Category Archives: Vegetables

Quick Pickled Green Beans

beans_spices_and_garlic_oh_my

This year, we have so many green beans (and purple, and yellow) that it’s a little hard to keep up. Between a 4′ x 4′ plot of bush beans and a couple trellises of climbing beans, I’m lugging a big basket of pods into the house every morning.

stages_of_bean_development

And when I find myself staring at a pile of fresh beans that I don’t feel like blanching and sealing for the freezer, I turn to the easiest possible method of preserving them, quick pickled green beans:

pack_raw_beans_in_jars_with_spices

Note that these pickled green beans are not the standard hot-processed “Dilly Beans,” which I’ve tried to embrace on many occasions but always found limp and aggressively vinegary. These beans are another story altogether. I included instructions for hot-processing these as well, if you feel you must, but I almost never bother canning my beans.

Quick pickles are great for two reasons: First, they aren’t all limp like their boiled counterparts. And more importantly, they couldn’t be easier. Just cram your vegetables and some spices into a jar, add vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio, and pop it in the fridge. They don’t keep for years like hot-processed pickles, but once you taste them they won’t be sticking around longer than a month anyway.

Quick Pickled Green Beans

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3 quarts

Quick Pickled Green Beans

Delicious, crunchy, and perfect alongside a Bloody Mary (or a sandwich).

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds green beans, stems intact, washed and dried
  • 9 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
  • 6 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 9 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 cups white distilled vinegar
  • a handful of washed fresh grape leaves (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pack green beans evenly into quart-sized jars, along with garlic, salt, spices, and grape leaves if using.
  2. Fill jars halfway with white vinegar, then top off with cool filtered water.
  3. Put lids on jars and flip upside down for a few minutes to distribute the spices.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 3 days to develop flavors. Pickles will be at their prime in 2 weeks, and will last up to a month.
  5. To can:
  6. Heat vinegar, water, and salt to a boil first, and pour over beans and spices in sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, adding time for altitude (I process for 15 minutes here at 6,000 feet).

Notes

Adapted from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/quick-pickled-green-beans/

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

half-eaten

It’s summer squash season, and the piles of fresh zucchini are starting to lose their novelty. So when I’m staring at a fridge full of squash or a zucchini the size of my leg, I usually resort to shredding and hiding them in baked goods. Or at the very least, shredding and hiding them in the freezer for a snowy day.

cocozelle_squash

shredded_zucchini

Zucchini does wonderful things for muffins. It makes for a soft, delicate crumb; and more importantly, it enables you to call them “muffins” when really they taste like cupcakes.dry_ingredients

I used black cocoa powder, which is basically Dutch-processed cocoa taken a step further so that it’s even darker and less bitter. It’s great to have on hand if you want baked goods with a mellow chocolate flavor and super dark color, i.e. Oreo-type cookies or ice cream sandwiches.

A note on cocoa powder: You can usually use natural cocoa powder in place of Dutch (NOT vice versa, at least for cakes and cookies). But be warned that the natural acidity will react with the baking soda in this recipe and your muffins will have a reddish tint, like Devil’s Food cake. And I can’t promise they won’t be a little taller or flatter than they should be, since I haven’t made that substitution in this particular recipe.

coconut_oil

Finally, I find that coconut oil makes these extra delicious and “healthier,” giving us all the more reason to eat cake for breakfast. You’re welcome.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 12 muffins

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

A delicious, kid-friendly way to use up extra zucchini.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder ("black" cocoa powder if you have it)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin coconut oil (I like Nutiva)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 pound zucchini (1 cup grated)
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • Special equipment
  • Electric mixer
  • 12-cup muffin tin
  • Cupcake liners

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and coarsely grate zucchini. If you're using a big monster zucchini, scrape out the seeds first.
  2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Beat together sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla using an electric mixer until creamy, about 3 minutes.
  4. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips.
  5. Divide among 12 lined muffin cups and bake until tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 30 minutes.
  6. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan to cool completely.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/chocolate-zucchini-muffins/

Brown-buttered Zucchini with Basil

patty_pan

It’s summer squash season, and you know what that means: It’s best to keep your car windows rolled up and your doors locked, or you might come back to find that someone’s “gifted” you a zucchini that could double as a baseball bat.

gold_rush_zucchini_blossom

Gold Rush zucchini — easier to spot than the green ones

I don’t resort to that anymore though, mainly because I mostly grow squash that aren’t green. They’re easier to catch while they’re small, so as long as I check the plants daily I don’t often find myself staring down a squash that’s bigger than my femur.

cocozelle squash

Cocozelle

The one exception this year is a variety called Cocozelle, and it’s proving to be a bit of a challenge because the scalloped green zucchini look a lot like stems. I love the way it looks though, and it’s definitely our top producer right now.

zephyr squash

Little two-toned Zephyr squash — they won’t seem so innocent in a few days.

So in honor of high squash season, I’ll be putting up some of my favorite recipes in the coming weeks. This is one of my very favorite simple dishes — zucchini sliced very thin and sautéed for just a few minutes in a simple brown butter sauce, then brightened with shards of fresh basil.

brown_butter_then_add_zucchini_and_onions

And if you have some fresh parmesan on hand, grate some on top to make it even better. Try doubling the butter and serving it over pasta for a simple vegetarian meal. If you have some fresh sweet corn? Throw it in. The brown butter and basil combination makes magic with almost any summer vegetable.

zucchini_with_brown_butter_and_basil

However: This is not one of those recipes for dealing with big, hulking squash that are watery and full of seeds (I’ll be posting one of those next time) — if you’re using zucchini, they should be market-sized (about eight inches long).

Brown-buttered Zucchini with Basil

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 7 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

Serving Size: 1/2 zucchini

Brown-buttered Zucchini with Basil

A simple and delicious way to deal with too much zucchini (if there is such a thing).

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini (about 8 inches long) or summer squash
  • 1-2 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Cut squash as thin as you can manage and set aside.
  2. Put butter in a large skillet and melt it over low-medium heat. Cook butter just until it starts to brown, you'll need to watch it like a hawk as it goes from brown to burned in seconds.
  3. Immediately throw onion into skillet and stir, cook until translucent.
  4. Add squash and cook a few minutes, until heated through but not mushy.
  5. Remove from heat and finely chop fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle across the top and serve hot.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/brown-buttered-zucchini-with-basil/

Crushed Peas with Smoky Sesame Dressing

pea_blossoms

As I crouched harvesting peas in the blinding sunshine, I noticed a whole lot of big, fat pods and no more blossoms. Our “heat-resistant” peas have finally hit their limit with the temperatures being consistently in the 90s, and I feel their pain.

not_ready_yet

So the peas and I got a brief respite. I yanked them all out of the ground, to be replanted next month for a fall crop. And then I separated the pea pods from the plants while sitting in the shade with my iced coffee.

peas_in_a_pod

 

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“Do you sell purslane here?”

more_purslane

Around the time I started my first garden, I saw an article that listed the “10 Most Nutritious Foods,” or something like that. High up on the list was purslane, something I’d never heard of. The article didn’t provide a picture, but it did have a lot of nice things to say about purslane, which was enough to entice me.

And so I went on a quest to find some for my garden. I checked all the local greenhouses and seed displays, and every person I asked answered with “No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that here” and occasionally a funny look. And then the rest of the garden started taking off, and I forgot all about purslane.

Until about a year later, when I was at a friend’s house thumbing through a book about wild edible plants in Colorado. A book with pictures. And then I realized why none of the local places sold purslane — I pulled about 5 pounds of it out of my tiny garden plot that morning alone. Although it’s widely used as a food in most other countries, here in the U.S. it’s a weed.

purslane

I’ve picked more than my fair share of purslane since then, though I usually just give it to the chickens. It’s hard to rinse, and most of my attempts to sauté it were a waste of butter — but I do like to eat it raw, especially in the early morning when it has a tart, almost lemony flavor (this is because the leaves are full of malic acid, which is converted into glucose during the day — by afternoon, the leaves taste like mild lettuce.)

And this year, for the first time, I saw purslane in the seed display at the garden store. I may not be buying it anytime soon, but at least my rookie mistake doesn’t seem so embarrassing now.

 

Pan-browned Brussels Sprouts

I don’t think I ever saw brussels sprouts on the dinner menu growing up, but I feared them nonetheless. Hearing my elementary school classmates describe being forced to eat them was enough.

sprouts_washed

So maybe it’s a good thing that my first memorable experience with brussels sprouts was a few years ago, when I was part of a CSA and one week found myself with a bunch of them still on the stalk. Fridge space was limited, so I cooked them immediately. And as it turns out, brussels sprouts are delicious! Especially when given a good dose of butter and garlic and a sprinkling of pine nuts to bring out their sweet, nutty flavor.

brussels_sprouts_cooking

I’ve tried to grow them every year since, and always end up with big beautiful stalks but no sprouts (they’re hard to grow in Colorado but I’ll get the timing right, someday.) So I get them from the farmer’s market once in a blue moon, but usually I can only find sprouts that are flown in from California or Mexico. Friends on the West Coast, I envy you.

brussels_sprouts_finished

But if you find yourself in possession of some sprouts, these crunchy, buttery little bites are perfect as an appetizer with a cold beer. They rarely make it to the dinner table in my house (although they make a great side dish, when they do.) I’ve won over a number of sprout-haters with this recipe, and I like to think it’ll work the same magic on any picky eaters you happen to be feeding.

Pan-Browned Brussels Sprouts

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Pan-Browned Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons raw pine nuts
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Special Equipment
  • 10-inch heavy skillet, preferably cast iron

Instructions

  1. Peel any blemished or dirty outer leaves from brussels sprouts while rinsing in cold water.
  2. Trim off stems and halve lengthwise.
  3. Thinly slice garlic cloves.
  4. Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add garlic, removing pieces to a bowl as they turn golden brown.
  5. Reduce heat to low and arrange brussels sprouts in skillet, cut side down
  6. Sprinkle with pine nuts and season with salt and pepper
  7. Cook, uncovered, until undersides are golden brown, about 15 minutes
  8. As brussels sprouts brown, use tongs to move them to a platter (you may need to move undercooked sprouts from the edge of the pan to the center to even out cooking time.)
  9. Spoon pine nuts over brussels sprouts and season with pepper.

Notes

Adapted from Gourmet.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/pan-browned-brussels-sprouts/

How to Cook (and eat) an Artichoke

Today, I bring you a post about my very favorite vegetable: The humble artichoke.

cut_stems

I’ve loved artichokes for as long as I can remember. They’re a family favorite, and I suspect I got a taste for them before I even learned to walk.

ready_to_devour

So I’ve never not known how to eat an artichoke. Pulling the meat off the leaves with my teeth and scraping out the fuzzy choke is second nature to me. But to the uninitiated, the artichoke can be a confusing vegetable.

dig_out_the_choke

According to family legend, my grandpa was visiting my parents in the Bay Area, and dinner that night included his first artichoke. Amid the lively dinner conversation, he didn’t notice that everyone else was discarding the choke before they started eating the heart. Someone asked him how he was enjoying the artichoke, and through a mouthful of fluff he said “it’s a little hairy.”

dont_choke

So if you’re among the uninitiated, fear not. This handy guide will help you figure out which parts are delicious, and which are not. And hurry; artichoke season won’t be with us much longer.

eat_your_heart_out

While I generally like anything containing artichokes, I’m a purist when it comes to cooking them. I’ve never stuffed them, or deep fried them, or braised them. I always make them exactly the way my mom does: steamed, with lemon butter for dipping.

dipping

This is my tried-and-true method for cooking a perfect artichoke, every time. For me, nothing but lemon butter will do. But I know people who feel just as passionately about mayonnaise (blech) — so feel free to use whatever dipping sauce you like, I guess. Just don’t tell me about it.

Artichokes with Lemon Butter

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

Artichokes with Lemon Butter

Ingredients

  • 2 large artichokes (look for artichokes that are heavy and without much browning on the stem)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • salt

Instructions

  1. Fill a large pot with about 2" of water and set it to boil (Ideally, use one with a built in steamer/colander basket to keep the artichokes up off the burner.)
  2. Rinse artichokes with warm water, turning over several times to flush out any dirt between the leaves.
  3. Cut stems to about 1-1/2 inches in length. Some people also cut the thorns off the ends of the leaves; I don't.
  4. When water boils, reduce heat to low and add artichokes along with a squeeze of lemon. Cover and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.
  5. Turn artichokes over using tongs, and try to pull out one of the outer leaves. If it holds firm, check it again in 8-10 minutes.
  6. As the artichoke gets close to being done you'll be able to pull out a leaf with a little pressure, test it by using your teeth to scrape the meat off the bottom of the leaf. Initially it will be a little chewy, at this point start checking every 2-3 minutes. Be warned: Artichokes can go from done to overcooked very quickly, and there's nothing sadder than a mushy artichoke. Set a timer.
  7. The artichoke is perfectly cooked when a leaf comes out easily, and the meat on the end of the leaves is al dente.
  8. Remove artichokes immediately using tongs, carefully turning each upside down over the pot first to drain it.
  9. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine butter the juice of 1/2 lemon, and a few dashes of salt. Melt in the microwave (~25 seconds) and stir, you'll want to taste it on a leaf and then add more lemon and salt until it's just right. (Since "just right" is different for everyone, I divide the butter into individual bowls and put lemons and salt on the table.)
  10. To eat:
  11. Place a big bowl in the middle of the table for discards. Everyone will need a knife, a fork, and a spoon.
  12. Discard the small outer leaves at the base of the artichoke, these will be stringy and not very tasty. Cut off the stem, for the same reason.
  13. As you work your way up the outer leaves, dip these in lemon butter and use your teeth to scrape off the little piece of heart at the base. Toss the rest of the leaf, hopefully into the discard bowl and not the laps of your dinner companions (it happens.)
  14. Keep eating until you get to the small purplish leaves, then use a spoon to carefully scrape those out and discard them (they will be very hot.)
  15. Underneath, you'll see the fuzzy choke, use your spoon to scrape this out and discard it.
  16. Now you're left with the heart -- the best part. Cut it into pieces and devour.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/the-perfect-artichoke/

artichoke_aftermath