Archive for September, 2012


Ghost Plant

Ghost Plant
Graptopetalum paraguayense

Gardeners from around the world love this Mexican native. It is especially attractive to gardeners who live in marginal climates for growing succulents outdoors year-round. It is amazingly cold hardy and reports of it surviving in below freezing temperatures are quite common. Graptopetalum paraguayense prefers well drained soil and sunny conditions. It does not do well where its feet stay wet and care should be taken to prevent rot. One of its most interesting features is its ability to form new plants from dropped leaves. Just place on some damp sand or soil and a new little plantlet will form. The Ghost Plant is especially attractive as a ‘pass-along plant” for this reason. The fleshy leaves add texture and an interesting color palate to the garden and it is often chosen as a main feature for those reasons.

Such an easy plant to grow.   I was given one by a neighbor and it survives the winter and just keeps on growing….just beautiful

 

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Noodles with Mushrooms and Lemon Ginger Dressing

Please welcome guest author Jaden Hair of the ever-so-Steamy Kitchen. Jaden and I have been visiting Seattle recently, take a look at the interesting scenery we encountered there. ~Elise

So, what’s that dish? Well, honestly it’s not even MY recipe, it’s part of a recipe from Heidi’s 101 Cookbooks blog called Otsu. I’ve committed to memory the lemon-ginger dressing that’s in the Otsu dish and use it for everything – tossed with warm noodles, drizzled on roasted cauliflower, as a salad dressing and even to top grilled fish. Yes, it’s that good.

I’ve left the recipe really flexible for you – in case you want this as your emergency back-up dish too! In this dish, I used some really nice Japanese shimeji mushrooms, but you can use any type of fresh mushrooms that you want, even thinly sliced button mushrooms. The pasta that I used in the photo is dried Japanese udon noodles, but standard dried spaghetti is just as good. For the fresh herbs, just use what you have either growing in the garden or bagged in the refrigerator.

Ingredients

Lemon Ginger Dressing

  • 3/4 teaspoon Asian chlli powder (or cayenne)
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 inch section of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

The Noodles

  • 9 ounces dried noodles (spaghetti, linguine, udon, soba)
  • 7 ounces fresh mushrooms (enoki, shimeji, sliced button, sliced shitake)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (parsley, green onion, cilantro or basil)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Method

1 Make the dressing by combining all ingredients, except for the sesame oil and olive oil in a food processor or hand blender. Run the blender for a few seconds, until all ingredients are combined. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.

2 In a pot, cook the dried noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.

3 Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add the butter and when the butter starts bubbling, add the mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms for 2 minutes.

4 In a large bowl, toss the cooked noodles with the mushrooms, fresh herbs, sesame seeds and some of the dressing (to taste.)

Serves 4.

Baby Bok Choy with Yellow Bell Peppers

 Wonderfully simple, with bok choy, peppers, and green onions fresh from the farmers market, this stir-fry doesn’t even need added salt, there is enough naturally in the bok choy itself.

Ingredients

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  • 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil or canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 large yellow bell peppers, stem and seed pod removed and discarded, sliced (about 2 cups sliced)
  • 4 green onions, chopped, including green parts that are not dried out
  • 1 lb baby bok choy, bottom root ball cut off and discarded, rinsed thoroughly, torn into smaller pieces

Method

1 Heat a tablespoon each of grapeseed (or canola) oil and sesame oil in a large sauté pan on high heat. Add the chopped yellow peppers and green onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. (Keep a watch so that the onions don’t burn.)

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2 Lower the heat and add the bok choy. Stir to coat with the oil in the pan. Cook only until the bok choy has wilted. The thicker, whiter ends of the baby bok choy should still be somewhat crunchy.

Serve immediately. Serves 4-6 as a side.

Eggplant Dip (Baba Ghanouj)

Updated, from the recipe archive. Originally posted in 2005.

Here in the San Joaquin Valley, the eggplant season is in full swing. At our local farmers market last weekend one could find eggplants of every variety – globe, Japanese, striped, white, even eggplants that looked like tomatoes. I have a couple still on the vine, after picking the one used for this recipe that was just begging to be eaten. Here is a wonderful recipe for baba ghanouj (also spelled baba ghanoush) a middle eastern eggplant dip. It is typically served with pita bread.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour

You can use a food processor to make baba ghanouj, but take care not to make it too smooth; this is supposed to be a rustic, slightly chunky dip.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 globe eggplants (totaling 2 lbs)
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp roasted tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (more or less depending on how garlicky you want your baba ghanouj to be), finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Juice of one lemon – about 2 1/2 tablespoons
  • Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley

Method

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1a Oven method Preheat oven to 400°F. Poke the eggplants in several places with the tines of a fork. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil (about 1 Tbsp). Place on a baking sheet, cut side down, and roast until very tender, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

1b Grilling method Preheat grill. Poke the eggplants in a few places with a fork, then rub the eggplants with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Grill over high heat, turning as each side blackens. Put the charred eggplants in a paper bag, close the bag and let the eggplants steam in their skins for 15-20 minutes.

2 Scoop the eggplant flesh into a large bowl and mash well with a fork. Combine the eggplant, minced garlic, remaining olive oil (about 2 Tbsp), tahini, garlic, cumin, 2 Tbsp of the lemon juice, the salt, and a pinch of cayenne. Mash well. You want the mixture to be somewhat smooth but still retaining some of the eggplant’s texture.

3 Allow the baba ghanouj to cool to room temperature, then season to taste with additional lemon juice, salt, and cayenne. If you want, swirl a little olive oil on the top. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.

Serve with pita bread, crackers, toast, sliced baguette, celery, or cucumber slices.

Yield: Serves 4-8 as an appetizer.

Zucchini Breakfast Casserole

From the recipe archive, first posted last summer, reposting now because not only is it a terrific casserole, it uses up a lot of zucchini, and if your garden is in any way like mine, you have tons of it right now. ~Elise

In my garden, there lives The Beast, a 5 foot tall zucchini plant that puts out 2 full-sized zucchinis a day. Even with all the great zucchini recipes we have, it’s hard for three people to consume 14 zucchini a week. (There’s also a pattypan squash plant.) So around this time of year I’m always looking for ways to use up my overflowing vegetable drawer of zucchini. This is an easy-to-make strata-like breakfast casserole with grated zucchini, tomatoes, basil, ricotta, and Parmesan. (The tomatoes and basil are growing like mad now too.) Actually I’m not sure what to call it. Breakfast casserole seems to fit because of the eggs, though we ate this for lunch. You could also call it a strata. It’s like a frittata but it’s baked, not made on the stovetop (though I’m sure you could make a frittata out of it). The inspiration for it comes from a “cuajado”, or a baked frittata popular in Sephardic cooking. This isn’t a cuajado, but the flavors are there, and they’re terrific together.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 eggs
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce or other hot chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups grated zucchini (from 2-3 fresh zucchinis)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped plum tomatoes (from 4-5 fresh tomatoes),
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh basil (from about 20 leaves)*
  • 4 cups cubed day-old bread (from about 4 slices)
  • Olive oil

*Chiffonade basil by stacking a few leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar, slice thin, starting at one end of the cigar and working your way down.

Method

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl beat the eggs. Add the ricotta and beat until smooth. Mix in the grated Parmesan cheese, Tabasco, salt and pepper.

2 Prepare the vegetables and bread. Once you chop the tomatoes, squeeze excess moisture out of them by pressing them in a sieve, or wrapping in paper towels and squeezing. Add the tomatoes, basil, and zucchini to the egg mixture. Moisten the bread cubes with a little water then squeeze out any excess moisture using paper towels. Mix the bread cubes into the egg mixture.

3 Coat the bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking dish generously with olive oil. Pour the egg vegetable mixture into the baking pan and even it out in the pan. Place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F. The casserole should puff up and brown lightly. If it hasn’t after 30 minutes at 350, increase the heat to 425° and cook for 5-10 minutes further. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.

Makes 6-8 portions.

Mushroom Pie

Call this mushroom pie a California quiche, with its Monterey Jack cheese, parsley, eggs, sour cream, garlic, and a whole pound of mushrooms. Great for company, and pretty easy to make, especially if you have an extra pie crust all ready to go.

Ingredients

  • 1 basic pie dough recipe, rolled out and lining a 9 or 10-inch pie dish, or 8×8 baking dish, chilled (or one frozen pie crust)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 lb sliced mushrooms
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • A dash of ground cardamom or nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

Method

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1 Preheat oven to 425°F. Line the inside of a pie shell with heavy aluminum foil, pressing it against the side. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove foil, poke the bottom of the pie crust with the tines of a fork to create air vents. Return crust to oven, bake for an additional 4 minutes, or until the crust just begins to brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

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2 In a large sauté pan melt butter on medium heat. Add mushrooms, stir to coat with the butter. Increase the heat to high, stirring constantly until the moisture the mushrooms has released and evaporated, a few minutes. Lower heat to medium, add minced garlic, stir with the mushrooms for 30 seconds then remove from heat.

3 Beat together the eggs, sour cream, milk, and cream. Add freshly ground pepper, a pinch of salt, and cardamom or nutmeg if using. Stir in the grated cheese and chopped parsley.

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4 Spread the sautéed mushrooms along the bottom of the pre-baked pie crust. Pour the cheese and cream mixture over the top of the mushrooms. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until nicely browned on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4-6.

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