Garlic scapes!

If you follow the blog you probably read the post about green garlic.  We also really like garlic scapes, and the great thing about garlic scapes is that they are seasonal and they only come once a year!

Right now we are in garlic scape heaven.  We made garlic scape pesto last weekend & have been putting it on everything this week (eggs, salmon, rice, greens, bread, pizza).

To start with, what is a ‘garlic scape?’  Great question.  The scape is part of the photo (6)plant.  In the photo to the right, the scape is the white part with the little bump in it.  The friendly wikipedia page says that the scape “generally refers to a long internode forming the basal part or the whole of a peduncle. Typically it takes the form of a long, leafless flowering stem rising directly from a bulbrhizome, or similar subterranean or underwater structure.”  In my own words, the scape shoots out from the top of the plant (right around now).  The scape actually contains the seeds of the garlic plant & the flower!  If you do not cut the scape off, the plant would bloom and eventually little baby garlic plants would spread all over the place.  However, if you do cut the scapes off, you get an extra boost of energy going into your garlic bulbs (instead of into the flower)!  Just in case you didn’t know, the garlic bulb grows under the ground at the base of the plant.

photo (5)Enough of that! So, what to do with the scapes? As I mentioned already, we have been cooking them in everything.  The good news is that the scapes keep for a while in the fridge after they have been harvested.

Most of the ways you can use a scape are the same as how you can use the green garlic I wrote about a few weeks ago.  Easiest thing to do: make the scapes into a pesto.  Then put the pesto on everything

There are many pesto recipes out there.  A basic one: use a food processor to blitz some garlic scapes (rinsed), olive oil, & add salt & pepper to taste.  That’s it.  Super simple. We made a nice sized batch (1/2 pint) with about 10 scapes in it.  Then put it in a glass jar and it is now in our fridge.  Have we mentioned we’ve been putting it on everything?

Some great uses of the pesto include sautéing with greens and eggs; pan frying salmon with pesto; or using the pesto on pasta or pizza.  We have cooked with all of these methods in the past few days.

Other ideas for using the scapes.  When I asked on Facebook, I was told that scapes are good in soup stock, grilled, or chopped up mixed with olive oil and used as a dip for bread.

How do you use your garlic scapes?  

Sugar Snap Peas

As spring slowly rolls into summer we start to see more than greens at the market!  This week I am excited to get some more sugar snap peas.  We have been enjoying these delicious pods all week.  Our peas, grown by Kris and Adriane of River to River Farm, are crisp and beautiful!

photo (5)This is what they looked like this week at the market.  Absolutely beautiful!

So, what to do with these?
One of the reasons I love sugar snap peas is that one can eat them raw or cooked.  We have been eating them raw more than cooked so far this season.  Most of the time, we just eat these by the handful – much as you might enjoy popcorn!  I should confess, we were watching a BBC show last night and snacked on raw sugar snap peas (we had a large bowl with the washed peas, and a bowl for the discarded tops & strings).

Peas & Mulberry Photo shoot-8696

Wether you are eating them raw or cooking them, it is important that you first wash your peas.  A quick run under cold water should do the trick.  Then you need to peel off the strings.  Typically we pinch the top (leafy) part of the pea, snap & peel the thin strings off.  To the left is a picture of a whole pea, a pea with the top snapped & partially peeled, and the pea to the right has had the strings removed & both ends snapped.  If the peas are less mature (smoother, flatter pods) they might not need their strings removed.  Some people also eat the strings, just figure out what works for you & do that!

Another way to eat snap peas is to saute them.  This can be done in a cast iron skillet with a little olive oil, wash & dry, take the strings off, and put them in the skillet for a few minutes, turning once.

Peas & Mulberry Photo shoot-8701Magdalen made some for herself to have with lunch the other day, they were super quick & easy (took less than 5 minutes) & delicious.  The pea pods were warm and they had a smoother, softer texture, with wonderful juicy pops when eating the warmed pea seeds.

Other folks steam their peas.  One word of warning, don’t overcook them!  They aren’t as yummy if you do!

Peas & Mulberry Photo shoot-8699

Here is a picture of three peas opened up so one can see the seeds:  As you can see, the one on the left is the most mature of the three, and the one all the way to the right is the least mature.  We like them when they’re right in the middle!  Happy picking!

La Colina Linda B&B

Visited this lovely B&B over the weekend – Read our review of it!

Ugly Duck Travel Blog

We had the amazing good fortune to meet Kathy and Jeri at our local farmer’s market.  Turns out they own and operate the La Colina Linda B&B.  They invited us out to visit their property, see their extensive gardens, and spend some time with them. La Colina Linda Farm and B & B-8628

To start with, both Jeri and Kathy are lovely.  Both have been in Southern Illinois for a long time and are very knowledgeable of the region.  Both have a variety of interests and were great to talk with.  It was fun to trade recipes with Kathy while learning from both about their garden, sustainable farming techniques, and about how they are investing in their local community by teaching others to grow and cook vegetables.

Their B&B is nestled in the heart of the Southern Illinois wine trail.  The B&B is off the beaten path and an amazing place for a quiet retreat away from the hustle and…

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Beets and Chard!

The vegetable of the week is… beets & chard.  One thing that is interesting about beets & chard is that they are the same species!  They’ve been cultivated for different purposes though.  We grow chard for the leaves of the plant, whereas we grow beets for the roots (& the leaves if we’re eating them in season).

Chard is great sautéed with onions & garlic (or garlic scapes!).  It is versatile & may be added to soups or stews (it’s especially great sautéed in a little olive oil & added to a day-old soup or stew to revitalize the stew), fresh pasta dishes, small fresh leaves can be added to salads.  When we make lasagna we add a layer (sautéed) of whatever cooking greens we have in the house.  Of course you could look back at the blog post about braising greens

Beets are also quite versatile.  They can cut into chunks and roasted in the oven with olive oil, rosemary and whole garlic cloves (try adding a little balsamic at the end as well!), for a less beet-y experience you can roast them with other root & winter vegetables (carrots, parsnips, onion, winter squash, fennel, etc).  We have a friend who mentioned roasting beets with some mint – then serving it cold.  She said it was wonderful!

Beets can be boiled, drained, and eaten warm or cold.  The roots add a bright red color to anything — a small beet (or a quarter of a beet) can be added when juicing other vegetables or fruits for a splash of intense red color.

We even went to a restaurant in Nashville a few weeks back and enjoyed Honey Beet ice cream.  It was lovely!

This photo was taken this past weekend at our local Farmer’s Market.  River to River Farm was selling beets (next to their green garlic).

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Since I (Brian) don’t really like beets, my partner Magdalen wrote most of this post.  She has better grammar than I do & is very excited about beets as you can tell.

How do you enjoy your beets?

Salads!

Last week I highlighted some salad dressings, this week I’m talking about salads.

We’ve been enjoying lots of great fresh greens this spring from River to River farm.  Along with a variety of cooking greens, we are finding all sorts of new lettuce varieties to enjoy.  In particular, the Forellenschluss variety – a type of romaine- has been great!  We have heard of people using this lettuce for wraps.  We have also been introduced to the  Bronze Arrowhead variety.  This is a very light lettuce – we have put it on many a salad lately.

Speaking of salads, here are a few salad recipes we been enjoying over the past few weeks.  First, know that it is important to wash your lettuce.  If you get them from a market or the store (or even your own garden)- it is important to wash the leaves.  We take each leaf off one by one & place them in a salad spinner.  Add some cold water & stir the leaves with your hand.  Then use the strainer to clear out the water.  I do a second wash the same way.  Then use the spinner to spin the leaves dry.

Salad with seeds & nuts:
Base of lettuce
Toast some pumpkin seeds, pecans, & raisins in a dry fry pan for a few minutes to bring out the flavor (the raisins should puff up, they’ll deflate once they cool down).
Put some cilantro on top to add some depth of flavor.
Add a dressing of your choosing.  I recommend a simple balsamic vinegar/olive oil mixture.  But, I have also really enjoyed the Gaba Gaba dressing from the salad dressings post.

Salad with strawberries:
It is strawberry season here – we’ve found these are great on salads.
Pretty simple – clean the lettuce with the instructions above, wash & slice some strawberries.  Add the dressing of your choosing.

Salad with mango, avocado lime, cilantro, and paprika:
While the mangoes are not at all local… they are in season!
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We buy ours from a local international food store by the case during this season.  While we eat a great number of them, we also cut some up and freeze them for later when they won’t be in season.
However, for this salad – again a bed of lettuce, add some cilantro, mango chunks, avocado (we didn’t have any when we made it), and then sprinkle lime juice and paprika on top.  We also added some fresh ground salt & pepper to this salad.

To help you cut your mango – here is a quick tutorial.
Along the middle of the mango is a long seed/pit.  You will want to not cut through it.  Make two cuts along the long/narrow side of the mango.  With your two ‘halves’ – first cut a grid pattern like so:
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Then you flip the mango out and you get these funny looking nub-spikes!
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Easy to cut off into chunks.  Get the rest of the meat off of the middle piece of the mango (the part surrounding the pit).  As a reminder, mango skin is not good for humans to eat.

What salads have you been making lately? Any favorite recipes? 

How I network best

I’ve been really enjoying doing some “low-key networking from my desk” over the past few months.  I’ve been slowly connecting with people (mostly through twitter) and inviting them to have a phone chat with me.

Typically on these chats I ask them two questions:

1)      What is it that you do? What is your current role? What does it mean…etc
2)      How did you get there? What was your journey?

Most of the time, this easily fills a 30 minute phone conversation with someone.

I’ve found that while as professionals there is often that huge push to go to a conference, publish in a publication, or present at a conference.  Many of us are going to these conferences to bring things back to our home campuses.  Many of us are also going just to network with other professionals.

I typically go for both reasons.  I find, however, that while at conferences I usually spend a lot of time sitting down with people and having a 1:1 chat.  I realized this past fall that I can easily do this from my desk or living room.

The upside of having good networking chats not at a conference is that there are limited conference interruptions (friends walking by saying hi…etc), I don’t have to worry about my tie being tied too tightly, and I know that I can write down their name (instead of staring awkwardly at their nametag…on their chest…) to try to remember their name at that key moment in conversation.

How do you network best? What are some tips/tools that you use?

Salad Dressings

Welcome to spring!
I say this to myself when I go to the Farmer’s Market around this time of year.  While the weather could be doing anything, it is lettuce season!  For me, this means lots of salads for lunch and dinner.  While I love all the greens, I am a dressing person.  Salad dressing that is.

For this post, I reached out to some friends to get some good salad dressing recipe ideas.

From Magdalen (borrowed from Bon Appetit — the salad was lame, the dressing was great!):

Orange/fennel/shallot salad dressing recipe

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or fennel, which is what we used)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Whisk orange juice, lime juice, shallot, 2 Tbsp. dill, and zest in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining 1/2 cup oil; season orange vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
From Jan Elliott:

Vinaigrette
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
6 TBS oil — extra virgin olive, or 1/2 safflower 1/2 olive
1 TBS good balsamic vinegar (Villa Manodori is great)
1 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp prepared horseradish
1″ squeeze anchovy paste
1 small clove garlic, pressed

Mix very thoroughly. Taste & adjust (often needs more olive oil or a little sweetener). Mix or shake well just before using.

From Ted Abbott:
I love sauces, mine are mostly for dipping. You could put this one on a salad if you like it hot:
To a base of a cup of mayo, add hot sauce, lemon juice, soy sauce and for ultimate flavor, oyster sauce available in Asian section. Mix until consistent.
From Laura Itzkowitz:
Honey mustard dressing has been my latest salad dressing obsession – dijon mustard, white vinegar, honey, and black pepper. I don’t measure any of them, just add as much as tastes good.
From a restaurant in Nashville we ate at a few weeks ago:
Chili-Grapefruit Vinaigrette
1 Tablespoon Grapefruit Zest
3 Tablespoons Grapefruit Juice
2 teaspoons Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
pinch of salt and sugar to taste
pinch of cayenne
1/2 cup Olive Oil or Walnut Oil
My current favorite: 
This recipe comes from The New Moosewood Cookbook.  This is the sauce for Gado gado — which is apparently an Indonesian dish.  I just love the peanut butter based sauce on my salad!
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp (heaping) grated ginger
1 Tbsp (heaping) minced garlic – I used Green Garlic last week.
3 Tbsp brown sugar (or a bit less is ok)
11/2 cups hot water (I use a bit less ~1.15 cups)
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce (we use tamari)
1 tsp salt (more if the peanut butter is unsalted)
Put it all in a food processor & let it whirl!  This is where I will add the water a bit at a time to see how smooth it is.  This makes a lot of dressing – I’m sure it would be easy to cut the recipe in half.
So- those are some salad recipes.  I have not tried them all – but they all sound good.
Before I go, I should just take a moment to say — if you are an oil & vinegar person.  I still think you are doing things right.  We do an oil & balsamic reduction on our salad at least twice a week ourselves.  Sometimes simple is best!
Please post some of your favorite salad dressing recipes in the comments! I’d love to hear about what you enjoy.

Green Garlic??

This week’s summer market related post is about Green Garlic.

Yes, Green Garlic!
This is not something I have ever seen in a grocery store- but I’m sure it is sold somewhere…

At the farmer’s market this week – look for green garlic!

spring-veg-green-garlic-lg

Ok, so what is this? It looks a bit like scallions or green onions.  Actually it is 100% not that!
Green Garlic – is actually the garlic plant harvested early.

You can actually eat almost all of the plant.  We cut the roots off and then chop the bottom white part up through the beginning of the green leaves and treat it almost like garlic or scallions.  So, we’ll toss it in a stir-fry but we’ll also eat it raw on a salad.  The green leafy parts can be used to add flavor to a stock or soup.

This week we’ve been eating our green garlic in a variety of dishes.  I’ve had it in salad (lettuce, green garlic, cilantro & oil/vinegar) and also in burgers.  When we make burgers we add minced garlic – so, instead of mincing garlic – I just chop up some green garlic & throw it into the burger mix!

The flavor of green garlic, for me, is a very light garlic-y taste.  I find it to be very refreshing – vs a raw garlic taste which can be overpowering!

So, go ask your local farmer for some green garlic!

Braising greens – what is that?

I was excited to see this morning that one of our favorite farmers (Kris & Adriane of River to River Farm in Tunnel Hill, IL) will be bringing brazing greens to the market.  In their blog they specifically mention that they are bringing a “Brazing Mix (A Mixture of 7 different varieties of Kale and Collards).”

So, what is that? What to do with it?

As many of you know, we love cooking.  We actually cook with kale and collards regularly. Here’s what we do with them.  We sauté them.  That’s it.  Sauté.

Typically this means I start by washing the greens, separating the leaves from the stalks, and loosely chopping the greens.  Meanwhile I have some oil heating in a cast iron pan (low-medium heat).  We typically use olive, but have also braised with coconut oil or canola.

To just straight up braise greens – you just toss them in the heated oil.  Let them wilt while you stir them around some.

We rarely just do straight greens.  Usually, we chop up an onion (this is added & sautéd before the greens go in), add garlic, add lemon juice, add chili powder — or a combination of these.

Serving size wise – this really depends on how many people you have & how large your greens are.  It if is just me, I’ll do 2-3 leaves of collards, 4-6 leaves of kale (lacinato is usually smaller than most — red russian is our favorite).  For more people – add more leaves!  When my partner cooks greens she cooks three times as many for just the two of us (and never have leftovers!).  If we get a bunch of kale from the farmers’ market it is usually good for 1-2 meals.

Different varieties of greens: kale (all kinds), collards, chard, dandelion greens, beet greens, spinach, turnip greens… the list goes on!

Before the photos — just some info about greens.  Many greens can be harvested and served year round.  Some varieties can over-winter (kale is sweeter after the first frost).  You can eat them pretty much whenever.  Often the flavor will change when they bolt (or start producing seed) in the spring if you overwintered them.  Greens add fiber, protein, vitamins (especially Vitamin A) and nutrients to your diet.  Here are the nutritional facts about beet greens (yes, boiled, drained, unsalted, but still greens).  For us, they are a pretty important part of my diet.  I like to eat greens at least three times per week (partner would eat them at every meal if she had her druthers).

Here are some photos of what we’ve done:

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Garlic in kale

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Red onion in beet greensImage

Rainbow swiss chard on the cutting boardImageA finished meal – asparagus, dandelion greens, salmon sweet potato cake, and a cannelli bean tuna salad.

So – those are some of our tricks & favorites.  Let us know how you braise greens & any favorite recipes/tricks you do!  Go get your greens!

Dal recipe

We enjoy cooking.  We love sharing recipes that we’ve found & love.  We went to a potluck on Saturday to celebrate the final Winter Farmer’s Market of the season.  The potluck was lots of fun.  It was great to hang out with some of the local growers that we had gotten to know over the past few months.

At the potluck we brought two dishes.  We got lots of positive feedback about this Dal recipe.  We originally found this Dal recipe at Epicurious, originally from Bon Appetit.  You can view that complete recipe online at: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/101019?mbid=ipapp

Our version:

Red Lentil Dal
We sometimes make a double recipe (to use a full can of tomatoes) and freeze half – other times we use fresh tomatoes, or just use half of the can and save the rest for something else (it is, of course, possible to purchase smaller cans).

~2 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1.5 Tbsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin (plus 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds)
1 tsp ground coriander
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
optional vegetables – carrots and/or zucchini
1 cup red lentils
1 and 3/4 cups (about half of a 28 oz can) diced tomatoes
salt to taste
Heat the canola oil in a heavy saucepan (we use this) over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, curry powder, cayenne, cumin, and coriander.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and soft.  Add garlic and ginger and cook another minute or two (then add carrots and cook for a few minutes before adding zucchini), then add lentils, tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 3 cups of water (or vegetable or meat broth – we used 1/2 water, and 1/2 turkey stock last time – the turkey stock was made from a Frontwords Farm turkey!).  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a strong simmer and cover halfway.  Cook for 15 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.  Taste for seasoning.
Serving suggestion is over rice, but it can also be used as a stew without rice.
We have found that if you add a small splash of apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar right before you serve it, it can really help the flavors pop!
 Leftovers are great the next few days.