New Zealand Spinach in a Frittata--Recipe

Frittata Made with New Zealand Spinach

Adapted from Beyond the Moon Cookbook by Ginny Callan

This is nice as a dish for breakfast or as a main dish for supper. If you have grown New Zealand spinach, you know it can produce quite abundantly and that recipes using it are rather rare. This frittata is a delicious use for it.  (It can also be made with regular spinach, but don't be surprised if diners like this version better.)

 

Vegetables:

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil—or use no-stick spray oil

½ cup chopped onion

2 cups coarsely chopped New Zealand spinach

 (young stem tips--about 4” long—and the leaves that are on them)

½ teaspoon dried thyme or oregano

About ¾ cup chopped tomato (fresh or use canned petite diced, drained)

1/8 teaspoon salt

 

Eggs:

4 large eggs or 1 cup Reddi-egg

1/8 teaspoon salt

A shake or two of pepper

 

Cheese:

1 cup grated cheese (sharp cheddar is good)

 

Sauté onion in oil until it is soft—about 5 minutes. Stir in the New Zealand spinach and the thyme or oregano. Sauté about 3 minutes more, until spinach is just tender. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the tomatoes. Drain if it is watery, stir in salt.

 

Beat the eggs with the salt and pepper. Use no-stick spray in an ovenproof skillet or in ramekins, and then pour the eggs into it or them. Cook over low/moderate heat on the stovetop until the eggs start to set—4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add well-mixed vegetables to the top, being careful to spoon them evenly over the surface of the eggs.

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Here the vegetables have been spread over the partially cooked eggs,  in 2 ramikens,

Top with shredded cheese. Broil in an oven or toaster oven, setting the frittata about 3 inches from the heat, until the eggs have solidified, and the cheese is browned. About 4-5 minutes.

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The frittata has been broiled. Half has been removed to a plate and eaten. 

If you used a skillet, slice the frittata into wedges.

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This photo shows a double batch, made in a skillet to serve 6 people for brunch.

Serve warm.

For dinner, serve with sliced oven-roasted potatoes and a green salad.


Minestrone alla Genovese with New Zealand Spinach

In my last post, I gave a recipe for frittata that included New Zealand spinach. I have continued to look for new ways to use the plentiful New Zealand spinach that grows in my garden. Here is my most recent discovery. First, though, here is a photo of the plant itself. To harvest, I break off and use the top 4 or 5 inches of as many stems as I need to make the amount of spinach I need.

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New Zealand Spinach growing in a San Francisco Garden in November.  

It is tolerant of both cold weather and hot weather. 

Minestrone Genoa Style with New Zealand Spinach

I started with a recipe for Minestrone Genovese on page 27 of the book The Pleasures of Italian Cooking, by Romeo Salta.(It is the cookbook that introduced American diners to Northern Italian cuisine.) I chose this recipe because I had harvested a very large leek and had some dried beans of various kinds and plenty of New Zealand spinach. The recipe called for kidney beans and common spinach, but I substituted. It also called for macaroni and for a little diced bacon, but I didn’t want to use them and the soup was delicious without either.

2 Tablespoons olive oil                                   2 Quarts of water or stock

1 Cup grated carrot                                        3 Cups of cooked beans

1 Cup chopped onion                                         (I used Christmas limas)

2 leeks (white and light                                   1 teaspoon salt

   green parts) sliced                                       Black pepper (up to 1/2 teaspoon)

2 Cups diced potatoes                                    3 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 Cups chopped New Zealand spinach           1/2 teaspoon basil (2 teaspoons fresh)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and cook the carrot, onions, leeks, potatoes, and spinach in it for five minutes. In a pot mix the water or stock, beans, salt and pepper and cook over low heat for one hour. In an electric blender, puree the parsley, basil, and garlic. Add this to the soup. Cook about 20 minutes longer. Serve with grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese.

I used vegetable stock I had made by cooking the leek tops and cutting celery stems and leaves with a bay leaf and some thyme, then straining out the solids and keeping the stock.

Beans just about double in size when you cook them—maybe a little bit more. To reduce the gassiness they can cause, either soak in a lot of water overnight drain them in the morning, add fresh water and cook them, or boil unsoaked beans briefly in a lot of water, drain them, and then cook them in fresh water.


An Apple Tart--19th Century Style

Recently we attended a Dickens Dinner Party, sponsored by the Bay Area Culinary Historians (BACH). We were asked to make a dish for the dinner from a recipe that was in a cookbook of the era. I chose to make an apple tart, using apples from our tree. The following photos are from the making of my "test tart," the one I made in November, just to see how it would turn out. To see photos from the actual dinner, see the Facebook page of BACH, though for some reason they didn't catch an image of the two tarts I brought to the dinner. 

A tart is like a pie, but the crust often contains a little sugar, maybe some egg, and the tart is much flatter than a pie. You can make a "rustic tart" on a cookie sheet, by just flipping the edges of the crust over the filling all around, but a classic tart is made in a tart pan, which has a removable bottom. This way you can have a nice fluted crust. You can leave the tart on removable bottom after removing the ring that produces the fluted edge. I used 10" tart pans. 

The recipes I used for the crust and filling follow. They are from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, also published as Mrs. Beeton's Cookery Book, Originallly published in 1861, British Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Managementhttps://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10136/pg10136.html

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Apple Tart

For making a Tart there were several crust, or “paste” recipes. I used the one titled “Another Good Short Crust” For the tart filling, she used the recipe for “Apple Tourte or Cake.” Recipes as they appeared in the cookbook follow, first for the crust, then for the filling, with my notes after each.

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ANOTHER GOOD SHORT CRUST.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—To every lb. of flour allow 8 oz. of butter, the yolks of 2 eggs, 2 oz. of sifted sugar, about 1⁄4 pint of milk.

Mode.—Rub the butter into the flour, add the sugar, and mix the whole as lightly as possible to a smooth paste, with the yolks of eggs well beaten, and the milk. The proportion of the latter ingredient must be judged of by the size of the eggs: if these are large, so much will not be required, and more if the eggs are smaller.

Average cost, 1s. per lb.

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To make a single tart of this crust, try:

½ lb. flour

4 oz. (1/2 cup of butter)

Yolk of one egg

2 T sifted sugar

1/8 pint milk (1/4 cup)

Notes: After spending some time looking for an equivalent between cups and pounds of flour, and finding that there is not an exact equivalent, I weighed the flour on a kitchen scale.

When I had added all the ingredients called for, I  found I needed to add a small amount of cold water, in tiny increments, to get the dough to form a ball and clean the bowl—being careful not to “work” the dough, which would develop the gluten, making the crust tough.

I would ordinarily make a pie or tart crust using Smart Balance margarine—better for you than butter.

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I open a grocery bag into a large sheet of brown paper and cut it in half to use for crust-rolling surfaces two different baking events. In the above photo, I have rolled the dough and am inserting the flat bottom of the tart pan under the dough. I will slide it from several angles to free the dough from the floured paper, then center it under the dough, which I have rolled large enough to go up the edges of the pan all around. Then I will set the bottom into the ring and carefully set the extra dough into the ring. 

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In the above photo, I have set the bottom into the rim and trimmed the extra crust by hand, to the level of the top of the ring. If you look closely, you will see s few patches in the crust, where I added a bit of dough to mend tears. If it doesn't stick, I have added a drop of water to moisten the place it has to attach, then pressed it in gently.

 

Filling recipe:

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APPLE TOURTE OR CAKE.

(German Recipe.)

  1. INGREDIENTS.—10 or 12 apples, sugar to taste, the rind of 1 small lemon, 3 eggs, 1⁄4 pint of cream or milk, 1⁄4 lb. of butter, 3⁄4 lb. of good short crust No. 1211, 3 oz. of sweet almonds.

Mode.—Pare, core, and cut the apples into small pieces; put sufficient moist sugar to sweeten them into a basin; add the lemon-peel, which should be finely minced, and the cream; stir these ingredients well, whisk the eggs, and melt the butter; mix altogether, add the sliced apple, and let these be well stirred into the mixture. Line a large round plate with the paste, place a narrow rim of the same round the outer edge, and lay the apples thickly in the middle. Blanch the almonds, cut them into long shreds, and strew over the top of the apples, and bake from 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 hour, taking care that the almonds do not get burnt: when done, strew some sifted sugar over the top, and serve. This tourte may be eaten either hot or cold, and is sufficient to fill 2 large- sized plates.

Time.—1⁄2 to 3⁄4 hour.
Average cost, 2s. 2d.
Sufficient for 2 large-sized tourtes. Seasonable from August to March.

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I divided the recipe in half to produce filling for one tart:

5-6 cored and peeled apples in slices (these were medium-sized, not very large, fruits.)

Sufficient sugar to sweeten—see above (I used about ½ cup per tart--for 5-6 apples.)

Zest of ½ small lemon (I zested a lemon that was grown, without sprays, on our backyard tree)

1/8 pint of cream or milk = ¼ cup (I used Half and Half)

1 ½ beaten eggs (3/8 cup of egg—approximately, if you want to use egg substitute)

1/8 lb. butter (1/4 cup) (melted)

slivered almonds—I used the ones from Trader Joe’s 

Notes: I used homegrown apples that were sweet with no tartness, hence I used the lower amount of sugar suggested for an apple pie by the Joy of Cooking book recipe. Our apples are of an unknown variety, but may be Baldwin, which is an American variety that was first grown in 1699. While the recipe is British, if these apples are Baldwins, at least they'd be appropriate to an earlier era. 

I used real eggs for the tarts I brought to the dinner, but egg substitute for the single tart I made as a test, which was easier since I could easily measure a “half egg.” It didn’t seem to make a difference which I used.

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The milk, egg, and sugar make a custard that you pour over the apples. The melted butter is not pictured here. I mixed the custard ingredients and then poured them over the apple slices and mixed them in. 

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Then I arranged the apple slices in the crust and poured the rest of the custard recipe over them.

There is no oven temperature in these recipes, in keeping with the fact that the cook was probably using an oven fueled by wood or coal. I set my gas oven for 375° I baked the test tart for 45 minutes, and thought it was sufficient, but perhaps a bit longer would have been better. I determined to bake the  tarts for the party for an hour. After I had prepared the party tarts, I was short on time, so I set the oven for 380°. I baked the tarts for an hour and they were done, but had I baked them at 375° they might have needed a bit longer.

The recipe called for just cutting the apples up small. I sliced them into thin wedges and arranged the slices  in whorls, hoping for a more attractive tart, but the combination of the custard in which they are set and the addition of slivered almonds somewhat masked the design, so they could probably have just been cut small and spread without such care with satisfactory results.

I didn’t strew any sugar over the top when it was baked. It didn’t seem to need it.

The following link is to a half-hour video on making an apple custard tart—it is very helpful to watch someone actually make a tart. Two important tips I got from the video are:

  1. To get the crust onto the false bottom of the tart pan, slide the bottom under the crust.
  2. After the tart is baked, to remove the sides from the tart pan, place it on a wide jar or other sturdy object and carefully free the sides so the ring will drop off. (On the test tart, I used a small hammer to tap gently on the ring in order free the last part of it. At the party, I used a knife to help free the ring, which some of the custard had spilled onto and caused it to stick.

I found it particularly helpful to watch these two techniques being done.

https://www.joyofbaking.com/AppleCustardTart.html

In an earlier photos, I have shown how I slipped the tart pan bottom under the crust. The following photo shows how to get the ring off of the bottom. I used a small bowl. At the party, I was provided with a small straight-sided crock. 

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Here is a close up of the test tart. I used sliced almonds for this one, but for the party I used slivered almonds, as directed by the recipe. Slivered almonds are cut into  square strips, while sliced ones are in thin slices. (I suspect that sliced almonds were not available in the mid-1800s.)

When I was finished making the two tarts for the party, I had some crust dough and apples left over. I made a 7” “rustic tart” in a pie pan, folding the edges of the crust over the apples, clafouti-style. It had less of the custard liquid in it, since I had poured most of that into the tarts, but the apples were coated with some of the custard, and the results were tasty all the same.

Modern cookbooks are more likely to give recipes for “tartlets,” small individual tarts. There are even very small false bottom tart pans made for this purpose, or they can be made in muffin tins, or on a flat pan, simply with pinched corners to keep the filling in. I rather liked making larger tarts, which were beautiful, and which result in less crust per slice and more fruit filling.

 

 


On Eating from a Garden--A Manifesto

When you grow food, you have made food exist in the world. The earth did not previously include that food. From here several things can happen to the food you created. It can show up in some delightful meal you serve yourself and maybe others; it can be donated to someone else who will want to eat it more than you do, or it can sit in your garden until it is no longer delicious but instead is tough and seedy or even rotten. When I have grown some food, I see it as my responsibility to aim for one of the first two destinations for it, and avoid the third as much as possible.

            It feels bad to me to waste food I have created, but neither do I want to feel bad because I am trying so hard not to waste it that it ruins my fun in growing it. Here are the ways I try, without causing myself distress, and without making eating from my garden feel like a responsibility, to avoid wasting what I can grow.

Perhaps most important, I try to grow what I will actually want to eat. If I grew something, but didn’t eat it, I figure I either didn’t want to eat that crop or didn’t plan how much I would eat very well. I sort of like parsnips. One came up uninvited in my garden a few years ago. I roasted it with some other root crops and ate it. It was good, but truly, I could do without it. I'd rather buy a parsnip for the one or two times a year I might decide to roast mixed vegetables.

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Root Vegetables to Roast--Including Homegrown Carrots and a Volunteer Parsnip

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Roasted Root Vegetables: Golden Gate Gardening, page 378

Same for beets. My husband actively dislikes them. A couple of times a year, I like to grate one to make a lovely shredded beet salad, in which the sweetness of the beets melds with the sourness of the vinegar, and the flavors of onion, dill, and olive oil add to the deliciousness.

But in truth, I don’t need to grow either one to enjoy them once in a while. On the other hand, I will harvest all fall and winter from a big bed of carrots. They will become “carrot coins” in soups and stir fries. They will get cut into sticks to eat raw with hummus. They will get matchsticked with celery, cabbage, and green onion to go into a delectable Vietnamese vegetable dish, flavored with a bit of fish sauce, topped with some dry roasted, unsalted, crushed peanuts.

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Vietnamese Vegetables Cooking (carrot, celery, Napa Cabbage, Wild Onion)

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Vietnamese Vegetables--ready to serve, with crushed peanut toping  (Recipe in an earlier post on this blog)

And parsley! How I delight in having plenty of parsley plants all year long. I will add a tablespoon or two to French or Italian dishes, a quarter cup or more to North African and Middle Eastern dishes. I will mince it with a mezzaluna (curved blade) in a wooden bowl and freeze a little extra to have on hand. When the plants bloom I will cherish the syrphid flies that feed at their flowers and use the umbrellas of tiny pale yellow blossoms to back up larger flowers in a bouquet.

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Parsley in my garden.

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Chopping Parsley with a Mezzaluna

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Parsley in Bloom

In the places where I could be growing some crops, but don’t, I enjoy watching hummingbirds sip at abutilons, fuchsias and other flowers, I grow Alstroemerias for bright, long-lasting bouquets, enjoy the exuberant flowers of Tigridia from my window in July, and wonder at the variety of forms succulents can take.

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There are plenty of flowers to enjoy in the areas I don't use for food. The hummingbirds love our abutilon.

            I gave myself a few years to decide what crops I would eat, and therefore where I should put my food gardening energies. While I was exploring that, I watched what grew well that I want to eat, and what grew well that I have not eaten in the past. In both cases, I begin to collect recipes. I have found that having shortlists of favorite recipes at the ready to use crops I grow greatly increases the chance I will eat them. (This is why I put some recipes in Golden Gate Gardening.) Collecting recipes is a personal matter. You may not like the ones I collect; I may not like the ones you collect.

            It used to be that hunting for a recipe that used a particular vegetable or herb was difficult. Even if you had the cookbooks, in our meat-centered food culture, the index often did not tell you if a dish includes, say carrots, or parsley. But now there are two improvements. First, as our diet has become more plant-centered, recipes including specific crops are much more often identified in an index. (And there are more books on cooking from a garden—I will list some in a future post.) Second, of course, is the internet. In fact the internet is so easy to search that many cooks probably depend mainly on a search for a recipe that will use what they have on hand. But even with these ever-so-handy improvements, I encourage you to do a search, try some recipes, print or copy a short list, try them out, and choose favorites to keep for use with specific crops.

            Look for recipes that either use a crop you like and can grow or one with which you are less familiar but can grow well. For example, I found that with good care and timing, I can grow beautiful, large, fennel bulbs. I had not eaten fennel often, and, in fact, am not fond of its anisey flavor when it is raw. But I tried a recipe for it cooked, and found that the anisey flavor disappeared, leaving a quite pleasant and distinctive taste. (See recipe: Sweet lemon-braised fennel, below). So I have been collecting recipes for cooked fennel. A second one I have enjoyed is in the soup Sicilian Beans and Greens. This soup uses other crops I can easily produce, and is a wondrous addition to my repertoire. (I will put it up soon.) Now I am about to try a recipe for a sheet pan dinner with pork chops, fennel, potatoes, onion, tomatoes. If it works out I will have three recipes, probably plenty since I only have room to grow about a half-dozen fennel bulbs a year. But what a lovely contribution they make! I like them so much that I have to buy a fennel bulb now and then to fill in when I have none ready in my garden!

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Fennel Bulb Growing in the Garden

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Cutting up a Fennel Bulb. I will cook the slices on the plate in the rear of the photo.

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Sweet Braised Fennel--recipe at the end of this post

When you are looking for recipes, look for ones that include the vegetable in question, and also represent cooking methods you like—such as roasting, stir-fry, braising, or sheet pan dinners. Also give points for seasonings that sound good to you--curry, middle eastern, tomato-based sauce, whatever. Give extra points for recipes that include more than one crop you can grow and harvest in the same season.

            A small garden will always have an unsteady harvest. At the beginning and end of the harvest period for any particular crop, there will always be wee bits to harvest. And in a small garden, you may never have more than a wee bit of some crops. To deal with the wee bits, what you need is recipes that combine just a little of this and that. The world’s cuisines, many of which started in a garden, offer numerous possibilities. There are omelets and frittatas, salads, stir-fries, soups, and many undefinable options. Keep your eyes open and you will find them.

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A colorful winter salad, made when I had only a tiny bit of this and that. I used chard stems and a bit of purple cabbage as bright vegetable confetti. I parboiled the broccoli before I chopped it for the salad.

In the middle of its season, there may be a glut of a crop. You can always tell what gardeners of the past, in particular cultures, had a glut of in midseason. You will need recipes that can use large amounts of those that came in all at once or in midseason profusion. To find them, look to cuisines of places where the crop is most easily or commonly grown. You will find recipes for gratins of summer vegetables, lettuce wilted with sweet and sour sauce (GGG, page 233 Wilted Lettuce) zucchini fritters (GGG, page 377). You may also want recipes for preserving the glut, such as by freezing canning, making relishes and jellies, or pickling. (That’s when the watermelon rind pickle and the sun-dried tomato were born.)

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Gratin of Summer Vegetables

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Zucchini and Cottage Cheese Fritters

Or you may say hell no, if there is too much of something, I don't want to preserve the extra. I just want to grow less of it next year. But for the immediate situation, do find your extra harvest a kitchen in which it will be eaten. Start with family and friends, who might be delighted for a bag of something you grew, or even a small regular sample, or, you may ask yourself: “Is there somewhere I can donate all this food?” Yes indeed, there probably is. You only need a bit of local research to turn up answers. In San Francisco, there is the Free Farm Stand, in the Los Niños Unidos park on 23rd Street between Treat Avenue and Folsom, on Sundays. They are currently bagging food at 10 AM, due to Covid, but will probably return one day to distributing produce from boxes at mid-day, letting people choose what they want to take. Another option is the local food bank. Just be aware a little asking around will certainly turn up places delighted to receive some home grown produce, including herbs.

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We give away hundreds of pounds of apples every fall.

Fruit trees are a special case, in that one tree typically bears more fruit than a family can eat up in a timely manner. You can hunt for recipes, make preserves, give fruit away (look for gleaning organizations that specialize in harvesting fruit to give away). A separate kind of solution is to prune to keep your tree or trees small, so they won’t produce more than you can possibly eat. This is best done from the beginning, when you first bring home a sapling fruit tree, but it can also be done when a tree has grown larger. Use the book Grow a Little Fruit Tree, by Ann Ralph, Storey Publishing, to guide you. It tells you what you need to know simply and clearly.

Sweet Lemon-Braised Fennel

Adapted from Fresh From the Garden, by Perla Meyers, Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1996.

One large or 2 small fennel bulbs                   Juice of ½ lemon (or more, to taste)

3 Tablespoons butter or margarine               salt and pepper, if desired

1 Tablespoon olive oil                                     ½ cup chicken broth, vegetable broth, or bullion

½ teaspoon sugar                              

  1. Trim the root and leaves from the bulb(s), leaving only the pale green and white “bulb.” Cut each bulb in half or quarters if it is large, then cut into narrow slices, with some central stem holing each slice together. Try to make the slices under ½ inch at the wider, outside, edge. If some pieces get separated from the core, save them to use as well.
  1. In a large, heavy skillet, melt the butter or margarine (such as Smart Balance) with the oil, over medium heat. Add a single layer of fennel and brown it nicely. When one side is brown, use a fork to turn the pieces over. When they are done, place them on a plate and add more slices to the skillet until all are browned. Reduce the heat to medium low, return any pieces you have set aside to the skillet, and sprinkle with the sugar and the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, turn gently with a spatula once or twice to mix the ingredients. Continue to sauté until the fennel is glazed and brown.
  1. Add the half cup of broth and braise, tightly covered, for 10 minutes, adding more broth if needed. When the fennel is tender, but not falling apart, transfer it to a serving dish.
  1. (Optional) if you want to, you can add another half cup of broth, more lemon juice, and some extra butter, heat through and serve with this extra liquid poured over it. I don’t do this, so can’t report the result.

 


Apple Pie Recipe Repeated

Apple Pie--An illustrated recipe

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Our tree with ripe apples. They are starting to ripen now. I plan to post a entry soon about the recent heat waves that caused some apples to be sunburned, but decided first to repost an older post that has become hard to find--for apple 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!



Try Growing a Pawpaw, a Hardy Fruit with a Tropical Flavor

I’ve heard about pawpaws all my life, but only recently had a chance to taste one. I knew they were a delicious wild fruit one could find in Midwestern woods near where I grew up, if one knew where to look. When I finally did taste a pawpaw, I understood what all the fuss was about. It has sweet, soft, fragrant, pale yellow flesh similar to that of white sapote, or custard apple a tropical fruit native to Mexico. Since the pawpaw I tasted was from a tree grown near San Francisco, I wondered why this delicious fruit was not anywhere to be found in Bay Area markets. 

Pawpaw3Pawpaw fruit ripening on a Bay Area Tree

The book “Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit,” by Andrew Moore (Chelsea Green, 2015), explains why. First, pawpaws do not ship well. They bruise easily and become soft when ripe, so the source needs to be near the market. Second, they have a very short season, so unless an eager public is waiting for them, they may all spoil before they’re sold. And because they are still unfamiliar, only the rare aficionado notices that it’s pawpaw season.

Moore’s book traces the history of this largest fruit native to the U.S., and explains how to grow it. Moore also tells about the dedicated researchers who have been breeding superior varieties and about efforts to promote and sell the fruit. 

Where does the name pawpaw come from? Europeans, or possibly African slaves, who had come to the mainland from the West Indies, first called them by this name, a variant of the word papaya. They apparently simply didn’t choose a new name for pawpaw fruit, just used one they had used for a rather different one they had eaten on the Caribbean islands. 

Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) taste tropical, but are hardy to about 20 below zero. They grow along rivers in much of the eastern U.S. — from southern Michigan and Pennsylvania west to eastern Kansas, south to midway down the states of the Old South and then up the eastern coast. They were relished by many native American tribes, who ate them fresh or dried. George Washington liked chilled pawpaws. Lewis and Clark ate them when passing through a region where they grew. American settlers sometimes removed the trees in favor of planting cornfields, but many wild groves remain, and many a child or adult has delighted in finding them.

Pawpaws were recently sold at the Ferry Plaza Building Farmers Market, but the one nearby farm that sold pawpaws couldn’t make a go of the crop, so took it out to expand other crops. Still, pawpaws make a handsome, easy-to-grow garden fruit tree, so many Bay Area gardeners could be enjoying the fruit while we wait for solutions to the marketing problems.

The tree can reach 35 feet, but might reach only 10-15 feet where summers are cool. Its leaves, up to a foot long, give the tree a tropical look. It’s dormant in winter, then bears small, maroon blossoms before leaves return in spring. The fruits, up to 9 in a cluster, ripen in late August or September. They are 3-6 inches long, weighing 5-16 ounces oz

Gardeners are growing pawpaws in San Jose, Los Altos. Berkeley and Walnut Creek. The trees have few pests. Deer, rabbits, even goats, are rarely interested in nibbling the strong-tasting leaves, though raccoons, squirrels or opossums do like the fruit, so could be a problem in locations where these pests are active. The tree needs well-drained, fertile soil, with a slightly acidic pH (5-7), and a site out of strong winds. The best time to plant it (a potted seedling is best) is in spring, just before it leafs out. See the website of the California Rare Fruit Growers for more growing tips https://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/pawpaw.html.

You can purchase plants from Raintree Nursery, (800) 391-8892, raintreenursery.com, or One Green World, (877) 353-4028, onegreenworld.com, or try local nurseries. 

Added in the spring of 2021: 

There was an article about pawpaws in the New York Times on October 21, 2020. Here is a link to it: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/19/dining/pawpaw-climate-change.html?searchResultPosition=1

The only source offered in that article was the Kentucky State University nursery and trying to find plants or seeds through Facebook fan clubs, Nextdoor, Craigslist, or Etsy, but the two nurseries listed above still carry trees as of spring 2021. In fact One Green World has 4 varieties and a 4-in-one tree. The article mentions Moore's book and lists a second one too: For the Love of Pawpaws: A Mini-manual for Growing and Caring For Pawpaws--From Seed to Table, by Michael Judd. 

And on November 5, 2014, the New York Times printed a recipe for Pawpaw pudding.  This recipe makes a pudding that you can cut in pieces to serve. Correspondents to the Times found it good, but used less sugar and liked it better. We used to make a pudding from American persimmons that grow in the Midwest, but this pawpaw pudding seems to be firmer, capable of being cut in squares. Here is the link:

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016961-pawpaw-pudding?searchResultPosition=2

 


Scarlet Runner Beans--and the White-Flowered Variety Too

Want to grow plants that produce lots to eat, are ornamental and grow well in cool microclimates? Try runner beans. You can eat the young pods as a green bean (a.k.a. snap bean or string bean) or you can harvest older pods when the beans have formed inside them, shell out the beans to cook and eat, or harvest mature, dry beans later. The flowers are big and bright, attract hummingbirds and are also edible.

Young Runner Beans in the Author's Garden with spring cabbage, and the flowers Cineraria (right rear) and Malcolmia maritima (in front). 

This bean (Phaseolus coccineus) is a Central American native, and a different species than other garden beans. Its name means “red-flowered bean,” though there are varieties with pink-and-white or white flowers. Its native home is in tropical uplands, which gives it an ability to produce where summer days, and summer nights, are cool. This trait makes it well adapted to much of the Bay Area.

For a food crop, choose from varieties listed among vegetables rather than those sold among the ornamentals. The flowers will be just as pretty, but the pod and bean production is likely to be greater.

The most common varieties have bright red flowers with beans speckled purple and black. The white-flowered variety has pure white beans.

Runner beans are popular in Britain and Canada, where they are most likely to be eaten as green beans. The dry beans are popular in many parts of Europe; the white beans, which are especially popular in Spain and Greece, are sometimes called gigantes. The red-flowered variety is grown in mountainous parts of Japan and used both for its green pods and its dry beans. 

Growing Runner Beans

Plant runner bean seeds directly in your garden in April or May. Plant three seeds at the foot of a 6-foot pole, or set seeds 3 to 4 inches apart along a trellis. As with all beans, for best germination, plant on edge, with the flat side down.

An ideal trellis for climbing beans will be sturdy, 6 feet tall and roughly 4 feet wide with uprights every few inches for the plants to twine on. An excellent material for making it is a fencing called hog wire, which has openings that measure 2 inches by 4 inches. Beans will also climb a chain-link fence. Just be sure the trellis openings are large enough for the stems of the twining beans; chicken wire won’t do as the openings are too small. If you have room, you could grow climbing beans on a bean “teepee”: Set several tall poles in a circle and fasten them together at the top.

Snails may damage the young plants. You can use row cover to protect your seedlings, or cover them at night with a quart yogurt container or similar cover. Later in the season, hunt for snails on the plants and remove any you find.

Remove the dead vines before the following spring, but spare any that seem still flexible, as they may be still alive and ready to sprout new leaves in April of next year.

Eating Runner Beans

Eat the green pods when they are about ½- to ¾-inch wide. Wider pods become unpleasantly fibrous (the length of pods will vary and is not important). Use them as you would any green bean. They have a fine, sweet, bean-y flavor.

You can shell the not-yet-hardened beans out of larger pods to cook them, or let the pods ripen on the plants until they are dry and crisp and the beans are hard and dry. (Once you let any pods mature dry beans, the plant will make fewer new pods, so it is best to wait until late in the season before you let some pods ripen and form dry beans.) You can store the mature, dry beans to use later or for replanting.

These big, fat beans are delicious in soup or chili. They can be used wherever dry beans (including dry favas) are called for.

I often use equal amounts of the big runner beans and a similarly colored small bean together in a recipe.

Other Ideas for Cooking with Runner Beans

Small Green Pods: Roll them in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast at 450 degrees for about 17 minutes, or until they have brown but not black areas.

Dry Beans: A traditional use for gigante (white runner) beans is to marinate the cooked beans in a savory vinaigrette or in tomato sauce. In a less-traditional option, a friend uses the dark-seeded runner beans to make a vegan snack by boiling them until nearly tender, then reducing the amount of water and adding sweet sherry and soy sauce, plus ample chopped fresh ginger; then boiling again until they are tender. Refrigerate marinated or flavor-infused beans. 

 


Recipe: Vegetables Vietnamese-Style

This is a tasty stir-fried dish flavored with Southeast Asian fish sauce and crushed peanuts. It is a great way to use the wild, Mediterranean onions that are in season in the Bay Area now--December through early April. (To see photos and read a description of the wild onion, search this blog for Allium triquetrum.)

1 Tablespoon oil                                                                         2 Tablespoons chicken or 

3 green onions or wild onions--cut into narrow strips          vegetable broth

2 stalks celery--cut into narrow sticks                                   1 Tablespoon fish sauce--or to taste

1 medium carrot--cur into narrow sticks                              Black pepper, to taste

2 cups cut-up Chinese cabbage                                              1/2 Cup peanuts, dry-roasted

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Photo: Carrots, celery, and wild onions, sliced and beginning to cook in a skillet.

Directions: 

Cut the onions, celery, and carrot into narrow sticks ("matchsticks") 2 or 3 inches long. Chop and measure Chinese cabbage.

Coarsely crush the peanuts. (I use a mortar and pestle--just long enough to break each peanut into pieces.)

Heat oil in a skillet, add onions, celery, and carrot. Stir-fry for 30 seconds. 

Add cabbage and continue to stir-fry until cabbage begins to wilt.

Add broth, fish sauce, and black pepper, turn the heat up and cook until liquid is almost gone. (The fish sauce adds saltiness and a savory umami flavor.)

Taste to check the seasoning and add more fish sauce or pepper if desired. 

Serve hot, sprinkled with the peanuts just before serving. 

Adapted from California Culinary Academy: Southeast Asian Cooking, by Jay Harlow. 

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The vegetables as served--topped with coarsely crushed peanuts.


Oven-Roasted Cauliflower with Cajun Spice Mix

I've been roasting a lot of vegetables lately, inspired largely by the book Fast Fresh and Green, by Susie Middleton, published in 2010. She has included a chart that helps choose the size of pieces to roast and how long it will take for them to reach a delicious stage of brownness with out scorching. She also has a number of special recipes for roasting vegetables with particular seasoning or with several kinds roasting together. 

I decided to try roasting cauliflower with something on it that would make it less white, so it would be a little more interesting on the plate. I tried curry or curry spices, which wasn't bad, but decided I like a cajun flavor more in this case. The roasting makes the cauliflower tender all through with a sense that the outer edge has been fried. Yum!

So here is the recipe, with the spice mix first:

Cajun Style Seasoning Mix (Adapted from Down Home Healthy, Leah Chase and Johnny Rivers, National Inst. of Health, 1994

They call it "Hot 'n Spicy Seasoning.")

¼ cup paprika (preferably smoked paprika--so good!)

2 tablespoons crushed dry oregano leaves

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)

½ teaspoon dry mustard

Mix all ingredients in a jar with a lid. Store what you don’t use right away in the cupboard with the lid on. Makes about 1/3 cup.

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Oven-roasted Cauliflower with Cajun Spice

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Cut cauliflower and arrange it in a single layer on a large baking pan. Cut large curds from the head and then cut them into pieces with at least one flat side and a maximum thickness of ¾ inch. (Start by cutting each curd in half lengthwise and then dividing the halves lengthwise, with a little of the stem on each.)

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a 9 x 13 inch backing pan and use one hand to toss the cauliflower in the oil, coating it. Rearrange it in a single layer.

Sprinkle a little Cajun spice mix on each piece of cauliflower. (If your shaking skills are not great, try putting it in a jar with a shaker top, but a rather narrow neck, so you can aim at each little bit of cauliflower.)

Put in the oven and cook about 17 minutes. Check. It could take 3-5 longer. It should be browned on the bottom but not black anywhere. Serve hot!

One 9 x 13 inch pan full serves 2 people and uses about 40% of a standard cauliflower head.


Making Soup Stock From A Garden

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Illustration: Soup stock being made from backyard garden ingredients, including wild onion, parsley, oregano, and thyme, with a purchased bay leaf.

Soup stock, that deliciously flavored liquid we use as a basis for soups and sauces, is a natural for the gardener-cook. The beauty of it is that most of the ingredients can be scraps of vegetables, or over-produced ones we would otherwise probably not eat up. Let the cooks with no gardens go to the grocery and buy carrots, celery, onions, and other vegetables to flavor stock. We have it already if only we know what to use. No matter if the ingredients are a bit tough or strong-flavored, they are perfect for broth. They will be strained out and discarded anyway.

An important starting concept for the gardener who would make soup stock is that most stocks include plants from two different botanical plant families: the carrot and the onion families. Use at least one of each, add a few herbs, and you'll have a very nice stock. 

Carrot Family 

In the carrot family are parsley, Japanese parsley (Mitsuba), celery, fennel, and, of course, carrot. The easiest plant of this group to grow in quantity in a small garden is parsley. Once you have it, you can let a couple of plants of it reseed and save as many seedlings as you want, transplanting some when the plants are still small to places you want it to grow. Japanese parsley is a perennial plant that grows best in shade. If you like its delicate flavor and have a shady, well-watered place for it, you can have it for harvest most of the year.

Celery is not as easy to grow as parsley, so most small space gardeners don't grow it. (If you buy celery, do save the leafy parts to use in stock.) Some gardeners do grow Chinese celery, which has narrower, less-tender stems. It is easier to grow and most useful in soup or other cooked dishes. If you are growing it, you will have plenty of leaves for use flavoring stock. 

Fennel loses its anisy flavor when it is cooked, having instead a distinctive sweet flavor. It is not for every stock, but can be very nice in some. (I have used it as a second carrot family ingredient, with parsley or carrot tops as the main flavoring.) Most gardeners will not have fennel growing, but if you are growing even one plant for its tender, white bulbous leaf bases, you will have plenty of green stems and leaves that could be used in stock. (The fennel in vacant lots, a weedy variety, rarely has enough tender leaf base to be useful, but I imagine its stems and leaves would flavor a stock just as well as those of domestic Florence fennel varieties. And if they are tough, no matter, since stock ingredients will be strained out anyway.)

Carrot leaves are a fine addition to stock. If you grew too many carrots to eat up, of course you can add the root too, but most gardeners don't grow that many, so would prefer to save the roots for eating raw or adding to the soup later.

Onion Family

One of the best onion family crops for use in making stock is the leek. When you buy leeks, you may not realize that up to three of feet of leaves have been chopped off, leaving at most a foot of green leaf on the white lower stem that we think of as "the leek." All of that leafy part is great for making stock. If you had purchased the leeks, you'd just have a few inches of green leaf, but in the garden, there is plenty of it. And, should the leek sit in the garden over winter and you forget to use it up by late March, it will surely form a flower stalk, becoming tough in the process. If this happens, cut up the entire plant for stock. 

Bulb onions are not the best crop for a small garden, and are not always successful in that if the timing is wrong, they will form poor bulbs or will flower before they bulb. If you do grow bulb onions, remember that any bulb, leaf, or flower stems you don't eat can flavor stock. That goes for onions you have purchased as well--any trimmings, even dry skins, will flavor stock. (if you do plan to grow bulb onions, the surest ways to do it are to plant onion "sets," small bulbs you get at a nursery, in February, or grow seed of "day neutral" varieties in early to mid spring.

Wild onions that grow in Bay Area gardens are a culinary secret worth learning. They are Allium triquetrum, a Mediterranean native that is a perennial plant. The bulbs are dormant in summer, grow in fall, and make useful greens and flowers all winter and early spring, dying back in April. If you have it as a weed, you may as well be eating it. The entire plant is tender and nicely flavored enough to use in salads and cooking, but if you have a lot of it (it tends to be weedy) you will find it flavors stock nicely as well. (Search for it by scientific name on this blog for a photo and more info on identifying it and managing it in you garden.)

Trimmings from a Grocery

While I am writing this primarily for gardeners, I should say that when produce workers put out vegetables, they often chop off the very parts you'd use for stock. I have come across workers removing leafy parts of celery, leaves of leeks, and carrot tops as they set out the vegetables, putting all the "scraps" in a box to discard. So even with no garden, one could frugally and deliciously make broth from these tasty discards.)

Herbs

You will want to add some herbs to further flavor your stock. Add a bay leaf or two. I think the best idea for most of us is to buy some already dried. Bay trees get big and make a dense shade, so are not the best choice for most small gardens, but I have seen them kept small in a large pot or half barrel with some success. If you do have access to a larger bay tree, harvest by pruning to shape. Remove the leaves and press them in newspaper under books until flattened and dried, then store in a jar. (Be aware that the California bay is a different species than the Mediterranean one, with harsher-flavored, most think inferiorly-flavored leaves.)

A number of Mediterranean herbs are easy to grow in Bay Area gardens. The best to have handy in a small garden for stock are probably oregano and thyme. Grow them in the ground if at all possible, giving them room to spread their roots and make good plants. Add fresh sprigs to your stock.

Making the stock

To make your stock, add all of the ingredients to a large soup pot at once, adding plenty of water. You can also add salt and pepper, but I usually don't at this stage, leaving decisions about them until I am using the stock for making a soup or sauce. (If you eat meat, add soup bones too, marrow bones or boney parts of chicken.) 

Boil all of the ingredients 30 minutes to 2 1/2 hours--use the longer time especially if you have included meat. If only vegetables and herbs were used, you can just strain them out in a fine-mesh strainer and you have your stock. (If bones were added, you will probably want to refrigerate the pot overnight, then use a spoon to skim off any fat before you strain.)

Once the stock is strained, you can use it immediately to make soup, or you can put it in containers in the refrigerator for use in up to a couple of days. Or, if you have too much to use fresh, put some in containers and store these in the freezer for later use. Write the kind of stock and the date on a label affixed to the containers. 

May the soup be with you!

 

 

 


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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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