Mache Bistro Salad with Beets & Walnuts

When mache is ready to pick in January it is a cause for celebration. This little plant is tender, with a smooth texture and has a long season to harvest. We like the tender young plants and use them as we thin. Later we pick the larger leaves until mid spring. The first salad we make is this traditional salad of mache, beets and lightly toasted walnuts. FullSizeRender

Fresh mache, 2 cups, rinsed
Beets, roasted and sliced (4)
Walnuts, lightly toasted (10)
1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Butter lettuce or radicchio
olive oil

Serves 4

Build your salad on a small platter or individual plates. Layer with lettuce, radicchio or other tender greens. Slip skins from beets before slicing. I like to slice my beets in half and then cut vertically but if you are using a cylindra beet slice in rounds. Roast beets or cook in a pressure cooker. See below:
Toast walnut halves in a small skillet set low or in a 375 degree oven for five minutes. Sprinkle with a little sugar when they are toasted. As the nuts cool break these halves not 2-3 pieces. Place mache leaves over your beets and then
sprinkle with nuts. I sometimes toss a few green onion slices or chives over the
top, some people like to add a few pieces of goat cheese or feta. Drizzle with a
touch  of olive oil and a bit of salt. It is a classic French salad and I urge you to try this, it’s like the first bite of spring.

Pressure cooking beets. Add a perforated steamer and enough water to just come to the edge. This is fast but inconsistent and I’ve needed to cook these beets anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on size and maturity. So far they come out like roasted beets with their juices retained and tender. I usually cook enough for another salad as cooked beets last several days when refrigerated.

 

 

 

August Hodgepodge Soup

It’s a New Brunswick/Nova Scotia tradition Hodgepodge Soupusing bits and pieces of freshly harvested garden vegetable most often pepared in August. Such simple ingredients prove shockingly good with potatoes, carrots, garden beans, corn (1/2 ear per person person) peas, either sugar pod, shelled or both. The pot has enough water to half cover veggies, added step by step so none are over cooked. At the end stir in a generous dollop of cream. Since it is a hodgepodge several other ingredients are often added but we were more than pleased with this simple dish and the broth was amazing. This is an approximation of what we were served at a restaurant in New Brunswick on the Canadian U.S. border.
Ingredients:
6 small potatoes – well scrubbed or peeled
6 medium size potatoes (we used our Rainbow blend of two orange, two yellow and two red but excluded purple because it is too heavily pigmented. Each carrot cut into three pieces.
Two large handfuls whole green and yellow beans
Corn, i/2 ear per person
1.5 cups peas-I used Oregon Giant Sugar Pod
1/2 cup cream —set aside
salt & pepper to taste
Directions:
Fill a Dutch oven or other pot wider that’s wider than deep with water about half way full. Bring to a boil and add 1:Potatoes- Cook potatoes for 7 minutes
2:Carrots each cut into 3 pieces cook an additional 7 minutes
3:Corn and Beans add and cook additional 5 minutes
4:Peas add and cook for about 3 minutes

Pour off water allowing 2 to 2.5 cup to remain and add cream, salt and pepper to taste. As with any soup recipe make it this way once and then don’t be afraid to experiment with more or fewer ingredients. This recipe fed 3 hungry adults.

Dandelion Bud Omelet

First Day of Spring. Here it was beautiful and sunny though once again rain was predicted. I was out pulling dandelions today and remembered how much we love a dandelion bud omelet. Here’s my recipe from Basic Herb cookery. They remind me of artichokes.

dandelion bud omelet½ cup dandelion buds

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

4 eggs, lightly beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a 9-12” non-stick skillet on medium high. Saute rinsed and drained dandelion buds in butter until softened. Pour beaten eggs over buds and sprinkle choves over the eggs. Use a spatula to gently lift eggs in pan and let uncooked eggsrun under cooked portion. When bottom is golden and eggs have set on the outer edges, fold in half. Remove from heat and let firm up for about 30 seconds before serving.Two or three tablespoons Swiss or freshly shredded Parmesan cheese adds to the flavor.

Today I used a full cup of young buds and 6 eggs for three people. Our daughter gave us truffle salt so sprinkled that on…delicious, and with a bit of parmesan quite a delicious dinner. Garnished with a few blossoms and substituted fresh green onions for chives.

When pulling the dandelions I was struck by how many slugs were hanging around though I wasn’t seeing damaged buds, they obviously had been eating petals.

Welcome Earth Day 2013

Today is Earth Day and a time we think about our beautiful earth and what we can do to help and maintain it.  Of course as gardeners and readers, the simple act of sowing seeds or planting is a benefit. Because I’m preparing a talk for our local museum about the gardening and seed production heritage of Western Oregon,  I’ve been giving some thought about “knowing our place”.  Know your place is usually a negative disciplinary phrase.  But let’s reassess this and do what we can to better know the place where we live and how it relates to the food production, beauty, preservation and history of our earth.  By knowing the tremendous value of seed crops here in the Willamette Valley I’m very afraid of canola seed being planted on or near fields where it can cross-pollinate or the dropped seeds will contaminate the soil for future crops. The better we know our place the more able we are to understand and speak out the occasional big issue that does appear. I will continue to express this concern along with hundreds of farmers and gardeners and hope it will make a difference. Know your place!   ~ Rose Marie
For suggestions on food gardening and Earth Day click on the image below and read this Huffington Post piece to which I happily contributed.
R-KITCHEN-GARDEN-HOW-TO

Sow Peas On Valentines Day

HEARTS4PeasPeas, flat, round, long and short, crisp or tender, these are one of the first vegetables to plant in spring. In many parts of the country Valentine’s Day is traditional for pea planting. I look around and it’s a pretty day this year with soil temperatures up to 40 degrees, suitable for pea planting. When I head home today the peas are going in the ground. Here are my favorites and why…what do you do with peas, eat them of course and toss polyspun row cover over the young sprouts if birds in your neighborhood think the young shoots are nesting material. The row cover also gives a temperature boost for faster growth. Plant seeds no deeper than 1”. I make a little furrow and cover with ½” of soil and once they’re up add more, so roots are protected from heat later in the season. I also use legume inoculant so there’s no need to need to add nitrogen since this organically approved product helps legume plants utilize atmospheric nitrogen for growth. All four varieties I’ve listed can be planted for spring and again in mid-July for a fall crop. These are all results of the Oregon State University Horticulture Dept. vegetable breeding program. Multiple disease resistant including enation virus and powdery mildew.

Cascadia Snap Pea: A tall bush type, more productive and sweeter than other bush snaps we’ve grown. Let tender pods fatten up for maximum flavor.

Oregon Sugar Pod II: The most widely grown Sugar Pod in the world. Perfect for Asian stir-fries and you’ve undoubtedly eaten this delicacy in many a Chinese restaurant.

Oregon Giant Sugar Pod: Pease are about 50% larger than OS Pod II and a touch sweeter. It’s a great home garden variety because it takes fewer for a meal and most home cooks like the larger size but little used commercially.

Oregon Trail Pea: This all-purpose shelling pea is twin podded and there’s nothing homier than shelling a mess of peas with a class of iced tea beside you.

We’ll share some pea recipes later in the season…but planting as early as possible is the essential first step. And, these all grow well in containers as Maggie and I discussed in McGee & Stuckey’s Bountiful Container.

Methley Plums – The Taste of Summer Food

This summer is the year of fruit. One crop of fruit goes banging into the next. My fingers are hopelessly purple after spending a weekend up to my elbows in Methley Plums Cherries, gooseberries, currants have come and gone and our previously most ungenerous plum has produced a bounty of fruit.

Sam Benowitz of Raintree Nursery in Washington, saw this early plum was forced into bloom for the Seattle Northwest Flower & Garden Show several years ago when NW Garden Writers Assoc. members and Pierce County WA Master Gardeners teamed up to construct a food garden promoting the GWA “Plant A Row For The Hungry” program. We received a gold medal and The People’s Choice Cup”. It was time for me to retire from designing show gardens.

When we dismantled the garden I purchased this plum tree from Sam and planted it in our home garden. While it has a lovely spring shower of blooms, in previous years the fruits have been small and sparse. This year we have a huge supply of medium sized Japanese plums. The fruits are a deep red, a delicious sweet tart flavor and a good size for eating out of hand. The pits are not freestone but can be cut in half and popped out with a paring knife. The deep colors must mean it’s full of anthocyanins and bioflavonoids.

With this much fruit, I’ve had ample opportunity to experiment on how what to do with pecks of plums. These are recipes which we can wing it with the abundance of summer, so nothing precise, be careful with hot peppers, the heat can build. I’m not giving you my recipe for jam failure but it happened. Eat your fill of these fresh plums. They’ll store for about two weeks in a refrigerator.

Fresh Plum Salsa, chopped up plums, jalapenos, cilantro, a colorful bell pepper, onion, a little garlic, lime juice and salt. If you want to use a processor do it with a light touch. I prefer the chopped texture.

Chipotle Plum Barbeque Sauce, 6 cups of pitted plums, 3 medium onions, t tablespoon chipotle chili powder & one tablespoon smoked paprika, or 2-3 chipotles in adobo sauce, 3 large cloves of garlic, minced, ½ cup cider vinegar sugar and salt to taste after cooking. Run these ingredients in a food processor or finely chop. Put in a heavy non-reactive pan and simmer until thickened. Give these an occasional stir and it’s good to be doing another kitchen task so you can make there is no scorching. Remove from heat, season with sugar and salt. When cool package some up in small containers and share.

Plum Purple Basil Pie, Use any good pie recipe, I prefer those heavy on the fruit. Check out a peach pie recipe and simply substitute plums. The purple basil brings in a nice spicy flavor without little green specks but any basil can be used. A touch of cinnamon can be added.

Plum Dessert Sauce three cups of halved or quartered plums, 1 cup red wine, 2 tablespoons lavender flavored a honey ( a gift that is too strong for toast but good in sauces and lemonade)…add more if you think best, ½ cup sugar, 4 crushed or freshly ground cardamom seeds and 1 teaspoon vanilla. A little cinnamon, a bay leaf, a few drops of almond flavoring or liquor are all possible additions. Prepare the plums while you bring other ingredients to a boil in a non-reactive pan, reduce liquid by about 1/3.  Add plums and gently cook for three minutes. If sauce seems too thin for your liking pour off some of the juices, cool slightly and combine with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Reheat until starch is cooked, it will be transparent. Excellent with pound cake, a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. Homemade pound cake, good ice cream or real whipped cream recommended.

If you have a good supply of plums give one of these recipe suggestions a try and don’t be hesitant to tweak to your taste. These should work with almost any plum variety. I see our crop from the Prunus Mume is maturing fast. Just rubbing one leaves a fragrance on my fingers but coming up with something besides salted ume’ plums may be a challenge but oh, to capture the fragrance when it’s not an eating plum.

Hop Shoots Picking & Preparing

Hop shoots are a gardeners’ treat in early spring. Here are photos of them growing by the entry arbor to our herb garden at Nichols Garden Nursery. I snapped off a small bundle of emerging shoots, selecting for short tender stems and tips. Much admired in Belgium and France, where they are known as Jets de Houblon. Mature hop vines are actually more productive of hop cones when some shoots are removed.
To prepare plunge your tender shoots into salted boiling water, cook for 2 minutes and then drain. The timing can vary a bit cook only until barely tender. While shoots drain, poach eggs in fresh water (to avoid discoloration) or gently fry. Reheat shoots in butter and sprinkle over freshly cooked eggs. Don’t miss dipping a few hop tips into egg yolks.
Where these shoots are abundant they are variously sauced with béchamel, used as an omelet filling, served as a vegetable and pickled. Pickling does sound like a lot of effort for an ephemera of springtime. I’d most surely be appreciative of another’s accomplishment.