Along the Grapevine


25 Comments

Mint and Purslane Pesto

DSC02540

This post is inspired by a recent recipe posted by BubblyBEE in which she not only makes a delicious carrot greens pesto, but discusses many other ingredients that can be used besides the popular basil and pine nut variety. I have made the carrot version before, but overlooked the use of mint and purslane  (portulaca oleracea)- two ingredients I have in spades growing right near my back door.

DSC_0045

I usually follow a simple method for pesto – some herbs or greens, garlic, usually walnuts and olive oil. Cheese can be added when served, but if the pesto is not good without cheese, then it is not worth making, so my basic pest contains no cheese.

If you are not familiar with purslane, it is one of the gems of the weed world. It contains, among many other nutrients, omega 3 fatty acids which makes it a good addition to a vegetarian diet. For more information of food value, identification and what to do with it, check out this article.

DSC02534

My only complaint with this weed is that I never have quite enough of it. I do see it everywhere, but often in public places like sidewalks and parking lots where hygiene is a concern. It does grow in bare spots in my lawn and gardens, but easily gets crowded out obscured by bushier plants. My attempts to cultivate it have not worked out too well. However, I do have a few patches, and will use every bit I can.

The entire plant is edible, even after it has started to flower. The stems can grow to be several inches long, and the entire stem, leaves and flowers can be used. it is crunchy and has a mild citrus flavour – perfect for salads and garnishes.

For my pesto I used 2 cups each of mint and purslane, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup olive oil. Process in a blender until a good consistency and it’s done! Serve it with pasta, on pizzas, crackers or in sandwiches.

DSC02542

Linked to Fiesta Friday #85 hosted by Angie @ The Novice Gardener and co-hosted by Kaila @ GF Life 24/7 and Jenny @ Dragonfly Home Recipes.

Related posts: Gazpacho with purslane; Waldorf salad with purslane; Purslane and cabbage salad.


8 Comments

Introducing Herb Robert

DSC02246

You’ve maybe come across Herb Robert before, otherwise known as geranium robertarium. He can grow just about anywhere, is shade tolerant but is just as happy in full sun. I usually find him in my flower beds, lodged in amongst rocks, and I recently saw him in abundance while walking in the woods. A delicate plant with lacy leaves and dainty pink flowers, too pretty to pull out, but too invasive to just ignore.

I only recently started to find out more about this plant which has a long history of medicinal uses, most notably the leaves taken as a tea to boost the immune system. If you are interested in reading more about this remarkable little weed, its history and uses you can read here. I was most interested in the fact that it is considered a natural insect repellent. It has what is considered a ‘foxy’ odour which rabbits and deer stay clear of, but is not that strong to humans. I have followed some advice I read and planted bits of it around my cabbages and cauliflowers to deter bunnies. So far, it seems to be working!

DSC02247

It flowers from spring through late summer or fall and spreads its seeds on a regular basis.

When walking in the woods, I decided to try it as an insect repellent to defend myself against the hoards of mosquitoes. I rubbed the leaves and smeared them on my skin. I noticed some difference, but was not ‘out of the woods’ exactly. Then a fellow joined me, and I noticed all the mosquitoes attacked him, so it must have made some difference.

I decided to try an insect repellent that could be applied more easily and evenly than the leaf-rubbing method. After all, the heat and sun are nothing when gardening compared to the discomfort of the mosquitoes.

I put two parts herb Robert leaves and flowers, one part mint and one part lavender flowers and pressed them down with a plate or lid which would fit inside the pot. I barely covered that with water, brought it to a boil, turned off the heat. Then I left it to cool covered with another lid to keep the essential oils from escaping.

Strain off the liquid and mix with equal parts of rubbing alcohol. Apply it liberally all over.

DSC02225

In the late morning, I headed out with my pitchfork to do some heavy mulching and see if my concoction worked and if so, how long it would be effective. I lasted a whole hour with very little trouble from mosquitoes. I finally gave up because now the heat and sun were my biggest problems.

I’m not sure what its shelf life is, but it can be easily replenished and costs next to nothing. It has a lovely fragrance, and I expect I will go through it rather quickly to help me through the season.


24 Comments

Lemon Balm and Mint Sun Tea

DSC02262

June is a super busy month for all of us who garden and/or forage. I am in the midst of several ‘projects’ in the kitchen and the garden, but not wanting to miss Fiesta Friday #74, I chose to take a break and make something very simple, and yet an appropriate treat for anyone who is exposed to the heat, sun and insects which are all part of the great outdoors experience.

DSC02268

Moving this plant away from my flowerbeds is just one of my projects.

Sun tea is a method of making ice tea involving mixing the tea and cold water and setting it in the sun for a few hours to infuse. I’d never made it before, as I worried a little about the effect the sun and heat would have on it and any bacterial growth. However, as I wanted to make a lemon balm tea, I figured this was the only way to do it without destroying much of the fragile flavour of the leaves.

To play it safe, I considered a few factors.

First, very clean water. Ours is well water which is filtered through a reverse osmosis system, so all good there.

Second, adding mint, which has anti-bacterial properties, might help. To be honest, I have no idea how much or in what form this is effective, but I felt somewhat reassured. And mint in any tisane is good.

Third, I used a little unpasteurized honey, another anti-bacterial ingredient as well as providing a little sweetness.

And finally, I decided to leave it in the sun no more than five hours, which worked out fine because that’s as much sun as we get anyway.

At any rate, I really find it hard to believe a sun tea can be all that risky. The more I thought about it, the more confident I felt.

To make the tea, I filled a 500 ml bottle with a handful of lemon balm leaves and a few sprigs of mint. I dissolved a Tbsp of honey into half a cup of warm water, let it cool, poured it into the jar and filled the jar with tap water. Then into a sunny spot it went and sat there for five hours.

DSC02254

Five hours in the sun

I cooled it in the fridge and then served with lots of ice.

DSC02260

A super refreshing treat after a morning working in the garden

This made two full 8 oz. glasses. I wished I had made a lot more, but the ingredients are there for the taking and the method is ridiculously simple, so there will be a steady supply of it from now on.

Thanks to our hostess Angie @ The Novice Gardener and to her two co-hosts, Loretta @ Safari of the Mind and Caroline @ Caroline’s Cooking who make this virtual party possible. Don’t be shy about dropping by and sampling the fabulous fare. Everyone is welcome!


23 Comments

Spruce Tip Panna Cotta with Mint Rhubarb Sauce

DSC02109

The season for spruce tips is quickly drawing to a close, so I wanted to present one more recipe using this not-to-be-passed-up-on ingredient while there is still time.

I’m told there are slightly different flavours on different trees and that a common favourite is blue spruce. I have been sampling tips wherever I find them, and really can’t say my taste testing has helped me come up with a favourite, but you might want to sample some for yourself. The flavour should be citrussy, sweetish and with a light resin taste.  This is the tree I picked from.

DSC02091

Something that pairs extremely well with the flavour of spruce is cream, which is why I decided to make a panna cotta. Less rich and certainly less work than ice cream, it makes for a light and refreshing dessert, especially when combined with fruit. Rhubarb happens to be the only fruit I have in the garden just now, so that and a little mint which goes with just about anything is what I used to embellish this dessert I am taking to Fiesta Friday #69.

DSC02102

Spruce Tip Panna Cotta with Mint Mint Rhubarb Sauce


Ingredients

2 cups cream (10%)

1 pkg gelatine

1/4 cup hot water

4 Tbsp sugar

1/4 cup spruce tips

Method

Dissolve the gelatine in hot water. Heat to just before boiling 1/2 cup of cream and mix with the gelatine until it is completely dissolved. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Mix the rest of the cream and the spruce tips in a blender or food processor until the liquid becomes a smooth green with not tips visible. Strain through a sieve and mix with the gelatine mixture. Pour into 8 ramekins or other moulds and chill until set.

For the rhubarb sauce, sprinkle 4 Tbsp sugar over 1 cup of rhubarb. Allow to rest until the sugar dissolves. Heat the rhubarb until soft. Add 6 finely chopped fresh mint leaves and 2 Tbsp white wine. Bring to a gentle boil for 1 minute, cool, pour over the panna cotta and serve.

DSC02110


69 Comments

Dolmas with Rice and Meat

DSC00949

This week I have the privilege of co-hosting Angie’s Fiesta Friday along with Indu of Indu’s International Kitchen and Selma of Selma’s Table. This is the 24th such event, and if you haven’t attended or participated yet, you should check it out. I have come to rely on these gatherings for inspiration and great recipe ideas, and I am sure this week will be no exception.

With all the fresh, organic and free for the picking grape leaves just right for harvesting at this time, I decided to bring some along to the party. Last year at this time I made a vegetarian version of dolmas, or stuffed grape leaves, with chick peas and rice cooked in a slow cooker. For the sake of variation, I made for the first time a meat version for my omnivore house guests, and instead of a slow cooker used my ‘old’ method which requires no special equipment.

First, I picked a bag of leaves – about 4 dozen – choosing good sized ones but still young and unblemished. I blanched them for a few seconds in boiling water, drained and stacked them. At this point, you can freeze them to be used later.

DSC00941

To form the dolmas, place one leaf at a time vein-side up and remove any stem.

DSC00942

Take a spoonful of filling and place it at the base and in the centre of the leaf.

DSC00945

Lift the sides and bottom of the leaf around the filling and fold the edges over the centre.

DSC00944

Roll upwards making a nice neat package. Repeat this with the rest of the leaves.

Line the bottom of a large saucepan with clean, sliced raw potatoes. This will prevent the dolmas from burning or sticking to the pan. It will also leave you with some delicious potatoes to serve with or as a side dish for another meal. Place the dolmas on top of the potatoes, close together and in layers. Pour cold water over them until it just barely covers the dolmas.

DSC00947

Place a heat proof lid or plate smaller than the circumference of the pan but large enough to weigh down all the dolmas so they are submerged. I used a stone cutting board.

DSC00948

Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to a medium and allow to simmer until all the water has been absorbed. You can tell when the water is almost used up by the sound, but to be sure I just tilted the pan a little to see how much there was. The total cooking time was about 3 1/2 hours.

They can be served immediately, kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen.

Dolmas with Meat and Rice

  • Servings: 48 pieces
  • Print

1 lb lean ground beef or lamb

1 onion, chopped

1 Tbsp sumac (optional)

2 tsp cumin

1 cup long grain rice

1/2 cup olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

2 or three potatoes, sliced

48 blanched grape leaves

Mix all the ingredients except the potatoes. Stuff the leaves as illustrated above. Place them in a pan previously lined with potato slices. Add water to barely cover. Place a weight, such as a heat-proof plate or lid on top. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and allow to cook until all the liquid has been absorbed. Arrange in a serving dish and garnish with slices of lemon or pickled onions.

DSC00950

 

 


23 Comments

Lambsquarters Triangles

DSC00790

My first crop of lambsquarters (chenopodium album) is ripe for picking. For the backyard forager, this is a real gift. There is no crop I could plant that would give me as much mass and nutrition as this one does, and I know I am guaranteed another few batches wherever the garden has been dug. Lambs quarters not only like the recently tilled soil of vegetable and flower gardens – they grow virtually everywhere, and if you think you are not familiar with them, it may be just because you overlooked them because they are so common. However, pick only from clean, uncontaminated areas.

I wrote about lambsquarters last year at this time, when I made a Barley and Lemon dish and outlined the health benefits and tried to give enough information to identify it safely. I will share again the photo from last year which is a good close-up.

DSC_0258

 

And here is this year’s first patch.

DSC00771

It  is easy enough to pick – just pluck off the tender tops and snip off leaves lower down if they are unblemished. Many people don’t like to eat them raw because of the fuzzy texture on the base of the leaves, but remember that when cooked, they will shrink just like spinach, so you will need a good amount.

They work in any recipe calling for spinach, although their flavour is a bit milder and therefore they benefit from additions of herbs and other strong flavoured ingredients. For that reason my spinach-inspired recipe, something very much like spanakopitas, contains not only lambsquarters and cheese but also a few young dandelion leaves and a generous bunch of mint. You can mix them with any seasonal greens, or use them on their own if you gather enough.

Lambsquarters

  • Servings: 36 pieces
  • Print

3/4 lb. lamsquarters + mixed greens

1 shallot, chopped fine

2 cloves of garlic, minced

juice of 1/2 lemon

200 grams feta cheese, crumbled

ground pepper, to taste

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 egg

1 lb phyllo pastry

olive oil for frying and brushing on pastry (about 1/2 cup all together)

Method

Fry the shallot in 3 Tbsp of olive oil. When cooked, but not browned, add the minced garlic, pepper and nutmeg.

Wash the greens. If using greens other than lambsquarters, chop the larger leaves so they may be evenly distributed among the mixture.

Add all the greens to the frying pan, lower the heat and cover. Stir once in a while so everything gets cooked evenly. This will take only about five minutes until all the greens look cooked.

Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and the cheese. Allow to cool slightly and add one beaten egg.

To make the triangles, cut the phyllo into strips about 3 inches wide. Be sure to cover the rest of the phyllo with a damp cloth, as it really does dry out quickly. Brush the strip lightly with oil.

Place a generous teaspoon of the mixture on one of the bottom corners and fold the pastry lengthwise in half, covering the filling. If the pastry has been folded left to right, take the bottom right corner of the pastry and draw it towards the left hand edge. Then take the left hand corner and draw it to the right. See photo following the recipe for clarification.

When rolled to the end, you should have a neat triangle. If the pastry rips a little in the process, not to worry. The folding will cover it up.

Brush the top lightly with oil and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F for 25 minutes, or until crisp and golden.

 

Dandelion Gin Fizz on Punk Domestics

DSC00786

 

DSC00787

DSC00791

I am sharing this at this week’s Fiesta Friday. I know some of the guests have been doing some foraging, but for those who haven’t tried yet, these flaky pastries filled with wild garden greens are just the encouragement you might need to get out and enjoy the weeds!

 

 


22 Comments

A Taste of Greens

 

DSC00679

I have been busy these last few days. So many wild greens available, and many of them for only a few days more, so must harvest while I can. The result of all this is that we have been consuming more than our fair share of nature’s spring freebies. So today I prepared a mixture of wild greens served on pasta with nothing more for flavouring than the greens themselves to bring to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #15.. A generous bunch of mint and a handful of young garlic precluded the need for anything alien to the fields, like cheese or lemon. Only the salt, pasta and oil for frying came from afar.

This is not a recipe – just a way to make good use of these seasonal treats. You could use any spring greens, such as spinach and asparagus, but if you have anything edible and green available, this is a good way to use it.

DSC00677

I used a mixture of previously steamed (10 minutes) fiddleheads, ramp and dandelion leaves, young garlic, chives and mint. I fried the garlic first in oil, added the greens next and the mint near the end. I added salt to taste and one ladle of the pasta water to avoid any burning, and covered it all and let it heat through for a few minutes – as long as it took to consume half a beer.

And speaking of drinks, with the money I saved with this meal, I was able to splurge on a bottle of white wine.

DSC00682

Fiesta Friday Badge Button I party @

Fiddleheads on Punk Domestics