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happyrhubarbmonday.


The first inch and a half of Victoria rhubarb poking up from the muddy March ground.  Pies and jams to follow.


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arch
16
Market Watch: Watermelon Radish
 



At the Union Square Greenmarket, this past Saturday in Manhattan, I came across giant, stunning Watermelon Radishes.  A relative of the Daikon, it is also called Chinese Red Meat, Beauty Heart, and Rose Heart.  This is one of the most mild radishes (which, incidentally was the one food I wouldn't touch as a child), with just a slight peppery bite, along with some sweetness and a lot of crunch.  But the colors are the real standout here.  Off white to lime green on the outside, giving way to brilliant magenta, flecked with tie-dye-reminiscent streaks of white when cut open.  Jaw droppingly beautiful on the plate.

We have somewhat successfully grown these in our garden the last two summers, but have never had them get quite so big.  From some further research I have learned that this variety of radish actually does the best when planted in cooler weather, growing through the winter--which most likely accounts for its sweetness.  The ones I found this weekend were nearly four inches in diameter, and about six inches long.  But ours at home, grown over the summer in much warmer months, did get to be about twice the size of a golf ball, and still as gorgeous.

Due to their unimposing flavor, these can be added to a large variety of dishes, particularly when you want an impressive pop of color.  Slice them thin and add to a salad, cut into matchsticks for an extra hue on a crudite plate, lightly pickle to finish off an asian noodle dish, or my favorite, a slice of crusty baguette slathered with really good butter, topped with radish slices and a sprinkling of crunch sea salt.

This heirloom radish has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years and is much easier to find as a result.  Keep an eye out for the next few weeks at your farmer's markets, or grow some yourself this summer.



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Food of the (near) Future




Despite the fact that I haven't seen but a mere patch of ground at our home since prior to Christmas, despite the fact that we still have a foot of snow almost everywhere I look, despite the fact that just looking at flip flops gives me chills, the eternal optimist in me spent the balance of the weekend ordering thousands of heirloom vegetable seeds for this year's crop at our little micro farm.

Ideally, if the sun and rain cooperate, (and the sheep don't bust through the fence and help themselves to beds upon beds of gorgeous heirloom kale, leeks, peppers, brussels sprouts, beets, salad greens, and herbs, as happened briefly on one unfortunate day in October), those seeds and their resulting crop will then become a huge percentage of our food for the coming year, and many of the ingredients that I will cook for you here.

If you are bitten by the promise of dirt under your fingernails and eating within a five minute radius bug too, here are a few of my best resources for heirloom seeds and plants.  Each offer a mind-bloggling assortment of vegetables, fruit, and herbs.  They also fiercely protect seeds of endangered heirloom varieties so generations to come will have a vast diversity of produce available as well.


(more…)


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eptember
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Utterly Chard-ming


First, yes, it is a terrible pun.  But in all honesty, I had a dream about writing this post, and that is the title I watched myself type in the dream.  So who am I to interfere with subconscious inspiration/intervention?

Moving on...

Our garden is still loaded with beautiful food.  But as is the case when September shows up, the plants are not looking quite as robust as they did a few weeks ago.  There is definitely a sign that it is the end of the season and these plants are tired.  However, our gorgeous Five Color Silverbeet Chard, that was looking a little peaked in the hottest days of August, has started to really perk up in this last week, with it's cool evenings.

I first started growing this heirloom variety of chard, after reading Barbara Kingsolver's glowing endorsement of it in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life:
"If I could only save one of my seed packets from the deluge, the heirloom vegetable I’d probably grab is five-color silverbeet.  It is not silver (silverbeet is Australian for Swiss chard), but has broad stems and leaf ribs vividly colored red, yellow, orange, white or pink.  Each plant has one stem color, but all five colors persist in a balanced mix in this beloved variety.  It was the first seed variety I learned to save, and if in my dotage I end up in an old-folks’ home where they let me grow one vegetable in the yard, it will be this one."

Chard is a wonderful culinary green, loaded with iron and antioxidants.  It stands up well in soups, and sautés, as well tarts and fillings.  It is a great alternative to spinach and kale, and unlike either, comes up early in the garden season and lasts through early frosts.

With it too warm to have spinach in the garden lately, I substituted chard recently in Spanakopita-inspired phyllo purses.  These little bundles are impressive and loaded with summer flavor.  The filling is also equally good folded into larger phyllo pockets for a great lunch or vegetable dish.



CHARD, DILL, AND FETA BUNDLES
by Catie
makes approximately 30 hors d'oeuvres bundles, or 10 large pockets.

2 TBS Olive Oil
1 small Sweet Onion, diced small
Large bunch of Chard, about 1 lb, tough stems removed and roughly chopped
1 TBS fresh Dill, chopped, or 1 tsp dried Dill
2 TBS fresh Parsley, chopped
4 oz Feta Cheese, finely crumbled
1 egg, slightly beaten
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/2 pkg of Phyllo Dough (8 oz)
melted butter

Heat the oven to 350° F.

Heat the oil in a large pan.  Add the diced onion and gently saute until fragrant and translucent.   Add the chopped chard, in large handfuls, as it starts to wilt down.   Saute for a minute more until just cooked, adding the dill and parsley about 30 seconds before removing from heat.

Using either a spoon on the edge of the pan, or pouring the mixture into cheesecloth, squeeze out and drain as much liquid as you can from the vegetables.

Add the feta cheese to the chard mixture and evenly combine.  Taste the mixture at this point before seasoning. Feta is salty and you may only need to add pepper.  Once you are happy with the seasoning, add the egg and mix well.

Unwrap the phyllo dough, and keep flat under a damp towel or paper towels.   On a counter or cutting board, place one sheet of dough.   Brush dough lightly, but evenly, with melted butter, and top with another sheet of dough.   Repeat so you have a stack that is three sheets thick.  With a large knife or pizza cutter, cut sheets into 6 pieces (down the middle the long way, and then in thirds in the other direction).   Place about a tablespoon of chard mixture in the center of one of the phyllo rectangles, gather up corners, and twist slightly in one direction.   Place on a cookie sheet.   Repeat with remaining mixture and dough sheets.

Alternatively, you can cut the stack of three sheets in half, lenghwise, put about 1/3 of a cup of mixture in the lower right corner, and then fold in triangles, as you would fold a flag.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until dough is golden brown.  Bakelightly longer for the larger triangles.



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11
Right Here, Right Now


This, all too brief, time of year when the garden is offering up treasures I would drive multiple time zones for in February, I find myself stumped in the kitchen.  Surprising, since I have before me the best raw materials I will see all year.

But that’s just the point.  I want to step aside, get out of their way, and let these vibrant little bundles do what they do best all on their own.  How can I possibly improve upon late summer perfection?

This year for the first time we are growing in our gardens elegant little french breakfast radishes and delicate and creamy fingerling potatoes.  The radishes have been surprisingly successful and grow quite rapidly.  As a kid radishes were one of only two foods I wouldn’t touch (the other was PB&J….)  But these are crisp and bright, and have a wonderfully mild peppery zing.

The potatoes have just started to bear fruit, almost a foot underground.  I have been diligently nursing the plants all season, mounding and mounding the dirt.  When I read on the internet the other day that the first small new potatoes should be ready around day 60, I was sent into a complete impromptu digging frenzy.  No plan, no shovel, and dirt painfully jammed very deeply under my triumphant fingernails.  But so very worth it for the small two serving colander-full that I brought in for supper.  They were a revelation.  Fragile, tissue-paper thin skins, and a complex flavor that reminded me that these were a delicacy, not just a background starch.

Here are two quick and simple recipes that showcase these vegetables in their purest form, with nothing covering up their brilliant flavors.  If you can get beauties from the farmer’s market, or your garden, it is like tasting potatoes and radishes for the first time.

French Radish Crostini
(first taught to me by Jacques Pepin)

Fresh Radishes
Butter, higher quality the better, room temperature
Sea Salt
Crusty Baguette

Slice radishes as thinly as possible.  Thinly slice the baguette, slightly on a bias, in 1/4-1/2” slices.  Spread liberally with butter.  Layer radish slices on buttered bread.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  (Note:  Baguette slices may be toasted slightly on a cookie sheet if desired.)

Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

New Fingerling Potatoes
Olive Oil
Thyme Sprigs, stems removed
Salt and Pepper

Heat oven to 400 °F.

Cut potatoes, if necessary, so that they are fairly uniform in size, but try to keep as many whole as possible.  Toss with enough olive oil to evenly cover.  Add thyme leaves, a few large pinches of salt and grinds of black pepper.  Toss again to evenly distribute.  Pour into a roasting pan or baking sheet, preferably in a single layer.  Roast in the oven until tender, about 40 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.



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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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