Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pickled Mustard Green Stems

 I hate to waste anything I grow in my vegetable garden, keeping this in mind when I picked Red Giant Mustard earlier this week I set aside the stems when I stripped them of their leaves.  Here is what I made with the stems.  Crunchy, slightly spicy, nice and dilly with just a hint of heat from the mustard stems.  You will love these little pickles!

Red Giant Mustard from my garden
For this recipe you will need a clean quart jar with a tight fitting lid.

In a small bowl add: 
1 cup Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
1 generous Tbsp Pickling Spices
1 dried small red pepper, left whole (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
Stir to blend

Slice the stems of the Mustard Greens into bite-size chunks and fill jar to about 3/4 full.  Pour over the pickling vinegar blend, and add just enough water to fill jar.  Add a bit of sea salt if desired.  Place the lid on tightly and shake to distribute the spices.  Refrigerate for 2-3 days, give it a good shake once a day.  These will keep for a month or more refrigerated, but believe me they will not last that long in this house!  Tony and I each had about a 1/2 cup last night as a snack. 

leave a bit of head space so you can shake the jar now and then
Every day or so I pick herbs from the garden to use in my cooking, it makes such a difference in the final dish.

My Homemade Pickling Spice Blend

1 tablespoons Mustard Seed
1 tablespoon Coriander Seed
1 tablespoon Caraway Seeds
1 Tablespoon Celery Seed
2 Whole Cloves
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger (or a fresh slice if using immediately)
1 teaspoon crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 or 2 Bay Leaves, broken into pieces
1 teaspoon Whole Allspice Berries
1 teaspoon Black Peppercorns
1 teaspoon Whole Dill Seeds ( I used fresh dill for this recipe)

Some of the spices for the blend, the jar on the right is my spice blend. I have a collection of 1950's and 60's Spice Island Jars that I keep refilling.  Each jar has the original date on the bottom molded into the glass.
Optional: for a sweeter blend you can also add cinnamon sticks, but I prefer to only use those if I am canning sweet pickles, relishes or crab apples.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

French Flageolet Bean and Cabbage Cassoulet with Rosemary

My two rosemary plants are in full bloom, the pantry is stocked with all sorts of beans and I have been craving a hearty cassoulet.  I also had a head of cabbage that needed to be used, thoughts of that with caraway seeds and the flageolet beans were cooked the day before; this is the recipe that developed as I began cutting the cabbage.  A hearty Vegetarian cassoulet!

French Flageolet beans are a small pale green bean. If you can't find these substitute a small white bean such as navy beans or cannelini beans.

French Flageolet Bean and Cabbage Cassoulet with Rosemary
Serves 8

1 large Onion (about 1 ½ cups diced)
1 large Shallot, minced
2 Celery stalks, sliced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp whole Caraway Seed 
I head of Cabbage cut in chunks (about 4-6 cups)
2 large Carrots, sliced (about 2 cups)
3 cups cooked French Flageolet Beans
6 small Russet Potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
Water as needed
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of fresh Rosemary
Salt and Pepper (I do this after cooking, but you can add it during if you prefer)

In a large stock pot, sauté onions, shallot, carrots, celery, and garlic in a bit of vegetable stock for 5 minutes; add cabbage, potatoes, rosemary sprig, caraway seed, bay leaves and 5 cups of vegetable stock to cover. Simmer partially covered about 20 minutes or until cabbage is almost tender. Watch the liquid and if you need more, add water or more vegetable stock. Stir in beans and simmer partially covered another 15-20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through.  The cabbage should melt in your mouth!  
Serve in shallow soup bowls garnished with fresh rosemary, in bloom (if available) and some hearty, crusty whole grain bread to soak up the juices.  Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thyme Scented Blood Orange and Cranberry Glazed Chioggia Beets (and bonus recipe)

4-5 small Chioggia Beets, cooked and peeled**

1 cup Blood Orange juice
1/3 cup dried Cranberries
1Tbsp Orange Blossom Honey
3 fresh Lemon Thyme sprigs
Fresh Mint (Orange Bergamot if you have it)

1. Combine orange juice, honey, thyme sprigs and cranberries in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until reduced by 1/3, this process with take about 10-15 minutes. 
Taste and adjust sweetness to your preference.  If using tart cranberries you may need a bit more honey.  

2. Slice the cooked beets and arrange on a platter or shallow bowl. Remove the thyme sprigs from the glaze pour some over the beets.  (You may have some glaze left over; see the bottom photos for suggestion.) Garnish the beets with fresh mint and serve.

**you can either roast the beets whole in the oven or simmer in a saucepan covered with water until tender. I chose to simmer these to keep the colors vibrant; drain, and place in cold water until cool enough to handle and peel. The skins will slip right off.

**I never peel or cut beets prior to cooking, I also leave the root and an inch or two of the tops on them.  The skins and stem will slip off easily under cold water, and this way they won’t bleed. 

If you don’t have blood oranges substitute any sweet orange juice; tangerine juice would be nice.  Also any honey will do here, I just happened to have orange blossom on hand.

Look how the Chioggia beets match the colors of the Blood oranges. This is what keeps me gardening year after year.  Mother Nature provides us with so much beauty, even if you don't eat these foods you should grow them for the beauty they bring to your life.

Here is another use for the glaze:  Red Beans with Beet Greens Salad with Cranberry Orange Glaze Dressing.

Take the washed tops from your beets and chop them into bite size pieces (I also used the stems, but first blanched them in the beet water to tenderize them.), you should have about 3 cups total.  Toss in a cup of cooked small red beans, mix in the leftover Blood Orange and Cranberry Glaze. Add some unsalted roasted almonds for crunch.  Yum!

A couple of the mints I have growing in pots on my patio.  I keep these in pots because mint would invade my herb garden if planted out, nice to walk on but you won't have anything else growing!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lemony Italian Butter Beans and Collard Greens Stew

Makes 8 servings

1 ½ cups Onion, diced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 ½ cups Celery, diced
2 ½ cups Italian Butter Beans, drained
1 ½ bunches Collard Greens, stemmed and cut into small pieces
3-4 Carrots, medium to large, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 ½ cups diced Tomatoes with juice, canned no salt added
1 red, ripe Anaheim Chile pepper, diced
4 cups clear Vegetable Broth, low-sodium or no salt added
2 Bay Leaves
¼ tsp ground Nutmeg
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Additional water or broth as needed

Place diced onions, garlic, celery and red chile pepper in large soup pot over medium-low heat, add enough water to sauté vegetables, a bit of brown is a good thing so don’t worry it the onions stick a bit while cooking about 5 to 10 minutes, just add water as needed.  Add carrots, tomatoes and spices, simmer about 5 minutes.  Add broth, bay leaves, butter beans, and collard greens; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes or until carrots and collard greens are tender. You may need to add additional broth or water to make sure you have enough liquid.  I like this chunky like a stew so just enough liquid to keep it simmering.

Stir in lemon juice, and zest a few minutes before serving, remove bay leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper.  I like to let people season their own bowls, this helps to drastically reduce the sodium use in our house.

 Fully ripe Anaheim chiles I dry these once ripe, but these still were moist and sweet.

A bowl full of heart healthy goodness!