Follow Your Food: Spring Latkes

Memorial Day is the unofficial marker of our transition from Spring into Summer. Now the sun rises early and sets late, giving plants longer hours of solar radiation for photosynthesis and metabolism. The increased photon energy provided by longer days allows for greater glucose sugar production. Naturally, as the plant makes more sugar, it must be allocated for storage. So, to keep up with energy production, the roots of certain species develop to accommodate the glut of glucose and store it as a carbohydrate. Over time this storage unit becomes a viable food crop, which we all enjoy in the form of a carrot or a beet. This trait to store increased energy is not ubiquitous among all species. Normally, it is either something represented in perennial plants, who must survive for a number of years or has been cultivated in annual plants from years of farming. Most plants would prefer to allocate available resources directly towards reproduction and setting a flower head. Eventually the fertilized flower develops into a fruiting body to provide life to a new generation, or to a hungry table. This requires an immense amount of energy, and if the plant has not met a critical mass of photosynthetic capacity, reproduction can stress a plant. So, it is critical that the season is right and the days are long to plant a fruiting crop. As Spring is to green, summer is to color; that color is derived by new growth in root and fruit crops. This week we saw an example the shape and color of early summer food with fresh Zucchini and Carrots.

Fortunately, for most, the introduction to summer is met with an extended weekend. I know how I will spend these long days ahead; sharing food and late afternoon memories with friends to grow our roots deeper.

This is an amended recipe to one I found online for some vegetable latkes (or fritters, whatever you prefer). I must say, this is an easy and delicious way to use seasonal produce, and nothing but seasonal produce. If you go online, there are a lot of iterations of this meal. I went with what worked best for the materials I had on hand. Find what works best for you. But here is a little kick to get you on your way…

Ingredients to serve 4 Latkes:

  • 2 small Zucchini, shredded (Groundwork Organics)
  • 3-4 medium Carrots, peeled and shredded (Organic Redneck)
  • 1 medium Potato, boiled and mashed (Rainshadow Organics)
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, minced (Groundwork Organics)
  • 1 Green Onion, chopped (Cinco Estrellas)
  • 1/4 tsp thyme (Sagestruck Herbary)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (Rainshadow Organics)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika, or 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or both!)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Half & Half

Cooking instructions:

  1. Begin by prepping your zucchini and carrots by shredding with a large-holed cheese grader. If you are like me and lack this piece of equipment, this can be done with some dextrous knife work. Transfer veggies to a collander, add the salt and mix. Allow to sit for 15 minutes or so.
  2. Add the potato to water and boil until soft all of the way through. This can be accomplished more quickly if the potato is quartered beforehand. Remove potato to a bowl, add the half & half and mash.
  3. Add the Flour and Baking powder to a separate bowl and mix.
  4. Squeeze the veggies dry, using either just your hands or a cheesecloth, and transfer to a bowl. Add the Garlic, Paprika, Cayenne and Thyme. Mix together. Now add the mashed up potato, mix. Lastly, add the flour/baking powder and mix.
  5. Once mixed, grab a medium sized handful and pack into a ball, repeat 3 times. Place the uncooked latkes on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes so that they hold form better while cooking.
  6. Heat up 2 Tbsp of oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the packed latkes. Cook for 3-5 minutes and turn. They should be slightly charred and crisp when flipped. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Fin!

I did not have the ingredients at my disposal to make an adequate sauce for serving, but these would be amazing served with a yogurt based side. Perhaps yogurt, cucumber and lemon.

This was so easy, so good, and almost 100% local, that it may just become a staple in my diet.

Advertisements

Follow Your Food: Asparagus

 

I have already written a few time about the effect of spring in our fields. Spring also offers us special ingredients to use for our meal. As this is the season of first life and growth, many of the crops farmers harvest are at their most tender stage in the plant life cycle. This past week’s produce box hosted the true taste of tender spring with Springbank Farm’s Asparagus.

Asparagus, or Asparagus officionalis, is the perfect spring crop. Due to the value of this crop and the short season in which it grown, agrarian European communities have long viewed asparagus season as the highlight of the foodie calendar. Right now the flavor of its young shoots are tender and delicate as the plant accumulates water. Despite being 93% water, the juvenile shoots are packed with concentrated  nutrient densities of Iron, Vitamin K, and B Vitamins (Folate, Riboflavin and Thiamine).  There is rich with the amino acid asparagine, from which the plant derives its name. As an amino acid, asparagine facilitates the synthesis of proteins in our body. Although non-essential, asparagine’s contribution to protein biosynthesis is shown to be valuable in quite a number of ways. Its most prominent role play out in our nervous system by contributing to neuron growth and signal transmission across nerve endings. This amino acid may also prove important for the avid outdoorsman by smoothing liver function, which, in turn, leads to improved athletic stamina and builds resistance to nagging fatigue. Finally, asparagine is a fine complement to a vegetarian diet to increase the bioavailability of plant based proteins. I would say that this is a power packed vegetable for the lifestyle many of us choose to pursue here in Central Oregon!

Unfortunately,  its only a short time. Since asparagus is an herbaceous perennial, its structure becomes more robust as the season progresses. In the later weeks of springtime, the apical buds begin to open up, or “fern out”. At this point, the once tender stalks begin to lignify as more resources are directed to photosynthetic and reproductive tissues. So, make the most out of this spring, and every spring by sharing this wonderful crop in meals while it is still around. So to help, we have a recipe that won over our stomach’s. This week we want to tackle breakfast. Since it is the first meal of the day, a hearty breakfast is critical to fueling an action packed day at work, in the mountains, on the river or a high grade climb. Often times the tight schedule that comes with such a lifestyle prevents us from really being able to invest time into creating a real morning meal. Well the weekend is a perfect time to get it going and create something special to share!

Last time I shared some good ol’ Red Beans and Rice. This time I pulled a recipe from Lucinda Quinn’s second cookbook, Mad Hungry Cravings, and found an Asparagus and Spinach Frittata. I will let the rest speak for itself:

Ingredients:

Frittata, serves 6:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound of asparagus with the ends trimmed

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

1/2 lemon

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound of fresh spinach, chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

10 large eggs

1 1/2 cups whole milk

Sauce:

1 tablespoon capers

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 scallions, finely chopped (I used shallots)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375, with the rack in the middle position. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium- high hea. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When it shimmers, add the asparagus and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until the asparagus is lightly browned in spots. Transfer to a plate, squeeze the lemon juice over it, and let cool
  2. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic, spinach, pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and cook for just about a minute.
  3. Whisk the eggs and milk in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Pour into the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until the eggs begin to scramble but are still very wet. Remove from heat.
  4. Distribute a layer of the asparagus over the eggs, pressing them gently into the mixture. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the frittata is set.
  5. Meanwhile, for the sauce, combine the salt, pepper, capers, scallions, parsley, oil and vinegar into a small bowl
  6. Slice frittata into wedges and serve with sauce.

Happy Accident

I know it’s been a while since I posted anything, and you can blame it on the end-of-winter-waiting-for-days-to-be-longer hibernation. But last night I cooked a dinner that just has to be shared. It was part design, part accident. As it turns out, you can’t go wrong with good mushrooms, good Parmesan, good pasta, and a good veggie-roasting routine.

Now, I don’t cook  with recipes often. They take too much time and planning for me. So what I’m about to share comes with the caveat that I probably couldn’t recreate it exactly if I tried tonight.

I started with almost a whole pound of sliced Shiitake mushrooms. I sauteed with butter and olive oil (butter for flavor, olive oil to raise the burning temperature). The mushrooms were sauteed with a little crushed red pepper, tarragon, and garlic for probably 10 minutes. I then added a medium pinch of flour to thicken, a splash of veggie broth for flavor, and about a cup-and-a-half of milk. Meanwhile, I cooked the whole wheat pasta.

Once the sauce started to boil and thicken I added some Parmesan. Well, a lot of Parmesan. I stirred that in and got a creamy, but not too thick, mushroom sauce. Then I drained the pasta, tossed a bit more Parmesan (the rest of the container I had…) into the noodles, then let them fall into their creamy fate for a final minute of cooking.

On the side I served roasted carrots and parsnips (cut into chunks, toss liberally with olive oil, salt, and pepper, put on baking dish in single layer, and bake in 400-degree oven for 15 minutes).

With a little parsley on top of the pasta, and the still-slightly-crunchy-in-the-middle veggies, I got what turned out to be my new favorite meal. It was full-flavored yet totally simple and comforting. Lots of protein and vitamins, yet delightfully meat-free. Umami, spice, texture, and indulgence all wrapped up in one tidy meal.

Ingredients from Ag Connect: Shiitake mushrooms, Italian parsley, Parmesan, carrots, and parsnips.

Fennel Ideas

While I don’t have any eye-popping pictures or ready-to-go recipes for you this week, I have what I hope will be some ideas that sound so good that they just might inspire you.

 

Fennel is something I didn’t learn to love until recently. But when I did, I went head-over-heels for it. It’s crunchy, and light, and its taste is so unique. Fennel adds a flavor that nothing else can.

 

When I lived in Southwest Portland, I went to a restaurant once that boasted a delicious home-made hummus with grilled veggies. The hummus was good. It was everything a hummus should be: Creamy, garlicky, lemony, and thick enough that it would scoop easily using any food vessel. What stood out for me most, though, was the grilled fennel that was part of the assorted veggies. It was still crunchy, but the grill had given it an extra depth of flavor. It was delicate and aromatic, and it accompanied the hummus perfectly. They even drizzled a bit of extra virgin olive oil over the veggies, which I loved.

 

Beyond that eye-opening fennel experience, I’ve also learned to cook with it myself. Sometimes I go simple and slice it thinly to toss with a salad. Other times, I add it into sauteed veggies to put in a baked pasta dish. The flavor of fennel goes fantastically with cauliflower. Also, surprisingly (at least to me), it goes with sweeter flavors like dried fruits.

 

Don’t let the “licorice” stigma of the fennel flavor keep you away from it as long as I did. Embrace its one-of-a-kind flavor and let fennel inspire you.

-Laura Moss

Grilled Pear, Honey, and Brie Crostini

Grilled Pear, Honey, and Brie Crostini
Here’s a suggestion for your Shinko pears next week. They are round pears, originally from Japan, that are great on salads or cheese platters, grilled, roasted, braised or eaten fresh. These crostinis will be great as an appetizer at a Fall dinner gathering. So easy and simple, you could even make them for a midday snack. Recipe and photos from Two Peas & Their Pod.

Grilled Pear, Honey, and Brie Crostini
Serves 6-8

1 French baguette, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Brie cheese, thinly sliced, rind removed
2 pears, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
Honey
Fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the baguette slices on a large baking sheet. Place one slice of cheese on each baguette slice. Bake slices in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until the brie is melted.

While the baguette slices are baking, brush the pear slices with honey and grill on each side until soft.

Place a slice of pear on top of each cheesy baguette slice. Drizzle with honey and garnish with fresh rosemary.

Enjoy, friends! Happy Autumn!

Puff Pastry Jalapeño Poppers

DSC_0078

Oh my word, these Japapeno Poppers look So Good! What an easy way to make a favorite appetizer! Don’t forget that you can order the cheese, bacon and eggs for this recipe from AC as well.

Puff Pastry Jalapeño Poppers
Makes 24 poppers

12 jalapenos, halved and seeds removed
1 box puff pastry (2 sheets)
8 ounces cream cheese
½ cup bacon pieces
1 cup cheddar, shredded
4 cloves garlic
1 egg
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle garlic cloves with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast in oven for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, unfold thawed pastry sheet and roll into a 9×12 inch rectangle. Slice each sheet into twelve 3×3 inch squares, making for a total of 24 squares with both sheets. In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese, bacon, cheddar, and garlic. Spoon cream cheese filling into jalapeno halves.
Wrap pastry squares around stuffed jalapenos and arrange on a baking sheet.
Whisk together egg and 3 tablespoons water. Brush egg mixture over poppers. (Top with additional cheddar, if you like.) Bake for 20 minutes.

DSC_0068
DSC_0065

Shiro Plum & White Corn Salsa

plumsalsa6-660We have Shiro plums this week! If you’ve never had them before, don’t be shy, we’re getting a little creative today and adding them to salsa! Have you had mango salsa before? This isn’t too far off. Shiro plums originated in China and were brought to American in the 1800s through Japan. They are most often yellow and are just as sweet and tart as purple plums. The recipe and photos are from localkitchenblog.com. Find the original post here.

Want to eat your plums for dessert? Check out the recipe for Honey-Roasted Plums with Thyme and Creme Fraiche from Bon Appetit here.plums2-460

Shiro Plum & White Corn Salsa
Yields about 3 cups.

one ear of corn, preferably white
zest + juice of 1 large lime
1 lb Shiro plums, rinsed, halved, pitted and diced
1/2 red onion, diced to 1/-4 inch
1 sweet green pepper, diced (I used Cubanelle)
1 jalapeno pepper, minced, without seeds (add seeds back in for extra heat)
1 tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Husk the corn, wrap in a clean, wet tea towel, and microwave on high for 1 minute. Allow to steam in the towel while you prep the other ingredients. Alternatively, steam or boil the corn in water on the stove top, or if it’s fresh enough, use it raw.
Combine lime zest, juice and plums in a medium bowl, tossing to coat plums (and prevent browning). Add onion, peppers, salt, cumin and cayenne pepper. Cut corn kernels off the cob and add to the salsa. Taste and adjust seasonings (add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar if needed). For best taste, allow to blend and mellow at room temperature for an hour or so, or refrigerated overnight. Add fresh cilantro, toss and serve.

plumsalsa5-660