Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
What I'd do with this week's box
I am resurrecting this concept because I think it’s a nice way to encourage ‘thinking
differently’ about the contents of your box. If anyone thinks they’d
like to write a ‘what I’d do’ for a future newsletter, let
me know and I’ll give you the skinny! Meanwhile...
It’s supposed to get warm this week, so I’ll be making things that
don’t require a lot of heat in the kitchen. I’ll underline the box
ingredients, for easy spotting!
Let’s start with beets: I’d
beet greens in a breakfast scramble – steam them 3 minutes until
soft, squeeze out excess moisture and chop. Sauté up some mushrooms in
butter or olive oil (once we get potatoes, I’d dice up a few into
small [quarter-inch] dice and brown them first, then add the mushrooms and proceed).
Chop up some of the light green part of the onion stems (I use them in
place of scallions). Grate some cheese and have it standing by. Whisk up a couple
eggs. Once the [potatoes and] mushrooms are done, up the heat and add the ‘scallions’ and
stir just a minute. Add the egg, and scramble; add the beet greens when
the eggs are about half-done. Generously season with salt and pepper, and as
soon as the eggs are done, turn off the heat, top with cheese and cover until
The beets themselves I’d roast (rub with oil, wrap in foil, bake in a moderate
oven around an hour), then peel and refrigerate. Then they’re handy to
slice cold into salads, or I’d do my current favorite: diced beets with
plain yogurt, a little crushed fresh garlic, a little salt, and minced fresh
dill. Eat just like that or serve on a bed of lettuce leaves. If it’s too
hot to roast them, just peel and grate them and make this same concoction with
the raw grated beets instead of diced cooked ones.
I’d make a salad with arugula, lettuce, thinly sliced cucumbers, maybe
just a touch of very thinly sliced fresh onion, toasted walnuts, crumbled chevre
or feta cheese, and sliced strawberries. For the dressing I’d combine some
lemon juice and balsamic vinegar with a dab of honey, a dab of Dijon mustard,
salt and pepper, and either olive oil or roasted walnut oil. Toss all together
and serve in big bowls!
I’ve been waiting to get Chinese cabbage because I want to try making
kimchi! See below for recipe.
I’m also a firm believer in cooking simply and letting the flavor of the
veggies shine. I know at least one dinner will include grilled fennel and zucchini.
Simply slice them in half, baste with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper
and grill (for me, alongside the lamb chops). I’d make a carrot side dish
by simmering whole carrots in salted water for 10 minutes, draining, peeling
(the skins just rub off), then returning to the skillet and sautéing in
a little butter and salt.
Kale: my old standby – cook leaves in boiling salted water 2 minutes. Drain,
squeeze out water, chop, serve drizzled with good olive oil and fresh squeezed
lemon juice. Optional: top with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Lastly, I have this idea of making a sandwich spread out of mashed cooked fava
beans, feta cheese, sundried tomatoes and herbs! (I’m not afraid of making
things up and you shouldn’t be either!) :-) I’ll let you know how
it comes out next week after I make it.
Meanwhile, here’s a recipe a friend and fellow CSA member sent to me last
Mark’s Wilted Sesame Spinach
Member Mark Stevens of Saratoga says, “I made this for dinner the other
night and it turned out well. I was trying to emulate a steamed spinach with
sautéed garlic dish that we often get from Mandarin Gourmet.”
2 green garlic
1 bag spinach
2 bunches chard
¼ to ½ C white wine
Sesame seed oil
Some good salt, such as Fleur de Sel
Chop the green garlic very coarsely, including the green portion as far up as
can be used. Tear the leaves of spinach and chard into large chunks (approx 2").
In some cases, this will be the entire leaf.
In a wok or equivalent, sauté chopped garlic in the olive oil, with a
little sesame oil added for taste, until the garlic is turning soft. Add wine
and bring to boil. Add chard, cover and cook until it starts to cook down (1-2
minutes). Stir the ingredients in the pan, add the spinach, and cover and steam
for another minute. Uncover and cook on high heat, stirring occasionally, for
another minute or so. Using tongs or a slotted spoon transfer vegetables from
pan into a serving bowl, making sure to include all the chopped garlic, but leaving
most of the liquid behind. Don’t squeeze the liquid out of the veggies,
but you don't want to have it swimming in the serving bowl either. Add salt to
taste and serve immediately.
As a variation, you could chop the chard stems and sauté them for a few
minutes before you add the garlic, and then proceed from that point. I did not
use the chard stems when I did the recipe.
from “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz [this is a fabulous
book, by the way! Again, my comments are in square brackets, Sandor’s are
in parentheses. – Debbie]
Ingredients (for 1 quart kimchi)
Sea salt or Himalayan salt [do NOT use table salt; it has additives – read
the label sometime and you’ll be amazed. It has to be pure, unadulterated
salt because any added chemicals will mess up the fermentation process!]
1 lb. Chinese (Napa) cabbage or bok choi
1 daikon radish, or a few red radishes
1 to 2 carrots
1 to 2 onions and/or leeks and/or a few scallions and/or shallots (or more!)
3 to 4 cloves of garlic (or more!)
3 to 4 hot red chilies (or more!), depending on how hot-peppery you like food,
or any form of hot pepper, fresh, dried, or in a sauce (without chemical preservatives!)
3 tbsp. (or more!) fresh grated gingerroot
1. Mix a brine of about 4 C water and 4 tbsp. salt. Stir well to thoroughly dissolve
salt. The brine should taste good and salty.
2. Coarsely chop the cabbage, slice the radish and carrots, and let the vegetables
soak in the brine, covered by a plate or other weight to keep them submerged,
until soft, a few hours or overnight. Add other vegetables to the brine such
as snow peas, seaweeds, Jerusalem artichokes, anything you like.
3. Prepare spices: Grate the ginger; chop the garlic and onion; remove seeds
from the chilies and chop or crush, or throw them in whole. Kimchi can absorb
a lot of spice. Experiment with quantities and don’t worry too much about
them. Mix spices into a paste. (If you wish, you can add fish sauce to the spice
paste. Just check the label to be sure it has no chemical preservatives, which
function to inhibit microorganisms [needed for proper fermentation].)
4. Drain brine off vegetables, reserving brine. Taste vegetables for saltiness.
You want them to taste decidedly salty, but not unpleasantly so. If they are
too salty, rinse them. If you cannot taste salt, sprinkle with a couple of teaspoons
salt and mix. [The salt is necessary to the fermentation process.]
5. Mix the vegetables with the ginger-chili-onion-garlic paste. Mix everything
together thoroughly and stuff it into a clean quart-size (liter) jar. Pack it
tightly into the jar, pressing down until the brine rises. If necessary, add
a little of the reserved vegetable-soaking brine to submerge the vegetables.
Weight them down with a smaller jar, or a sip-lock bag filled with some brine
[so that if it leaks, no problem. The purpose of the weight is to keep the veggies
fully submerged during fermentation.] Or if you think you can remember to check
the kimchi every day, you can just use your (clean!) fingers to push the vegetables
back under the brine. I myself like the tactile involvement of this method, and
I especially enjoy tasting the kimchi by licking my fingers after I do this.
Either way, cover the jar to keep out dust and flies.
6. Ferment in your kitchen or other warm place. Taste the kimchi every day. After
about a week of fermentation, when it tastes ripe, move it to the refrigerator.
An alternative and more traditional method is to ferment kimchi more slowly and
with more salt in a cool spot, such as a hole in the ground, or a cellar or other
Debbie’s Salad Dressings
A couple times I’ve gotten emails from members asking for salad dressing
recipes. Well now that I have the luxury of space in the electronic newsletter,
I can give you a whole bunch of ideas!
First though, I want to share with you this wonderful meditation on lettuce (and
dressing it for salads), written over 30 years ago by Edward Espe Brown in his
book “Tassajara Cooking.” I feel it provides the perfect segue into
a good mindset for thinking about salad dressing! Here ‘tis:
“The idea is that somebody is going to eat some lettuce. Why not just rinse
off the earth and serve it? If you appreciate and enjoy lettuce like this and
the other people eating do also, read no further, nothing could be simpler. But
maybe a little salt is added to bring out its natural taste. What happens when
salt is added is that water is drawn out of the lettuce. It goes limp, loses
its crisp. With cabbage this is appropriate, but lettuce leaves, more delicate
than cabbage, don’t have crisp to spare. The answer to this is to get the
lettuce coated with oil first. The salt won’t penetrate nearly as fast.
But now the lettuce is sure gummed up with oil. What cuts oil is vinegar. A bit
of zing, too, not bad. So that’s the basic dressing: oil, vinegar and salt.
Beyond this basic dressing we can explore ways to further amplify, mollify, pacify.”
Isn’t that great? I just love his writing. His philosophy. Anyway, here’s
how I make salad dressings. I never make big batches of the stuff; I prefer to
make just enough to dress whatever salad I’m making at the moment. I use
an old teacup and a fork to whisk the dressing with. So simple.
So below I’m going to give you several dressing combos that I make all
the time. And keep in mind, the list is by no means exhaustive! Remember, there
are almost infinite variations on the ol’ oil-vinegar-salt combo. Sometimes
for sour I use lemon juice or lime juice, and for salty I use soy sauce, sometimes
fish sauce. Or anchovies, or anchovy paste. And so many oils! My most often favorites
are olive oil or roasted walnut oil, and I’ll sneak a little fresh flaxseed
oil in when I can (good for you; I prefer it in sweeter dressings... has a nice
flavor) but I’ll also use toasted sesame oil and occasionally simply canola
(if I don’t want the oil to overwhelm a delicate dressing). Vinegars I
like: balsamic, of course, and fruity vinegars such as raspberry or fig; red
wine vinegar, good cider vinegar, seasoned rice vinegar, champagne vinegar, sherry
vinegar... And then there are other flavorings like garlic, pepper (black, paprika,
chili), and fresh herbs. (Next week I’m going to talk more about fresh
herbs. Hopefully by the end of the season I’ll have every member growing
their own fresh herbs in their yard or in pots on their windowsills! You’ll
see.) And don’t forget the Dijon (or other) mustard! I put a little in
lots of dressings I make.
When I make a salad, I try to think about what else I’ll be having as a
part of the meal. If the overall meal is salty or savory, I like to make a salad
with a fruity dressing to compliment it. If there’s a sweetness to the
meal (like a fruity tomato sauce or sweet vegetables like, say, carrots cooked
in butter, honey and orange juice, or a meat stew with fruit in it, or greens
sautéed with nuts and raisins) I like to make the salad savory. If I am
making an oriental stir-fry or something, I’ll make the simplest salad
of all: I’ll just tear up plain lettuce (something tender and delicate
like red leaf or butter lettuce) and make a dressing of seasoned rice vinegar
and toasted sesame oil. Seasoned rice vinegar means it has already been flavored
with a little sugar and salt, so all you need to add is the oil! That’s
what I’ll start with.
Rice vinegar/sesame oil – the easiest of all!
Just like it sounds. A little seasoned rice vinegar (be sure to read the end
of the above paragraph if you’re jumping down to this!), a little toasted
sesame oil. Sometimes toasted sesame oil is a little strong, so I’ll cut
it with a little canola (or just not use too much of it). When you start making
your own dressings regularly, you’ll get the hang of quantities! Whisk
it together with a fork until it emulsifies.
I love this one! Fresh lime juice (or lemon juice), a small clove of fresh garlic,
crushed, soy sauce, and olive oil. And a bunch of finely chopped up cilantro.
It’s really good if you can add some feta to the salad too. I like using
this dressing on spinach and arugula, but will also use it on most lettuces or
any combination of lettuces!
Simple balsamic dressing
A little balsamic vinegar, a little olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Whisk together
with a fork.
Variations on simple balsamic dressing
<> Add a dab of Dijon mustard (prepared mustard, not the dry kind), and
some black pepper.
<> Add a dab of Dijon mustard and a little honey.
Balsamic dressing is great on salads that have a little bleu cheese and toasted
nuts in them!
Deb’s favorite fruity dressing
Black fig vinegar, dab of Dijon, dab of honey, bit of lemon juice, salt, pepper,
and roasted walnut oil (with a blort of flaxseed oil for good measure, though
this is completely optional!). I will sometimes make this self-same dressing
and use olive oil instead of walnut oil. Still good. This is particularly good
on a green salad (arugula, lettuce, mustard greens – whatever) with fresh
strawberries! If you have it, add some crumbled chevre or feta cheese. And some
thinly sliced onion if you like. And some toasted nuts if you’re in the
mood. All of these things can be added or not, as your mood suites you or time
(or pantry) allows.
Deb’s fruity dressing #2
This is good in the fall, when we have apples. Cider vinegar, dab of Dijon mustard,
dab of honey, salt, and a goodly amount of paprika, and that walnut oil again;
although if I’m out of walnut oil this is fine with canola or olive oil.
Whisk until all is emulsified. This is great on a lettuce salad that has cut
up apples, carrots, celery, walnuts, onion and feta cheese! Again, if you don’t
have one of these things, leave it out. If all I have is lettuce and apples and
carrots, I’ll just use that. Don’t panic; it’s just salad.
Simple vinegar and oil
A good red wine vinegar (I recently found a cabernet vinegar that is wonderful,
but whatever you have is fine), olive oil, and salt and pepper. Add a little
crushed garlic if you like (or not if you don’t). Sometimes I’ll
add a pinch of dried herbs de Provence; rub them between your fingers to release
the flavors then whisk in.
Deb’s Caesar Dressing
Haven’t ever tried making this with raw egg (although a friend made me
a Caesar salad with egg in it – Alie, would you be willing to describe
your fabulous Caesar salad for a future newsletter? Send it to me now and I’ll
use it next time we get romaine). This is one dressing I do use only when I have
romaine lettuce in my box. In my version of Caesar dressing I put a little bit
of a lot of things: lemon juice, vinegar (red wine, white wine, or sherry or
similar; just not balsamic), dash of Worcestershire sauce, dab of Dijon mustard,
crushed (small) clove of garlic, anchovy paste (or mashed anchovies, or put anchovies
in the salad), and olive oil. Whisk together until blended, then toss chopped
romaine with this. Then liberally sprinkle on freshly ground black pepper, and
lastly grate on a bunch of fresh Parmesan cheese and toss to mix well. Add croutons
or not, as you like.
I could go on, but these are my more favorite (and commonly used) ones. I hope
I have inspired you to make up some dressings of your own!
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