Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jalapeno-Onion Relish, Fast and Flexible

Super easy and versatile, this relish, full of heat, is a must for your July Fourth barbecue. When I was a young bride, my brother in-law, Cameron, showed up at a family cook out with a a jar of his jalapeno-onion relish and it has not been absent from our fridge ever since. It is so good with hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, grilled meats and fish, really it goes with everything. Take it to a barbecue and you'll come home with an empty dish.

It is simply sliced onion and pickled jalapeno with curry powder, ground cumin, salt and pepper. That's it. I slice an extra large onion, Vidalia is great in season, saute in a bit of olive oil, for about five minutes then add the pickled jalapeno with a splash of its juice and stir. Add about two teaspoon curry powder, a teaspoon cumin, salt and pepper to taste, sautee and stir until onion and peppers are tender but still firm, about ten minutes. This will make about a pint depending on the size of the onion and the amount of jalapeno.

Later in the summer when the garden provides fresh hot peppers, I'll use these and add vinegar instead of the pickled jalapeno and its juice. The amount of peppers controls the heat of course, I use one part hot peppers to 3 parts onion. Possible additions and substitutions abound. Sometimes I add ground coriander but when the garden has cilantro, I'll use it instead. You can add some chopped garlic and/or some hot pepper flakes when you don't have enough jalapeno or fresh hot peppers. Have fun and enjoy the heat.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Around the Garden

Peonies bowing to the rain

Blooming sugar snaps

Cilantro and shallots

Buds on spuds.

Heirloom in bloom

Red and green lettuce with purple onions

Baby beets

A Bird's eye view

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Garlic Scapes - Another Seasonal Delight

Garlic scape is the flower stem of the garlic plant that, in my garden, emerges around mid June. It curls upward as it grows, ultimately straightening out and blooming. When the scape curls and forms a full circle, it is time to pick. After that, the stalk starts to get tough.

Farmers used to cut off the scapes and discard them so the plant would put all its energy into producing bigger and better bulbs. But scapes are starting to make an appearance at farmers' markets and CSA shares. The window of availability is brief, only about a week, so when you see them don't think twice. Take them home. They're versatile and delicious and have long been a part of Asian and Eastern European cooking. In most recipes, they can replace garlic, scallions and onions, but also asparagus and green beans because their flavor is so subtle.

The whole stem is edible except for the flower bud. The buds are quite tough and should be removed in certain recipes. For stir fry and pasta dishes, I cut the stems into 2" pieces, composting the flower buds. When I pickle, roast or grill them, I like the way they look with the buds attached. There are hundreds of recipes on the internet, mostly for garlic scape pesto. I haven't made the pesto yet but can't imagine it would be bad.

This week I harvested 3 lbs of scapes and, for a quick supper for two, made this dish with rotini pasta, about 20 garlic scapes, a handful of just picked asparagus, feta cheese and kalamata olives. Quick, easy and satisfying.

Pasta with Garlic Scapes, Feta Cheese and Olives
2 cups dry pasta (any kind)
2 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
20+ garlic scapes, cut into 2" pieces, discard the flower buds
1/2 lb asparagus (or any other vegetables), cut into 2" pieces
1/4 cup Feta Cheese
1/4 cup Pitted kalanata olives.
1 TBS olive oil
1 tsp hot pepper flakes, or to taste
salt and pepper

Cook pasta until al dente, drain and save a cup of pasta water. In the same pan that you cooked the pasta in, add a tablespoon olive oil and bacon, cook until bacon is brown and crisp. Remove from pan and set aside. Add garlic scapes to the same pan, cook and stir for two minutes, then add the asparagus with a splash of pasta water, cook until vegetables are tender about 3 more minutes. Add hot pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add the pasta and mix well, add pasta water if too dry, adjust seasoning, top with bacon and serve. Serves 2.

With the rest of the harvest I made Garlic Scape Pickles. I used my favorite Dilly Bean brine, added a little sugar (to take the edge off the acidity), ten or so chili peppers and cilantro with roots attached. Two weeks in the fridge and they'll be ready to eat.

Pickled Garlic Scapes with Hot Peppers and Cilantro

Here are links to more garlic scape recipes:
The Garlic Scape: Eat It or Wear It
Clagett Farm Notes
Down on the Farm

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What to do with Bolting Onions

I planted 80 onion sets in late April and now some of them have started to bolt. Bolting means that the onion has stopped growing and will not bulb. It will put all its energy into making seeds and get tough and old. It should be harvested which is not a good thing if you are looking to grow onions for winter use. But, for now, we have an over abundance of green onions, a challenge I look forward to each growing season.

We love grilled garden vegetables so that is what I did with the first batch of green onions. I cleaned and cut them to about 6" to include just the white bulb and the light green part, saving the darker green leaves for the Mongolian beef below. I tossed the pieces in olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled them, over high heat, along with some asparagus that I'm still picking. I cooked them until just tender, then transfered them to a serving bowl and finished them with another splash of olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. This was a delight: smoky and gently sweet with a slight crunch.

Grilled green onions and asparagus
The second dish I made goes back almost thirty years. My family will tell you it is one of their favorites. It combines tender slices of beef and green onions with a ginger sauce. The recipe came from an out of print Chinese Menu cookbook published in 1976. Through the years I have remained mostly faithful to the original recipe, only changing the amount of green onions. I've doubled and, last week, even tripled the original amount. They all just wilt down anyway, so use as much as you like.

Mongolian Beef with Jasmine Rice

1 lb flank steak

1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sugar
2 TBS cornstarch
1 TBS canola oil

1 whole green onion, bulb and leaves
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 clove garlic

2 TBS soy sauce
3 TBS dry sherry or good white wine
1 TBS hoisin sauce
3 TBS water

12+ green onions, bulbs and leaves

4 TBS canola oil

1 tsp sesame oil

First I pour myself a glass of wine, then I start the rice in the rice cooker, which is as simple as putting rice and water in the rice cooker and pushing "cook". The rice cooks and stays warm until you're ready to eat.

Cut flank steak in half lengthwise, then thinly slice across the grain. In a large bowl combine the marinade ingredients and add sliced beef. Set aside.

Cut green onions into 2" pieces. Set aside.

Finely mince seasoning ingredients, put in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine sauce ingredients. Set aside.

Now you're ready to stir fry. It's important to have all your ingredients ready before heating up the wok, high heat is key to successful stir frying and food is cooked in a flash.

  • Heat wok over high heat.
  • Add 2 tablespoon canola oil.
  • When oil is hot, add meat and its marinade. The oil is hot if it sizzles when you stick a wooden chopstick or wooden spoon into it.
  • Stir fry until meat is just pink, about 2 minutes.
  • Remove from wok to a bowl.
  • Add 2 tablespoon canola oil to the same wok.
  • When oil is hot add seasonings.
  • Stir a few times until slightly fragrant, then add the sauce mixture.
  • Stir and add green onion pieces.
  • Stir for a minute until onion is slightly wilted, then return beef to the wok.
  • Stir until beef is heated through .
  • Stir in sesame oil.
Remove from wok and serve with jasmine rice.

Serves 2 generously and the recipe doubles easily.

I'm still trying to figure out why onions bolt but for now I'm wallowing in green onions.
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