Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Swiss Army Knife

Sometimes greens overwhelm me. They're so big and bushy. So many different varieties, but what to do with them beyond cooking them down in a pan with some garlic and olive oil (maybe add some toasted almonds for texture)? It seems like a lot of work too (even though it's mostly just cutting out the stem) because you've got this huge pile and they cook down to a single serving. This is what often stands between me and a really delicious and nutritious side o' greens. So, I'm laying it down here...demystifying the greens... starting with: swiss chard.

Swiss chard from our Featherstone Farm CSA (green with the magenta stems)

It's the pretty green with the lovely multi-color stems (yellow, white, magenta). The flavor is pretty mellow, maybe a little sour/bitter and salty, but the overwhelming mouthfeel I get from swiss chard is luscious. After trying Vegetarian Times' Wilted Swiss Chard with Fresh Basil, I couldn't stop thinking about how I found a solution to my occasional craving for perfectly done scrambled eggs with that lusciously melt on your tongue creaminess. What a magical green! Especially magical when you consider all the health benefits that makes it second only to spinach in nutrient-richness. It's especially good for blood sugar, anti-inflammation and bone health.

Other ideas for swiss chard:

Vegetarian Times' Sicilian Swiss Chard over Quinoa
Featherstone Farm chard recipes
Giada de Laurentis's goat cheese, lentil and brown rice rolls (vegan version sans parmesan from the inventive vegetarian)
Vegetarian Times' Raw Swiss Chard Veggie Wrap with Creamy Pecan Spread

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Perspire or Inspire?

It is fair to say I am struggling to embrace summer this year. I feel cheated out of the pleasant Minnesota spring and concerned about the extreme weather we've been experiencing (muggy heat, severe thunderstorms, flash floods...not your typical idyllic Minnesota summer weather.) Even with the start of our community supported agriculture (CSA) box from Featherstone Farm, I've been caught off balance. What usually starts small and delicate with the first vegetables of the season seemed to come at us full force. It's mid-June and this week's box contained broccoli, a crop we usually don't see until later in the season. So, I don't know what it is, maybe summer is coming on too strong like that person who tries too hard to be your friend and repels you instead? I just have been uninspired.

Well, I'm trying to get the inspiration back. Maybe it's been this glorious later half of the week when the storms cleared out the heat and humidity and the sun shone with bluest skies and birds celebrated with song, but I feel like I can salvage summer. After all, Wednesday was the first day .... there are many more to follow...maybe even enough for my sleepy raised bed garden to bear some vegetables. With this new found hope, I took another look at the haul of vegetables from the CSA this week and found a great breakfast.

Farm Box Hash
serves 2

1-2 c yukon gold potatoes (diced)
2-3 garlic scapes (minced)
1/2 c spring onions
1 c swiss chard (remove stalks and cut into thick ribbons)
1 Tofurky italian sausage link (sliced into 1/4 in rounds)
1/4 c pesto (I used trader joe's)
to taste: salt, pepper, olive oil

Heat up a pan (add olive oil if you want) and add onions and minced scapes and start to brown. Add in potatoes and cook for 5 minutes (you may need to reduce heat.) Add in tofurky italian sausage and brown for 2 minutes. Add in swiss chard and let it reduce down. Turn off heat and stir in the pesto and season to taste.

Now, I wouldn't be a Minnesotan if I didn't serve it with a side of ketchup, but really the dish didn't need it. Very tasty and hopefully the start to some great new dishes inspired by my weekly farm box.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Take Me Out

I've been craving American Chinese food lately. You know, that super unhealthy deep-fried stuff in a cornstarch-thickened sweet and sour or sweet and spicy sauce. What's that about? I'm not even going to try to use the steamed broccoli that comes as a side as a saving grace. Sometimes, you just have a craving.

Thankfully, Bravo Cafe and Bakery in St. Paul has me covered.  They're an all vegetarian (vegan friendly) chinese restaurant and bake some seriously delicious looking cakes (and cream puffs.) Not to worry, if you're in Minneapolis without wheels or a day to make a transit excursion to your sister city, you can get similar eats at Evergreen on Nicollet.

Sesame "chik'n" at Bravo (they also offer brown rice)
Bravo's sesame "chik'n" has that crisp crunch on the outside that you want in a dish like this and the sauce is on par with the best I've had. I also like not having to worry about what part of the chicken is being used under all that sauce and batter. Before going veg, I was really creeped out by chicken nuggets and how they use cartillage and organs in them. When you get to this stage of fried goodness and sauce, the meat isn't really much of the dish, so why not save yourself some cholesterol and fat and let some chickens live to see another day and go veg? Don't worry, you'll still get plenty of quality protein :)