Saturday, July 2, 2011

eat your flowers

Who says vegetable gardens can't have flowers? My mum is constantly bugging me to grow more flowers, but my argument is that vegetable plants have beautiful flowers. I seem to only be able to buy things that are edible. They may not be large and showy, but they are more subtle in their beauty. Plus, you know they are going to grow into something delicious.

A Geranium (gift from mum, obviously, but the petals are edible), pepper and tomato blossoms, and scarlet runner beans.

mango mania

Gourmet popsicles are huge right now. This recipe is from an article in The Star, and it's unbelievably tasty. Add more or less sweetener, depending on how tangy and sour you like your mangoes.

Mango-lime popsicles

5 ataulfo mangos (the smaller, sweet, yellow mangoes), peeled and chopped
juice and zest of 5 limes
1/4 cup of sugar (to taste)
1/2 cup of water

Combine everything in a blender or food processor. Blend, and pour into popsicle moulds. No moulds? Use plastic cups and chopsticks. Just freeze the popsicles for two or three hours, then stick in the chopsticks - the popsicles should be frozen enough to hold the sticks straight. Then freeze for anther 4 or 5 hours. To remove from the moulds, just run under hot water for a few seconds.

overnight soaking is so worth it.

I cooked dried chickpeas for the first time a few weeks ago, and I'm converted. Don't get me wrong, there will still be a few cans hanging out in my pantry for those last minute recipes. But the texture and flavour was so much better, and they cost a fraction of the price of canned... not to mention the environmental impact of importing dried beans is much lower than the weight and bulk of canned. All they need is an overnight soak in lots of water (throw the pot in the fridge to prevent it from fermenting, especially in the summer weather). Then just cook them in their soaking liquid for around 2 hours, until tender.

Here's a delicious recipe from Vegetarian Times. The second time I made it, I substituted some sweet potatoes for some of the carrots, with very satisfactory results. Tagine is a North African stew, traditionally cooked in a heavy clay pot. Moroccan versions usually include stewing meat, various vegetables and some sort of fruit - apricots, raisins, quinces or pears.

Chickpea Tagine with Carrots and Honey

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
  • 3 cups of cooked chickpeas (or 2 cans)
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced into thin rounds
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • salt and pepper
  • Saute the onion and garlic in a large pot, until translucent. Add chickpeas, carrots, currants, spices and honey, along with 2 cups of water. Simmer for 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, garnished with sour cream or yogurt and some cilantro or parsley.

Friday, July 1, 2011

attack of the monster rhubarb

I was out at a farm a few weeks ago, and there was some giant, overgrown rhubarb plants. Surrounded by thorny vines from a neighbouring weed, harvesting stalks was a dangerous task. But well worth it. The best recipe for vast quantities of rhubarb? A delightful, tart, bright pink beverage.

10 cups of rhubarb
1/2 cup water
1-4 cups of sugar

Roughly chop the rhubarb. Cook in 1/2 cup water in a large pot for 30 -45 minutes. The rhubarb will break down and turn into 'stewed fruit.' Once the rhubarb has broken down, add sugar to your liking - 1 cup will give you a very tart drink, and 4 cups a very sweet drink. Pour the stewed rhubarb in to a fine sieve, and set over a large bowl. Encourage the rhubarb to strain by pressing with a ladle or large spoon. You are going to have lots of pulp left in the strainer. Save it and add it to a crumble or pie! What you want is the rhubarb syrup that has drained into the bowl. This is the concentrate for your drink. Dilute it with water to your liking - I found 1 part syrup to 8 parts water was about right.

Possible additions? Ribbons of mint, club soda, or strawberry garnishes.

I wish I had a picture - it's the most attractive, remarkable shade of pinky-purple. You could also use the syrup in cocktails. Gin, rhubarb syrup, club soda? Mmmmmmm.

Conquering the slimy squash

I'm not a picky eater, but there are some vegetables I don't normally buy. So, my resolution for the next few months is to pay attention to those vegetables I normally ignore, walk past, and turn my nose up at. This week had two contenders: summer squash and radishes.The former...I've had too many slimy, bland experiences, the latter is just too spicy for me. Here's this week's attempt at conquering the unloved vegetables.

Roasted Patty Pan Squash
A tasty, caramelized way of conquering the summer squash.

5 or 6 patty pans
2 green onions, cut in 1 in. chunks.
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh herbs (I used basil and oregano)

Cut the squash in 1/2 in. slices. Toss with onions, oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 400 for 20-30 min, until brown and crispy. Toss with herbs and eat.

Roasted Radishes
roasting radishes totally changes their flavour. The spicy bite mellows, and they become sweet and delicious.

S + p.
(is this really a recipe?)

Thats it - just slice them as thin as possible, toss them in oil and season, and roast at 400 for 20-30 min. So good!