Perfect with brunch or afternoon tea, these little cookies offer lovely and surprising flavors. Because they are crisp (perfect for dunking), they will keep well in a sealed storage container on your counter or in the freezer. Let’s get started! Continue reading
Fragrant, beautiful, and delicious, fresh herbs are bountiful in early summer. It’s easy to take big bunches of basil, long sprigs of rosemary, and cheerful sprigs of parsley, mint, oregano, and thyme for granted this time of year. (I forgot cilantro, tarragon, lavender… you get the idea!)
Frugal cooks know that the season for fresh herbs is relatively brief. Once the very hottest days of summer arrive, delicate herbs begin to wilt and bolt, their best flavors gone for another year. Don’t worry, though – the flavors of early summer herbs are easy to preserve. Herb Compound Butter is the easiest, most reliable method for preserving herbs here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. Let’s get started!
Herbs don’t freeze well on their own – they discolor and lose flavor pretty quickly. However, herbs blended into butter freeze magnificently! The butterfat protects the delicate herbs, preserving their color and flavor. Every cook knows that herbs and butter taste wonderful together, so why not combine them for preservation? That’s really all “compound butter” is – butter blended with one or more ingredients. So easy!
What herbs should you use? Whatever herbs you like! Fresh springs of rosemary blended with real butter are one of my favorite flavor combinations. You may find that parsley blended with butter suits your palate, or perhaps a combination of oregano and thyme is more your style. Experiment! Enjoy!
Now that the nights are cooler, my basil plants are looking pretty tired. The leaves are beginning to turn a paler shade of green, and I will lose them to winter soon. It’s time for a quick harvest! Luckily, my Swiss chard greens are looking fabulous. Today we’re making a simple pesto using a combination of chard and basil, with pecans instead of the more popular (and very expensive!) pine nuts. This pesto freezes beautifully, and will provide you with the wonderful flavor of fresh basil all winter long.
Ingredients (Makes 2 1/2 cups)
6 cups loosely packed chard leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
3 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Step 1) Combine chard leaves, pecans, and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend until fairly smooth.
Step 2) Add basil, salt, lemon juice, and remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend until smooth, using a rubber scraper to incorporate ingredients if necessary.
Step 3) Use a teaspoon to fill each well of an ice cube tray with pesto. Place in freezer until pesto is completely solid, then remove pesto cubes and freeze in a resealable freezer bag.
Add individual cubes of pesto to sautéed vegetables, pasta sauces, soups, and casseroles all winter long!
I’ve known for a while that the Hmong women at my local farmers market possess an extraordinary amount of knowledge, having immigrated with many generations of organic agricultural experience, skill, and lore. Even so, I was surprised to see small bundles of pink stemmed plants with small, succulent leaves for sale at their booth.
Earlier the same day, I spent hours picking and discarding these very same “weeds” from my vegetable garden!
After only a few minutes of research, I discovered that the “weed” I have been hoeing right out of my garden is purslane, sometimes known as pigweed (no respect, I tell you!). Purslane is a highly prized edible plant in much of Asia, and no wonder! Apparently purslane contains more Vitamin A and more Vitamin C per serving than most dark green leafy vegetables, including spinach! In addition… get this… purslane is remarkably high in Omega 3 fatty acids, containing more heart healthy Omega 3s than some fish oils!
Perhaps a better question is, how do I use it?
Enjoying the bright, citrusy flavor of purslane can be as simple as plucking off the small leaves and tossing them into a salad or sprinkling them over grilled vegetables. Feeling a little more adventurous? In addition to being a nutritional powerhouse, purslane has thickening properties. To take advantage, simply dry purslane in a food dehydrator or oven (lowest temperature) and grind into powder using a food processor or coffee grinder. Then, add powdered purslane to soups and stews in place of cornstarch or roux.
The possibilities are endless. I’d love to hear your ideas for this underappreciated “weed!”
We’ve had a rather cold and rainy start to the summer season in my region. Crowded Earth Kitchen’s vegetable garden is fully planted now, with over 100 transplants (mostly tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, ground cherries, and broccoli) and 200 feet of seeded rows (beans, peas, potatoes, onions, carrots, okra, and cucumbers). Early in the season, however, vegetables take a back seat to herbs and flowers! Here’s what’s looking spiffy this week…
Gardening season has finally arrived! Growing my own food is really my favorite part of cooking. Few things are as satisfying as creating a meal from fresh, healthy ingredients grown by my family. This summer, Crowded Earth Kitchen will feature a weekly post with garden updates. A few summers ago, our $200 gardening investment led to a harvest worth over $2,000. Can we do better this year?
Gardening is part art, part science, and part dumb luck. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen we rely pretty heavily on dumb luck! We are lucky to have enough growing space that we can garden badly and still end up with a bountiful harvest. It’s not that we try to garden badly (sometimes, our garden is beautiful), but it’s nice to have room for mistakes.
Important: Crowded Earth Kitchen grows organic food, entirely free from herbicides and pesticides. We believe strongly that these toxins have no place in a backyard garden. Stay tuned for tips on poison-free weed and pest control!
Below are a few photos from the garden we began planting just this week. Watch for growing updates! As we begin to harvest food, we’ll feature seasonal recipes from the garden. When we begin picking by the wagonload in autumn, you can count on lots of canning and preserving recipes here at Crowded Earth Kitchen!
While visiting a little village in France, I enjoyed a simple salad that was just… better. I couldn’t quite place it. I use fresh greens and a light and simple homemade vinaigrette at home, much as I saw on my plate. But this salad had a little something extra. That’s when I saw them – tiny specks of purple peeking in and out of my salad greens. There was lavender in my salad! Then I noticed that some of the flecks of green herbs I assumed were incorporated into the dressing were in fact dry. These had clearly been sprinkled on top as a finishing touch. What was this stuff?
Herbes de Provence, I was told with the same stare of obviousness as if I had inquired about the clear liquid in my water glass. I quickly learned that this dried herb blend is ubiquitous to French cuisine as a flavor enhancer and final detail. It’s absolutely delicious, and incredibly versatile. It’s also pretty expensive in US spice shops, because herbes de provence is still considered a bit exotic here. The economical solution is to simply blend your own. It’s super easy, makes a fantastic gift in a pretty little jar, and if you blend it yourself, you can tweak the ratios to make the blend your own. For example, I like a little more lavender than I found in a store brand I sampled. You might like a little more tarragon, or a little less rosemary, or something else altogether. That’s part of the fun! I’ve found that food co-ops such as Outpost Natural Foods and markets favoring organic and health foods such as Whole Foods are great places to buy herbs in bulk. Remember, “bulk” doesn’t mean “big” – it means you can often buy a teaspoon or two of your favorite herbs for mere pennies. So, go pick up a few herbs and bring a little French into your cooking! Over the next two weeks on Crowded Earth Kitchen, I’ll make a point of showing a few of the many uses for this wonderful herb blend. Blend together and store in a jar: 2 tablespoons dried rosemary 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds (more than is typical, but I love it) 2 teaspoons dried fennel (should say “cracked fennel” – if not, crush with a rolling pin before using) 1 teaspoon of each of the following (dried): marjoram, basil, thyme, tarragon, oregano, and chervil 1/2 teaspoon dried dill (I like dill, but too much overwhelms the lavender) That’s all there is to it! When you use this in something delicious, please post a comment and tell me all about it!