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Archive for the ‘Vegetable Dishes’ Category

Roasted Brussel Sprouts: Two Ways

Brussels Sprouts – especially caramelized ones – are really popular these days. I was introduced to the deep fried, dark and crispy ones at a Michelin One Star Korean restaurant in New York City. Although I don’t usually like my food to look

Raw Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

blackened or burned, I found that I could not stop eating these crispy nuggets filled with Umami. I didn’t like the fact that they were deep fried though, so I set out to try to make them without so many calories. As it turns out, It only took one try. When you make these, you have the Brussels sprouts cores left over, so I roasted them also, adding a little sweetening jam flavor to make them different. Here are the recipes:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Leaves

3 cups Brussels Sprouts Leaves
3 Tablespoons Tangerine Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Wash the sprouts. Pat dry. Cut off the core and the top and peel off the outer leaves. Place these leaves on a baking sheet. (Save the middle parts that are left for the following recipe.)

IMG_2333

Brussels Sprouts Outer Leaves with Centers on sheet behind

2. Sprinkle the leaves on the first pan with Tangerine Olive Oil (or another flavored olive oil of your choice. Lime flavored is also great.) Mix them with your hands, spreading the oil throughout the leaves. Then sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
3. Bake in a preheated 425F oven for 15 minutes, stirring after 8 minutes. (You can cook them less if you don’t like them quite so brown.) Cool on the baking sheet. Use as a side or garnish at room temperature.

IMG_2337

Finished Roasted Outer Leaves

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Cores

METHOD:
1. Cut the leftover cores in half and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and mix with your hands to spread the oil on all pieces. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
2. Bake in a preheated 425F oven for 15 minutes.
3. Place 3 Tablespoons Dalmatia Fig Jam in a small metal bowl. Place the hot sprouts on top and carefully fold to melt and distribute the jam. Cool. Cover until ready to serve. Serve at room temperature. (Another great glaze could be mustard thinned a bit with cream.)

Fig glazed roasted Brussels Sprouts

Fig glazed roasted Brussels Sprouts

Finished Sprouts as an accompaniment for a veal chop with Chanterelle gravy

Finished Sprouts as an accompaniment for a veal chop with Chanterelle gravy

Raw Cauliflower Salad: A MUST TRY!

Raw Cauliflower Salad

Raw Cauliflower Salad

Almost any restaurant you walk into these days will feature a signature Cauliflower Salad. Thank goodness it’s one of the top trends this year because it’s a great diet dish that’s really healthy for you.

As an aside, if you’re on a low carb diet and you steam cauliflower and puree it, it will help you not miss your potatoes. In fact, many people won’t even be able to tell the difference. Often when I serve it to guests they remark, “Wow. These potatoes are really good!” Cauliflower also contains a lot of fiber, which should help you feel full longer as well as being healthy for your heart.

Cauliflower has antioxidant properties (Vitamins C and E, folic acid, lycopene, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene). It also contains nutrients that protect you from the sun and help you to age well. It’s possible to find conflicting information on whether nutrients are destroyed by cooking, but certainly some of the less stable ones are lost. So why not eat it raw? If you slice the florets very thinly, you won’t notice so much that it’s not cooked. Mixing in other things will also help to develop an interesting taste.

Here’s a recipe that I like. It pairs well with anything – meats, poultry, pork, or fish. It’s just a little spicy but you can make it more so by adding more Peppadew pickled peppers (usually found in the deli section of your grocery store). For interest, you can use other colors of cauliflower (yellow or purple) or mix up the colors. The purple variety has even an extra antioxidant, the same one found in red wine.

RAW CAULIFLOWER SALAD 

1 head Cauliflower, florets sliced thinly

1 large Romaine leaf, sliced thinly

2 red Peppadew peppers (or more, to taste), chopped tiny

¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped tiny

1 teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon salt

½ cup salted and roasted cashews, rough chopped

1/3 cup sweetened coconut

1/4 cup olive oil

¼ cup Champagne vinegar

½ teaspoon ground garlic

1 teaspoon orange zest

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Method:

  1. Layer the first seven ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Mix together the oil, vinegar, garlic, zest and juice. Pour it over the ingredients.
  3. Mix by folding with your hands, trying not to break up the cauliflower too much and that’s it. Couldn’t be simpler! Can be made several hours ahead of your meal.

Next beach walk: A dish hunt?

2-Sunray Venus Clam Shell

Sunray Venus Clam Shell

You’ve all heard the old adage “You eat with your eyes first”. As a Chef, I’m always looking for ideas for making a plate appealing. If it looks attractive, I can be sure it will be gobbled up by my guests and besides the quest is fun! I look for pretty dishes everywhere I go – even on my recent trip to Marco Island, a place known for its beautiful shells washing up on the beach. As well as shells for table decoration, I was looking for dishes. Yes, I said dishes!

When you find your shells, first sanitize them by dissolving one “San Tab” (available at Gordon Foods) in a gallon of water. Then add the shells for at least 20 seconds and that takes care of it. Be sure to also rinse them well to remove the chemicals and you’ve got an interesting and attractive dish. (You can also paint them with Mod Podge on the outside to make them a little shinier if you like, but don’t paint the surface where you will place food.)

I looked for large white clam shells, Sunray Venus clam shells and the largest scallop bowls I could find. Most of these were out on Tiger Tail Point Beach. What’s really interesting about the ocean is that different things wash up each day. One day it will be full of Fighting Conch shells and the next day you might not be able to find any at all. Different shells can be found in various parts of the beach. Make sure not to take one that’s alive or inhabited, which is actually illegal. If you really want to help protect the eco system, you take those that are alive out beyond the waves and throw them out into the ocean so they will have another chance.

3-Table decoration

Variety of small shells for decoration

But let’s get back to the table. Small shells went into decorative bowls. (You can leave them simply as they are or fill the bowls with water and float candles or flowers above them. You could also partially fill a vase and add flowers.) Fighting conchs, starfish and a sand dollar became appetizer tray decorations. Larger shells became containers for little specialties I like to make. The larger shells could simply be handed to people with appetizers in them. I took it one step further and added them to a Bento Box (a Japanese lunch box divided into four sections. Plastic boxes can be found in Japanese grocery stores. Or, if you want beautiful lacquered ones like these, you can find them online). I found the little dishes that fit in them in all kinds of different stores on my travels as well as at Crate and Barrel.

What you see in the box below is grilled shrimp marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and perched on purchased Quinoa-Vegetable Salad, marinated chicken skewers, lump crab and a crab cake topped with a little fresh thyme. The sauces are Sweet Chili Sauce and Thai Peanut Sauce – both simply purchased. On the clam shells on the appetizer tray are seared scallops topped with shredded ribs, Sushi and sashimi. You don’t have to use these exact things. Just use little things that you like to make and don’t forget about your leftovers for toppings or other little creations. Simply have fun with it!

1-Scallop Shells

Large Scallop Shells

4-Bento Box Presentation

Bento Box

 

To make the ribs: Cut four pounds of bone-in ribs into four pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sear in hot oil in a Dutch oven. Then spread a small can of tomato paste on the meaty side. Turn them over so the tomato side is down. (Heating the tomato sauce sweetens it.) Add 1 cup of beef stock. (If you don’t make your own, I like the Kitchen Basics brand the best.) Cover and bake for 2-1/2 hours at 350 F – or until the meat pulls away when you rake a fork over it. Remove the meat and chop it. Freeze any extra for another meal.

The marinade for the chicken is ½ cup Sesame Seed oil, ½ cup Soy Sauce, 1 Clove minced Garlic, 1 minced Green Onion, 2 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce. Pinch of Cayenne Pepper, 1 Tablespoon Curry Powder and 1 Tablespoon ground ginger. Marinate for at least 45 minutes and then cook them in a pan. Remember to soak your skewers ahead of time so they won’t burn.

To make the crab cake: Mix 1 pound of crab with 1/4 cup chopped pepper, 1/4 chopped shallot, ¾ cup Pepperidge Farm Herb dressing (first mixed with 2 Tablespoons Dijon or Mucky Duck mustard and 1 egg and then added to the mix) and salt and pepper to taste. Press into cakes and dip in Panko. Fry in butter.  Enjoy!

6-Finished Appetizers

Finished Appetizers

7-Finished Bento Box

Finished Bento Box

Sprouts: Nutritious and Easy to make at Home

Fresh Sprouts

Fresh Sprouts

Sprouts – the tender, young shoots of vegetables – are appearing more and more in grocery stores. Why? People are starting to realize that they are incredibly good for you – especially for vegetarians looking for ways to add protein to their meals.

Sprouts are estimated to contain about 35% high quality proteins. They are crunchy and delicious when fresh and can be easily added to salads or as garnishes to just about anything. Because we eat with our eyes first, they can help immensely to make your plate look appealing. These tender, little delights are also packed with vitamins, fiber and fatty acids – all essential for health.

Besides, add in low in calories. Have I convinced you yet? According to realfarmacy.com, “minerals bind to protein in the seed, grain, nut or bean, making them more useable in the body.” As well, “they actually contain oxygen and regular consumption of raw bio-genic foods … is valuable to health”.

So where do you find them? There are actually a number of places. At Eastern Market, check out the Rising Pheasant Farms booth in Shed 2. These kids grow pea and other sprouts within the city limits of Detroit, pick and bag them, and transport them to the Market on bicycles. Their sprouts are so fresh sometimes I eat them on the way home!

At other local markets like Plum, Papa Joe’s, Westborn you can usually at least fine “cress” You can always find it at Japanese grocery stores like One World Market in Novi. These are the living sprouts of watercress. They come in a square, plastic container where the moist sprouts are still growing inside. (BTW, sprouts will last about a week in your fridge. Just clip off what you need if they are growing or if they are cut, keep them covered with a damp paper towel.)

Best yet, you can grow your own, right in your kitchen! I use sprouting trays. (Check out Sprout People online or the one I use which is http://www.growingmicrogreens.com – Cost: about $50 for tons of sprout making.) Obviously, find a system that is the size and configuration that works for you.

Micro Greens System

Micro Greens System

If I’m having a dinner on Saturday night, I’ll start the seeds one week to ten days before (depending on the type of seeds) and they are always ready in time. You simply check the PH of your water (instructions provided) then pour water in the bottom of a plastic tray. To that, you add a fibrous “pad” on which you sprinkle the seeds. You then mist the seeds with a sprayer bottle every 12 hours and keep them covered for 4 or 5 days. Then you uncover them and watch the miracle of growth.  My kit came with all different kinds of seeds which harvest between 7 and 10 days. Just be careful that they don’t get too much sun or they will shrivel up. Don’t ask me how I know that. J

I highly encourage you to get some sprouts into your diet! The health benefits are immeasurable.

Cooking with Ruben (NYA Catering)

1-Lynn and RubenWhat a pleasure to have Ruben Blake Griffin on my Cable Cooking Show. Educated in CA at the CIA and after a long restaurant career, Rubin is starting his own catering business called NYA Catering in the Bloomfield/Birmingham area of Michigan. That stands for NOT YOUR AVERAGE Catering Company and I would truly second that emotion! Ruben is far from an average cook and today he brought his expertise into the Flavor Secrets Kitchen. He always kicks everything up a notch… and here, for you, are the recipes for the dishes we made on the show!

2- Lamb Kofta TotsAPPETIZER: Lamb Kofta Tots
Mix together:
4 cloves garlic,minced
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 pound ground lamb
3 T grated onion
1 T chopped fresh parsley
2 T chopped fresh mint
1 T ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 T ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. black pepper

BAKE at 375 F for about 10 minutes, or until just done. Serve on a spoon with Tatziki Sauce and a garnish of fresh mint.

ROASTED GARLIC TATZIKI SAUCE:
Roast 6 small garlic cloves in the oven at 375 F for about 30 minutes or a little longer, until slightly browned and soft. You should have 1/4 cup. Mash or purée.
1/4 cup cucumber, puréed and strained to get the water out.
Pinch of cayenne
2 cups Greek yogurt

Just mix it together for some great Tatziki!

3-Bacon Bourbon JamAPPETIZER: BACON BOURBON JAM
2 pounds bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup garlic, chopped
1/2 pound brown sugar
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 bottle Wild Turkey Bourbon

Cook the bacon until firm. Drain the pan. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 5 to 6 hours.

SIDE: ROASTED CAULIFLOWER
Place a whole cauliflower in a casserole pan or on a baking sheet. Drizzle it with oil and rub it with a BBQ rub. (We used Seasons Harvest BBQ Rub.)
Place in a pre-heated 375 F oven for 30 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave it in there another 30 minutes or until your dinner is ready.
You can also prepare this without the rub, and/or purée it.

SIDE: COOKED BRUSSEL SPROUTS SALAD
Cut 3 cups Brussel Sprouts into thin slices. Add it to the pan after you remove the lamb chops and rosemary sprigs. Stir up any fond in the bottom of the pan and cook until al denté.
Add 1 cup Pancetta or Prosciutto, cut into small pieces. Sauté until the meat is rendered.
Add 1/3 cup blue cheese and stir through. Turn off the heat and leave the salad in the pan until ready to use.

4-Raw Cabbage SaladRAW BRUSSEL SPROUTS SALAD
Cut the sprouts into very thin slices. Toss with Deviled Egg Vinaigrette and serve.

DEVILED EGG VINAIGRETTE
1 cup chopped hard boiled eggs
1 cup rice wine or champagne vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp. granulated garlic
2 cups vegetable oil

Mix the first six ingredients in a food processor. Then run the processor while you drizzle in the vegetable oil. Mix in just enough to moisten the salad. You will probably have extra for later use. Other things that would taste great in this salad are blue cheese, bacon, turkey bacon and/or nuts.

5-Lamb with Roasted CauliflowerMAIN COURSE: LAMB CHOPS
Season the chops on both sides liberally with salt and black pepper. Sauté  in a little vegetable oil until crispy brown on both sides. Add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary to the pan but don’t pull off the leaves.
(Don’t crowd your pan! Do this in batches if necessary.) Set aside.
When ready to eat, place in a pre-heated 375 F oven and bake for about 10 minutes for medium rare.
Serve with the baked cauliflower and cooked Brussel Sprouts Salad. Serve the raw salad on the side or use it for a different meal.

Winter Squash Salad

So many people are asking me for great vegetable recipes these days, so this one is for you… a very different and hearty salad from the Pasolivo Olive Oil Company in Paso Robles, California. Add a piece of sautéed chicken or meat and your dinner is done!

Paso Robles (in San Luis Obispo County) is an interesting area in itself… a wine region that is less known than Napa or Sonoma, but rapidly becoming a popular destination wine and resort area. Wine Enthusiast Magazine named it “Wine Region of the Year” in 2013… Obviously because it is the up and coming place to go for some interesting wines. Having been there a number of times, I can tell you that it can boast of being a quiet little western town with GREAT restaurants and places to stay. The hills are alive with up and coming wineries and darling start-ups, like the Pasolivo Olive Oil Company, which was the product of the original owner’s wife’s hobby. I love their oils, but especially the flavored ones… lemon and lime. They told me they crush the skins of the fruit with the oil to get these lovely tastes. In my opinion, they are the best citrus flavored oils out there and worth ordering on the Internet. I use them to flavor vegetables and to make vinaigrette to  flavor salads. (Remember… fruit acids and salt spike up the flavor of everything else in the dish!) So here’s the EASY recipe!

Squash Salad

WINTER SQUASH SALAD 

1 medium butternut squash, roasted until you can just get a fork easily through it and cut into cubes

2 sweet potatoes, roasted al dente and cut into cubes

1 T ground cumin; 2 tsp. salt; Pinch of paprika

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup blonde-green lentils, cooked (1 cup to 4 cups of water. Simmer 30 minutes.)

Dressing:

¼ cup + ½ T fresh lemon juice; ½ cup olive oil (Passolivo suggests its California Blend)

½ cup green onions, finely chopped

2 tsp salt (I left this out because there was enough salt in the salad, but taste yours and decide. Conditions can vary.)

Pinch of paprika

½ cup feta cheese

Chopped nuts and/or bacon (Optional. I used turkey bacon and no nuts.)

METHOD: Mix the salad ingredients together. Then mix the dressing ingredients together. Combine them just before serving.

ENJOY!

 

First to “SPRING” up: Asparagus!

white-green-purple asparagusWhen I think of Spring and especially May, my eyes light up and I’m transported back to all the times I spent in Germany during this special month. It’s special because the first asparagus tips have pushed through the soil and the first “Spargel” starts showing up on menus. You will find these tender (primarily white) tips served in an unbelievable variety of ways… with radicchio and Parma ham (one of my favorites), with strawberry sauce, in delicious, creamy soups, with potatoes and spices, with egg omelets, with fresh river trout, with homemade linguine  bacon and tomatoes, in crepes, in lasagna, in quiche, with a variety of meat dishes and simply topped with lovely, creamy, homemade Hollandaise sauce. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is with all of these memories!

When you look for asparagus in the markets, you will find it in three distinctly different colors. So what is really the difference?

WHITE ASPARAGUS is white because it can’t get any light. This process is called etoliation. Dirt is mounded around the emerging stalks and the fields are also covered with light proof netting. No chlorophyll (which would make the plant green) develops to help the plant absorb light, because there isn’t any light, so the stalks remain white. Many plants that are grown using etoliation are small and weak, but in the case of asparagus, the white stalks are usually large and robust. They also develop a stiff outer coating that MUST be peeled in order to eat them. Try not peeling it once and you will see what I mean. The asparagus will be absolutely inedible. On second thought, trust me on this one and don’t waste this beautiful vegetable. The taste is a bit milder than green asparagus and the color can be very interesting when added to other dishes. You cook it just like green asparagus and it can be interchangeable in recipes.

GREEN ASPARAGUS, on the other hand, does not need to be peeled, with one exception. When the stalks are very large, I do peel it very thinly, using a peeler, just to remove the large “thorns”. The thorns will not prick your fingers, but when they get very large, they don’t taste that great and the texture can be unpleasant. With green asparagus, I prefer the tender, young stalks that only take a couple of minutes to steam and enjoy. The larger stems can have a very “woody” taste and are simply not as good.

PURPLE ASPARAGUS was cultivated from green asparagus. It is just as healthy, a little tenderer and has a slightly different taste than green asparagus. It needs to be steamed quickly or baked because its color fades when exposed to water. But again, it’s an interesting color addition to recipes.

All asparagus is also a GREAT diet food! It contains high levels folate and potassium as well as antioxidants that fight against heart disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. To cook it, just steam it for a few minutes or until you can just get a fork through it. It’s easy to make and a good idea to get it into your diet!

Spring Asparagus Roll

Here’s a fun asparagus recipe that I did for MexAmerica Foods: Get the recipe at: http://mexamericarecipes.com/main-ingredient/eggs-sausage-bacon/spring-asparagus-roll-1827/

Kick Start your Resolution Diet!

Soup with Tortilla CroutonsAre you dreading the start of your New Year’s Resolution Diet? The biggest deterrent to a successful diet is failure to plan ahead. We all get snack attacks and they’re not always emotional. They can represent real hunger. The key to success is to have immediate access to food that is both healthy and filling so it provides both satisfaction and energy. To me, that’s a batch of homemade soup that is surprisingly easy and inexpensive to make. Just freeze it in individual portions so it’s always there for you! Here’s a basic recipe for a fabulous vegetable soup and a video to show you how easy it is to make:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uAEaygL-xs

2 pounds root vegetables, peeled and chopped

1 medium yellow onion, 2 carrots, 2 stalks celery – all peeled and chopped into random pieces

Approximately 2 quarts liquid, Spices

…And here’s how I would interpret that, using squash:

Make several slashes in the top of a large Butternut squash (so it won’t burst) and roast it in a baking pan (no oil) for an hour. (This intensifies the flavor and makes it easier to peel.) Cool just enough to handle; then peel and cut into random pieces. (If you prefer, you can skip this step. Just peel and chop the raw squash and proceed to step two.)

  1. In a large pot (taller than it is wide so the liquid won’t boil away too quickly), soften the onion over low heat. When the juices start to release, you can turn the heat up to medium and add the carrot and celery pieces. Cook until they start to brown. (If you do this carefully, you don’t need to use any oil.)
  2. Add the squash and enough chicken stock to barely cover the vegetables. (If you do this, it will never be too thick and you don’t have to add any starch (calories!) to thicken it. You can also vary the liquid. I like to add a little fruity white wine and/or a cup of orange juice for fruit acid and flavor and then add chicken or vegetable stock just to cover.)
  3. Bring to a boil. Then turn it down and let it simmer over low heat for 45 mins or more – until the vegetables are all really soft. Purée the mixture. I think thick soup is satisfying, so I leave it thick, but you may want to thin it, so use more of a liquid you have already used (stock or orange juice). You will be surprised at how flavorful this soup is. You do not need cream for it to be delicious!
  4. The last step is to add the spices. The two things that spike up flavor the most are salt and fruit acid. If you used juice or wine above, that’s the fruit acid. If not, add the juice of one fresh lemon with your salt and pepper. (I would use white pepper in this light colored dish.) Last, I add a couple of teaspoons of Tabasco or other hot sauce. It won’t make it hot, but will considerably “brighten” it and make it more satisfying – which is the whole point! Always TASTE and add more spice if necessary.
  5. COOL your soup quickly in an ice bath. Keep up to a week in the refrigerator or freeze in airtight individual containers for up to 3 months so it’s always available.

GOOD LUCK AND ENJOY!

Burdock… the late, great, mis-understood starch!

Bored with your vegetable choices? If you are a fan of Asian cuisine, you may have eaten something called burdock root and not even realized it. If you’re not a fan of Asian cuisine, you might want to discover this interesting and tasty vegetable. Although it used to be standard fare in western cuisines, burdock is now regularly available only in Asian grocery stores.

Called “Gobo” in Japanese and “u-eong” in Korean, this unattractive stalk is covered with a tough looking brown skin. Actually the tap root of the burdock plant, it can grow up to 3-1/2 feet in length and usually has a diameter of about two inches. Touching the skin, however, reveals that it is amazingly thin and can easily be peeled with a standard potato peeler – and that’s exactly what you should do with it. Peel it and cut it into strips or chop it into ¼” circles. If you are chopping a lot of it, get the pieces into cold water as soon as you can. Like other white root vegetables (the potato for example), it will discolor as it oxidizes. It looks most interesting when it’s cut into circles because the way the fiber is arranged makes it appear like slices of banana.

The best way to cook burdock root is to braise it. Put the pieces in an appropriately sized sauce pan. Make sure you have a lot of surface area and add beef broth just to cover. Then turn the heat on low to medium and simmer it until the pieces are tender. Don’t cover the pan because you want the broth to almost cook away. (Keep an eye on it so that the liquid doesn’t entirely cook away and burn. This will take about 30 minutes.) Then sprinkle it with salt and pepper and it’s ready to eat. The broth will have become a moisturizing sauce so you don’t need to add any butter or oil. In fact, the dish is better without either of them because the natural taste of the root is not disguised. The taste is similar to a sweet carrot, although al dente burdock pieces will also remind you of water chestnuts or artichoke, which is actually a relative. It is absolutely delicious with a beef steak or roast. In Asian restaurants, it is often braised, pickled or shredded and served with Asian sauces.

What to do with leftovers? Add the cooked burdock to a stir fry or re-fried rice. Use it to thicken a soup. Chop it and use it as a steak topping or mix it into a meat salad. It will fit anywhere you might think about adding cooked carrot or celery and will give an interesting twist to your meal.

Burdock is also nutritious. It contains starch, fiber, calcium, amino acids and protein – all packaged together without a ton of calories. In some circles, it is also thought to have great medicinal attributes. It’s possible to find all kinds of scalp treatments and burn creams made using it in health food stores. As well, some people think it is useful for combating toxins in the body and that it has diuretic properties.

The burdock plant can be found growing in the woods. It grows huge leaves that can be very irritating to human skin and it blooms generally in the summer and early Fall. Its purpose in nature? Primarily food for a variety of moths, as well as humans who are adventurous enough to try it.

The burdock bloom is in the form of a purple thistle or burr that spreads its seeds by grabbing on to passers-by for a quick ride to a new place. This, in fact, is exactly what happened to a Swiss man whose name was George de Mestral. In the 1940’s, George was walking in the woods and got a number of burrs on his pants. George was an inventor and curious about everything, so he examined the burr to see what caused it to lock so beautifully onto other surfaces. He saw that the burr was a collection of little hooks and he was actually imitating this quality of the burdock plant when he invented the hook and loop system that changed our lives and became known as Velcro!

Like many mushrooms and other plants that grow in the woods, take care if you decide to pick burdock yourself. A plant called Deadly Nightshade (Belladonna) looks almost exactly like it and is extremely poisonous. You should know what you are doing or you should buy it from someone you trust.

You will always find it in Asian stores. If you’re up for trying something new, have a go at it and report back!

Love Garden Fresh Garlic Scape!

Right now, you can find an extra-ordinary herb in markets that contains a little protein, is high in interest and is rich in calcium and  fiber.  It’s called the garlic scape. You may have seen these long, curly stems at your local market and not known what they were.

Garlic scape can be chopped and added to all kinds of dishes for a delicious garlicky taste that is actually brighter than using the clove of garlic itself. My favorite thing to do with it, though, is to turn it into a pesto. I’ve shown you the basil-garlic pesto in a previous post, but if you make it with the scapes and leave out the basil, you don’t have the issue of the pesto turning brown as it is exposed to the air. In my mind, that is HUGE. Besides, the color is a lovely lime green, which I think your guests will find delightful and interesting. Pesto is a great way to add good nutrition and good fat to a dish instead as an alternative to a greasy sauce. So use the pesto to top a cooked chicken breast or other meat or simply put it out as a flavorful dip with crackers or a fresh, sliced baguette. It’s great with cheese, as a pasta sauce or as a spread on a sandwich or wrap.

Here’s a super pesto recipe from my friend, Joan Donnay of Essence on Main in Clarkston, Michigan:

1 cup garlic scapes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup walnuts
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blen until semi-smooth. That’s it! LOVE this recipe!

The fresh stems of the garlic scape can also be chopped into tiny pieces and mixed into your egg salad. Use those bits also as a bright green garnish for any dish. It especially looks great on tomatoes because of the color contrast. And yes, use the whole stem, just like you would with a garden onion. Pick your own scapes or buy them at market while they are still curling and they won’t be tough. The primary garlic – the one you are used to buying at the store – grows at the base of the stalks. As the scapes shoot out, they form more little garlic heads that you can split and plant again for the next year. As they straighten up, they become tougher and not as delightful to eat. If they get too tough, they are gorgeous in a flower arrangement! Pair it with other herbs and make your arrangement completely edible. So much to do with these pretty, little shoots. The next time you see them at your market, grab a bunch and have some fun!

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