Friday, June 18, 2010

Shoots Update - How does my garden grow?

Like my library books and movie rentals, updated pictures of the summer garden are long overdue.  I haven't posted pics of the garden for quite some time...  Needless to say it has changed a LOT from the spring planting pictures earlier this season.  Here in NC, I can generally get at least three separate plantings into three seasons.  My spring planting has already yielded beets, cabbage, peas, lettuce, carrots, strawberries, green onions, herbs, and copious amounts of kale and kohlrabi.  I'm still transitioning from some spring crops, but my garden is quickly filling with a second planting.  So here is a long overdue overview of my transition to my second season garden!

Polenta Pizzas

This is another great way to use up leftover polenta, but these polenta pizzas are well worth making a fresh batch of polenta wedges if you don't have any on hand.  I've made a couple of different variations here, but there are countless more to be tried.  Use the polenta as a new base for your old favorite toppings or let it be your inspiration for trying new combinations!
-polenta wedges, cakes or triangles of any shape or size
-olive oil
-pizza sauce
-goat cheese
-cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
-red onion, thinly sliced
-basil and/or oregano

->Slice your polenta cake into 1/2-inch thick slices if it is any thicker than that to begin with.  Coat a pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat.  When oil is hot, but not smoking, add polenta slices, browning on either side until crispy and golden.  Remove from oil.  Top them with your favorite pizza toppings.  I had two variations:  

One: topped with sauce and mozzarella

Two: topped with garlic, olive oil, and goat cheese

Both were then topped with cherry tomatoes, red onions, a little parmesan, and some dried basil and/or oregano.  Pop them in the toaster oven (or regular oven) at about 425 until cheese is melted and golden.  Enjoy!

~*TIP: Keep some garlic olive oil on hand by crushing a whole head of peeled garlic cloves and submerging them in 1-2 cups olive oil.  Keep in an air-tight jar in the fridge.  Use it anytime after it infuses for a few days.  It will last *indefinitely* (at least so far), so you can just pull it out whenever you need it.  Great to brush on pizza, use in salad dressing, etc.  Also makes a great aphid killer mixed with a few drops of dish soap and warm water!*~

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Polenta got your goat?

Stone ground grits and local goat cheese are really the stars of this dish.  It capitalizes on our easy access to local stone ground grits down here, by using them to make polenta triangles - same grain, different name on opposite sides of the pond.  I've cooked up this relatively simplistic dish by topping polenta cakes with cremini mushrooms, local cherry tomatoes, my final kale harvest, and crumbled local goat cheese.  You could of course sub in any number of summer veggies or other types of mushrooms here...  roasted eggplant would be a welcome addition when it's available!  
-2 c (roughly) of cherry tomatoes 
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-olive oil
-2 c corn grits or polenta (same thing)
-6-8 cremini mushrooms, sliced 
-1 large bunch of kale, stems removed and chopped
-4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

->Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil, 2 cloves of minced garlic, salt, and pepper to coat.  Put in a toaster oven (preferably to save energy and keep the kitchen temp down) or a regular oven.  Roast at 400 degrees, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and most of the liquid is gone (about 30-40 minutes).  

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of 6 c of water to a boil with about 1 teaspoon of salt.  Gradually stir in polenta.  Do not dump it in all at once, or you will have polenta chunks to break up.  Reduce heat to simmer gently and continue stirring until polenta becomes very thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan when stirred (about 20-30 minutes).  At this time, you can add a couple of tablespoons of butter and/or some parmesan or goat cheese if you want.  Pour/spoon polenta into a 9x9 square pan or a 9-inch pie pan.  I like to flatten it at this point by pressing another pan the same size down on the top.  Refrigerate polenta until firm (or stick it in the freezer for a bit to speed this process along).  

Coat a pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and garlic and saute until mushrooms are somewhat browned.  Add roasted cherry tomatoes.  Cook a few minutes until mixed.  Add kale, season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if desired).  Cover, stirring occasionally until kale is wilted.  

When polenta is firm and while veggies are cooking, heat a pan coated with olive oil over medium-high heat.  Slice your polenta into triangles or wedges (depending on square or round pan).  Brown the polenta wedges on both sides.  

Plate the polenta wedge, top with sauted veggies, and crumbled goat cheese.  Garnish with green onion or sliced basil if you have some on hand.  Enjoy!
~*TIP: If you have more polenta wedges than you can handle, see next recipe or try the following:  Slice your polenta wedges into thirds, each slice about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  Cut the slices into smaller triangles about the size of a chip or cracker.  Coat with oil and season with salt, pepper, red pepper, and rosemary.  Pop them in the toaster oven and cook until brown and crispy, turning halfway through.  They will make delicious little chips or croutons!  Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  My roommates demolished them in minutes.*~

My Birthday: June 3rd, 1985 or 1885?

I recently celebrated my big 2-5...  but my friends thought that my birthday presents indicated that my actual date of birth must have been in 1885 rather than 1985.  What 1885 woman wouldn't be just as thrilled with her new pitch fork and antique sewing machine?  But alas, I can also go vote after I turn my compost pile.  ;)  

D and I going all American Gothic:

Me on my new old sewing machine from the 1930s:

Friday, June 4, 2010

Celebrate Good Kale Tofu Stir Fry

I have almost an entire bed of kale this year so I am thinking of any way I can to use up this nutrient-packed green.  The variety of kale I planted is called Dinosaur Kale.  Dark green, almost black.  Bumpy not curly like the kale you usually find in the grocery store.  And, I think it's more succulent and better tasting.

My latest kalebration was this delicious stir fry where it is paired with tofu and then served over soba noodles.  Tofu gets a bad wrap from a lot of people (including my co-blogger here), but I think if we stop thinking of it as a "meat substitute," and start thinking of it as its own thing, we'll find it surprisingly delicious.  Added bonuses are that it's much cheaper than meat (especially good meat), it's rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and there's no worry about disinfecting every surface after you're done preparing it.  Here's a great way to try it out along with a couple of its other "super food" companions if you've been hesitant thus far!
-One block extra firm tofu (12 oz), drained
-1/4 c soy sauce
-1/4 c rice wine vinegar (or whatever kind you have)
-2 Tbsp sesame oil
-6 cloves garlic, minced
-2-inch piece of ginger, minced (or 2 tsp dried)
-red pepper flakes
-2 Tbsp honey
-Soba noodles
-1/2 large onion, chopped
-2 green onions, sliced
-basil, chiffonade
-sesame seeds, toasted

->  A few hours before you plan on cooking it, I like to wrap my tofu in a tea towel or cloth napkin and then sandwich it between two plates, placing weight on the top.  This will press out any excess liquid, making your extra firm tofu even more firm, eliminating a complaint many people have about the "mushy" texture of tofu.

An hour before you start cooking, mix up your marinade for the tofu.  Marinating tofu is another way to add flavor to it, making it more desirable to the new tofu eater.  Mix the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, 3 cloves of the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes.  Slice the tofu in half-inch slabs, lay flat in a pan, and pour marinade over top.  Half an hour later, flip your tofu so that the marinade penetrates both side evenly.  When it's time to get cooking, cut the tofu slabs into half-inch cubes.

Now it's time to get cooking!  Dump your remaining marinade into a small sauce pan, add honey and about 1/2 c water.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until slightly thickened and ready to add it to the stir fry.

Also at this time, put water on to boil for your soba noodles, and cook them according to package directions until al dente.

Meanwhile, saute onion, and garlic together in about a 1/4 c of oil until almost translucent.  Push to the sides of the pan, and add tofu to the center.  Brown the tofu cubes in the oil, keeping them in the center (where it's hottest) while your onions stay on the edges.  Once onions are translucent and tofu is browned, add the kale, season with salt and more red pepper flakes if desired, and cover, stirring occasionally, until kale is wilted and well-mixed with tofu and onions.  Top with the sauce you've had simmering.

Serve the kale-tofu stir fry over the soba noodles.  Top with green onions, basil (I used local purple basil here), and toasted sesame seeds.  Enjoy!

~*TIP:  Using soba noodles instead of rice or pasta is a good way to boost the filling power and nutritional content of your meal.  These whole-grain buckwheat noodles, traditionally found in Japanese cooking, contain significantly more protein than their rice and pasta counterparts, as well as many other valuable nutrients.