Tag Archives: Local food

Basil

It is basil season!  Woah!  It was all over the market last weekend & will continue for the next few weeks I’d imagine.  I love basil season.

photo (9)This was the fresh herb basket at the market the other day.

What I’m currently learning more about are the different varieties of basil.  I knew there was a lemon basil, Thai basil, a purple basil, and sweet basil – photo 1but I didn’t know about the holy basil variety. Holy cow that smells different!  At times, it might be a bit overwhelming.  Our local farmer introduced me to this variety.  It is VERY different.  We have tried it a few different ways this week.

As usual, some background from wikipedia

  • basil is from the mint family (Lamiacae)
  • basil was originally discovered in India & other tropical areas of Asia
  • basil has been cultivated for more than 5000 years
  • most varieties of basil are annuals
  • Sweet Basil is typically found in Italian food
  • Thai, holy, and others are typically found in Asian food

In my head, basil was mostly linked directly to a nice caprese salad.  I also thought of it a lot in red pasta/pizza sauce.  I also knew sweet basil was a primary ingredient in most pesto sauces.  As I have cooked more, I started to use Thai basil more in my cooking.  I actually assumed Thai basil and Sweet basil were totally unrelated.  Go figure!

Basil Pesto:
I’m sure there are a million versions of pesto recipe’s.  A basic one includes a big bunch of cleaned basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan (optional) – all blended together in a food processor.  Change the ratio around to taste.  Variants include blanching the basil leaves first, toasting the pine nuts, using pecans or other nuts, or adding other herbs (cilantro!).  Please feel free to post your favorite pesto recipe in the comments.
It is also super easy to freeze pesto.  Make your pesto then put it ice cube trays in the freezer.  After a few hours, it should be solid.  Then transfer the pesto to a large plastic bag.  Label the bag and store it in your freezer.  Whenever you need pesto, just grab one of the chunks!

Basil Pizza:
We make pizza somewhat frequently.  Fresh basil on a pizza can be wonderful.  A very simple pizza can include a light dusting of red sauce, some whole basil leaves, fresh sliced tomatoes, and slices of fresh mozzarella.  Another option is to put the basil pesto on the pizza as your sauce instead of a red sauce.  We LOVE this.  It creates quite an amazing base to your pizza.  Try pesto, caramelized onions, and anchovies – if you want to try a family favorite.

Caprese Salad:
A favorite of mine!  Slice some tomatoes, some fresh mozzarella, and some basil on top.  Be sure to sprinkle some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some salt & pepper to taste.  This is a lovely salad is quick and easy.  Try to find some heirloom tomatoes at your local market and experiment with the different tastes.  That can really enhance the flavor profile of your salad!

Basil Lemon sorbet:
Our farmer friend was really trying to encourage us to try something creative with the Holy basil.  There was a sale on lemons at the store.  We used google.  We found this great recipe on the Oh My Veges blog.  Unfortunately we do not have Meyer lemons around- but, normal lemons worked well.  The Holy basil added a HUGE flavor punch to the sorbet.

Basil in your Omelet/eggs:
We regularly make scrambled eggs with herbs.  Cutting up some fresh basil and mixing it into your eggs (while you scramble them) along with some salt & pepper can add some great flavor to your breakfast.

Basil with various other dishes:
Adding basil to sautéed seasonal vegetables can be great.  We were cooking summer squash the other day  with some left over garlic scapes we found buried in a friend’s fridge the other day – added some chopped basil and it was great!
You could also add some fresh chopped basil to baked fish.
Basil as a primary ingredient in a soup stock would be lovely too.  You could freeze that easily for use in the colder months.

photo 2

With all of these great ideas for basil you might want to have basil around throughout more of the year.  Basil is easy to store.  You can wash the leaves, dry them, then put them flat in a large freezer bag in the freezer.  We do this with basil and cilantro.

Lots of great ideas for basil here.  Wondering what are some of your favorite uses? Please leave a comment!

Summer Squash

This week we are talking about summer squash!  I figure mid-July is late enough in the year to examine this fruit – that is often treated as a vegetable!

First off, there are many many different items that are loosely classified as ‘summer squash.’  There are zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan squash, tromboncino….  The list goes on & on!  For the most part, all of them can be used the same way & are part of the Cucurbita pepo family.  (Thank you Wikipedia!)

IMG_4723IMG_4721IMG_4719

Photos of some small summer squash we found while in Montreal last week visiting the Jean-Talon Marche.

photo 1Our local farmers are all selling various summer squash now.  We got some amazing zucchini and yellow squash from River to River Farm this week at the Canon Park Market.  They were also selling patty squash.

Interestingly enough, (thanks Wikipedia again) summer squash are really just under-ripe winter squash varieties.  These particular varieties typically have softer outer ‘skins’ which can typically be eaten raw or cooked.

Cooking ideas:
As usual, I reached out on Facebook and Twitter for ideas about how to cook this week’s item.  I received a great idea from @TinaTormey this week:

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 6.47.36 PM   CDT    Thursday, July 11, 2013AD

 

 

 

Sautéed:
This is a favorite method of ours.  Wash your squash, cut off the ends (typically a stem is on one end), then slice the squash into bite sized pieces.  We often slice them into ‘half moons’ (usually with zucchini or yellow squash) – to do this, take the squash, cut it lengthwise to end up with two long pieces, then slice the squash up the length of the fruit.  You end up with little pieces looking like half moons.

From there, put some olive oil in a warm skillet, let the oil warm up, and toss the squash in!  Let them heat up some – you will notice them starting to sweat a bit and change size/color a bit.

To spice this up, add some garlic (before you cook them) or really any spices you like.

Grilled:
1044203_10101401048878638_836205514_nI feel like we grill a lot of vegetables!  But, summer squash grills really well too!  On Tuesday, at our weekly grill-out, we grilled up some zucchini.  We had cut them long wise, marinated them in olive oil and salt/pepper.  As a reminder, grilled zucchini (especially cut thicker like I sometimes do) takes a lot longer to grill than you might expect, and if they’re in strips they can slip between the bars on the grill.

In this photo you see the zucchini, some red peppers, and some local beef sausages from Josh at Lick Creek Beef.

Steamed:
Prepare the same way you did the sautéed squash & steam instead!

We also put squash in a wide variety of dishes.  Today, we put some zucchini in a recipe of Dal that we had for lunch.  It was dal-icious!

How do you like your summer squash? What recipes do you put it in?

Kohlrabi… what?

This week we are talking about Kohlrabi.  By the end of this post my hope is that you are familiar with the vegetable enough to buy one and eat it!

To start with this is what a kohlrabi looks like.photo 1

Kohlrabi is part of the cabbage family.  There are three basic parts to this vegetable.  The leaves, outer skin, and inner parts.  The leaves and inner parts are eatable.  Treat the leaves as you would any cooking greens.  The inner parts are similar in texture to a radish or broccoli stems.  The taste is similar to broccoli stems, jicama, or maybe even a faint apple or potato.

According to the folks at the Natural Agricultural Library… kohlrabi is full of some good vitamins and minerals.

Our farmer friends from River to River Farm asked us to take a closer look at this vegetable this week and present some cooking options.  So, here goes!

Grilled
photo 2After some googling & asking around someone mentioned grilling the kohlrabi.  We have a weekly grilling night with some co-workers so we figured we’d give it a try!  We cut the kohlrabi into ~1/4 inch slices, brushed with olive oil, stuck them on skewers, and grilled for 10-15 min.  They were amazing!  We are definitely doing this again.

Raw
We often try foods raw first.  We sliced the kohlrabi up and put some salt, pepper, and olive oil on them,  They were good.  I see us putting small pieces in salad in the future.

Roasted
We love roasted veges.  Toss an assortment of vegetables in a baking pan with olive oil and let your 350 degree oven do its magic for about an hour.  With the kohlrabi, I’d cut them into 1/2 inch chunks.

Kohlrabi Curry
We have been on a big Indian food kick lately.  Preparing for some upcoming blogs posts…
I googled and found these two posts: Kohlrabi Curry & Kohlrabi Greens Curry – I knew we needed to try them both.  We followed the recipe’s (minus the pressure cooker – as we don’t have one yet) and found both to be a bit bland – but good.

Kohlrabi and feta quiche
Plan on trying this recipe next weekend.  Looks good to me!

So, those are some ways to use this great vegetable!  Who would have thought something that looks vaguely like an alien could taste so good!

What have your experiences been with the kohlrabi? How do you prepare it?

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?  

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.