’t find their usual victims waiting to be destroyed. Instead, they’ll find something else that they don’t like very much and can’t harm. We’ll put the tomatoes where the peas were and where there should be a whole lot of nitrogen that they left behind.

turning the earth and smashing apart clods is happy work

turning the earth and smashing apart clods is happy work

The bed is about 10′ by 3′. Farmer Dan suggested we plant the garlic every 9 inches in rows 1 foot apart, which meant we could stretch a measuring tape across and Leandro could learn a lot about the 9 times tables. So we turned the dirt, outlined three rows and made holes every nine inches (How many cloves do you think we planted?). We separated the heads into cloves, being careful to leave the cloves tightly wrapped in their papery husks so they don’t rot before they have a chance to overwinter and start sprouting in the spring.

An impromptu math lesson with a measuring tape and the nine times tables

An impromptu math lesson with a measuring tape and the nine times tables

You stick them in, root end down and pointy bit up, cover and, if necessary, water. Then you play football in the backyard until the sun gets too far down in the sky and it gets cold.

And the answer to how many is: 30 cloves, each of which we hope will result in a new delicious head of 4 to 10 cloves next summer. And in the meantime, we can just forget them!

Long Island Organic Poultry and Egg Source – Updated for 2013

12 Nov Ready to eat!

This one is for my homies: my readers here on Long Island. I welcome anyone else who has certified organic birds on Long Island to contact me so I can post it! Everyone else, be sure to click on links for additional information on what makes poultry organic and best practices for making the most of your real farm-raised bird.

Local, Fresh and Organic: We’ve been getting our eggs and Thanksgiving (and sometimes Christmas) birds from Makinajian Poultry Farm in Huntington for a number of years now (They’ve been around and family-owned since 1948). We didn’t discover them by ourselves; once we joined C.S.A. – first at Sophia Garden and now at Restoration Farm – eggs and Thanksgiving turkeys were optional shares. It’s a good thing, as a drive to their farm in Huntington is kind of a hike for us to do on a regular basis – 30-40 minutes from our house. It’s a nice place to go though – farm animals in the front yard, coops out the back and a sweet country-style store…Worth a visit!

The eggs and poultry are organically raised. Importantly, it’s all fresh – the organic eggs you buy in the supermarket can be weeks old (the USDA says eggs are fresh 45 days after being laid), while these are farm to table.

If you want a turkey for Thanksgiving, you should order it now! Click the link or here’s the number: 631-368-9320. And don’t forget to bring your order number when you pick up; it’s troublesome for them to find your order when the line to pick up is out the door…

From the Makinajian Facebook Page

“We will start taking orders for Thanksgiving on Nov.1. We have turkey, turkey breast, duck, goose, capon& cornish hens all available to order. Please call for all prices.”

A Bird in the Bucket is Worth Two in the Freezer Compartment

A Bird in the Bucket is Worth Two in the Freezer Compartment– brining the bird

I usually order extra turkey necks for the gravy and often pick up one of their homemade pies (still warm!) while I’m there. They also have organic produce…pretty much anything you might have forgotten to pick up for the Big Eat. Note: I do brine the bird overnight for extra tenderness and flavor and will probably do it again this year. I’ll let you know all about it!

400th Post – A celebration because YES, I have ripe tomatoes!

7 Sep This raw puree is so handy to have around in wintertime!

This is my 400th post, which seems to be quite a lot. It’s funny how much energy you can manage to put into the things you love. Even when you don’t have any energy to spare.

Another view....

Another view….

So I am not going to say much, just show you my paste tomatoes, which are lighting up a summer that was otherwise dark with failed crops….

And more to come...provided we keep a few steps ahead of the blight!

And more to come…provided we keep a few steps ahead of the blight!

Thanks to all of you for your visits and comments, It is terrific to know that there are so many kindred spirits out there gardening, cooking, eating….I would love it if you would take a moment to tell me what some of your favorite posts or recipes are!

Your friend in food,

Natalia

(P.S. that is not blossom end rot on that ripe one in the background…just a funny ripple in the skin. Whew!)

Blackberry Muffins: Moist and Tart and Sweet

31 Aug Look at that fruit!

We finally made it down to the berry fields at Restoration Farm for blackberry season and boy am I glad we did!

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

The little guy picked and popped the berries directly into his mouth (“Oh Mom, these are so good! Try this one!) and ran up and down the rows and climbed up and down the compost pile, while I picked the juiciest and blackest berries and dropped them into my paper bag, and chatted with Donna “The Chicken Lady/Social Commentarist” in the cooling breeze of the late afternoon. One of my favorite things about going to the farm and volunteering my labor (which I don’t do as much as I should once the summer kicks in) is talking while you work. The folks at the farm are so interesting and warm and funny, and weeding occupies the hands, while it frees the mind to wander and the ears to listen and the mouth to chat.

Allison -- our long-time CSA partner -- picks her berries.

Allison — our long-time CSA partner — picks her berries.

Berry-picking does much the same thing. Once you soften your touch to only take the berries which fall off into your hand with the gentlest of tugs — if you tug at all — you find a rhythm as old as time and the conversation comes easily. So does silence.

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

For someone like me, who always has to be getting something done, it is a great relief to be able to have my hands occupied in dignified work, while sharing with friends. I also learn a lot about what to do in my own garden when nothing is going right. And the little man identifies the birds: swallows and mockingbirds and the occasional red-tailed hawk wanting a go at Donna’s chickens. The hawks cause quite a bit of excitement in Mr. Mini-Audubon. And the chickens, of course, who scurry under the coop.

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

So, we collected just under a quart of warm, sweet, soft berries that needed using immediately. Since back-to-school is right around the corner, my fill-the-freezer-frenzy has begun. Mini-muffins make for a perfect lunchbox snack, so that is where I went. Continue reading

Make Your Own (Freezeable) Tomato Puree

29 Aug The final product! Tomato puree that will be great when the weather turns....

While I wait, anxiously, for my own paste tomatoes to ripen before some sort of blight gets them (my tomatoes are abundant and my only hope left for a reasonable harvest of something this summer), my CSA, Restoration Farm, is piling on tomatoes of all stripes..I think we picked up 7-10 lbs this week alone, and since the friend we share with , Allison, has not been around, we’ve been taking it all home. So…I have made and frozen a couple of quarts of sauce recently, using the simple recipe that follows.

Bubbling puree. Stir occasionally to break up.

Bubbling puree. Stir occasionally to break up.

There are other ways to do it (some cooks just blanch, peel and run through the food mill and don’t cook it at all; while some, including me, just blanch and freeze whole tomatoes), but I like this because the puree is smooth and ready to go in a pinch and the hint of garlic gives it a round flavor without taking it in a particular ethnic direction.

I strain the sauce through a regular strainer, then eat the seeds and solids!

I strain the sauce through a regular strainer, then eat the seeds and solids!

The blanching may seem daunting at first and yes, it does add time to what you are doing, but it is so simple and I like to watch the tomatoes float up and down in the bubbles and slipping off the peels so easily is somehow satisfying.

So give it a try if you get your hands on some paste tomatoes and enjoy summer freshness when there is snow on the ground!

The final product! Tomato puree that will be great when the weather turns....

The final product! Tomato puree that will be great when the weather turns….

Tomato Puree

3-5 lbs paste tomatoes

3-5 cloves garlic minced

½ tsp coarse salt

To blanch tomatoes, put a big pot of water on to boil. Be ready with tongs and a big bowl of ice water on the side.

Rinse and core tomatoes. Drop into boiling water (you will probably have to do batches). Remove each tomato as soon as its skin starts to wrinkle/split, and drop in the ice water.

Once the tomatoes are sufficiently cooled to handle, slip off the peels and discard peels or add to stock (thanks John Picardi, or was it Mad Dog for that tip!).

Dump the water from your big pot and add the peeled tomatoes, split or chopped in half if you like. (If you have a food mill, you can put the tomatoes through the mill first to eliminate seeds. Or, there is another suggested way to do it later in the recipe). Add garlic and salt, bring to a boil, then simmer for five, ten, 15 minutes…however long you want. The flavor is bright early on and mellows somewhat with more cooking, so it is up to you which you prefer.

When you’ve reached desired flavor, let cool. At this point, since my food mill is missing a piece, I press the sauce through a strainer into a bowl. The solids remain in the strainer and…true confessions…I use that as a spread on toast because the seeds don’t bother me there, but they do bother me in a smooth sauce. Then pour the sauce into a freezer-safe container (you will yield anywhere from a pint to a quart depending on quantity of tomatoes and how much liquid evaporated in the cooking) and freeze for a fresh neutral tomato puree in the middle of winter!

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