Tuesday, June 29, 2010

For the scent of basil

This morning I cut some of the fresh, beautiful basil that is happily growing in my garden. It grew so generously from seed that I planted it with the vegetables as well as in two pots on the front sidewalk and still had some to give away. When I cut it, the aroma is so enticing that I want to use it immediately.

So that’s what I did, almost. I brought it inside, washed it, dried it and put half of it into a bag; the other half went into a container with chives. When my hunger awakened, it would be the centerpiece of my lunch for the day.

But oh, the garden had some other fresh goodies to add to the lunch, also. When it came time to prepare it, I chopped zucchini, sweet onion and garlic from the garden, along with part of a red pepper from the store. I sautéed them all in olive oil and butter, with a little salt, then tossed some al dente penne pasta with it, sprinkling on some parmesan cheese to stick to the veggies and pasta. It seemed a little dry, so I added a bit more olive oil and tossed again. I filled my pasta bowl then topped it with grated pecorino romano cheese.

Yes, I felt like I was in heaven. A good bowl of pasta can make me happy any day of the week. And it took less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook.

Just in case you’re growing basil, too, check out the piece from NPR about this year’s basil blight. If I see it coming my way, I’ll harvest as much as I can and bring one of the pots inside to see if it will continue to grow, free of blight. It will just depend on which way the wind blows.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lime-scented quinoa salad

Okay, you caught me. My friend Maria asked for the recipe to the salad I made last week. I sort of made it up as I went but I’m going to make an attempt here to put measurements to what I did. I hope it turns out well. If not, adjust it to your tastes!

Lime-scented quinoa salad

1 cup cooked lentils
1 ½ cups cooked quinoa
1 cup blanched asparagus
1 handful fresh cilantro
1 sprig of spicy oregano
1 lime, juiced

Mix together all ingredients with the lime juice. Add a little salt and pepper. Taste for seasonings. You might want more herbs or lime juice. Chill and serve cold. It’s quite refreshing!\

I’m thinking about adding some toasted pumpkin seeds next time; sometimes it’s nice to have that crunch.

If you ever try one of my recipes and discover a different measurement works better, please do share with me. I’m a recipe-writing novice so I appreciate every experience another cook wants to relay.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Gardening and cooking during the heat

This has not been a week for gardening or cooking. The heat and dryness make the garden inhospitable and takes away my appetite. Although weeding the dry ground isn’t easy, the garden work must go on if we want to reap the rewards in a few weeks.

So this morning I went out to check the asparagus. As I walked through a few rows on my way to the asparagus bed, the garden offered a few treats, as it unfailingly does. The first zinnia has a small bud flowering on it and several squash plants have bright, pretty, yellow flowers. Hurrah!

After checking the vegetables, I cut herbs for my meal tonight. I’m making Chocolate Chicken Mole, one of my favorite Latin recipes. I’m also going to try a rice, lentil and asparagus salad so I think the fresh cilantro and spicy oregano will add a nice flavor to that. In addition, I plan to make an easy side dish by pairing some of our home-canned green beans (the fresh ones aren’t close to ready yet) with our home-canned salsa. Even though everything won’t be from our garden, we’ll still have some real garden goodness.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bean and Grain Lunch Bowl

One of the great benefits of gardening is that it allows for experimenting with cooking creativity. When something is growing plentifully in my garden, I don’t feel at all guilty about cutting it and trying it in a new recipe knowing it might totally flop. Since I hadn’t cooked in a few days, today I decided it was time for creativity and experimentation.

My inspiration was beans and garlic scapes. I had been craving beans of any sort for a few days. They’re such nutrient-filled little packages that I’m always promising myself I’ll eat them more often then forgetting to do so.

Garlic scapes are the seed pods that develop on top of garlic stalks in early June. The stalk curls and if you leave the scape, I think it will turn into a flower. To get larger garlic bulbs, cut the scape so the plant’s energy will go the bulb.

After cutting the scapes I was enraptured by the garlic fragrance and wanted to cook with them. So I decided it could probably enhance an easy lunch. Here’s what I created.

Bean and Grain Lunch Bowl

Put some lentils on to cook (if using another bean, it will likely need more cooking time). Add vegetable broth and one garlic scape with outer skin removed, leaving the still developing flower. Bring to boil then turn to simmer until done, approximately 30 minutes.

Slice medium onion and caramelize or sauté (depending on how much time you have since caramelizing takes longer). Chop one cup Swiss chard and add to onions. Measure 2/3 cups tomatoes (preferably home-canned but store-bought should work) and add to mixture. Cook on low heat until you develop a nice mixture.

Cook quinoa in water five minutes. If using another grain, allow for whatever cooking time it requires.

If you grow herbs or have some fresh from the farmer’s market or store, pick out some of your favorites. I cut some cilantro, parsley and chives. Cut them directly into your lunch bowl.

When all ingredients are cooked, spoon out equal amounts from each ingredient into bowl with the herbs. Mix and eat.

I found this to be delicious, although I didn’t get a strong garlic flavor, which surprised me. It was also quite filling and packed with everything good for me, so if I eat a piece of cake later, I won’t feel guilty.

I still have more garlic scapes in the kitchen. The creative experimentation will continue.