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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Vegetables/Salads/Herbs

PRODUCT: Spigariello, Italian Leaf Broccoli

leaf-broccoli-spigariello-goodeggsLA-230r

Spigariello, Italian leaf broccoli. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | Los Angeles.

 

If you love broccoli and broccoli rabe (rapini), look for spigariello (variously spelled spigarello).

Related to both plants, spigariello is an Italian leaf broccoli that tastes like a cross between broccoli and kale. It’s popular in southern Italy, especially Puglia, where it’s called cima* di rape spigarello or cavolo [cabbage*] broccolo spigariello.

Spigariello is practically unknown in the U.S., but we discovered some grown in Southern California by Jimenez Family Farm in the Santa Ynez Valley, and sold at Good Eggs Los Angeles (and no doubt, at some farmers markets in the area). Internet research revealed a few other growers around the country.

Spigariello is very versatile, raw or cooked, alone or blended with other vegetables, substituted (or cooked along with) collards, kale and mustard greens, their botanical cousins. The leaf broccoli is sweeter yet more peppery than broccoli rabe (rapini), not bitter—a bit like broccoli sprouts.

The stems are tender and delicious, and the flowers are also edible. Use them as a garnish with pasta, fish, salads or anywhere you’d like some small white blossoms.

 
Use spigariello/leaf broccoli:

  • Boiled, sautéed, steamed or stir-fried
  • In salads
  • In smoothies
  • On pizza
  • On sandwiches, instead of lettuce
  •  
    NUTRITION

    Like all of the Brassicaceae, spigariello is very nutritious and full of anticarcinogens. Spigariello is a good source of amino acids, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and selenium. It’s a very good source of vitamins: A, B6, B complex, C, folate and riboflavin.

    The Brassicaceae family of vegetables includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini (broccoli rabe), rutabaga, tatsoi and turnips. Eat up!
     
    GROW YOUR OWN

    It’s easy to grow leaf broccoli. It’s an attractive, high-yield plant that’s grown like broccoli rabe. The leaves are large, like collards, and deep blue-green in color.

    And it keeps on giving: You harvest the leaves as you need them, and the plant generates more leaves into the autumn.

    Seeds for growing the plant, Spigariello liscia, are available from JohnnySeeds.com.

     
    *Cima is the Italy word for broccoli rabe; however, spigariello is a true broccoli, not a cima (rape). It is harvested young, before the stems turn to stalks. Nor is spigariello cavolo, cabbage, although cabbage is a family member of broccoli.

     
      

    Comments

    Spring Salad: Asparagus & Radishes

    Most of us are familiar with the crimson radish, and maybe even black radish and white radish (the shredded daikon served with sashimi).

    If you’re lucky, you’ve enjoyed the beauty of candy stripe radish (chioggia) and watermelon radish.

    But if you’re a radish lover, take a look at these heirloom radishes. We’d never seen the Chinese Green Luobo Radish (Qingluobo), with lime-green skin and flesh; and the purple-skinned Malaga Radish that looks like a beet.

    Some radishes are small globes, others have pointy tips, still others are the shape of carrots or turnips.

    The amazing Rat’s Tail Radish from Thailand doesn’t look like a radish at all. It’s a very long, slender green pod with radish “seeds” inside, and was grown in U.S. gardens in the 1860s. The Zlata Radish from Czechoslovakia is the color of gold beets.

    Radishes, botanically known as Raphanus sativus, are actually cabbage relatives that originated in Asia. They are a member of the Brassicaceae family of vegetables that is famed for its anti-carcinogenic properties.

    There are small varieties for salads and radishes the size of potatoes that in pre-refrigeration times could be stored through the winter.

       

    radish-portrait-thechefsgarden-230

    Less familiar radish varieties. Photo courtesy SweetGreen.

     
    Growing radishes is easy. You can plant salad radishes in spring through fall in most locations. Repeated plantings ensure you’ll have fresh radishes until the frost.

    Whether you buy them or grow them, celebrate spring with this refreshing radish and asparagus salad. It’s from Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, New York, which uses its micro arugula in the recipe.

     
    RECIPE: SPRING RADISH SALAD WITH ASPARAGUS & BLOOD ORANGE VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients For 3 Servings

  • 1 bunch specialty radishes (or substitute)
  • 2 blood oranges*
  • ½ cup pistachios
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 12 asparagus spears
  • 1 cup micro arugula‡
  •  
    For The Blood Orange Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons blood orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon champagne vinegar†
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 9 tablespoons olive oil
  •  
    *If you can’t find blood oranges, see if the fresh juice section of the store has blood orange juice. Or, substitute orange or tangerine juice.

    †Substitute white wine vinegar.

    ‡Substitute other microgreens or sprouts.

     

    radish-beauty-sweetgreen-230

    The familiar radish. Photo courtesy SweetGreen.

     

    Preparation

    1. PEEL the asparagus and blanch in salted boiling water then shock in ice water, drain and reserve.

    2. PREPARE the Blood Orange Vinaigrette. Whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, minced shallot, salt and pepper. Add the olive oil while continuing to whisk. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

    3. TOSS a bit of the vinaigrette with the asparagus.

    4. WASH and trim the tops of the radishes so that some of the green is left. Cut each radish into four wedges and reserve. Peel the oranges, being careful to remove all of the pith, then separate the segments. Set aside and keep the orange remnants to use for the vinaigrette.

    5. TOAST the pistachios in a dry skillet over medium heat. Remove and set aside to cool.

     

    6. PLACE the radishes, oranges and pistachio in a salad bowl, then add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss together and adjust the seasoning to taste.

    7. PLATE: Place four asparagus on each plate. Spoon the radish mixture on top. Garnish with some micro arugula and drizzle with vinaigrette.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Use More Fresh Herbs

    asian-basil-siam-queen_bonnieplants-230-L

    Asian cooks add basil to summer rolls. Add
    them to your own wraps and sandwiches.
    Photo courtesy Bonnie Plants.

     

    The first week in May is National Herb Week, a time to focus on using more fresh herbs in your cooking.

    Fresh herbs offer tons of flavor and good nutrition with virtually no calories. The flavor they provide lets you cut back on salt. They can be used in any savory dish (and some sweet ones).

    So, why not use more fresh herbs?

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HERBS & SPICES

    The two terms are often used interchangeably, but there are important differences.

  • Herbs are the leaves of a plant (although stems may also be used). They grow in any climate warm enough to grow vegetables.
  • Spices are from the seeds, roots, fruit or bark, and typically used in dried form. Most originate in tropical or semi-tropical regions.
  •  
    It’s possible for one plant to contain both herb and spice. For example:

  • The coriander plant’s leaves are the herb cilantro, while coriander seeds are a spice in their own right.
  • Dill weed, an herb, and dill seed, a spice, come from the same plant.
  •  

    TIPS FOR COOKING WITH FRESH HERBS

  • Remove any twiggy, wiry or woody parts of the herb. Unless the recipe specifies otherwise, you can chop up soft stems. At any rate, don’t throw them away: They add deliciousness to soups and stews.
  • Avoid over-chopping herbs into teeny pieces. The diameter should measure between 1/8 and 1/4 inches.
  • Strip the leaves off of rosemary branches, but don’t throw the branches away. Freeze them for when you need a skewers. Cut the bottom at an angle to better skewer the food.
  • Plant some basic herbs; they grow well indoors and outdoors. For starters, plant basil, parsley, spearmint and English thyme. Avoid pre-planted pots that contain an assortment of herbs; their need for water varies.
  • Use flat-leaf (Italian) parsley for cooked dishes: It’s more strongly flavored than curly leaf parsley.
  • Add delicate herbs (basil, dill) to a hot recipe towards the end of cooking.
  •  
    Converting Dry Measures For Fresh Herbs

    In recipes, if dried herbs are specified, a larger quantity of fresh herbs is required. Here’s are the equivalents:

  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried herbs
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground dried herbs
  • 1 tablespoon finely cut fresh herbs
  •  

    EVERYDAY USES FOR FRESH HERBS

  • Breakfast: A must in omelets, frittatas and baked egg dishes.
  • Lunch: Add punch to grain salads, green salads and protein salads (egg, chicken, tuna, etc.). Place a few basil leaves in a sandwich or wrap. Garnish soups with fresh-snipped herbs.
  • Dinner: Add herbs to everything you cook! Just a few: Toss cooked pasta, rice and other grains with flat-leaf parsley. Add dill to roasted vegetables. Snip chives onto baked potatoes and vinaigrettes.
  • All Meals: Sprinkle or snip herbs as garnishes for just about everything. If your herbs blossom, use the blossoms as well.
  •  
    POPULAR HERB & FOOD PAIRINGS

  • Basil: pasta sauce, peas, pesto, tomatoes, zucchini
  • Chives: dips, potatoes, tomatoes
  • Cilantro: salsa, tomatoes, plus many Asian, Caribbean and Mexican dishes
  • Dill: carrots, cottage cheese, fish, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes
  • Mint: carrots, desserts, fruit salad, parsley, peas, tabouli, tea
  • Oregano: peppers, tomatoes
  •  

    chive-blossoms-moreguefile-230

    When herbs blossom, like these chive blossoms, don’t cut and toss them. They’re beautiful plate garnishes. Photo courtesy Morguefile.

  • Parsley: egg salad and other protein salads, potato salad and other vegetable salads, tabouli, sandwiches
  • Rosemary: chicken, fish, lamb, pork, roasted potatoes, soups, stews, tomatoes
  • Thyme: eggs, lima and other beans, potatoes, poultry, summer squash, tomatoes
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Green, Purple & Red Salad

    There’s no lettuce in this salad, but plenty of color!

    It was created by Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian churrascaria (steakhouse) with locations in the U.S. and Brazil.

    The chefs have combined three bright colors tossed in a light vinaigrette. It’s easy to do the same at home.

  • For the green: sugar snap peas (whole pods) and shelled English peas (a.k.a. green peas, garden peas).
  • For the putplr: shredded red cabbage; you can also red onion to taste.
  • For the red: halved cherry tomatoes; you can substitute or add red bell peppers.
  •  
    You can add additional seasonings as you wish—anything from fresh herbs to toasted sesame seeds.

     

    sugar-snap-pea-green-pea-salad-fogo-de-chao-230

    Put spring colors in your salad bowl. Photo courtesy Fogo de Chão.

     

    Serve it as a side with your favorite main. It will set off conventional proteins—typically shades of beige and brown—nicely.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Sorrel

    fresh-sorrel-goodeggsSF-230

    Green goddess: fresh-picked sorrel. Photo
    courtesy Good Eggs | SF.

     

    If you hadn’t read the headline or the caption, would you have been able to identify the leafy green in the photo?

    Growing wild in grassland habitats, sorrel has long been cultivated as a garden herb and leafy green vegetable. It’s a member of the Polygonaceae family of flowering plants, which include foods such as buckwheat and rhubarb.

    In older times, sorrel was also used as medicine. The leaves contain oxalic acid, which provides both the tart flavor and medicinal properties (respiratory tract and bacterial infections, diuretic).

    Sorrel used to be consumed widely as both herb and vegetable, but has fallen out of style. Some recipes still use it in a sauce for lamb, sweetbreads or veal. Occasionally a chef will offer sorrel soup.

    But it’s time to revisit sorrel at home. Both the stems and leaves can be eaten, raw or cooked.

     

    Depending on your farmer’s market or produce store, you can find:

  • Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa), with large, arrow-shaped leaves (see photo above).
  • French sorrel (Rumex scutatus), milder than common sorrel, with smaller and more rounded leaves.
  • Red-veined sorrel (Rumex sanguineus), the handsomest and the mildest of the three. It has subtle notes of lemon, and should be saved for salads and plate garnishes, to show off its beauty.
  •  
    Or, you can plant sorrel in your garden: It’s a perennial that will bloom for years. It grows well in containers, too.
     
    WAYS TO USE SORREL

    Since it can be used as a herb or a vegetable, you’ve got a lot of flexibility when cooking with sorrel.

    In addition to classic uses, think of it especially with dairy, duck, goose and pork, where its acidity counters the fattiness. For the same reason, it goes well with stronger fish. Try sorrel in a side, a sauce or a plate garnish.

    Sorrel recipes from Mariquita Farms, a grower of sorrel, include:

  • Apple Sorbet With Sorrel
  • Beet Salad with Sorrel with Pistachio Dressing
  • Carrot-Sorrel Juice
  • Fish Fillets With Chard, Spinach & Sorrel
  • Leek and Sorrel Pancakes with Smoked Salmon
  •  

  • Penne with Mushrooms and Fresh Sorrel
  • Sorrel and Goat Cheese Quiche
  • Sorrel Omelet
  • Sorrel Pesto
  • Sorrel Risotto
  • Sorrel Soup
  • Split Pea Soup with Sorrel
  •  
    Also use sorrel in your own recipes for:

  • Casseroles
  • Dairy (cream, sour cream, yogurt)
  • Egg Dishes (omelets, quiche)
  • Fish (especially with oily or smoked varieties like bluefish,
    mackerel or smoked salmon)
  • Green Salads
  • Green Vegetable (alone or with other cooked greens like
    chard, kale and spinach)
  •  

    sorrel-field-marquitafarm-230

    A field of sorrel. Photo courtesy Mariquita Farms.

  • Legumes (like lentils)
  • Marinades and Salad Dressings
  • Puréed As A Sauce With Duck, Goose Or Pork
  • Puréed Into Mashed Potatoes (or other potato dishes)
  • Salads
  • Sautéed In Butter
  • Sandwiches (instead of lettuce)
  • Stir Fries
  • Whole Grains
  •  
    If we’ve overlooked your favorite use for sorrel, please let us know!

      

    Comments

    PRODUCE: Spring Fruits & Vegetables

    Here’s what’s in season for Spring. Not everything may be available in your area, but what is there should be domestic—not imported from overseas.

    Some of the items are harvested for only a few weeks; others are around for a while.

    So peruse the list, note what you don’t want to miss out on, and add to your shopping list.

    The list was created by Produce for Better Health Foundation. Take a look at their website, FruitsAndVeggiesMoreMatters.org for tips on better meal planning with fresh produce.

    SPRING FRUITS

  • Apricots
  • Barbados Cherries
  • Blackberries
  • Black Mission Figs
  • Cherimoya
  • Honeydew
  • Jackfruit
  • Limes
  • Lychee
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries
  •    

    open-jackfruit-showing-bulbs-wisegeek-230b

    It’s jackfruit, and it’s in season. Your most likely to find it at Asian markets. Here’s more about it from WiseGeek.org.

     

    SPRING VEGETABLES

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus: Green, Purple, White
  • Belgian Endive
  • Bitter Melon
  • Broccoli
  • Boston/Butterhead Lettuce
  •  

    manoa-lettuce-sunset.com-230

    Butterhead or Boston type has a loose head with green, smooth outer leaves and yellow inner leaves. Popular varieties include Bibb (Limestone), Buttercrunch, Mignonette (Manoa) and Tom Thumb. Here’s more about them from Sunset.com.

     
  • Cactus
  • Cardoons
  • Chayote Squash
  • Chives
  • Cipolloni Onions
  • Collard Greens
  • Corn
  • Fava Beans
  • Fennel
  • Fiddlehead Ferns
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Green Beans
  • Morel Mushrooms
  • Mustard Greens
  • Nettles
  • Okra
  • Pea Greens
  • Pea Pods
  • Peas
  • Radicchio
  • Ramps
  • Red Leaf Lettuce
  • Rhubarb
  • Snow Peas
  • Sorrel
  • Spinach
  • Spring Baby Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Vidalia Onions & Other Sweet Onions
  • Watercress
  •  
    Here’s more on spring fruits and vegetables. Get inspiration for meals and enjoy what’s best and freshest!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Salad With Prosciutto

    If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to roll out spring recipes.

    Scafata is a dish from the Umbria region of Italy, typically made with spring vegetables such as artichokes, escarole, fava beans, green peas and Swiss chard, and flavored with basil, mint and often, guanciale (bacon made from the jowl of the pig).

    We’ve adapted a recipe from ParmaCrown.com into a spring vegetable salad with prosciutto (Parma ham). In our version, you can:

  • Serve the vegetables raw, cooked (to al dente) or blanched.
  • Customize it with your favorite spring veggies, for example fava beans.
  • Substitute the chard and escarole with kale or romaine.
  • Top it with a poached egg, for a lunch entrée.
  •  
    RECIPE: SPRING SALAD WITH PROSCIUTTO

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

    For The Cooked Version

  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  •    

    parma-style-scarfatta-parmacrown-230

    Make this spring salad, raw or cooked. Photo
    courtesy ParmaCrown.com.

     

    For The Raw Version

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup vinegar (or divide between vinegar and fresh lemon juice)
  •  
    Vegetables For Both Versions

  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1-1/2 cups (about 4 ounces) snow peas
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 8 canned artichokes†, drained and halved
  • 4 ounces (about 3/4 cup) asparagus spears cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup green onion cut into 1/2-inch pieces (do not include in cooked version)
  • Optional: 1 cup Swiss chard or escarole, torn into bite-size pieces
  •  
    Toppings

  • 8 slices prosciutto di Parma
  • Optional: 4 poached eggs
  • Optional garnish: chopped or chiffonade of fresh basil and/or mint
  •  
    *If serving the salad raw or blanched, substitute 1/2 cup green onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, for the cooked onion.

    †The artichokes should be plain, not marinated.

     

    P6

    Prosciutto in the making: hams hanging to cure in the air. Photo courtesy ParmaHam.com.

     

    Preparation

    For The Cooked Salad

    1a. COMBINE the wine, oil and onion in large skillet; cover and bring to boil over medium- high heat. Add the zucchini, snow peas, peas, artichokes, asparagus, salt and pepper. Reduce heat, simmer partly covered about 5 minutes, stirring frequently until vegetables are al dente (or, if you prefer, tender).

    For The Raw Salad

    1b. MAKE a the vinaigrette: Whisk the oil and vinegar with salt and pepper to taste. A pinch of dry mustard helps keep the emulsion from separating. Toss the vegetables in vinaigrette just to moisten. Place the remaining vinaigrette in a small pitcher for those who would like more.

    For Either Salad

    2. POACH the eggs. Divide the vegetables among four plates. Top each with two slices of prosciutto di Parma and an egg. Garnish with chopped fresh mint, if desired.

     
    PROSCIUTTO & SERRANO HAMS: THE DIFFERENCES

    Both prosciutto and Serrano hams are dry-cured: salted and hung in sheds to cure in the air. Both are served in very thin slices. Country ham, preferred in the U.S., is smoked, and a very different stye from dry-cured hams.

    While prosciutto and Serrano hams can be used interchangeably, they are different.

  • Prosciutto, from Italy, is cured for 10-12 months with a coating of lard. Serrano, from Spain, can be cured for up to 18 months (and at the high end, for 24 months). The differing times and microclimates affect the amount of wind that dries the hams, and thus the character of the final products.
  • They are made from different breeds of pigs: Prosciutto can be made from pig or wild boar, whereas Serrano is typically made from a breed of white pig.
  • The diet of the pigs differs. Parma pigs eat the local chestnuts, and are also fed the whey by-product of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • Italian-made prosciutto is never made with nitrates. American made prosciutto, as well as both domestic and Spanish Serrano-style hams, can have added nitrates.

  • Prosciutto is considered more salty and fatty. Serrano is considered more flavorful and less fatty.
  •  
    MORE

  • Find more Parma ham recipes at ParmaCrown.com.
  • Bitter greens salad with prosciutto recipe.
  • The different types of ham.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Stinging Nettles

    stinging-nettles-goodeggsSF-230r

    Wild nettles. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San
    Francisco.

     

    If you like to scour farmers markets looking for rare seasonal delicacies, keep an eye out for stinging nettles, Urtica dioica.

    Now there’s a name that can get the juices flowing—or not. Some varieties have no sting or burn*; those that do can be neutralized by soaking in water, blanching or cooking.

    Nettles are slightly bitter green herbs that taste a bit like spinach with a cucumber accent. Not all of the varieties are prickly (stinging). Those that are get picked with gloves, and soaking or cooking eliminates the sting.

    Other names are common nettles and wild nettles.

    An herbaceous perennial flowering plant native to Asia, Europe, northern Africa and North America, nettles sprout up very briefly in early spring and late fall, growing like weeds at the edges of cultivated farmland.

    HOW 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 soft, salty flavor.

     
    Creameries in Europe and the U.S. use them to flavor their cheeses.

  • Valley Shepherd Creamery in New Jersey adds stinging nettles (boiled so they don’t sting you!) to a sheep-and-cows’ milk cheese called Nettlesome. (See photo below).
  • Holland’s Family Cheese in Wisconsin makes 13 different flavors† of Goudas, including Burning Nettle. (“Burning” is marketing; the nettles are soaked first to remove the burn.)
  •  
    They and other American creameries learned the trick from European cheesemakers. Nettles have long been added to Gouda by the Dutch. We’ve delighted in Beemster Gouda’s nettle flavor; although from a quick look at their website, it appears that they’ve pared back their flavored Goudas to garlic, mustard, red pepper and wasabi.

     
    *In the stinging varieties, hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on the leaves and stems inject three chemicals hen touched by humans and other animals: histamine which irritates the skin, acetylcholine which causes a burning feeling and serotonin. They produce a rash that can be treated with an anti-itch cream, aloe vera or baking soda. But the plant doesn’t do a good job of keeping us away: It has a long history of use as a medicine and food source. Further, you need to eat them before they begin to flower, which produces other compounds that cause stomach irritation. Dangerous food, indeed! If you’ve purchased a sweater that lists ramie on the contents label, it’s a fiber made from plants in the same family (Urticaceae) as nettles!

    †The others include black pepper, cumin, burning nettle, burning mélange, foenegreek, garden herb, Italian herb, mélange, mustard yellow, onion/garlic, smoked and just plain Gouda

     

    You can find many nettle recipes online. If you purchase a stinging variety, soaking them in water or cooking them eliminates the stinging chemicals from the plant. Then:

  • Have it for breakfast, in omelets or scrambled eggs.
  • Add to soup stocks or stews, they contribute a rich earthy/briny flavor.
  • Steam and add to enchiladas.
  • Make nettle pesto or risotto; add to lasagna; top a pizza.
  • Purée it for a sauce for chicken, fish and seafood.
  • Make soup: nettle potato, nettle garlic, nettle sorrel and many other variations, including nettle by itself.
  • Combine with spinach and/or mushrooms as a side, in a goat cheese tart, spanakopita, quiche, etc.
  •  
    DANGEROUS FOOD TRIVIA

    While your family and friends may raise an eyebrow when you serve them stinging nettles, nettles don’t even make the list of the top 10 dangerous foods that people actually eat.

    Here they are. Fugu (blowfish) is on the list, but some of the others will surprise you.

     

    nettlesome_cheese-valleyshepherdcreamery-230r

    Nettlesome, a cheese made with nettles. You can buy it online. Photo courtesy Valley Shepherd Creamery.

     

      

    Comments

    COCKTAIL: Tax Thyme Gin & Tonic

    gin-tonic-lime-qtonic-230

    For tax time, add fresh thyme to a G&T. Photo courtesy Q Tonic.

     

    If your taxes are in, you deserve a drink today. And if you haven’t sent them in by day’s end, you may need two drinks!

    Here’s a variation of the gin and tonic with a sprig of thyme, for tax time. It’s the creation of Q Tonic, an elegant, all natural* tonic water created to complement fine spirits.

    RECIPE: GIN & TONIC WITH FRESH THYME

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 4 ounces tonic water
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme†
  • 1 lime wedge
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD the gin to a cocktail shaker. Add 3 sprigs of thyme and gently muddle. Add the ice and shake.

    2. STRAIN into an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with a line wedge and sprig of fresh thyme.

     

    *If you buy major brands, check the labels to see if they’re all natural or made with artificial quinine flavor.

    †Fresh thyme should be stored in the produce bin of the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. If you’re storing it for more than a day, put the damp towel with thyme in a plastic bag.

     
    WHAT TO DO WITH EXTRA FRESH THYME

    Don’t let fresh herbs dry out in the fridge; find something else to do with them. Thyme is a great partner many popular foods.

  • Beans: Thyme is the go-to herb for bean dishes, whether hot or in a bean salad.
  • Braises: Add it to anything braised (like pot roast), simmered or stewed. If cooking with multiple sprigs, tie them together with kitchen twine to make removal easier.
  • Breads: Add to corn bread or corn muffins, other savory muffins, sausage bread, etc.
  • Casseroles: Even if your recipe includes another herb, add an equal amount (or half as much) of fresh thyme.
  • Eggs: Add to omelets and scrambled eggs.
  • Freeze: Wash, dry thoroughly and seal in heavy-duty plastic bags. When ready to use, the frozen leaves come right off the stems, and the tiny leaves defrost almost immediately.
  •  

  • Fish: Poach fish, with lemon slices and sprigs of thyme on top of the fish, and additional thyme in the poaching liquid.
  • Pasta and risotto: Add chopped fresh thyme to the sauce or garnish for pasta; add to risotto towards the end of cooking with some lemon zest.
  • Pork: Add to sauces for grilled or roasted pork, or use in the marinade and/or as a garnish.
  • Potatoes: Add to roasted or scalloped potatoes. If you don’t have chives, add fresh thyme to baked potatoes as well.
  • Poultry: Add to the cavity of the bird before roasting, and/or tuck leaves under the skin. Add to the marinade of cut pieces.
  • Rub: Blend with mustard, salt and garlic to make a rub for roast lamb or pork.
  • Salads: Add to a vinaigrette‡ or sprinkle atop salad greens.
  • Soups and stocks: Season with fresh thyme (it’s great in bean or lentil soup).
  •  

    common-thyme-burpee-230

    It’s easy to grow fresh thyme indoors or as a patio plant. Get seeds from Burpee.com. Photo courtesy Burpee.

  • Spreads and dips: Mix in fresh thyme, to sour cream- or yogurt-based dips or hummus.
  • Stuffing: Mix in fresh or dried thyme.
  • Sweets: Try some in shortbread or other butter cookies.
  • Tomatoes: Add to tomato sauces and soups; sprinkle on grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, or atop the tomato on a burger.
  • Vegetables: Add to sauteed mushrooms; make a thyme vinaigrette‡ or a Dijon-yogurt sauce for steamed or grilled vegetables.
  •  

    Thyme, like all fresh and dried herbs, should be added toward the end of the cooking process since heat can easily cause a loss of its delicate flavor. This is less of an issue with quick-cooking dishes like scrambled eggs, as opposed to long-cooking beans and stews.

    There are some 60 different varieties of thyme. The variety typically found in U.S. markets is French thyme, also called common thyme, Thymus vulgaris. The upper leaf is green-grey in color on top, while the underside is a whitish color.

    Check farmers markets for lemon thyme, orange thyme and silver thyme, or grow your own.

    THYME TRIVIA

  • Native to Asia, the Mediterranean and southern Europe, thyme has been used since ancient times for its culinary, aromatic and medicinal properties.
  • The ancient Egyptians used it as an embalming agent to preserve deceased pharaohs.
  • In ancient Greece, thyme was burned as a temple incense for its fragrance.
  •  
     
    ‡Thyme vinaigrette recipe: Crush a large garlic clove and add to 5 ounces extra virgin olive oil. Allow flavors to blend for an hour or longer. In a separate bowl, combine 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon minced shallots,
    2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar. Remove the garlic cloves and gradually add olive oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fun With Asparagus

    It’s asparagus season: The bright green stalks are at their freshest, most flavorful and affordable. In addition to the familiar green, look for purple and white asparagus.

    In the April-June window of fresh American-grown asparagus, you can simply steam fresh stalks to al dente—so tasty they don’t even require butter or lemon mayonnaise.

    Low in calories, asparagus are a dieter’s delight. Plan how you’ll enjoy asparagus season in new and different ways.

    Sure, it’s delicious for

  • Breakfast: in an omelet, frittata, scrambled eggs, poached eggs or as a side with Eggs Benedict.
  • Lunch: added to a salad, a conventional sandwich or a wrap; make a salad with sliced beef or lamb; asparagus soup.
  • First Course: asparagus with red grapefruit; asparagus with bacon or pancetta*.
  • Dinner: An asparagus salad with your protein (here, Greek style with feta, kalamata olives, mint and red onion); grilled salmon with asparagus and pineapple salsa; scallops with asparagus and morels.
  •    

    asparagus-crudites-kaminsky-230

    You don’t even have to cook. Just lightly steam asparagus in the microwave for a minute or more. Photo © Hannah Kaminsky | BittersweetBlog.com.

  • Sides: grilled asparagus (recipe with mushrooms and shaved Parmesan), grilled rack of asparagus, sweet and spicy asparagus; stir-fried; pickled asparagus.
  • Or, make asparagus Pasta, pizza or risotto.
  •  
    *Cook the bacon, then use the drippings to moisten the asparagus. Top with cut or crumbled bacon, and sprinkle with optional grated Parmesan.

     

    crostini-asparagus-kaminsky-230

    Crostini, topped with hummus and sliced asparagus. Photo © Hannah Kaminsky | BittersweetBlog.com.

     

    ASPARAGUS FOR SNACKING OR HORS D’OEUVRE

  • Snack on plain, steamed asparagus for a delicious low-calorie snack. You can mix yogurt and Dijon mustard or use balsamic vinaigrette if you need a dip.
  • Include asparagus in a crudités platter (for uncooked asparagus, look for the thinnest ones; or blanch thicker ones).
  • Add asparagus to a snacking plate of hummus or other spreads and dips, charcuterie, cheese, gherkins and/or olives with crackers or breads.
  • Make asparagus crostini, with either hummus or grated cheese.
  •  

    HOW TO BUY ASPARAGUS

    Select bright green asparagus with closed, compact, firm tips and smooth, tender skin. Try to find even-size spears. Size is measured by diameter, and ranges from small (3/16 inch) to jumbo (7/8 inch).

    The tenderness of the asparagus relates to color, not size. The greener (or whiter for white asparagus) the spears, the more tender they’ll be.

     
    Fat spears are just as tender as thin ones; the only difference is that the ends of fatter asparagus are woodier at the cut end.

    With very thin asparagus, you can often eat the last millimeter. If you’re concerned that they won’t be tender, cut them off and try them once they’re steamed. Then, toss them into omelets, rice, salads, etc. If they’re too tough to enjoy, you can use them in a purée, sauce or soup.

    Of course, you should cut off the dried out cut end before cooking.
     
    HOW TO PREPARE ASPARAGUS FOR COOKING

  • If the tips of the asparagus are slightly wilted, freshen them by soaking them in cold water.
  • Keep fresh asparagus moist until you intend to use it—in the fridge, wrapped in a damp paper towel inside a plastic bag.
  • The bottom of asparagus stalks are tough and should be trimmed before cooking. Using a vegetable peeler, first lightly strip off the bottom few inches of skin. Next, gently bend the bottom of the stalk until it snaps off. Don’t force it—it will naturally break in the correct spot.

     
    THE HISTORY OF ASPARAGUS

    The asparagus plant is a member of the lily family, Asparagaceae, which also includes agave. There are more than 300 species of asparagus, most of which are grown as ornamental plants.

    Asparagus were first cultivated more than 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region.

    The ancient 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 when they reach about 9 inches in length.

    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. It is very low in calories, and contains no fat or cholesterol.

    Eat up!

      

  • Comments

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