Monday, June 21, 2010

What a treat it was to host Weekend Herb Blogging this week. Thank you to our gracious Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once for giving me this opportunity and to Kalyn's Kitchen for starting this weekly roundup of vegetable wonders four years ago. We have some northern hemisphere bloggers who are diving into early summer farm and garden bounties and southern hemisphere bloggers using winter crops and so there is an interesting and diverse array of dishes to sample with our eyes this week.

Mixing sweet and savory flavors in her recipe, Mele Cotte offers up a lovely Strawberry Basil Bruschetta. What a great dish to bring to a summer party!

Ohio blogger Yasmeen Health Nut offers a breathtakingly beautiful dish: Purple Escarole with Preserved Lemon Salsa. I love this gorgeous composed salad and will have to seek out this hot-looking member of the endive family in the seed catalogs, as I have not seen it in our local markets.

My upstate New York blogger colleague Noshing Confessions had a goodly amount of kale in her CSA box this week and used it in a beautiful and crispy Kale and Potato Frittata.

Over in the Netherlands, Kitchen Butterfly has lots of great information to share about loquats, a member of the apple/pear fruit family. She experimented with cooking them into a lovely tian with a cookie and cream base.

Italian blogger Cindystar is lucky to have a local farmer who has a beautiful, bountiful crop of cherries and she teaches us how to preserve them in syrup and in grappa. Delicioso! You can follow her instructions in Italian and English at her blog.

Our fabulous Weekend Herb Blogging doyenne, Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once in Australia sent in a salad recipe using two surprisingly under-utilized veggies, Jerusalem Artichokes and Celeriac. She mixed them with potatoes and bathed the whole with a smoky garlic aioli dressing. Scrumptious!

Marjoram is the herb of the week over at the Fessenden Farmstead in Washington, D.C. Farmer Stacey used garden marjoram, chives, garlic scapes, cherry tomatoes and carrots (that's some farmstead!) for her Pasta Bean Salad with Marjoram.

The first greens are appearing in the farmer's markets of Alaska, and Laurie is right there to scoop them up to cook into a sumptuous Spinach Saganaki. She gives us the details at her blog Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.

It is mid-winter in Melbourne, Australia, the headquarters of Anh's blog, A Food Lover's Journey, and quinces are in season. She used a fortuitous minor kitchen disaster to turn overdone baked quinces into a splendid Spiced Quince Ice Cream.

The always-effervescent Brii in beautiful Lake Garda, Italy, presents us with so many ways to preserve vegetables and herbs on her Briiblog in English. This week it is a luscious Green Bell Pepper Chutney.

Look at all these glowing vegetable jewels studding Simona's Spring Vegetable Terrine. You can learn how to make this stunning creation of beets, chevre, carrots, fava beans and green beans at her blog Briciole.

Tempting, healthy recipes are always in season at Joanne's New York City blog, Eats Well With Others. She ruminates on working out, Father's Day and men's health in her hilarious post, culminating in an awesome recipe for Spanakorizo with Baked Falafel with Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce.

A fresh take on the classic spud dish Potato Rosti is provided at Nina's My Easy Cooking blog. Her kitchen is in South Africa, where she is no doubt cooking and blogging in between watching World Cup soccer matches. Love those crusty potatoes!

Now that fresh herbs are flourishing in our northern gardens, Pam over at Sidewalk Shoes gives tips on pruning basil plants and using the garden largesse to make Sweet Basil Vinaigrette.

Rhubarb Baked Oatmeal was on the menu over at Taste Space in Toronto, Canada, and blogger Janet lets us know that this yummy casserole is both sweet and savory and delightful reheated later on. I'd bet other fruits would work well in this recipe too, and have bookmarked it to try it with other fruits when they come in season.

Tigerfish from the Singapore food blog, Teczcape, sent in a lovely post ruminating on Watercress and made several versions of Watercress Soup for us all to enjoy.

San Francisco resident Begonia Buzzkill doesn't have a blog (yet!) but offered two different ideas for using fresh herbs which I am passing along to you all here:

"You may enjoy this herb recipe I learned when living in North Iran near the Caspian Sea coast near the town of Rasht. Use a blend of fresh herbs as many as possible. In Iran nearly 10 varieties were included (I cannot recall seeing sage in Iran though). Grind all of the herbs into a paste with salt. The result should be "salty" to taste. In Iran the grinding was done in mortar and pestle but here in the US I use my food processor. Jar and refrigerate a few days before using.

It is used as a condiment with fish, chicken and meat dishes, and quiche type egg dishes. Also a large dollop in a bowl of good quality plain white yogurt. The best of all uses was for a drink. In a large pitcher add approx 1-cup (or more as per your choice of thickness) of good plain yogurt, the large dollop of the herb paste, a good dose of cracked black pepper and water to fill (can be made with fizzy water also) Refrigerate until icy cold. Serve over ice and enjoy! It's a great summer drink and quite filling!

We've used this paste in many other dishes such as mashed potatoes, rice, and as rubs for meats. Since the salt is a preservative, the herb paste stores well. The local Iranians make many large jars during the herb growing season in order to have the use of fresh herbs at hand.

Also, to use lavender as a cooking herb, add 1 tablespoon of dried lavender to small pack of softened cream cheese, (can also add 1 tsp honey) and mix well. Then butterfly a chicken breast and flatten the halves, spread the cream cheese mixture on the breasts and roll up (like a cake roll) use tooth pick to hold their shape; place on baking pan. Lightly oil or brush melted butter over the breasts and bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven. Approx 15 minutes or when breast juice runs clear, they're done. You can also just cut a pocket in chicken breast half and stuff the cream cheese mix and bake......but the rolls are such eye candy!"

Thanks Begonia Buzzkill!

Finally, my contribution to this week's WHB was to roast up a boat load of home-grown garlic scapes, which turned out tasty, crispy and mellow, and were used to garnish many different meals this past week.

Thank you to all the bloggers who sent in their posts for this virtual feast this week at Weekend Herb Blogging #238. I now pass the hosting torch on to Chris at Mele Cotte and look forward to seeing more of your educational and tasty posts next week.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Roasting Up Some Garlic Scapes for WHB #238

I am delighted to announce that The Crispy Cook is once again the guest host of Weekend Herb Blogging (Number 238!), a weekly blog event that celebrates all posts herbaceous, vegelicious and fruitastic. Weekend Herb Blogging was started by Kalyn's Kitchen and has been organized by Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once for the last year.

From now until Sunday, June 20, 2010 I will be happy to accept recipes featuring plant ingredients (herbs, vegetables, fruits, seeds, stems, flowers, etc.) Entries must be submitted by:

* 5 pm Sunday - New York City Time (EST)
* 3pm Sunday - Utah Time
* 10pm Sunday - London Time
* 11pm Sunday - Rome Time
* 9am Monday - Melbourne (Aus) DS Time.

Your post can be informative, spotlight a particular ingredient and/or include a recipe where your chosen ingredient is one of the primary ingredients in the recipe. WHB posts must be written specifically for this blog event and may not be cross-posted in other events. Your post must include a link to The Crispy Cook and to the WHB rules page.

If you have a great veggie recipe to share this week, please send your posts to oldsaratogabooks AT gmail DOT com with WHB#218 in the subject line and the following details:

Your name Your Blog/URL
Your Post URL
Your Location
Attach a Photo: 250px wide

For my contribution to this week's WHB edition, I turned to what's flying out of the Crispy Garden, and this week it is garlic scapes. Scapes are the flowering stalks that emerge from the garlic plant and are trimmed if the home gardener or farmer wants the garlic plant to save all its plant energy for making a juicy and delicious garlic bulb to be harvested next month. I planted a boat load of garlic last November and have a handsome crop of various varieties of garlic that have been sending up scapes for the past week or so.

We've been using them just like scallions, chopping them into stir-fries and whizzing them up into Herbed Cream Cheese and Creamy Garlic Scape Dressing. They taste like a mild garlic and as you can see below we have a a real abundance of scapes.

I did a little Internet research to see what other ways cooks were using for their scapes and found this blog post gem in which the fanatical scape-lover author and self-described Crazy CSA Lady provides seven fabulous ways to cook with garlic scapes. This is followed by many more tantalizing comments in which other scape nuts mention different ways to use their beloved alliums. One commenter talked about roasting them so that is what I did, tossing them with olive oil, salt and pepper and then roasting them in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring twice.

The roasted scapes are nice and crispy at their pointed little ends (though you must be careful not to skewer the inside of your mouth when you fork them in) and have a mild roasted garlic flavor. We ate them over green salads and as a pasta garnish and I still have others to use later on. Perhaps I will chop some up and freeze them to use later. Let me know if you have other fabulous ideas for roasted scapes.

Looking forward to seeing what's cookin' in your kitchen this week. I've already had several cool WHB submissions and can't wait for more to include in the roundup.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Heads up on Fiddleheads

My foraging for fiddlehead ferns this year was limited to the grocery store. When last I attempted to procure some of these New England springtime delicacies for my cooking pot I didn't realize that the coiled-up new growth of several different varieties of fern can be eaten, but that many varieties are inedible and may in fact be poisonous, so I was a frustrated forager.

This time a survey of my two competing supermarket chains a few weeks ago turned up a small amount of fiddlehead ferns at $4.99 a pound. They had already been wrestled out of their fuzzy jackets and are so beautiful with their architectural lines and cool green color, that I had to buy some to cook up for a lovely supper side dish.

I got a pot of salted boiling water going at full tilt, and then steamed the fiddlehead coils for ten minutes, until they were fork tender. I then served them simply with a pat of butter. They taste a bit like asparagus, but with a more grassy, earthy flavor, redolent of the odors of walking in a cool, mossy forest. My husband and kids were not enamored, however, and commented on their resemblance to a certain variety of garden pest.

No matter. I ate them all up and savored every bite. Fiddleheads are supposed to be very nutritious when cooked (don't eat them raw, as they have certain toxins that need to be boiled off in the cooking water) and they are certainly one of the most beautiful vegetables one can behold on the plate. I am sharing this discovery of a new and gorgeous vegetable with Simona of Briciole, who is this week's host of Weekend Herb Blogging, a blog event that explores cooking with herbs, vegetables, fruits and flowers. Weekend Herb Blogging is now in its fourth year and is headquartered at Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spring Fever Strikes Upstate New York Gardener

We get really excited about mild spring weather here in upstate New York. It was only a few short months ago that we were digging ourselves out of the snow...

So when the warming rays of the sun start popping the greens out of the landscape and things start sprouting and growing, we really try to be outdoors as much as possible and take advantage of the beautiful weather.

The farmers in these parts get a little heady too from all the nice weather and you see funny little sculptures along the roads to celebrate Spring.

The Spring peepers are one harbinger of Spring in our neck of the woods. We have a boggy place on the north side of our property and they really make a racket at night when they are courting. They are nocturnal critters, so I have never actually seen one, but you can check them out in all their visual and auditory glory on Wikipedia. On the south side of the property, where we have a few more trees, we also get a competing nighttime concert from the Grey Treefrog (Hyla Versicolor). They also like to hop in our pool, so we have to be vigilant in fishing them out so they don't get poisoned by the pool chemicals. See if you can spot the camouflaged frog here in this picture.

They are handsome little guys. And boy are they loud! Check out their call here.

Since this is a food blog, after all, and I will not be providing any recipes or tips for preparing les jambes des grenouilles, I will turn back to my vegetable garden.

So far, things are progressing nicely, with lots of herbs and asparagus to eat.

The big crop this year will be garlic. I planted over 150 cloves of garlic and most came up to grow and become big, juicy bulbs of garlic in mid-July. They like the moistest spots in the back garden, so it will be interesting to see how the different varieties I procured from the Bennington Garlic Festival will turn out. It will be REALLY interesting, since I have misplaced my garden map and can't remember which varieties were planted where.

I also popped in some shallots. The grower I bought them from advised planting them just like garlic, pointy end of the shallot down, and each shallot bulb has come up this spring as a cluster of shallots, so I am very encouraged about the productivity of this crop.

They also produce little tiny scapes like garlic, though they are saber-straight and not curvilinear and crazy like the garlic scapes. I assumed I should shear them off the shallot plants since this will redirect the plant's energy into making my delicious shallot crop. I chopped some up for some rice filling for my stuffed grape leaves and they were delicious.

Off to plant the lettuces and the string beans.....