Carrots with Green Coriander

The humble carrot – sweet, aromatic, and crunchy – is a kitchen workhorse.  In the past couple of years my fondness for carrots has grown because of the amazing flavor in the freshly harvested beauties from my Fully Belly Farm CSA box.

My simple recipe using carrots also uses another member of the carrot family – coriander.  This is the seed of the cilantro plant, and its pungent, green, citrus flavor is a natural compliment to carrot’s sweetness.  I like to grow Coriander (aka cilantro) all over my gardens. It’s usable at just about all stages of growth.   Enjoy!

Carrots with Coriander

one bunch carrots, scrubbed or peeled, and sliced
2 TB green coriander, crushed or 1 TB dried coriander, crushed
2 TB olive oil
salt
1 TB honey

Heat a frying pan over high heat until warmed, then add the olive oil and the carrots.  Saute the carrots until they are tender but not too soft.  Add the honey, coriander and salt to taste.  Serve hot or at room temp.

What is it? Olive Oil

Oh. Yes.  I love olive oil.  And I’m all fired up about it after reading “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.”  Again, this is a super basic food to spotlight, but a very important one in my kitchen.  Knowing a bit about cooking oils is a good idea.  We use different cooking oils for different things — for frying, on salads, in sauces, and as flavorings.  I probably have half a dozen or more types of oil in my pantry at any given time.  One that’s always in my kitchen is good quality olive oil.   A few facts:

1. Olive oil is one of two commonly available oils made from fruit.  (the other is avocado oil)  Nearly all other oils are made from seeds.

2. Extra-virgin olive oil should be used on the cool side.  Though it’s not going to hurt you or your food to cook with extra virgin olive oil, the real stuff can be costly, and is best savored unheated or added at the last minute to warm dishes to retain the delicious peppery, grassy flavors it provides.

3. Olive oil is an ancient product.  For centuries it has been used as lamp oil, in religious rites, to clean and moisturize skin, and – of course – as a delicious food.  Very old olive trees can still bear quality fruit – even past the venerable age of 1500 years.

4. Olive oils tasting bars abound here in Northern California, often in the same areas where good wine is produced.  If you’re not sure what great oil tastes like, go try some.

Good olive oil will be green and smell and taste fresh, peppery, and subtly fruity.  Some great oils are unfiltered and cloudy, but most are clear.  Here’s an extra virgin olive oil from California Olive Ranch I recently purchased and am enjoying:

Simple olive oil recipe:

Olive Oil Sundae:  Top a scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream with some extra virgin olive oil and perhaps a small sprinkle of salt (fleur de sel is a nice crunchy fancy salt to try).  This is a divine dessert, and will help you appreciate the greatness of extra virgin olive oil.

What is it? Kale.

Kale is a food whose time has come.  This ancient cabbage relative has been a food staple for centuries throughout Europe, Asia and Africa.   One of the most nutritionally dense foods in existence, kale (Brassica oleracea) has been the health food poster child for years here in America.  But I want you to get to know kale’s delicious culinary tradition.  Did you know that. . . .

1.  In Germany, tourists go on Grünkohlfahrt, a time to tour inns and eat huge quantities of kale.

2. Kale juice is popular in Japan.

3. You can give your kale a massage.  Really.  Massaging kale breaks down some of the cells, exposing the interior juices to oxygen.  This causes a cascade of reactions yielding sweeter, complex flavors.  look here

4. Kale tastes best after the kale plants in your garden have been through a light frost.

5. Flowering kale is a common fall or winter garden ornamental.  The pretty “flowers” aren’t flowers.  They are just vibrantly hued kale leaves.

I’ve posted a recipe for Kale Sausage Hash on this blog.

Here’s my super simple kale recipe for today.

Kale Chips

Kale – any variety

olive oil

salt

Wash and dry the kale.  If there are large stems, remove them.  Cut or tear the kale leaves into pieces about 2 inches on a side.  Toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and arrange in a layer on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes.  Stir the kale around then return to oven for another 10 minutes or so.  You want the kale chips to emerge crisp but not burned.  Allow to cool then enjoy as an appetizer.

What is it? Parsley.

This green, green herb has a long and important culinary history.  Often relegated to the role of garnish, parsley deserves some attention as a culinary mainstay.  It’s fresh, nutritious, and mildly savory.  Parsley (petroselinum hortense) is the best known member of its botanical family — the parsley family.  Other parsley family herbs include cilantro, caraway, carrot, dill, fennel, and celery.

Parsley is also grown as a root vegetable.  While all parsley types are biennial root-producers, Hamburg Root Parsley is a type of parsley that produces an especially fat root that looks like a chubby white carrot.  Parsley root is a great stew and soup vegetable with a mild parsley flavor.  Try it in chicken soup.

Use flat leaved, or Italian parsley for cooking.  The flavor is superior to that of curly parsley – which is still a beautiful and edible herb.

If you have a little garden space, consider growing parsley.  It is an easy to grow herb, but the seeds can take a while to germinate.  Easier still, buy parsley seedlings at your local nursery, set them out in your garden, give them a little water, and you’ll be enjoying this timeless herb all summer.

One simple recipe that stars parsley is Tabouleh.  This classic salad is very common in the middle east.  Made with summer ripe garden tomatoes, Tabouleh is delicious, refreshing, and super good for you.  There are hundreds of versions of this popular salad out there.  This is how I like mine.

Tabouleh

1 cup wheat bulgur
1 cup boiling water
1 bunch flat leaved parsley, stems removed, chopped fine
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
1 large or 2 small tomatoes, chopped
fresh squeezed juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup good olive oil
sea salt

Place wheat bulgur in a heatproof bowl.  Pour the boiling water onto the bulgur.  Cover with tight fitting lid or plastic wrap.  Set aside for 20 – 30 minutes.

Fluff the prepared bulgur with a fork.  Add the remainder of the ingredients, mixing just to combine.  Add salt to taste.  Refrigerate, covered.  Serve at room temp, or cold.

note: Tabouleh recipes often include chopped onion or scallion.

What is it? Asparagus.

It’s Spring, so that means asparagus.  Distinctive, delicious, and sophisticated asparagus is a seasonal treat in my kitchen.  Taste it raw and you’ll appreciate its grassy, green notes and distinct flavor.

So, what is it?  Asparagus is the new, fresh growth shoot that springs out of the ground from the underground root stock of an herbaceous perennial plant.  The mature plant is a fluffy 3 foot high plant with many stems, tiny leaves, and little flowers.  We only eat the new, tender emerging stalks – nothing from the maturing plant.  Asparagus is a European plant in origin, though it is grown and enjoyed around the world.

Most asparagus is green, though in northern Europe white asparagus is common.  This is regular asparagus that has been allowed to sprout in the dark.  This keeps the plant from producing chlorophyll, which is what makes it green.  There is also a purple variety developed in Italy.

Three bits of trivia:

1. Asparagus does make your pee smell funny (here’s why)

2. If you take a sip of wine after eating a bite of asparagus it alters the mouth’s taste perception, making the wine taste oddly sweet, metallic, or bad.  For good wine pairings with asparagus, go here.

3. Miss Manners herself says it’s fine to pick up asparagus with your fingers, even at a super fancy dinner.  Who knew?

Asparagus is a nutrition WIN – loaded with nutrients, low in calories, and can help control blood sugar.  It is delicious paired with goat cheese, lemon, garlic, mushrooms, pork, chicken, eggs – lots of foods.  Asparagus is super fast to prepare.  In fact, it is delicious raw – especially shaved in a salad.  But what ever you do, DON’T over cook the asparagus.  Perfectly cooked asparagus is a delight — overcooked it becomes slimy, stringy, and strong tasting.  There are many good recipes out there, so I’m just going to tell you how to cook asparagus for eating plain, or with a light sauce.

Basic Cooked Asparagus

one bunch fresh asparagus

Rinse the asparagus, and cut off the stems where they seem tough.  This is a judgement call on your part.  Most asparagus sold in stores is pretty much all tender, so just cutting off the last 1/2 inch or so of the stock will be good enough.  I don’t peel my asparagus.

Put 1/2 inch water in a large pan with lid and heat to boiling.  Put the asparagus in the boiling water all at once, cover pan with lid, and cook, covered, on medium heat for up to 4 minutes for regular stalks, 2 – 3 minutes for thin stalks — not a second longer!  Immediately drain the asparagus, and rinse in cold water or plunge in an ice bath to stop the cooking.  Serve at warm temp immediately, or cool for later serving, perhaps with a lemon aioli.  Serves about 4.