Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Plenitude of Swiss Chard

Swiss chard has become one of my garden favorites.  The first varieties of this leafy vegetable have been traced back to Sicily.  The word Swiss was used to distinguish chard from French spinach varieties by 19th century seed catalog publishers. (again, my friend, Wikipedia, helped with this information)  It belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste.

Swiss chard has shiny green ribbed leaves, with stems that range from white to yellow and red.  Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads while mature leaves and stalks are typically cooked.  Swiss Chard is high in vitamins A, K and C.  It is also rich in minerals, fiber and protein.  Some research suggests that Swiss Chard provides a protective cover for the colon and kidneys.

Each year I plant a few more plants.  According to Go Organic Gardening,
Swiss chard is one of the easiest vegetables to grow. Some gardeners refer to it as a “cut and come again” plant, because you can continuously harvest from the plant all season long, as long as you harvest the outer leaves, and leave the center of the plant to grow.

We add it to other greens for a salad. But mostly, I cook it as you might spinach and add it to all kinds of dishes.  I also freeze it for use in the winter. 

Here's how I prepare it:
Frozen Swiss Chard
Chop the leaves and stalks of mature (large-leafed) Swiss chard.
     I usually cook up 6 - 8 cups at a time
Chop 1 small onion.
Saute onion in 2 T. olive oil.  After the onion softens, add the Swiss chard.  Cook until it's limp and reduced.
After the mixture has cooled, put 1 cup into a freezer bag.  Label and put in the freezer.

Possible uses for the frozen Swiss chard:
Vegetarian Lasagna
Quiche (a previous posted recipe)
Stir fry
Sauces for pasta
Pesto/ hummus like dips

Egg Dishes

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Profusion of Zucchni

I'll wager that many of you wondered what the plural form of "zucchini" is.  I'll also bet that most don't know the etymology (word origin) of "zucchini."  And that, my friends, is why we have Wikipedia, to answer those nagging questions that pop up from time to time.

According to our beloved, and occaisionally accurate, source, zucchini comes from the Italian word "zucca" which means "squash," and "zucchina" is its diminutive.  It's commonly called a "courgette" in European countries.  Different countries serve this all-purpose vegetable in a variety of ways:  in Mexico they're put in quesadillas; in Italy they're breaded and pan-fried; the French cook up ratatouille; the Turks like to make a popular dish, m├╝cver , or "zucchini pancakes",  stuffing with meat, rice or herbs is a common dish in the Mediterranean areas.

Some years, my zucchini grows pitifully.  This year my plants have surprised me and surpassed my expecations. I've picked small ones for stir-fry and large ones, the size of newborn babies, for grating.  I found an interesting recipe for Zucchini Hummus in the paper this week.  The whole family loved it.  The basil gives it a pesto flavor.

Try it, you'll like it.

Zucchini Hummus
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsely
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until desired consistency is reached.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Plethora of Cucumbers

This year, my garden has blessed me with a plethora of cucumbers.  If I was a pickler, I'd be pretty happy.  But I'm not.  As a kid, I helped my mom can bread and butter pickles.  As a young girl with plenty of discretionary time, working with wide mouth Ball jars and hot water baths was kind of fun.  As a mom with far too much to do, pickling cucumbers takes up too much time.
My solution (besides leaving these green sweethearts on the neighbors' front steps), was to use a couple of really big ones in a salad.  I served it at a larger family gathering, and everyone brave enough to try it loved it.

Creamy Cucumber Salad
2 very large (or the equivalent) cucmbers
     if the cucumbers are seedy, clean them out
     thinly slice the cucmbers
5 green onions, sliced
2/3 cup mayo
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 cup dried parsley

Slice the vegetables and place in a medium bowl.  In a smaller bowl, combine the other ingredients.  Add to vegetables.  Chill for at least one hour.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eggplant Recipe

Last year, I harvested only one eggplant from my garden. How disappointing!  It's not that I'm a crazy eggplant lover, but when you spend time planting, weeding, fertilizing and watering you'd like to get something for your labors.

This year, my 4 little plants are prolific!  I've picked and cooked up 4 and have another 8 on the plants. My family is not overly keen on eggplant, but they're brave enough to try any recipe once.  Here's one we liked

Eggplant Caviar*
Real Simple, May, 2010
(I'm not sure why "caviar" is in the name.)

1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
2 T. chopped, flat leaf parsley
1 T. olive oil
1 t. red wine vinegar
1 T mayonnaise (opt.)
Kosher salt and black pepper
Pumpernickely bread and cut up vegetables

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Using a fork, prick the eggplant all over.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast until very tender, 50 to 60 minutes
Whe the eggplant is cool enought to handle, halve it lengthwise and scrape out the flesh, discarding the skin.  Finely chop the flesh and transfer it to a large bowl.
Add the onion, garlic, parsely, oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, salt and pepper and mix to combine.  Sprinkle with additional parsely and serve with the bread and vegetables.

*Note:  I rarely make a recipe as it appears in a book or magazine.  What's the fun in that?  Here are the adjustments I made:
2 large eggplants
1 medium onion & 3 cloves of garlic sauteed in 1 T. olive oil
1 handful of dried parsley
A splash and a drizzle of apple cider vinegar
2 medium globs of mayonnaise
Gluten-free crackers

Bake the eggplants for 60 - 75 minutes on parchment paper on a large baking sheet, turning every 20 minutes.  After scraping the meat of the eggplant from the skin, mix the other ingredients (excluding the crackers) with a mixer.  The result is a nice, creamy dip for crackers, etc.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Family Friendy Fair

This week is our state's fair.  According to the State Fair's official website, this is  one of the nation's largest and and best-attended agricultural and educational entertainment venues.  The Fair's mission is to educate and involve our guests by providing a world-class showcase that is innovative, entertaining and fun.

Again, according to their website:
We strive to:
•Showcase Minnesota’s finest agriculture, art and industry
•Present an unparalleled forum for knowledge and ideas
•Provide outstanding customer service
•Offer exceptional value
•Provide a safe, clean environment that is accessible to all
•Create unique experiences

The State Fair is a pretty large event.  Over the years, we've chosen to take the kids to smaller, local county fairs.  The Steele County and Rice Conty fairs are nearby and have been a lot of fun.

This year we went to the Dakota County Fair.  We've been there a couple of times before.  This year, it was a beastly hot day.  We might not have gone, except that we had our German friend with us and thought it would be a great midwest, American experience.

As at any small fair, we saw 4H projects, livestock, garden produce, penned-up wild animals, food stands and carnival rides. 

Unfortunately, the hot and humid weather took a lot of fun out of our day at the fair.  The rides didn't entice us.  Neither did the Heritage Village or many of the animal barns.  However, we made the most of our day, finding shade and fans where we could.  We ate a little fair food, guzzled water and took pictures.

Gotta love the summer in Minnesota!