Thursday, March 31, 2022

Have You Tried Chimichurri?

Chimichurri Mise en Place - fast and simple!
Chimichurri is a fresh condiment originating from Argentina and Uruguay made from finely chopped fresh parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes and red wine vinegar. It is a bright, tangy, fresh sauce traditionally used on grilled meats, but is good on almost anything and everything!! Try it tossed with steamed vegetables, with chicken, fish or shrimp, drizzled over eggs, used as a dressing for pasta salad, drizzled over pizza after baking, used as a sandwich spread with (or without) mayo. The possibilities are endless ... and it takes only 10 minutes to make!

Chimichurri - start to finish

Chimichurri is not Pesto, they may look similar ... they are both herbaceous, green sauces made with olive oil but they are not at all similar in flavor. Also, Chimichurri has no nuts or cheese making it a perfect, condiment for nut and dairy sensitivities, vegetarian, low carb, gluten free and Paleo diets.

 Some Chimichurri recipes use cilantro instead of oregano and some add smoked or hot paprika and shallots which are not authentic. I prefer the cilantro version for vegetables, salads and pizza, and the authentic oregano version for grilled meats. Although, the flavor of cilantro is an acquired taste for many.

Creamier sauce
For a creamier sauce, add everything into the food processor then pour the olive oil in while the machine is running. This will thicken the sauce slightly and blend it to creamy looking and smooth.

With grocery prices on the rise, why not add cilantro and Italian parsley to your herb garden this year? Chimichurri can be made all summer and frozen for future use to liven up your winter meals. It can be stored in a covered container in your fridge for up to 5 days or packed in small jars and given as gifts marked with the preparation date, best before date and freezing instructions.
If you have never heard of ... or tried this tangy, fresh sauce, what are you waiting for? 

Chimichurri with Cilantro        Yield: about 1 cup
1 cup fresh cilantro *see Notes below
Chimichurri drizzled over Vegetarian Pizza
1 cup Italian (flat leaf) parsley *see Notes
1 shallot 
3 large cloves garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil

Thoroughly rinse the cilantro and Italian parsley several times. Pick out any bruised or yellow leaves, remove heavy stem ends. Peel shallot and garlic, roughly chop. Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and pulse to reduce the bulk of the herbs. Slowly pour in the olive oil and pulse to desired consistency. Stop periodically and scrape down the sides of the processor bowl. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes for the flavors to marry before using.
 
Fresh and packaged for the freezer
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. For the freezer; package in 1/4 to 1/2 cup portions or freeze in an ice cube tray. Then store in airtight containers in the freezer for up to 1 year. Thaw only the amount needed.

**CHEF'S NOTES:
Do not use dried herbs for this recipe, only fresh will do!
One 'bunch' of fresh cilantro or Italian parsley is about 1-1/2 cups each.

Until next time ... Bon Appétit!

Recipe by Sally Rae
Photos by Sally Rae

Monday, March 7, 2022

Thai Double Blue Butterfly Pea

The 'Blue Butterfly Pea' is an edible, blue flowered, vining plant, native to Southeast Asia. The vines are smothered in dazzling indigo petals. The flowers are used as a natural food dye and soothing tea to calm the nerves. The double flowered type seed I grew was found in Thailand, where blooms are used to dye everything from teas to rice and desserts. Butterfly pea has a mild, floral flavor and a most intense natural color making it a novelty culinary ingredient.

At the beginning of Covid lock downs in 2020, I received 'The Baker Creek Seed Catalogue' as a gift. I was really impressed at their speed of delivery, impressive selection of rare and unusual seeds and free shipping! I published a Blog March 2020 with my selection of seeds. Since then I have grown and tried all of the seeds, some not very easy to start or grow and as one of my clients said, "... these seeds are rare ...and difficult to grow is one reason why." Also this year shipping is no longer free, there is now a set rate charged.

Grown in a sheltered space

Previous to finding the seeds in this catalogue, I had been unsuccessfully searching for 'Blue Butterfly Pea' flowers for tea and to color food and beverages. When brewed into a tea, it is a beautiful blue color ... add lemon juice and the color transforms in front of your eyes to pink. Desserts, beverages, ice cubes, hard boiled eggs, pasta and rice can also be colored blue with these incredible little flowers. 

Blue Butterfly Pea tea changes color when lemon juice is added

You can purchase the dried flowers online in various forms; teabags, dried whole flowers and powdered. Or grow the plants from seed, save and dry the flowers for special occasions or package and give as gifts to your foodie friends... or use them fresh.

I have seen 2 different methods to color white rice: add the rice and water to a rice cooker and add 3-4 fresh flowers, stir then turn the rice cooker to the 'Cook' position ... or to use dried flowers ... steep the tea, cool; add rice and use the cooled tea instead of water. The steeped, cooled then strained tea method was used to cook this beautiful Blue Thai Jasmine Rice. 

Blue Butterfly Pea Tea used to cook Thai Jasmine Rice
Butterfly Pea is a tropical perennial that can be grown as an annual in cooler climates. It is most commonly started from seed but I found it spotty to germinate even after scarifying the seeds and soaking over night. My efforts and frustration were worth the effort. I was thrilled to grow, collect and dry a small jar of the flowers for my culinary use. The plants prefer full sunlight and will trail freely along the ground or up a trellis or stakes. A beautiful, rewarding gardening and culinary experience!

Until next time ... it sure feels like Spring is in the air, looking forward to garden season!
Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Winter Garden and January Harvest

Snow and cold, unusual for the Island ... Dec. 30, 2021
Finally the weather has warmed up after 3 weeks of snow and cold that started on Christmas Eve, I checked the winter garden crops last week. The cabbage heads outer leaves were slimy from the -15C and didn't fare well through the cold, even though I had them covered with tarps. They are edible with all the damaged leaves removed but I've used them as chicken food. The hens went crazy for the fresh, crisp vegetables!! Great food and entertainment for them in this weather. The kale did well and is now very sweet from the cold. I pulled back the maple leaves and straw mulch from the root crops and was really surprised to see the beets are still okay. I dug 3 celeriac roots, a gallon pail of carrots and the few beets that were left in the garden. With the warmer temperatures the carrots are starting to grow little 'hairy' roots so I piled the mulch back on top of the remaining 2 rows for harvest in 3-4 weeks or when I need them.
January Harvest - beets, celeriac and carrots

The garlic shoots are poking through the mulch and even the strawberries are showing signs of new life. I had to pull some perennial weeds and grasses to try and stay ahead of them. Once the snow and ice was gone and the temperatures above 0C we had a good stretch of fog. It was cold and damp but at least it wasn't rain, so digging the root crops was a bit easier than if the soil was really wet. Not much can compare to the flavor and crunch of fresh, organic carrots harvested in January! After growing up on the prairies, I still marvel at the food I can grow here year round! I've put in my seed orders for the garden this year and am starting to plan and gear up for Spring!

On a sad note, our eagles' nest blew out of the tree in two crazy wind storms we had in December. The eagle pair was back in October and November bringing more branches to the nest. They were back early in January, sitting in the perch tree I'm sure wondering, where the heck is our home? We hear the eagles around and sometimes they come to the perch tree but so far there has been no activity to rebuild the nest in the same location. At this point it is too late in the season for them to start building. We will miss the close entertainment of Nature they gave us. The extreme weather conditions have been breaking records and making headline News for more than a year now. Every season has had an extreme, difficult result. Welcome to the new normal...

Until next time ... Stay safe, warm and dry,
Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae