Archive for June, 2012
As a kid the only kind of beans I ate were out of a can. We’d usually had cut green beans, but every once in awhile we’d have yellow wax beans. I really liked the flavor and texture of wax beans. So, once I started growing some of my own food, it was natural for me to try yellow wax beans.
The first beans of the year came in today. It wasn’t a huge number, but enough for a nice side dish. I wanted to have the wax beans with as little “ornamentation” as possible. So I just steamed them. Then we sprinkled them with fresh dill, drizzled a tiny bit of ghee on them, a twist of lemon and salt, and they were delectably ready to eat.
The biggest problem I have with beans is I don’t have much of a repertoire for them. I prepare them as above, or I do a bean casserole. However, there must be dozens of different ways to fix beans that would be tasty and healthy. I’m talking the green bean variety, not dried beans.
Sometimes it seems to me that foods that are easy to grow and produce nicely have the fewest recipes for ways to fix them: green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutagabas, carrots, all see to have few really unique recipes.
If you have a delicious vegetarian recipe for beans, please share it, and enlighten all of us on more unique ways to fix easily grown vegetable.
Resources For Spicing Up Your Cuisine
Recently I was doing a cooking demonstration and one of the participants asked me if I knew about the new spice shop in town. No! I replied, in surprise and anticipation. She gave me a card that would give me a nice discount to go check the place out and try some of their herbs and spices.
Savory Spice Shop is a franchise that I knew nothing about, but am glad I found. My local coop has a very nice selection of the usual herbs, but here I had 10 different paprikas, all from different countries of the world. All I had to do was open the Spanish Paprika and it was love at first sniff. I spent at least an hour walking around reading ingredients in blends and opening and sniffing dozens of different herbs and spices.
Adding More Spice To My Life
I found two real winners that day. One was the Spanish paprika, which has a dark earthy smell and flavor to it. My homegrown paprika is light and fresh picked flavor so they really compliment each other. The other was a Mild Curry, that doesn’t have any of the hot pepper spice in it. Both I and my husband really, really like this, although to me it is not a traditional curry, it is even better!
What I found for myself, is that I will probably still continue to buy my regular, everyday spices at the co-op, because they are significantly cheaper. I’ll use the spice shop to purchase unusual, hard to find, or unique herbs and spices I can’t get elsewhere.
You might want to take a look and see if you have a spice shop of some sort in your area. Being stuck with just the spices available at a regular grocery store would be the pits as far as I’m concerned. If you don’t have a spice shop nearby Savory Spice Shop has an online store. The only problem there is you can’t smell them first and you have to buy the product in fixed sizes. At least I can buy as much or as little of something I want at both the spice shop and the co-op.
Share Your Favorite Spice With Us
What’s your all time favorite spice? Do you have a recipe to share that you like to use it in?
Blueberries are a rather maligned fruit. Until recent years you couldn’t even buy them in a supermarket. All you could find were products with blueberries in them. That all changed when blueberries were found to be a “superfood.” Who would have thought that the lowly blueberry would be near the top of the heap in antioxidants. They’re also high in vitamin C, B complex, vitamin E, vitamin A, copper, selenium, zinc, and iron.
Not only that, there have been studies that show that blueberries may protect the brain from aging diseases like Alzheimers. One study actually showed improvement in cognitive tests with just two weeks of high doses of blueberry juice. Now that’s a prescription I could follow.
North Carolina, where I live, is one of the biggest producers of blueberries in the nation. We have the perfect highly acidic soil and climate they seem to like. One of the first perma-crops we planted on our property were blueberries and this year they are really coming into their own. We have blueberries the size of quarters and an abundance of them.
Right now we’re just eating them fresh with a little maple yogurt; occasionally pairing them with strawberries. However, fresh blueberries are delicious in muffins and other quick breads, and we’ve made an amazing blueberry syrup by simply combining fresh berries and sweetener (Sucanat for us). It isn’t as thick as if you cook it, but it retains all those amazing nutrients and antioxidants.
One important thing to note is that organic blueberries have even higher amounts of nutrients. Domestic non-organic blueberries are listed as number 10 on the the dirty dozen list, so keeping them organic keeps you away from as many as 50 pesticides and give you even more of those desirable antioxidants!
Check to see if you can successfully grow blueberries in your area and plant a hedge of blueberries. They are attractive plants and will feed you better than a hedge of hollies will any day!
Alright, I’ve talked a lot about Cooking by Feel, so here’s a written rundown of how things happen in my kitchen. I’d video it, but it’s so complex and I’m grabbing stuff right and left, so don’t know if it would work very well.
Anyway, today I was totally uninspired to cook. As a matter of fact, I would have gone out to eat if there was anyplace nearby that has good healthy food, but we live in the country…
So, I was whining to my husband about not wanting to cook and going out to eat. He asked me what I would eat if I could go out to eat. I told him I was in the mood for Chinese food, Asian style food.
Even that didn’t inspire me. Next, I went to the internet and found a recipe I really thought looked tasty on the Food & Wine site – Vegetable Stir-Fry with Ginger Vinaigrette.
I wrote down the ingredients and headed to the kitchen. Below is a list of what it called for and what I ended up using.
- Fresh ginger Fresh ginger
- Lemon juice Lemon juice
- Cooking oil Safflower oil
- Soy sauce Soy sauce
- Asian sesame oil Toasted sesame oil
- Black pepper Black pepper
- Garlic Asafoetida
- Snow Peas Garden peas (fresh from the garden)
- Radishes Bell pepper
- Bok choy Chinese broccoli
- Spinach Asian green
- Tofu Broccoli
As you can see I didn’t have a lot of the ingredients needed. However, when I thought about the qualities of each; taste, texture, color, etc., I found things in my fridge that would approximate what was in the original recipe. It ended up being a delicious Asian-style dish that we put over spaghettini, because we didn’t have any soba noodles. This is one way I do Cooking by Feel, the other is just make a dish up as I go. I’ll try and show how that works in a later entry.
Here’s a snap of their dish and mine. Which would you choose? (Remember I’m not a professional photographer with props and lights)
Harvesting Fresh Herbs
In preparation for moving my herb garden to a permanent location I’m harvesting some of the herbs. I try to grow as many of my herbs as possible, because they taste so much better than store bought herbs. Even the herbs I can buy in bulk are missing some key element that home grown and dried herbs have. There’s something that happens when they dry them at high temperatures that changes the flavor.
Today I harvested oregano and spearmint. I’ve been working in my office for several hours and came out to get a drink of water. I was greeted by the heavenly scent of oregano. It smelled like I was walking into a five-star Italian restaurant!
Home Processed Tastes Better
I use a temperature controlled dehydrator, set at 90 degrees (F), and let them dry for approximately 8 hours. If I can, I store my herbs whole. Otherwise I process them minimally. For the mint, I’ll put the whole leaves in an air tight container. The oregano will need to be stripped from the stems, but I do this trying to keep from breaking them up too much.
For each break there is in an herb leaf, the essential oils are released. I’ve never understood why anyone would by rubbed sage. It is so smashed that most of the essential oils have been released. If you rub the sage yourself, just before you use it, the taste will be totally different and be much more aromatic. Powdered herbs are an even more distasteful product. Once the herb has been powdered you need to use it within a few days, otherwise the taste will begin to deteriorate rapidly and you’ll just be left with tasteless green powder in a short time.
So, if you want herbs that will set your tongue to tingling and remain tingling for hours afterward (I can still taste the spearmint I put in my smoothie this morning), then use them fresh or dry them yourself. It will make an average dish taste gourmet just with this one small change.
Share Your Thoughts
What are your experiences with using home processed herbs? Have any interesting new ideas or stories to share?