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Broth: not just for the tummy troubles

It is the dead of winter. There’s no more figgy pudding, the stored vegetable stores are starting to run low, and the light is still in short supply. I got fed up with my snow boots the last week and braved the snow in clogs. Winter be damned! Somehow, this was my rebellion against the endless layers and tense muscles that old man winter demands.

All I got was wet feet.

It’s times like this that require a little broth. There are many benefits to a cup of bone broth, including some protein,  gelatin, and glycine (the last two are good for your gut!). It’s a great thing to drink daily. Even if you don’t care a fig about the nutritional benefits, bone broth is a building block for so many recipes, that having it on hand is so handy. Buying it is expensive, and it is easy and quick to make at home. Plus, it saves you some bones! It will certainly make your day a little warmer, and that’s really saying something.

The difference between stock, broth and bone broth:

Broth — Broth cooks 45 minutes to two hours and usually uses meat, and perhaps some bones. The flavor is light, and it is generally not drunk on its own but instead used as a building block.

Stock — Stock and bone broth are similar in their ingredient lists, but differ greatly in the time they are cooked. They both always include bones, according to the definition, however a stock is typically cooked three to four hours and bone broth typically 12 – 24 hours. A note on vegetable stock: essentially, vegetable stock and vegetable broth are the same. The difference is how you use them in the end. (Will it be an ingredient of a larger dish? Stock. Will it be drunk on its own? Broth. )

Bone broth — Bone broth is always cooked with bones, and cooked for a long time (12 – 24+ hours). Some add vegetables, some do not.

Where to get bones:

Direct from the farmer (Lifeline Farm, Jamie’s Naturally Raised Grass Finished Beef, Oxbow Cattle Company, Manix Family Grass Finished Beef. . . Check out AERO’s Abundant Montana directory) — try the winter and summer farmers’ markets in Missoula, too. You can get a large amount and freeze them. You’ll need around 2 lbs of bones per 64 oz batch.

At a local natural food store –if you don’t see them on display, ask the meat department if they have any soup bones you could purchase. They’re usually very cost-effective.

You can keep a bone bag in the freezer, and put your chicken carcasses, ham hocks and other pork bones, and beef bones in there until you are ready to make some stock. A mixture of bones gives a wider flavor profile.

Make it without wasting all those veggies!

You can make bone broth without any vegetables (well, you always use the garlic). However, if you want the flavor vegetables offer, just start collecting your vegetable scraps. I’ve recently started keeping a bag in my freezer for my vegetable scraps. Any time I prepare a meal, I put the discarded ends and peelings, etc. in the bag for my next broth making venture.

Vegetables to keep — the basic aromatics are what I typically use (carrots, onions, celery) — they give a good base to work from. However, once I started staving scraps, root vegetables, stalks, leaves, tops, ends, peelings. Kale and chard stems, bell pepper cores, green beans/string beans, mushroom stems, herb stems. I put the garlic and onion skins in, though I’ve read that onions skins, along with beets, will turn your broth dark brown, so it’s more of a cosmetic thing. If you have some veggies that are about to turn (but haven’t yet) or are a bit dehydrated, this is a great use for them!

Vegetables to send packing — cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, (all from the brassica family, which has a certain odor you don’t want in your stock/broth), turnips and rutabagas (those are two roots to avoid). And of course, rotten spots and moldy veggies are also not a good idea.

How to make it

I prefer to make bone broth in my slow cooker. It is an Instant Pot so it can hold up to 64 oz, which is key for this recipe. If you are in the market, I can’t say enough about this one, it’s made of safe, stainless steel, it’s big, and can pressure cook, make yogurt, and rice. Anyway.

This makes 4 full quart sized mason jars.

Mason Jars

I got the bones (I used beef bones this time) and vegetables scraps out of the freezer, and dumped them in.

my ingredients

On top, I poured the apple cider vinegar and salt. I added a whole head of garlic, just smashing each clove between my knife and the cutting board before adding. I poured water to the max fill line in the slow cooker.

bone broth ready to boil

 

After that, all I had to do was stick the lid on, and put it on high until it came to a boil. Then, I turned it to low, and cooked it for 12 hours.

Here’s the beautiful elixir:

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Other notes:

set your slow cooker for 12 hours

Cooking time: Some say the vegetables will become bitter if you cook them longer than 12 hours. The longer you cook the broth, however, the better for you it gets. I often cook it for 24 hours without a problem, but if you are concerned about bitter broth, just scoop out the vegetables at the 12 hour mark and keep on cooking. Or skip the vegetables and just use water, vinegar, bones, salt and garlic (that doesn’t get bitter). You can also check doneness by taste and smell. This batch tasted perfect at 12 hours, so I didn’t have to worry. You know you’ve gotten all the nutrients out of the bones when they are starting to crumble at the edges.

Stovetop or oven: You can also do this on the stove top or in the oven. You want to bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat so that it is simmering in such a way that a tiny bubble trickles up every few seconds. Same cooking time (12 – 24 hours). For the oven, bring to a boil on the stove, then place in a 200 degree oven.

Storage: You can keep it in the fridge for 4-5 days, then it’s time to freeze. I like to either freeze in an ice cube tray or small baggies. Remember to label the baggies so you know how many cups are enclosed, and when you made it.

Roasting the bones for flavor: This is a great idea if you have time and want to bring out a richness in the bone broth, but easily skipped for simplicity. Coat the bones in a high heat oil (I usually use a solid fat like lard, bacon grease, or duck fat) and distribute them in a roasting pan. Roast at 400 degrees for around an hour.

To drink on its own: add your favorite herbs (fresh or dried), or just a little garlic and salt.

Recipe

This recipe is designed to make 64 oz of broth. Make sure your soup pot or slow cooker has the capacity. 

Ingredients:
  • Whole head of garlic, broken apart and each clove smashed (leave skin on)
  • 1.5 – 2 lbs stock bones (can use chicken, beef, or pork bones)
  • Vegetable scraps (optional)
  • Bay leaf (optional)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Water
How to:

Combine the bones, vegetable scraps, and bay leaf. Pour the salt and apple cider vinegar over the top. Add water until you reach the max fill line in your slow cooker or soup pot.

Bring the water to a boil, then cook it for 12 – 24 hours. The longer the better. Remove or skip the vegetable scraps if you cook it longer than 12 hours. Let cool and refrigerate or freeze.

If this bone broth doesn’t do it for you, then try this quick video. There are places in Alaska where they only get minutes or an hour of sunlight some parts of the year. And start garden dreaming: sign up for a community garden plot or CSA share!

 

 

ingredients

Going Green Pasta

As summer winds down, my vegetable garden is in full swing. Every plant is producing and I find it a challenge to eat what’s ready to be picked on any given day. The recipe below is a great way to take advantage of the fresh produce now available.

Fava bean dinner
Fava bean dinner with green pasta.

Creamy Green Pasta

Ingredients:

¼ cup olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, diced

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 small zucchini or 1 medium zucchini, seeded and chopped

2 cups green beans

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4 cups spinach (or Swiss chard, stems removed)

1 cup basil leaves

¾ cup evaporated milk

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup almonds

1 pound of pasta

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

½ cup parmesan cheese, grated

ingredients

Heat 1/8 cup of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion and mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and sauté for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and reserve.

Steam (or boil in a little water) the green beans until tender, 5-8 minutes. Set aside.

Place 1/8 cup olive oil, garlic, spinach, basil, evaporated milk, walnuts, and almonds in a food processor and process until smooth. You may have to add the spinach in small batches, processing it down a few times before all the spinach fits in the food processer.

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water per package instructions.

Drain the pasta and mix with the spinach-basil cream, sautéed vegetables, steamed green beans, and crumbled feta. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top.

Note:  Vegan version – use soy or almond milk for the evaporated milk and substitute tofu for the feta cheese; omit the parmesan.

Midsummer Madness: a recipe roundup

KateCooper2009 (2)August. It’s August. And not just the beginning — it’s mid August. Bittersweet: I think that is the word for this month. The slow letting go of lots of sun, swimming holes, and unstructured days. Deep breath.

But we don’t have to say goodbye to vegetables too soon — we are just hitting the peak. From now until mid to late September our gardens and farms will be plumping up, ripening and sweetening our vegetables for your tables. This summer has been relatively cool, so tomatoes and eggplants and peppers may be slow, but the rest of the high summer veggies are coming on strong.

So pack it in while you can, friends.

Here are 9 recipes that make the most out of our last month of summer.

Summer Chicken Stew from BBC Good Food

This recipe has two steps. Really. It’s that easy. Great for a weeknight, has lots of seasonal veggies.

Vegetable Hakka Noodles (AKA Chow Mein) from Manjulas Kitchen

Simple sauce and noodle base that allows you to build whatever veggies you can in there. This recipe happens to include only veggies you’ll find in your CSA.

Mediterranean Cauliflower Couscous with roasted chickpeas from Andrea Bemis of The Kitchn

(hint: the cauliflower is riced, so it takes the place of the couscous — sneaky!).

Cauliflower couscous by The Kitchn.
Cauliflower couscous by The Kitchn.
Cauliflower Steaks from The Kitchn

Apparently, this is a thing. Popping up on restaurant menus all over the place. I didn’t know. But it sounds easy and amazing, so put it on your menu this week! Great for vegetarians and those looking to give the cauliflower main stage.

Zucchini with Chorizo and Lime from The Kitchn

An easy one pot meal. There’s a lot of parsley in my CSA, so I’d sub that in for the cilantro in this recipe, and maybe add a little coriander (since that’s the seed of the cilantro plant).

Green Bean Potato and Corn Salad from Love and Lemons
love and lemons green bean and potato salad
Love and Lemons’ green bean, potato & corn salad.

This could be a side, or add your favorite meat or seafood and make it dinner. It even has basil, which I have a lot of. Making this tonight!

Summer Squash Vegetable Pizza from Love and Lemons

What a great way to use up veggies: grab a Le Petit crust, roll it out, and load on the veggies and herbs and a little tomato sauce or olive oil. Done and done. This one from Love and Lemons is a great mixture of seasonal veggies.

Darla’s Delicious Frittata from Epicurious

I’ve starting making a frittata over the weekend when I have a bit more time and serving it for breakfast (or dinner) throughout the week. I recently read a frittata recipe that, instead of listing what vegetables, just said “vegetables.” As in, as long as you have some veggies, cheese, and maybe a little cream or meat (totally optional, though I do argue bacon is always a good idea) along with eggs, you’ll be good to go.

Easiest Refrigerator Pickles from Smitten Kitchen
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Easy refrigerator pickles by Smitten Kitchen.

And a little nod to what’s coming down the pike: storing veggies. Pickling! Cucumbers, they are great for snacking, salading, and some great Greek food. But when in doubt, pickle them!

We’ll be taking a break next week. Because #peasfarmparty. Hope you all will join us for our 20th anniversary get down Thursday, August 18th.

I’ll be writing about going back to school (gasp!) next time around. Until then, eat well.

 

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chopped veggies

Swiss Chard Rolls

When your garden produces an abundance of Swiss chard or you find beautiful rainbow chard at the farmer’s market, make Swiss Chard Rolls. Akin to cabbage rolls, Swiss Chard Rolls are a delicious way to utilize your summer garden bounty or farmer’s market produce.

What to do with summer's bounty...
What to do with summer’s bounty…

One:  Bring ½ cup raw quinoa, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon olive oil to boil in a small sauce pan. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 20-25 minutes until cooked. Set aside.

Two: Core and coarsely chop 4 large paste tomatoes. Mince one garlic clove. Heat 1
tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan. Once hot, add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, add chopped paste tomatoes. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce heat to low. Add 1/3 cup red wine. Add 1 cup of finely chopped fresh herbs: basil, chives, oregano, marjoram, thyme, parsley, or sage. Use a mixture of whatever herbs your garden provides or that you can find at the farmer’s market.  (Sage and dill should be used sparingly or they will overpower the sauce). Stir and let sauce simmer, covered, while you prepare the Swiss chard filling.

chopping

stewing

Three: Wash 6 large Swiss chard leaves, leaving some water drops on the leafy part. Cut the leaves in half to remove the stems through the main leaf – you will end up with 12 half leaves for rolling. Set the stem pieces aside to use in the filling (step four). Place the leaf halves on a plate or in a large bowl, cover with wax paper and microwave on high for 45 to 65 seconds. You want the leaves to be softened and pliable but not cooked all the way through. Set aside.

Four: Dice (1/2 inch pieces) the Swiss chard stems, 4 medium peeled carrots, 1 or 2 paste tomatoes, 1 medium onion (if using a fresh garden onion, use as much of the green top as you like). Seed and dice 1 small or ½ medium zucchini, keep the zucchini separate from other diced vegetables. Finely mince 1 large garlic clove. In a large sauté pan or a wok, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add the diced chard stems, carrots, tomato, onion, and minced garlic. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until onion is translucent.

chopped veggies

When the onions are translucent, add the diced zucchini and the cooked quinoa to the vegetable mixture.  Sauté for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let mixture cool for 5-10 minutes so it’s easier to handle. Turn off the heat to the tomato sauce (step 2) at this time.

Five: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 7×11 baking dish (or any 2 quart baking dish approximating that size). Place one Swiss chard leaf half on the counter or a large plate; heap 2-3 tablespoons of the quinoa vegetable mixture at one end of the leaf half. Roll the leaf half up much like you’d role a tortilla for a burrito. Place in the baking dish. Repeat with the other 11 leaf halves.

rollingpan

complete

3 rolls per serving for entrees, 1 roll per serving for appetizers.

Swiss chard rolls are gluten free, salt free, vegetarian, and vegan.

Note: Leftover quinoa-vegetable mixture makes a great breakfast re-heated and topped with a fried egg!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the fruits of your labor – Harvesting basics

In order to enjoy the fruits of all that labor you put into your garden you’ll have to  harvest, but sometimes it’s hard to tell when something is ready to go. As gardeners we know our food is good even when it doesn’t look perfect, so the good news is that it’s not absolutely necessary that we have our harvesting techniques down to a science (like many of our fellow farmer friends do).  So go ahead and give yourself a break, but read on for some harvesting tips.

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I would argue that as gardeners we are mainly concerned with harvesting crops before it is too late…… Too late generally means the plant has started to flower, which means it is putting more energy into growing seed rather than its various parts that we like to eat. And this generally results in a bitter-tasting veggie that is starting to lose its nutritional punch. But even when it’s “too late,” it’s often not really too late. You’ll see.

On the other hand, many things actually taste a little sweeter when harvested on the early side, for example, carrots, beets, and pretty much any kind of green. We miss out on some growth potential if we harvest our crops early, but they’ll still pack plenty of nutrients! (and look cute too…?) This also comes in handy when you are thinning your rows — big or small, they are still edible.

Carrots and Beets and Greens – oh my!

Crops like the aforementioned carrots, beets, and greens are fairly straightforward. You can tell just by looking at their size if they are ready. In general, if your veggies look like something you could get at the grocery store, they are ready to go! Carrots are typically at their peak around 1″ – 2″ in thickness, while beets are typically at their peak around 2″ – 3″ in thickness. You can poke your finger in the ground to feel how big your carrots and beets or other root veggies are, and of course you can just admire those beautiful leafy greens from afar to figure out if they’re ready for pickin’.

Note that regular, timely harvest of greens (including kale, lettuces, swiss chard, etc.) usually increases the length of harvest. And if you’re not going to eat them right away, it’s best to pick greens in the early morning or evening when the sun isn’t so hot – it helps to keep the greens from wilting.

A few other common crops are harder to determine – like squash, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, cabbage, and broccoli and cauliflower. Here’s a little more info on those:

Squash – summer and winter varieties

Summer squashes are best harvested when young and tender, when their skin is easily penetrated by a fingernail.  Zucchinis grow a ton in a day, so these guys require a careful eye. If you run late harvesting one it will probably taste better shredded in zucchini bread than used fresh. Or, hollow out the seeds, stuff it with a yummy filling, and bake!

Unlike with your zukes, you don’t want to watch winter squash so closely every day – at least not for awhile (unless you enjoy watching water boil). The hard skin of winter squash develops over time and is what helps it store so well, so you don’t want to rush on harvesting these gems. Mature winter squash will be hard and impervious to scratching. Once that thick skin has developed and you perform the fingernail test (press a thumbnail against the skin; your nail shouldn’t leave a visible dent) harvest your squash,  leaving at least 1” of stem attached. It’s also best to harvest before a frost comes, which could decrease their storage time.

Young, tender zukes about ready to harvest
Young, tender zukes about ready to harvest
This big guy should have been harvested a few days ago for best flavor
This big guy should have been harvested a few days ago for best flavor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cucumbers

These also can grow a lot in a short amount of time and so require a watchful eye. Cucumbers are best when slightly immature. Most varieties will be 1.5”- 2.5” in diameter and 5”- 8” long, except for pickling cucumbers, which will be blocky and not as long. Immature cukes are spiky, but will become less spiky as they mature. You can easily wash off the rest of the cucumber spikes after harvesting by running your hand over the cucumber under water. If you get to a cuke too late, it will still taste pretty good pickled!

These cukes will be ready in no time!
These cukes will be ready in no time!

Potatoes

You can harvest potatoes early or late, depending on your preference or what you plan to use the potato for. New potatoes, or earlies, can be harvested soon after the plants start blooming their beautiful flowers. Early potatoes are generally smaller and don’t store well so you want to eat them right away.

Or you can wait to harvest a crop of potatoes later – after the tops have died down and when the ground is dry. These potatoes will store much better, as long as they are cured for 10-14 days in a dark, well-ventilated location at 45 F to 60 F.

Onions

Onions can be harvested at different times according to what you’ll be using them for. If using them fresh, harvest at ¼”- 1” in diameter (basically, when they look big enough to be useful for whatever you need them for). If harvesting onions for storage, wait until they are bigger, their tops have fallen over, and their necks are shriveled. A mature bulb will not be dented if you push your finger into it.  To cure onions, place them in a single layer or mesh bag in a dry, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight for 3-4 weeks. Remove their tops when fully dry.

An onion ready for some pickin'
An onion ready for some pickin’

Cabbage

A beautiful cabbage head ready to harvest
A beautiful cabbage head ready to harvest

Cabbage is ready to harvest when the leaves surrounding the head start to open up a bit, and when the heads are solid. If cabbage heads become over mature they may split. If your head splits, it’s still edible. It just won’t last as long and you’ll likely have to cut out the parts around the split.

 

 

Broccoli and Cauliflower

Broccoli and Cauliflower may be the trickiest plants in regards to timing their harvest. Broccoli is best harvested while heads are a deep green, still compact, and before buds start to open into flowers. If the buds start to separate and the yellow petals inside start to show, harvest immediately. I often get to my broccoli a little too late (oops), but I still eat it, flowers and all!

This broccoli head should be harvested immediately. Many of its buds are about to pop!
This broccoli head should be harvested immediately. Many of its buds are about to pop!

When harvesting, cut the stem at a slant about 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) below the head. Removing the head on some varieties will produce side-shoots in the axils of leaves and you can get 4 to 6 additional cuttings of shoots per plant over several weeks.

A beautiful broccoli head ready to be harvested
A beautiful broccoli head ready to be harvested

Follow the same rule of thumb for cauliflower, but when the curds are about 1”-2” in diameter fold some of the outer leaves over the cauliflower heads. This helps prevent the head from becoming yellow and/or blemished. Once you cover the heads they should be ready for harvest in 1-2 weeks.

Broccoli buds starting to open and flower
Broccoli buds starting to open and flower