Blueberries

Yesterday, we all went blueberry picking. Wonderful, blue-purple, ripe fresh berries that taste superb just warm off the bush. We ended up with 2 gallons of berries. So, of course, once we got back home, I had about 40 minutes of work to rinse, pick out leaves and stems and sort out the unripe ones. I ended up with a cupful of unripe ones (I am sure there were more, but I decided to let them stay with the sweet ones). The question was, what was to be done with these reddish, whitish berries that are too tart to pop into your mouth? I decided to Indianize them and made blueberry pickle (the first time I have ever tried to make this!).

Here’s how I made it.

Indian pickle from blueberries

Indian pickle from blueberries

I heated about 30 mls of cooking oil in an iron wok, popped a 1/4 tsp of black mustard seeds, added the scant cup of berries with a pinch of turmeric and 1 tsp of sea salt. Stirred them on medium-low for about 9-10 minutes and once they started to stick to the bottom of the wok, I added a teaspoonful of red chilli powder (the super hot variety from the Indian grocers). Voila!

Notes: Tastes quite nice though you can’t really tell it what the fruit is (that’s what comes of spicing them up!). Great for a sandwich. And, yes, there was too much oil, so the next time I will try it with 20 mls.

Mixed Veg Pickle

Had some at a party earlier this month and wanted to recreate it. Wasn’t quite the same to look at nor did it taste the same. Still needs to be tweaked some, but here is the recipe:

  • Peel and cut into 2″ lengths and about as thin as a pencil or so, one or more of carrots, radish, turnip and cauliflower to total 500 gms. Keep cauliflower separate from other vegs.
  • Toss in upto 50 gms of green chillies, a few cloves of garlic (cut if too large), lotus root etc.or leave this section of ingredients out if you don’t want them
  • 25 gms jaggery chopped fine
  • 50 gms coarsely ground mustard seed (brown is better than black, but either is fine)
  • 10-15 gms red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste (about 4 heaping teaspoons)
  • 30 mls oil (I used canola, but you can use mustard as well)
  • a dash each of asafoetida and fenugreek powders
  • about 30-40 mls of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar

Bring to boil about 500 mls of water with a tsp of turmeric and 2 tsps of salt.

Add the sticks of carrot, turnip and/or radish. Cook on a simmer for 2 minutes. Drain the vegs and lay on towels (or in the sun) to dry while getting the rest ready. They need to be crisp but tender.

Put cauliflower, chillies, garlic and lotus stem (whichever of these you use) into the same boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and lay out to dry.

Heat oil, adding more if you prefer. Add the coarsely ground mustard when hot, stir to mix and toss in all the vegetables. Cook a minute or so while stirring often. Add the jaggery, salt, chilli powder, asafoetida and fenugreek. Stir for a few minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Let cool in the cooking utensil. Pour into clean jars, let cool completely, and refrigerate.

I assume it will last for 2-4 weeks. If it doesn’t, then next time, I will double the oil and add a bit more salt to it.

Somehow, the one purchased from the restaurant was red in gravy. Mine has more of a brownish tint to it, which makes me wonder if they add anything to enhance the color!

Recipes to try

I am always on the lookout for new recipes. Easy ones are an added bonus. This week, I have found at least three that I would like to try soon (as in sometime this year).

  • 30-minute pizza dough by Not Just a Housewife sounds so easy. This might be a quick dough when you don’t have a couple of hours to wait for a decent homemade pizza crust and hungry hordes await. However, I would have to try it with modifications like using a healthier flour, though I am aware that this might change the timings a bit.
  • Thai Chickpea Pizza on a Cauliflower Crust by Clean Eating Veggie Girl is more time-consuming, but both the crust (low-calorie!) and the topping (more protein ideas for vegetarians) are a winner though I am not sure my kids will savour that Brassica smell! I also need to see what I can do to replace the egg with something else (yogurt? more flour? flax? I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-egg if there is such a thing??). Somehow pizza and egg don’t work for me.
  • Overnight Oats by Travels with Mary in which you don’t cook the oats but soak them overnight with moisteners like yogurt, milk, juices etc. might be a way to have breakfast almost ready with minimal work on rushed morning. Will have to try it first with quick cooking oats as the recipe calls for and then see how it goes with my preferred steel-cut oats. I am still a bit haunted by the time I soaked steel-oats overnight and left them on the counter. They were a sickly greenish tint the next morning and saw only the inside of the garbage disposal bin! So, the thought of overnight soaking isn’t really appealing though I know the cold from the fridge will retard the green stuff!

Soup Stock (how to)

This summer I have re-started making soup stock with vegetable peels. I do this every couple of years for a few summer months and then reap the harvest all through the winter as it tastes fresh for 6 months.

Step 1: Save vegetable peels and bits in a tightly covered container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Any more and it starts to break down.
Step 2: Put them all into a large cooking pot with water to cover and then some. Bring to a boil. Simmer at least 30-40 minutes till reduced by half or more.
Step 3: Cool. Strain. Pour into an ice tray.  Freeze. Pop out of ice tray. Freeze in tightly covered container in freezer.
Step 4: Use as many cubes as you want when you make soup, rice, stews or whatever you fancy using a broth!

Picture 1: Green bean ends, onion peels and ends, garlic peel and ends, sweet potato peel and ends, beet peel and ends, Red cabbage stalk and a couple of outer leaves, Green Kale ribs, Green Celery leaves and ends, a snip or two of rosemary, basil and thyme trimmed from garden plants and oodles of water. I do not use salt or any other spices in my broth.

Picture 2: Red stock in ice tray

Picture 3: Golden stock being made of  peels, leaves and / or ends of garlic, onions, celery, green cabbage, red kale ribs, celery, asparagus,  sweet potato, yellow beets, dried basil and a couple of sprigs of rosemary.

More fun with Kale!

Today, I had two bunches of kale delivered in my weekly produce delivery from Natures Garden Delivered. One is a lovely purple frilly kale and the other a frilly grey-green kale. I opened my fridge to make lunch, and wanted to use the kale and also some feta cheese I had in the fridge. As I was making tortillas for the kids’ lunch, I decided to make a similar bit for my lunch. So, I took a Trader Joe’s Whole Grain tortillas with whole flax seeds and put it on a plate. I spread out one slightly overlapping layer of green and purple kale leaves (roughly torn by hand), sprinkled a couple of tablespoonfuls of black beans, a tablespoon or more of lightly thawed frozen corn kernels and roughly broke two slices of feta cheese into a few pieces. Covered it with a second tortilla and microwaved it for 1.5 minutes. Let it cool for a few seconds and cut it into 4 pieces.

Voila! A quick, satisfying and reasonable healthy meal in under 5 minutes. Next time, I might have to try it with more kale and perhaps a dribble of salsa for added flavor. Try it and tell me what you think!

How I used my fresh vegetables

Yesterday afternoon, I stopped by Dig-It Farms in Jasper, GA and got some red potatoes, green beans, cucumbers, bicolor corn and blueberries all of which we had for dinner the same evening. We also had red cabbage, sweet potato and white corn that was part of a home produce delivery co-op.

Blueberries and Cucumbers were uncooked.

Corn was steamed and eaten with a dab of butter.

Green beans were sautéed with olive oil till bright green (some browned as well), freshly snipped thyme, salt, pepper and lemon juice just as they were ready to take off from the pan.

The red potatoes were roasted at 400 degrees F for about an hour with olive oil, a whole bulb of garlic separated into cloves, a few sprigs of rosemary and salt and pepper. I prefer them roasted till most are browned, but we were hungry and they were taken out before most of the potato slices browned!

The sweet potato was roasted at the same temperature with just olive oil; peeled and cut into bite sized pieces and it takes about 40 minutes to be ready.

The cabbage was cut into wedges with some olive oil, salt and pepper on it and roasted at the same temperature, but it took about 30 minutes to crisp at the edges. This was the first time I have roasted cabbage and the next time I will separate the leaves instead of leaving the wedges intact as I prefer them slightly crunchier.

Oven Roasted Wax Beans

I wanted to use up the local, organic, farm fresh home delivered produce I received earlier this week. To that end, I made use of the yellow wax beans and made them up this way.

Ingredients

  • Yellow wax beans ends trimmed
  • Some olive oil
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Lemon juice (to taste – I used about a teaspoon)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • a handful or more of roasted peanuts
  • Finely chopped fresh ginger (to taste – I used a tsp)

Roast the beans with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme at about 400 – 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until browning. Remove and add fresh ginger, peanuts and lemon juice. Toss to coat.

Makes a really nice side dish. I might try it with cilantro and soy sauce instead of thyme (but I would add these at the end and not roast them thyme keeps its flavor and looks fresh despite long periods of baking, but cilantro just looks blah!). I remember seeing something like this in a magazine at some point.

Farm fresh, organic, local produce delivered to my doorstep (originally published 6/20/2012)

So, earlier this week, my “tiny” box of produce was delivered to my front door. Fresh from local farms, organic or natural (aka awaiting organic certification but following pesticide and chemical free practices and sans the use of GMO seeds), it was left in a shady spot by my front door in a white cardboard box with an ice pack in it.When I opened it the ice pack was still cool and still a bit firm and despite having been in the sun for at least 2 hours, the collard greens were fresh and not wilted.

Here is what I got in the box this week : Veggies from delivered organic loacl produce

  • A gorgeous, healthy purple-red cabbage,
  • 2 Silver Queen corn
  • 3/4 lb of yellow wax beans
  • A couple of red beets
  • A bunch of collard greens
  • Almost 1 lbs red creamer potatoes
  • 3 patty pan squash (they are adorable looking!)
  • 2 Garnett yams
  • 3 white peaches
  • 2 oranges

We have already had the wax beans oven roasted, the potatoes oven roasted, the squash oven roasted and the collard greens sautéed with garlic and lemon juice. The peaches are much too firm for my liking (same thing I disliked about having produce delivered a couple of years ago) but the oranges will be had this week. I will oven roast the yam and beets, cook the cabbage Indian style and steam the corn for the kids for lunch tomorrow. One box of produce, finished in a few days. Will post in the coming weeks as the vegetables get delivered.

What I like: wax paper wrapping on the greens, fresh, local groceries delivered to my doorstep, the chance to try something I might not otherwise find or pick up at the grocers

What I don’t like – plastic bags wrapping some of the food, too firm fruits (jury is on hold until I see how quickly this ripens this week).

Beet Greens with Rice and Tofu

Using some beet greens cut off from the freshly picked beets I got off a local farm, I made a quick meal for lunch this afternoon.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large onion slicedBeet Greens, Rice and Tofu
  • 6-7 cloves of sliced garlic
  • Cubed extra firm tofu
  • Rice (I used left over pilaf)
  • Bunch of beet greens (can use any greens on hand) chopped
  • Chilli powder to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
  • Fresh green chillies chopped (to taste and optional)
  • Oil

Method

Heat oil in a heavy pan / kadai / wok. Add mustard seeds and when popping, add garlic and onion. Saute on medium till starting to brown. Add tofu, reduce heat and cook till starts to brown. Stir to coat and cook on most sides. Add greens, green chillies, salt, chilli powder and stir on medium till greens are wilted and slightly cooked. Toss in cooked rice (add turmeric and any nuts to taste), stir to coat. I like the rice to crisp a bit, but you don’t have to do so. Turn off stove and serve with yogurt or plain. Wonderful way to use up leftover rice from a Chinese take-out or even a basic pilaf.

Potato Barley

Bought some pearl barley the other day with an intent to try using it inspired by another dish I had at the home of my Turkish friend Fahriye. Ended up with this dish but it needs some tweaking to make it taste better. However, the friend who got to be guinea pig (thanks Laura!) said it was fine the way it was but could use more lime than I had used. So, try it and tell me what you think!

IngredientsPotato Barley

  • 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 2-3 brown, fist sized potatoes, boiled
  • 2-3 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • a handful of any nut (I used peanuts)
  • 1-1.5 limes or lemons juiced
  • Salt to taste
  • Chili powder, to taste
  • Parsley chopped, a handful (or coriander leaves)
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions

I used my trusty pressure cooker to cook the barley. I used water to equal twice the quantity of pearl barley. When the cooker released steam, I reduced it and cooked for 3 minutes. The next time, I will try 1.75 times water and cook for about the same time. I did not follow times and water quantity recommended on various websites which said to use up to x4 the amount of water and 20 minutes of cooking time, at which point, I might have been drinking the barley rather than eating it! I would suggest starting with twice the water, bringing to a boil, covering and simmering on the lowest setting for 10-12 minutes. If all the water gets absorbed before it is cooked through, add 1/4 cup of hot water at a time. Keep track and the next time you make it, add a little less than the total water you added and adjust simmering time. Once cooked, it is easy to assemble it all.

Fluff and put the barley in a large dish. Add small bite sized pieces of cubed, boiled potato, the nuts, grated carrot, salt and chili powder to taste, lime/lemon juice and olive oil. Gently mix, making sure to keep it fluffed and not mashed into a mush! Spread on a platter or a dish and add chopped parsley or coriander leaves to taste.

According to the USDA website, 1 cooked cup of barley contains 193 calories, 4g of protein, 1g of fat, and trace elements. This recipe yields about 5 loosely packed cups of finished product and is pretty filling for 3-4 adults.

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