Spring Garden: Spinach, Snow Pea, and Scape Stir Fry

Posted on May 26, 2012. Filed under: easy, garden, healthy, recipe, Uncategorized, vegetable, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I feel like for the last few months I’ve been beginning nearly every post with an apology for not writing very often: “So busy with school,” “other writing projects,” “traveling,” etc. I probably need to reorganize this space in a better way, too. Point is, so sorry for not writing here for over a month, I’ve been very busy finishing school (I’m a master of studying food now), with writing projects (stories on food & the environment for The Allegheny Front, a weekly column in Pittsburgh City Paper), and traveling (mostly around Pittsburgh; it’s been beautiful here). I’ve also been spending a lot of time in my garden, and now I have some delicious treats to eat.

Ramps might be the first edible sign of spring, but spinach is one of the first garden crops to really pop from the ground. I’ve been eating from my spinach patch for three weeks now, and that’s forced me to be awfully creative; one can only eat so many spinach salads or lightly wilted spinach. Luckily for me, my garlic started to scape (see my post on harvesting garlic for more information on garlic scapes), and the snow pea plants are producing (a bucket-load) of pods. That sounded like a promising start to a new recipe, so I rode my bike down to a wonderful little market called the Lotus Food Company; they sell house-made tofu, and it’s ridiculously inexpensive. I also purchased a bottle of black vinegar enhanced with “fruit and vegetable juice.” That’s about all that was written in English on the label! It’s a wonderfully complex vinegar with apricot and spice flavors. All in all, I had the makings of a terrific stir-fry.

Add 1 Tsp. Vegetable Oil to a medium-hot pan.
Pan fry Half-Pound of Firm Tofu, cut into 2-inch squares until brown.
Set aside.

While the tofu is cooking, mix:
1/4 Cup Chicken or Veggie Stock
1 Chopped Garlic Scape
2 Tsp. Soy Sauce
2 Tsp. Mirin
2 Tsp. Black Vinegar
1 Tsp. Minced Ginger
1 Tsp. Corn Starch
1/2 Tsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
Set aside.

Wash and pat dry:
4 Cups Spinach
(Spinach should be loosely packed. Also, I didn’t measure this precisely.)

Wash, and halve:
Two Cups Snow Peas

Chop:
Two Garlic Scapes

Saute the spinach, snow peas, and scapes for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat.
Return tofu to pan.
Add sauce mixture.
Cook for 1.5 minutes, remove from heat, and allow dish to rest for 1 minute before serving.
Top with Toasted Sesame Seeds

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Borscht (Hot)

Posted on January 31, 2012. Filed under: beet, favorite, one pot, recipe, soup, vegetable, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

More beets.

Beet obsession + cold weather + potluck = Borscht. It’s a logical conclusion. But what is this thing they (Eastern Europeans) call borscht? I remember a time in my youth when I met my Grandpa Benji and Uncle Kenny at Yonah Schimmel’s (Lower East Side, Manhattan) for knishes, and was taken aback when I saw them both slurping on a cold, thick, magenta brew topped with sour cream. Gross?

It took some time to come around the idea that this could be something edible. It just looked so strange and horrible. I was wrong. It’s not just edible, it’s delicious. They were sipping on cold borscht. But it’s winter, so I was going to go in the other direction—hot borscht.

Basically, borscht is a hodgepodge soup dish that contains beets and whatever else you have leftover. It’s believed that borscht originated in the Ukraine, but the exact history is undocumented. The wonderful thing about undocumented recipes is that it leaves you a lot of room to play. Just about every cold-weather, beet-eating culture has its own version of borscht, and even those recipes vary from person to person. So embrace the spirt, and make your borscht with whatever you have in your kitchen (plus beets).

Peel and halve 1.5 Pounds Beets
Boil in 8 cups water for 20 minutes.
Remove beets, SAVE the water.

While beets are cooking, add to the beet water:
3 Carrots, cubed
2 Stalks Celery, cubed
2 Apples, cubed
3-4 Yukon Gold Potatoes, cubed
1 Parsnip, cubed
1 Onion, sliced
1 Small Head Cabbage, shredded

Add additional water* to cover.
Add salt, pepper and 1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar

Once beets are cool enough to touch, slice them into matchsticks and add them back to the pot.

Simmer for one hour.

Finish with 1/4 Cup Chopped Dill.

Top with Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt.

*As written, this recipe is vegan. You can add chicken stock instead of water if you’d like to. You can also make a beefy version of borscht. So much variety. 

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Beets and Their Greens

Posted on January 17, 2012. Filed under: beet, easy, vegetable, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , |

I love beets because they taste of Earth and sugar. They are also ridiculously good for you; beets are loaded with antioxidants, they’re anti-inflammatory, they’re high in fiber, and full of minerals.

Beets are easy to prepare: the roots can be roasted, boiled, or steamed. I’ve been working on a steaming/roasting method that produces a tender beet with a concentrated flavor–this is my favorite way to cook a beet. I sometimes serve them with the attached greens, but you can also use the greens separately (roots keep for a few weeks in the fridge, the greens just a few days). You were going to throw the greens away? No no no. Beet greens are versatile, and, just like the beet root, very nutritious.

So look for beets with the greens attached, because you’re getting extra food for (often) the same price per pound. If you have to buy them from a bulk bin, make sure the beet feels firm and doesn’t have any deep blemishes (they don’t have to be beautiful, but if you’re going to store them, you don’t want them to deteriorate).

For the Beets:
Remove greens from the beets. Set aside for later use.
Rinse and peel beets.*
Cut beets into 2-inch chunks (no need for perfectly sized chunks).
Place chunks on foil (helpful to have foil supported by a baking sheet), and add one tablespoon water.
Crinkle foil over beets, and place in a 400F oven.
Check beets after 15-20 minutes. Add another teaspoon or two of water if necessary.
Beets should be done in about 30 minutes.
Add a pinch of salt before serving.
For the Greens
Wash beet greens thoroughly, dry them, and separate greens from stem.
Chop stem into 1/2 inch pieces, and tear greens into 2 inch pieces (again, no need for perfection).
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a pan over medium heat.
Add 2 cloves garlic, minced.
Cook 30 seconds, then chopped stems.
Cook 2 minutes, then add the greens.
Cook 1 minute.
Add 2 teaspoons water, cover pan, and let cook for 2 more minutes.
Finish with a pinch of salt and sugar*, a drizzle of olive oil, and the juice of one lemon.
Toss with beet roots.

* Beets are usually peeled after cooking, but with this method it’s easier to do so before. Unless you like your hands stained with beet juice you should wear latex gloves. Also don’t wear any fancy clothes while preparing beets.
* If you can find Meyer lemons, skip the extra sugar and celebrate. They are most wonderful, and I’m jealous my parents have a tree that’s full of them in their back yard. Lucky parents!
*Don’t fear the beeturia: you might experience a…colorful…urination after eating beets. It’s not uncommon. And it’s not blood. Don’t call your doctor friend in the middle of the night and try to figure out what just happened–trust me.

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So Sweet

Posted on September 29, 2010. Filed under: easy, recipe, vegetable | Tags: , , , , , |

When I go out to eat with friends, a few of them always go gagagagaga over sweet potato fries. I get it. Personally, I’d rather have a really well made steak fry, but I get it. They look pretty. But frying can mask the depth of the sweet potato flavor. Plus, even though I’ve been telling you for ages to get a deep fryer, you don’t seem to be listening to me, so how are you going to make them at home?

Well, there is a way. And the way is easier and much more flavorful than what you’ll get at the local pub.

Peel Two Sweet Potatoes.
Slice them into rounds that are 1.5 inches thick.

Rub the rounds with Olive Oil and then lightly sprinkle with Salt and Pepper.
Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Gently press the tops the sweet potatoes with the back of a fork.
If you’d like (and you’ll like) put a tiny piece of Butter on each slice.
Sprinkle slices with Cinnamon, Garlic Powder, Brown Sugar, and Coriander.
Bake for 5 more minutes.

So good.
Try it with your own spice blends, too. You never know what you’ll come up with.

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