Friday, July 31, 2015

Trombetta, Trumpet-Shaped, Climbing Squash
You Will LOVE Growing These!
Trombetta With Garlic And Basil Recipe

Climbing trombetta summer squash.

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Love at First Sight
My friend Chris has the most beautiful garden. Every time I visit her I get inspired to plant new and different vegetables and herbs. Last year I fell in love with her trombetta squash (also known as trombocino) and this year she gave me some seeds. Four seeds (I really should have only planted 1 or 2) has covered about 15 feet of my fence. They grow quickly and plentifully (what squash doesn't?) In fact it's grown up one side of my fence and down the other side and is now crawling along the ground! 

Trombetta is a vine that can grow 8 feet tall or more. 

They are absolutely delicious with a delicate, artichoke-like flavor. They are best when picked very early since they are capable of turning into baseball bats like their zucchini cousins. I like to pick mine when they are about 12 to 18 inches long, their long necks only an inch to 1 1/2 inches wide and before the bases become more than 2 inches thick. Of course I don't always get out there in time but they are still very enjoyable even if they grow larger.

How to Prepare
You can slice these up in a soup, dice them up in a raw salad or gazpacho soup, pickle them, or simply steam them. They pair nicely with corn so I often make them together as a raw or cooked side dish.

Here's a simple preparation with garlic and basil.

Trombetta with Garlic and Basil
Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
[makes 4 to 6 servings]

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 (12-inch) or 2 (18-inch) trombetta squash
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 to 1 cup veggie broth or water
Salt and pepper to taste

Separate the long neck of the trombetta from the fatter base. Slice the neck at an angle about 1/4 inches thick. Cut the base in half vertically and cut the pieces into 1/4 inch half moons. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium size saucepan to medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until they are fragrant and just begin to turn brown. This will only take a minute or two.

Stir in the sliced trombetta along with the fresh basil until they are coated with oil and garlic. Add just enough broth or water to cover the bottom of the pan about 1/4 inches high.

Cover and cook, adding more broth or water when necessary. Cook until they are fork tender, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve immediately as they will continue to cook and get too soft if you leave them in a covered, hot pan.

A simple preparation with garlic and basil.

Enjoy and try growing them in your garden next summer!

Per serving (6): 55 calories, 3 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 130 mg omega-3 and 290 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 2 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, and 3 g dietary fiber. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What To Do With Garden Cucumbers And Veggies
Make Probiotic-Rich Fermented Pickles

Living, probiotic-rich pickles.

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My New Crock
I received a beautiful fermentation crock from Ogusky Ceramics for my birthday (thanks Matthew, Alina and Sammy!) and I couldn't wait to try it. I know I mention this ever chance I get but consuming lots of probiotic-rich fermented foods is one of the most important things you can do for your health. One of the many ways to do that is to make your own pickles. I don't mean the kind that you find on the store shelves pickled in vinegar. Those pickles do not have any probiotic value. I mean the kind that are made from the simple process of fermenting your veggies in brine and spices. You won't believe how easy it is!

And you don't need a fancy crock like this to ferment foods. You can use a big glass jar like I did when I shared the Curtido Kraut recipe in June. But I must say, I've been really enjoying this crock.

Fermentation crocks handcrafted by
Boston potter Jeremy Ogusky

Cucumbers plus....
Today I'm pickling cucumbers with some padron peppers (for some zing) since I have tons of them in my garden. But you can pickle any vegetable using this technique. You also don't have to use "picking cucumbers" and can use any cucumber you want. Just pick them early and don't let them get too fat and full of seeds. The dull skin varieties with thin skins are probably a better choice than those with shiny thick skins. Never use cucumbers that have been waxed.

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Spicy Fermented Cucumbers
Raw Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free

Requires a glass or ceramic containment vessel

Brine (2 tablespoons of pickling salt to 4 cups water)
10 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, skin removed
Other pickling spices and herbs (optional)
2 fresh grape leaves or other tannin source
Enough cucumbers for your vessel
Handful padron peppers, several jalapeños cut in half, or small amount of crushed red pepper to taste (optional)

Make the brine by adding 2 tablespoons of pickling salt to a quart of spring, distilled, or filtered water. (Chlorinated water can inhibit fermentation). Stir until completely dissolved and set aside.

I learned the hard way that all salt is not equal when it comes to pickling. You can use other types of salt but make sure that they do not have anti-caking agents or your brine will end up cloudy. I also avoid iodized and sea salt. If you use kosher salt, you also may have to change the amount of salt you use per quart of water. 

A note about Kosher salt. Morton's uses anti-caking agents so avoid using that brand. Diamond Crystal is good but it's less dense than pickling salt so you have to use more of it. Some people weigh the various salts, but when I try to decide how much to use, I compare their sodium content. For example:

Table salt has 2,325 mg of sodium per teaspoon.
Pickling salt has 2,360 mg per teaspoon (about equal).
Diamond Crystal Kosher salt only has 1,120 mg per teaspoon.

So if you were using Diamond Crystal Kosher salt instead of pickling salt, you would need 4 tablespoons per quart of water versus 2 tablespoons of pickling salt.

Pickling salt is also very fine and it dissolves much more easily than Diamond Crystal kosher salt so from now on I'm just going to use pickling salt.

Once you've made the brine, place your spices in the bottom of the crock. Ironically my husband and I are not big pickle fans so we avoid the usual pickling spices like mustard, coriander, and dill. But we love the subtle taste of garlic, pepper, and bay leaves and the zing of spicy peppers so that's enough for us. So select the pickle spices that you enjoy.

Cover the spices with a fresh grape leave or another source of tannin like oak leaves. You can even add a teaspoon of loose tea to a half-gallon jar. See the Cultures for Health website for other tips to keep you pickles crunchy. Since we have a vineyard, we have plenty of fresh grape leaves so that's what we use.

Slice the cucumbers in half inch slices and cut the tops off of the padron peppers. If using jalapeños, slice them in half lengthwise. Now place your cut up veggies on top of the leaves. Leave 2 to 4 inches of headroom.

Pour enough brine to cover your veggies by at least 1 or 2 inches.

Place something over the veggies to keep them submerged in the brine during fermentation. My crock came with a top but you can use a small plate. If you are fermenting in a quart jar, you can weigh down the veggies with a smaller jar filled with water and capped (like I did in the Curtido Kraut recipe.)

Cover the fermentation crock with a small dish towel or dinner napkin and set in a quiet corner of your kitchen. Peek in once a day to see if it's bubbling. If mold forms, just scoop it out. It's best if the temperature is between 65 and 85 degrees. 

Let fermentation progress for one or two weeks. The best way to see if the pickles are done is to taste them. 

When completed, place the pickles and the juice in a Fido jar or a capped mason jar and store in the refrigerator. If you live in a cool climate, you can store them in a cool root cellar. They should stay crisp for several months. 


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fig Carpaccio With Balsamic Reduction

A simple and delicious way to enjoy fresh figs.

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Fresh Figs
What's better than a fresh fig? My wonderful neighbors surprised me with a basket of large, juicy, fresh figs for my birthday. I'm in heaven! Of course my favorite way to eat a fig is to just stuff one in my mouth but if you want to serve them as an elegant dessert with a fancy, schmancy name, here's a simple preparation.

Fig Carpaccio with Balsamic Reduction
Carpaccio is the name of pretty much any raw meat, fish, vegetable or fruit with a drizzle of vinegar, oil, pepper, and/or other seasonings. Sweet figs go very well with the complex flavor of balsamic vinegar, especially when it's reduced.

Pretty Simple Preparation
Start with some big, juicy figs - one large or two small figs per person.

This large fig weighed in at nearly 3 ounces.

Thinly slice each fig and place on a small plate.

Prepare the balsamic reduction.
You don't need much so you can start with as little as 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar in a very small saucepan. That's more than enough to drizzle over 4 dessert plates. You can reduce it as is or stir in a tablespoon of honey, agave, or maple syrup as well as a tiny pinch of salt and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until it reduces to about 1/2 the volume. Don't overdo or it will get too thick when it cools.

Let cool and drizzle over the sliced figs and serve immediately.

A large, fresh fig provides 47 calories, 0.2 g of total fat, zero cholesterol, 0.5 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, and 0 mg sodium. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Move Over Kale
Turnip Greens Are A Nutrient Powerhouse!
Easy Instant Pot Recipe

I'll share a secret ingredient that cuts the bitterness!

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Just a Few Seeds
After I planted one of my raised beds, I had some room between rows of bell peppers and eggplants. Since they tend to grow straight up and not spread out too much, I thought I'd throw a couple of turnip seeds here and there. I noticed that the top of the greens were growing nicely and weren't getting burned like chard usually does or attacked by aphids like my kale. Before I knew it, the turnips were ready to harvest and the greens were enormous. I was really surprised because the last time I planted turnips, I didn't have this kind of success.

Do Not Fear the Bitter Greens
I rarely go buy turnip greens because I love kale and always have tons of kale growing year-round in my garden. Also, turnip greens can sometimes be a bit too bitter. But with just a little balsamic vinegar, you can cut the bitterness of these nutritious greens and enjoy their wonderful and unique flavor. 

A touch of balsamic vinegar cuts the bitterness.

Move Over Kale
As far as nutrition goes, turnip greens can stand up to kale, the gold standard of nutrition. And in many areas, they outperform kale. Let's compare:

Turnip greens and kale are both low in calories, 29 calories vs. 36 calories per boiled cup and both have .5 grams or less of fat.

They are both very good sources vitamin A, C, K and B6 but turnip greens also provide 42% of the daily requirement of folic acid, 10 times the amount you get from kale.

In the mineral category, turnip greens and kale are both very good sources of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese. However, turnip greens have more than twice the calcium as kale providing 197 mg per cooked cup vs. 94 mg from kale. 

Turnip greens also have more than twice the vitamin E as kale, with turnip greens providing 14% of the daily requirement in one cooked cup. 

When selecting any nutritious food, I look to see its fiber content. Both greens have a very high fiber per calorie content but turnip greens have twice the fiber as kale with a whopping 5 grams per cooked cup versus 2.6 grams in a cooked cup of kale. 

Although kale has more protein than turnip greens, (2.5 g per cooked cup versus 1.6 g), turnip greens have higher protein quality. In fact, they contain all the essential amino acids and are a complete protein

I'll always love kale and I find it more versatile (I'm not inclined to throw turnip greens in my smoothie yet) but after looking deeper into the relative nutrition, I will seek out my bitter friend more often.

What About the Turnips
Today I'm cooking the greens with you but I am making a big pot of Zucchini and Turnip Soup with the turnips.

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Instant Pot Turnip Greens with Garlic and Onions
Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

Requires Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker. 

1 1/2 pound turnip greens
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup veggie broth
Salt and black pepper to taste

Prepare the greens by washing and removing the stems.

Roll the leaves and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Set aside.

Set the Instant Pot on sauté. After it heats, add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook until the onion softens, several minutes. 

Stir in a large handful of greens. As they quickly wilt, stir in another handful. 

Stir in the balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Turn the Instant Pot off. Secure the lid making sure that the top vent of the pot is closed and hit the "manual" button. Set the pressure cooker time for 3 minutes at high pressure. 

When complete, hit the "off" button and do a quick release of the pressure. Open the lid carefully. Stir the greens and onions, adjust salt and pepper if needed, and serve immediately.

Per serving: 60 calories, 1 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 101 mg omega-3 and 119 omega-6 fatty acids, 2 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, 47 mg sodium (not including added salt and sodium from veggie broth).


Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Zucchini Tomato Casserole With Garlic And Basil
Easy To Make - Vegan And Gluten Free

Makes a great side dish for the 4th of July!

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Garden Goodies
My tomatoes are starting to come in. I'm buried in zucchini. I just harvested and cured more than 40 heads of garlic and I have some lovely fresh basil too. It all ended up in this simple and super tasty casserole. I honestly think it's one of the yummiest things you can do with these ingredients.

Like a Lasagna but without the Carbs and Cheese
This dish is like making a lasagna but so much easier because you don't precook noodles or have 3 different cheeses to mess with. But the pesto-like sauce gives it so much flavor, it doesn't need anything else.

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Zucchini Tomato Casserole with Garlic and Fresh Basil
Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
[makes 4 servings]

Requires 9" x 11" casserole dish with cover. If you do not have a cover, you can tent with aluminum foil but make sure not to allow the foil to touch the tomatoes.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus some for the pan
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons vegetable broth
3 medium (fat) zucchini (2 lbs)
2 to 3 large tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Make the pesto-like sauce by mixing 3 tablespoons of the olive oil with the basil, pressed garlic, and broth. Stir until well combined and set aside.

For the nicest presentation and easy serving, use zucchini that is the width of the pan. So if you are using a 9 by 11 inch pan, use a zucchini that, once cleaned and trimmed, will be 9 inches long.

Slice the zucchini in 1/4 inch slices. Slice the tomatoes thin also.

Coat the bottom of the pan with a little olive oil. Place a layer of zucchini on the bottom of the pan. Spread about 1/3rd of the basil garlic mixture over the zucchini.  Cover with a layer of tomatoes. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the tomatoes (not too much because there will be other layers.)

Repeat with another layer of zucchini, another 1/3rd of the basil garlic mixture, another layer of tomatoes, salt and pepper.

Repeat with the last layer of zucchini, some but not all of the remaining basil garlic mixture, and the rest of the tomatoes. Spoon the rest of the basil garlic mixture over the top layer of tomatoes. Salt and pepper the tomatoes if needed.

Ready to bake.

Cover and place in the preheated oven until the zucchini is fork tender, about 35 minutes. Remove the cover and bake another 10 minutes.

Serve as a side dish or over a grain as a light meal.