Friday, February 27, 2009

Berries of Wheat

In light of all the wonderful wheat berries we've gotten lately, I feel compelled to share some of the recipes and ideas I've come across to use these little gems. Keep in mind that there is a difference between "soft" and "hard" wheat berries (think white rice vs. brown rice...), and I believe we are getting the "hard" kind. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if you cooked the hard ones much longer you could get a nice soft-chewy kernel instead.

I have found that it is not necessary to soak the wheat berries before cooking them as some sources suggest. I simply bring them to a boil and let them cook over medium-low heat (a high simmer if there is such a thing) for an hour or so until they're cooked. Soaking would probably help them cook a bit faster, though. I am intrigued to try cooking them overnight in my slow-cooker to see how well that works, but definitely you can cut your cooking time in half or less by using a pressure cooker! I am also curious if decent results could be achieved from pulsing cooked wheat berries briefly in the blender or food processor to get a different texture (and one that could be used in baking, for instance)--I will be trying it soon and let you know! You can also grind the berries before cooking, but be sure to use a glass jar and a blender or grinder with a strong motor.

Wheat berries are...

...discussed here, including different cooking methods in Wheat Berries 101.

...used in authentic Ukrainian grain pudding called Kutya or's very yummy!

...combined with yogurt and spices for a refreshing COLD Middle-Eastern soup (may have to save this one for summer).

...made into a sweet, vegan, Indian pudding with cardamom and cashews!

(or in this traditional Indian dessert:

...baked into a crustless quiche (in which chard or other greens can substitute for the spinach)!

...puffed (or popped?) in a hot skillet to be combined with other granola ingredients...!

...served with lentils in a hearty salad.

...combined with dill (if you have any left!) in this wintery salad with cranberries and pecans.

...tossed with apple and ham in another filling meal-sized-salad.

...combined with mashed beans, herbs, spices and an egg (or soaked flax seed) to make yummy chewy veggie burger patties...recipe coming soon!

Happy Cooking!

Ruby Root Slaw

A delicious and quick and simple side dish to prepare with all these wonderful root (and not) vegetables we've been getting lately! And the color is absolutely amazing! For a super easy way to section oranges and grapefruits, check this out--practically as easy as peeling the fruit!

1 ruby-red grapefruit or 1 large orange
1 small/medium raw beet
1 large or 3-4 small kohlrabi bulbs
3-4 small salad turnips
2-3 carrots
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare grapefruit or orange sections--another easy way is to halve the fruit and scoop out the sections with a grapefruit spoon, but they definitely aren't as pretty or as large as doing it the "proper" way! Peel remaining vegetables as desired (of course I peeled the beet and removed the skin and woody layer from the kohlrabi, but the turnips and carrots kept their skins).

Grate the vegetables into a bowl, toss with grapefruit (and any juice that remains in the membranes--just give it a good squeeze over the bowl), olive oil, salt and pepper and enjoy!

I have to say, this is the first time I have eaten raw beets and actually enjoyed them! I think the secret was to not have them front and center, as the bulk of this salad comes from the other vegetables and the beets are added mostly for color (and really only made it into the salad because I still had one lingering in my fridge!). You could also make this without the grapefruit or orange if desired, and substitute a tablespoon or two of red wine or balsamic vinegar.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bubble & Squeak, Colcannon, Rumbledethumps, Stamppot...Call it what you like, we call it comfort food!

I have been making some variation of these traditional European dishes for quite some time now, but never really knew how similar they were to one another. The dish can be SOOOOO easy to prepare; quick, simple, warm and comforting. It can be a meal in itself, or it can be served with any number of meat side dishes; corned beef, sausage or ham is common, and frequently is mixed right into the hash, but a fried or poached egg is delicious as well.

Traditionally, these hashed potato and cabbage (or kale) dishes were a way to use up vegetables leftover from a Sunday roast dinner. Most frequently, the potato and cabbage are the only vegetables, but you can use carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, or any other veggie that suits your taste. Adding some chopped dark greens helps liven up the color contrast a bit as well. If it suits your taste, you can also mix in diced or shredded cheese (strong Irish cheddar.

In addition, you can prepare the dish in any number of ways, from a simple hashed/mashed version, to fried patties of hash. We have also prepared a version of this dish as more of a soup/stew to which I add egg noodles when I add the cabbage. The proportions listed below are flexible and forgiving. I usually use about a 1:1 ration of potatoes to cabbage, but it very easily accommodates more cabbage or more potatoes depending on your preference. One item to note, if you opt for doubling the cabbage, you might need to add an egg to hold it together for frying into patties.

1 lb potatoes, cubed (we usually leave the skins on, but this is up to you)
1 lb cabbage, chopped roughly
2-3 cups water or broth*
2 scallions (or I'Itoi onions), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs butter or olive oil (optional)

Place water or broth in large pot with potatoes and garlic. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook 10-15 minutes or until almost cooked through (this will depend on how big your chunks are). Add cabbage and return to a boil. Cook until cabbage is tender, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, add onions, salt and pepper, butter or oil (if using) and mash coarsely with a potato masher. At this point, you can serve the dish as-is (or dressed up to your liking), or you can opt to fry the mix into patties. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat with a few tablespoons of oil. Scoop mixture about 1/2 cup at a time into skillet; flatten to 1-inch thick patties with a spatula. Cook about 3-5 minutes on each side until browned and slightly crispy, adding more oil as needed. They are tricky to flip because there's not much holding them together, which is why I prefer to skip this step; you could possibly try coating the patties in breadcrumbs first, but I personally haven't tried this to know how it would work. Serve the patties or hash topped with sour cream or yogurt if desired.

*You can use more water, as if for boiling the potatoes and cabbage completely submersed, but you will have to drain it off and add the cooking liquid (or milk) back in if you are mashing the mixture. Also, if you opt to include egg noodles as mentioned in the headnotes you may need more water, or you can cook them separately and add them to the vegetables when they're finished cooking. When adding noodles, there is no need to mash the vegetables, just toss it all together with plenty of butter, salt and pepper!

Monday, February 16, 2009

This Week's Harvest

Wow, I was hit with a wallop of an illness for the past two weeks and I haven't done that much cooking or blogging. For awhile there, I was munching on saltines and broth, but I have my appetite back. My CSA cooking hasn't been particularly interesting besides making wonderful salads with all the great greens we have been getting. However, I have a new favorite ingredient for my scrambled eggs in the morn': beet greens! Yep, I chop those babies up, saute them in a little butter, add some beaten eggs and top with a little cheese, salt and pep and gobble it down! If I have Iitoi onions on hand, I will throw those in too. The greens are uber-nutritious and a really, nice mild green. I always chop the greens off the beets when I take them home to keep them getting wilted. Okay, so on to this week's harvest:

Red Potatoes
Braising Greens or Swiss Chard
Iitoi Onions
Haruki Turnips
Dandelion Greens

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Salmon and wheat berries

I doubt I am alone when I say I used to be flummoxed with what to with wheat berries. And then one weekend I was getting ready to make some and I was out of the grains I usually serve with it. No lentils, no wild rice, but it turns out we had a jar of wheat berries soaking in water in the fridge. (Yeah, we got that far but we didn't know what to do with them next.) So, I looked around the kitchen and gathered up some various CSA veggies and here is what I did.

3/4 to 1 pound salmon fillets
1 c wheat berries
2 carrots, diced
Peppers, green onions, any CSA veggies you think would be good
Olive oil
salt and pepper

1/4 c olive oil
1 t grated lemon zest (or orange if you got one from the CSA)
2 T fresh lemon (or orange) juice
2 cloves of garlic, chopped or minced
2 T chopped herbs (tarragon is really good with this)
1 t sea salt

In a small jar with a tight fitting lid add the vinaigrette ingredients. Shake vigorously and set aside.

As mentioned in other wheat berry recipes, it is best to soak them overnight. Add them to a pot with a quart of water or so and simmer for an hour and a half. You want them to be tender, but still a bit chewy. We like them best when they are all popped open.

I sauted the veggies in olive oil until they were just getting tender and I cooked my salmon (after rubbing it with olive oil, salt and pepper) for about three minutes on a side in a cast iron skillet. I then mixed my veggies into the wheat berries, added the vinaigrette, and tossed. (A note on the vinaigrette: the amount mentioned here in the recipe is going to lot. You'll probably only use half of it for this recipe and then you can use the rest in something else. It is pretty versatile. ) I served my salmon right on top of the wheat berries and veggies combo. The earthy, nutty flavor of the wheat berries, and the sweetness of the veggies, were perfect with the fish.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This Week's Harvest

Butter Lettuce
Iitoi Onions
Dried Chilies
Baby Arugula

So, the word on the street is that CSA folks aren't that keen on the dried chilies and the trade basket can be overflowing with them. So, I ask you, what tasty dishes have have some of you whipped up with dried chilies that you would be willing to share? Karna, our fine coordinator, says she grinds them up and uses them in place of pepper. That would be a great way to give your food some extra kick. Let's roll up our sleeves and get creative with chilies this week!

To get you started, here is a recipe using dried chiles that I am going to make this week from (again) the Tucson CSA's newsletter. They have a ton of great recipes in their newsletters and posted on their website. I highly recommend checking it out! This recipe was contributed by Sara Jones of the Tucson CSA.

Basic Enchilada Sauce

We get the basic Anaheim-type dried chiles at the CSA, which
are a great base for enchilada sauce. If you have them around,
feel free to supplement or substitute other dried chiles for a more
complex flavor.

4-6 dried red chiles, rinsed clean
½ onion, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar

To re-hydrate chiles, leave them submerged overnight in warm
water. You can also pour boiling water over chiles and leave
them to re-hydrate for about 45 minutes.

Once pliable and moist, remove stem and seeds from each pod
and place in a blender, with about ¾ cup of the soaking liquid.
Blend well.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion
and cumin and stir until fragrant. Pour in chile mixture and

Be CAREFUL, the steam the chiles will release is spicy – don’t
lean directly over the skillet!

Cook, stirring continuously, for about 3 minutes. Remove from
heat and add vinegar and a bit of salt to taste.

UPDATED 2/16: So, I made the sauce and I would make some changes if I made it again. First, I would double the amount called for. I made a 9x12 pan of enchiladas and this recipe didn't make enough sauce to make it all nice and saucy. You could remedy this by using more of the soaking water then called for. I didn't think our chiles were that spicy and I didn't bother removing the seeds when I blended them in the food processor. I like things to be easy in the kitchen, but adjust it to your preference because the seeds are where the heat is at. I left out the vinegar and it needs quite a bit of salt for my taste. But, the flavor was great, I would definitely make it again and homemade enchiladas were super yum.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lemon Cilantro Salad Dressing

I whipped up a quick and tasty salad dressing last night to go with a beautiful salad I brought to a dinner party. I wish I had taken a picture because it was colorful! The salad featured salad greens, spinach and purple cabbage from last week along with some red bell pepper, yellow carrots and avocado. I topped it off with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds. I wanted to use some of the fine cilantro we got last week, so I decided to use it in the dressing along with our beautiful lemons. My inspiration for this dressing came from the Tucson CSA's newsletter from last week. The author, Lorraine Glazar of the Tucson CSA, gives substitution ideas depending on what herbs and/or citrus you might have on hand. Click on the link to see what they are. I left out the mustard because I didn't have it in the fridge and I added sun-dried tomatoes because I love them just a little too much. Enjoy!

lemon (juice and zest it)
1/4 c. oil ( I used about 2/3 Queen Creek Extra-Virgin olive oil and 1/3 hemp seed oil)
3-4 T. fine cilantro
1 clove garlic
4 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil and herbs
splash white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Blend the ingredients in food processor or blender until the herbs are finely chopped and distributed through the dressing. Adjust seasonings to your liking.