Herb Compound Butter

WIN_20160507_194649‘Tis the season for fresh herbs! Enjoy this vintage post, which offers a terrific and tasty way to preserve your summer herbs for year-round flavor!

WIN_20160502_141040

Step 1: Combine 1/2 cup real butter with 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs. Blend until evenly combined.

Fragrant, beautiful, and delicious, fresh herbs are bountiful in early summer. It’s easy to take Continue reading

Herb Compound Butter

WIN_20160507_194649‘Tis the season for fresh herbs!

WIN_20160502_141040

Step 1: Combine 1/2 cup real butter with 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs. Blend until evenly combined.

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!)

WIN_20160502_141706

Step 2: Transfer butter mixture to the center of a large piece of waxed paper.

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!

WIN_20160502_141823

Step 3: Roll the waxed paper closed and refrigerate the compound butter until firm. Slice into small rounds for serving or cooking. Freeze in a covered container until needed.

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!

Pecan Freezer Pesto

WIN_20150824_163338Now 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

WIN_20150824_172114Directions

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!

Purslane, the Free Superfood!

WIN_20150714_130402I’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!

WIN_20150714_133026After 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!

Who knew?

Perhaps a better question is, how do I use it?

WIN_20150714_133519Enjoying 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!”

In The Garden: Herbs and Flowers

WIN_20150619_134740

German Chamomile

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…

WIN_20150619_134802

Hydrangea

WIN_20150619_134821

Daisy

WIN_20150619_134851

Purple Creeping Thyme

WIN_20150619_134912

Lavender

WIN_20150619_134928

Coreopsis

WIN_20150619_135126

Sugar Snap Peas

In The Garden, Week 1!

WIN_20150524_141108

Pineapple Mint, Orange Mint, and Sage

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?

WIN_20150524_141120

German Chamomile (I can hardly wait for tea!)

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!

WIN_20150524_141136

Lavender in the front garden

WIN_20150524_141146

Russian Sage in the front garden

WIN_20150524_141306

Beet sprouts tucked among the petunias in the side garden

WIN_20150524_141452

Compost buckets with drainage holes. Each bucket is surrounded by four plants (32 tomato plants, 12 pepper plants, and a few odds-n-ends). When the buckets are filled with water, they pull nutrients from the compost deep into the soil, encouraging the plant roots to grow deep and strong.

WIN_20150524_141553

30 foot rows of red and yellow seed potatoes, purple and white onions, okra, multicolored carrots, and green beans. The space between the rows needs to be weeded already!

WIN_20150524_141815

The side bed of chard and peas took an unexpected heavy rain, which crowded the seeds into one small area! No worries, we’ll just thin them out and plant the bald areas with a few lovely kale transplants.