Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bean There, Done That

Don't get me wrong, I love my standby 'Bean Salad Marinade', but... by the time my early fall crop of Scarlet Runner Beans are producing, my taste buds crave new flavors. Time to search for some interesting recipe ideas. 
Well, a few years ago I did just that and have used the recipe below as a back up ever since. This is my adapted version, from a recipe originally created by Roger Mooking. At a glance the ingredient list looked a bit odd, but the first bite delivered a delicate balance of sweet, sour, salt, and crunch. If you don't have prosciutto or asparagus on hand, try just beans with the Warm Lemon Dressing. Either way, an interesting salad!
Bon Appetit! 
Scarlet Runner ~ flowers and immature beans
Green Bean & Asparagus Salad with Warm Lemon Dressing      
         ~ Yield: 4 servings ~

Green Bean and Asparagus Salad:
     1/2 lb. green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
     1 bunch asparagus, bottoms trimmed
     extra virgin olive oil

Crispy Prosciutto:
     8 pieces prosciutto, thinly sliced

Warm Lemon Dressing:
     3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
     1/2 shallot, diced
     1/4 cup skinless almonds, sliced
     1/4 cup sultana raisins
     1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
     juice of 1 lemon
     1 tsp. honey
     salt and pepper 

For the Salad;  blanch green beans in boiling, salted water for 5-7 minutes, drain well and place in a bowl. Meanwhile trim and wash the asparagus spears, coat lightly with extra virgin olive oil. Place on an oiled bake sheet. Roast in a preheated 450F oven for 7-10 minutes, until tender but still somewhat firm. Cool slightly and cut into 1-inch pieces, put in bowl with blanched beans.
For the Crispy Prosciutto;  heat a non-stick fry pan over medium to high heat. Place pieces of prosciutto in pan and cook until crisp. Remove from heat, cool completely then crumble into chunks, set aside.

For the Warm Lemon Dressing;  place 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a pan over medium to high heat. Add shallots, season with salt and saute until tender. Add almonds, raisins and olives, mix to incorporate. Add lemon juice and honey and stir. Add remaining olive oil, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Salad Assembly; pour Warm Lemon Dressing over beans and asparagus, toss and garnish with Crispy Prosciutto.  

Photo by Sally Rae

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Zucchini & Fresh Herb Soup Recipe

Deema Zucchini & Starship Patty Pans
By now many of us are getting bored with the never ending summer squash harvest. I missed a few days of picking and found several medium sized specimens that were suitable for either grilling on the BBQ or the soup pot. The photo at right shows the size of what I used for soup (the two larger squash in the top of the photo) and pan-fry, the smaller ones. The large Deema Zucchini when diced, measured 6 cups. The large Starship Pattypan when diced, measured 2 cups.
As mentioned in my last post 'Spaceships in the Garden', here is the soup recipe I wrote for the Flagstone October 2012 ~ 'From Surplus to Soup'
Bon Appetit!
By popular demand… this versatile soup can be served hot or cold. Young, tender zucchini produce a delicate, creamy soup. You can use larger specimens, but will have to remove the tough skin and the seeds; also the texture and flavor will be compromised. Brown rice flour is used to slightly thicken. 

3-4 Tbsp. butter or olive oil 
2 large white onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 lb. medium sized zucchini, diced (14 cups)
5 cups flavorful chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp. sea salt
¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup brown rice flour, optional
1/3 cup minced fresh oregano
1 cup minced fresh parsley
1 cup plain Greek yogurt, optional
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, for garnish

Melt butter in a large stockpot; sauté onion and garlic until soft but not browned. Add zucchini, stir and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken stock, salt and pepper, cover and bring to a boil. Whisk in brown rice flour to thicken. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 10-15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, purée just until the soup looks creamy but is still chunky. Stir in fresh herbs and slowly whisk in 1 cup yogurt if desired. Taste and adjust seasoning, serve hot with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

*For a cold soup, stir in fresh herbs and yogurt then chill at least 4 hours or overnight. Serve in chilled soup bowls with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

Photos by Sally Rae

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Spaceships in the Garden

Bennings Green Tint Patty Pan
Yesterday a friend asked, "How is your squash this year?" As our conversation progressed, we realized that it must be a great squash year! The summer squash is always abundant to the point of 'just too much'... and so far, the winter squash are plentiful and large. 
I am the sole person in our household who eats zucchini and summer squash. So why on earth would I put in 8 plants for one person? I love patty pan squash, they look like tiny spaceships, and this year I have both the Bennings Green Tint (pale green) and my favorite Starship (dark green). I pick the patty pans when 1-2 inches across, perfect to pan-fry whole or cut in half. 
My second line of attack on this never ending crop, is a jar of my 'Bean Salad Marinade' waiting in the fridge for left-overs (For the Love of Food-pg. 156). Steamed, pan fried, roasted or grilled; left-over vegetables are cut into bite-size pieces, then tossed into a bowl while still warm. Add sliced red onion and pour over enough marinade to just cover...and Voila! Today's left-overs are transformed into a salad for tomorrow's lunch or dinner.

Starship Patty Pan
I don't know how many times I have been asked, "What do I do with the humongous squash I found?" My first answer is, "throw it over the fence for the deer." Your next option, split it open and feed it to the chickens or let it keep growing and enter it in the Fall Faire. In my opinion, if your fingernail will not easily pierce the skin, it is not worth eating! I pick every second day or when I am watering. It is much more enjoyable to eat 6-8 adorable, miniature spaceships than one large, flavorless squash, be it patty pan or zucchini. My next post will feature a soup recipe to use up an abundance of medium sized summer squash. Stay tuned, until then... Bon Appetit!

 Photos taken in Sally's garden August 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Taste of Paradise

Ready to pick... Desert King Figs, Denman Island, BC
The delicate fig...a sweet gift from nature! About 10 years ago I was thrilled to receive a local 'Desert King' sapling as a gift. Every year I anxiously wait for the green-skinned fruit to ripen. To become plump and syrupy sweet, hanging heavily downward. When ripe, the fruit will yield to light pressure and be moist inside, with translucent pink flesh containing tiny edible seeds. Fresh figs are very perishable, so I am lucky my tree is still relatively small and I can 'keep up' to what it has produced so far by eating 3-4 fresh figs a day!
When I have more than I can eat fresh, drying in a dehydrator is a great way to preserve the harvest for winter. I cut them in half and dehydrate until they are still leathery with no moisture or 'sticky' feel. Last Christmas I made 'Fig and Cognac Chocolate Truffles' for gifts, (For the Love of Food~pg. 41), by finely dicing dried figs and letting them soak overnight in Cognac before incorporating into the ganache. The result, nothing short of heavenly!
My hands down favorite appy is still 'Prosciutto Roasted Figs'. For the recipe, see my cookbook 'For the Love of Food' page 173.
Figs are technically and inverted flower. They are high in fibre and have a unique flavor that pairs well with bold flavored foods such as dark chocolate, duck, Gorgonzola, olives and prosciutto. 
Now is the time to enjoy this delicate gem fresh from the tree or prepared into a delectable appetizer or dessert!
Bon Appetit!

Photo ~ by Sally Rae, my fig tree on Denman Island

Friday, August 8, 2014

Windhover Farm... Berries and Books

Fresh Strawberries from Windhover Farm
Today marked my second visit of u-pick berries at Windhover Farm. Last week, I came home with Strawberries and Raspberries for the freezer. Preserving the taste of summer for my winter smoothies, jams and desserts.
One of their strawberry varieties is my favorite Seascape, big and sweet! So today I picked and brought home another 10 pounds! 

I am also thrilled to say that you can now pick up a signed copy of my seasonal cookbook, 'For the Love of Food' at the farm.  One stop local shopping for fresh food and new recipes for you to try!
Windhover Farm is at:
3499 Dove Creek Road, Courtenay, BC  V9J 1P3
Phone: (250) 338-7750 
Keep a close watch on the website, picking days and times sometimes vary. Although, as of this week, the blueberries and strawberries are in great abundance.
Happy berry picking! 

Photo by Sally Rae

Friday, August 1, 2014

Man, Look at Those Strawberries!

Strawberry season is in full swing on the Islands. I have grown an ever-bearing variety called 'Seascape' for about the past 5 years. The June crop is always a bit disappointing; low production, smaller berries and the never ending battle with bugs and birds, especially robins and their hungry babies! 

Seascape strawberries from my garden on Denman Island

Strawberries are my favorite summer fruit, so I get a bit anxious waiting for the second crop. It is finally here! The berries are absolutely huge, firm, sweet and juicy. Perfect for Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, serving with a Chocolate Fondue, or with Angel Food Cake and sweet whipped cream. My favorite... to eat them fresh, warmed by the summer sun while picking in the garden!
Check out the strawberry recipes in my cookbook, 'For the Love of Food'; from measurements and freezing directions to 'Fresh Strawberry Salsa' and 'Fresh Strawberry Flambe'. 
Bon Appetit!

Photo by Sally Rae