Kale Pesto

I diligently planted several basil plants a few weeks ago. A few days later a crazy hail storm arrived. Afterwards, my poor basil plants were diminished to nothing but stems. So I replanted. All along, I was motivated by dreams of pesto. Pesto on pizza, pesto on pasta, pesto on sandwiches and pesto on warm potatoes. Maybe even a bowl of pesto all by itself.

kale-bowl

Basil is a traditional ingredient of pesto, but it doesn’t have to be the only one. Translated from Italian, pesto means to crush or to pound. And if you’re an Italian grandma, you probably do your crushing and pounding with a mortar and pestle – not a food processor. But times have changed, and so should pesto.

Pesto, meet everyone’s darling green vegetable – kale. With kale absolutely everywhere these days, and at an extremely affordable price ($2 – $4 a bunch, on average) it makes good sense to transform a bunch into pesto, as long as you’re using a food processor, that is. I often find myself with more than enough kale and looking for ways to eat it that aren’t just another plate of greens, if you know what I mean.

Unlike kale, basil doesn’t have a strong, prominent flavor. It allows the other pesto ingredients – nuts/seeds, cheese, and garlic to really stand out. I like to change things up with the choice of nuts or seeds too. Pine nuts tend to be out of my price range so I opt for whatever I have on hand. Often, it’s sunflower seeds. I’ve also tried pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans and almonds. I think it’s personal preference. In the end, it all gets crushed together and hey, that means pesto, right?

While I’m advocating for kale based pesto today, you should experiment with different herbs and leafy greens.

kale-in-food-processor

Kale Pesto

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1 1/2 cups pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch (3 cups) kale
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Pulse sunflower seeds in the food processor until finely ground.
  2. Add kale, garlic and olive oil. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add Parmesan and blend to combine.
  4. Taste and add more ingredients as needed to reach your desired consistency and taste.

Zucchini Chard Cakes

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve shared this zucchini chard cake recipe with folks this summer. I was sure that as soon as I mentioned zucchini I would be greeted with a sigh and eyeroll.

“No more zucchini!” they’d say. “We’ve had enough!”

 

Because, let’s be honest, each summer we all have more than enough of the ubiquitous green squash. Even if we don’t, we probably know someone looking to give away a few dozen or so. But to my surprise, as I traveled around making zucchini cake after zucchini cake, I didn’t get one complaint. In fact, people were enthusiastic to find another way to put it to use.

I’m always happy to be proven wrong. Really. That’s why this became my go to dish (along with a complementary tomato basil chutney) for my cooking demos and local food tastings. Apparently we haven’t reached peak zucchini. Word is still out on kale, though.

rainbow swiss chard keene fm by SC, 2008

 

These cakes use the classic technique of vegetable hiding. Zucchini doesn’t have a strong flavor all on its own and when you mix it into what is more or less a standard pancake recipe, you hardly can tell it’s there at all. So much so, that you can also get away with chopping up even more healthy green stuff – chard and parsley – and mixing it in as well. Simply avoid those fruitless debates with the picky eaters in your life (note: none of mine happen to be kids) and just go ahead and serve these anyway. Before they can tell you how much they don’t like these vegetables, they’ll be happily and unknowingly eating them anyway. Call me cruel, but this is one of my great pleasures in life.

Zucchini Chard Cakes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: about 10 – 4 inch pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb zucchini
  • 1/2 onion
  • small bunch of Swiss chard leaves
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • splash of milk
  • 2 Tbsp oil + some for the pan

 

We’re going to need to shred the zucchini. You can do this quite easily with a box grater, or if you’re intending to shred a large quantity, I’d opt for the food processor like I did here. If not using all of the zucchini at once, it does freeze nicely.

Next, grate the onion. I prefer to grate the onion instead of chop it, as it will blend better into the pancakes.

 

Remove the stems from the chard and save for another purpose. Chopped and tossed into a stir fry, perhaps? Then chop the leaves.

Combine the egg, salt, and flour in a bowl. Add in the zucchini, chard, onion, garlic and parsley and stir to form a thick batter. Add just a splash of milk and the oil to form a more workable, pourable batter.

 

Heat your skillet and lightly coat it with oil when hot. Preheat the oven to 200F. Pour 1/4 cup spoonfuls of batter onto the hot skillet and cook 2-3 minutes per side, until browned. Flip and cook another 2 minutes. Transfer the cakes to the oven to keep warm while you cook the remainder of the pancakes.

Serve as a side, topped with tomato chutney, or as a light summer dinner with a side of greens.

Tomato Basil Chutney

Have you ever noticed that the right condiment or sauce can transform an average dish into a great dish? That’s the case with this tomato chutney. The concept of chutney, similar to relish and savory jam, derives from India where chutneys are made of fruit, spices and vinegar for preservation.

 

chutney
They can be either sweet or hot but are almost always savory. This tomato chutney leans toward the sweet side while the ginger provides just a faint sense of spice. Use this recipe as a guide then try increasing the amount of ginger or adding a little heat with hot sauce, cayenne or chili powder. I like the earthiness of the basil when added in just towards the end of simmering. Basil and tomatoes embody the taste of summer for me.

IMG_0052

What does one do with chutney? You can serve it like they do in India – with curry – or with cheese and crackers, spoon some over a piece of meat, use it in place of ketchup, or mix into cream cheese, mayo, or yogurt to create a spread. I served this chutney with zucchini chard pancakes and it provided some of the expected sweetness you’d often receive from maple syrup. Without it, the pancakes would be pretty average and incomplete. Together, they hit on all the right notes.

 

Tomato Basil Chutney

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: about 1 cup chutney

sliced cherries

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4-5 large basil leaves, shredded

cherry tomatoes

 

Wash, slice and destem your tomatoes. I used cherry, but any kind will do. Cherry are just slightly less work, I think, as you can just slice them in half. We’re leaving on the skins and seeds here for texture.

In a pot, combine the tomatoes with the onion and garlic. Let this cook down, about 8 minutes. Then add in the flavorings – the salt, ginger, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Continue simmering over low heat until everything has broken down and started to form a sauce. If you find you have too much liquid, continue simmering another few minutes. Stir in the basil right at towards the end of cooking, then adjust the seasoning as you like and serve either warm or at room temp.

Braised Pork Chops and Turnips

It seems the sun is having a difficult time finding its way to Vermont this spring. And while I’d rather be cooking out on a grill, the perpetual dreariness still has me inside and largely using produce from last season. And that’s alright. But I did finally dig up my garden and plant a few seeds this week and I’m happy about that.

While I’m over the filling stew-like dishes of winter, I like the simplicity of these pork chops and turnips. They’re browned and simmered in one pan and aside from a minimal sauce, don’t need much else. It reminded me of how much I enjoy the combination of braised meat and vegetables. It’s a good technique to know. The particular kind or cut of meat can change, and any root vegetable would work here too.

Braised Porkchops and Turnips

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 – 1 inch thick, bone in pork chops
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 pound turnips or rutabaga, cut into one inch pieces
  • 1 cup white wine, chicken stock, or cider
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Let your pork chops come to room temperature for a few minutes. This helps the meat cook evenly in the pan. Then season both sides with salt and pepper.

Pre-heat a saute pan over medium high heat for a minute or two. Preheating is important, so don’t skip it. Add your oil and let that get hot as well. Both of these steps will help the pork chop, or any piece of meat, in browning. Also, be sure to give the meat plenty of space in the pan.

Let the meat sear, without disturbing, about 3-4 minutes on each side. The meat should sizzle when it hits the pan. If oil starts flying out, cover the pan for a minute and lower the heat a little.We’re not looking to fully cook the pork in this step, just get a nice browning.

When both sides are browned, remove the chops from the pan, set aside, and add in the chopped turnips.

turnips

Then add in the liquid, 2 tablespoons of parsley, butter and brown sugar. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove anything that might have stuck during browning.Cover, let the turnips simmer for 10-15 minutes, until almost tender, then add the pork chops back in.

The chops should be sitting in the liquid, add a little more if this is not the case, and put the cover back on the pan. simmer for another 5 minutes or so, until the pork is cooked through (at about 145F) and the turnips are completely tender.

pork chop1

Portion the turnips on two plates, top each with a pork chop, juice from the pan and the remaining parsley.

Creamy Barley Pudding

I always loved rice pudding as a kid, especially when warm off the stove, with a splash of cold milk, some raisins thrown in and cinnamon sprinkled on top. While I could still go for a bowl of rice pudding today, after trying this barley pudding, rice may no longer be my first grain of choice for a dessert like this. And as with all of the grain recipes and techniques we’ve looked at recently, experimenting with grains outside of rice is the goal.

The barley in this dessert is light yet has a nice chewy texture. Combined with the orange zest and dried fruit, this isn’t a dessert one need feel guilty about enjoying. Any dried fruit could work here, as well as fresh. It’s apple season and this time of year I’ll put apples on anything. Yet this pudding actually does fit well. Those raisins and that cinnamon still pair nicely though, even without the rice.

 Creamy Barley Pudding

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 3/8 tsp salt
  • 2 cups low fat milk
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1 cup dried or fresh fruit
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla

In a medium saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add barley and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook at a boil for 25 minutes. Drain barley and return to pan. Add 1-1/2 cups milk, sugar, orange zest, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in dried cherries and cook uncovered 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally until barley is tender. Barley will still be chewy and mixture will appear curdled, don’t be concerned. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and remaining 1/2 cup milk. Stir some of hot barley mixture into egg mixture, then whisk egg mixture into saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, for one to two minutes or until thick and creamy. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Recipe from lesliebeck.com

Greens 101

We’ve been talking about greens all month here on the blog. And you’re probably seeing greens everywhere at the market and in your farm shares. But maybe you aren’t so sure the difference between chard and collards or mesclun and romaine. So here is a visual guide to a few of our favorite greens and some info to get you started.

Name: Arugula Season: spring – summer Taste: bitter Cooking Methods: braise, raw (salads), saute, soups, wilt Pairs well with: balsamic vinegar, cheese: goat and Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, tomatoesTry:arugula + balsamic + lemon + olive oil + Parmesan OR raw arugula + pears + prosciutto

 

Name: Bok choy
Season: year-round

Taste: bitter Cooking Methods: boil, braise, raw, stir-fry Pairs well with: ginger, rice, sesame oil, soy sauce Try:bok choy + oyster sauce + mushrooms (stir-fried) OR bok choy + sesame oil + vinegar + scallions (raw)

 

Name: Collard Greens Season: winter – spring Taste: bitter Cooking Methods: boil, braise, steam, stir-fry Pairs well with: bacon, black-eyed peas, cider vinegar, onions, salt pork,

Try: steamed collard greens + brown rice + black-eyed peas

 

 

Name: Dandelion greens

Season: late spring – early autumn Taste: bitter Cooking Methods: raw, saute, steam Pairs well with: anchovies, bacon, Dijon mustard, garlic, onionsTry:steamed dandelion greens + garlic + onion + Parmesan

Name: Kale Season: spring- autumn  Taste: bitter, sweet Cooking Methods: blanch, boil, braise, saute, steam, stir-fry Pairs well with: chicken stock, garlic, nutmeg, olive oil, onions, pasta, red pepper flakes, roasted meats, thyme, tomatoes Try:kale + garlic + olive oil + red wine vinegar OR kale + onions + salt + smoked sausage

Name: Loose leaf lettuce (lettuces in general)

Season: spring- autumn Cooking Methods: raw Pairs well with: apples, bacon, basil, cheese, dill, eggs, mint, nuts, olive oil, parsley, pears, raisins, raw vegetables, sprouts, tarragon, vinegar Try: limitless options here

 

Name: Mesclun (mixed baby lettuces)

Season: spring       Taste: bitter, sweet Cooking Methods: raw Pairs well with: basil, goat cheese, chives, lemon, olive oil, pecans, shallots, tarragon, vinaigrette Try:mesclun + goat cheese + hazelnuts or pecans

Name: Romaine (Head lettuce)

Season: spring- autumn Taste: bitter, sweet Cooking Methods: grill, rawPairs well with: anchovies, avocados, Dijon mustard, eggs, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, red onions, shallots, vinegar, walnuts

 

 

Try:romaine + anchovies + Parmesan cheese OR romaine + capers + garlic + Parmesan cheese + red onions

Name: Swiss chard
Season: year-round    Taste: bitter

Cooking Methods: boil, braise, sauté, steam, stir-fry

Pairs well with: bacon, garlic, lemon, onions, mushrooms, pasta, potatoes, red pepper flakes, thyme, vinegar

 

Try: chard + bell peppers + Parmesan cheese + eggplant OR chard + red pepper flakes + lemon juice

Braising Greens

Braising is a cooking method that involves both dry and moist heat and can be achieved in a pan on top of the stove. What’s great about braising greens is that it’s the same technique for whichever green you chose to use: kale, escarole, collards and Swiss chard are all good options. You can even mix different greens together. This makes a great side dish any night of the week.

Braised GreensServes 4 Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water, broth, or white wine
  • 1 large bunch of rinsed and roughly torn greens  (6 – 8 cups)

Preparation

  1. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat.
  2. Add garlic, red pepper, and greens.
  3. Cook until greens just begin to wilt.
  4. Add in the liquid and salt.
  5. Simmer until liquid has reduced in half and greens are tender.