Carrot Top Pesto

Hello all! I have not fallen off the face of the earth. ūüôā I am still here, but have been rather stuck in the whirlwind known as the end of the school year. The end of the school year always seems to be a blur. It’s almost as if spring break accelerates the arrival of Summer and we find ourselves in a whirlwind of time, desperately trying to catch up and accomplish all that needs to be done before the days of summer relaxation can begin. The last few weeks have been kind of like that for me. Between¬†shuttling my now 7 year old to school and soccer, carpool,¬†homework, nightly dinners, keeping up with my own schoolwork and (gulp) finals, I have still been making healthful meals and trying to find new ways to use my CSA box contents. I received a new box today, but am going to post the contents tomorrow.

Today I want to share that a) I did make cookies on cookie friday, even though I didn’t post them. b) I made carrot top pesto! From carrot tops! The green¬†leaves that grow out of the top of my beautiful CSA carrots. c) We also finally acquired an item we had been ogling for a very long time– a Vitamix blender. I’ve been drinking a large portion of my fruits and veggies lately. I apologize beforehand if I have a bit of Vitamix fever in the coming weeks.. I will say that even though the Vitamix is touted as a juicer, it doesn’t really juice like a juicer. It makes wholemeal juice, meaning that the pulp and fiber are all pulverized into the juice which results in a smoothie texture. It works for me as long as I think of it as a smoothie and not juice.

On to the carrot top pesto. I had been wanting to make carrot top pesto for a while, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.The leaves are beautiful, but they taste so different from anything I know that I wasn’t sure I could successfully pull off using them in a recipe. My CSA put up a recipe for carrot top pesto on their blog a while back, but I was skeptical. Our last box had some insanely huge heirloom carrots in it, and the leaves were abundant and very pretty. I really want to make our CSA experience as waste free as possible so I decided to give the pesto a whirl. I did not follow a recipe, but did my usual method of pureeing and adding as I went along to suit my taste. I had one stalk of green garlic left and I decided to use that so the pesto wouldn’t consist of just the bitter carrot tops. I also added some mint leaves as I had a lot of those and thought it would add some interest. I also used some lemon juice to cut the bitterness. It worked really well. I used some of the pesto¬†for dinner with pasta and froze the rest in an ice cube tray (1 TB in each compartment), then transferred to a freezer storage bag. I had leftover pasta which I turned into a pasta frittata the next morning.

Carrot Top Pesto

carrot top pesto ready for freezing

3 cups of carrot top greens, washed and spun dry

1 whole stalk of green garlic, or 2 garlic cloves, minced

12 mint leaves

1/4 cup grated parmesan (I used a parm/romano mix)

1 tsp black pepper

1 TB lemon juice

olive oil ( I didn’t measure. I just streamed it into the food processor to get a nice paste.¬†I would suggest starting with 1/4 C and adjusting to suit your preferred consistency.)

Add everything to your food processor and whir away until you have a nice paste. Separate for freezing like I did, or store in a glass jar in the fridge to use during the week.

Carrot top pesto with penne

I will share the cookies I made later in the week.

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Veggie Friends and Green Garlic and Kale Mashed Potatotes

Before I post the very simple recipe for the green garlic and kale mashed potatoes I made¬†last week–I wanted to take a few¬†minutes to talk about what I have come to call my “Veggie Friends.” My Veggie Friends are the little bugs that I find clinging to my farm-fresh produce on pretty much every trip back from a CSA pick-up. I wanted to bring this up because when my family first decided to join a CSA I wasn’t sure what to make of them. I have to begin by admitting that the sight of them on my produce initially caused a bit of an “ick” factor for me. I mean, there were little black bugs and sometimes little green aphids crawling around on my food. I didn’t want to eat them. I knew my bug aversion was ridiculous. I knew that they were there because, obviously, my produce had not been sprayed with poisons to kill the little critters. I knew that I would be washing them off. It took some reflection, but the bugs that I find in our CSA veggies have now become my Veggie Friends.
What helped me get over my aversion? My daughter.
I thought about the alternative–conventionally farmed produce which has been sprayed with pesticides or grown with GMO¬†seeds. I decided a few little bugs were a small price to¬†pay for not only superior vegetables, but also the peace of mind that I was not unwittingly harming my family with the food I was feeding them. Also, I don’t want to eat produce that not even a bug will eat!! I involved my daughter in our bi-weekly veggie storage prep. Instead of quickly rinsing off the buggies, I began showing them to her. She would ooh and ahh¬†and sometimes touch them. I marveled at the simplicity with which she accepted their presence. I never once saw her hesitate to eat a vegetable after she had helped clean off the mites, or aphids. I explained to her that the bugs live off of the produce. It’s their food. I explained to her that our produce had not been sprayed and had allowed the bugs to live and grow and continue their cycle of life as much for them as for us. I tell you all of this as a sort of marker of growth for me. Finding Veggie Friends in my produce has become a discussion; a sharing moment, and a learning opportunity for all of us. It is defining what my daughter knows about where food comes from and how it grows. It has established a basis for her understanding of life, and that sometimes bugs can teach us a little something about mercy.

A caterpillar we found on our cabbage last week. I hope he turned into a beautiful butterfly.

The day I made the tuna patties I found a caterpillar living in my Napa¬†cabbage. When I cut the cabbage in half and began stripping away the leaves to wash and chop. I found him. He had been in my fridge for a few days. He was alive and wriggling around. I called my daughter and she came excitedly to see.¬† My daughter asked if she could hold him. I gave her the leaf¬†and we watched him crawl around. I couldn’t even think about washing him down the drain¬†and I felt kind of guilty to remove him from his food source so we took the leaf outside and laid it amongst fallen leaves at the root of a tree and watched him wriggle around. ¬†I gave a silent thanks to the little guy as proof that the produce I held in my hands is sustenance, for us, for him, and for the earth. That moment was a reaffirmation for me that the choices I am making for my family are steps in the right direction. The presence of my Veggie Friends is now a welcome one.

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I’m pretty sure green garlic is still available in some parts of the country. Saturday’s trip to the farm stand¬†will tell. Hopefully the green garlic is¬†still in¬†our harvest rotation.

Potatoes and kale seem to work so fabulously together. I pair them up whenever I can. This is a super simple side with tons of flavor. I used Lacinato kale for this recipe.

Green Garlic and Kale Mashed Potatoes (makes about 5-6 servings)

1 whole stalk green garlic, halved lengthwise and washed well between layers
5 large potatoes
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2-3/4 cup milk(measurement not exact. You may need a splash more or less. Pour a little a time to get right consistency)
1-1/2 cups of shredded kale
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
salt to taste (start with 1/2 tsp)
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Peel (or scrub well) potatoes and chop into quarters. Place into a 2 qt pot or larger and cover with water. Place over medium heat and bring gradually to a boil, cover and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain and return to pot. Mash with a potato masher. I like my mashed potatoes a little lumpy so I don’t mash too much. Add milk, salt and pepper and stir. Taste check for salt. Adjust if necessary.
Chop green garlic. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a skillet and place over low heat. Add chopped green garlic and saute for a few minutes until soft. Add butter to green garlic skillet and once melted, add kale and just toss quickly. Add the kale/garlic contents to the potatoes. Combine. Add shaved parmesan, stir, and serve. Top with extra shaved parm if desired.

Cabbage Panic and Not-My-Mother’s Tuna Patties

Tuna patties-nicely golden brown!

It happens every time we receive a CSA box- I panic a little. It’s irrational really, but I can’t seem to help it. At first, it was the greens, I would panic about what I was going to do with all my greens. We weren’t big salad eaters and my family didn’t regard a plate full of salad as dinner. I eventually figured out that I didn’t have to eat platters full of raw salad in order to get greens into my family’s diet. I found ways to incorporate them into other dishes like soups, omelets, even mashed potatoes and voila, everyone was eating greens and happy.
Lately, my panic has been more of the cabbage variety. I don’t know why. I like cabbage. We ate it on a pretty regular basis when I was growing up, but it was usually boiled in a pot of caldo de res, or shredded on top of fish tacos, or, on the rare occasion that we ate out, it came¬†transformed¬†into coleslaw¬†in a foam cup with KFC stamped on the side. That was really the extent of my experience with cabbage. I’ve been warming up to it, but sometimes inspiration completely fails me when I stare at this innocuous vegetable. It’s really a blank canvas that adapts and plays well with many different flavors and modes of preparation, but I’ve had to work hard around my cabbage bias to see it that way. This time around, I worked half of a pretty large Napa Cabbage into tuna patties and the other half into a casserole, but I’m going to share the tuna patties with you because they turned out great.

You see, I ate plenty of tuna patties growing up. It’s one of the foods I associate with home cooking. My mother would make a batch with several cans of tuna, mix them with egg, onion, celery, salt and pepper and then fry them. She¬†would then slather them with red chile sauce and serve them with nopales.¬†They were really good, but they absorbed huge amounts of oil and we seemed to gobble them up, well, like cookies. No matter how big a batch my mom made for our family of seven, there were never leftovers. When I moved out on my own I tried to lighten up her recipe several times. I coated them in bread crumbs and baked them, or tried to “light” fry them, but they never worked well with the red sauce application. So, here I resolved to move away from my mother’s tuna patties and allow them to evolve into something more veggie-ful. I added thinly shredded fennel, a handful of chopped dill, steamed cabbage,¬†steamed and chopped¬†heirloom carrots, and of course, green garlic.They have still retained the heartiness that came with my mother’s original recipe but without the greasy edge. I browned mine in a heavy pan spritzed with olive oil. You could bake them, but they might not hold together as well. I served them up with a side of green garlic and kale mashed potatoes and a dill sauce. It was a mouthful of spring. I hope you try them.

I chose to steam the cabbage first, because the volume of the cabbage would have made it hard to work enough of it into each single patty. I also steamed the carrots, but you could opt to shred them instead. Shredding would have been more practical. Alternately, you could sautee the cabbage and carrot together. I used a small mandoline to shred the fennel.

Not-My-Mother’s Tuna Patties (makes about a dozen patties)

Not-My-Mother's Tuna Patties and Green Garlic and Kale Mashed Potatoes.

2 (5 oz) cans tuna packed in water, drained
half a head of cabbage, cored and sliced thin (I used Napa)
half of a fennel bulb shredded, or sliced thinly
2  small carrots, steamed and diced small, or shredded
half of a green garlic stalk, or 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup of chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp of hot red pepper flakes (optional)
olive oil for browning

Place a pot of water to boil over high heat with a fine mesh colander set over it, making sure the bottom of the colander doesn’t touch the water. Shred the cabbage and drop it into the colander once the water is boiling. Cover and steam for 3-5 minutes until cabbage is tender-crisp. Set aside to drain in the colander. Once cool enough to handle dump the steamed cabbage into a tea towel and wring most of the water out. If you are steaming and chopping the carrots, do so now.

steamed cabbage after wringing water out

steaming the heirloom carrots

Set a large skillet to heat on stove over med high heat. Spray/drizzle with olive oil. Combine steamed cabbage, fennel, dill, carrot, garlic, tuna, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add eggs, and mix well. Add bread crumbs, combine. Pan should be ready for browning patties by now.

Tuna patty mixture ready to be scooped into the pan.

Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure, scoop mixture into pan and then slightly flatten with spatula. Brown about 3-5 minutes per side until golden brown. Flip carefully, the patties are a bit delicate because of the high veggie content. You may need to use the two spatula method–use one spatula to hold down the patty while you ease the second spatula under it. That’s it! Serve with dill sauce and lemon wedges.

Dill Sauce

1/4 cup mayo

1/4 greek yogurt or light sour cream

juice from half a lemon

handful of chopped fresh dill

salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything up in a bowl! You can double the recipe if you need more sauce. This is delicious on fish or chicken, or almost any veggie.

Green Garlic- my fleeting Spring love!

I’m sure if you did a quick internet search you would come up with several articles, blog posts, etc about why people love green garlic and all the health benefits it contains. But¬†today I’m going to tell you why I love green garlic and how I came to do so.

You can see how I easily mistook this guy for a large scallion the first time I saw one. The green parts are edible, just make sure you wash it as you would a leek; separating the layers to get all the dirt.

Green Garlic is basically young garlic which has been plucked from the ground before it has¬†split into cloves. Green garlic contains all the health benefits of regular garlic with the added benefit that you can eat it raw without burning off your taste buds! It is sadly available only for a fleeting moment in spring when it breaks the earth with its fragrant green tops and gives us the privelege of tasting its beauty. I know I sound melodramatic, but let me tell you if you’ve never had green garlic before- you too will spout your love from the roof tops when you do. Those of you who have, I know you understand. ūüėČ

How we met:
I still remember the day clearly. It was last spring- I had invited a friend over for drinks and a bite on a Friday evening. She went with me to the Farmer’s Market to pick up my CSA box at the farm’s stall. I don’t remember what else came in my box, most likely carrots, lettuce, an herb or two.¬†What I do remember was seeing a leek-like, scallion looking thing in my box. I thought it was a very large green onion and wondered that I had only received one. I knew it wasn’t a leek because the stalk was too tender. Suffice to say that I from the contents of my box and pantry/fridge I decided I would make a fried rice to enjoy with a beer in front of the television with my friend.

I prepared my fried rice the way I normally do- carrots, peas, mushrooms, protein of some kind, steamed white rice, sesame oil, soy sauce, and a very large handful of sliced scallions stirred in right before serving. I served my friend and myself and sat down to enjoy our repast. I knew the second I took my first bite that I had added something different to that dish. I looked up at my friend and she said “This is delicious! It is honestly the best fried rice-ever!” I felt the same way and I knew it had to be my “scallion” that didn’t taste anything like a scallion. It was kind of garlicky and buttery all at the same time. It had the bright flavor that scallions would have added to the dish, but with a very faint bite of garlic. When we were done eating I went to look for the contents list that usually comes with my box, and there it was- green garlic! I was hooked. I looked for it at the market and was only able to get it one more time. I dreamed about it from last spring to the present and was overjoyed to finally see it on the¬†list of upcoming veggie box occupants. I’ve been sending my husband to the farm stand with explicit instructions to purchase more green garlic if it’s available. There wasn’t any at the farm stand today. I’m down to my last two stalks. It makes me sad to think about it. So, in an effort to conserve my green garlic a little longer I made a pesto with it today. I still had plenty of dill and incorporated a good amount of it into this pesto. The flavors were amazing. It was everything I wanted it to be. I’m going to slather it on everything this week. Seriously, everything. I might even turn my last green garlic into another batch I can freeze for later (if it makes it to later). I must admit that when I transferred it to a bowl after it was done, I took a heel of bread and cleaned the inside of my food processor with it. It was that good. I’ll let you be the judge. But please, please, seek out this beauty at your local farmers market before it disappears until next spring and then you too will be left with nothing but a fleeting memory, wondering if it¬† was all just a dream.

I set aside some of the pesto before adding the cheese to brush onto some chicken thighs before grilling.¬†I meant to add¬†arugula to the pasta to wilt in with the pesto, but¬†completely forgot in my anticipation to eat the pesto!¬†I also made a simple roasted sugar plum tomato¬†bruschetta to which I¬†stirred in¬†a spoonful of the pesto¬†when it was done. I’ll include directions for that at the bottom.¬†The sugarplum tomatoes I used¬†are organic and were purchased from Trader Joe’s. They were a product of Mexico.¬†I try not to purchase¬†tomatoes out of season, but I couldn’t pass up these cuties on my last trip. I miss tomato season.

Green Garlic and Dill Pesto

1 whole green garlic, sliced in half lengthwise and rinsed between layers to get all the dirt out.

1/4 cup of chopped fresh dill

1/4 cup of lightly toasted pine nuts

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

A handful of shaved/shredded parmesan cheese

olive oil- enough to make make a thick¬†sauce¬†(I didn’t measure, I just poured in while the blades on the food processor were running, but if I had to guesstimate, I’d say 1/4-1/3cup?)

Toast the pinenuts over medium heat in a dry skillet. Place into food processor. Chop the washed green garlic  and also place into food processor along with dill, salt and pepper. Pulse until ingredients begin to come together, then with the food processor running, stream in olive oil a bit at a time, until mixture loosens and moves about easily. Add parmesan and pulse again to combine. Taste the pesto for seasoning. Adjust salt and pepper if necessary. If pesto is too thick, add a bit more oil and pulse again. Pour. Over. Anything. Eat and be happy.

Pesto in a bowl. The lighting in my kitchen makes this look yellowish but it was a very nice green color. Not to mention delicious!

Roasted Sugarplum Tomato Bruschetta

I spread it over toasted slices of pugliese bread and sprinkled with shaved parmesan cheese.

1 16 oz container of sugar plum tomatoes

2 Tablespoons minced green garlic, or substitute 2-3 cloves regular garlic, finely minced

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Halve all tomatoes and place into earthenware or other roasting dish along with garlic. Spray/drizzle generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes depending on your oven. Keep an eye on them, you may need to stir once or twice to prevent scorching around the edges. I stirred in a heaping spoonful of my green garlic pesto to the tomatoes once they were done. Do a taste check and adjust salt if necessary. Serve over toasted bread slices or pour over the pasta along with the pesto.

I love the beautiful red color!

New CSA Box and Superfood Soup

This picture does not do these beautiful veggies justice!

As I mentioned yesterday, we picked up this week’s csa box and I’ve been a bit under the weather. I was feeling icky yesterday so my¬†husband took over the veggie storage prepping and I forgot to take pictures! Doh! I did however manage to snap one with my phone of the veggies still in their reusable shopping bags. You can’t see them individually before prepping but I will try to take pictures of them individually as I use them in recipes this coming week. On the very top of the front bag are three stalks of green garlic- they were not included in this week’s box, my husband purchased them separately since we kind of hoard this stuff when it is available at the market.

This was the smallest fennel bulb from yesterday's box. It went into today's soup shown below.

Contents of this week’s box:
Napa Cabbage
Broccoli
Beets (Hopefully I can get my family to eat them this time!)
Carrots
Lacinato Kale
Butter Lettuce
Arugula
Fennel
Dill
Cilantro
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Superfood Soup

Don't let the color scare you! It's delicious!

I’ve been craving a lot of green foods lately and it has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day, but it doesn’t hurt to have a holiday as an excuse to eat more green foods. ūüėČ I feel like my body is talking to me when I start craving things like spinach and kale in large quantities. In this case I’ve been fighting off a cold with plenty of greens, hot tea, zinc tablets, and effervescent vitamin C supplement. Since I woke up still feeling crummy today, I decided some hot green soup that I could sip throughout the day would be the right prescription. This soup is¬†filled with fennel, spinach, kale, dill, and even arugula, and it¬†fit the bill quite nicely. After I blended it, I decided it looked a lot like the green superfood powder I use to make our morning smoothies, not to mention its packed chock full of super greens! Don’t let the color scare you; I can assure you it is quite delicious! Even my six year old had a small bowl (ok, it took a little bribing- strawberries and nutella were involved, but she ate it ALL)! I made¬†the soup¬†with a lamb consomme my husband brought home last night from one of our favorite restaurants which serves only lamb entrees. This particular consomme is simmered with red chilies, onions and garlic and contains nothing more than the lamb broth and garbanzo beans since it is meant to be eaten as a first course, but it is filling and very delicious. You could make this with a chicken or veggie broth/stock. The real stars of this show are the greens. I originally pictured a thick, puree-type green soup, but once I decided to use the consomme with garbanzos I realized the soup would need a little more body and chose not to pulverize the veggies into puree, but blend them only into a uniform green color with plenty of texture. If you choose to omit the garbanzos you can use less liquid and puree it to your liking. I hope you try this soup!

Ingredients:
1 small bulb of fennel, chopped
1/4 of an onion, chopped
1 whole stalk of green garlic, chopped (If this isn’t available near you, use 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced and maybe some chopped green onion)
1 large bunch of kale, chopped
1/4 head of cabbage, chopped (I used the last of the cabbage cone from our last box)
2 cups tightly packed baby spinach (Organic from Safeway)
1 tightly packed cup of arugula
1/2 cup of chopped fresh dill (if your not a fan of dill, use 1/4 cup parsley, but if you are- use dill! It gives the soup a lovely flavor.)
1/2 cup garbanzo beans
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
salt(if needed) and pepper to taste
About 4 cups of broth or stock (chicken or vegetable, or even lamb!) ūüėČ

Lovely green garlic. It looks like a leek, but it smells like garlic!

Place a saucepot (2qt or larger) on stove top over med-low heat. Add about 2 Tbsp olive oil and chopped onion, fennel, and green garlic(or garlic cloves), chopped cabbage, and chili flakes, if using . Add a pinch of salt and sweat until fennel and onion starts to appear translucent. Add broth and cover, bring to a boil and then lower heat and¬†let simmer about 5 minutes. Add the garbanzos at this point if you don’t mind breaking them down a bit in the blender, otherwise add at the end.

Beautiful Lacinato Kale went into the soup.

Pack some of the greens (spinach, arugula, kale) into your blender and carefully(!) ladle some of the hot broth over the top. Blend in batches until your soup is at your desired consistency. Remember to vent the lid of the blender when blending hot liquids and use a kitchen towel draped over the top to avoid potentially splashing yourself with hot liquids. Add the chopped dill last. If you own an immersion blender, you can add all the greens to the hot broth and then use your immersion blender to do the rest. Its up to you if you want to blend the garbanzos with the greens or leave them whole. I blended a few with my greens and I felt it gave the soup an almost creamy consistency. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream or if you need some sinus help like I did today(I know, lovely), serve with extra hot sauce or red pepper flakes! I kind of have dill breath now, haha. Enjoy!