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TIP OF THE DAY: Don’t Let Nettle Season Pass You By

Green Garlic Soup

Stinging Nettles

Green Garlic

Top: Add nettles to soup, such as this Potato, Nettle and Green Garlic Soup. Center: Nettles. Bottom: Green garlic. Photos courtesy Good Eggs | SF.

 

A year ago, we wrote about stinging nettles. also called common nettles and wild nettles. Here’s that background article.

Today’s tip is a reminder not to let the brief season pass you by (it ends this month, depending on your location).

WHAT ARE NETTLES?

Stinging nettles, Urtica dioica, are slightly bitter green herbs that grow wild in the spring. Other names are common nettles and wild nettles.

They are members of Urticaceae, family of flowering plants, also known as the Nettle Family. The family includes other useful plants, including ramie, which is used to make fabric.

Different varieties grow worldwide, many without the sting. Those that are picked with garden gloves (rubber kitchen gloves work, too). The sting comes from chemicals* in the plant. Once stinging nettles are blanched, boiled or soaked in water, the sting is gone.

In North America, nettles sprout up very briefly in early spring and late fall, growing like weeds at the edges of cultivated farmland. That’s why the best place to find them is farmers markets.

Why go after something that stings? They have charming flavor, a bit like spinach with a cucumber undertone. You can use as a substitute for cooked spinach.

You can find numerous nettles recipes online, but we’ll start you off with some soup and pesto.
 
RECIPE #1: POTATO, NETTLE & GREEN GARLIC SOUP

This recipe, from Good Eggs, unites two limited spring vegetables: nettles and green garlic. The soup tastes even better the next day. Prep time is 20 minutes, total time is 45 minutes.
 
Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 2 pound waxy or all-purpose potatoes, rinsed well and cut into 1″ pieces
  • Salt
  • 3 stalks green garlic, white parts minced and green parts set aside
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups nettles, carefully de-stemmed and washed (substitute spinach)
  • Garnish: ½ cup crème fraîche (substitute plain Greek yogurt)
  • Garnish: ½ cup parsley, rinsed and patted dry
  • Garnish: 2 tablespoons chives, chopped finely
  •  
    ________________________
    *In the stinging varieties, hollow stinging hairs on the leaves and stems called trichomes inject three chemicals when touched by humans and other animals: histamine which irritates the skin, acetylcholine which causes a burning feeling, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to relay signals in the brain. They produce a rash that can be treated with an anti-itch cream, aloe vera or baking soda. But the protective chemicals doesn’t do a good job of keeping us away from nettles: They have a long history of use as a medicine and food source. Further, they need to be eaten before they begin to flower and produce other compounds that cause stomach irritation. (Perhaps serve them with some fugu—blowfish?)
     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Salt the water generously—it should be salty as ocean water—and add the bay leaves and a handful of the green garlic tops. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 25-30, minutes or until potatoes are soft but not falling apart. Drain in a colander and cool by spreading the potatoes in a single flat layer on a tray. While potatoes are boiling…

    2. SAUTÉ the onion in a large stock pot with a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil over medium-low heat, until soft and translucent. Add the minced green garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes, until soft and aromatic.

    3. HALVE or quarter the cooled potatoes, depending on size, and add to the onions and garlic. Stir gently to combine. Add the chicken stock to the pot until the potatoes are just covered; bring to a boil.

    4. TURN off the heat and purée half the soup in a blender. Use a kitchen towel to hold down the lid of the blender and be careful of steam and hot splashes. You can also use an immersion blender. If you prefer a more rustic soup, you can lightly mash the potatoes with the back of a spoon or a potato masher, instead of puréeing.

    5. USE protective gloves, a kitchen towel or tongs and carefully de-stem and wash the nettles (we cut them from the stems with a kitchen scissors). Drain them in a colander, then chop roughly. Fold into the hot soup and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve hot with a generous dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkling of chives and parsley.

     

    RECIPE #2: NETTLE & PISTACHIO PESTO

    Nettles make a delicious pesto; here are 20+ ways to use pesto.

    This recipe is from Quinciple.com, a premier meal delivery service.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup stinging nettle leaves, de-stemmed
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup pistachios, toasted
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup packed Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated (substitute freshly grated Parmesan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. DE-STEM the nettle leaves: Hold onto the stem with tongs and use your other hand to carefully snip the leaves with kitchen scissors.

    2. BRING a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the nettles by adding the leaves to the water for 1-2 minutes. Remove them with tongs or a slotted spoon, and place them in an ice bath (a bowl with water with ice cubes) to cool. Once the nettles are cool to the touch, strain and squeeze all water from the leaves.

    3. ROUGHLY CHOP the blanched leaves and add them to a food processor with the garlic, pistachios, lemon juice and zest, cheese, salt and pepper. Pulse into a coarse paste. Then stream in the olive oil to the desired consistency or about 1/3. Serve immediately or store in a jar for up to 5 days.
     
    MORE WAYS TO SERVE NETTLES

    Like most herbs, nettles are good for you, rich in calcium, iron, manganese, potassium and vitamins A and C. They have been called “seaweed of the land” because of their complete spectrum of trace minerals and their soft, salty flavor.

  • Have them for breakfast, in omelets or scrambled eggs.
  • Add them to soup stocks or stews, where they’ll contribute a rich earthy/briny flavor. Some combinations include nettle-potato soup (recipe above), nettle-garlic, nettle-sorrel and just plain nettle.
  • Use them instead of spinach in a nettle & artichoke dip.
  • Steam and add them to enchiladas.
  • Add them to lasagna or risotto; top a pizza.
  • Purée them as a sauce for chicken, fish and seafood.
  •  

    Nettle Pesto Recipe

    Nettles

    Nettle pesto from Quinciple.com.

  • Combine them with spinach and/or mushrooms as a side, add them to a goat cheese tart, spanakopita, quiche, etc.
  •  
    Until next spring!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cauliflower Risotto

    Having just published an article about cauliflower rice, we’re following up with this recipe for Cauliflower “Risotto.”

    This recipe is from Food Player Linda, a freelance chef in Connecticut whose innovative recipes can be found onPlayingWithFireAndWater.com. When we win the lottery, we will retain her to make magnificent meals.

    RECIPE: CAULIFLOWER “RISOTTO”

    Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, washed, root end trimmed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-2 cups of broth or stock
  • 4 ounces blue cheese or any creamy cheese that will melt*
  • Garnish: minced herbs, toasted breadcrumbs (ideally panko), shaved Parmesan
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a skillet or large shallow pan over medium-low heat. Stir in the shallots and cook slowly until translucent. While the shallots are cooking…

    2. ROUGHLY CHOP the cauliflower into 1″ pieces. Working in 2-3 batches, pulse the cauliflower in a food processor in short pulses, until roughly the size of grains of rice. There will be a combination of very fine pieces as well as larger pieces.

    3. TRANSFER the cauliflower into the pan with the shallots and turn the heat up to medium-high. Sauté while stirring, until the cauliflower begins to brown. Season with salt and pepper and add a 1/2 cup of the stock, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. When liquid has nearly evaporated…

     

    Cauliflower Risotto Recipe

    caulirisotto-230

    Top: Jamie Oliver’s Cauliflower Risotto recipe with anchovy breadcrumbs, via Mimi Katz Chen. Here’s the recipe. Mushroom “risotto” made with cauliflower instead of rice. Recipe and photo courtesy Playing With Fire And Water.

     
    4. ADD another 1/2 cup of stock and turn the heat down until the liquid maintains a slow simmer. Continue stirring occassionaly, adding small amounts of liquid as necessary, until the cauliflower reaches the desired consistency. Remove from the heat. Crumble the cheese over the top and stir in until melted and creamy. Adjust the seasonings to taste and serve.
     
    ANCHOVY PANKO BREADCRUMBS GARNISH

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 small can anchovies, including oil
  • 3 small dried red chilies†
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the breadcrumbs, anchovies and their oil, and the chilies in a food processor; pulse until mixed.

    2. HEAT the oil in a frying pan and fry the flavored breadcrumbs, tossing and toasting until golden brown. Set aside until you’re ready to garnish.

     
    ___________________________
    *Best melting cheeses: Asiago, Fontina, Gouda, Gruyère, Mozzarella, Provolone, Robiola Bosina (not regular Robiola), Taleggio.

    †Cherry peppers are mild, as are the larger green Anaheim chiles. The yellow-orange Aji Amarillo and the larger Cayenne chiles
    have medium heat. Thai chiles, also known as sprig kee nu and birdseye chile, are hot.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Riced Cauliflower, Cauliflower Rice

    Cauliflower Risotto

    Cauliflower Rice

    Flavored Cauliflower Rice

    Top: No rice involved—this mushroom “risotto” was made by HealthyFellow.com from riced cauliflower. Here’s the recipe. Center: JoyLoop brand is sold at Good Eggs | San Francisco, perhaps the most wonderful food purveyor in the U.S. Bottom: In the U.K., CauliRice.com sells plain cauliflower rice, plus Indian, Mediterranean and Thai flavors.

     

    Cauliflower rice, also called cauliflower couscous, is poised for fame. There’s no actual rice involved; it’s a grain-free rice substitute made from cauliflower, that can be used in just about every rice recipe from plain boiled to fried rice to risotto.

    Cauliflower rice—cauliflower chopped in a ricer, became popular with the Paleo Diet, and it is takes time to make it from scratch.

    Fortunately, the Paleo Diet is making people more aware of it, and small producers have begun to cut and package it. It can be found minced or pulverized, fresh and frozen.

    Who invented cauliflower rice? There may be several different “inventors” who first pulverized a head of cauliflower. The Italian supplier who makes other cauliflower products for Trader Joe’s ended up with lots of leftover florets and trim. Rather than toss them, Trader Joe’s says, “We put our heads together and came up with a new product made from this extra cauliflower.”

    Cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse, a “superfood,” a term that evaluates foods based on their calorie density vis-a-vis their amount/types of nutrients. A member of the Brassica family, it is rich in immune-boosting antioxidants and vitamin C (also an antioxidant). It is low in calories and low on the Glycemic Index (GI). But there’s more:

  • Cauliflower contains more vitamin C per 100g than an orange.
  • It has a range of protective plant compounds (the antioxidants quercetin, beta carotene and caffeic acid) that help to reduce oxidative stress in the body, a key risk factor for cancer.
  • Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and helps to alleviate symptoms of other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
  • Its sulphur compounds support detoxification in the liver, and promote levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
  • As with cauliflower mashed potatoes, you can pass it off to kids and adult finicky eaters as regular rice.
  •  
    WHERE TO BUY CAULIFLOWER RICE

    Now here’s the rub: Cauliflower rice is not yet available as widely as it should be. But it’s poised for fame and on its way: We recently spoke with a specialty food manufacturer who will be bringing it to market soon. In the interim:

     

  • Trader Joe’s imports it frozen from Italy. It was so popular that as of this writing, it is sold out and the retailer is waiting for a new shipment.
  • Joyloop Foods, in greater San Franciso, sells to some California retailers and online.
  • Paleo On The Go, a meal delivery service, packages it and sells it on Amazon.
  • You can buy Green Giant Cauliflower Crumbles in a Steam In Pack. Although the crumbles are larger than riced cauliflower, you can cook them al dente and rice them.
  •  
    And of course, you can make your own from a head of cauliflower.
     
    ______________________________
    *Brassica is the plant genus of cruciferous vegetables, nutritional powerhouses packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants). They include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish/wasabi, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini, rutabaga and turnips, among others.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE CAULIFLOWER RICE

    Cauliflower rice can be buttered, sauced or otherwise made more flavorful by adding vegetables, herbs and/or spices. This recipe, from CauliRice.com, advises that homemade versions will taste more strongly of cauliflower and less like actual rice, but we have no issue with the homemade “rice.” Light seasoning, butter, etc. will mask any subtle cauliflower flavor.

    Prep time is 10 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • Salt and pepper and/or other seasonings (herbs, spices)
  • Optional: cooking oil
  • Chopping board and knife
  • Food processor with an “S” blade, or a hand grater
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WASH the cauliflower and remove any leaves. Remove the main stem and set it aside for another purpose†. The fine stems that hold the florettes together need not be removed.

    2. CUT or break the florettes into chunks so they better fit into your food processor. Attach the ‘S’ blade and place the florettes into the processor bowl. Pulse until the cauliflower is the texture of couscous (course grains) or until all large lumps disappear. Do not over-process, as this will result in mushy cauliflower rice when cooked. If you have a particularly large cauliflower, or a small processor or hand grater, you may have to do this in batches.

    3. MICROWAVE for 3 minutes. Microwaving retains more moisture than dry-frying or oven baking, and is CauliRice’s preferred method. Place the cauliflower rice into a microwave-safe dish. Add a teaspoon of water—no more, or the cauliflower rice will become too wet. Cover the dish with plastic wrap or a lid. Cook for 3 minutes at 900 watts.

    4. LEAVE the cauliflower rice covered, and let it stand for another 2-3 minutes. It will continue cooking in its own heat. Add seasoning to taste and serve.

     

    Cauliflower Rice

    Trader Joe's Cauliflower Rice

    Top: Homemade cauliflower rice from TheKitchn.com. Here’s their recipe and a video. Bottom: Cauliflower rice from Trader Joe’s.

     
    _______________________
    †You can steam and slice or purée it, finely dice or slice and add to salads, add to soups and stews, etc. You can also stick it in the freezer and decide later.

     
    TO DRY FRY

    1. HEAT a tablespoon of your preferred cooking oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the cauliflower bits and spread evenly across the base of the pan. Cover the pan and cook for approximately 7-8 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the cauliflower is slightly crispy on the outside but tender on the inside. If you prefer a less crispy cauliflower rice, add a tablespoon of water to the pan about halfway through cooking—but be sure to cook this added moisture off before serving.

    2. Add seasoning to taste, and serve.
     
    TO OVEN COOK

    Oven cooking produces a drier, crunchier cauliflower rice that some people prefer, although it gives a less rice-like effect.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Spread the cauliflower pieces evenly across a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the cauliflower every 5 minutes or so.

    2. REMOVE from the oven, add seasoning to taste and serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Salsify

    We can’t believe that in 15 years of publishing THE NIBBLE, we’ve never published an article on salsify. Ironically, it is known as a “forgotten vegetable.”

    WHAT IS SALSIFY?

    Salsify, pronounced SAL-suh-fee OR SAL-suh-fie, is a root vegetable in the Asteraceae or dandelion family. Dandelions, daisies and lettuce are in the family, but belong to different genuses (they’re not root vegetables).

    Other root vegetables belong to other families entirely:

    Beetroot (Amaranthaceae); burdock/gobo (Asteraceae); carrot and celeriac/celery root (Apiaceae); (Apiaceae); daikon/white Japanese radish, black radish, horseradish, radish, rutabaga, turnip and wasabi (Brassicaceae); lotus root, parsley root and parsnip (Nelumbonaceae).
     
    Not A Looker, But Delicious

    These roots lack the grace of carrot or parsnip. White salsify is “hairy” and black salsify looks like a twig.

    White Salsify. White salsify could be mistaken for a thin parsnip, but its flavor has been compared to an artichoke heart or Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke). Because of its minerality, it has also earned the names oyster plant or vegetable oyster. Because of its purple flowers, some call it purple salsify.

    Black Salsify. Its cousin, black salsify, has yellow flowers and the flavor of mild asparagus. It was first cultivated in Spain, and is also called Spanish salsify and false salsify.
     
    The Value Of Root Vegetables

    Root vegetables have long been important in the kitchen. After harvesting, they last a good while in the pantry without spoiling, and last even longer in the fridge. In older times, the root cellar kept a family fed through the winter.

    Different roots have different flavor profiles. Radishes are pungent, carrots are sweet, beets are sweet and earthy. Parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and salsify have more subtle flavors.

    Root vegetables are also rich in nutrients, low in fat and calories, inexpensive, and in modern times, usually available year-round.
     
    HOW TO BUY & STORE SALSIFY

    The roots have a rough outer skin, which requires scrubbing and, for many people, peeling. (It is fine to eat the skin.)

    Buy firm roots, preferably with the green tops still on. You can refrigerate them in an airtight container, but use them within a week; the roots alone will last for two weeks.

    To store, wrap the roots in plastic and refrigerate. Check periodically to see if the root is drying out. If it is, it’s time to cook them!

    Before cooking, scrub the root under cold running water, peel with a vegetable peeler and immediately place into acidulated water, water with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to prevent discoloration.

    After you peel the root, you can cut it into matchsticks or thicker short lengths, or slice them into coins. Simmer for half an hour until soft, drain, and sauté in a bit of butter.

       

    Salsify

    Salsify Soup

    Black Salsify

    Top: black (right) and white salsify roots at The Chef’s Garden. Center: A bowl of salsify and celeriac soup. Here’s the recipe from InSimonesKitchen.com. Bottom: The leaves are usually removed before the root goes to market; but like beet, turnip and other root greens, they are tasty (photo courtesy Will Bonsall | MOFA.org.).

     
    TYPES OF SALSIFY

    There are two types of salsify: white salsify and black salsify. The latter is more highly regarded for its nutrition. Now pay attention, because while they’re both members of Asteraceae, the daisy family, they’re actually different species!

    Both roots are low in sodium and offer a good amount of protein. They contains modest amounts of vitamin C, some B vitamins, and complex carbohydrates.r in the black variety can boost hair health.

    Both varieties are native to western Eurasia and were originally cultivated for both its root and greens and are grown in the same way.

     

    Salsify Pasta

    Mushroom Salsify Tart

    Pork Chops & Salsify Recipe

    photo and recipe courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco Center: White salsify root courtesy Good Eggs. Bottom: Salsify “pasta” in smoked oyster cream with black pepper and microgreen garnish, from The Chef’s Garden.

     

    HOW TO SERVE SALSIFY

    Salsify may not be the best looking root, but it delivers beautiful flavor. It pairs well with butter, cream, garlic and parsley. We’ve included some recipes below.

    If you find young roots with the leaves attached, the leaves are also quite tasty and can be added to salads, sautés or stir-fries. By the time the roots are mature, however, all but the most inner leaves have grown tough.

    Black salsify and white salsify are interchangeable in recipes. You can use them for:

  • Crudité platter, green salad or slaw (young salsify can be eaten raw, sliced thinly).
  • Sides: Steamed or roasted, sliced, mashed or puréed.
  • Gratins and fritters (slice into coins).
  • Vegetable pasta (use your spiralizer!)
  • Soups and stews (steam before adding).
  • Pickled, with sandwiches and relish trays.
  •  
    RECIPE: PORK CHOPS WITH SALSIFY

    You can find many salsify recipes, from bruschetta to salsa. This recipe, from Good Eggs in San Francisco (photo left/bottom), takes 10 minutes prep time, 35 minutes total time.
     
    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • ¾ pound pork chops
  • 1 pound salsify, peeled, ends trimmed off and sliced into 2” chunks
  • 1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed at the ends and sliced on a diagonal
  • 2 tablespoons chives, roughly chopped
  • A handful* of chervil, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mint, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 spring onion (substitute green onion/scallion)
  • Red wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Olive Oil
  •  
    ____________
    *When you see an imprecise measurement like “handful” or “bit,” the amount is usually not very important. If you love the ingredient, use more of it; if you’re not, use less. We can’t get enough basil, for example.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Remove pork chops from their packaging, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Let the meat come to room temperature.

    2. FILL a pot halfway with water. Add a tablespoon of salt and the juice of one lemon; then add the salsify pieces. Cover and bring to a boil; then turn down to a simmer and let cook until very tender, about 25 minutes. While the salsify simmers…

    3. THINLY SLICE the spring onion and place it in a small bowl. Cover it with a few splashes of red wine vinegar and set aside. Once the salsify is tender…

    4. SCOOP it out of the water into a large bowl. Mash it with a fork, adding a tablespoon or two of butter, a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Mash to your preferred texture.

    5. HEAT a cast iron pan over high heat with a bit of olive oil. When the olive oil is hot, add the pork chops and cook until golden brown on one side, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and sear for another 3-4 minutes before moving the entire pan into the preheated oven. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, until the internal temperature measured at the center of the chop reads 140°-145° (for medium rare). Remove from the pan and let rest for 10 minutes.

    6. FOLD the herbs into the snap peas with a tablespoon of olive oil and half of the vinegar mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, and more vinegar to taste. After the chops have rested…

    7. SLICE into ½ inch slices and divide between two plates. Serves alongside a few dollops of the salsify and cover the salsify and pork chops with a few generous spoonfuls of herbed snap peas.
     
    MORE SALSIFY RECIPES

  • Salsify Soup with Celeriac
  • Salsify, Lentil & Pineapple Salad
  • Salsify in Garlic Vinaigrette
  • Pan-Roasted Salsify
  • Caramelized Salsify
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Asparagus

    Fresh Green Asparagus

    Green, White & Purple Asparagus

    Top: Freshly cut asparagus from Baldor Food. Bottom: Three colors of asparagus from Australian Asparagus Growers.

     

    Asparagus is our favorite harbinger of spring, along with big artichokes, fava beans, green garlic, morels, nettles, ramps and spring peas (a.k.a. English or garden peas).

    Once upon a time—in your mother’s, grandmother’s or great-gran’s generation, depending on your age—people who preferred fresh produce had to get their fill during the growing season. Some growing seasons were quite brief.

    Imported produce had yet to emerge in the off season, to meet the demands of people who wanted asparagus—or peaches or any other fruit or vegetable—year-round. When asparagus or peaches were out of season, you could buy them canned or frozen.

    Now asparagus is available year-round, imported from the Southern Hemisphere during the Northern Hemisphere’s off season. That means carbon miles, plus waning freshness as the they travel a long distance.

    In the U.S., spring is the best season for fresh, affordable asparagus. April through late June is prime asparagus season, so get your fill while you can.

    In the olden days, spring asparagus were served as a side or a first course: buttered spears with a wedge of lemon and/or lemon mayonnaise. They were pickled and served with cocktails, turned into soup and, for people of Italian heritage, added to pasta and risotto.

    While most of the asparagus grown are green (some with green tips, some with purple tips), you can find purple and white in specialty produce stores and farmers markets.

    Here are the differences among green, purple and white asparagus varieties. We’ve even seen pale pink asparagus, possibly a mutation of the purple.

     
    WAYS TO ENJOY ASPARAGUS

    Asparagus blends well with most dishes.

  • Breakfast: In an omelet, frittata, scrambled eggs, with poached eggs or added to Eggs Benedict, with grits.
  • Appetizers: Asparagus crostini with pancetta, bruschetta with hummus, asparagus and prosciutto wraps, a snacking platter of hummus or other spreads and dips, charcuterie, cheese, gherkins and/or olives with steamed or pickled asparagus, crackers or breads.
  • Lunch: Added to a green salad, a conventional sandwich or a wrap; in a luncheon salad topped with grilled sliced beef, chicken, lamb, salmon, scallops or shrimp.
  • First Courses: Asparagus salad with red grapefruit, in any green salad, plain or with added bacon or pancetta; asparagus soup.
  • Mains: Any pasta dish, such as linguine with asparagus and Parma ham; any grilled or roasted meat, poultry or fish/seafood (check out these Greek-style lamb chops with feta, kalamata olives, mint and red onion); risotto or other rice/grain dishes; grilled salmon with asparagus and pineapple salsa; scallops with asparagus and morels.
  • Sides: Grilled asparagus (recipe (here’s one with mushrooms and shaved Parmesan), grilled rack of asparagus, sweet and spicy asparagus; stir-fried; pickled asparagus.
  • Diet: Steamed asparagus with balsamic vinaigrette, hummus or yogurt-Dijon dip; on a crudités platter.
  •  

    THE HISTORY OF ASPARAGUS

    The asparagus plant, Asparagus officinalis, is a member of the lily family, Asparagaceae, which also includes agave, and flowering plants such as lily of the valley and star of Bethlehem. There are more than 300 species of asparagus, most of which are grown as ornamental plants.

    Asparagus originated in the eastern Mediterranean region, but today is grown worldwide. It was first cultivated more than 2,000 years ago. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans prized asparagus for its unique flavor, texture and alleged medicinal qualities.

    The vegetable gained popularity in France and England in the 16th Century; King Louis XIV of France enjoyed this delicacy so much that he had special greenhouses built to supply it year-round. Early colonists brought it to America.

    Asparagus is a perennial plant raised in furrowed fields. It takes about three years before the plants produce asparagus. The delicate plant needs a temperate climate and requires much hand labor in all phases of cultivation. The spears are cut by hand—backbreaking work—when they reach about 9 inches in length.
     
    Nutrition

    Asparagus is nutritious: a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and zinc; and a very good source of copper, dietary fiber, folate, iron, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) and vitamin K, plus the antioxidant flavonoid rutin.

    It has no fat or cholesterol and is very low in sodium. Asparagus is very low in calories (27 per cup) and contains no fat or cholesterol.

    There are three varieties of asparagus—green, purple and white.

  • Green asparagus, the most common, has a green stalk and a purple tip.
  • White asparagus, popular in Germany, was first created in Argenteuil, France as a delicacy. It is green asparagus grown in the dark but with exposure to ultraviolet light (alternately, earth is piled on top of the stalks so that they grow “underground”), and in our opinion has more of a visual interest than flavor.
  • Purple or violet asparagus has higher sugar and lower fiber levels, although the numbers are not significant. It was originally developed in Tuscany and sold as Violetto d’Albenga, after the valley where it was grown.
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    Asparagus Omelet

    Asparagus First Course

    Top: Asparagus and scrambled eggs for breakfast, from the California Avocado Commission. Bottom: A first course or light lunch of asparagus, prosciutto, burrata and crostini at Barbuto | NYC.

     
    While white and purple asparagus are creations of modern growing techniques, green asparagus has been enjoyed since ancient times. There is a recipe for it in oldest surviving book of recipes, De Re Coquinaria, Book III, written by Marcus Gavius Apicius in the third century C.E.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Herb Salad

    Herb Salad

    An herb salad hits the spot. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Even if you’re not in the practice of serving a large green salad with dinner, a small herb salad is an easy way to have a few greens that don’t need a heavy dressing. It goes well with any protein.
     
    This recipe was developed by Chef Eric Dantis for THE NIBBLE. You can substitute parsley for the cilantro, dill for the chives, pear or other fruit for the apple.

    RECIPE: HERB SALAD

    Ingredients For The Salad

  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • ½ bunch basil
  • ½ bunch chives
  • ½ bunch arugula
  • ¼ bunch mint
  • 1 Fuji or Granny Smith apple
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Optional: jalapeño
  • Salt and pepper to taste
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    Ingredients For The Dressing

  • Juice of 1 or 2 limes or lemons
  • Good-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
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    Preparation

    1. PICK the leaves* from the cilantro and mint; rinse and dry along with the arugula leaves and reserve in a medium-size bowl.

    2. SLICE or tear the basil into thick strips and slice the chives into 1-inch spears. Add them to the bowl with the herbs.

    3. SLICE the apple and jalapeño into matchsticks and place them in a separate medium-sized bowl. To prevent oxidation, squeeze enough orange juice to coat the apple slices, but not to soak them.

    4. MAKE the dressing: Mix the lime or lemon juice with 1-½ to 2 times the amount of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    5. SERVE: Combine all ingredients except the dressing in a serving bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the dressing 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and toss the salad and repeat until you are satisfied with amount of dressing.
     
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    *If you really love cilantro, note that the stems have more flavor than the leaves.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Dirty Dozen & The Clean Fifteen

    We are encouraged to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily for health and nutrition; but the items we buy are often heavily coated with pesticides residue. A quick rinse them doesn’t remove all of them; a sustained rinse under cold water with a light scrub from a vegetable brush is better. We use this special antimicrobial sponge; it’s easier to use than a conventional vegetable brush.

    One reason to buy organic produce is to avoid these potentially harmful chemicals—especially for children and people with compromised health. Animal studies indicate toxicity that disrupts the normal functioning of the nervous and endocrine system, and increases risks of cancer.

    Each year the Environmental Working Group releases a list of produce with the most pesticides—The Dirty Dozen—and the least pesticides—The Clean 15. Here’s the Executive Summary of the most recent report.

    Pesticide residue testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration are analyzed, and result in rankings for the most popular fresh produce items. Blueberries and snap peas showed sharply different results for domestic-grown and imported. Here’s the list of the 50 most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables.
     

    THE DIRTY DOZEN

    These are the results of the 2015 ranking of the produce with the greatest amount of pesticide residue. The list actually shows 15, not 12: The last three items were next in line and have been added to the list because of their popularity. Foods are listed in order of pesticide amount.

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
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    Apple Varieties

    Celery Stalks With Leaves

    Top: An apple a day…is covered with residual pesticide. Photo courtesy US Apples. Bottom: Celery has more pesticide residue than any other vegetable. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Snap Peas (Imported)
  • Potatoes
  • + Hot Peppers
  • + Kale
  • + Collard Greens
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    Hass Avocado

    Green Cabbage

    Avocado is the fruit with the least pesticide; cabbage is the most residual-free vegetable. (Photos: Avocado Board and Good Eggs).

     

    THE CLEAN FIFTEEN

    These fruits and vegetables are listed in order of least residue.

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes
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    DOWNLOAD A POCKET COPY OF THE GUIDE AT EWG.com.
     
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    *A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the U.S. is produced from genetically engineered seedstock. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid GE produce.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Creamed Spinach Without The Cream

    March 26th is National Spinach Day, honoring the most iron-rich vegetable, the reason Popeye was strong to the finish. Many people name Creamed Spinach as their favorite way to enjoy the vegetable—along with a juicy steak. It’s a steakhouse staple.

    To help tone down the richness a bit, some steakhouses are making their Creamed Spinach without cream. Chicken stock, flour and butter are substituted for the heavy cream or cream cheese.

    Executive Chef Eddie Advilyi from Angus Club Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan is one of the steakhouse chefs turning out Creamless Creamed Spinach (we’ve also had the dish at Benjamin Steakhouse). Chef Eddie shares his recipe with us:

    RECIPE: CREAMLESS CREAMED SPINACH

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound chopped spinach
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base*
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (substitute black pepper)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup of melted butter
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    *Chicken base is a highly concentrated stock available in powder or cube form.

     
    Preparation

    1. BOIL or steam the chopped spinach and drain well.

    2. ADD the other ingredients. Mix until it becomes creamy, about 5 minutes.
     
     
    MORE WAYS TO ENJOY SPINACH

  • Pxali, Georgian spinach dip with walnuts
  • Savory Spinach Bread Pudding
  • Spanakoita, Greek spinach pie
  • Spinach & Artichoke Dip
  • Spinach & Grapefruit Salad
  • 13 Ways To Use Spinach Dip
  • Warm Spinach Mascarpone Dip
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    Creamless Creamed Spinach

    Ribeye, Creamed Spinach

    Fresh Spinach

    Top: Creamless Creamed Spinach at Benjamin Steakhouse. Center: Ribeye steak with Creamless Creamed Spinach at Angus Club Steakhouse. Bottom: Fresh spinach from Good Eggs.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SPINACH

    Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), is native to central and western Asia (think ancient Persia). It is a member of the botanical family Amaranthaceae, which also includes amaranth, beet, chard, lamb’s quarters (mache) and quinoa, plus numerous flowering house and garden plants.

    At some point, spinach was introduced to India and subsequently to Nepal. It arrived in China around 647 C.E., where it was known as “Persian vegetable.”

    It became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean, and in 827 was brought to Italy by the Saracens. It arrived in Spain by the latter part of the 12th century, and in Germany by the 13th century.

    Spinach first appeared in England and France in the 14th century and quickly became popular because it could be harvested in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce.

    Spinach was supposedly the favorite vegetable of Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589), wife of King Henry II of France. Dishes served on a bed of spinach are known as “Florentine” after her birthplace, Florence. Florentine dishes are sometimes served with Mornay sauce, a béchamel sauce with cheese (usually Gruyère and Parmesan).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Perfect Baked Potato

    We really miss our mother’s baked potatoes. Mom was a potato fan and made a simple preparation every night, rotating among baked, boiled with parsley butter, French fried and mashed (for Sunday brunch, hash browns; for special occasions, potato pancakes).

    Among this group, what we no longer come across—or make at home—is her baked potato with a super-crisp skin. We liked the outside as much as the inside. But in the interest of time, we’ve been baking our potatoes in the microwave. They’re O.K., but not memorable. In fact, they steam rather than bake, impacting the texture. This also happens when you wrap a potato in foil before baking.

    So yesterday we turned on the oven and made baked potatoes with Mom’s favorite toppings: butter and sour cream topped with fresh-ground black pepper and minced fresh chives.

     
    RECIPE: BAKED POTATO WITH A CRISP SKIN

    Ingredients

  • Russet potatoes (Idaho baking potatoes)
  • Olive oil or other vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Toppings (see below)
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    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Rinse the potatoes under running water and pat dry. Pierce each potato 5 times with the tines of a fork.

    2. RUB the potatoes with oil, sprinkle with salt and a bit of pepper, and place on a baking sheet/in a baking pan;

    3. BAKE for 45 minutes and test for doneness: a cake tester should go in without resistance. If you want even crisper skin, raise the oven to 400°F for the last 15 minutes,

    4. REMOVE from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting a vent across the top.

    5. SERVE with a variety of toppings.
     
    BAKED POTATO TOPPINGS

    One of our favorite party foods is a baked potato bar with lots of different toppings:

     

    Baked Potato & Toppings

    Baked Potato Toppings

    Top: Fresh from the oven and waiting to be topped. Bottom: Different baked potato toppings. Can you choose just one? Photos courtesy Idaho Potato Commission.

  • Butter, plain Greek yogurt, sour cream
  • Chili, guacamole
  • Diced broccoli florets, caramelized onions, corn kernels, sautéed mushrooms, sliced jalapeños, sliced olives, sliced scallions
  • Crumbled bacon, crumbled cheese (blue, feta, goat), grated Jack or Cheddar cheese
  • Herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley), hot pepper sauce, salsa, stewed tomatoes
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    Or, try these recipes:

  • Bruschetta Baked Potato: 2 medium tomatoes diced, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, 2 cloves (1 teaspoon) of minced garlic and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Toss together in a bowl and spoon on top of potatoes. Optional: Add chopped chicken to Bruschetta topping.
  • Classic Baked Potato: 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese, 2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon fresh chives chopped. Mix all ingredients except 1 tablespoon of chives in a bowl and spoon on top of potatoes. Garnish with remaining chives.
  • Lemon Herb Yogurt Baked Potato: 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, juice of 1/2 lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Mix together in a bowl and spoon on top of potatoes. Garnish with dill sprigs.
  • Mediterranean Baked Potato: 1 container (6 ounces) feta cheese, 1 can (2.25 ounces) sliced drained olives, 1 medium tomato diced (optional), salt and pepper to taste. Toss together in a bowl and spoon on top of potatoes.
  • Pico de Gallo Baked Potato: 1/2 cup pre-made pico de gallo or mix 1 medium tomato diced, 1 small onion finely chopped, 1 green onion chopped, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and spoon on top of potatoes. Garnish with extra cilantro.
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    MORE BASKED POTATO IDEAS

  • Beets & Feta Cheese Baked Potatoes
  • Chicken Pot Pie Baked Potatoes
  • Leftovers-Stuffed Baked Potatoes
  • Zig Zag Baked Potatoes
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    CHECK OUT THE HISTORY OF POTATOES & THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF POTATOES

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Burrata Salad For Spring

    Admission: We are addicted to burrata, a filled ball of mozzarella. When we discovered it 20 years ago, it was only carried by a few U.S. cheese shops, in cities with direct flights from Italy, its place of origin.

    Today, America’s cheese makers are turning out their own burrata: just as creamy, milky and delicious as the imports. You don’t have to hunt for it, either: It’s at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Markets!

    Cheesemakers from coast to coast are delivering their burrata to stores and restaurants. Burrata is made by (among others) Belfiore, DiStefano and Gioia in California; Maplebrook Farm in Vermont; Lioni Latticini in Brooklyn; and the retailer DiBruno Bros. in Philadelphia. In the middle of the country is Belgioioso Cheese of Wisconsin, possibly the largest domestic producer of burrata.

    It is also made by restaurant chefs. One has provided a recipe is below).

    One of the more popular ways to enjoy burrata is in the center of a green salad, with crusty garlic toast. We can eat the whole burrata on salad for lunch.

    RECIPE: SPRING BURRATA SALAD

    This Burrata Salad from Good Eggs in San Francisco is oh-so-delicious. It takes just 5 minutes active time, 10 minutes total time.

    Ingredients For 1-2 Servings

  • 8 ounces burrata cheese
  • 1 cup of basil, chives, parsley or a mixture
  • 3 cups of baby greens
  • 1 watermelon radish, peeled and sliced thinly into half-moons
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 slices of sourdough bread
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
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    Burrata Salad  Recipe

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/burrata spring salad goodeggs 230r

    Top: A popular Italian burrata salad with frisée, radicchio and prosciutto, at David Burke Fromagerie. Bottom: Spring salad at Good Eggs.

     
    Preparation

    1. DRAIN the burrata in a colander lined with a paper towel—you don’t want to pierce the skin of the burrata, but you do want any extra whey (the watery stuff) to drain off. While it drains…

    2. TOAST the sourdough bread until golden brown. Rub the finished toasts with a halved garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil.

    3. FILL a bowl with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt and the lemon juice. Add the herbs, radish and greens and toss with the dressing.

    4. SLICE or tear the burrata into large chunks over the top of the greens. Serve with the garlic toast and a peppermill for freshly-ground black pepper.
     
    Springtime Variations

    Add or substitute other spring:

  • Asparagus
  • Cardoons, fiddlehead ferns, nettles
  • Chives, garlic scapes, ramps
  • Fennel, radicchio
  • Morel mushrooms
  • Pea greens, peas, pea pods, snow peas
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    We love the combined flavors of tomato and burrata. When vine-ripened tomatoes aren’t in season, use cherry or grape tomatoes, sundries tomatoes or roasted red pepper (pimento).

    Lovers of Caprese Salad can add some fresh basil.

     

    Burrata Salad

    Burrata Dessert

    Top: from Chalk Point Kitchen in New York City. Bottom: Peaches with burrata, honey and pistachio nuts from Eat Wisconsin Cheese. Here’s the recipe.

     

    BURRATA FOR DESSERT

    You can also serve burrata for the cheese course or for dessert. Add spring fruits: blackberries, black mission figs, lychees and strawberries.

    Drizzle with honey and garnish with pistachios or other favorite nut(s). It’s so elegant, yet so easy to prepare.

    May we suggest including a glass of dessert wine? They often have peachy, honey notes that are a perfect pairing.
     
    WHAT IS BURRATA?

    Burrata is a “filled” mozzarella, a specialty of the Apulia region of Italy, the “heel of the boot.” The word means “buttery” in Italian.

    A hollow ball of buffalo mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala) is filled with panna, cream that contains scraps of mozzarella left over from mozzarella-making. It seems like very fine-grained ricotta.

    Cut into the ball and the cream oozes out. While both buttery and creamy it is not overly rich; just overly delicious.

    Burata imported from Italy it’s traditionally wrapped in a green leaf, the fronds of an Italian plant called asphodel, in the lily family.

    The leaves are an indicator of freshness: As long as the leaves are still fresh and green, the cheese within is still fresh. Dried-out leaves mean a cheese is past its prime.

    Because it travels, the cheese also wrapped in a clear plastic bag to catch the natural liquid that drains from it.

    Here’s more about burrata cheese and the history of burrata.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE BURRATA

    If you can find mozzarella curd, you can make your own. This recipe is from Chef Todd Andrews of restaurant Anella.
     
    Ingredients For An 8-Ounce Ball

  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella curd
  • 1 cup cream
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    Preparation

    A picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s one of several burrata videos on YouTube.

    1, CUT the mozzarella curd in half, setting one half aside. Grate the other half with a cheese grater into a bowl and mix well with the cream until smooth, creamy and completely incorporated. Season to taste with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Place the filling in the fridge until ready to use.

    2. HEAT a pot of water to a boil. When the water boils, turn the heat off and wait five minutes. When water is just cool enough to be able to touch with your bare hands, drop the remaining half of mozzarella curd into the water. Remove with tongs after about five minutes, and press flat against one hand with the other hand.

    3. TAKE the mozzarella in both hands and stretch it across one hand until even. With an ice cream scoop, scoop a heaping amount of the filling into the center of the cheese. Stretch the cheese around the filling, pulling it toward the center of the filling until completely stuffed. It’s ready to serve!

    4. SERVE with extra virgin olive oil and fresh pepper.

      

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