Green Tomatoes with Fresh Baby Ginger and Turmeric

Fresh baby ginger and turmeric are harvested while the roots are still young and tender and before the skin has formed. The flavor is much milder than that of the mature root. They can be used to flavor rice, stir fries, soups, and many other dishes. You may find  fresh baby ginger or turmeric at your local farmer’s market or in your CSA basket. Recently, I have been lucky enough to find both in my CSA basket. This week’s basket contained some green tomatoes, as well. So the obvious thing to do was to cook them all together.

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Green Tomatoes with Fresh Baby Ginger and Turmeric

  • 1 leek (or large onion), thinly sliced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 3 T minced fresh baby ginger*
  • 3 T minced fresh baby turmeric*
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 4 medium green tomatoes, quartered and thinly sliced
  • salt to taste

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Saute the onion in a small amount of oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and turmeric and cook 5 minutes more. Add the green pepper and green tomatoes and continue cooking until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally . Add salt to taste. You can add a small amount of water to keep the tomatoes from sticking to the pan if needed. Serve with rice or the grain of your choice.

*If fresh baby ginger and turmeric are not available, you can use the mature root, but since the flavor is stronger, reduce the amount by about half. Alternatively, you can use ground dry ginger and turmeric, 1 teaspoon of each.

Local analysis of the dish I made last night:

Local – everything from the CSA except the salt and oil!

 

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Autumn Vegetable Hash

This recipe combines cold-weather vegetables – kale, winter squash, potatoes – with warming spices to make a dish that’s perfect for celebrating autumn.

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Autumn Vegetable Hash

  • 2 cups peeled and cubed winter squash (any kind)
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed (and peeled if you like)
  • 4 cups sliced or shredded kale, stems removed
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • salt to taste

Steam the vegetables in a steamer basket until tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, sauté onions, garlic, and spices in a small amount of oil until onions are translucent. Add the steamed vegetables and combine. That’s it! Can be served with fried eggs and/or sausage if you like. For a different kind of flavor, substitute rosemary and thyme for the spices.

Local analysis of the hash I made last night:

Local – all vegetables (from the CSA)

Non local – spices, salt, oil

 

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Simply Salad

One of the delights of spring and summer is fresh green salads. A tossed green salad is very easy to make using whatever fresh greens, herbs, and vegetables you have on hand.

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There are lots of different greens that can be used to form the basis of a green salad, and if you are a CSA subscriber, you may often find yourself experimenting with new-to-you greens. In addition to the many varieties of lettuce that are available, other common salad greens include

  • spinach
  • beet greens
  • baby kale
  • radicchio
  • arugula
  • chicory
  • endive
  • cabbage (napa and savoy cabbage are tender even when raw)

Use any one green or a combination, depending on what you have on hand. A bit of grated carrot in your salad will sweeten up bitter or spicy greens such as kale or arugula. I sometimes add bok choy to salad. The leaf makes a decent salad green and the chopped up stem adds some crunchy interest.

Wild greens I commonly use include

These are good in early spring before the plant sends up its flower stalk. After that, the leaves become tough and, in the case of dandelion, bitter. There are many other wild greens but these are the two I have experience with. As with any wild food, be 100% sure of identification before harvesting and eating. And wash them well!

You can add texture and flavor by adding other vegetables, chopped, sliced, or grated, as you prefer. Good salad vegetables include

  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • carrots
  • radishes
  • broccoli florets
  • cauliflower florets
  • zucchini (I especially like this grated)
  • sweet peppers
  • red cabbage
  • red onion

You can add some heft to your salad with grated cheese, sliced hardboiled eggs, or nuts and seeds. Such additions can turn a salad into a main course.  On the other hand, I find these things can distract from the delicate flavors and textures of fresh vegetables and herbs. As always, experiment to find the combinations you like best.

Fresh herbs add depth to your salad. Just snip them up with scissors. Quantity may depend on how much you have available, though as guideline, about 1/4 cup of any one herb would be a decent amount for a regular size salad bowl. Much more might make the flavor too intense. But, again,  you should experiment with quantities and combinations to find what suits your taste.

My favorite salad herbs include

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If your salad vegetables are truly fresh, meaning they were recently harvested from your garden or a local farm rather than from a vegetable producer hundreds or thousands of miles away, they will need very little dressing up. There really is no need to smother the natural flavors of fresh vegetables and herbs in lots of oily dressing. If you are a salad dressing fan, I would suggest adding only a small amount, a few teaspoons per serving perhaps, just enough to enhance the taste of the vegetables but not overpower them.  I usually find , however, that a splash of vinegar or lemon juice is enough to brighten things up. You could also add a bit of olive oil if you like it.

 

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Roasted Spring Vegetables

We got the first CSA share of the season a few days ago and, along with it, the return of my weekly challenge – how to make a week’s worth of dinners based on the contents of the basket. This week’s basket was filled with – what else? – spring greens, including that vegetable I love to hate, bok choy.  The basket also contained asparagus, a vegetable about which I have much happier feelings. So I figured – why not combine them?

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Here’s how to roast your spring vegetables: First, separate the leaves of the bok choy and lay them flat on a greased baking sheet. Prepare the asparagus by breaking off the woody ends and cutting the thicker pieces in half lengthwise, then lay them on top the bok choy. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper, minced garlic and/or onion, and a bit of olive oil if you like. Roast at 375˚ for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through to keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan. You can sprinkle the vegetables with grated cheese after removing them from the oven. Serve with rice and a tossed salad.

 

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Simply Tea

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In just about any supermarket, you can find a shelf stocked with beautifully-designed packages of “herbal” teas.  These teas bear exotic or whimsical names that often include some kind of fruit – mango, coconut, watermelon, or any kind of berry you can imagine. The beautiful designs and imaginative names lure you into a fantasy world of flavorful pleasure. But what kind of product do these packages actually contain?

Is it tea? Is it fruit punch?

A closer inspection of the ingredients list suggests that the answer lies somewhere in between. Usually the contents include something that is actually herbal, often spearmint or peppermint or blackberry leaf, sometimes hibiscus or rooibos. They may also include added sweetness in the form of stevia leaf. And they always include a suite of “natural” flavors – vanilla, cinnamon, lemon, raspberry, and blackberry are popular ones.

I find these products very sad. It seems as if they think naturally aromatic herbs need to be covered up with extracted flavorings in order to become palatable. And don’t even get me started on the over-packaging – teabags enveloped in paper packed in a cardboard box. . . .

These over-processed, over-packaged products have unnecessarily complicated something that is really beautiful in its simple, natural state. And why buy them when you can grow your own herbal teas right outside your door or even on your windowsill?

Common tea herbs include:

  • peppermint
  • spearmint
  • lemon balm
  • bee balm
  • lavender
  • chamomile
  • lemon verbena
  • elderflower
  • rose petals (if you use garden roses, make sure they have not been sprayed)

Most of these herbs are easy to grow and use. You can brew the leaves fresh from the plant. No tea bags are required. Just use a tea ball, tea strainer, or teapot. You can also easily dry the herbs for out-of-season use. Spread the leaves out on a screen or tie small bunches of stems and hang them in a well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight until dry. Any of the above herbs used alone makes a deliciously fragrant drink. You can also try different combinations. I like to make a tea of peppermint, lemon balm, and bee balm. Lavender-chamomile tea is another common combination and makes a relaxing drink.

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The above teas are (1) peppermint from my garden (2) wildcrafted multiflora rose petals (3) wildcrafted elderflower.

 

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Convenience

Cooking special meals can be fun when you have the time to gather special ingredients and follow elaborate instructions. But of course we don’t always have the time or inclination for this, and some people shy away from regularly preparing home-cooked meals because they think the preparation always has to be so elaborate. But that is not true. Making a regular practice of cooking delicious meals with local ingredients can actually be fairly simple and convenient. Just remember, “Your freezer is your friend.”

In the summer and fall, when produce is abundant, I fill my freezer with a variety of soups and stews. When the ingredients for any specific recipe are available, I make a large pot for dinner, and since I only have to feed two people (including myself), there is always plenty left over for the freezer. You can find some of the ideas and recipes I regularly use here, here, here, here, and here. If your family is larger, you may end up with less for the freezer, or you could double the recipe. Another method is to find a day when you have plenty of time and cook up several different soups or stews purposely to freeze. I freeze my soups in pint-size plastic freezer boxes, which hold enough for one large serving or two small ones. Then it is just a short trip from the freezer to the microwave to the table, and a home-cooked meal is ready to eat.

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In late summer, when tomatoes are abundant, I make several batches of tomato sauce and freeze them in my pint-size boxes. I use tomatoes, garlic, and onions from local farms, and herbs from my garden. There is nothing easier than throwing together a dinner of spaghetti and tomato sauce from the freezer, and I still end up with a home-cooked meal made largely with local ingredients.

In the fall, I make several batches of applesauce and crabapple sauce and freeze them in ½ pint boxes. Homemade applesauce is really easy to make. It is tastier than store bought and a good deal less sweet (unless you want it to be sweet – the sweetness level is completely up to you). Crabapple sauce is not available commercially as far as I know. Applesauce and crabapple sauce are great for snacking, as a condiment, or as an ingredient for baking.

During the summer, I freeze several kinds of vegetables. Corn, green beans, spinach, kale, pureed squash, and sweet peppers are vegetables that freeze nicely and that I cook with often. When I need any of these as an ingredient, I just open the freezer and there they are, ready to add to whatever dish I am cooking.

It has been a long time since I bought canned soup, spaghetti sauce, applesauce, or frozen vegetables at a grocery store. If you can find a little extra time to cook when ingredients are abundant, you’ll find eating home-cooked local food convenient all year round, without the need to resort to commercially prepared “convenience” foods.

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Green Tomato Pizza

Fall was unusually warm this year, and we were getting ripe, red tomatoes from the CSA well into October. But it looks like tomato season is finally over – the weather has turned frosty and last week’s CSA basket included what appear to be the last of the tomatoes – green ones. So I decided to try making a green tomato pizza. The recipe below includes pizza dough made in a bread machine, because that’s how I make it. But you can, of course, use your own favorite pizza dough recipe or buy ready-made pizza dough at the grocery store.

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Dough

  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 tblsp. oil
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. yeast

Place the ingredients in the bread machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Set the machine to the dough cycle.

When the dough is close to ready, preheat the oven to 425° and grease a cookie sheet. Then prepare the ingredients for the topping.

Topping

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 medium green tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. each dried oregano and basil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 green or red pepper, chopped
  • 6 oz. cheese, grated (I use cheddar, but you could also try mozzarella or feta, or any other cheese you have on hand.)

When the dough cycle has finished, remove the dough from the machine and roll it out on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle the garlic over the surface of the dough. Cover the dough with rows of sliced green tomatoes and sprinkle them with the herbs. Then scatter the onions and peppers and cheese over the tomatoes. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Cut into squares and serve while still hot.

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