Phyllis' Kitchen...And All Around the House
Ah! Strawberries! Every season, every month has its glorious moments in the sun, and strawberries are in their glory right now. And these local berries make the out-of-area supermarket strawberries pale in flavor comparison. While I have strawberry recipes out the wazoo in my files, I prefer the perfectly ripe berry cut up in wonderfully decadent yogurt or ice cream, or on my granola, though I’ll admit that Beth Fowle’s Full Heart Farm granola is fabulous! Better yet, strawberries atop yogurt or ice cream, with a sprinkling of granola is hard to beat.
However, I did have occasion to create a recipe for the New Roots Fresh Stop “Strawberry Jamm” festival created by Karyn Moskowitz, and have become pretty fond of this strawberry drink because it is tart; not too sweet. A group that I facilitate was challenged to make a strawberry drink—not a smoothie, and not made with sugar. What we came up with is a limeade spritzer with just a hint of strawberries & lime; more like a flavored water. We were trying to find something that would help people drink fewer flavored drinks, but enjoy something refreshing. We sweetened it slightly with stevia, an herb sold in liquid or powdered form at many supermarkets, and with very few calories. Here is our recipe, though you can adjust your quantities as you wish.
Strawberry Lime Spritzer
1 quart water
9 drops stevia (or sweetener of choice)
1 tablespoon fresh or good quality bottled lime juice
Mash strawberries and place in the water/lime/stevia mixture and marinate overnight. You may serve it with a strawberry in each serving, or a sprig of mint. Makes 4 servings.
Salads: Of course it is also salad season, with greens and radishes of all descriptions at almost every booth at the farmers market, green onions and Jackson’s wonderful cucumbers and tomatoes, how could you not make a fantastic salad. Well, I guess you could make an uninteresting salad if you did not have a pungent, flavorful dressing, and that brings me to another discovery: Smoky Tomato dressing from Wild Carrot Farm. It is a wonderful dressing just by itself, but I often prefer something closer to a French or vinaigrette dressing, so I create the best of both worlds by mixing my own vinaigrette dressing half and half with Wild Carrot’s Smoky Tomato dressing. Here’s my vinaigrette, but it’s not written in stone. You can substitute a different oil, or a different vinegar or lemon juice:
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 clove garlic
Mix in a shaker jar, with a toothpick in the garlic so you can keep it in the jar. Mix with Wild Carrot’s Smoky Tomato dressing for a different type of flavor & texture.
Cooking Greens: There are so many different, delicious greens at the market now; and you feel absolutely virtuous eating them. Like many of you, I grow a few of my own, and sometimes find myself in a situation of having more than I can eat in a few days’ time, or feel under the weather and crave soup. That happened to me recently; all I wanted was soup, and all I had in the fridge was greens. What to do? The solution was pretty simple: make greens soup! And it was delicious. Again, this recipe may be changed many ways, but I’ll give you the general technique, and you can add your own adaptations.
1 onion, or ½ cup green garlic or garlic scapes, chopped
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 cups medium tender greens of choice, sliced into ribbons*
3 tablespoons seasoned flour (such as local Bloomfield Farms brand)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup sour cream, plain yogurt, milk, or soymilk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 cup grated cheese of choice (optional)
Saute onions or green garlic/scapes in butter until translucent and fragrant. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons seasoned flour and stir for 5-10 minutes over medium heat, until very light brown and thick. Add broth and greens; stir until slightly thick Add sour cream, yogurt, milk, etc. of choice, salt and pepper, and sesame oil. Stir until well blended. Puree with an immersion blender or food processor. Add cheese, if desired, stirring well—but the soup is quite delicious without it. Serves 4.
* Spinach, kale, mustard, bok choy, beet—most anything but collards, or the tougher greens. A mixture of various greens works well—and even some of the salad greens may be added.
Cooking Methods: There are many methods of cooking greens, but many people in the south seriously over-cook them, so we’re not going there. Here are two suggestions, though there are many other ways that good cooks swear by:
For very tender greens (spinach, beet, bok choy) I got this technique from Kathy Carey, owner and chef of Lilly’s Restaurant. She used this for spinach, but it works well for any very tender greens: Cut greens into ribbons if large. Saute several cloves of minced garlic or a handful of chopped garlic scapes in butter until very fragrant. Add the chopped greens and saute on high until wilted. Season with salt, pepper, and add a handful of toasted pine nuts. Yum!
For medium-tender greens such as kale, mustard, etc.: Start by sautéing garlic or garlic scapes and onions in butter or olive oil until very fragrant. Add the chopped greens—don’t forget to do this; otherwise, they never seem to get very tender—and cook until wilted. Add ½ to 1 teaspoon ham* bouillon (such as Minor’s, (which you’ll find at Lotsa Pasta) and 3-4 tablespoons of water, plus a tiny piece of dried cayenne pepper (optional). Simmer for about 10 minutes. Delicious!
*You can substitute vegetable bouillon.)
Green Garlic and Garlic Scapes: So you know which is which:
· Green garlic is the thinned garlic stalks that the farmer pulls to make sure that the garlic left in the ground will not be too crowded to form a bulb, just as other vegetables are thinned to give them room to grow. They look like large green onions, but are actually a milder form of garlic.
· Garlic scapes are the curly tops of garlic that are often removed so all of the energy in the garlic can be funneled into making a bulb instead of making seeds.
I use both of these in cooking, but not so much raw, unless you are trying to keep away vampires. Since onions are a few months away, I buy these to use now, and to freeze for cooking anytime I would saute onions or garlic for a dish. The green garlic is not quite as tender as the scapes, but both are great in cooking, in place of using mature onions. In fact, the tougher leaves at the top go into my stock bag of ends and pieces of produce that are not tender/appropriate for serving, but will flavor perfectly good stock. This is seasonal cooking!
Find lots of local food ideas on “The Local Life,” Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. on WCHQ, 100.9 F.M. with the radio show about food and sustainability, co-hosted with Patty Marguet. Or check out The Local Life’s Facebook page for other interesting food ideas & recipes. If you have questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.