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

12 Aug

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

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Awesome Black Bean, Black Olive, and Couscous Burgers (baked, freezeable)

10 Aug

We love a good Black Bean Burger around here, seven-year-old boy included. I make many variations and make bigger batches than I need so I can freeze them. Usually I bake first then freeze, but with this one I am experimenting with freezing uncooked. So far so good; I took two out today and baked them and we loved them!

Froze them on wax paper and then when set, I put them in a freezer bag with was paper separating them

Froze them on wax paper and then when set, I put them in a freezer bag with wax paper separating them

I haven’t yet told the little man that there were olives in his burger. Maybe I won’t tell him at all; kids are funny and he might decide he didn’t like them after all, or become suspicious of everything I put in front of him. Hmmm. Anyhoo, these were really delicious and filling and I am glad to have another six in the freezer for a rainy day!

Oh yes! Black Bean Burliness!

Oh yes! Black Bean Burliness!

Black Bean Burgers with Couscous and Black Olives

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1/2 Cup onion, chopped fine

¼ Cup green cubanelle (Italian cooking) pepper, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tbs cumin powder

1 Tbs Adobo powder

20 pitted black olives, chopped

2 Cups beans (soaked) or 2- 15 oz. cans, rinsed and drained

½ tsp salt

1/2 Cup fine (not Israeli) couscous (you could use two Cups prepared quinoa instead)

2 eggs

(optional ¼ Cup white flour)

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and grease lightly.

Warm oil in a large skillet at medium-high until rippling. Add onion and coat, then lower heat to medium, add green pepper, and sauté until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another minute, followed by cumin and cook another minute.

You may want to add beans to skillet for further cooking and softening (add ¼ Cup water at a time for greater tenderness).

In a bowl, mash beans into a thick paste (use a fork, potato masher or ricer). Add cooked vegetables, egg, couscous, and olives and season with salt (and pepper if desired). Shape into four generous burgers (or eight small ones) with your hands (don’t mess with it too much). If you find it much too wet, mix in the optional flour and then place on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes on one side, 10 on the other and then a five on the first side. Serve with thinly sliced red onion, sliced avocado, sliced tomato and Sweet Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce,  and Hot, Cheap & Easy’s number one post ever: Sauteed Onions and Mushrooms Burger Topper Extraordinaire if desired.

Hibiscus Mint Iced Tea Lemonade

7 Aug

I am so glad to be back!

There she is! Will find that contact info soon!

There she is! Will find that contact info soon!

We were just in Puerto Rico for a month, which was fantastic and wonderful (especially for my son’s Spanish; he spent his days at a summer camp fending for himself  and emerging victorious!). But for those of us sitting home with nothing but fans blowing hot air around while he frolicked in the pool, it was ridiculously hot.

Putting it together was easy!

Putting it together was easy!

We headed for Rincón’s Famer’s Market a couple of Sundays (Rincón is higher elevation where it is not beachfront, so it is cooler), and we found a young lady selling iced teas…with a twist (now I can’t find her card or I would tell you who she is…).

How pretty is that?

How pretty is that?

Leandro fell in love with the Hibiscus-Mint Iced Tea Lemonade which she said is very popular for kids’ parties. So, of course I had to recreate it at home and I too emerged victorious. This stuff is super-refreshing and delicious, has no caffeine and looks beautiful. I used agave nectar, so I didn’t even have to fuss with sugar syrup….You could try honey too!

 

So refreshing!

So refreshing!

Hibiscus Mint Iced Tea Lemonade

6 Cups hibiscus tea, cooled (I used Tazo’s Passion – 5 teabags to 6 Cups hot water, then steeped for ten minutes)

½ generous Cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (strained to remove seeds and pulp)

¾ Cup agave nectar (you could also make a simple sugar syrup and start with 1/2 Cup)

Several sprigs mint and 1 Tbs chopped mint

Mix all the ingredients in a large pitcher until blended. Remove mint sprigs, stir in chopped mint and serve over ice, with additional sprigs of mint for garnish, if desired.

 

20 Summer Tomato Recipes and Techniques (including rescuing and freezing!)

31 Jul

Here it is finally, a round-up of recipes for using summer tomatoes, including rescuing tomatoes past their prime and processing for freezing (without the trouble of canning!). Bookmark this one….

1. The Easiest of All: Chopped Tomato Sauce

Light and beautiful, any kind of tomatoes will do, as long as they are garden fresh!

Light and beautiful, any kind of tomatoes will do, as long as they are garden fresh!

2. Speedy Bruschetta (great for using up tomatoes past their prime salad days)

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

3. Pan-Roasted Cherry, Grape or Sungold Tomatoes (Oil-Free options and another way to use up those minis gone soft)

4. Grilled Cherry Tomato Salad or Burger Topper

This recipe has terrible photos so I am not using them here, but great flavor.

This recipe has terrible photos so I am not using them here, but great flavor. Try it!

5. Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Garlic and Basil

Bung these in the oven while roasting other veggies!

Bung these in the oven while roasting other veggies!

6. Spanish-style Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes!

Stuffed Tomatoes!

7. Provencal Vegetable Tian (baked layered summer veggies with olives)

Assembly is easy on this vegetable tian

Assembly is easy on this vegetable tian

By the time it came out of the oven, my natural light was gone...but you get the idea.

By the time it came out of the oven, my natural light was gone…but you get the idea.

 

8. Marinated Mini-Mozzarella Balls

Perfect for a summer BBQ or buffet (and big savings over the pre-marinated from the Italian deli

Perfect for a summer BBQ or buffet (and big savings over the pre-marinated from the Italian deli

 9. Classic Criollo Tomato and Avocado Salad

The go-to side for spicy, salty, strong-flavored creole cooking

The go-to side for spicy, salty, strong-flavored creole cooking

 10. Cannellini and Tomato Salad (no cook)

Add crusty bread and you've got yourself a no-cook hearty cool meal!

Add crusty bread and you’ve got yourself a no-cook hearty cool meal!

11. Pan-Roasted Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa (fat-free)

Pretty all the way from start to finish

Pretty all the way from start to finish

2012-08-26 04.56.47 tomato tomatillo

12. Oven Charred Tomatillo and Tomato Salsa

Oven Charred...Yum

Oven Charred…Yum

Next page: Bisque; Watermelon Feta and Tomato Salad, AND several ways to preserve tomatoes by freezing!

Continue reading

Sangría Tropical (and rainforest paradise pictures)

27 Jul

When the heat gets tropical, so should the drinks.

View from Noelia's where you can sit out on the deck and chat while waiting for dinner

View from Noelia’s where you can sit out on the deck and chat while waiting for dinner. See rapidly disappearing sangría in my mom’s hand

On a recent trip to the mountains of Puerto Rico, I was inspired by a wonderfully cooling and exotic sangría I had up around and about El Yumque (Caribbean National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. Forest Service  system) at Noelia’s, recommended to us by Matthew at our hotel, Casa Cubuy EcoLodge — which is simple and wonderful and part of the rainforest.

An eclectic and friendly joint, with loads of Puerto Rico memorabilia and drums!

Noelia’s is an eclectic and friendly joint, with loads of Puerto Rico memorabilia and drums!

Your balcony looks out on the mountain, with walks to several rivers and waterfalls right out the back door.

View from the balcony at Casa Cubuy

View from the balcony at Casa Cubuy

It was a wonderful night with a local couple and Noelia herself telling us tales of their region and showing up the island of Vieques in the distance, spotting palomas sabaneras (an indigenous and endangered bird) in the trees, coqui frogs in the kitchen keeping Noelia company, eating garlicky mofongo and seafood from the nearby coast (the little guy sucking on the bones of his delicious fried chicken).

Noelia herself!

Noelia herself!

moonshine!

moonshine!

There’s moonshine up in those mountains and we brought some of that home too, but I am not revealing my sources. Note that our moonshine is a potent cane rum, best mellowed with local flavors like coconut and passionfruit.

A boy's paradise

A boy’s paradise

So when I got back to sea level, it was clearly time to enjoy some of that flavor and bring back the cool of the high hills. I used a couple of tablespoons of moonshine, but I offer worthy substitutions in the recipe. Continue reading

Beets: A Variety Pack of Easy and Delicious Techniques

21 Jul

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tostones de Panapén (Fried Breadfruit Disks)

16 Jul

When they talk about flakes of manna falling from the sky, I am sure they are talking about tostones de panapén.

Chunks browned lightly

Chunks browned lightly

Panapén or pana is what Puerto Ricans call breadfruit. The back story of how breadfruit got to the West Indies from South East Asia is actually one of the most famous seafaring tales around: The Mutiny on the Bounty.

The LeBron Brothers are the guys in the Plaza de Mercado de Mayagüez (where my great-grandfather had a booth in the early 1900s) who supply me with the good stuff, already peeled and pared!

The LeBron Brothers are the guys in the Plaza de Mercado de Mayagüez (where my great-grandfather brought his produce and my great-uncle had a booth in the early 1900s) who supply me with the good stuff, already peeled and pared!

Captain Bligh, on that ill-fated trip was trying to bring breadfruit to plant in the  Caribbean for cheap slave food.

Wikipedia image

Continue reading

Zucchini: 7 Superstar Supereasy Recipes

12 Jul

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

Spicy Peach and Nectarine Salsa (for grilled chicken, fish or shrimp)

23 Jun

Between the World Cup, my son’s birthday, and all the crazy- end-of-school-year STUFF, I have not been blogging with my usual attention. And I have missed you! But in the last few days of entertaining and spectating, this peach and nectarine salsa (done quickly at half-time)  has been sparking up the fantastic grilled chicken my dad has been charring to perfection.

A combination of over-ripe and not-quite ripe peaches and nectarines make for a terrific salsa

A combination of over-ripe and not-quite ripe peaches and nectarines make for a terrific salsa

It is the result of buying a manager’s special of rejected peaches and nectarines on the cheap….You can substitute mango..in fact my mom thought it was mango! The important thing is the balance and excitement of sweet, citric, spicy and salty all at one go.  Nancy, this one is for you…

This is done in five minutes!

This is done in five minutes!

Peach/Nectarine Spicy Salsa (for grilled chicken or shrimp)

1 Cup peeled and chopped peaches and nectarines

1 tsp red onion, chopped fine

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp balsamic vinegar

1 pinch hot red pepper flakes

1 pinch salt

Mix together in a bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Serve with grilled chicken, shrimp or sturdy white fish.

Mango Chimichurri Salsa (for grilled meats and seafood)

7 Jun

When it comes to camping food, go bold or go home is my motto. This is no time for subtlety.

Our delicious dinner

Our delicious dinner

So, when Pedro (my dad) showed up at the campsite with some steaks last week. I was all in. He simply sprinkled salt and pepper on the steaks and got to grilling. His hint for you today is that starting with defrosted steaks still a bit cold in the center helps to keep the rare in medium rare when things start moving quickly on the charcoal grill. A fair bit of marbling on a steak is desirable, because you want that fat to melt and season the steak as opposed to drying out a leaner cut.

I decide to surprise everyone with a different sort of dressing for the steak: a mango chimichurri salsa, a riff on the parsley-based Argentinean salsa for steeak. Continue reading

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