Recipes: Greens & Eggs

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Dill

Dill

I had a revelation this morning while eating breakfast – I love greens and eggs together! I’d thrown two fried (organic) eggs onto a flour tortilla, tore up some of my macrogreens (including a good bunch of dill), and rolled it all up. It wasn’t pretty (so I didn’t take a picture) but it tasted so lovely – creamy eggs with a little buttery crispness on the edges, herb-y dill, the spring-fresh flavors of the mesclun greens – and it reminded me that some of my favorite food combinations have to do with eggs and greens.

There are so many ways to have them – omelettes and quiches are typical but my favorite combinations usually involve fried eggs and a robust green with some kind of bread-like base. My absolute favorite version is a thick slice of toasted rustic multi-grain bread, rubbed with a clove of raw garlic and drizzled with olive oil; on top of that, dandelions, raw (if young and fresh) or sauteed (if getting on a bit) and spritzed with a tiny bit of lemon juice; on top of that, 2 eggs, preferably from my mother’s chickens, fried in butter and liberally sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper and slightly coarse salt (or even smoked salt, for a whole other layer of goodness!); and finished off with a sprinkling of green onions or chives…I’m drooling even as I write!

I’ve made other versions – scrambled eggs and spinach wrapped in a tortilla, scrambled eggs on mesclun on a buttered rye crisp, spinach or arugula substituted for dandelions in the above dish – it’s all depended on what I have on hand and what I feel like eating.  Not being a big carb-eater, I’ve sometimes shocked my sister, a woman who feels that bread really is the staff of life, by not having any in the house for weeks on end so I’ve sometimes had to use potatoes or mushrooms as a stand-in. I think because the greens and eggs combo is such a flexible one, and almost a ‘doh’ kind of recipe that I don’t notice how often I eat it…and love it.

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Eating: Basil Pesto

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

In another case of “if life gives you lemons”…the too-tall Genovese basil that I couldn’t get hardened off got pruned back to a reasonable size and I made pesto with the clippings.

Genovese basil is my favorite basil to use in the kitchen.  The leaves are large enough to roll up and slice into a chiffonade and small enough to use whole in my favorite Thai chickpea curry.  Along with mint, basil is one of my quintessential summertime herbs, and, just like mint, I find it easy to grow.  I like to do two sowings a season: the first sowing is done indoors in the early spring, about 6-8 weeks before the last average frost date into newspaper pots, and the second sowing is done in the garden after transplanting the first group of basil.  I do this kind of succession planting because once the heat hits, basil starts to flower which alters the flavor of the leaves.

I usually plant basil around the edge of beds that contain tomatoes – they combine as well in the garden as they do in the kitchen – and they have the same sun, water, and soil requirements.  They both like more than 6 hours of direct sun a day, never let them dry out, and give them a compost-rich, well-draining soil.  The basil gets fertilizer when I feed the tomatoes, a couple of times during the season, with a fish and seaweed organic liquid fertilizer.  And that’s about it, except for harvesting regularly to prevent flowering and to keep the plant bushy.

Which is why, even though I hadn’t managed to plant them out, I was making pesto in May…

 

The raw ingredients about to be transformed.

The raw ingredients about to be transformed.

The finished product...now comes the fun part of deciding what to eat it with.

The finished product...now comes the fun part of deciding what to eat it with.

Basil Pesto

 

  • 4 c. basil leaves, firmly packed
  • 1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic (or to taste), sliced
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt (or to taste)

Combine basil, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor or blender; pulse mixture until the basil leaves are a bit chopped up.  Add rest of ingredients and process until the mixture is the desired consistency.  Can be stored in the fridge, covered, for about a week (the flavors will intensify but the color will darken).  It can be frozen but leave out the cheese and blend it in when the pesto is thawed.

I tossed it with some pasta and shredded roast chicken but I also like it drizzled over boiled potatoes and steamed asparagus as a warm salad.  It works well as a garnish for tomato-based soups, including minestrone.  And my friend, Ilene, introduced me to the fantastic flavor combination of pesto and pretzels.

So my first harvest of the season is one I usually have to wait until mid-summer to appreciate.  Here’s to being an impatient gardener who starts her seeds too early!

When Life Gave Me Lemons…I Made Liqueur

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
Organic supermarket lemons...a far cry from the 'real' thing.

Organic supermarket lemons...a far cry from the 'real' thing.

My friend, Lisa, has been putting to good use the lemon tree I left her.

When we lived in Austin, we used to own a dwarf Meyer lemon tree, a small citrus cultivar thought to be a cross between a lemon and a Mandarin orange that produces juicy, thin-skinned, sweeter-than-regular lemons.  If the fruit wasn’t enough pleasure, the (mostly) evergreen tree would produce spectacular tiny, white blooms in the spring that scented the entire back garden in a sweet, delicate aroma.  For a while, the sheer novelty of this northerner picking lemons from her own tree was enough to give the resultant olive oil & lemon juice dressings an ambrosial quality but soon enough I was wondering what else this fruit could do.  I’m not much of a baker, so it seemed a waste to use the fruit in a tart or cake that I would probably mess up, and I wanted to use it in an unusual way, expressive of how I thought of this lovely little tree.

An edition of The Herb Companion magazine brought me the inspiration I was looking for – an article on herbal liqueurs.  I chose two using lemons – Italian herb and rosemary & lemon – and, because I had a bumper crop of basil that year, decided to try the basil liqueur, as well.  After many weeks of anticipation (and shaking and smelling and salivating), the taste testing ensued.  The Italian herb liqueur came out a clear winner; the variety of ingredients produced a layered flavor, more complex and interesting than the one note flavors of the other two, especially with the overwhelming sweetness from the sugar syrup (I’d definitely half the sugar in the recipes).

I’d like to try growing a Meyer lemon tree here in Edmonton – wouldn’t it make an eye-catching houseplant?

I didn’t have much trouble growing it in Austin in a large (20 inch diameter) pot.  After planting it in a good-quality soil mix created for vegetable gardens, I top-dressed it with an inch of compost every year, fertilized it 2 or 3 times per growing season with fish fertilizer, watered it every week (more or less depending on dormancy and weather), mulched it with wine corks, and dealt with the few aphids with insecticidal soap.  Here, since it would spend most of its life inside, I’ll need a soil-less mix to mitigate the chances of disease and insect problems.  I imagine I’ll need to fit a floor lamp with a grow bulb since it won’t get enough sun (I don’t have an accessible south-facing window), and I’ll need to mist it frequently because of the dry indoor air.  When it blooms, in order to guarantee fruit, I’ll pretend I’m a bee and pollinate the flowers with a little brush.  It won’t be low care but being able to pick lemons from my own tree again would be well worth the effort.