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June 2008

May 2008

Spanish Needle

Spanish_needle

This common plant is called by a number of names in addition to Spanish Needle - everything from "Hairy Beggarticks" (yuck!) to "Piquant Noir" (ooh la la!).  Its scientific name is Bidens Pilosa, and I first knew it as simple "bidens" - although I've called it some unsavory names when it kept popping up in my butterfly/herb garden.  It grows like a, ummm, weed, and its root system is a real booger if you don't pull it quick.

However... I learned recently that it's edible.  Susan Marynowski, a local herbalist suggests throwing a handful of leaves into soups, stews, or greens to add nutrients. It has medicinal qualities as well; its leaves are chewed for sore throat or boiled to make a tea that is said to help with upper-respiratory infections. 

It seems to thrive just about anyplace. Walking along the sidewalk off a very busy road, I found a long row of it growing happily in the cracks - and we have had exactly one rainy day during the last six weeks!  It's advised that we don't eat wild edibles growing on the side of the road due to the street run-off, but if you look, you'll probably find it growing around your yard as I did.  It's hardy, persistent, tolerant, and honestly - it's kind of pretty when it's blooming.  Sometimes I try to think of these plants like folk herbalists used to - that hidden in their appearance or their character lies clue to how they might benefit us.  Hardiness, persistence, tolerance, ability to bloom under difficult circumstances - all good human qualities.  Plus I have a cold.

Cuppa_hairy_beggarticks


Hot and Sour Green Bean Salad with Tofu

Hot_and_sour_green_beans_with_tofu

Green beans are just coming into season, and this recipe will put them to good use. In about a month, we should have our own red peppers in the garden as well - and we always have mint popping up in the flower beds.  This is delicious!  And with farmers market and garden veggies supplemented with food from Ward's it meets the Hogtown Homegrown Eat Local Challenge!

HOT AND SOUR GREEN BEAN SALAD WITH TOFU

Serves 4

7 ounces very firm tofu

Oil for frying

Dressing

1-2 tsp. chili pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 tablespoons soy sauce

4 tablespoons lime or lemon juice

4 tablespoons honey

Salad

2 cups green beans, sliced lengthwise and lightly steamed till barely tender

1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced

4 green onions, sliced

2 handfuls of fresh mint leaves

½ cup toasted (or roasted) peanuts – optional

1.       Drain the tofu and wrap in paper towels until ready to use.

2.       Shake or blend dressing ingredients together.

3.       Heat a shallow layer of oil in a skillet over high heat.  Cut the tofu into 3-inch slices and fry, turning once until golden all over.  Drain on paper towels.

4.       Put green beans, red pepper, onions, mint, and tofu into large bowl and cover with dressing.  Add tofu, and mix gently. 

Sprinkle peanuts on top if desired.  May be served on rice or another grain - or alone.


Sweet Potato Quesadillas

Quesadillaeating

Another sweet potato recipe!  I can't help myself; they're nutritious, grow like a weed here, are constantly available at the farmers' market, volunteer in the garden, and everyone likes them.  Tonight was our last "Wednesday Night Dinner" - at least for a while, and we celebrated Ben's upcoming 20th birthday. He wanted Sweet Potato Quesadillas. And, in general, Ben gets what he wants.  John loves them, too, as did Ben's peeps. Served with sour cream, salsa, and a 100% farmers' market and garden salad, they were delicious!

The recipe is from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, the best collection of recipes I own - and I have a lot of cookbooks!  Here it is: 

SWEET POTATO QUESADILLAS

1 ½ cups finely chopped onions

2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

3 tablespoons [olive] oil

4 cups grated, peeled sweet potato (about 3)

½ tsp. dried oregano

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Generous pinch of cayenne

Salt and ground pepper to taste

1 cup grated sharp cheddar

8 flour tortillas (8-10 inch)

Salsa

Sour cream

Sauté the onions and garlic in the oil until the onions are translucent. Add the grated sweet potatoes, oregano, chili powder, cumin and cayenne and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking [I sometimes add a few tablespoons of water]. When the sweet potato is tender, add salt and pepper to taste and remove the filling from the heat. Spread one-eighth of the filling and 2 tablespoons of the cheese on each tortilla. Fold in half and then cut in half for a wedged shape quesadilla.  Cook on a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan turning until both sides are lightly browned. 

Serve immediately topped with salsa and sour cream.  Serves 4.


Blueberry Season!

Bowl_o_blueberries_640x480

It's just the beginning of a season that will last at least a month. We are lucky to have blueberry farms all around our area - a number of them u-pick and organic.  "Pick Your Own" is a nice website with locations and phone numbers of farms open to u-pickers. 

Blueberry picking is a great activity for the whole family. The weather's still pretty nice early in the morning, and the bushes are thornless and not easily damaged by little ones.  Picking wild blueberries as a child and later at farms with my children - as well as with school children on field trips - are some of my happiest May memories.  And what a great way to turn children on to the goodness of local food. 

School_gardeners_field_trip_2

This week I bought organic blueberries at the 441 market for $4/pint - which is still a better deal than an equivalent amount of Ben and Jerry's.  And quite a bit healthier.  They're considered a "super food" - anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, etc., etc.  Although after reading Michael Pollan's book, I don't know how much credence to give the latest food fad.  I do know this: they're good, they're local, they're even beatuiful. We're going to be eating a lot of them over the next month.

This is part of the joy of eating locally. We can look forward to blueberry season like we do to a holiday that comes around each year. We appreciate them all the more because we don't have them all the time.  Go celebrate!