WIAW – Summer is Here!

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A full day of food - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

It’s July.

Weather doesn’t really help establish that – we’ve been swinging between low 60s and high 80s for 2 months, now, already – I’m a little nervous about heat in the next two months! But we’re getting summer thunderstorms, our friends are throwing themselves into vacation planning (no, we’re not going anywhere. now that we’re back from the parents’,) – and Greenmarket and the CSA pickup are filling out. We got our first zucchini, yesterday…  I’d bought minis at Greenmarket for salads, but now the CSA farm – which is to our North – has full sized squash.

WIAW - a day's food - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Breakfast. I’m starting to experiment with preparation ahead – but I’m not used to it, so forget to do it…  So Monday I just had cheesy eggs in corn tortillas – the fastest, easiest meal I can make. It’s great if I’m going to be busy in the morning, too, as it’s quick to eat, but gives me plenty of staying power. Oh – and coffee with milk. I rarely get that in the picture, because I usually pour it first, and bring it to my desk – yes, I eat breakfast at my desk, while reading email and Facebook… (Sorry – I’m not sure why my picture was so underexposed…)

A Day of Food - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Lunch – salad, of course. This was Monday, and I hadn’t gotten to Greenmarket over the weekend for more salad vegetables, so just lettuce, carrots, and scallions, but several kinds of lettuce, so that helped. With chicken and feta, and my tomato dressing there was enough flavor. And I’d made Scape Hummus, which had enough punch (and it and the dressing do increase the vegetable content of the meal! In the CSA pickup I got some tender young kohlrabi, so that will be in salads this coming week.

A Day of Food - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Dinner was a classic demonstration of the Inhabited Kitchen Method. 😉 The afternoon was a bit hectic, and I ran a bit late, but I wasn’t worried, because I knew I had cooked food…  I’d fixed a big bunch of curly kale the evening before, with lots of leftover – which really needed some more cooking. Curly kale, a cool weather plant, is denser than the varieties that thrive in hot weather, and need to be simmered more like collards – and I wasn’t thinking, and gave it the Tender Greens Treatment. Edible, but… chewy… very chewy… So instead of freezing the leftovers in Green Muffins, we just kept it in a container in the fridge for more cooking. I had the last of a container of seasoned shredded pork, there was cooked rice, there was a pint of cooked beans in the freezer…

I went into the kitchen, chopped and sauteed an onion, and two garlic scapes, added the meat, added the beans, added the kale, added some oregano puree that hadn’t fit in the tray when I froze it, added some water… Simmered it all for about five minutes, put it over rice, and had dinner (and a sink full of containers.) I admit, it looks sort of.. blah… but with the scapes and oregano it tasted very good. And a hearty meal in under 15 minutes is worth a lot.

I never did find the party last week, but this week it’s back at Jenn’s! So hop over, grab a delicious meal, and eat your veggies!

 

A day of food - www.inhbaitedkitchen.com

Tomato Herb Salad Dressing

Add a little tomato paste and a lot of pureed herbs to create a hearty homemade salad dressing - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

So this is a bit of a cheat – I used canned tomato paste because I won’t get fresh tomatoes for at least another month. But a tomato dressing is still good – and even better, in some ways, now, when I don’t have tomatoes in the salad!

Years ago, I used to make a dressing with canned tomato sauce instead of oil which was… not too bad… though a bit wet. But it gave me the idea – what about adding a little tomato paste to an oil and vinegar dressing? I have herbs – in just the last two weeks, our CSA has given us chives, sage by the handful, oregano, and a little basil…

Add a little tomato paste and a lot of pureed herbs to create a hearty homemade salad dressing - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

I had already decided to use the oregano and basil together in a dressing, which may be the reason I thought of tomato. I have a huge bunch of oregano! I used the blender to puree oregano in olive oil to freeze (after stripping the leaves off the woody stems.) I see pictures of beautiful cubes with sprigs of herbs, which are much prettier than mine – but give you a lot of oil frozen around a little bit of herb that still has to be minced for most use. I don’t have the freezer space for that. Mine aren’t quite as pretty – but I can just toss one into anything and it’s ready to go, so it makes more sense to me. (We ate dishes cooked with last summer’s herbs well into the winter. That one little frozen mini-cube brightens up a large pot of soup or sauce!)

Add a little tomato paste and a lot of pureed herbs to create a hearty homemade salad dressing - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Anyhow, I’d already been pureeing oregano, and still had a bit of oregano and oil in the bottom of the blender after filling my little apple tray. I added some leaves of basil, stripped off the stems, and two thirds of a cup of olive oil, and blended it until smooth. I took a can of tomato paste and measured out two tablespoons, and added that (freezing the rest in cubes for later use. I really think tomato paste adds the most in small amounts!) Then, with the blender running, I poured in one third of a cup of good red wine vinegar.

Add a little tomato paste and a lot of pureed herbs to create a hearty homemade salad dressing - www.inhabitedkitchen.comNow, I’m sorry, I don’t really have exact measurements – but I’d estimate 1/4 cup of leaves… There’s a lot of green herb in that jar! As any kindergartener can tell you, when you pour the green paint into the red, you will get brown… and I’m afraid the same is true of green herbs and tomatoes. If you wish to preserve a bright red, use just a tablespoon of mixed herbs – but you will lose out on flavor… I opted for taste over color. You also might prefer more oil – this is quite sharp, but I like that. (Rich doesn’t – but he dislikes sharp or acidic flavors enough that he doesn’t eat salad dressing at all. I make this to my taste.) It does separate out a little in the jar, the herbs sinking to the bottom, and the oil rising, so I serve it with a little ladle, and mix it.

Add a little tomato paste and a lot of pureed herbs to create a hearty homemade salad dressing - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI like that it is a very hearty dressing. I would not serve this on a delicate side salad, with a little Boston Bibb and maybe, just maybe, a few thin slices of cucumber – it would overwhelm the salad. But on a filling lunch salad, with meat and pintos, and flavorful vegetables? It is wonderful!

What kinds of salad dressing do you prefer, and what would you like to see recipes for? I make different ones all summer, for my own pleasure, and for variety – I’d love to share, if you’re interested! Let me know, in the comments here, or on Facebook!

Shared on Mostly Homemade Mondays

 

Tomato Herb Salad Dressing

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Tomato Herb Salad Dressing

Add a little tomato paste and a lot of pureed herbs to create a hearty homemade salad dressing.

Ingredients

  • 2 T - 1/4 c mixed oregano and basil leaves, stripped from the stems
  • 2/3 c olive oil
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1/3 c red wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Place herbs and oil in a blender, and puree.
  2. Add tomato paste and vinegar. Puree until smooth.
  3. Stir to serve - the herbs will settle to the bottom.
http://www.inhabitedkitchen.com/2015/06/tomato-herb-salad-dressing/

Garlicky Greens and Eggs

Simmer greens in broth and cook your eggs nestled right in them for a quick and easy meal of greens and eggs. www.inhabitedkitchen.com

The greens are flowing in, now. This week we got more sorrel, kale, and lettuce, and a big head of escarole, along with several herbs. Mostly, now, we’re just enjoying the variety of flavors, after a winter of curly kale and cabbage – but I’m also looking at different ways to cook greens, and use what I have already cooked. Usually I just cook a whole bunch at once, and then use the leftovers later – I may keep them in the fridge for use within a day or two, or I may freeze them in small containers – we often use muffin tins – for “green muffins.”

A friend asked me about greens and eggs. Well, that’s a wonderful combination which can be cooked in many ways. Often,  I chop up a small amount of leftover greens to put in my egg muffins, or in an omelet. But I can also make a meal of greens and poached eggs – cooked either separately or together.

Simmer greens in broth and cook your eggs nestled right in them for a quick and easy meal of greens and eggs. www.inhabitedkitchen.com

I have this nice big head of escarole. This Italian green is quite versatile – the most tender leaves can be used in a salad, tougher ones are wonderful shredded and cooked in soup. (Try it in lentil soup!) The heads are large and quite dense – I don’t cook a whole head of escarole at once, I’d never fit it in the pan! I decided this time to make a lunch of the very slightly bitter escarole and eggs, with broth.

Simmer greens in broth and cook your eggs nestled right in them for a quick and easy meal of greens and eggs. www.inhabitedkitchen.com

And garlic. It was funny – planning this, I thought “Oh, it’s too bad I don’t have any garlic, it is such a good combination with escarole!” and then remembered – the same CSA pickup included garlic scapes. We won’t see full heads of garlic for a while, but the plant starts growing by sending up these shoots, which have to be cut off so it will head. They have a wonderful mild garlic flavor, and can be either substituted for garlic or, even better, featured in many recipes. And this was a perfect use of them.

Simmer greens in broth and cook your eggs nestled right in them for a quick and easy meal of greens and eggs. www.inhabitedkitchen.com

So. I broke off the outer  leaves of the escarole, chopped and washed them, until I had roughly a quart of the chopped, washed leaves. Then, while they drained, I took two scapes and washed and chopped them. (Cut off the blossom, and the tough fibery ends… sometimes they are not woody at all, but sometimes… ) I put a good glug of olive oil in a heated pan, as I wanted some flavor from it in the greens, and sauteed the scapes until they softened.

Then I added the greens, and used tongs to toss them in the oil, so that all the greens were covered in the good garlic flavored olive oil. To that, I added half a cup of chicken broth (and of course, you can use vegetable broth, or even just water – but I had chicken broth and it’s a good flavor combination,) lowered the heat, and stirred the greens for a minute or two, while they cooked down.

Simmer greens in broth and cook your eggs nestled right in them for a quick and easy meal of greens and eggs. www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Once the escarole had softened, but before it was fully cooked, I added a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and stirred them in.  I pushed the escarole flat into the broth, and broke four eggs over it. Then I covered the pan, and cooked over low heat until the eggs were cooked. I prefer them cooked quite firm, with solid yolks, and got that in about 5 minutes (or, well, maybe another minute or so, when you count the time it took me to take the picture…) – if you prefer your eggs with soft yolks, you may want to start checking at 3-4 minutes.

Then I simply served it in soup plates. Rich had his with bread, to sop up the delicious liquid – I ate the broth with my spoon. I served hummus on the side, with crackers for me and more bread for him – and it was a lovely lunch.

Simmer greens in broth and cook your eggs nestled right in them for a quick and easy meal of greens and eggs. www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Now of course, one advantage is that you don’t have to cook the greens fresh (though that was very good indeed…) For a quick lunch, for just myself, I would take leftover greens from the evening before, saute the scapes (now) or a little fresh garlic and hot pepper (later in the year,) add broth, and continue from there. Lunch in ten minutes! Or a quick dinner, a night you get home late… And this would be good with any greens – be sure to use the “pot likker” if you use simmered greens like collards…  You could also serve it over rice, or add some white beans, or some sausage, to make a heartier meal – but really, this alone was very good.

Garlicky Greens and Eggs

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Garlicky Greens and Eggs

Simmer greens in broth and cook your eggs nestled right in them for a quick and easy meal of greens and eggs.

Ingredients

  • 1 quart of chopped, washed greens (or 1 pint, cooked) - escarole, kale, chard, collards, or whatever you prefer
  • 2 scapes (or 1 clove garlic)
  • 2 t olive oil
  • 1/2 c broth
  • 1/4 - 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 4 eggs

Instructions

  1. Prepare the greens. Wash and chop the scapes. (Or peel and mince garlic.)
  2. Heat oil in a large pan. Add scapes (or garlic) and saute until soft.
  3. Add the greens. Use tongs to toss them in the oil, covering the vegetables with the flavored oil.
  4. Add broth, and simmer until they start to soften and shrink. Add pepper flakes and stir them in.
  5. Carefully break the eggs into the pan on top of the greens. Lower the heat, and cover the pan. Simmer until the eggs are cooked to your taste. (3-5 minutes.)
http://www.inhabitedkitchen.com/2015/06/garlicky-greens-and-eggs/

 

WIAW 69

A day of delicious gluten free June meals - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

We’re getting back to normal after the trip… Unpacking, and laundry, and grocery shopping all happened. The cats are starting to relax. We’ve started CSA pickups (the first was while we were out of town, but we’re in now) so salads and cooked greens are on the menu. And, from Greenmarket, baby squash and – Strawberries! They had strawberries a couple of weeks ago – I didn’t want to get them when we were about to go away. But these were worth waiting for.

A day of delicious gluten free June meals - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Sorry, the pictures are a bit catch as catch can… but here we are. Breakfast – what has become the usual bean, egg, tortilla combo. I’m starting to play with it to make it easier and faster to both cook and eat – but Monday was just as it always had been. I really do find it a good, solid beginning to my day – and I need mindless in the morning…

A day of delicious gluten free June meals - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

It’s Salad for Lunch season! We have plenty of lettuce, of several kinds, but didn’t have many other vegetables to put in… we did get a cucumber from the supermarket, but then I got some lovely baby squash at Greenmarket. I love thinly sliced zucchini and yellow squash in salads – great flavor and texture. This is the in-between season – lettuce (and other greens) and radishes are local, but other vegetables are just starting to come in…  Before I got the squash, I took the last of the frozen broccoli I did have, and put it in a container with some oil and vinegar dressing as a marinade – and finished it on Monday. I also put a splash of vinegar in a container of black beans (It both tastes good and keeps them from souring, if they sit a few days) and added them and a little ham. And I ate the salad with some gluten free whole grain crackers I got at Costco (do I have the box? Of course not, have you any idea how big that box was? Do I remember who made the crackers? Of course not…)

A day of delicious gluten free June meals - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

For dinner, more pintos, and some pulled pork from the freezer, and fresh kale. Yes, I ate beans three meals a day. No, I don’t see anything unusual about that. They are a superb source of protein, they are cheap, there are many varieties with many flavors, which can be varied further by seasoning and cooking, they are a great slow highly complex carbohydrate, they are cheap… I find that I, personally, do best with a mix of beans and some sort of animal protein, but that will vary by the person – and this lets me significantly cut down on the amount of meat we eat. So, anyway… I had a freezer container of pulled pork (made with a not ready for publication attempt at barbecue sauce.) I cooked a bunch of kale, then tossed some of the pork into the pan with a pint of beans (and their cooking liquid) and let it all simmer… and it was good. We ate it with an entirely too crumbly biscuit – I tried something that seemed straightforward but didn’t work – a reminder that gluten free flours just do not work exactly the way wheat does, even when gluten itself does not seem to be a factor. Oh,well…

A day of delicious gluten free June meals - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

But the reason I made those biscuits? Indeed, the reason I spent the spring in the whole Search for Biscuits mode? Strawberries… I grew up in the tradition that states, firmly, that shortcake is a biscuit. None of that spongecake stuff you get from bakeries – biscuits. They might be slightly sweetened (mine are not, of course,) they might be served with either whipped cream or plain cream just poured over (my grandmother did that) but, essentially, shortcake is a biscuit, perfectly ripe fruit, and cream… and wonderful. And so we feasted on strawberry shortcake.

And there we are. I will join the Peas and Crayons party whenever and wherever it comes to rest this week…  meanwhile – have some strawberries!

Nature’s Bounty – Dandelion Greens

Slightly bitter dandelion leaves, softened and set off by crisp savory bacon. www.inhabitedkitchen.com

When I worked in daycare, our playground was surrounded by grass and flower beds – one of those ideas that looked better in the renderings than it did after 100 children had run through the flower bed dividing two sections of the playground… It was good, though, to have a grassy section that the children could play and sit on, and to have the beauty of the flowers around us. (That section in between was quickly replanted in ground cover…)

It was also good that, since it was a playground, they did not use herbicides – so the grass was covered in dandelions. I told the children that they could not pick the flowers the men had planted, because they were there for people to admire – but dandelions were put there by Nature for children to enjoy, and they could pick them. And I was carefully presented with many a dandelion over the years… They are such cheerful and determined little flowers!

Slightly bitter dandelion leaves, softened and set off by crisp savory bacon. www.inhabitedkitchen.com

And yes, these greens are from those same dandelions. One could, in theory, gather them from the lawn – though if you want to try, make sure they have not been exposed to herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers (such as are spread on most lawns – sometimes right in the grass seed, so you might forget about them!) Lawn products are not cleared for human consumption, so even if you are fine with conventional farming, these are not a good idea. If your yard is blissfully free from such interventions, though…

I did not gather these from the lawns in my apartment complex – which I’m pretty sure would not be a wise idea. (Even if I could find some – they clearly are using weed killers…) These, like the sorrel, are from the CSA. In the last years, wildcrafted plants such as ramps, fiddleheads, lambs quarters, and yes, dandelion greens have become very popular in urban farmer’s markets, letting those of us in cities have a taste of the wilderness – or at least, undeveloped areas. (To the point where now we have to be careful not to over-harvest the more popular ones, such as ramps…) They add to the wide variety of greens I wrote about in the last post – each with its own distinctive flavor.

Dandelion greens have a slight, and to my mind, pleasant, bitterness. Bitter greens used to be favored in spring, as they were considered a good tonic – to improve health after the long winter. And many are, in fact, high in vitamin C, which used to be in short supply in winter… so in fact, I’m sure they often did improve health! Now that we can get fresh fruit and vegetables all winter, though, we eat them because we enjoy the flavor.

Slightly bitter dandelion leaves, softened and set off by crisp savory bacon. www.inhabitedkitchen.com

The salty savory taste of bacon sets the bitterness off beautifully. Now, I often use small amounts of bacon when cooking greens – I keep it in the freezer and cut off just what I need – but I decided to do it a little differently this time. Usually I chop a little bacon, render it out, add onion if I want it, then add the greens and cook. That gives me the rich flavor, but because of the moisture in the greens, the bacon pieces are not very crisp. This time, I wanted the crisp, crumbly bacon pieces, and was willing to spend a little more time getting that effect. So I took two slices of bacon (cut them  in half to fit my pan better – optional step…) and places them in my cast iron pan over low heat. I kept the heat very low, and gave it nearly 15 minutes to render the fat out, and get the meat very crisp. (You could easily raise the heat very slightly, and do it in less time – though the meat won’t be quite as crisp.)

Meanwhile, I chopped and washed my greens. (See the post about radish greens for basic instructions – I won’t repeat all the detail here.) I discarded the stems, as they were stringy – that varies from one kind of green to another. And I chopped a small onion.Slightly bitter dandelion leaves, softened and set off by crisp savory bacon. www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Once the bacon was fully cooked – even a bit hard – I removed the slices to a paper towel to drain, and added the onion. In other circumstances I might have poured off some of the drippings, but I wanted the richness for these – do as seems best to you (which may depend on how much you were able to render out.) Once the onion had started to soften, I added the greens, and used tongs to toss them and coat them with bacon fat. I cooked them, stirring often, for about five minutes, until fully cooked. They did not cook down as much as many greens do, but it was easy to see the softening.

Then I put them in a bowl, and crumbled the reserved bacon over them to serve. The texture and the flavor of the bacon complemented the soft bitter greens beautifully.

Now, the bacon is, of course, optional. If you don’t want to use it, for whatever reason, you can just use olive oil to cook them, and either skip the umami factor all together, or use another smoked meat, or some smoked tofu or tempeh strips. Or try a smoked Gouda or other cheese, melted in at the last minute – I think that would add the richness, as well. I do like something to contrast with and set off the flavor, but that could perfectly well be the rest of the meal, too – we ate these with a dish of cannelloni beans, which was a lovely combination.

Slightly bitter dandelion leaves, softened and set off by crisp savory bacon. www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Nature’s Bounty – Dandelion Greens

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Nature’s Bounty – Dandelion Greens

Slightly bitter dandelion leaves, softened and set off by crisp savory bacon. Traditionally considered a Spring Tonic, and refreshing after the winter.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch dandelion leaves
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 small onion

Instructions

  1. Cut stems off dandelion leaves. Shred the leaves, then wash and dry them.
  2. Cook the bacon over low heat until fat is rendered out, and the meat is crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  3. Put the dandelion leaves in the pan, and toss well in the bacon fat. Cook for about 5 minutes, until softened.
  4. To serve, crumble the reserved bacon over the greens.
http://www.inhabitedkitchen.com/2015/06/natures-bounty-dandelion-greens/