Friday, March 27, 2009

Beet Green Confessional

I've been enjoying cooking fresh beets mostly using them for salads but all this time I have been tossing the greens. Each time I did a small voice in my head kept asking, "Aren't beet greens edible?"

Finally one evening the guilt got to me and I did some online research and found that I've been tossing away a great green. Fortunately, this week's box included 3 monster beets which I will certainly use but I also made the effort to separate the greens from the beet and made them as a side in tonight's dinner.

I got online and blended a number of recipes. Most called for red onion and I didn't have any on hand. But I did have a lot of shallots in this week's delivery so I substituted shallots. I followed this blended recipe:

  • Thoroughly wash beet greens and dry them in a salad spinner
  • Cut the greens into smaller pieces and wash again
  • Heat olive oil in a skillet
  • Add 2 large cloves of chopped shallots and let cook for 5 minutes
  • Add 2-3 cloves minced garlic and cook for a few minutes
  • Add beet greens and 3/4 cup of water
  • Stir until well mixed
  • Reduce heat, cover skillet, and let simmer for 5-15 minutes
  • Stir in 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar, a generous dash of red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste
Overall, it was a good starting point but I would decrease the amount of water next time next time. Maybe 1/2 cup.

There's more to explore here but the basic lesson is don't toss those beet greens.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House

Great article at describes how Michelle Obama is leading an effort to plant a vegetable garden on the White House lawn.

The Obamas will feed their love of Mexican food with cilantro, tomatillos and hot peppers. Lettuces will include red romaine, green oak leaf, butterhead, red leaf and galactic. There will be spinach, chard, collards and black kale. For desserts, there will be a patch of berries. And herbs will include some more unusual varieties, like anise hyssop and Thai basil. A White House carpenter, Charlie Brandts, who is a beekeeper, will tend two hives for honey.

The effort also includes local 5th grade students:

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot, in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs.

Evidently, beets are not on the list. The President doesn't like beets.

Friday, March 20, 2009


One great ingredient to keep in your pantry is a box of quinoa. I've been using it as a side dish or a base instead of rice or pasta. What's quinoa?

It first caught my eye in the store a few years ago when it advertised itself as the "superfood of the Incan empire." This high-protien grain has been a staple in South America for thousands of years. Technically, it is the seed of the goosefoot plant.

This website best describes the taste:

The grain itself is soft and delicate and the tail is crunchy which creates and interesting texture combination and pleasant "crunch" when eating the grain. Quinoa has a fluffy consistency and a mild, delicate, slightly nutty flavor

Because of its health benefits it may be already in stock at your local supermarket. I had been buying boxes of quinoa from this company at the local Whole Foods. They also make quinoa pastas (pasta pagodas are the best!) which are great alternatives to regular pasta.

Last night's dinner started with a box of red quinoa from Alter Eco (also at Whole Foods). Then I took stock of what was left in the fridge from the box:

  • most of a bunch of pea shoots (looking a little tired)
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 Nantes carrots
  • 1 partially consumed box of fava beans from Trader Joes

So I picked off the leaves of the pea shoots and threw them into a salad spinner. Chopped and began sauteeing a half of red onion with some chopped garlic. I added sliced carrots and let them cook over low heat while the quinoa cooked. As the quinoa got close to ready, I added the fava beans and pea shoots. I threw in some black pepper, 2 tablespoons of pesto, a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, and some Parmesan cheese.

A salad of green lettuce from the box along with a store-bought avocado completed the meal.

Check out quinoa!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dormant Fruit Tree Spraying

With the first day of spring just a few days away and most of my fruit trees beginning to bloom, I have to admit to myself that I completely missed the boat on spraying my fruit trees.

In our remodeled back yard we have a lime, apricot, apple, orange, peach, and lemon tree. Most are about two years old (the lemon is one year old). The apricot and peach produced a lot of fruit their first year. The lime and lemon are starting to fruit. The orange has not produced anything yet. So I'm still learning about the care and feeding of fruit trees.

I have had some peach leaf curl for the last two years. Other than that, the trees have been healthy. Hopefully, I won't have any issues this year.

Next year I need to remember to begin the process in December. According to Northern California Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide:

Dormant spraying is done in two or three doses, and the first application is made in December or January...after they have lost their leaves.

I need to think about December, January, and February applications on days where the weather is above 45 degrees and there's no rain in the forecast.

I need to look into Bordeaux mixture (hydrated lime and copper sulfate) since it specifically mentions peach leaf curl (as well as other apple diseases).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Roasted Tomato Vegetable Soup Stock

Having been sick for a few days, it was nice to pull some homemade soup out of the freezer. Whenever there are leeks in the box (as there were a few months ago), I always think "soup stock." I've been using the recipe below for a few years now. The roasted tomatoes add a nice layer of flavor and complexity that you don't find in vegetable stocks. The butter and bits of carmelized tomato make it satisfying. I try to make this stock whenever most of the ingredients are on hand and then stick it in the freezer.

  • 4 large tomatoes - halved
  • 1 large yellow onion - diced
  • 2 leeks - rinsed and sliced with green stalks removed
  • 1-2 carrots - sliced
  • 3-4 celery stalks - diced with leaves on
  • garlic - 4-5 cloves
  • 1 russet potato - peeled and diced
  • parsley - about 10 branches roughly chopped
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Small handful of black peppercorns
  • herbs - 1/2 tsp thyme or fines herbes (1 tbsp. of pesto adds a lot of flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Wine or sherry - a generous splash (red wine preferred)

Roast the tomatoes:
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Halve the tomatoes and put them on a cookie sheet cut side up (cover sheet with foil for easy clean up)
  • Spray tomatoes lightly with olive oil
  • Roast the tomatoes for 20-30 minutes - some browning should occur

Prepare stock ingredients:
  • While the tomatoes are roasting begin preparing the other ingredients

Stock preparation:
  • Heat butter in a large pot over medium heat
  • Add onions, carrots, leeks, all herbs, salt, peppercorns, and 1/2 cup of water and stew for 20 minutes stirring every few minutes (cover pot)
  • Add all remaining ingredients as they are prepared
  • After all ingredients are in add 8 cups of cold water along with the roasted tomatoes
  • Bring to a boil and simmer partially covered until vegetables have given up their flavor. I watch for the vegetables (especially the carrots and parsley leaves) to have given up their color. We're talking 2 or more hours.
  • Remove from heat and let cool
  • Strain the stock through a colander pressing out as much liquid as possible
  • Salt and pepper to taste
You can be somewhat flexible with the vegetables you add. Use what's on hand.