First Harvest!

In early May we planted three gardens on the farm. I’ve never had a garden before, and it’s been amazing to watch our plots of dirt transform into lush, green spaces. We planted a variety of vegetables and fruit: potatoes, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, beets, onions, pumpkins, all kinds of squash, cucumber, strawberries, asparagus, watermelon, and honeydew…just to name a few. I’ve always wanted a garden and it’s been an awesome learning experience… Learning what each plant looks like as they first began to come up out of the ground; trying to differentiate between the tiny, new beet plants and the weeds that surrounded them; watching for certain kinds of bugs — some beneficial to the plants and some that are not good at all.

As the plants have continued to grow, I’ve been anxious for the first thing that we could pick or cut or pull up out of the ground and eat! This week I was able to cut garlic scapes, and pull up our first radishes! So exciting! Really, there is nothing like pulling a vegetable out of the ground and thinking, “I grew this!” I don’t know why more people don’t grow their own veggies.

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Well, you probably know what a radish is, but you might not be familiar with garlic scapes. I had no idea what they were until the other farm intern and his wife made us some garlic scape pesto recently. (So good!) The garlic scape looks like part of the stem on a garlic plant. It shoots up in between the leaves and you’ll know it’s ready to cut when it’s curling at the end. It’s actually beneficial to cut the scape off so that the garlic plant can use more energy to go toward growing the garlic bulb itself. And, bonus, you get to eat the delicious garlic scape! I wanted to try out my own pesto with the scapes, so I decided to use them all up, slather it on some bread, and top with thinly sliced radishes. Mmm, delish.

Here are a whole mess of garlic scapes in all their glory. Aren’t they pretty?DSC_0027 DSC_0029

This pesto was ridiculously easy to make. We whipped it up in just a few minutes. Along with the bread, radishes, and some white wine, we had ourselves a simple summer meal. You could also definitely serve this as a yummy appetizer.

Head to your local farmers market to try to hunt down some garlic scapes! They have them at our market now, so I’m hoping you’ll find some at yours. Looking for a farmers market? Check out this website to find one in your area: http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/

Garlic Scape Pesto (makes about 1 cup)
10-20 Garlic Scapes
Handful of fresh Basil
Olive Oil
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Walnuts or whatever nut you’ve got on hand (almonds, pine nuts, etc)
Salt and Pepper (optional)

Chop up your scapes, leaving off the white pointy end. Toss them in a food processor along with your basil, about 1/3 cup of olive oil, 1/3 cup of cheese and a handful of walnuts. Blend for a bit, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides with a spatula.

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Add more oil and cheese if you like. Pesto is great because you really just add what you like until it’s the consistency and taste that you like. I added probably another 1/4 cup of oil to get it to a smoother consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Ta-da! Pesto, with bunny ears.

I slathered this deliciousness on some toasted bread and topped with sliced radish and a bit more cheese. I would have preferred to use a nice loaf of french bread or a baguette that had been toasted in the oven. That would have been amazing, but of course I didn’t have a baguette on hand so I just used some wheat bread that I had. Still delicious! Either way, this is a really simple meal with lots of fresh ingredients. Enjoy it.

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Mushroom & Tofu Quesadillas

Picture this: It’s a Monday night. You’ve just gotten home from work with no plans for dinner, and you don’t exactly have a well-stocked kitchen. You spend a long time standing in front of your fridge, door open, staring into it, hoping a meal will just put itself together.

This is an all-too-common scenario for me, and probably for many of you, too. I kind of hate this and I kind of love it. Hate it, because most of the time I just want something easy and I don’t feel like concocting a recipe out of whatever random ingredients I’ve got. But I love it because it is a chance to get creative and to be resourceful. I really try not to waste food. Of course it happens sometimes anyway, but on nights like these where I need to make up a recipe on the spot, I try to use as many things in my fridge that really need to be used up before they go bad.

So, tonight I looked in my fridge and picked out bell peppers, portobello mushrooms, onion, tortillas, tofu, and cheese. I decided to make some quesadillas. And they actually turned out pretty dang good.

Mushroom & Tofu Quesadillas (serves 2-4, depending how hungry you are)
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 portobello mushrooms, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 oz firm or extra-firm tofu, crumbled* (a regular size container is 14-16 oz.)
1/2 medium-large onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste
1/8 – 1/4 tsp. chili powder, depending how spicy you want it
1-2 Tbsp. oil (olive oil, grapeseed, canola.. whatever you got)
4 flour tortillas
vegan cheese or real, shredded for topping (we used real pepperjack)

*A note about the tofu: we sometimes freeze our tofu and then defrost it in the fridge. Freezing it gives it a more crumbly, substantial texture, and also makes it a lot easier to press (pressing tofu means pressing out the excess water). If you’ve never cooked with tofu and don’t know how to press it, check out this handy how-to. The video says to use a book, but you can really use anything a little bit heavy that will sit on the top plate. Also, I’ve never waited 40 minutes for my tofu to press. I’m too impatient. I probably wait 5 minutes tops. If you’re in a pinch and don’t feel like using the plate method, you can use paper towels or any clean cotton towel – just wrap the tofu up and squeeze to push the water out. If you have frozen and defrosted your tofu beforehand, the water is much easier to get out.

Pour 1 Tbsp. oil into large sauté pan. Heat oil over medium-high heat and add onion, pepper, and tofu. Sauté until veggies are soft. Add mushrooms and garlic. You can add another Tbsp. oil if needed. Season with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Cook until mushrooms are soft.

Meanwhile, lightly spray or brush each side of your tortillas with oil, and heat in a separate sauté pan over medium heat. Warm each side of the tortilla for about a minute.

On each tortilla, spoon some tofu mixture onto half of the tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese and fold the other half of the tortilla over.

Put the tortillas on a pan and pop in the oven at 300 °F for a few minutes, until cheese is melted.

Cut into triangles and serve!

Baby Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts

If you read the title of this post and were turned off by the idea of brussel sprouts, you’re probably not alone. But wait, let me convince you to try them!

For some reason a lot of people have this idea that brussel sprouts are really disgusting. And they can be — if they’re overcooked. If you overcook them, they release a nasty sulphurous odor, and I assume, don’t taste very good. Oh, and according to Wikipedia, they’re actually called “brussels sprouts” not brussel sprouts. Who knew?

Anyway, if you’ve never actually tried brussels sprouts, you really should! I tried them for the first time last year, and I love them. They have this delicious, nutty flavor, and taste good cooked a number of different ways. Also, they contain something called sulforaphane, which is supposed to have anti-cancer properties. Bonus!

A couple months ago Ric concocted a little somethin’ somethin’ using fingerling potatoes and b-sprouts. Trader Joe’s actually calls the potatoes “teeny-tiny potatoes,” and they are! They’re so cute. This recipe is so yummy and easy, and all you need are 3 main ingredients.

If you’re at the store looking for brussels sprouts, check to see if they have them available on the stalk. This is a crazy-looking alien-like beast of a vegetable (Google “brussels sprout stalk” and you’ll see what I’m talking about), but don’t be scared. The sprouts that come on a stalk are so much fresher and yummier. Look for tight, bright-green heads. Avoid yellowing or loose-leafed sprouts.

If you can’t find them on the stalk, don’t worry about it. You can buy them in a bag, too. But make sure you buy fresh, not frozen!

Before I get to the recipe, let me say that I don’t have exact amounts for how many potatoes or sprouts you should use. When we make this, it’s just for the two of us, so we probably use about 10-12 sprouts cut in half, and maybe 15-20 potatoes cut in half. Use as many or as little as you think you’ll need.

Baby Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
Fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
Brussels sprouts, stemmed and cut in half
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. light-colored oil (canola, olive oil, grapeseed – whatever you’ve got)
Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the brussels sprouts, cut off the stem, and remove outer/bruised leaves. Once you cut the stem, the outer leaves will fall off pretty easily on their own.

Once you’ve de-stemmed them, rinse the sprouts in cold water, drain, and set aside.

Now rinse your potatoes and chop them up.

Pour oil in a large sauté pan and arrange potatoes face down. Set heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook until golden brown. (About 3–5 minutes)

Once your potatoes are nice and golden brown, push them to the side and set your brussels sprouts face down in the middle. You might want to add a bit more oil to the pan at this point, but remove the pan from the heat before doing this! Otherwise it will splatter, and this is not fun. Trust me.

Cover the pan. You might want to turn your heat down a bit. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until browned. Be careful not to burn them! As you can see, some of mine got a little bit charred. Oops.

Once they’re cooked, add in the garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and cook for one or two more minutes on low heat.

Serve hot from the pan, and enjoy your brussels sprouts experience! I hope you like them as much as I do!

Garlicky Spaghetti Squash

Last year I discovered a delightful thing called the spaghetti squash. I don’t know how I went so long in life without knowing about this yummy veggie. Spaghetti squash is great because you can use it as a replacement for spaghetti in most recipes. It’s way lower in carbs, of course, and has a heck of a lot more nutritional value than real spaghetti. Of course it’s not going to taste like spaghetti. It’s squash, and it tastes squashy. It also has a bit of a crunch to it, but trust me, it’s good.

Add some garlic and cheese, and you have a delicious and simple side dish.

I found this recipe last year from Steamy Kitchen, and it is so yummy! You can basically pick whatever herb you want to put in there — parsley and basil are both great, and I think rosemary would be good too.

Whenever I fly home to visit my parents, I try to make them a new vegetarian recipe to broaden their culinary horizons. My mom was flabbergasted when I became a vegetarian, because growing up, meat was always at the center of meals. You could not have a meal without meat. She never knows what to make me when I come home, so I like to show them that it’s possible to have a perfectly delicious, nutritious, and filling meal with no meat in sight.

Last year I made this recipe and my Dad loved it. He went back for seconds and thirds and probably fourths. It was the first time he had tried spaghetti squash, and he loved it so much that he has even made the recipe himself a few times. Success!

Baked Spaghetti Squash
1 smallish spaghetti squash (3-4 lbs.)
2 Tbsp. butter or earth balance butter substitute
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced (The original recipe calls for 2, but I always add more.)
1/4 cup chopped basil, parsley, or rosemary
Freshly ground salt to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375° F and throw the whole squash in. Bake for 60 minutes until you can easily cut into the skin. Let the squash cool for a bit until you can handle it without burning your hands.

If you’re short on time, forget the oven and microwave the squash for 5 minutes or longer… however long it takes until your knife easily cuts through the skin. (If you do choose the microwave route, you will still need to roast it in the oven for 30 minutes after microwaving. Cut it in half lengthwise before roasting.)

Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Get rid of the seeds with a fork. Hold up half the squash, and use the fork to scrape out the insides. It will come out in long strands, just like spaghetti! Isn’t it pretty?

If you’re having a hard time getting the strands out, it probably needs to cook for a bit longer. Stick it back in the oven for a few minutes.

After you’ve scraped til you can scrape no more, set the strands aside and grab a large sauté pan. Heat the butter and garlic over medium heat. Allow the garlic to sauté for a couple of minutes, and then add the squash, salt, and herb of your choice. Mix it all up and then add your cheese. Add more salt as needed. Serve piping hot, and enjoy!