Fish with Seafood Sauce and Shredded Raw Beet Salad

The wild onion in the following recipes is shown below. The first image shows the plant, which grows from late fall to spring, usually as a weed in gardens and wild urban places in the San Francisco Bay Area. It could be made with ordinary green onions. If you live in the Eastern US, you might have access to a plant that is native there called ramps, which is similar and could be used instead. (Ramps don't grow in the West.)

Wild onion IMG_3026 copy 2e

The second image shows a close up of leaves and flowers, so you can see the ridge, or keel, on the underside of the leaves and also that the flower stem is triangular in cross section. Note that there is a green line down each of the petals.

Winter crop scans 001 copy2

Fish in Seafood Sauce (Adapted from the book From Sea and Stream, by Lou Seibert Pappas, 101 Productions, 1986) (The wild onion referred to in this recipe is Allium triquetrum, a Mediterranean escaped species that is a weed in California gardens. Please only eat weeds if you are sure of your identification skills.)

8 medium mushrooms, sliced                                               3 tablespoons cornstarch

2-3 green onion or wild onions, cut up                                 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon butter or margarine                                         a dash of nutmeg (that's like half a pinch)

1 cup milk (nonfat is fine)                                                       1/4 cup dry white wine

3-4 ounces of small peeled shrimp or other seafood

1 to 1 1/3 pounds rock fish like snapper (or swai, which is also called white roughy and basa)

Set oven for 400° F. Spray-oil or grease an approximately 9x12 oven proof casserole or pan. Arrange pieces of fish in the casserole in a single layer. In a small skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in butter or margarine until soft. In a small saucepan, put the milk, then add to it the cornstarch, salt, and nutmeg. Cook the milk mixture, stirring often, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the wine, mushroom/onion mixture, and shrimp or other seafood. Pour the sauce over the fish. Bake, uncovered, for 15-25 minutes, until fish separates easily with a fork. Good served over rotelli pasta. Makes 3-4 servings. 

Some photos follow, showing preparation and serving of the dish:

Cutting up the wild onions and the mushrooms. The fish is in the casserole.

Wild onion IMG_2924 copy

The casserole ready to bake.  Wild onion IMG_2926 copy

Fish with seafood sauce served over rotelli pasta. Wild onion IMG_2927 copy

The recipe calls for shrimp, but in this case the dish has been made with cut-up cooked mussels, purchased frozen.


Shredded Beet Salad (Adapted from Farmer John's Cookbook, John Peterson, Gibbs Smith, 2006)

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2-3 cups coarsely grated raw beet                              1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil                                                           2 Tablespoons white or rice vinegar

1 Tablespoon finely chopped  shallot (or white part of wild onion , scallion, or chopped bulb onion)

1 small clove garlic, finely minced (1/4-1/2 teaspoon)

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill leaves or one teaspoon of dried dill weed)

salt and black pepper if desired

leaves and flowers of wild Mediterranean onion for garnish

             Put the grated beets in a large salad bowl. In a small jar with a lid, combine the rest of the ingredients. Put the lid on and shake vigorously to mix ingredients. Pour the dressing over the beets and toss with two spoons until well coated. Adjust flavor if needed. The salad is now ready to eat, but it's even better if marinated in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

  Beet salad IMG_4522 copy

Addendum to Herb Society Lecture on Unusual Herbs to Grow

These are some extra notes about the herbs I spoke about in my talk on unusual herbs at the Annual Conference of the Herb Society of America on June 21, 2014, including a list of mail order sources for seeds and/or plants. If you want more info about these herbs, send me questions as comments. Or, if you'd like a repeat of the talk I gave to the Herb Society, send me a line about that (see Contact).

The Herbs:

Ocimum kilimandscharicum and O. basilicum 'Dark Opel'--African Blue Basil

This plant is covered thoroughly on  other pages of this blog. Do a search for other posts about it.


Herbalea Basils

'Wild Magic', 'Green Ball', 'Habana'

These are the three of the new, patented Herbalea basils I was able to purchase locally. There are up to 15 Herbalea varieties. I have nothing to add about them today, but will be blogging about them more as I continue to grow and cook with them.


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Calamintha nepeta--nepitella

This mint family herb has a flavor of mint and oregano together. It is popular in Tuscan cuisine, especially with mushrooms and artichoke.

Has, in the past, been classified as a thyme, melissa, clinopodium, and satureja. Has also been called Calamintha glandulosa.


cala, from Gr. kalos=beautiful   and    minthe=mint

Related Species:

There are two other common Calamintha species that you may encounter--and that are not the herb  nepitella! They are Calamintha sylvatica and Calamintha officinalis.

Funghi e Zucchini Trifolati (Mushrooms and Zucchini sliced thinly as you would truffles)

Adapted from

 1 Pound mushrooms (cremini, porcini, white button, or any combination), thinly sliced

2 small zucchini (about 8 ounces), thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of chopped nepitella

2 tablespoons of chopped parsley

1 teaspoon salt, divided

freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

 Brush the mushrooms or wipe them with a damp towel to clean. Cut off and discard the dry ends of the stalks. Slice mushrooms thinly. Slice zucchini into very thin rounds.

Heat olive oil in a 12 inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until it takes on a pale gold tone. Do not brown garlic, or it will be bitter. Increase to medium high and add mushrooms. Sauté, tossing mushrooms until they have taken up the oil. Don't be tempted to add more oil. Add 1/2 teaspoons of salt and continue cooking, tossing occasionally.

As the mushrooms cook, they will exude liquid. Cook until the liquid is almost completely evaporated, which will take 5-8 minutes.

Add zucchini and the other 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until tender. Add a few twists of freshly ground black pepper and the herbs. Toss lightly. Remove from heat. Test for seasoning. Serve.

Eat this hot as a side dish, or cold as a crostini or antipasto.


Dracocephalus moldavica--dragonhead, moldavian balm

Entire plant has a lemony flavor. It is grown to make tea and for its attractive, blue, edible flowers.

This plant has been known as Moldavica moldavica.


 draco=dragon   cephalum=head   moldavica=from from Moldavia

Related species:

Dracocephalus parviflorum, American dragonhead, is native to Alaska and is treasured there as a native plant whose oil-rich seeds provide a food for birds. Has a slight minty smell to crushed leaves, probably hasn't been explored as an herb.

The ornamental Phystostegia virginiana, best known as obedience plant, is also sometimes called "false dragonhead." The quite similar Phystostegia parviflora was once called Dracocephalum nuttali.


Epazote IMG_7160 copy

Dysphania ambrosioides--epazote

A strong-scented herb native to Mexico and used in Mexican cuisine with beans and in sauces.

Until quite recently, ths plant was classified as Chenopodium abrosioides, and is still considered quite similar to the chenopodiumns, although no chenopodium I know of has that strong a scent.


 fr. Greek dysphanis=obscure, referring to the inconspicuous flowers, ambrosioides fr. Latin, ambrosia, referring to some similarity a botanist saw to plants in the genus Ambrosia (ragweed)

Etymology of the common name: from Nahuatle, informally known as Aztec, epatl=skunk and tzotl=dirt

Recipe Adapted From The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking, by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz


2 cups pinto, black, or red beans                  3 Tablespoons lard or salad oil (I used olive oil)

2 onions, finely chopped                               Salt

2 cloves garlic, chopped                                Freshly ground pepper

Sprig of epazote (or a bay leaf)                     I Tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped

2 or more serrano chiles, chopped

Wash the beans and place in a saucepan without soaking, with enough cold water to cover, 1 of the chopped onions, one of the garlic cloves, the epazote (or bay leaf) and the chiles. [If you can't find fresh serranos, she suggeste dried pequin chiles, crumbled. You could also try a bit of fresh Jalapeno, or you could reduce, or omit chiles] Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat; then simmer gently, adding more boiling water as it boils away. When the beans begin to wrinkle, add one tablespoon of the lard or oil. Continue cooking until the beans are soft. At this point, stir in enough salt to taste. Cook another 30 minutes over the same heat, but do not add water, as there should not be a great deal of liquid when the beans are done. Heat the remaining lard [or oil] in a skillet and sauté the remaining onion and garlic until limp. Add the tomato and cook for about two minutes over medium heat; add three tablespoons of beans, bit by bit, with some of the liquid from the pot, and mash, until you have a smooth, fairly heavy paste. Return this to the bean pot and stir into the beans over low heat to thicken the remaining liquid. .

[The epazote adds a very subtle flavor, not at all what you expect from the scent of the raw plant. I served this with a little bottled green sauce splashed on top, which made it even better. )


Cryptotaenia japonica

A celery family herb/vegetable that grows best in shade.


Crypto from Greek kryptos=hidden and tainia=fillet or ribbon

I think this means that oil tubes, present in plants of this family, are hidden in some way. There are typical oil-tube ridges on the seeds (really fruits), so I'm not sure what is hidden.

Related species:

Cryptotaenia canadensis

Native to the Eastern half of the US and Canada and known as honewort. Similar in appearance to C. japonica and also edible. Grows in shady places. Seed available from Prairie Moon Nursery ( If you are seeking it in the wild, check first to learn if it is a listed endangered species your state.  Also be aware that some wild members of the celery plant family are deadly poisons--so make sure you have the identified the plant correctly before you eat it.


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Centella asiatica--gotu kola

This celery family herb is used in Asian cooking, including blended into a sweetened drink.

This plant was once classified as Hydrocotyle asiatica.

There has been much discussion about whether the Centella growing in the Western Hemisphere (US and Canada) are the same species as the one growing in Asia. The North American plants have been called Centella erecta, but are often now considered a variety of Centella asiatica.


centella is a diminutive of cent, therefore a "little coin"

Related Species:

Several Hydrocotyle species are found in both Asia and some parts of the U.S. They differ from Centella in having a leaf stem (petiole) in the middle of a round leaf (peltate) rather than at the edge of a shovel or kidney shaped leaf. The Hydrocotyles are, like Centella, fond of wet places and are edible.

Be aware if you plan to collect any of these plants in the wild that they can carry bacteria if growing in unclean water and can also take up toxins that might be in the water.

 Recipe From Encyclopedia of Asian Food By Charmaine Solomon

2 bunches gotu-kola or

about 250 g/8 oz/ 2 cups leaves without stems

3 shallots or

1 small onion, finely chopped

Good squeeze lime or

lemon juice

1 sliced chilli (optional)

75 g/2-1/2 oz/1 cup fresh grated coconut

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Wash well and strip leaves from stems. Shred finely with a sharp knife, combine with other ingredients and serve immediately. The flavor is slightly sour, slightly bitter. Some people prefer this salad to be lightly cooked, if so bring a tablespoon of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the boil in a wok or pan, add all iingredients and toss over heat briefly, stopping before leaves lose their green color.


Gr houtt 2 IMG_5430 copy

Houttuynia cordata--fish mint, lizard tail

The plant has a strong scent and flavor that reminds some of fish. It is used in SE Asian cooking.

This plant is in the family Saureraceae, whose name derives from the root saur, meaning lizard.

Another genus in this family has a long, drooping, lizard tail-like flower head, and the name floats around the family.


Houttuynia is named after the Dutch botanist Martin Houttyn, who lived 1720-1798. Cordata refers to the heart-shaped leaves.

An Ornamental Cultivar:

The plant is sometimes called "chameleon plant" which is an echo of the name of a popular ornamental cultivar. In fact, non Asians might never have seen the original, green-leaved species that is used as an herb.

Related Species:

Anemopsis californica is a plant in a different genus in the Saureraceae that is native to California and nearby southwestern states. It was called yerba mansa by native Californians, who used it medicinally. It is now sold by native plant nurseries as an ornamental that grows to 3 feet tall, with large gray-green leaves and large spikes of tiny flowers, each with its white bract, and several white bracts at the base of the spike. It can be grown in wet places and is cold hardy.


Persicaria odorata--rau ram, Vietnamese coriander

Has a flavor that Westerners consider close to that of cilantro, but is not used as a substitute in Asian cooking, but as an herb with a distinctive flavor of its own.

All Persicarias used to be Polygonums.


 Persicaria is from the Latin word persicum, meaning peach. Someone thought the leaves resembled those of a peach tree.

Related Species:

You will come across other Persicarias, both domestic and weedy. The weedy ones are often given the common name of knotweed, as in common knotweed or swamp knotweed. The ornamental species and varieties are often grown for their colorful leaves, sometimes purple, sometimes variegated. A very common species, grown in gardens for many years, is P. capitata, a ground  cover plant with small round heads of pink flowers. I did not investigate edibility or flavor of other species of Persicaria.


Tagetes lucida--sweet mace, winter tarragon

Most marigolds, plants in the daisy family, have an unpleasant, pungent flavor, the leaves of this one are sweet and similar to tarragon in flavor.


Tagetes refers to the Roman god Tages, an adopted son or grandson of Jupiter, who was originally the Etruscan god of prophecy. Lucida is from the Latin root meaning clear or bright, referring to the bright flowers. Tagetes lucida is sometimes sold as "Mexican mint marigold." The common name marigold was given to plants in the Western Hemisphere genus Tagetes by Euorpeans. They chose this name because Tagetes flowers  reminded them of the European flower Calendula. As is frequently the case with medieval European plant names, the word marigold is a Catholic reference, short for Mary's Gold--a flower of the Virgin Mary.

Related Species:

This is not the marigold commonly listed as having edible flowers. That is Tagetes tenuifolia, or signet marigold. The flowers of that species are milder in flavor than those of most marigolds, but the plant doesn't have the sweet flavor of Tagetes lucida.


Mail Sources for Plants Discussed by Pam Peirce at the Annual Meeting of the Herb Society of America

In Concord, CA, June 21, 2014 (See web addresses of suppliers at the end of the list.)


African Blue Basil

Richters Herbs--Plants


Herbalea Basils (Wild Magic, etc.)

No Mailorder Source Located Yet

Sold locally by Sweetwater Nursery



Richters Herbs--seeds and plants

Valley Seed Company--seeds 

Nichols Garden Nursery--seeds

Richters Herbs

Nichols Garden Nursery


Dysphania ambrosioides--Epazote

Nichols Garden Nursery


Cryptotaenia japonics--Mitsuba

Nichols Garden Nursery--seeds

Richters Herbs--seeds


Centalla asiatica--Gotu Kola

Richters Herbs--plants


Houttuynia cordata

Richters sells plants of both green and tricolor {'Chameleon') varieties


Persicaria odorata--Rau Ram

Richters sells plants including "Colosso' plants, which are shipped April-Nov and are 12.00 each!


Tagetes lucida--Sweet Mace or Winter Tarragon

Richters sells seeds of the species and plants of Tarragold--a trademarked variety.


Web Addresses of Sources Listed Above:



Recipe for Summer Squash Fritters

Today, I am giving a lecture on Dining Gloriously from your Small Space Garden. Here is one more recipe to try. Even a small garden can overproduce summer squash, so a gardener needs several ways to prepare it. In my book, Golden Gate Gardening, there are recipes for stuffed zucchini, cottage chees zucchini fritters, and several recipes in which summer squash can be used in soups or curries. Following is a very simple recipe for summer squash fritters as a side dish. I have been growing tromboncino squash, which is a bit firmer than zucchini, otherwise quite similar, so I used that in this recipe.

Zuch fritter IMG_6124 copy 2

1 cup grated summer squash, packed into the cup

1 small carrot, grated (for color and nutrition, but the fritters are fine without it)

1 egg, lightly beaten

flour--about 1/3 cup

Mix egg into grated vegetables. Add flour to take up moisture. Mixture should still be glistening with moisture and not too stiff.

Heat oil or nonstick oil spray in a large skillet. Spoon batter into skillet, making the fritters round and about a half inch thick. Smooth the top, so when you turn them, most of the batter will touch the skillet.

Cook on one side until light brown, turn and cook the other side. Serve hot. I have been enjoying them wiht just a little bit of jalepeno jam.

Makes about 5 fritters.

Zuch fritter IMG_6126 copy

New Recipes for Chard and for a Tomato Soup with Carrots

Following are a couple of recipes I mentioned in my talk today at the Ortega Branch of the SF Public Library.

I had never been to, but was very pleased with the results of this recipe. The creator of the recipe suggests serving it as a side dish with baked salmon or lamb, but I found it to make a very nice main dish for lunch. It transforms and masks the chard, so it is ideal for gardeners with an excess of this crop. My chard is starting to flower now, so this was an end-of-season discovery. I will surely make it again next chard season! The vinegar and feta give it just the right piquance.  (Trader Joe's has crumbled nonfat feta if you are watching cholesterol.)

Lentils, Chard, and Feta Cheese Adapted from a recipe posted on by Amy Wisniewski  


2 tablespoons olive oil                                12 ounces Swiss chard (about 1 bunch)

1/2 cup small-dice yellow onion                 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped      1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning

1 cup brown or green lentils                         4 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 cups water                                                 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)


1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, season it with salt and pepper, and cook it on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the lentils, and the water. Use high heat to bring just to a boil, then turn to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until  lentils are just tender and the water has evaporated, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, cut the stems from the chard leaves, including the thick part of the stem that goes into the leaf blade.  Cut the stems into small pieces and put them in a bowl. Stack the leaves, cut them in half lengthwise, then coarsely chop into bite-sized pieces; set aside.

 4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying or straight-sided pan over medium-high heat . Add the reserved chard stems, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. (Or put them in the microwave first, on high, for 2 minutes, covered with a piece of paper towel, to hasten the process.)

5. Add the chopped chard leaves, measured salt, and measured pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the red wine vinegar and reserved lentil mixture and stir until evenly combined. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, about 3 minutes.

6. Sprinkle in the feta and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Carrot IMG_3108 copy

Cream of Tomato Soup  (Adapted from a recipe by Cynthia Scheer)

With tomato season coming up, we can always use a way to use the excess. But if your garden is too chilly in summer for a good tomato crop, you will still appreciate this recipe for its use of the cool-prefering crop, carrots. A blended soup is a great way to use up extra produce, and if the carrots have a bit of insect damage, you can cut it away and no one will know. Note that, though the title includes the word "cream", this recipe doesn't contain any dairy products. If you make it with vegetarian broth, it is vegan.

2 lbs. tomatoes (about 4 large) chopped,    A half-inch wide 3-inch long strip of lemon peel

or 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes                   1/2 teaspoon salt (less if canned tomato product is salted)

or 2 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce                 1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 onions (about 1 lb.), chopped                  1 quart of water or chicken or vegetarian broth, fresh or canned)

2 large carrots (about 1 lb), sliced               2 tablespoons each of flour and softened butter or margarine

2 tablespoons sugar                                    1 1/3 cups of milk (whole, nonfat, or even reconstituted nonfat

One bay leaf                                                     dry milk are fine)                                                             

1. In a 4 to 5-quart pot, combine tomatoes, onions, carrots, sugar, bay leaf, lemon peel, salt, pepper, and water or broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer till vegetables are tender--20-30 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, mix flour and butter or margarine until smooth.

3. Remove the bay leaf and the lemon peel from the soup mixture. Transfer the mixture a third or fourth at a time to a food processor or blender and whirl until smooth. Return to pot over medium heat.

4. Stir a bit of the hot soup into the flour and butter mixture and mix well, then stir this mixture into the soup. Heat, stirring often, until soup boils and thickens.

5. Turn off the heat, and then pour in the milk. Stir to blend well. If soup is not steaming hot, heat gently, stirring occasionally until it is. Do not let it boil again.

You can serve this soup hot, or refrigerate it and serve it as a cold soup.

Some Recipes for Garden Cuisine

As promised, here are some of the recipes I mentioned in my talk at the SF Flower and Garden Show on March 24th, 2013. I chose them because I have found them to be particularly useful for cooking from my garden. For the recipes in my talk that are in my book Golden Gate Gardening, see that book.

Flat-leaf parsley is one of my most useful crops. (For cooking, flat-leaf is better than curled parsley, because it is easier to chop.) I grow it in my backyard, rather than in my community garden, so I can have it handy for last-minute needs. Even if you have only a container garden, this could be a useful crop to grow. Use pots 8-10 inches deep, 8 inches wide for one plant, 10 inches wide for 3 plants. Parsley is biennial, so it will flower, go to seed, and then die after it has been exposed to cold weather. Inland, this might only happen after winter cold. Near the coast, cool spring weather, or even cold summer nights might be enough to tip it over the edge. I let a plant or two make seed once or twice a year, so I end up with plants of different ages all the time.(You can continue to eat any leaves or tender stems after the plant makes flower buds, but by the time flowers open, the plants are usually rather tough.) If I were growing in containers, I'd start a few new plants once or twice a year, in a new container, and pull out the ones that are about to flower. (Parsley plants too mature to eat, but still green, are great additions to flavor soup stock, to be strained out before using the stock.)

Middle Eastern Garbanzo Bean Salad

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1 can garbanzo beans, drained   

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

one small clove garlic, minced

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoons olive oil

A pinch of cayenne pepper if desired

Optional additions: 1/4 cup crumbled regular or nonfat feta cheese, 1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato.

Rinse the garbanzos and place them in a medium bowl. Chop the parsley, onion, and garlic. Put them in a small bowl and add the lemon juice and the olive oil. Mix the dressing ingredients. Then pour it over the garbanzos and mix. If you are adding the feta cheese and/or tomatoes, do so now and stir them in. 

Serve cold or at room temperature. About 4 servings.     

Garbanzo salad IMG_4503 copy


Shredded Beet Salad (Adapted from Farmer John's Cookbook, John Peterson, Gibbs Smith, 2006)

Beet salad IMG_4514 copy 2

2-3 cups coarsely grated raw beet

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons white or rice vinegar

1 Tablespoon finely chopped  shallot (or white part of wild onion , scallion, or chopped bulb onion)

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 small clove garlic, finely minced (1/4-1/2 teaspoon)

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill leaves or one teaspoon of dried dill weed)

salt and black pepper if desired

Put the grated beets in a large salad bowl. In a jar with a lid, combine the rest of the ingredients. Put the lid on and shake vigorously to mix ingredients. Pour the dressing over the beets and toss with two spoons until well coated. Adjust flavor if needed. Ready to eat, but even better if marinated in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

Beet salad IMG_4522 copy

Two bonus recipes. I have adapted two recipes from a 1986 cookbook for use with currently available and inexpensive kinds of fish:

Fish in Seafood Sauce (Adapted from the book From Sea and Stream, by Lou Seibert Pappas, 101 Productions, 1986) (The wild oinion referred to in this and the previous recipe is Allium triquetrum, a Mediterranean escaped species that is a weed in California gardens. Please only eat weeds if you are sure of your identification skills.)

Wild onion IMG_2924 copy
8 medium mushrooms, sliced

1 green onion or 2-3 wild onions, cut up

1 Tablespoon butter or margarine

1 cup milk (nonfat is fine)

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

a dash of nutmeg (that's like half a pinch)

1/4 cup dry white wine

3-4 ounces of small peeled shrimp or other seafood

1 /13 pounds swai (which is also called white roughy and basa) or snapper

Set oven for 400° F. Spray-oil or grease an approximately 9x12 oven proof casserole or pan. Arrange pieces of fish in the casserole in a single layer. In a small skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in butter or margarine until soft. In a small saccepan, put the milk, then add to it the cornstarch, salt, and nutmeg. Cook the milk mixture, stirring often, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the wine, mushroom/onon mixture, and shrimp or other seafood. Pour the sauce over the fish. Bake, uncovered, for 15-25 minutes, until fish separates easily with a fork. Good served over rotelli pasta. Makes 4-5 servings. 

Wild onion IMG_2927 copy

French Fish Soup (Adapted from the book From Sea and Stream, by Lou Seibert Pappas, 101 Productions, 1986)

This is adapted from a fish stew recipe from Normandy that included fennel seeds. I used dill instead. I also added a second seafood and more broth. It can be made with rockfish, red snapper, halibut, or tilapia.

Fish stew MG_4455 copy

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 leek, chopped (white part only)

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth (canned or homemade)

1 cup of dry white wine

2 medium potatoes or equivalent, cut into 3/4 inch pieces

1 medium carrot or equivalent, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds

1 pound of fish, cut into 1-2 inch pieces

1/4 pound small, peeled shrimp or small mussels (not in shells)

Salt and pepper to taste

Add the olive oil to a medium skillet and saute the onion and leek, while stirring, until it is soft. Start to heat the broth and the wine in a large pot, and add the onions and leeks to it as soon as they are cooked. When the pot boils, add the potato, carrot, bay leaf, and dill seeds. Return the mixture to a boil, cover, and simmer about 20 minutes, until the potatoes and carrots are tender. Add the fish and other seafood, cover, and simmer about 10 more minutes, until the fish separates easily with a fork. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve hot in wide bowls. 4-6 servings.

Fish stew IMG_4461 copy


Parsley and Sundried Tomato Pesto

I gave a talk at the SF Flower and Garden Show today, about cooking from a garden. I mentioned this recipe, but couldn't fit it onto the handout. It is one of the many recipes that I prepare using the flat-leaf parsley that self-sows in my garden.

Parsley and Sundried Tomato Pesto      Adapted from Beyond the Moon Cookbook, by Ginny Callan

5 large cloves of garlic, peeled                                   ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried                                (3 oz.) or Romano

    tomatoes (or use soaked dry ones)                       Black pepper (to taste)

½ cup pecans                                                         ½ cup finely chopped parsley

½ cup Greek olives                                                  Linguine or other pasta for 4

½ cup olive oil                                                               


If serving with pasta, put a large pot of water on to boil.

(If using dry sun-dried tomatoes, boil a little water, pour it over them, let sit 15 minutes, drain—save

the soaking liquid to use later in this recipe or as the liquid in another recipe.)

In a blender or a food processor, puree the garlic, tomatoes, pecans, olives, olive oil, grated cheese, and pepper.

Boil the pasta. When the pasta is done, stir a little boiling water into the pesto. You can use a little of the pasta water, or you can reboil the water in which you soaked the tomatoes and use some of that. You will need on the order of ½ cup, but stir in a little at a time to avoid overdoing it.

Serve the pesto to put over the pasta.

Alternatively, you can use the pesto as a spread on bread or crackers. You can omit the added boiling water if you use it as a spread, or add the boiling water, serve pesto with pasta, then refrigerate leftover pesto and serve it as a spread.

Finally time for Apple Pie--An illustrated recipe

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Our tree with ripe apples, which is usually in Mid-October.

However, the apples were nearly a month late to ripen this year. I was wondering if we'd ever have them for eating out of hand, chopping into yogurt with walnuts, making Waldorf salad, and making pies. But they are finally sweet enough. I decided to photograph the entire process of turning fresh apples into a pie:

Start by peeling and cutting up 6 medium-sized apples. (Of course if they are from your tree, they may be different sizes, so you may have to do more or maybe fewer.) I have tried not peeling them, but our particular apple has a kind of tough peel, so I am back to peeling. I quarter them, then peel the quarters. I cut into the inward side of each peeled quarter-apple in a broad V, to remove the core. Then I slice the quarters crosswise, or, if they are wide, I may cut each quarter in half before I make the final cuts. To help remember how many apples I have prepared, I set the part of the core with the stem attached aside for each--one stem = 1 apple.

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Here you can see the little row of core sections with stems attached, the bowl for peels and cores, and the bowl of finished, chopped apple.

I used the 1953 Joy of Cooking when I first made apple pie. It's recipe suggests mixing the apples with 1/2 -2/3 cups brown sugar, 1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons of cornstarch, and (optionally) 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and/or 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. Joy of Cooking authors, writing at a time when many more people were cooking from their own tree, and more kinds of apples were being sold. They are clear that apples vary. "Only very tart apples need the larger amount of sugar, only very juicy apples require the larger amount of cornstarch." "If the apples lack flavor, sprinkle them with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice."

In my case, I usually add the lower amount of sugar, the cinnamon, extra cornstarch (maybe 2 Tablespoons), and a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice, since my apples are sweet, juicy, and don't have any acid tang to add to their flavor. In any case, add everything you are going to add, toss well, and set apples aside.

I think making pie crust requires a very personal interaction of cook and recipe. I tried several recipes before I found the one that makes good crust for me, and offer you the one I chose, but you may find another is better for you.

My father's mother used lard, baking several pies at a time for her large family. Lard didn't appeal to me, but her crust was quite delicious. I used to use butter. Now I use Smart Balance Buttery Sticks, a vegan, no trans fats margarine, and it works fine. The recipe I use is 1 1/4 cups unbleached white flour, 1 stick of the margarine, and a few tablespoons of icy water (2? 3? something like that).

The first step is to cut up the margarine and put it in a bowl with the flour.

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There's the flour with the cold margarine cut up in it. Next to it is a quarter cup, with some water and an icecube or two. And behind that is 1/2 of the paper from a large brown paper grocery bag, laid out for a surface on which to roll the crust, and the rolling pin, at ready.

Next, I crumble the margarine into the flour, using my thumbs and fingers to rub the two materials together.There's nothing tricky at this point, as long as you do it while the margarine is still relatively cold.

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When the mixture looks like coarse meal, it is time to add the cold water. I pour a little in and begin immediately to try to form a ball of dough. This is the sort of tricky part, because you don't want to actually work the dough. No kneading in this recipe, or the gluten will begin to develop and the crust will be tough. Just push the stuff together, getting it all moist until it will form a ball that isn't sticky but will clean the bowl if you dab it on the unattached pieces.If you run out of water, add a tad more to the cup with the ice and pour from it, a bit at a time.. Then smear some flour on the working surface, and set the ball on it.

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OK, now the fun begins. Roll the crust, gently at first, then more firmly as you begin to develop the round think shape you need. Roll from one direction and then another. Change directions if the shape isn't round enough. Make it pretty thin and rather bigger than your pie pan, which should be standing at ready on the table by now.

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If your dough has the right amount of water in it, it won't stick too much, but be ready to add a little more flour to the surface, or even lift a corner of the dough after you begin to roll it (using a knife to lift it if needs be) and add more flour. Also, if the dough is correct, you can mend it where it tears or cracks just by placing one piece over another and rolling it, or by moistening both sides with a little water and then rolling.But hopefully, you will have no problems with either, or only minimal ones.

When you get a nice large round, fold it in half, lift it carefully, and place it in one half of the pie pan. This one is a Corningware pan. It looks small, because the sides are vertical instead of at an angle like most pie pans, but it holds the same amount of stuff. I know because I filled it and a regular pan with water, and they held the same amount.

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Now carefully lift the folded over half and ease it into the pan. You have to kind of push a little from near the edge inward to get the crust to fall into the pan without tearing. That is, don't try to stretch it, as that won't work. Next you will make the crimped edges that make the pie pretty. You fold the crust under about 1/2 to 3/4 inch above the edge of the pan, and use your fingers and thumbs to make the fluting pattern. Any extra crust, extending below the crimps, on the outside of the pan, cut off with a knife. At any low places, where there isn't enough dough to make the crimp, use water to glue on more rolled dough from the pieces you cut off elseshere, and use that to make the fluted edge. (The crimp, or flute, is made to the measure of your fingers, a very individual form, unlike that of a machine crimped crust.)

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Here I'm making the fluted edge. You can see that there will be some extra crust to cut off in this part of the edge.

I like to cover my pie with a Danish apple pie topping. I put any extra bits of trimmed off crust into a bowl and add a little brown sugar (1/3 cup?) some margarine cut into bits (3 Tablespoons), a little flour (2-3 tablespoons?) and maybe 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. This recipe isn't exact, because it depends on how much crust dough was left over to use and how much topping you want on the pie. I crumble the ingredients all together with my thumbs and fingers.

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I put the prepared apples into the crust and then crumble the topping evenly over the apples.

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In baking the pie, I follow the recipe in my old edition of Joy of Cooking. First bake the pie at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes, or a little bit longer, to let the crust brown a little bit. (If you are going to let it go for longer than 10 minutes, keep a close watch on it.) Then turn the oven to 350 and bake until done, from 3/4 to 1 hour total. To tell if it is done, you can insert a knife in an apple to see if there is any resistance .

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Ta dah! The finished pie. Hope yours turns out to be delicioius! Happy Thanksgiving!

Shell Bean Succotash

October_07_054_copyGardeners sometimes eat beans at the shell stage, which is after the beans have fully formed in the pods, but before they have hardened. Just about anything you can cook with dry beans, you can cook with shell beans--but faster. You won't find them in the market often, since they don't keep well, so they are mostly a gardeners' secret.

You could eat any common garden bean variety at this stage, but several are sold specifically for it. They often have these splashy red pods. This one is a bush bean called 'Taylor's Horticultural'. Sometimes you find a similar one called 'Tongue of Fire.' At the shell stage, the beans are white or white streaked with red. When they become dry beans, they are bown streaked with maroon, and are often called cranberry beans.

So, in any case, I planted these in July in San Francsisco and harvested them at the shell stage in the second half of October and early November. I grew about 10 cups of beans (out of the pods) in a bed about 6 by 3 or 4 feet. And then I experimented with cooking them. They were great as Boston baked beans, fine in a French soup with pistou, and made yummy succotash.

October_07_102_copy And here is the succotash I made, with some of the beans and an open pod. The recipes I used were from The Victory Garden Cookbook, Marian Morash, Alfred Knopf, 1982. I modified the succotash recipe to make it vegan so I could take it to a class potluck. The recipe, as modified: 2 cups of shell beans, 2 tablespoons of chopped onion, 1 cup chopped tomato (from a can), 2 cups corn kernels (from frozen), 2 tablespoons Smart Balance margarine, a bit of salt and pepper. Put beans and chopped onions in a saucepan and add a cup of water. Bring water to a boil, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and corn. Simmer for 10 minutes longer. Stir in margarine, salt and pepper to taste. (4-6 servings).

The original recipe suggested using a mixture of lima and shell beans, since the original native American dish was more likely to use limas, but limas don't do so well in cool SF, so I just cut to the chase and used all shell beans. Got me thinking about succotash, which I for some reason thought was a Native American dish from the Southeastern part of the continent. But when I looked it up, I found that it was a dish of the Nanaganset, of what is now Rhode Island, who spoke Algonquian. The word, in Algonquian, was m'sickquatash, and meant "corn not crushed or ground." So there you have it.

What was in the original succotash? Not bacon, which was in the recipe I used before I modified it, though maybe other meat. And I read that the tomatoes suggest a Dutch influence, since they were known to add tomatoes and other vegetables to succotash.

Final analysis: great crop; good eating. Worth doing again next year.

Eating the Weeds Creatively

I have recently purchased Paula Wolfert's book Mediterranean Grains and Greens. It includes many recipes that contain wild leafy greens that I have in my garden. I am still mostly in the "browse and wonder" phase of reading it, not quite to the "assemble some ingredients and make a recipe" phase. But tonight I am browsing at "Summer Harira with Purslane and Spices," a recipe from Morocco. And since there is a wide patch of purslane in my garden right now, I am thinking of weeding and cooking. The main ingredients of this recipe are lamb rolled in a spice mix, lentils, parsley, onion, tomatoes, rice, coriander, and 6 oz. of chopped purslane.

Or maybe I will serve Purslane and Baby Greens with Cucumber and Shredded Cabbage, a recipe from Israel. This is better, since it uses 3/4 lb. of purslane.

Purslane is eaten in many parts of the world, from Mexico to Pakistan, including many places around the Mediterranean. Paula Wolfert says it was a favorite food of Gandhi. It is a slightly succulent, slightly tart, actually rather tasty green that is high in vitamins and is one of the few vegetable sources of 3 Omega fatty acids. I have eaten it for years, but am still rarely able to eat up even what grows in my small garden plot. I put some in salads or make it as it might be cooked in Mexico (saute some onion, add chopped purslane, a little tomato sauce, and a small amount of chopped jalapeno pepper, cook till purslane is tender). Then I run out of ideas, but not out of purslane.

I am always impressed by the slowness with which we can change what we eat. Having a perfectly good food in ones garden, grown intentionally or allowed to grow because you know it is an edible weed, presents you with a fait accompli. There it is, so eat it.

The answer starts with cookbooks, continues with planning and resolve. I will, in the next couple of weeks, attempt to eat up the purslane, but I may end up helping to solve the problem by giving some away. Or, if all else fails, there is always weeding and composting (before the seeds form).

Fruit Flavored Sugar vs Fruit

I am in San Diego County, visiting my father. His peach tree has about 20 fruits. The boysenberry has about the same number of huge ripe berries, with many more on the way. There are 'Sungold' cherry tomatoes too, from plants I brought him. The banana tree is setting fruit and there will be pineapple guavas, loquats, lemons, oranges, tangerines, and avocados later on. Fruit in the stores here is excellent and inexpensive.

I keep trying to catch a thought about fruit. It is that we are always being offered fruit-flavored foods, or even fruit scented nonfood items, because it is felt we will be attracted to something that tastes or smells like fruit. And it seems we sometimes lose track of the fact that it is the fruit that is the source of this wonderful taste and smell. Not sugar with a bit of fruit flavor, but complex, vitamin rich, texturally interesting, juicy, fruit.

Makes sense in a northern climate, where fruit is so limited in season and expensive, that people would look for fruit-flavored substitutes, but when I can find and afford good fruit, I find myself going after the real thing. Not fruit-flavored soda, not jam, not candy, not chewing gum (and not fruit-scented air freshener or scratch and sniff strawberry scented something or other either), but juicy, sweet, delicious fruit.

Part of the problem may be that some of the real fruit we are offered is not very good. Peaches picked before they are ripe, strawberries bred to be beautiful, but not tender and sweet, and other insults to our tastebuds, drive us into the arms of the food processors who would convince us to buy sugar products with a fruit flavor.

Having said all of this, in a week when I am luxuriating in fresh berries, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, and more, I have to say that one of my most amusing taste experiences was provided by Jelly Belly candy. Four of us were camping on Angel Island. Night had fallen. We were sitting on a bench overlooking the Bay. I had Jelly Bellies in many flavors, including many fruits. We ate them slowly, one at a time, and wondered at the evocations of different foods as each artificially-flavored sugar candy hit our tastebuds. With the color of each candy invisible in the dark, we couldn't use that as a clue, and since, other than color differences, they are identical, each one was a total surprise. On the one hand, it was a delight, fun to do and fun to talk about. On the other hand, something about the dark and the calm of nature that surrounded us also let me feel how small, how imperfect, how minor an echo were the flavors of the candy compared to the actual objects.