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Gardening With What You Have & Green Garlic and Leek Soup

You’re supposed to make a garden plan–mapping out what’s going to go where so that the season unfolds productively with plants following the right plants and planted in the right combination and with the right exposure. You’re supposed to amend the soil with this and that and double dig. . . .Well, my garden would never materialize if I  did all that. I know folks who do these things who have better yields and prettier gardens and someday I will be more organized. But in the mean time I garden much like a cook–without a whole lot of planning when I have a little time. I’ll pick up a few seed packets here and there and eventually some starts and then go for it.

Green (immature garlic), leeks, radicchio and endive. . . .my harvest to make room for new crops.

We finally had a few dry, sunny days this last weekend and I wanted to plant peas and sow arugula and dinosaur kale. When I examined my little vegetable patch I realized I didn’t have room for anything. So I harvested a bunch of small-ish leeks, some green garlic and various salad greens and transplanted a few lettuces, tucking them in between the strawberry plants, to make room for my  new little project. My rows won’t be straight and my germination rate might be puny but I loved my morning in the garden with the sun on my back.

You can use lots of green garlic as it's much milder and sweeter than mature garlic.

And then I made a lovely soup with my harvest. It’s a loose interpretation of potato leek soup. I didn’t measure anything and kept things simple. Leeks, green garlic–green garlic is one of my favorite parts of spring. I plant garlic in the fall to use exclusively in the spring in its green, immature form. Like scallions you can use the whole thing and finely sliced and stewed in a little butter or olive oil it improves everything it touches. Or use it raw in salad dressings and quick herby sauces. I added a few potatoes to the soup, some thyme and water and that’s about it. Oh a touch of cream at the end rounded things out nicely but you could skip that too.

Spring leek and green garlic soup with fresh goat cheese toast.

Spring Leek and Green Garlic Soup

4-5 leeks (or whatever you have–I used about 6 small ones), sliced
1 bunch green garlic (6-8 whole plants), roots trimmed and finely sliced
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
3 medium potatoes (more or less), diced
a few sprigs of thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
5 cups (more or less) water
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup of heavy cream (optional)
Good olive oil to drizzle

Stew the garlic, leeks and thyme in the oil and butter, slowly, over medium heat until the vegetables are very soft. Add the potatoes, water and some salt and simmer until the potatoes are very tender (about 20 minutes).  Adjust seasoning, add pepper and then puree with an immersion blender (or in a blender or food processor) until smooth-ish. Finish with a little cream and serve with a good drizzle of olive oil and if you’d like a piece of toasted bread with fresh goat cheese.

Yellow Peas and Rice with Onion Relish

Split yellow peas and basmati rice cooked with cumin seeds, turmeric, Garam Masala and cilantro and topped with a spicy, lemony onion relish.

One of the best things about living in this era is that we can experience so much of the world through food and the people who share it wherever they end up. What began with the Spice Trade as much as 2500 years ago and continues in varied forms today is a global exchange of flavors, cultures, and tastes that enrich my life and all of our communities, I would argue, every day. I use turmeric and cardamom, cumin and mustard seeds as well as fish sauce and coconut milk, capers, chocolate, and cinnamon . . .pretty regularly. And they all work beautifully with our local produce and products.

I am also a devout farmers’ market shopper and supporter of CSAs and generally try to purchase what we need (food and otherwise) as close to home as possible but with the above exceptions and a few more! Thanks to my current project with the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council my global and local interests are converging nicely.  I am working on some videos for their new, soon-to-launch consumer-facing website on how to prepare dry peas and lentils. I am testing recipes with yellow split peas, red lentils, whole dry green peas, garbanzo bean flour and much more, which is making me particularly grateful for culinary traditions world-wide. Indian and Italian preparations are serving me particularly well, but so are  Mexican and French ones. So the fact that we grow such a huge variety of peas and beans in the U.S. that I can then prepare based on hundreds of years of cooking wisdom from far-flung places, climates and cultures is a joy.

While I did not intend to post two recipes back to back with the same colors and almost the same spice-scheme, I hope you’ll consider them both.

Yellow Peas and Rice with Onion Relish (Golden Kichuri)
–adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

2/3 cup yellow split peas (matar ki daal)
1 2/3 cup basmati rice
3 tablespoons ghee, coconut or olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
3-4 cups  veggie bouillon broth or water
Salt

Onion Relish

1/2 a small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste — 1/2 teaspoon  makes this VERY spicy)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/3 cup of Greek yogurt or plain whole milk yogurt (optional)

Soak the peas in ample warm water for 2-3 hours. Soak the rice in ample warm water for 1 hour. Drain both.

Heat the ghee or oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet and add the cumin seeds. Cook just for a scant minute until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Add the rice and peas and stir to coat well with the fat. Add the Garam Masala, turmeric, cilantro and broth or water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt (unless your broth is quite salty–if you’re using water add a generous teaspoon of salt). Stir well, bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer and cook, partially covered for about 20 minutes. You may need to add more water or broth, in 1/2-cup increments if it seems too dry. When the peas and rice are tender and the liquid is absorbed let it sit off the heat, covered, for 10 more minutes to steam.

While the peas and rice are cooking, stir together the relish ingredients. Serve the rice and peas with the relish and some yogurt, if you’d like.

Cauliflower and Chickpeas Any Time of Day

sautéed cauliflower and chickpeas with ground turmeric and cumin and topped with lots of cilantro and Greek yogurt.

The fog in my head is finally clearing after a two-week-long bug. I’ve gotten behind on work and thus things are extra busy this week. I’ve been feeling what many of you–who don’t have much, if any, time to think about food and what you’re going to cook for dinner–and how I often used to feel when I didn’t get home until 6:30pm. . . .What are we going to eat?! Yesterday I got lucky and brought (very good) leftovers home from a conference (Farmer Chef Connection 2012) and I quickly sautéed some cauliflower to round out dinner. The night before we had grilled cheese sandwiches with pickles and a handful of peanuts and carrot sticks. I managed to remember to take a quart of cooked chickpeas out of the freezer yesterday so that will turn into something tonight.

Home-cooked and previously frozen chickpeas (garbanzo beans). I always freeze them in their cooking liquid in case I want to make a soup or hummus or some dish that needs liquid. That way you already have flavorful, nutritious "stock" on hand.

And some of those chickpeas and the leftover cauliflower were my saving grace this morning. I have been dabbling in some unconventional (at least for this part of the world) breakfasts occasionally–leftover soup; sautéed greens and a fried egg, etc. Considering that I’m still rather congested, my typical bowl of muesli with yogurt or milk hasn’t been sounding so good. So this morning I added 1/2 cup or so of chickpeas to the pan with the remainder of last night’s cauliflower, a splash of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of ground turmeric and cumin and warmed all of that up. In addition to being delicious and bright, turmeric has anti-inflammatory qualities which I could certainly use right now. . . So I topped my yellow-hued cauliflower and chickpeas with lots of chopped cilantro and a dollop of Greek yogurt (I couldn’t quite forego my beloved yogurt) and had myself a most satisfying breakfast. And the assembly/cooking of this breakfast bowl took about 5 minutes since the two main ingredients were already cooked.

This quick saute would make a more conventional lunch or dinner dish so if cauliflower isn’t your thing first thing in the morning, don’t worry!

Wishing you all good health and happy (almost) spring!

P.S. I’m going to be running a special for folks who have never taken a class at Cook With What You Have for $15 off any class this spring so stay tuned our get in touch right away.

Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Cilantro and Yogurt

If you have leftover cooked or roasted cauliflower then this comes together in a matter of minutes.

serves 4 as a side or 2 an entrée with a fried egg on top!

1 small-medium head of cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
1 1/2 cups (or more) cooked or canned (and drained) chickpeas
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt
1/3 – 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 of a cup Greek or plain, whole-milk yogurt
Olive, coconut or sunflower oil

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and stir and then cook without stirring for a few minutes to let it brown just a bit. Add a splash of water and cover the pan and continue cooking for another few minutes until the cauliflower is just tender when pierced with a fork.

Add a little more oil if the pan is dry and then stir in the spices and let cook for a few seconds. Then add the chickpeas and stir well and cook until just heated through. Make sure not to burn the spices so turn the heat down a bit if need be. Season generously with salt and serve topped with cilantro and yogurt.

Salad

From top left: beet, orange and radicchio salad; roasted squash, black bean, avocado and cilantro salad; raw collards with pickled apples and toasted walnuts; and mixed salad with chopped egg.

I got to have lunch with my mother today. You’ve heard about her many times here but not lately. I was standing at the counter in the kitchen this morning mixing yogurt into my muesli with fruit and granola and I had one of those moments where you catch yourself, you recognize yourself in someone else. You realize how fundamentally you’ve been shaped by someone else, you have similar reactions, tastes, expressions. . . . It made me smile, feel old and all-grown-up and quite comfortable actually.

And then she came by for a quick lunch today. As per usual I tossed together whatever I had on hand to make a hearty salad. Today that was already cooked barley (Jet Barley) and already roasted squash. I had a few radishes, a lone scallion, some goat cheese (leftover from Saturday’s Improv class), a handful of parsley, a few leaves of romaine, and one puny slice of bread which I toasted and then tore up in to tiny bits. This all sounds rather odd but dressed up with a nice vinaigrette enlivened with my apple cider syrup it was just right–chewy, fresh, and rich from the squash and cheese.

Barley, radish, parsley and squash salad and my lovely mother and me.

I’m not suggesting you recreate this particular mix. What I do suggest–surprise, surprise (!)–is that you have cooked beans or grains or roasted or fresh veggies on hand so that tossing something like this together is a snap. My mother often does this and I remember her doing this especially when my father was away for work. Meals got simpler, less conventional (though she was never terribly conventional!).

This winter I’ve been making random concoctions like this a lot and I’m getting better at them, with the exception of the one with grated rutabaga (which can be very good in salads), roasted beets, and radicchio. It’s fun to balance textures and flavors and create such colorful one-bowl meals with odds and ends. And I continue to be inspired by Plenty (the beet salad above, for instance) though I rarely have all the ingredients Yotam Ottolenghi calls for but his combinations are so brilliant and they’ve been adapting well.

I realize I’m not giving you a precise recipe but you might not need one. Just think of your salad bowl and the contents of your pantry and fridge as your inspiration. Make a zippy dressing of some kind and see what happens. And if that seems too vague or scary and you happen to live in the  Portland, OR area then come to the upcoming Pantry & Quick Meals or Kitchen Confidence (techniques, substitutions, etc. ) or Salad classes!

Happy Cooking and Eating!