May 24, 2012

Spring Root Vegetables with Fresh Herbs

I recently relocated back to Montana, where spring is just beginning and the temperatures are still cool.  The local farmer’s market is in full swing but fresh vegetables are just starting to arrive.  Among them are radishes and Japanese or baby turnips, some of the most delicious brassicas due to their spicy yet tender nature.  Turnips are so often overlooked or overcooked and radishes are rare, generally relegated to salads and garnish, I wanted to offer a spring side dish featuring both roots in all their flavorful glory.  Though both brassicas can easily be eaten raw, steaming them mellows their flavor and softens their crunch.  I have a variety of fresh herbs growing on my back porch and I simply pruned a few, chopped them and added them to the marinade, which leads me to believe most combinations would be excellent.  These spring root vegetables would go well with a leek galette and roasted green beans.
I used a combination of savory, basil, parsley and sage in the marinade, but any fresh herbs will work.

1 bunch or 8-10 radishes, trimmed and halved if large
1 bunch or 8-10 Japanese or baby turnips, trimmed and halved if large
1 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh herbs, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1. Combine herbs, olive oil and red onion in a small bowl and set aside.  Meanwhile, steam the turnips and radishes until barely tender.  Once the vegetables are tender, remove from heat, place in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. After the vegetables have cooled slightly, pour the marinade over the vegetables and gently fold to thoroughly combine.  Marinate for at least one hour before serving.  
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.  
Serves 3-4

May 19, 2012

Buttered Dandelion Greens


Often overlooked or under appreciated due to their bitter nature, dandelion greens have become one of my favorite green side dishes to compliment any number of different meals.  Humans have been eating dandelions for thousands of years, as the plant, considered a beneficial weed, is believed to have evolved millions of years ago in Eurasia.  The word dandelion is an English interpretation of the French term dent de lion or lion's tooth, named such for the rough edges on the leaves.  The younger the dandelion green, the less bitter the taste will be, so early spring and late fall are the best times for harvesting leaves.  However, I enjoy them year round, because when served with balancing starches such as root vegetables and grains, the bitterness becomes a flavorful addition to most any meal.  

I harvested my own dandelion greens from weeds growing on the law, but the larger varieties sold at most grocery stores or farmer's markets will work just as well.

6-8 c or 1 bunch dandelion greens
¼ yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
1. Heat a large skillet or pan over medium heat and add the butter.  Once the butter melts, add the onion and sauté until lightly golden brown.  Add the dandelion greens, reduce the heat to medium low, cover and cook the greens until tender, stirring frequently to prevent burning.



2. Once greens are tender, remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve greens warm or room temperature. 

Serves 3-4

May 12, 2012

Dandelion Blossom Fritters

I grew up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where sagebrush, pine trees and prickly pear cactus flourished.  Needless to say there was little in the way of manicured lawn, what little we did have was generally a sea of dandelions.  My sister and I learned to forage for edible plants at a young age, as our mother was a botanist and our father was a renaissance man of sorts, and dandelions were one of the easiest and, thanks to my parents, tastiest finds.  I have fond memories of fresh dandelion blossoms being batter and fried for an afternoon snack or side dish at dinner.  I recently relocated to Montana, where spring is just beginning and the many of the lawns host their fair share of dandelions and fritters were on my mind.  They are just as easy and delicious as I remember them being, providing a great use for an otherwise common weed.   Dandelion blossom fritters pair well with buckwheat flatbread and rye or wheat berry salad

The blossoms should be used immediately and may be rinsed, but are easier to fry dry.

2 c dandelion blossoms, stems removed
1 large egg
¼ c flour
¼ c milk
2 tbsp oil
salt and pepper
1. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, milk and flour together until smooth.  Season the batter with salt and pepper.  Makes about one cup of batter.

2. Place the oil in a medium skill over medium heat.  Once the oil is heated, dip a dandelion blossom in the batter, holding the flower by the bottom to fully submerge the blossom in the batter, gently shake and place in the skillet.  Repeat the process until the skillet is full.  Fry the blossoms until golden brown, flipping as needed, about 1 minute.  Remove the blossoms and set aside drain on a paper towel, while continuing to fry the remaining blossoms. 

3. Season the fritters with salt and pepper as desired.  Serve immediately.

Serves 3-4

May 6, 2012

Wilted Spinach Salad with Bacon Dressing

Like many classic American dishes involving bacon, Germans settlers, specifically those settling New England and Pennsylvania, including the Amish and Mennonites, likely brought spinach salad to the Americas.  German immigrants brought a salad recipe which they served in springtime, composed of dandelion greens, bacon, vinegar and hardboiled eggs.  The dandelion salad later evolved into the more familiar spinach salad, which substitutes the dandelion greens for spinach, another spring green, and includes red onions and mushrooms.  Pennsylvania produces the greatest number of mushrooms, an industry started by the Quakers in the late 19th century and increases the likelihood the spinach salad has Pennsylvanian Dutch roots.  The mushrooms and onions can be added raw, but I like to slightly warm both ingredients before add them, so the spinach becomes even more warm and wilted when served as a salad.  Spinach salad is delicious with another German dish, potato salad.  
4 c spinach, roughly torn
½ red onion, thinly sliced
8 button mushrooms, quartered
2 eggs, hardboiled, peeled and roughly chopped
8 strips bacon, cut into 1" pieces
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ tsp mustard
¼ tsp honey
salt and pepper
1. Place the spinach in a large bowl and set aside.  Combine the vinegar, mustard and honey in a small bowl, whisk and set aside. 

2. Heat a large pan over medium heat, add the bacon and fry until golden brown.  Remove the bacon, leaving the fat in the pan and toss the bacon with the spinach.

3. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the onion and sauté until slightly browned.  Add the mushrooms and gently sauté with the onions until they are lightly cooked.  Turn the heat off and remove the onions and mushrooms and toss them with the spinach and bacon. 

4. Pour the vinegar mixture into the pan, whisk well pour over the ingredients in the bowl and toss well.  Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. 

Serves 2-4

April 29, 2012

Maple Glazed Carrots

In early April, I was in Vermont, where spring was just beginning and maple syrup season was already in full swing and advertised everywhere.  Admittedly, most of my prior maple syrup knowledge comes from Laura Ingles Wilder stories, inspiring many failed attempts at making maple syrup candy made on a bed of snow.  Maple trees store starch in their roots during the winter and then converts that starch into sugar, which is held in the sap that rises in the tree during the spring.  Any number of maples, though predominately sugar, red or black, can be tapped in the spring to allow the sap to be collected, boiled to evaporate the water, creating thick syrup known as maple syrup.  The native peoples of North America have made maple syrup for hundreds of years, if not longer, and now the majority of the maple syrup consumed in the world is produced in Canada.  Maple syrup, composed mostly of sucrose and water, is an excellent replacement for other sweeteners and adds a rich earthy flavor to any number of dishes.  Maple glazed carrots are delicious with baked leeks and potato pancakes.

For Amy, who inspired these carrots.

4 medium carrots, quartered
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper
1. Melt the butter large pan over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and sauté until light golden brown.

2. Next, pour the maple syrup into the pan and stir to combine with the butter and onions.  Bring the maple syrup to a simmer, arrange the carrots evenly in the pan, cover and braise the carrots until just tender, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, 10-15 minutes.

3. Once the carrots are tender, remove them from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve the carrots warm or room temperature.  

Serves 3-4

April 15, 2012

Creamy Celeriac Soup

I was recently able to visit my friends who run Six River Farm in Maine, where spring is just beginning and a few roadside banks of melting snow remained. Though they are able to sell produce year round, the selection is more limited than their summer and fall abundance as the outdoor growing season is just getting started. However, I was able to bring home greens including spring mix, spinach, cabbage and kale and root vegetables including carrots, potatoes and one of my favorites, celeriac. I have featured celeriac before, purée with carrots and I continue to cook with this often-overlooked root vegetable. Roasting the celeriac for the soup creates a rich and well-balanced flavor, allowing few ingredients to be used for a simple creamy soup, especially delicious with an arugula and orange or beet and goat cheese salad.

For a vegan alternative, olive oil and water may be used in place of butter and cream.

2 medium celeriac roots, peeled and roughly chopped into 2" pieces

1 yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 tbsp butter

2 c water

¼ c cream

salt and pepper

olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle the celeriac with enough olive oil to coat, toss and spread on a roasting sheet. Place the celeriac in the oven and roast until tender, 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Once the celeriac is golden brown and tender, remove from the oven and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Continue sautéing, adding the roasted celeriac and water, cover the soup and simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes. Remove the soup from heat and cool slightly before blending.

3. Place the soup in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add cream and continue blending, adding small amounts of water as desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or room temperature.

Serves 3-4

April 3, 2012

Tabbouleh

Edible herbs are part of longstanding culinary traditions in the Middle East, so much so that the word tabbouleh comes from tabil, the Arabic term for seasoning. Tabbouleh, a traditional Middle Eastern salad served as part of lunch and dinner, is most often made from fresh herbs, tomatoes and bulgur. Wheat berries are made into bulgur through a process of soaking, cooking, drying and cracking the whole kernels and is one of the oldest human culinary uses of wheat. Depending on the region, different tabbouleh recipes may have different proportions of bulgur to fresh herbs; however, I like to make mine about equal, so the herbs are fragrant against the chewy texture of the wheat berries. Homemade tabbouleh is delicious with roasted eggplant salad and balsamic marinated vegetables.

½ c bulgur

1 bunch parsley, finely chopped

2 tbsp mint, finely chopped

1 medium tomato, finely diced

1 small onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped

1 lemon, juiced

½ tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Soak the bulgar in water until tender, about 1 hour, drain thoroughly and set aside in a medium-mixing bowl.


2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bulgar and gently fold to combine. Marinate the tabbouleh for at least an hour before serving. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Serves 3-4

March 15, 2012

Asparagus and Pea Salad

I often find it entirely satisfying to compose an entire meal of simple vegetable side dishes. I would say especially in the spring and summer, when vegetables are most plentiful, but really it is something I do throughout the year. However, asparagus and peas remind me of spring and so they seem a fitting side dish to signify the return of spring. Roasting the asparagus before chopping and combining it with the other ingredients, lends a nice earthy flavor to the entire dish and accentuates the sweetness of the peas, tangerine and shallots. For spring, asparagus and pea salad pairs well with baked leeks and caramelized fennel.

2 bunches asparagus, trimmed

½ c peas

2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

2 small shallots, thinly sliced into rounds

1 tangerine, juiced

2 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread asparagus evenly on a baking sheet and drizzle with a tsp of olive oil. Place in the oven and roast until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Once cool, slice the asparagus into thin rounds.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat in a small frying pan. Add shallots and sauté until golden brown, about 5 minutes, stirring continuously so as not to burn. Once the shallots are brown, place in a bowl with the peas, parsley, tangerine juice, asparagus, and fold to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.

Serves 3-4

March 8, 2012

Sweet Rosemary Potato Pancakes

The longer I cook, the more I enjoy using rosemary, maybe because it reminds me of the pines in which I was raised and also because I try to always have a rosemary plant around. Rosemary seems to be one of the more versatile herbs one can use in a kitchen, as it lends itself immensely well to both sweet and savory dishes, and frankly I cannot think of a more well rounded flavor which suits both. Like many herbs we use today, rosemary, an evergreen a related to the mint family, is native to the Mediterranean. The name rosemary derived from the Latin ros marinus or dew of the sea, due to its ability to use humid sea air as its primary source of moisture. Aside from culinary usage, rosemary has long been thought of as a medicinal plant to improve circulation, memory, digestion and the immune system, as well as providing anti-inflammatory properties. Sweet potatoes and rosemary pair very well indeed, as the bold piney flavors taste delicious upon a rich sweet background. These sweet rosemary potato pancakes are made in the style of latkes, with sweet potatoes taking the place of white potatoes.

1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and grated

1 yellow onion, trimmed and grated

1 tsp fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stem

2 eggs

1 tsp starch, potato or corn

¼ tsp pepper

½ tsp salt

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1. Combine the grated sweet potatoes and salt in a medium-mixing bowl, set potatoes aside for about 10-15 minutes. Drain liquid from potatoes by squeezing them and tightly wrapping them in a clean towel, removing as much excess water as possible. Return drained potatoes to original mixing bowl.

2. Next, combine the potatoes with the onions and rosemary. Add the eggs, starch and pepper and thoroughly combine with the vegetables creating the batter for the pancakes.

3. In a medium frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil over medium-low heat. Place a tablespoon of batter in the pan, flatten into a pancake and fry each side until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Repeat process with remaining batter, adding additional oil as necessary.

4. Serve pancakes warm or room temperature.

Serves 3-4

March 2, 2012

Chili sin Carne

Chili has been a staple of the American diet for hundreds of years, first documented by Spanish conquistadors in writings about their findings in Mexico, which included the dish chili con carne in 1519. Most commonly in Mexico, the dish consisted of meat endlessly stewed with spices, but the ingredients would vary when it reached the American west depending upon availability. Chili became especially popular in Texas, where they saw both the chili queens, who would cook chili in the plaza over open fires in the evening, and chili parlors, small dining establishments devoted to the dish. Currently, many current versions of chili seems a far cry from the stewed meat and spices, especially because beans and tomatoes are both questioned as to whether they truly belong in the dish. All conventions aside, chili, even without the key ingredient of meat, can be a great dish using surplus ingredients, which can be made ahead and either eaten immediately or frozen for later. Homemade tortillas are especially delicious with chili sin carne.

1 c black beans, cooked

2 c tomatoes, diced

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely diced

1 stalk celery, finely diced

1 red bell pepper, finely diced

1 summer squash, finely diced

1 c mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, finely pressed or chopped

¼ c cilantro, finely chopped

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp chili powder

½ tsp ground cumin

salt

water

1. Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat and add the chili powder and cumin and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onion and garlic, stir and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the celery, carrot and mushrooms, stir to combine and continue sautéing until the vegetables are tender, stirring continually to prevent burning.

2. Next, add the red bell pepper and summer squash and sauté until tender. Fold in the beans and tomatoes, and add ¼-½ c water, so the liquid is not quite even with the vegetables, cover and simmer over medium-low, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Once the liquid has been reduced and the vegetables are soft, remove from heat, stir in half the cilantro and season to taste with salt.

3. Serve the chili warm or room temperature with fresh cilantro and additional toppings as desired.


Serves 3-4

January 29, 2012

Sprouted Lentils with Asparagus

Sprouted lentils might be my favorite sprouted legume to eat raw, as they taste essentially like a cooked lentil with a little more flavor and crunch. Lentils sprout easily in a short amount of time, and once sprouted they are tender enough to eat raw or slightly cooked if desired. Any variety of lentil may be sprouted; however, because the red lentils are small and usually split, they sprout in rapid time and are generally sprouted and ready to eat within a day. Sprouted lentils with asparagus are delicious with stuffed bell peppers and beets and tangerines.

1 c sprouted lentils

½ lb asparagus, trimmed and roughly chopped

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

1 tbsp fresh basil, roughly chopped

¼ red bell pepper, thinly julienned

½ lemon, juiced

2 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1. First, sprout lentils, which takes 8-24 hours, depending upon the variety of lentil.

2. Next, heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until golden brown and caramelized, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Once onions are caramelized, add asparagus and bell peppers, stir until combined and remove from heat.

3. Combine sprouted lentils, caramelized onions and vegetables, basil and lemon juice and gently fold to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Serve salad room temperature or chilled.

Serves 3-4

January 18, 2012

Caramelized Fennel

I have always loved the flavors of licorice and anise and so it should be no surprise, though the flavors are different, fennel is a particularly appealing vegetable to me and tends to be slightly under utilized in the American kitchen. Fennel, along with coriander, parsley, dill and carrot, is a member of the Umbellifereae family and native to southern Europe where it has been cultivated for medicinal and culinary purposes for thousands of years and continues to be a mainstay of Italian, French and Mediterranean cooking. Along with most vegetables, fennel provides a great amount of nutrition including Vitamin C, phytonutrients and fiber. The bulb, stalk and fronds of fennel, generally sold together, are all delightfully edible and can be eaten together or separately, raw or cooked, depending upon your culinary preference. Caramelized fennel is delicious along side orange pecan kale and feta roast potatoes.

2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced into thin wedges

½ c fennel fronds, finely chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss fennel bulbs with olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread evenly in a baking dish and place in the oven. Roast fennel until deep golden brown and caramelized, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning and sticking.

2. Remove fennel from oven and toss with chopped fennel fronds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled. Serves 3-4

January 9, 2012

Garlic and Oregano Green Beans

A member of the mint family widely used in both the medicinal and culinary world, oregano, from the Italian origano, is native to Eurasia and the Mediterranean. Like many other herbs, the flavor of oregano, found in the aromatic oils, depends upon the conditions under which it is grown. Most commonly, oregano is associated with Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Latin American cuisines and was likely brought to popularity in the states by soldiers returning from Italy during World War II. Although dried oregano can be very flavorful, I prefer fresh herbs and so prefer to cook with fresh oregano. Due to the strong aromatic oils it possesses, small quantities of oregano can be sufficient to impart abundant flavor in a given dish. Because the fresh leaves are delicate, allowing them to roast for a short period of time retains their flavor and prevents them from burning. Garlic and oregano green beans are delicious with wheat berry salad and celeriac purée.

1 lb green beans, trimmed

4 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves

1 lemon, halved

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss the green beans with olive oil and salt and pepper, spread them on a baking sheet and arrange the garlic on top. Place the green beans in the oven and roast for 8-10 minutes, until beans are just tender.

2. Sprinkle the oregano on the green beans and return to oven for 1-2 more minutes or until oregano is wilted. Remove the beans from the oven and set aside to cool slightly. Chop the roasted garlic and fold into the green beans. Squeeze lemon juice on beans just before serving. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve green beans warm.

Serves 3-4

January 1, 2012

Purple Cabbage with Bacon and Apple

I am not quite sure what the world would do without bacon, as it seems to be the ingredient of choice in a wide variety of culinary concoctions, including chocolate bars and ice cream. For those of us who do eat meat, and even some who make a bacon exception, it is a deliciously salty and smoky ingredient to add flavor and intensity to so many different dishes. Bacon, from Old French and Old High German, describing the buttock or ham of an animal, can be made from many different cuts of pork, using any number of various curing techniques. However, all bacon is first cured in salt, either brine or dry pack, before being served as fresh bacon, or further cured and dried. Cabbage cooked with bacon is particularly nice and is an easy dish to make and eat as a part of a meal or on its own and goes well with summer squash fritters and succotash.

Green cabbage may be used instead or in addition to purple.

For Jen, who loves bacon.

2 strips bacon, roughly chopped

1 small head purple cabbage, thinly sliced

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 small green apple, halved and thinly sliced

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

salt and pepper

1. Place the bacon in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Fry the bacon until golden brown, stirring continuously. Once the bacon is golden brown, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add the onion to the pan and fry in the bacon fat over medium heat until the onion begins to brown. Return the bacon to the pan along with the cabbage and stir well to combine. Pour the apple cider vinegar over the cabbage, cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low or low, so the cabbage is braising steadily. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and cook evenly.

3. Once the cabbage tender, gently fold in the apple and cover, allowing the apple to braise with the cabbage until it is soft, 5-10 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Serve the braised cabbage warm or room temperature.

Serves 3-4