Sunday, June 24, 2012

Garlic Stir-Fried Greens

When the summer growing season hits its stride, my refrigerator becomes filled to the brim with greens of all types.  I buy big bags of salad greens at the farmers' market, only to get resupplied with even more greens from my CSA share.  What's a girl to do with all of these healthy, vitamin-rich greens?  Two thoughts: garlic and stir-fry.  

This week I had a bunch of beet greens from the farmers' market plus a big bunch of kale from my CSA share.  I'd never cooked with beet greens before, but I didn't want to throw away perfectly good produce.  My food bible, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, said that beet greens can be treated much like chard in recipes.  To make the most of the huge, leafy stalks, I decided to add the beet greens to my stir-fry.  (The beets will show up later is a salad!)  The resulting stir-fry was an amazing treat.  The greens had fried up perfectly, the rice was flavorful, and a dash of soy sauce and  Sriracha added a salty kick.  I had just a tad leftover, which I sauteed up the next day with some frozen vegetables for a hearty lunch.  If you ever find yourself swimming in piles of leafy greens, this is a great way to serve them up!

Garlic Stir-Fried Greens
serves 2

for rice:
Light drizzle of olive oil
1 shallot or 1/2 of a small onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup of rice
1 cup vegetable stock

for greens:
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or other neutral-flavored oil
1 shallot or the other half of the onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large handfuls of mixed greens (kale, beet greens, spinach, chard, etc.), washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha

In a small sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallot and saute until translucent.  Add the dry rice and toast in the pan for about 3 minutes.  Pour the vegetable stock into the pan and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce the heat, cooking according to the package directions, until the rice is cooked.  

In a large saute pan or wok, heat the grapeseed oil.  Add the shallot and saute until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the greens, and saute using a pair of tongs to gently turn the greens.  Once the greens have cooked down, add the soy sauce and Sriracha.  Toss again to coat.  Remove from heat.

Once the rice is done cooking, throw it into the wok/saute pan and gently fry it over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add in your cooked greens, and toss everything to incorporate.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Serve warm.

*Thanks for visiting my blog!  If you enjoyed this recipe, "like" me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or visit me on Pinterest for more!*

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pesto and the Basil Monster

During the past two summers, I've tried to grow little pots of different herbs in my St. Paul apartment.  In order to keep an eye on them but keep them away from curious kittens, I put them on the window sill of my bathroom window, tending to the plants for a couple of weeks and then promptly forgetting about them.  

But this winter, as I bought those plastic packages filled with herbs for a tiny sprig of thyme or a couple of leaves of basil, I decided that this year I was not going to mess around.  No more sad window sill pots.  My mom gave me some big planters and I went out to the St. Paul Farmers' Market in early May, trying to decide what collection of herbs I would be growing this summer.  I ended up with basil, thyme, basil, rosemary, basil, lemon basil, basil, giant-leaf basil, basil, dill, basil, sage, and probably some more basil.

With the help of my mom's green thumb, I lovingly planted my collection of herbs into the planter and nestled it quietly in the back corner of my apartment property.  (Of course, I got permission from my landlord first!)  The little plants held so much promise and looked quite adorable in their fancy pot.  But I realize now that I've created a monster.

Every day I go out to water and check on my little herb garden, it's exploded just a little bit more.  The basil plants have tripled in height, fragrant leaves spilling out in every direction, dwarfing the other herbs.  The sage leaves are huge and fuzzy, just waiting to be picked.  The rosemary has tumbled down the side of the pot and I know my lemon basil is in there somewhere...I just have to find it!  They are all calling out to me and finally today I attacked.  

What's the best way to make excellent use of a lot of basil?  Pesto, of course.  And as with most other things in my life, the more garlic the better.  After work and before the rain hit, I went outside to harvest a big ol' bowl of my little basil leaves.  I whipped up a quick batch of pesto, using the pine nuts I had in my freezer, the Parmesan in my fridge, and the garlic on my counter.  Then I boiled up some noodles and tossed the pasta with ALL of the fresh pesto.  It was the simplest of meals but man on was delicious.  I ate more than my fair share, but luckily, the little apartment herb garden is already working on a comeback.  Weekly pesto?  Perhaps!  

If you have your own herb garden, this is the perfect pesto recipe for all of that delightful basil you have growing.  And if you are buying your basil in bulk at the store, here's a great way to make sure any extra doesn't go to waste!

Garlic Lovers Pesto
makes about 1 cup of pesto

2 cups of loosely packed basil leaves
3 cloves of garlic, skinned
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor (or even a blender), pulse the basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, cheese, and about half of the oil.  Scrape down the sides and pulse again, slowing adding the rest of the oil until you achieve the consistency that you like.  

Some recipes advise that you keep the cheese out of the pesto until you are ready to serve.  I don't keep my pesto on hand for longer than a few days, and I've never had a problem with adding the cheese straight away.  

Serve your pesto with pasta, on sandwiches, on pizzas, or as a dip.  It's pretty versatile!  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Mornings

I tend to be a creature of habit.  While I enjoy surprises and new beginnings in life, it can take me a while to readjust and find my happy medium again.  Over the last few weeks, I have been training for a new job, which left me mentally exhausted at the end of each day.  When things get busy or I feel out of sorts, I always count on my Sunday mornings to bring me back. 
No matter the day of the week and regardless of whatever craziness I managed to get into the night before, I'm awake before 7:00am.  Sometimes earlier if the kitties have anything to do with it.  On Sundays, I grab the morning paper and make a big pot of coffee before heading out to my happy place: the St. Paul Farmers' Market.
One of my favorite parts of Lowertown is Mears Park.  It's like a little green oasis amid the lofts and restaurants surrounding it.  It's so peaceful.  There are brightly colored flowers, a bubbling creek, and happy dogs running around with their owners in tow.
Then I arrive at the farmers' market.  I usually take a quick pass by all of the stands, checking on the best places to buy what's on my list and looking for inspiration from new produce.
This Sunday, farm-fresh eggs were on my list.  I love the shades of brown of the eggshells and the promise of a golden yolk inside.  Hard boiled, fried, stirred into muffin batter, or scrambled into some fried rice, eggs are one of my favorite kitchen staples
The farmers' market is a great place to check out new things.  These twirly, garlicy, snappy garlic scapes called to me this Sunday.  If you're unsure of what to do with your new ingredient, ask the farmer.  They more so than anyone else will know how to showcase the fresh flavor of your new item.
Besides the tasty, fresh food, I think that sense of community and conversation is what I love most about the farmers' market.  Everyone is there because they love fresh, local food.  Shoppers talk to the talk to the shoppers...shoppers talk to other shoppers all with the hope that these freshly grown morsels end up deliciously on someones plate.
Part of this conversation involves eating.  How can you truly know if a carrot or tomato is what you are looking for if you can't test it out?  While walking past a stand this morning, I heard a farmer say, "well taste it!  You won't know if you want to buy it until you do."  Where else are you encouraged to try before you buy?  And because the food is so fresh, you can snack on your purchases while you shop.  Thin, snappy stalks of asparagus are my favorite farmers' market treats.  But I've been known to munch on fresh berries as well.
The farmers' market reminds me that we have a plethora of food locally available to us in Minnesota.  While we might not have the most advantageous growing season, and there are some things that we can't grow here, overall we have a lot of variety!  It's no wonder the locavore movement is so strong here in the Twin Cities.  You can rely on locally-sourced produce and have a menu filled with diverse flavors.
My whole trip to the farmers' market usually lasts under one hour, and then I make the trek back home, my grocery bag bursting with expected and unexpected treats.  I think about all the delightful things I can cook with my new produce over the upcoming week.  I leave the zen of the farmers' market, once again at peace and ready for my week.
I can absorb all of the crazy of the upcoming week, knowing that I'll be able to draw from my Sunday morning routine every time I pull out my freshly picked strawberries or sugar snap peas.  And the crazy can hit anytime, anyplace, even a block away from the farmers' market!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Friends on Food

I swear, I have been cooking!  I've been recycling back through some of my old favorites, eating some super easy meals, and trying to get reoriented with my new schedule at this new job.  But today I finally had some time to sit down and think about planning a menu I can share with all of you.  My CSA share started last week (and they still have some prorated shares available if you want to check out this delightful little farm!) so I'm anticipating a lot of fresh, veggie-filled recipes in the future.

But for now, enjoy a long-delayed Friends on Food, courtesy of the episode I'm watching right now!

Season 1 - The One with All the Poker
Monica: Alright, here we go. We've got salmon roulettes and assorted crudites.
Joey: Whoa, whoa, whoa, Monica, what're you doin'? This is a poker game. You can't serve food with more than one syllable. It's gotta be like chips, or dip, or pretz--
Monica: I'm sorry, I guess I was all out of pretz!