Recipe: Quick Curry Skillet Makes Delicious Use of Beet Greens

Need a Fast Dinner or Lunch?  Make Creative Use of Your Refrigerator’s Treasures

I promise to stop talking about beets–but not yet.  After our final class on beet relish last night at Isabelle Farm, I came home with another pile of beet greens–my third in as many weeks.  And three times I experimented with Sautéed Beet Greens Composed with Bacon, Chopped Eggs and Walnuts.  So it was time for something new.  I was scratching my head for new ideas until I remembered to do what I usually do for a case of mealtime boredom:  Look at what’s hanging around in the frig.

Turns out that we had a number of interesting bits and pieces leftover from class last night:  a chunk of ginger, a cooked hamburger, the deglazing juices from the hamburgers, the green tops from the onions. . . .  No surprise that these items, which all came together for a nice dinner menu, were equally compatible in a single dish.  We just needed something for flavor.

For a vegetarian version, use garbanzo beans instead of hamburger and vegetable broth instead of the de-glazing juices. For an alternative color option, use yellow squash which is very much in season now. Saute small pieces a couple minutes before adding the onion greens.

Curry powder presented itself as a good compliment for beet greens.  In class, we learned about how spice blends like curry powder are the busy cook’s solution for bland dishes.  No mixing, matching or consternation, just add a teaspoon or two and you’ve instantly got a professionally seasoned dish!  When it comes to spice blends, I’ve had great luck with the blends made by the folks at Savory Spice.  The medium curry blend in this dish was no exception, especially when bumped up with a little fresh or prepared ginger and garlic.

So here’s how my odd assortment of leftover ingredients came together:

  • Slice tops from 1 green onion (about 2 cups), saute in 1 Tbsp. safflower oil, then add
  • 2-3 tsp. minced garlic (to taste)
  • 2-3 tsp. freshly grated ginger (to taste)
  • 1-2 tsp. Savory Spice medium curry powder, cook just a minute or two, then stir in
  • 6-8 cups beet greens, chopped into 1-2″ squares (sounds like a lot, but they cook down a lot)
  • Enhancements:  I had a couple tomatoes on the counter, about to go bad; diced to 1/2 “, they made a colorful addition
  • 1-2 cooked hamburgers, crumbled
  • 1-2 cups deglazing juices (or broth)

Simmer everything until the beet greens are limp and tender (about 10 minutes).  Serve over heated rice.  Fast and delicious.

Join our Seasonal, Healthy Cooking Classes.  Learn more about creative cooking, using herbs and spices, seasonal cooking and lots more.  Three more classes coming up at Isabelle Farm:

  1. Tuesday August 21  5:30 – 7:30pm
  2. Thursday, Sept. 20   5:30 – 7:30pm
  3. Sunday, October 7   2:00 – 4:00pm

Register and more info here.

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Affordable Organics?

Learning to Double Your Vegetable Dollars Is the Secret

“I’d like to buy organic vegetables, but they’re so expensive.”  Ever catch yourself dreaming of more affordable organics?  Try this on for size:   What if, every time you purchased an organic vegetable, you actually got not just one but two or three vegetables?  No doubt that would make the  economic equation a lot more attractive.

Red Wagon Beets, Golden and Red

Red Wagon Beets, Golden and Red  (Picture Courtesy of Red Wagon)

Here’s how to make that his kind of magic happen:  Waste Not.  For example, in last week’s Farmers’ Market Excursion class, we made beet relish, using a gorgeous bunch of organic red and golden beets from Red Wagon Farm.  The bunch cost $4.00, but

  • we made enough relish for two meals,
  • the next day, the beet greens were the centerpiece for another meal, and
  • the following day the beet stems went into a lentil soup.

In other words, that’s four meals’ worth of vegetables for $4.00, or $1.00 per meal for amazingly delicious, don’t-harm-the-environment, don’t-harm-me, super-nutritious vegetables.

Beets with luch, full beet greens

People in my classes always exclaim, “You really don’t waste anything!” In our food culture which routinely wastes tons and tons of food, I guess my actions do seem odd: Retrieving kale stems when class members mistake them for compost, saving the ends of grated ginger root for tea, stuffing onion ends and skins into a bag to make my own (very cheap) broths. But maybe it’s time for the new, less-wasteful food culture that Every Day Good Eating is bringing about.  (Picture Courtesy of Red Wagon)

Bear in mind, too, that this was no ordinary bunch of limp beets with scraggly tops.  They were firm and dense, the tops lush and huge and the stems plentiful.  Every part of the beet was rich with flavor–leaving the taste buds completely satisfied and providing plenty of vegetable nutrition.  Could anyone really argue that  $1.00 per meal is “too expensive” for this caliber of vegetable?

“You get what you pay for” is a universal law.  Pay little and you get little.  Happily, it works the other way, too, however.  Pay a fair price and you get a fair–often more than fair–product.

Now that you know the magic that makes organic affordable, begin learning how to use all parts of a vegetable.  Join us for our last class on beet relish at Isabelle Farm on Thursday, July 26.  Then check out the next blog for a quick way to use beet greens.  For the stems, just saute and toss them into your favorite lentil soup (which could be a canned variety, too.)

Recipe: Sauteed Beet Greens composed with Toasted Walnuts, Bacon Bits, & Chopped Egg

Sauteed Beet GreensThis unusual–but very tasty and super nutritious–dish makes a nice light supper, or breakfast or lunch, especially if you play around with some of the options in the notes below.

Sauteed Beet Greens composed with Toasted Walnuts, Bacon Bits, & Chopped Egg

  • 1-2 slices bacon

Cook Bacon  Lay bacon in a medium-sized, heavy bottomed skillet, turn heat to medium and cook until bacon is browned on both sides.  Remove to a cutting board, gently shaking off excess fat into pan, and cut into ½” dice.  Reserve.

  • 1 med. onion, diced to ¼”
  • 1-2 tsp. freshly grated, loosely packed ginger, to taste

Saute Onion and Ginger  Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. bacon fat (reserving excess in a jar for another use), then reheat over medium heat until fairly hot but not smoking.  Add onion and saute about 5-7 minutes until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Add ginger and continue cooking and stirring occasionally, just 1-2 more minutes.

  • 4 cups loosely packed beet greens, chopped into roughly 1-2” squares
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Saute Beet Greens   Stir beet greens into onions along with any water clinging to leaves from washing.  Cook over medium heat until wilted and tender, stirring occasionally, about 5-8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

  • 2 large eggs, softly hard-boiled, diced to roughly ½”
  • ¼ cup walnut pieces, toasted

Compose Dish   Arrange beet greens in the bottom of a wide bottomed bowl.  Arrange walnuts in a ring around the outside of greens and eggs in a ring nearer the middle.  Sprinkle with bacon bits.    Serve immediately.   Serves 2

Options

  1. Instead of using hard-boiled eggs, hollow out two “nests” in the sauteed beet greens while they are still in the pan.  Crack an egg into each nest, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until egg sets.  For this version, which is very nice for breakfast, you may prefer to nix the walnuts.
  2. For a savory dish, substitute Herbes de Provence (or Savory Spices’ Cantanzaro Herbs) for the ginger. Substitute crumbled goat chevre for the eggs.
  3. Make this dish vegetarian by using vegetarian bacon, but add 1 Tbsp. safflower oil to saute the onion.  The same goes if using turkey bacon instead of pork.

The Beauty of Relishes

Want a Good Way to Save Time, Money and Stress?  Relishes Make for Easy Meals and Great Taste

I’ve been wanting to experiment with relishes ever since reading A Thousand Acres, a novel profiling the lives of  several Iowa farm familyies.  While the novel itself was pretty unsettling (although masterfully so), the summer harvest always brings to mind its description of Iowa food preservation rituals.  It puts my paltry canning efforts completely to shame.  The novel’s women didn’t settle for putting up a few jars of plain old tomatoes and peaches.  They preserved almost everything from their gardens–much of it in the form of interesting sauces and relishes.

I remember thinking that seemed like a ridiculous lot of work!  But as the months and years passed, I realized those Iowa gals may well have something on us.  Sure they worked hard for a couple of months each summer, but think of the benefits their investments yielded:

  • Mealtime Speed  Need dinner in a hurry?  Fry up pork chops and top with a flavorful relish.  With the relish providing the pizzazz, side dishes can be super simple.  Get a totally satisfying meal together in practically no time.
  • Stress-Relief  No need to worry all day about what to make for dinner.  Just pull a relish from the shelf, mix ‘n match with different meats, sandwiches, wraps, salads, etc.
  • Affordability  We all know that seasonal produce is the best in terms of taste–but its also very reasonably priced.  So preserve those savings for year-round enjoyment.

It took a couple years, but this summer I dug up some of the relish recipes I’ve been saving and took the plunge, making a gingery beet relish.  I feel like I struck gold!  Beets are so plentiful and cheap right now.  Make up a batch and it stores for a couple months.  Pull it out and use with abandon on meats, sandwiches, salads, rice dishes–you name it.  Get not only color and flavor but a valuable nutritional boost.

I’m excited to share the many joys of relish with you–and to relish some as well.  Join us for one of our Farmers’ Market classes this week to, cook, learn, taste and chat relishes.

Kitchen Essentials: The Humble Storage Container

Storage Containers

The humble storage container is a kitchen essential–even if it’s not as glamorous as some kitchen hardware.

Food storage containers don’t rank in the A-list of kitchen gadgets like sleek Kitchen Aid stand mixers and shiny All-Clad cookware.  In fact, a lot of us muddle by with a random assortment of  yogurt cups and take out tubs–with dozens of even more random lids that never seem to fit anything.  Hence this article.

If you are interested in meals with any of these attributes–healthy, efficient, affordable, stress-free and/or tasty–then you need decent storage containers.  The yogurt cups and take out tubs can (mostly) be recycled. So recycle them now and get a set of sturdy containers that will last for years.  The rewards are many:

  • Enjoy Efficiency:  Absolutely begin doubling the amount of pasta, sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice, chicken, etc., etc., that you cook.  Extras stored in good containers will last perfectly for days, giving a good head start on later meals.
  • Get Healthy:  The previous trick is especially helpful when it comes to vegetables.  As long as you’re set up for washing and chopping, cut and store extras (vegetables hold up quite nicely in tight-seal containers.)  Then see if you don’t find more vegetables weaving their way into your meals.
  • Save on Stress:  Square containers are the best because they stack conveniently and maximize space in the frig.  They leave the refrigerator organized, with everything easy to view and remove.
  • Save Money:  Americans pitch enormous amounts of food.  Instead of pitching, start capturing leftovers in convenient storage containers and see what affordable (and healthy) snacks and lunches they make.  Plus, when I finally started transporting our foods in actual containers, I no longer lost food that exploded and leaked from unreliable yogurt cups.
  • Please Your Kids:  Homemade lunches ensure that your kids’ mid-day meals are healthful.  Good storage containers ensure that lunch won’t be splattered all over their lunch boxes–and it minimizes waste.

No question about it, good storage containers are an essential.  But maybe you’re having a couple nagging questions:

  1. What about plastic containers–are they safe?  Valid concern, with all the press lately about the dangers of plastic.  This is my solution to date:  I use glass for storing hot leftovers and reheating in a microwave; tight-seal plastics for transporting foods and storing vegetables.
  2. How many containers do I need?  If you’re just starting out, 15-20 pieces is not too much, since some will always be in use in the frig and some will be in the wash cycle.  Should it prove too much, pass some along to a friend or child setting up house.  Alternatively, they can be used to store and organize an array of other household items, from batteries and crafting supplies to nails and sprinkler parts.
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