Along the Grapevine


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Sunchoke Lemon Pesto

DSC01298We have had a few light frosts already but the ground is wet and unfrozen. This means it’s the best time to harvest some of my favourites, among them sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes. I have written several posts on these tubers, but if you are not familiar with them, refer to this post.

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The wonderful thing about sunchokes is that they taste just like actual artichokes. Also, they grow easily and are available from October till April at any time the ground is not frozen solid. They are inexpensive and if you have your own source, they are free!

On the downside, they do not store well. They can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but are best very fresh.  Once cooked, they have to be consumed within a day or two, and never try to freeze them. I have found drying and fermenting the best way to preserve them – until I came up with my latest sunchoke recipe, a pesto made with herbs, roasted sunchokes and roasted almonds. This kept well in the fridge for a week, and after that I froze the remainder, and neither the taste nor the texture suffered as a result. The artichoke flavour came through perfectly, and the lemon flavour and herbs were a delicious combination. Pine nuts, walnuts or filberts would work just as well, and as for herbs, use what you like and have on hand.

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Sunchoke Lemon Pesto

Ingredients

1/3 cup roasted sunchokes

1 cup lightly packed herbs (I used half and half mint and basil)

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup roasted almonds

juice of 1 lemon

a strip of lemon rind (optional)

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup olive oil

Method

Chop the nuts and herbs in a food processor. Blend in  the other ingredients, except the oil. Once everything is combined, add the oil slowly until you have the right consistency.

Like all pestos, this goes well with any kind of pasta. No need for cheese here, unless of course you really want it.

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Spread on crackers or bread, it makes a super and easy little snack.

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And it stores well!

Linked to Fiesta Friday #95

Related posts: Jerusalem Artichokes

Potato, Leek and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Jerusalem Artichoke Ravioli

Coconut Lime Jerusalem Artichoke Chips

Jerusalem Artichoke, Mushroom and Black Walnut Soup

Jerusalem Artichoke Gnocchi

Jerusalem Artichoke Tea Biscuits

Jerusalem Artichoke and Fennel Soup

Sunchoke and Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Sunchoke Dip

 

 

 

 

 


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Mint and Purslane Pesto

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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Jerusalem Artichoke Ravioli

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We finally received our first snowfall of the year last night, just after I rescued every bit of green from the garden. The Jerusalem artichokes should remain accessible until we get a really hard frost, but I still had some in the fridge to use up before I bring any more in. As a result, my offering to Fiesta Friday this week is a mixture of these and some of my fresh greens.

I have been pleased to see that several blogs I read are making use of these tasty little tubers, but there still are not a lot of recipes out there for them. If you are hesitant to eat them, I recommend trying them in moderation and well cooked.

My first ravioli recipe is made simply by mixing cooked Jerusalem artichokes with flour. I used bread flour because I wanted to make sure it was strong enough. It makes a very elastic dough, and was the easiest pasta recipe I have ever made. I didn’t even need to use my pasta machine, as the dough rolled out very easily. It is also nice and stretchy, so making the ravioli was very easy. I had no breakage at any point during the process, including during the boiling stage. It is very important to work on a well floured surface so that things don’t stick, and as long as you do that, these can be made in very little time.

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There are many fillings that would work with these, but I wanted to use my last harvest for the season which included arugula, Swiss chard, kale and sorrel. You will probably have a different combination of greens than I have, but there are so many you could use, alone or in combination – for example beet, turnip or carrot greens. I made my standard style pesto knowing that any extra I had could be frozen for later use and it is one of the best ways to preserve these delicate leaves.

Jerusalem Artichoke Pasta


Ingredients

2 cups cooked peeled Jerusalem artichokes

1 3/4 cups bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp lemon or lime juice (optional)

Method

Puree the Jerusalem artichokes and salt. Add the flour gradually until it forms a clump of dough. It will be a bit sticky at this point. Wrap it in parchment and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Divide the dough in two and roll out one half at a time on a well floured surface to the thickness of a thin pie pastry. Cut out circles and place on board or plate also covered with flour. Place a dollop of filling on a circle, then cover that with another circle. Seal with the tines of a fork all around.

Drop a few at a time in boiling salted water. When they come to the surface, in about 2 minutes, they are ready. Drain and set aside. Serve as is, or top with grated cheese or your favourite pasta sauce.

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Pesto

Ingredients

4 cups fresh greens

1/2 cup walnuts (or other nuts)

1/4 cup oil

1/2 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic

Method

Blend all ingredients in a food processor.


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Plantain (Plantago Major)

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Our lawn is covered mostly with four plants. Grass, clover and dandelions I am well familiar with – but the fourth seemed barely worthy of a name. It is neither beautiful, nor so ugly that you need to get rid of it – it just is. I recently read about this plant which indeed does have a name, plantain or plantago mayor and I became intrigued by its many uses, nutritional and medicinal. All its parts are edible, and while I haven’t found any ripe seed pods yet this year, I have been using the young, light green leaves raw and cooked.

Where to find them: Lawns, fields, roads, gravel, cracks in pathways. It was brought to North America by colonizers and was referred to as “white man’s footprint” as it was found growing in all the European settlements where the land had been disturbed.

Identification:  The plant is made of a rosette of oval leaves. The veins begin at the base – the central one being straight and extending through the full length of the leaf.  The remaining veins are curved along the line of the shape of the leaf. The flower is a stiff rod, at first green and then turning brown which sticks straight up from the centre of the plant.

Uses: Young leaves can be eaten raw, while the older ones should be cooked until tender. The leaves which have antibacterial and astringent properties can be used as a poultice to apply to stings and wounds to reduce pain and prevent infection. Seed pods can be cooked much like asparagus, and the seeds are used as a substitute for psyllium. It is also a valuable weed in your garden as it breaks up hard soil and holds loose soil together to prevent erosion.

Nutritional Value: Rich in iron and vitamins A and C.

Recipes using Plantago Major

The easiest comparison of this plant with something familiar would be spinach, although the leaves are tougher, more like kale. The flavour is not strong, so pairing them with seasoning, herbs, garlic, lemon, fish sauce, soya sauce and other flavourings all work well.

I first tried steaming them in oil and a splash of water with garlic which I then combined with omelettes and pasta or just served as a side dish.

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I also made a smoothie, using 1 cup of young raw plantain leaves, 2 sprigs of mint, a little honey, 2 cups of almond milk and a banana and an apple. Pureed in the blender and chilled it made a delicious healthful drink, even if the appearance was less than stellar.

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Now that scapes are in season, I decided to augment my scape pesto with some plantain. This recipe can be frozen for several months, so I tend to make a good batch of it – by a good batch I mean enough for one meal plus two jars.

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Scape and Plantain Pesto

  • Servings: 12
  • Print

1/2 lb scapes

one handful of young plantain leaves

1/2 cups olive oil

1/2 cups walnut pieces

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until almost smooth. Salt to taste or parmesan cheese can be added, but I usually add those when I serve them. This pesto is excellent with pasta, spread on bread or crackers, or served with fish.

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Milkweed Flowers on Punk Domestics

 

 

 


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Things to make with dandelions

Welcome to my blog. I have created this to explore some of the wild things I have growing on my property, ingredients seldom found in the grocery stores and markets, and often mowed or thrown on the compost heap. So many of these edible weeds are plentiful, nutritious, and offer an inexpensive alternative to imported and store-bought produce.

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My first thought was to focus on wild grapes and their leaves. However, they are still not ready to be picked in this area, so I shall begin with the humble dandelion. Rather than be irritated by their persistance and size, I began to experiment with the flowers, roots and leaves in my cooking. It is somewhat labour intensive, but at least I end up with very fresh, organic and free ingredients. If you have young children around, I recommend ‘allowing’ them to help you.

If you are skeptical about eating the flowers, unless you suffer from ragweed allergies (the same family) or if you have a history of gall bladder problems, you might wish to avoid these or consult your doctor. Otherwise, most people find the honey sweet taste of the flowers surprisingly pleasant.

If you are still not persuaded to try them, note that they are high in anti-oxidants, contain vitamins A and B12, and have long been considered a remedy for headaches, backaches and cramps.

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The first recipe I am sharing is for dandelion flower pakoras. This is an interesting variation of fritters, and this batter can be used with almost anything edible.  It is so simple and quick to make, it hardly deserves to be a called a recipe.

Dandelion Flower Pakoras

1 cup chickpea flower

1 tsp. chili pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup water

Pick about 1 cup of dandelion flowers. Wash gently, and remove the top of the stem right under the flower. If you remove too much, the flower will fall apart, but the loose petals can be used in the batter along with the whole flowers.

Mix the chickpea flower with the salt and chili. Stir in the water until you have a smooth batter. Dip the blossoms in the batter. Remove each batter-coated blossom with a spoon and fry in vegetable or coconut oil until brown and crispy.

Serve warm, as is or with a condiment such as chutney, tamarind sauce, or even ketchup.

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And now for the dandelion greens. These are often used when young in salads, but why stop there? They are a good source of calcium (even more than kale), iron, high in vitamins A and C and are a source of  vitamins E and K. They are often used in detox recipes, contain all essential amino acids and are 14% protein.

Dandelion Pesto

1/2 lb. greens

1/2 cup parmesan, freshly grated

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

4 cloves garlic

2 tsp. salt

Blend all ingredients in a food processor, adding the greens a bit at a time.

Serve with pasta and add some freshly grated parmesan. Or use it as a base for a pizza. Freeze any leftovers.

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