Monday, June 27, 2011

Radishes: Friend or Foe?

radishes and Hakurei turnips at Full Moon Farm in Vermont
They've been used in traditional Asian medicine as a cure for whooping cough, tummy problems, arthritis and even cancer. In ancient Greece they were so revered that replicas were fashioned out of gold. They are popular in a variety of cuisines, from Japanese to German.
And yet, Pliny regarded radishes as 'vulgar' because it caused 'flatulance and eructation' (also known as belching). And as an American chef, a plethora of them can be stupefying. But as I began to play with them, they really are much more versatile than just a tangy crunch added to salads or some color added to a canape. Here's what worked in my kitchen this week...

PICKLE THEM: You can make a quick pickle of them by mixing 3 cups of water, 1 cup of vinegar (white or rice wine) and 1/2 cup of sugar and bringing it to a boil. Slice two bunches of radishes thinly if you want them to pick up the pickle flavor in a few hours, or cut them in half for an overnight pickle. Place the radishes in a clean glass bowl or jar and pour the hot solution over them. Add sliced jalapenos, or peeled and thinly sliced fresh ginger, along with some peeled, halved garlic cloves for additional flavor. Allow to cool, cover and refrigerate for 4 hours for a mild flavor, overnight and up to 3 days for a stronger pickled flavor. These are so fresh tasting and crunchy- serve them as you would any pickle, or add them to chicken or tuna salad.
ROAST THEM: Trim them and toss them with olive oil, fresh thyme or other assertive herb (sage, rosemary) and kosher salt and black pepper and place in a single layer on a baking pan. Roast at 450 degrees until golden, about an hour. You can also add them to a roasted vegetable medley, including such veggies as potatoes, parsnips, and carrots.
GLAZE THEM: Trim them and cut them into halves or wedges. Place in a deep skillet and cover with water. Simmer for 10 minutes, covered, and then uncover and cook until tender, about another 5 minutes, depending on how small you cut them. Drain. Add a few tablespoons of butter to the skillet, along with a tablespoon or so of brown sugar or honey. Cook, stirring, until the butter is melted. Add the radishes and shake the pan to coat them with the glaze. Season with kosher salt and serve.

They do also make great additions to stir fries, and I like to chop them up, toss them with a little lime juice, and serve atop a tostada or in a taco.

Friend or Foe?? Friend, I think!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Spring Harvest Spring Rolls

This week's share brought more lettuces- a peppery Asian mix and baby greens as well as deer tongue and leaf lettuce. There are also some spring onions and Hakurei turnips (very much like mild radishes). I had a barbeque to attend, and decided to bring some spring rolls to share as appetizers.
These spring rolls are made with rice wrappers. While I often go to the Oriental Food Market in Norwalk, CT to get my Asian ingredients, I found sesame oil and rice wrappers at the local Shop Rite in the Asian section. Very convenient!! These keep for days, and are a refreshing snack-- a really easy way to get those vegetables into your diet.
Knife skills are important here. If you have a mandolin, and are not a complete clutz with them, that's a great way to julienne your vegetables. Or you can cut them into planks and stack them in the feed tube of your food processor and use the slicing disc. OR you can get a really thin julienne of carrots by using a vegetable peeler and peeling wide strips and then stacking them and slicing them. Whichever works for you.
Some of the vegetables are stir-fried and chilled, and then I top them with the crisp, peppery Asian greens for more crunch. The sauce is also very easy, but if time is an issue, Ken's Asian Sesame Salad Dressing makes a great dipping sauce, too.

Spring Harvest Rolls
4 dried shitake mushrooms
2 cups boiling water
1 medium bunch bok choy, or 2 baby bok choy
2 carrots
2 spring onions
1-inch piece fresh ginger
1 fat clove garlic, or two medium cloves of garlic
4 cups water
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
30 (approximately) leaves of Asian lettuce mix (or any mixed baby greens)
15 spring roll wrappers

2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 Tablespoon sherry or rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water

1. Boil about 2 cups of water, pour over the mushrooms and let sit for about 30 minutes, until soft.
2. Cut the leafy tops off the bok choy (reserve for another recipe). Wash the stalks and cut into matchstick sized pieces. Peel the carrots and cut into matchstick sized pieces. Trim the bright green, woody stem of the onion and cut the white bulb and tender part of the stem into slivers.
3. When the mushrooms are ready, drain and cut off the woody stem. Cut the caps into slivers.
4. Grate the ginger on the smallest side of a box grater or with a zester. Mince the garlic.

5. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a pot and add the bok choy. Cook for  one minute, drain and rinse in cold water. Heat the oil in a wok and add the ginger and garlic. Cook for a minute or two- just until the mixture becomes fragrant. Add the onions and carrots and cook until they begin to wilt. Add the bok choy and mushrooms and cook for 3 or 4 more minutes. Chill.
6. Meanwhile make the sauce by combining the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, sherry, cornstarch and cold water. 
7. Fill a wide, shallow dish, such as a pie pan, with warm water. Add a spring roll wrapper and let soak 20 to 30 seconds, until pliable. Remove from water and place about 2 Tablespoons of the vegetables in the center of the wrapper. Top with a few leaves of crisp, fresh lettuce. Fold the sides in, and then roll up the roll from the bottom as tightly as possible, as if it were a burrito. Repeat with remaining filling and rolls. Chill. Just before serving, cut each spring roll in half, on an angle, and serve with dipping sauce.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lettuce: it's not just for salads anymore

June 10th share

The first few weeks of the harvest bring mostly greens, and this week is no exception. I have some beautiful veggies, -- not a lot of variety, though. There is baby leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, escarole (aka bitter lettuce), kale, Asian mix (aka 'lettuce mix'), purple and green kohlrabi and some pots of herbs. Full shares also got romaine lettuce, radishes and hakurei (aka 'salad turnips'), bok choy, and dandelion greens. 
I like salad, and did pick up some fun salad additions to encourage me to eat more salad but, really, how much salad can one person eat? 
Before I go any further, let's talk about how to prepare the veggies for storage. For the heads of lettuce, break off the leaves and wash well.. I fill a bowl with water and gently swish the leaves around, then remove them from the water and check how much dirt is in the water. I repeat this process until there is no more dirt, then dry the leaves in a salad spinner. To store, I place the leaves in a single layer on a clean tea towel, roll it up loosely and place in a plastic bag in the fridge. For the kohlrabi, radishes and Hakurei turnips, it's important to remove the bulbs from their greens and store them separately. Otherwise the greens will suck up the moisture from the bulbs, leaving them soft and mushy. The very tender greens- baby lettuce and Asian greens, spoil quickly in plastic bags. I place them in bowls and cover them with plastic, or these cool plastic covers that look like shower caps. This way the fragile greens don't get crushed. All of this took me about 20 minutes, and I know my greens will last the week, fresh and springy.

This week I am using some of the lettuce as wraps for a really yummy curried egg salad, and am stir-frying the Asian greens to be served with grilled tofu. Some of the lettuce will end up atop salad pizza. I'll serve the kale Brazilian-style with some baked chicken and herbed polenta. This is going to be a fun week of cooking!

Curried Egg Salad in Lettuce Wraps
The chives in this recipe can be replaced with chopped scallions. This dish can be served at a luncheon, or as an appetizer.

4 large eggs
3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons sweet curry powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 small jalapeno pepper
1/2 lime
kosher salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 head of leaf lettuce

1. Hard cook the eggs: place them in a pot with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and cover tightly. Let sit in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain, and run cold water over them until they are cool. Peel them and mash (I use a pastry blender for this job). 
2. Cut the jalapeno in half and carefully remove the seeds and veins. Mince very well and add to the eggs with the chives.
3. Add the mayonnaise, curry powder, paprika, the zest and juice of half a lime, and a pinch of kosher salt and white pepper. Mix well and taste—if necessary, add more lime juice or salt and pepper.
4. While the eggs are cooking, prepare the lettuce by pulling off the leaves, washing and spinning dry. 
5. Place a tablespoon or so into the center of each lettuce leaf. Roll up and enjoy!
curried egg salad in lettuce wraps
Brazilian Style Greens
I’ve always assumed that greens have to be cooked long and slow in order to be tender and not bitter. I was very, very wrong. This style of cooking brings out the bright flavor of the greens and they are remarkably tender.

2 to 4 servings
1 bunch greens, such as collard, kale or escarole
1 small onion
2 Tablespoons oil or lard
1 very fat clove garlic, or 2 medium cloves
salt and pepper to taste

1. Strip the leaves from the thick stems of the greens. Stack the leaves and roll them up. Cut them into very thin strips and then separate them into ribbons. Cut the onion in half and peel and slice thinly. Peel and mince the garlic.
2. Heat the oil or lard and add the onion. Cook the onion until wilted. 
3. Add the greens and cook, stirring, over high heat until wilted but still bright green, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir through. Cook another 2 or 3 minutes, until the greens become quite fragrant. 
4. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Enjoy the week!! If you want any of the recipes I've mentioned, just ask.