Friday, May 27, 2011

Sort of Quick Pickled Fennel

Shareholder Dan with his bounty, which this week included blueberries, yum.

Pickling is pretty simple, especially if you make "quick" pickles, which usually means that they're not canned. Canning requires special canning jars and lids and a large kettle or canner. The advantage is that canned pickles will keep on the shelf for a very long time, until you open them that is.

Canning isn't very
difficult, but quick pickles are even easier. However, quick pickles must be stored in the refrigerator and will keep only for a week or two, if they last that long. Quick pickles are less of a production and are often made in small batches.

I adapted this Pickled Fennel recipe from one that appeared in the February/March 2011 issue of Fine Cooking magazine. It's a lovely pickle that's nice on a relish tray. It's delicious with poached salmon, either hot or cold. Fine Cooking uses it in an orange juice and brown sugar sauce with skillet-fried pork chops.
Quick Pickled Fennel takes just a few minutes to make, but the pickle needs to marinate in the refrigerator for 3 days before it's ready to eat.

Quick Pickled Fennel
1/2 t yellow mustard seed
1/2 t whole black peppercorns
1 fennel bulb, trimmed
1 C rice vinegar
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 T salt
2 T olive oil

1. Toast the mustard seeds and peppercorns in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Then grind them with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder.

2. Thinly slice with white part of the fennel bulb and pack a wide-mouth pint jar with a screw-on lid with the fennel and spices, alternating layers of fennel and sprinkling the spice mixture.

3. Bring all of the remaining ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and pour the liquid over the fennel and spices in the jar, covering the fennel entirely. Press the fennel down if necessary. Screw on the lid. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 3 days before using.

If you have a big bulb of fennel you can double this recipe. You might have a little excess pickling liquid, but probably not much. Remember to compost the green and fibrous parts of the fennel bulb.

You can get yellow mustard seeds and peppercorns at the Spice Station on Sunset Blvd.
If you're interested in more pickle recipes, check out my Silver Lake Farms blog posts from January 23, 2010 for Quick Radish Pickles and October 1, 2010 for Cucumber Pickles. Cucumbers aren't quite in season yet, but radishes are.

A Word or Two About Micro-Greens

If you'd like some ideas for using your micro-greens, here are a few:

Lately, I've been putting a handful of micro-greens, instead of lettuce, on my sandwiches. I've found micro-greens to be an absolutely delicious accompaniment to egg salad, tuna salad, smoked turkey, ham and cheese, hummus on pita, and even hamburgers!

Another wonderful way to use micro-greens is in a Vietnamese summer roll. Summer rolls are simple to make - they're just a bunch of vegetables rolled up in a rice paper wrapper. You can find rice paper wrappers at most Asian markets. They come as thin, dry disks, usually in a round container. Just soak them one at a time in warm water for 30-60 seconds, until pliable and fill with your favorite ingredients, such as lettuce leaves, chopped Napa cabbage, micro-greens, mint, cilantro, Thai basil, chopped green onion, shredded carrots, sliced jalapenos, shredded pickled ginger, avocado. You can add some protein if you'd like in the form of chopped grilled tofu, sliced hard-boiled egg, or grilled and chopped chicken, beef, pork or shrimp. A peanut dipping sauce is a very tasty accompaniment.

Today's harvest included the following:

From Underwood Family Farms: Fennel, red leaf lettuce, yellow carrots, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, green kale, mizuna, and green cabbage.

From Sage Mountain Farm: Easter radishes, romaine, Chantennay carrots, collard greens, purple scallions, rainbow chard, baby leeks, and green garlic.

And from Silver Lake Farms: Pak Choi and arugula micro-greens.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

I'll bet that most of the first blueberries of the season will be eaten fresh, right out of their carton. But here's a delicious alternative: lemon blueberry muffins. You can make and serve them warm for breakfast tomorrow morning, or whip them up tonight and serve them warm, split open, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle for a homey dessert.

For 6 regular sized muffins:

1/2 stick butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the muffin tin
1/2 C sugar + 1 T for sprinkling on top
1 large egg
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 t baking powder
1/8 t salt
1 generous C fresh blueberries, very slightly mashed
1/4 t grated lemon zest, divided
1 C flour
1/4 c milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 6-muffin tin, including the top of the tin. Set aside.

2. Beat butter in a medium bowl until creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the slightly mashed blueberries and about half the lemon zest.

3. Fold in half the flour, then half the milk, then repeat with the remaining flour and the remaining milk. Fold until just combined, don't stir vigorously.

4. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup equally.

5. In a little prep bowl, stir together the remaining 1 T sugar and the remaining lemon zest. Sprinkle a little of this mixture on the top of each muffin.

6. Bake until golden, about 25-30 minutes. Allow muffins to cool 20-30 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm.

This week's harvest included the following:

From Underwood Family Farms: Texas sweet onions, green leaf lettuce, kohlrabi, purple carrots, Easter radishes, French radishes, blueberries, rainbow chard, and arugula.

From Sage Mountain Farm: Candy spring onions, red fire lettuce, baby leeks, yellow carrots, Russian kale, broccoli leaves, and green garlic.

Thai guavas from Rancho Santa Cecilia; and mustard, radish, and arugula microgreens from Silver Lake Farms.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Lemon Basil Guacamole

Here's an interesting take on a popular dip - Lemon Basil Guacamole. It's simple to whip up and goes great with the traditional dipper, corn chips, as well as pita chips or crudites. I like to snip a bit of fresh basil from my garden. Basil is easy to grow and is happy either in the ground or in a pot. If you aren't growing any of your own, you can find fresh basil at many markets.

Lemon Basil Guacamole

1 large or 2 small ripe avocados
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 heaping T thinly chopped fresh basil
1/4 t salt, or to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Cut the avocados in half lengthwise. Remove the pit. Scoop out the flesh of the avocado into a small bowl and mash it with a fork until smooth (or you can leave it a little lumpy, if you prefer).

2. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately or chill, but serve within 1-2 hours.

If you're not serving the guacamole immediately, place a piece of plastic wrap right on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate. This will keep it from oxidizing (turning brown). Avocado turns brown quickly when exposed to oxygen. The lemon juice in this recipe works as an anti-oxidant, but creating a physical barrier between the dip and the air will help keep it looking fresh until you're ready to serve it.

By the way, if you're wondering what to do with the beautiful, fresh rosemary from Silver Lake Farms, here's an easy way to use it:

Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub 2 (or more) of your favorite potatoes and cut them into wedges. I like to leave the skins on, but you can peel them if you prefer. Place them in a medium bowl and toss them with 1-2 T olive oil, 1/2 t salt (or to taste), and 1 T snipped fresh rosemary (or to taste). You can snip the rosemary with any scissors. Snip just the green leaves, discard the woody stem. Spread out the potatoes on a baking sheet and place in a hot oven. Roast for about 35-40 minutes, until the potatoes wedges are golden brown. Serve hot.

Today's bounty included the following:

From Underwood Family Farms: Round orange carrots, green kale, candy beets, arugula, Easter radishes, red leaf lettuce, blood oranges, tangerines, strawberries, avocado, and candy spring onions.

From Sage Mountain Farms: Chantennay heirloom carrots, Seiss chard, baby celery, dandelion greens, white radishes, butter lettuce, and Italian green garlic.

From Silver Lake Farms: arugula, mustard, and radish microgreens and fresh rosemary.



Friday, May 6, 2011

Curried Peas and Potatoes with Mint Raita

This week's recipe is a version of a classic Indian recipe called Aloo Mutter, or curried peas and potatoes. It uses several of the wonderful vegetables in today's CSA box - potatoes, peas, and the beautiful fresh mint from Silver Lake Farms for the raita, or yogurt sauce.

There are many ways to make curry. I enjoy mixing and toasting whole spices to make my own aromatic curry powder. Then I grind them with a mortar and pestle. However, for today's recipe, I'm using a fabulous curry blend made at the Spice Station called Vadouvan.

If you haven't been to the Spice Station yet, this recipe is a great reason to check it out. They have an amazing array of spices from all over the world as well as their own wonderful spice blends made on the premises. And if you'd prefer to mix up your own curry powder, you can get everything you need at the Spice Station.

Spice Station owner and CSA shareholder, Brownwen, says their Vadouvan contains domestically-grown curry leaves. She gets them from a grower at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. Imported curry leaves are currently banned by the FDA in an attempt to stop the spread of the Asian Citrus Psyllid, so they're apparently quite hard to come by.

I like to use ghee, which is clarified butter, in this curry. Making clarified butter is easy. Slowly melt a stick of butter and remove all of the milk solids that rise to the top. Clarified butter has a higher burning point. It also keeps for quite a while in the fridge. Just pour it into a covered jar or crock. If you don't want to make clarified butter, you can buy it at most Indian markets and some full-service grocery stores. If you prefer, you can substitute olive oil for the ghee.

Curried Peas and Potatoes

4 T ghee
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic minced
2-3 T Vadouvan
2 T tomato paste
2 # potatoes, cubed, with or without peels
1 # sugar snap peas, shell the peas and compost the pods
2 C vegetable stock or water
1 t sugar (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large skillet with a cover, heat the ghee over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and saute until the garlic is slightly golden.

2. Stir in the Vadouvan and the tomato paste. Add the cubed potatoes and the shelled peas. Stir to coat with the spices.

3. Stir in the stock or water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Check once or twice while simmering. and add a little more liquid, if necessary.

4. When potatoes are tender, check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. You can also adjust the seasoning by adding 1 t sugar. If you'd prefer a thicker sauce, you can add 1-2 T cream or you can take 1 t corn starch or arrowroot powder in a small cup and stir in 2-3 T of the sauce until smooth, then add this mixture to the curry and re-heat, stirring, until the sauce thickens.

5. Serve the curry over basmati rice with raita (recipe below) on the side.

By the way, it's best not to use the Texas Sweet Onions in this dish. Sweet onions in general are best eaten raw. They tend to get mushy when cooked and the qualities that make them sweet and delicious raw work against them when exposed to heat.

Mint Raita

2 C thick yogurt
1 T toasted cumin seed
1 bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
1-2 t fresh lime juice
1-2 green onions, finely chopped (optional)

Stir all the ingredients together in a medium bowl and chill until ready to serve. It's nice to make the raita ahead of time to allow the flavors to blend.

Today's bounty included:

From Underwood Family Farms: rainbow chard, fennel, sugar snap peas, mizuna, yellow carrots, Texas sweet onions, red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, asparagus, spinach, and Navel oranges.

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: pumello, Golden Nugget tangerines, and avocados.

From Weiser Family Farms: Russian Banana and French Baker potatoes.

And from Silver Lake Farms: mint and mustard and radish microgreens.