Famous Green Herb Sauce from Frankfurt, Germany

green herb

In Frankfurt, Germany they’ve long made a herb sauce of at least seven different herbs and wild greens. The cool uncooked sauce accompanies hard boiled eggs and hot young potatoes.

 

There are varied ingredients but the key seems to be seven greens or more, often consisting of borage, sorrel, parsley,dandelion, garden cress, chervil, and chives. Sometimes other freshly picked green herbs are used. Since my garden has several of these and I’ve wanted to try this dish I gave it a try. It’s simply too early  for several of these but my available fresh herbs as you’ll see in the photo from left to right, were lovage, parsley, tarragon,plantain, dandelion, fennel and chives. I removed roots, rinsed and coarsely chopped before dropping into the food processor. Sour cream seems to be the standby so I added a low fat version, creme fraiche, and non fat Greek yogurt. Whizzed it in the processor, tasted and added a hand full of spinach, a few drops of lemon juice, salt & pepper and gave it another whirl. Not truly knowing what to expect I was quite pleased and plan to make this again with different herbs as the gardening season moves along. green hwebs

The thoughts I’m having now is how many cuisines have a green sauce and am looking forward to working through more of them.

Blueberry Fool for April Fool’s Day

Fruit fools are old fashioned desserts made from on a handful of ingredients. As a gardener with a freezer I have food in the freezer to use before the bounty of summer is upon us. Blueberry FoolI’ve always thought recipes for fruit fool’s were too rich and have passed them by. In anticipation of April Fool’s Day and wanting an unbaked dessert with blueberries this seemed doable. I doubled the blue berries, replaced half the whipping cream with yogurt, cut the sugar to two tablespoons and added two tablespoons of Greek rose preserves. Another time I’ll try orange marmalade.

Recipe for 4

2 cups frozen Blueberries                                                                                                   1/2 cup heavy whipping cream                                                                                          2 tablespoons sugar                                                                                                             1/2 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons rose petal preserves

BBFool setupSelect four glass containers for your dessert dishes. Coarsely chop frozen berries in a food processor and set aside a few whole berries to use as a topping. Whip cream in a cold mixing bowel and stir in sugar. Add preserves to yogurt. To setup this dessert alternate spoonfuls of berries, yogurt and whipped cream into each glass until all ingredients are used. Lightly run a table knife lightly through each dessert serving.

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.

Indigo Rose Tomato Salad

This is our favorite salad using Indigo Rose OP Tomato, our new introduction for 2012. We had it nearly every day last summer and eagerly look forward to enjoying it again. Other small salad tomatoes can also be used but to my mind none are as beautiful as Indigo Rose in this delicious combination of taste and color. The deep purple exterior is rich in anti-oxidant anthocyanins and the interior of these 2” fruits is a rich bright red. The flavor is bright, tart and pleasant.

It is important to mention, Indigo Rose, the world’s first high anthocyanin tomato is a result of traditional breeding and selection over many years and not a result of genetic engineering. Bred at Oregon State University by Dr. Jim Myers, it is the result of growing out the best selections over more than a decade selecting for performance, coloration, and flavor. it is open-pollinated.
We are pleased to introduce this fine and unusual selection in 2012. We start our tomatoes from April 1 to April 15th and transplant around Memorial Day weekend.

Ingredients:

10-12 Indigo Rose Tomatoes (weight about 1.5 to 2 lbs.
3 tablespoons diced sweet onion
1 tablespoon white balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped parsley
6 ounces feta cheese (not non fat)

Directions: Cut each tomato into quarters. Gently combine tomatoes, onion, vinegar, oil, salt and parsley. Place in bowl and sprinkle with coarsely crumbled feta cheese. This salad is also very good with one or two tablespoons of chopped basil. Serve, this can be easily doubled and serves 3 to 8 depending on whether this is a dinner salad, with bread, or simply salad.

Cilantro Dip or Green Sauce

We’ve been enjoying this all week and it is one of those recipe that varies not in a bad way but cilantro doesn’t always taste quite the same. Nevertheless, this began as a dip for carrots. Since then it’s been part of a salsa omelet, a dip for chips and added to burritos.

Ingredients:

1 large bunch fresh cilantro
2-3 cloves peeled garlic
5 green onions
1-3 jalapeno peppers, deseeded
1/4 cup lime juice (2-3 limes)
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

Directions: all these ingredients will be chopped and placed in blender or food processor. Rinse cilantro and trim off stems, coarsely chop garlic, trim onions leaving 3-4″ green tips, cut peppers in half and remove seeds and pithy cavity lining. Place all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. You may wish to add peppers one by one since they vary in heat. Add a little less salt than you think necessary and allow mixture to sit in blender for 30 minutes. Add more jalapeno, salt as needed and even additional lime or lemon juice if you want additional tartness. Puree again and serve or store until needed. Our Purple Haze Hybrid carrots are shown on the plate with the Cilantro Dip. Cut the carrots on a sharp diagonal and they make great chips for dipping. These carrots are easy to grow with stunning delicious results. Cilantro can be sown every three weeks for a steady supply. Papaloquelite is a good summer substitute for cilantro which bolts in hot weather. Slices of Yacon should be delicious with this dip.

Oranges & Sweet Violets

Spring violets, Viola odorata, are edible flowers with a color and fragrance that compliments fresh naval oranges when both are at their peak. Peel or cut away the orange rind, leaving as little pith as possible. Cut into 1/3” inch slices. Allow one orange per person and place on individual serving dishes. Drizzle with 1/2 tsp. mild honey. Garnish with spring violets or candied violets. This light dessert is the perfect conclusion to a winter meal. A few drops of orange liquor can be sprinkled over the oranges.

Some gardeners dislike wild violets in their yards but we enjoy the fragrance and appeal of wild violets. Their scent seems to come and go because our scent receptors become exhausted and must have a few minutes to revive before we can again enjoy this definitive fragrance.

Marinated Winter Squash Salad

I‘m always looking for easy ways to use our crops of winter squash and have adapted this unusual recipe found in “Cooking From An Italian Garden by Scaravelli & Cohen. A cooked salad from winter squash struck me as novel and I wasn’t disappointed. The squash in the photo is Sibley Select, a sweet thick-fleshed Cucurbita maxima. Other varieties of winter squash are also suitable and find them preferable to pumpkin.

Winter squash 2-2.5 lb. piece, deseeded.

Roast in oven 30-45 minutes, only until

it can be pierced by a fork but is still firm

1 red or green bell pepper, diced

2-3 green onions finely sliced

1 rounded Tbsp capers (optional)

Dressing:

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons red wine or cider vinegar

1 tsp. Nichols Malibu blend or ½ tsp oregano

2 garlic cloves finely minced

A few drops of Tabasco or Sriracha sauce

Allow lightly roasted squash to cool. Remove rind and cut into ½ inch cubes. Add chopped bell pepper and onions and combine with squash mixture.Add dressing and mix. Cover and marinate for at least one hour, or preferably overnight. When ready to serve add salt to taste and sprinkle with 2-3 Tbsp.chopped fresh parsley. Serve at room temperature.

The flavor of garlic and hot pepper can intensify overnight. To correct add more chopped bell pepper or ½ cup chopped celery. This keeps for three to four days and is quickly transformed into soup with a 13 oz. can of coconut milk and ½ cup water. Blend until smooth. Place all in a medium size saucepan and simmer for ten minutes. Serve garnished with a sprinkle of cilantro.

Talking about Herb Gardening @ awaytogardening.com

Join us atawaytogarden.com in an interview with  Margaret Roach at her blog/gardening magazine. Today Nichols Garden Nursery is featured. Keane is holding two fine specimens of Oregon Sweetmeat Squash Homestead. Notice the beautiful color and thick walls.  Grow it and you’ll also taste how sweet and tender it is. I am holding our very new Ruby-Gold Flint Corn and branches of true Mediterranean bay, Laurus nobilis, Rosemary Blue Gem, a Nichols introduction. Read her article, join the giveaway and learn a few herb gardening tips. Leave a comment on her blog and join the giveaway. Margaret is the former senior editor and Martha Stewart Living Magazine and author of the new and highly reviewed “and I shall find peace there” her latest book. Click the link to Margaret Roache’s article

http://awaytogarden.com/giveaway-rose-marie-nichols-mcgees-herb-qa#comments

Country Pate with Beer & Fennel

This fairly coarse textured pate was adapted by a friend from an old recipe containing hefty amounts of veal and bacon. Her slimmed down version is moist and delicious, we served it as an appetizer Christmas day. The plate pictured has a slice of  pate from the recipe below, slices of crunchy Pickled Elephant Garlic, a zesty pickle, pickled beets, mustard, bread, fig jam and Keane’s fresh sauerkraut. I like the fact this recipe is for two pans of pate, the second one goes with us to a gathering later this week. There’s a fine line between pate’ and meatloaf and I think compression with a heavy weight as it cools produces is key to success.

This is a long and detailed recipe and it’s best to read through before beginning. A few sips of beer will help the cook along with preparation. I strongly advise you use the meat thermometer to test that temperature in center of each loaf reaches 165 F before removing from oven.

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ cups fresh parsley leaves, minced, or run in processor
  • ½ cup shelled pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 3 pounds sweet Italian turkey sausage, removed from casings
  • 2 cups beer, not too bitter
  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • Eight oz. of baguette or rustic Italian bread crumbed in a processor
  • 1 rounded tablespoon Nichols Malibu seasoning or two teaspoons marjoram and a half teaspoon each of oregano and sage.
  • 4 or 5 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 10 whole bay leaves

Preparation:

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and scallions and cook until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the onion mixture to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the parsley, pistachios and fennel seeds.
  2. Saute the sausage in two batches in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Cook each batch for 2 or 3 minutes, crumbling the sausage into smaller pieces with the back of a  wooden spoon. Add ½ cup of beer to each batch and cook just until the sausage is no longer pink. Add each batch to the mixing bowl and stir to combine with the onions.
  3. Add the ground chicken breast to the same skillet and cook with another ½ cup beer just until the chicken turns white. Add to the mixing bowl.
  4. Add breadcrumbs, herbs, and the remaining ½ cup beer. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds and then add to the mixing bowl. (If you’ve overcooked your sausage and there are large clumps either let it cool a bit and break apart with your fingers or run in your processor.)
  5. Add 4 eggs to the pate mixture and beat to make a moist but not wet, meat-loaf-like mixture. Add the last egg if necessary to bind the mixture. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Test for taste by cooking a small bit in the microwave or skillet.
  6. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  7. Line each pan with parchment paper covering both the sides and bottom. Let the ends of the paper hang over the edges of the pan. Place 3 bay leaves in a row down the center of each of two 9 x 3 inch loaf pans.
  8. Pack the pate mixture into each pan, pressing down firmly with your hands or a spatula. Place two bay leaves on top of each pate.  Cover the top each pate with a sized to fit piece of parchment paper.
  9. Bake the pates for 1 ½ hours or until internal temperature from a thermometer it has reached a safe temperature of 165 degrees. Remove the pate’s from the oven and weight for several hours as they cool. I recommend placing a bread pan on top of each pate and a couple bottles of wine as weights. Refrigerate for several hours.
  10. To unmold the pate remove the top piece of parchment paper run a knife around the sides of each pan and invert the pate onto a clean surface. Remove remaining parchment paper.
  11. This pate will keep up to 2 weeks foil wrapped in the refrigerator. The pate can also be frozen, tightly wrapped in a plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil, up to 2 months.
  12. Makes two 9 x 3 inch pate’s.

Greek Pumpkin Pie

This version of pumpkin pie, incorporates winter squash or pumpkin, with gently cooked onion, feta, spearmint and filo, traditional Greek foods. Well the pumpkin is a little unusual but I have frozen winter squash left from last year. There are versions that are sweet as well as savory. I plan to make it again and will add half a cup of golden raisins, and ¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper not so traditional but I think the flavors will compliment. Aleppo pepper is offered by Nichols and is a Syrian hot sweet paprika that is coarsely ground. I use a lot of this in my cooking, it’s a gentle intensely flavored pepper not widely available in this country. The coiled design is traditional but if you are in a hurry cook it as you would Spanakopita with a few layers of filo, then filling topped with 6-8 sheets of filo.

4 cups baked or canned Pumpkin or Squash, pureed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ large onions sautéed in olive oil

¾ lb. feta cheese ,crumbled

1 ½ tbls. dried spearmint,

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 heaping tablespoons dry breadcrumbs or panko (see preparation notes)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1lb filo defrosted and allowed to sit out of refrigerator for one hour

1 10” Spring form pan coated with olive oil

Preparation: I used Sibley Squash which is not as moist as fresh or canned pumpkin. If you are using pumpkin try to pour off any visible liquid and include breadcrumbs which will be unnecessary with many squash.

Sauté onions finely chopped (a whirl in the food processor is fine) in olive oil for about 8 minutes at medium heat. Combine pumpkin, cooked onion, cheese, spearmint, crumbs, salt & pepper and taste. Note: eggs are added last so you can safely taste this mixture and check seasoning. Last stir in eggs.

Turn oven to 350 degrees and have a rack in center

Unwrap package of filo, and cover sheets with a tea towel.

On a clear work surface take first filo sheet, place it horizontally in front of you and very lightly brush with olive oil. Sheets do not need to be evenly coated. Place a second sheet on top of first and make an even strip of filling 2” above the lower edge and filling to the left and right margins. I used a scant ½ cup for each strip. Fold filo over the filling and roll over lightly brushing each turn with olive oil until you have completely rolled your first coil. Place this along the inside edge of pan. Lay each coil next to the last end and work to center until the pan is filled. Should you have extra filling wrap separately in filo and bake. If it looks as though you’ll run short start using a little less filling as you finish. Mine did come out exactly even with these amounts.

Lightly brush top of pie with olive oil and place in preheated 350 degree oven. Cook for one hour and check. If dough is still looking pale continue cooking and check at ten minute intervals until nicely browned. Carefully remove the pan ring, first running a knife blade along edge.  Allow to cool for twenty minutes and then transfer to serving plate. Run a spatula all under pie to loosen before transferring. This recipe runs rather long because these steps will be new to most readers. If  you have access to sheep milk feta buy it,  as it produces a superior result. this pie served with a little salad is an adequate dinner and also a good side dish. This is good hot or cold. Reheat in a warm oven. A microwave does no favor to filo based dishes as they lose the delightful crisp quality and begin to steam.

Pasta with Garlic, Olive OIl & Parsley or “Aglio et Olio”

Our Nichols Garlic harvest is beautiful this year and what’s better to serve than pasta featuring fresh from the field garlic? This is a simple side dish, rich in garlic flavor and aromas, a good extra virgin olive oil and plenty of chopped fresh parsley.

Serves 2-4                                                                               

Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 quarts boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt

6-8 oz of dry spaghetti or linguine

4 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preparation is the key to this recipe. First rinse and chop parsley then set aside so you can give full attention to past and garlic as they cook. Peel and chop garlic and set aside.  Bring salted water to a boil and add pasta, gently stirring into water so it does not break or stick to pot.

Take a large skillet and heat to medium low temperature. Add olive oil and garlic, gently cooking with no trace of browning. If it’s cooking too fast lift pan from heat and reduce temperature. Garlic is cooked only until soft ands aromatic. Cook pasta in boiling salted water for 8 minutes, until barely tender. Scoop from pot and add to skillet with parsley. Gently combine ingredients and serve piping hot with a grating of fresh black pepper. This is traditionally served without cheese but add if you like. Garlic can be increased to suit your tastes but always cook slowly as it is retains the rich garlic flavor and aroma. Sprinkle with few red pepper flakes for a light flavor burst.

Malibu Herb Blend & Eggplant Dip

Fooling around in the kitchen has led to a new herb blend and an eggplant dip I hope you will enjoy. We served it with  slices of fresh carrot, fennel and kohlrabi. Try any crisp veggies you have or crackers. 

2 cups roasted eggplant, peel discarded

1/2 cup Greek or other natural yogurt

1 tablespoon Malibu Herb Blend

3 tablespoons virgin olive oil

2 diced paste tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon garlic granules or 1 medium minced garlic clove

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried

If your  yogurt has a lot of liquid try pouring off that excess and then add yogurt to mixture. The tomatoes do not need peeling. Combine all ingredients and if desired salt to taste. You’ll find this a snap to prepare and a healthful starter to meals when you want to serve a little something before dinner.

Walla Walla Onion Sandwiches

Sweet, juicy and mild, Walla Walla Sweet onions came from Corsica to this Eastern Washington valley in 1905. Today this large, delicately flavored heirloom is considered by many to be the world’s sweetest onion. We sow these seeds in August and use the thinnings all through spring. We spring plant onion starts. In June, bulbs mature and we enjoy them through the summer. Gardeners grow this celebrated onion from Southern Missouri to British Columbia, though only those grown in The Walla Walla Valley may be sold as the true onion. Our Nichols Garden Nursery seeds and onion starts come from a Walla Walla Family that has been growing these onions for many generations.
James Beard, a native Oregonian, pioneered the movement to use and celebrate local foods. He created this simple sophisticated canape’, ideal with summer drinks.
This sandwich has only five ingredients and is a snap to put together. The key is locating the right bread. It needs to be thinly sliced and firm. If you can find Pepperidge Farm thin white sandwich bread that works well. A loaf of brioche and some baguettes will be quite satisfactory. Avoid a standard slice of white sandwich bread, these are delicate tidbits.

Ingredients:
Thin sliced white bread cut into rounds with crusts removed. Rounds may range in size from 1″ to 3″. You will need two slices for each sandwich.
Unsalted butter at room temperature
Thinly sliced Walla Walla or other sweet mild onion. If you can successfully cut and remove a slice the diameter of your bread that works. If not, cut into quarters and make a small dainty pile on the bread.
Salt, sea or kosher
Mayonnaise…the real stuff is best
A pile of minced curly parsley,previously washed and removed from stems.
Preparation:
Lightly butter bread rounds, cover with onion, sprinkle with a touch of salt. Gently press on sandwich so pieces adhere. Cover the edges with a light coat of mayonnaise. Now roll the edges in parsley. You want a generous coating of parsley to get that herbal flavor balanced against the onion.
When I made these for our staff, Helen and I added a few nasturtiums for the photo. I came by a few minutes later to see only a few wilting nasturtiums remaining on the plate. Nasturtiums, I find are a good addition to these sandwiches when layered in with the onion but I wanted to give you the true James Beard onion sandwich.

Vietnamese Nasturtium Spring Rolls

Nasturtium blossoms and Vietnamese mint add a refreshing light touch to these rolls. The rice paper is nearly transparent and the nasturtiums backed by green lettuce are beautifully displayed. Vietnamese spring rolls are never fried and contain only the freshest ingredients. Try a few practice rolls and you’re ready to go. Perfect or not they are delicious. The recipe below has standard ingredients but the beauty of spring rolls is you can improvise. For a vegetarian roll substitute tofu and a few crunchy bean sprouts for the shrimp and replace fish sauce with soy sauce.
Marcie Wolf, our neighbor and friend, came up with the idea of using nasturtiums and took me through her process. Our photo demonstrates the prepped ingredients all in place for ease and efficiency. Use any leftovers for salad.

Ingredients for 12 rolls:

12 rice paper disks, 8.5” (banh trang)
12 perfect nasturtium flowers inspected for insects
Dark Green loose leaf lettuce torn into 5”-6” by 3” strips
Sweet red pepper cut into narrow strips
Cucumber cut into narrow strips
4 oz. fine rice vermicelli (maifun) soaked in hot water for 10 minutes.
Drain noodles, snip with scissors into 4” to 6” lengths, place
in dish with 2 teaspoons fish sauce and 1 tablespoon lime juice
1 cup Oregon bay shrimp or 24 medium cooked shrimp sliced in
half lengthwise.
2 carrots shredded or julienned
Fresh basil and mint chopped and combined
½ cup chopped roasted peanuts

Dipping Sauce to serve with spring rolls
½ cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
1 large clove garlic minced or pressed
1 Thai chili or jalapeno pepper minced
1 tablespoon peanut butter
Stir above ingredients together and serve in
bowl with a small ladle or tiny individual dishes.

Preparation:

Dip a single rice paper sheet into warm water for a few seconds until pliable and place on work surface. On lower third of rice paper place nasturtium flower face down. Trim backside so it lies flat. Cover with a piece of lettuce shiny side down. Place a pepper strip at the bottom of lettuce and a cucumber strip just above, these will anchor your ingredients making it easier to roll. Next add a few strands of vermicelli, shrimps, carrot, herbs and peanuts. Pull up bottom part of rice paper to cover filling, use pepper and cucumber to hold all in place, fold in sides and roll towards top and you have a wrapped spring roll. Tips: the paper becomes just a little elastic and with only a little practice you’ll gain a feel for this stage. You will want to play a little with exact placement of nasturtium and lettuce so the finished roll nicely displays these without any extra rice paper edge on top of them.
There are several steps but before long you’ll find it becomes quite easy. Don’t hesitate to adjust flavors if you find anything too hot, too salty or too acidic, Vietnamese Mint and Thai Basil are the most authentic herbs but don’t hesitate to use fresh spearmint and your favorite basil. Nasturtiums should not be sprayed.

If you have questions post a comment and I’ll reply.

Basil-Tomato Salsa

Salsa recipes are versatile and this is one that says Summer! Serve the “Basic Recipe” with chips or crackers.
The goat cheese log shown resting on a nest of wild arugula is summer fare. Make the full “Basic Recipe” and use half for this smokey paprika version. Add 1/4th tsp. Nichols triple smoked paprika and 1 tsp. olive oil and serve with goat cheese. Adding a spoonful of chopped capers to the “Basic Recipe” portion gives a lovely Tuscan quality. Pile onto toasted bread slices for bruschetta. These salsas are good with fish. If your palate wants more heat, acid or garlic adjust accordingly. You are the cook and summer abundance invites improvisation.

Basic Recipe
6 medium Roma Tomatoes (3 cups diced)
1 large mild onion (Walla Wallas if available)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4-6 Jalapeno peppers –deseeded
1 cup basil leaves, finely slivered and tightly packed
juice of 2 lemons or ¼ cup red wine vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste, a touch of sugar if needed

With a well sharpened knife trim and finely dice the tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Deseeding peppers improves texture of the salsa and produces a milder flavor. The basil leaves need to have stems trimmed away before chopping. Adjust seasonings to your taste. If you prefer to use slicing tomatoes, chop, let sit for a few minutes, and drain off excess juices.
I’ve used wild arugula which holds up in summer heat better than our standard arugula. Both will be delicious, Spread your cracker or toast with goat cheese “Chevre”, add a few sprigs of arugula and top with salsa.

Gardeners tip: beginning July 1 soils in the continental US are warm enough to direct sow basil seeds. Sow seeds about 1/2 inch apart in a sunny spot, keep damp as seeds germinate and plants develop. Thin to allow 3-4″ between developed plants. Start harvesting when 4″ tall. This is always my main crop for pesto. All this clipping doesn’t make for beautiful plants but the flavor and production is great.

Violet Jelly

The elusive sweet fragrance of violets tells us spring is really here to stay. I love the way they naturalize in a garden with clumps spreading here and there. Not only are violets charming they are edible. I recently made a single layer cake, dusted it with powdered sugar and sprinkled it with violets.
Our old website had a number of archived recipes that I will gradually add to this one.
Violets are beginning to appear in our garden. When we first saw our present home, the garden was awash in violet blossoms. Our daughter, who was then barely three, knelt down in the purple carpet to smell their perfume, forever creating a picture in our minds. In spring, we like to make violet jelly. This recipe is adapted from Stalking The Healthful Herbs by Euell Gibbons. If you are interested in additional violet recipes, look for his book which contains six more.
2 cups fresh violets
2 cups boiling water
juice of one lemon (4 tablespoons)
1 package of powdered pectin
4 cups sugar

Make an infusion with violets and water by placing your blossoms in a glass jar and covering them with boiling water. Put a lid on the jar, and set aside for 24 hours. The infusion will turn a murky bluish green. Strain and discard the violets. Add the lemon juice to the violet infusion, and it transforms to a clear lavender pink. Stir in powdered pectin, and bring to a boil. Add 4 cups sugar, bring to a boil again, and boil vigorously for one minute. Skim if necessary. Pour into sterile jars and seal. Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups jelly.

Unsweetened Pumpkin Tart – The Citrouillat

Unsweetened Pumpkin Tart – The Citrouillat
It was in the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook that we first encountered an unsweetened pumpkin pie. While this tart contains a bit of butter it’s far less rich than Alice’s with a cup of heavy cream and rich crust.
This recipe is from our old website and I will begin adding these to this blog.

Pastry
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
3 tablespoons melted butter or oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add yeast to lukewarm water with 1/4 cup flour. Stir and let sit in a mixing bowl until bubbly, about ten minutes. Mix 2 tablespoons butter and egg into yeast mixture. Gently add flour and salt to the yeast mixture. It should have the consistency of a soft dough. Do not knead because you do not want to develop the gluten. Form into two balls one slightly smaller than the other. Roll out the larger piece and place in an oiled 10” springform pan or ceramic tart dish. Brush with some of remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Cover loosely with a damp kitchen towel. Set dough for top crust aside until you are ready to fill the tart.

Pumpkin Filling

2 pounds pumpkin or winter squash, peeled and diced in 3/4inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons instant rice or 1/4 cup cooked rice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese

Sprinkle pumpkin or squash with salt and cook in a steamer for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain steamed pumpkin in a colander while onion is cooking. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet set on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is tender and translucent about 5 minutes. Add pumpkin, thyme, sage, and pepper. Adjust heat to medium high and staute, stirring occasionally until pumpkin dice barely begin to break apart. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir in rice and cheese and place filling in shell. Lightly roll out the top crust and cover, pinching the edges well together, brush with remaining butter. Cut a few slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes on the medium rack until golden brown. Let sit on a cooling rack for ten minutes before serving. Serve warm or cooled as a picnic dish.

Usually I substitute winter squash for pumpkins since most have a richer flavor and are drier than pumpkins. Nevertheless, there’s always room in the garden for a few pumpkins. Create a nice mound of loose soil. Scoop out the center and plant your seeds. The depression in the center makes water just a little easier since it doesn’t run off the slope.

Arugula & Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce

If you have arugula or “garden rocket” growing in your June garden, it’s probably become a little spicy and is ready to bolt. Try this delicious pasta recipe. You will easily use up a couple fistfuls of arugula and have yourself a salad and side dish in one. The arugula flavor mellows when combined with the hot pasta and savory sauce.

We were having fish for dinner so I made a few changes. Didn’t seem as though we needed cheese tonight so this was omitted. Our tarragon is still tender so I stripped the leaves from three long stems and threw those on top and that was a good partner with the fish. Decided to eliminate the basil.  Arugula pastaAlso the onions need to be used before I take off to the New York Botanic Garden to speak about and demonstrate how to grow a food garden in containers.  Next I chopped an onion and stirred it around in the  olive oil and garlic. There is nothing like travel time away from the summer garden to send us bustling around trying to get everything done.

4 cups arugula leaves washed, drained and trimmed
1 pound uncooked rigatoni or other small pasta
2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
3 garlic cloves pressed or minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
salt & red or black pepper to taste

Tear arugula into generous bite-sized pieces. Lay the leaves in a large, heat resistant, shallow serving dish. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until it reaches that barely tender stage. Remove and drain. While the pasta is cooking prepare this easy tomato sauce: Heat olive oil and stir garlic around until softened and fragrant. Add tomatoes and seasonings and heat to a simmer. Remove bay leaf.  Pour the hot, drained steaming pasta, over the bed of arugula.  Spread the tomato sauce over the pasta. Let a few bright green leaves show around the edges of the pasta. Do not toss together. Serve with grated parmesan cheese. Serves 4-6.

Salad of Swiss Chard, Beets and Fruit

Swiss Chard and Beet SaladCooked greens make a delicious salad base. This was an evening to find a purpose for accumulated ingredients. We had leftover multi-colored Swiss Chard which was braised in a little olive oil and garlic. The stems and garlic were cooked for three minutes before coarsely chopped leaves were added.

Our other ingredients were also ready:
2 medium baked beets
1 orange, peeled
1 mango, peeled
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1/4 cup crumbled goat or feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt to taste

Slice beets, orange and mango into a dish. Dress with vinegar and oil. Layer over greens, sprinkle first with parsley and then cheese. A few added walnuts would be good. Another version for  beet and salad would be sliced pears and a sprinkling of dried cranberries.   Fresh tarragon would be a good herb along with parsley.

Our Neon chard is large leaved and quite beautiful in mid spring. This is from last year’s planting and chard makes great regrowth once spring arrives. Chard belongs in every garden and is pretty enough to add to a flower bed. Leaf miner can be a problem in some areas and now is safely controlled by using organically approved spinosad applied as a light spray.  We use and offer it as Monterey Garden Insect Garden Spray.

Miner’s Lettuce Salad

Miners Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata grows wild up and down the west coast. It’s a lovely little plant for spring salads and is easy to grow. Rich in vitamins A and C, it was an important food for Native Americans, early settlers andminers-lettuce gold rush miners. A few seeds sown in bare spots will show up as clusters of rounded leaves with tiny white flowers in the center. Stems as well as leaves are edible. Best picked when budded or blooming and before seeds form. The flavor is freshly green and grassy and melds beautifully with other ingredients.
A few years ago I was talking with Pam Peirce, author of Golden Gate Gardening, a year-round guide to food gardening in the Bay area. I asked if she liked mache/corn salad and she said “it’s ok, but I much prefer Miner’s lettuce”, so I began paying more attention to this garden green. Both now have an important space in my garden. With only a little encouragement both these plants will obligingly self sow.

Serves 3-6 depending upon appetites. miners-lettuce-saladA generous serving is a light main course.

4-5 cups Miners lettuce with stems, rinsed & trimmed
2-3 tablespoons fresh spearmint, finely chopped
6 small baked beets, peeled & sliced
2 tablespoons red onion finely sliced
4 teaspoons walnut oil
1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
1/3 to 1/2 cup cup walnut pieces or halves (toasted)
1 teaspoon salad oil
½ teaspoon sugar
2 to 4 oz. crumbled feta or goat cheese

To avoid tossing the delicate miner’s lettuce make this a layered salad. Spread out the greens on a serving dish and sprinkle with fresh spearmint. Combine beets, red onion, walnut oil, vinegar, salt & pepper. Spread beet mixture over the greens. Toast walnuts in a small skillet set on medium heat with oil and sugar. They’ll become fragrant and ready to use in 3-4 minutes, watch carefully as they can quickly go from perfect to scorched. Sprinkle cooled nuts over beets and last drizzle with cheese.

Basil-Summer Sowing

Basil seeds can be sown directly into the ground though all of July and on into early August. Warm soils lead to quick germination and you should be seeing small starts within a week. Prepare a smooth seedbed and sow seeds few inches apart. Don’t plant deeply, these are small seeds and need to be barely covered with 1/8″ of fine soil. Keep soil moist during the germination period. If weather is really hot and you are trying to keep soil from drying cover with newspaper propped a few inches above the soil. Sprinkle the seedbed and the papers to help hold in moisture during the day. When seeds sprout and show a full set of leaves thin 8″ to 12″ apart.

This late planting is what I use for frozen pesto and other preserved basil. It grows fast, is less troubled by slugs and needs little coddling. One of my favorite ways to preserve basil is frozen basil cubes. Strip leaves from the stem, and place in blender with enough water to make a thick slurry. Pour this mixture into ice cube trays and freeze. These can be stored in a sturdy zip-lock bag. Just toss in one or two cubes into sauces and soups for a burst of fresh summer flavor.

The Bountiful Container

I’m happy to announce the fourth printing of McGee & Stuckey’s, The Bountiful Container is now available. This 432 page book is a complete guide growing container gardens of vegetables, herbs, fruits and edible flowers. We’ve included recipes for using your home grown goods. Maggie and I researched soils, containers, fertilizing and every aspect of what gardeners encounter when growing in containers. I love experimenting with new techniques and varieties using pots and small space gardening. If your garden is horizontally challenged, think vertically! If you only have space for herbs, a few salad greens and a tomato in a large pot think how much flavor and variety you’ll add to your household.

This weekend, May 10th, I’ll be speaking and signing books at the Oregon City Farmers Market. Saturday, May 17, is the annual Nichols Garden Nursery Plant Day. If you’re in the area, drop by and enjoy light herbal refreshment, gardening demonstrations, tours of the herb garden and a great sale on plants and other gardening items.

Tarragon Roasted Chicken

Tarragon is growing by leaps and bounds and the delicate, fresh anise-like flavor pairs beautifully with salads, eggs, fish and chicken. Today we made a simple roast chicken stuffed with tarragon. I picked a small handful of tarragon shoots cutting to the soil line to encourage new growth. As mentioned in earlier posts I grow tarragon in a container.

To infuse the tarragon flavor throughout the chicken I gently lifted the skin and pressed tarragon under it on as much of the chicken as possible. I placed the stems in the cavity along with several more sprigs. Notice the pattern tarragon makes under the skin.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 large fryer/roasting chicken
10 to 12 shoots fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon Dijon type mustard
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated pepper

Remove giblets and any excess fat that can be trimmed away. Work the tarragon under the skin. Mix oil, mustard, salt and pepper together and rub over chicken. Place additional tarragon inside cavity, reserving one tablespoon leaves. Place chicken in a small roasting pan and place in oven. I started with the breast down for 45 minutes. Every 15 minutes or so I give the pan a little shake to keep the breast from sticking. When back has browned carefully turn the chicken and continue cooking until breast is browned in approximately 45 minutes. An instant thermometer placed in the thigh or breast will read 170 degrees when done. When thigh and leg move easily and juices no longer run pink chicken is done. Thermometer test is easier.
Strain and defat juices, salt to taste and add one tablespoon minced tarragon. Use juices as a sauce. Heat and add a little white wine, white vermouth or apple juice until right consistency. A couple teaspoons of cream smooth the flavors if you desire a little extra richness. Let rest 15 to 20 minutes before carving and serving.

Unsweetened Pumpkin Tart – “Citrouillat”

It was in the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook that I first encountered a very old recipe for a savory, unsweetened pumpkin pie. While this tart contains a bit of butter it’s far less rich than Ms. Toklas’s with a cup of heavy cream and rich crust.
Last night we cooked a magnificent 8# Queensland squash and of course there was a good amount left to enjoy. Any of your favorite winter squash or pumpkins may be used for this pie. When your squash is precooked just scoop out 3 1/2 cups and add small chunks to the onions and herbs. When pressed for time use a conventional pie crust or or even a dozen sheets of filo as I plan to do today. This recipe is listed on our http://www.nicholsgardennursery website.

When using filo sheets, remember they only need the lightest buttering with a combination of melted butter and olive oil. A 1″ pastry brush gives you good control. Since I’m using a circular pan I’ll offset each piece a few inches so the entire pan is covered. Then the top sheets will be handled the same way and rolled up at the edge. A photo will follow but I’m off to the kitchen.
Serves 6 – 8

Pastry
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
3 tablespoons butter, melted or olive oil 1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add yeast to lukewarm water with 1/4 cup flour. Stir and let sit in a mixing bowl until bubbly, about ten minutes. Mix 2 tablespoons butter and egg into yeast mixture. Gently add flour and salt to the yeast mixture. It should have the consistency of a soft dough. Do not knead because you do not want to develop the gluten. Form into two balls one slightly smaller than the other. Roll out the larger piece and place in an oiled 10” springform pan or ceramic tart dish. Brush with some of remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Cover loosely with a damp kitchen towel. Set dough for top crust aside until you are ready to fill the tart.

Pumpkin Filling

2 pounds pumpkin or winter squash, peeled and diced or 3 1/2 cups 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons instant rice or 1/4 cup cooked rice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese

Sprinkle pumpkin or squash with salt and cook in a steamer for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain steamed pumpkin in a colander while onion is cooking. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet set on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is tender and translucent about 5 minutes. Add pumpkin, thyme, sage, and pepper. Adjust heat to medium high and staute, stirring occasionally until pumpkin dice barely begin to break apart. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir in rice and cheese and place filling in shell. Lightly roll out the top crust and cover, pinching the edges well together, brush with remaining butter. Cut a few slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes on the medium rack until golden brown. Let sit on a cooling rack for ten minutes before serving. Serve warm or cooled as a picnic dish.