Monday, March 28, 2011

Green Pies

I am always searching for recipes for wild greens. In the process of doing this, I found some scientific articles about the health benefits of Cretan green pies, kaltsounia with greens and cheese. Search as I might, I could not find a recipe with this name. I did, however, find a number of Greek greens pies. The one I liked the look of best was this one from Banana Wonder (a blog.)

The health research indicates that these green pies, made from wild plants contain high levels of flavonoids, specifically quercitin. There is some very preliminary evidence that asthma, lung cancer and breast cancer are lower among people consuming higher dietary levels of quercetin. Anyway, I just love the way these taste.

Wild Greens Pie
adapted from Athens Plus

For the pastry:
4 cups self-rising flour
1 cup beer
8 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

For the filling:
6 cups cleaned greens such as spinach, white beet, nettle, shallots, parsley, dill or whatever else desired
1 tbsp white rice
4 tbsp olive oil plus a little to grease the pan

Wash the greens well and drain as well as possible.

Pastry: Knead all ingredients until a smooth dough is formed. Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Filling: Chop the greens finely, place in a large bowl, add the salt and knead well to reduce volume. Set aside and strain off excess liquid and then mix in rice and olive oil. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a pie dish (approximately 11 inch diameter). Divide dough into two pieces so that one piece is a third of the size of the other (the smaller will be used for pie topping). Take the large piece of dough and press it down with your hands on a floured surface until it is flat, then place in pie dish so it covers all sides. Spread the greens over the pastry. Roll out smaller piece of dough and place on top. Pierce the top 3 or 4 places and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the top is golden.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Broccolini, Sprouting Broccoli, Broccoli Florets?

Well we've been getting little tiny broccoli stalks in our CSA box. The farmer calls it sprouting broccoli. Some people call it broccolini and I tend to call it broccoli florets. So, what is it, exactly? And why all the names? According to Wikipedia, sprouting broccoli is a variety of broccoli with a large number of heads and a lot of thin stalks. Broccolini, on the other hand is a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kai-lan. The stalks seem to be longer and it looks a lot like broccoli raab. Happily, I can say they are all related.

When I saw this recipe, I really wanted to try it out. I am going to later this week.

Broccolini with Smoked Paprika, Almonds, and Garlic
Bon Appétit | November 2009
by Amelia Saltsman
Broccolini may also be labeled "aspiration" or "baby broccoli." if using Ordinary broccoli, cut off the florets, peel the stalks, and cut into short, thin sticks.
Yield: Makes 8 servings

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika*
Coarse kosher salt
2 pounds broccolini, rinsed, stalks cut into 2- to 3-inch lengths
1/3 cup water
1 to 2 teaspoons Sherry wine vinegar

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add almonds. Stir until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and paprika. Sprinkle with coarse salt; sauté 1 minute. Transfer to small bowl. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to skillet. Add broccolini; sprinkle with coarse salt. Add 1/3 cup water. Cover and boil until crisp-tender and still bright green, about 4 minutes. Pour off any water. Stir in almond mixture. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Mix in 1 to 2 teaspoons vinegar. Transfer broccolini to bowl and serve.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In Praise of Nettles

Nettles have been eaten throughout much of human history and have been valued for their taste and healthy qualities. But in our modern society, they have become a food from which most of us are pretty far removed. Inevitably when we get nettles in our CSA share there are some members who are either confused or frightened by the delicate green weeds. Because of the abundant rain, the nettles are abundant on the farm. Some members have shared their perspectives and ideas this week.

Hi Gail - I wanted to share with you how I think about nettles. It's like, before this age of refrigerated ships and trucks, in those areas with winter cold and snow, nettles were probably the first edible greens that people had access to -- so when we start getting nettles, I think about what a relief it might have been to know that winter was almost over -- yay! we have nettles!!

I made a nice frittata with the nettles. It was really good, just a fancy name for an omelette with bread crumbs. A warning should be issued because they are wicked dirty, need many rinses. I love nettles and I am so grateful to the person who picks them so I don't have to!

Nettle Soup
To ratio of potatoes to nettles is completely up to you. I packed a lot of nettles in, and it tasted great! But you could use less, if that’s all you had. If you would like, you could add a few dashes of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar for more flavor and tang. I am sure there are a lot of ways to dress this basic soup up!

1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced or put through the garlic press
Olive oil or coconut oil
8 cups of flavorful broth
4-6 potatoes, peeled and cubed (more potatoes- thicker and more creamy, less-thinner)
6-8 cups of packed and washed nettle leaves

In a large soup pot, heat the oil until hot, and add the onion. Sprinkle a little salt over it and saute until the onion starts to soften (about 5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two more.

Add the broth and potatoes and bring to a simmer, turn down heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Now add the nettles leaves, and cook for about five more minutes. You can just mash up the soup a bit with the back of a wooden spoon for a rustic soup, or you can puree it into a smooth soup. For those who can have dairy, finishing this soup off with some cream would be great too. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.