Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Week 4 Tidbits, by Melinda

We're getting some beautiful and unusual produce items this week, some of which may not be familiar to you. Take black raspberries: they're native to North America and are extraordinarily nutritious with very high levels of antioxidants (beside being totally scrumptious). They're available in most places for only about three weeks, so you rarely find them in markets. Such a treat!
Black Raspberry (photo source)

While superficially they resemble blackberries, they have a hollow core like red raspberries; blackberries don't have that. They also have slightly less sugar than red raspberries and are slightly smaller. Most people use them to make jams or pies. They also make great ice cream!  But vegans, don't despair--for a superb vegan, black-raspberry ice cream, click here.

As well, we're getting that mainstay of greens (practically year-round!), Red Russian kale. And then there's Tatsoi, a beautiful Asian green in the brassica family, along with Tokyo Bekana and Pac Choi. Tatsoi grows in a lovely rosette form, with its short stems and leaves radiating out from a central point. Tatsoi has a very mild flavor and many names: "spinach mustard," "spoon mustard," and "rosette Bok Choi," for starters! Like the other Asian greens we've gotten so far, it has many applications in cooking, from raw in salad, to stir-fried, to sauteed with garlic and lots of other uses!
Tatsoi (photo source)
Another hard-to-find goodie we're getting is "fresh garlic," Basically, that's garlic when the bulb is first pulled up, before it's been allowed to dry to its usual form with the papery skins. It's also called "uncured garlic" (thanks Angela!)
Fresh garlic (photo source)

Fresh garlic is considered a real delicacy in Europe, where people are willing to pay several dollars for one head!!!! Because it's so expensive, frugal cooks use every part of it, including the stalk that rises from the head (if it hasn't been cut off) as well as the thick, moist skins that surround the small fresh garlic cloves. (See recipe below.)

Finally, we're harvesting beets this week, as well as radish greens. Radish greens are a tender but spicy green that makes a great addition to pesto sauces, really bringing a little zing to the party. Of course they also can be steamed, sauteed, stir-fried, etc., like almost all greens.

Black Raspberry Dumplings--This makes 10 servings, so if you have just a pint of black raspberries, feel free to halve the recipe.
  • 1 quart fresh or frozen black raspberries
  • 1 and 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 cups prepared baking mix (Bisquick-type)
  • 1 cup of milk [or vegan milk substitute]
  • additional sugar, optional
  • ground nutmeg, optional
In a 6-qt. pan, combine raspberries, 1 cup sugar, water, and cornstarch; stir to blend. Bring to a
boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to low. Meanwhile, combine baking mix, milk, and remaining sugar in a bowl. Mix until a soft dough forms. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto the berries. Cook over low heat, uncovered, 10 minutes. Cover & cook 10-15 min. more, or until dumplings are cooked through. For a glazed effect, sprinkle the dumplings with additional sugar and a dash of nutmeg before serving. (Click here for source of both photo and recipe)

For another recipe, click here for "Pine Nut Dumplings in Raspberry Sauce"!  (Be still my beating heart!)

Of course people love black raspberry (or red raspberry) jam. If you're feeling adventurous and ready to dive into hot-water-bath canning (it's easy, really!!!), try this simple recipe for canned black raspberry jam (click here). That's from the blog, "Food in Jars," that we follow (see the lower left-hand column on this page). If you're not quite ready for that, try this freezer jam recipe:

Easy Black Raspberry Freezer Jam

  • 4 cups crushed berries
  • 1  1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 (1.59 oz) packet Ball Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin (check store or see here)
Stir granulated sugar & contents of freezer jam fruit pectin together in a large bowl, till mixed together. Stir in the crushed berries, continuing to stir the mixture for 3-4 min. Ladle the jam into clean half-pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch of head space [empty space] at the top. Put lids on jars & let jars sit on the counter till the mixture starts to thicken. Once it has thickened (~30-45 min.), place your containers in the freezer. You could substitute stackable Tupperware-type containers for the glass jars. The jam will keep up to a year in the freezer or about 3 weeks in the fridge. The recipe yields about 5 half-pint jars or 8-10 Tupperware snack cups full of jam.  (Recipe source)

To Prepare Tatsoi--If you get a whole head, separate the leaves from each other, then wash. If you get just leaves on stems, you're set to wash them. In either case, wrap washed leaves in toweling in a plastic bag to keep in the fridge a few days.

Tatsoi in Mustard Dressing

  • 12 oz. washed and chopped tatsoi
  • 2 medium scallions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (I wouldn't use Trader Joe's brand--it tastes like very hot Chinese mustard)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • [You might also consider adding a clove or two of thinly sliced fresh garlic]
In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, mustard, salt, & oil to make the salad dressing. In a wide skillet or wok, combine tatsoi, [garlic if using], and the dressing and saute till the leaves are tender and the stalks still crunchy. Add scallions & toss. Arrange tatsoi on serving platter & drizzle with any remaining pan sauce.  (Recipe source)

For 7 more delicious tatsoi recipes, vegan to omnivore, click here.  And for yet another 10 tatsoi recipes, click here!

Finally, for a fabulous sounding recipe for "Tatsoi Panzanella with Spicy Peanut Dressing," click here!

How to Prepare and Use Fresh (or "Uncured") Garlic--
Each garlic head is enclosed on the outside in a thick, ribbed skin. That can be broken open and sliced and used like onions. To then separate the cloves, you must remove the "fleshy, waxy membranes that sheath them" (see photo further up in this post). Separate the cloves from the membranes, but keep it all!!! (See photo below, w/ cloves at left & membranes at right.)
Cloves & membranes (photo source)
The garlic cloves can be sliced very thinly (they are delicate) & fried in oil till they're golden, then used in various dishes where you would normally use garlic. Or you can use them raw in salads.

But here's the cool thing!  The membranes can be used to make a "cream of garlic"!  Here are the instructions:
  • Bring water to a simmer in a small pan
  • Drop in the membranes, then drain them as soon as the water comes back to simmering
  • Let them cool & drain about an hour
  • Put them in a food processor along with half their weight in olive oil (i.e., weigh the drained membranes, then measure out half that weight in olive oil)
  • Process in food processor till smooth and creamy
  • Add salt to taste
  • Go straight to heaven when you taste it
As the recipe's author notes, you can keep this in a jar in the fridge and use it to add to vinaigrette or other salad dressings, blend it into a stir-fry, or use it to top meat or fish. It's also excellent on canapes, crostini, etc. The source of this wonderfully informative post, as well as the photos, is
Cream of garlic (source)
For another heavenly recipe for garlic bread made with "fresh garlic," click here.

Preparing Beets--If you've never cooked beets from scratch before, there are a few ways to do it (the point is to get the thick, inedible skin off the beet itself). Step one is to cut off any beet greens at the top, leaving about an inch of stem (save the greens to use as cooked greens or in pesto--they're really nutritious and delicious!). Leave the root on the bottom for the time being (see photo
Trimmed beets (source)
at left)

The quickest way to cook beets is to trim them as described, then put them in boiling water and cook till you can insert a knife into the beets easily. Remove from stove and cool by running cold water into the pan. Let them sit till they're cool enough to handle, then remove from the pan, cut off the stems (cut just under where the stems attach to the beet), then cut off the root. Now you should be able to peel and/or pull the skin from the beet relatively easily. (If you don't want hot-pink fingertips, you can wear vinyl gloves when peeling or otherwise handling the beets. If you forget the gloves, here are instructions for removing the beet stains with lemon juice:  click here.)

Beets can also be steamed in a steamer, following the same directions as for boiling. You lose fewer nutrients if you steam them.

Most people feel that roasting beets is the way to preserve the most flavor and nutrition. But you do heat up your kitchen considerably more than you do with boiling. To roast beets (see source here):

  • Trim your beets; meanwhile preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Place samallish beets on large piece of aluminum foil, drizzling a little water or oil on them
  • Wrap beets up into a foil packet (large enough to hold them all), crimping the edges of the foil
  • Large beets can be wrapped in foil individually
  • Place the packet(s) on a baking sheet
  • Roast in oven for 50-60 minutes, checking them every twenty minutes or so; if they appear to be scorching, add a little more water or oil
  • Small beets will cook more quickly than large ones
  • They're done when a knife can be inserted easily into the beets
  • To peel, let beets cool till you can handle them
  • Holding a beet with a paper towel, use another paper towel to rub the skins off
  • If skins don't come off easily, beets may need a bit more cooking
  • Beets can be stored in fridge, either whole or sliced, up to a week
Roasted Beets on Greens--recipe source (serves 4)
  • 2 bunches trimmed beets
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 garlic clove ("fresh garlic"!), minced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • coarse salt & fresh-ground black pepper
  • 4 cups tatsoi (or spinach), divided
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, divided
  • thinly sliced red onion
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap beets in foil and roast till tender, about 1 hour. Let cool, then peel and dice. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, honey, garlic, and fennel and caraway seeds. Season with salt & pepper. Toss with the beets. For each serving, toss 1 cup tatsoi (or spinach) and 1/4 cup parsley. Season with salt & pepper & top with onion.
Beets & Greens Salad (source)

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