Picking Arugula

Today I picked the last of the Arugula growing in my garden. Not sure if you even like Arugula? Or like my brother-in-law said when I showed him my arugula, "I thought that was weeds!!" Ha!

Here's a great recipe I've adapted and made on several occasions with farro (which is a wonderful grain). You can also use brown rice or orzo.

farro arugula salad

I rinsed and then toasted my farro in a little sautéed garlic and shallots and used chicken broth instead of water for cooking the farro. If vegan - use vegetable broth.

I added English cucumber, crumbled feta and made a dressing using the juice of a couple of oranges, fresh squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. If you like your dressing a little sweet add a little honey or agave. I also toasted pine nuts to sprinkle on top.

Here's the basic recipe from the Proud Italian Cook blog:

Farro & Arugula Salad Recipe

Fresh from the Gardens Green Beans

Growing and eating fresh green beans is something that was second nature to my family growing up.  In fact, my dad’s garden is currently full of fresh green beans, and as you can see in my pictures, I am carrying on that same tradition in my own garden. I have great memories of sitting on my great-grandmother’s porch shelling bushels of peas. We always had a deep freezer, so anything that was not cooked, eaten or canned, was frozen and put away for the winter. When gardening season is over, I still purchase fresh green beans. My favorite green beans are the French Haricot Vert green beans.  My clients love these too, and one of my favorite ways to prepare them is to just blanch them briefly for about 3-4 minutes and shock them in an ice bath.  I then sauté them with a small amount of fresh garlic and toss them in a grainy mustard or Dijon mustard/shallot/red wine vinaigrette. Talk about good!  Any fresh green beans can be prepared this way.

green beans - 1

This year I ordered green bean seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds http://www.superseeds.com.  It’s become one of my favorite spots to find good organic seeds. I planted Black Valentine Green Bush beans and Bush Blue Lake Green beans. I prefer to plant bush green beans rather than pole green beans because I find them easier to maintain as they grow low to the ground in a small bush. Pole beans require a little more effort as you have to find something from them to climb onto. 

green beans - 3

Green beans are planted about an inch deep and are ready to harvest anywhere from about 49 to 55 days, depending on the variety of the bean. I planted the majority of my beans a week or two before April 1st and am picking some of them now. I planted more a few weeks later and they are blooming now. I plan to plant one more bunch of beans so that I will continue to have beans throughout the summer. 

So what am I going to do with all of these wonderful “fresh” green beans?

  • I will pressure can some of them and store them away for later in the season (can keep canned vegetables a year or more) 
  • I will make Spicy Dilly Beans (which taste like a crunchy pickle) – an excellent snack
  • I will just cook them fresh and eat them!

Canning fresh green beans is easy. However, it’s very important that you use safe canning methods and understand the correct canning process for fresh vegetables. The National Center for Food Preservation is a good resource for canning safety.  http://nchfp.uga.edu.  Another good resource is the Ball Canning Guide.

If you want to learn more about canning and preserving in a fun learning environment, contact Fresh From the Gardens to schedule an in-home canning party. Class details are noted in the following link:

http://freshfromthegardens.com/canning-classes-2/

If you have a venue in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area that can accommodate your group, Chef Sandra is happy to come to your location.

Other Canning Offerings

Private one-on-one Private canning lessons. Get assistance with canning your own supply of fruit or vegetables from your garden or from a local farmer.

Roasting Fresh Vegetables

Oven roasting vegetables is by far my favorite way to prepare and eat fresh vegetables. I absolutely love the sweet natural flavor that comes from roasting vegetables. During the winter months there are so many good root vegetables available for roasting, and during this time of year I roast a ton of fresh veggies. Some of my favorite vegetables to roast are multi-colored fingerling potatoes, fennel, carrots, red onions, snap peas, peppers, turnips, and small pieces of corn on the cob.  Amazingly, even the normally bitter tasting turnip become sweet when roasted. That’s because something sort of magic happens during the roasting process. The high heat transforms the vegetables by causing them to caramelize, leaving a natural sweet flavor.

Keep in mind that different vegetables require different roasting times. That’s because softer vegetables and those that hold moisture like peppers, leeks, zucchini, asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms and green beans take less time than hard root vegetables like potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips. Try to combine vegetables with similar roasting times together to ensure even cooking.

When using a conventional oven, I usually roast my vegetables at about 425 degrees, but you can roast vegetables between 375 and 475 degrees. At 425 degrees my vegetables are usually ready in about 20 minutes. The higher the temperature, the shorter the cooking time. The vegetables are done when the centers are soft and creamy and the outer edges are golden and crispy. Be sure and watch them carefully if roasting at higher temperatures.

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What you’ll need

  • A cookie sheet (a flat pan works best. A roasting pan with the higher sides can cause your vegetables to steam rather than roast)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Parchment Paper (or spray your cookie sheet to prevent sticking)
  • Salt and Pepper

Step 1

Preheat oven to 425

At this high temperature, most vegetables will roast in about 15- to 20 minutes.

Step 2

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Helps to keep the vegetables from sticking and makes for easier cleanup. If you don’t have parchment paper, spray your cookie sheet with cooking spray.

Step 3

Cut vegetables evenly. Cut your vegetables in similar sizes, to help them roast and brown close to the same time. Throw vegetables in a large bowl and sprinkle with extra virgin oil and toss. Use your hands if needed to make sure covered on all sides. A couple of tablespoons per pan should be sufficient. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Step 4

Spread vegetables evenly on a baking sheet with low sides. Metal is best for roasting.

If your pan is too crowded, your vegetables will steam rather than roast. If you have too many vegetables to fit onto one pan, use two. Also position them near the edges of the pan which makes them brown better.

Step 5

Be sure to stir vegetables a few times while cooking so they will brown evenly on all sides.

Step 6 – ENJOY!

Once you’ve gotten comfortable with roasting, try experimenting. Here are some ideas:

  • Try different oils like coconut oil, peanut oil or safflower oil. Just make sure your oil is very fresh.
  • Add some aromatics like onions, garlic, ginger, shallots, leeks
  • Add herbs like thyme, sage, rosemary, bay leaf
  • Spice it up with chili power or curry
  • Finish with something spicy or crunchy like nuts
  • Roast vegetables and fruit together like butternut squash with apples.

Roasting Guides

http://www.healwithfood.org/chart/vegetable-oven-roasting-times.php

http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/how-to/article/simple-roasted-vegetables

Source: http://www.healwithfood.org/chart/vegetable-oven-roasting-times.php#ixzz3yB8rV3vc

 

 

 

 

Herb Pesto

I've said before that even if you don't have a green thumb, growing herbs is easy and fun to do. A sunny kitchen windowsill is a great place to grow herbs if you don't have garden space. I like to grow basil and thyme in little terra cotta pots in my kitchen since I use these two herbs most and its convenient to have them near when I'm cooking. This year our garden has an abundance of herbs and since people always ask me how to preserve herbs I'll share some quick and easy ideas and recipes.

imageimageMaking pesto is the perfect way to use up those herbs. I love any kind of pesto and having a variety of fresh herbs on hand lets me get creative. You're probably familiar with basil pesto but did you know that parsley, mint, oregano, cilantro, and oregano can be used to make pesto? Not crazy about pine nuts? Use almonds, walnuts or pecans instead. Here are a couple of simple recipes for adaptable pestos that can be used on grilled fish, chicken, roasted vegetables and steaks. I also like to flavor mashed potatoes and soups with pesto and I've been known to dip my french fries in basil pesto too.

Herb Pesto
 
Ingredients
  • Fresh Mint Pesto
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup almonds, toasted
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh Herb Pesto
  • ⅔ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup loosely packed torn basil leaves
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp oregano leaves
  • 1 tbsp rosemary leaves
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Process: Add everything to your processor and whirl it around until it has a thick paste-like consistency. I like mine on the chunky side but you may like it smoother. If it's too thick , add a bit of water.
 

Pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays and added to other recipes long after herb growing season is over. Just fill ice cube trays, freeze, then pop into a plastic baggy to store in the freezer.