Photo by Tant Hill Farm
Turnips: I like them but sometimes I still find them a challenge to prepare. I like a few slices raw, but not more than that. Cooked they look so pretty and smell so good but my eyes tell my brain to expect potatoes and I can end up disappointed. When I saw a recipe for Korean Lacto-fermented Salad Turnips, I wondered if fermenting is what I need to be doing with turnips.
Turnips, in one form or another, have been grown for human and animal feed for a long time. In pre-fifteenth century India, turnips, a brassica, were grown for their oilseeds, much like modern rapeseeds/canola. Today not all turnips are grown for their roots, either. Some are grown for just their leaves, though the ones grown for their roots have edible leaves, too. The leaves most resemble their cousin mustard, though they have a taste all their own. If your turnip greens are the same color as this paint color, though, throw them out! I’m not sure how that paint color was named.
The root most people in the US associate with turnip is the purple topped variety. They come in at least several other colors, though: plain white, green, golden, and a red variety that I would swear was a beet. I’d have to taste it to be sure!
Back in November I saw a post on Tant Hill Farm’s blog for fermented turnips. They looked so pretty and seemed like they would be yummy. The recipe comes from Laura Robinson, a Market board member who has her own blog as well - Root to Fruit: Simple, Seasonal Preservation.
I first heard of fermented vegetables in The Little House Cookbook. Ma Ingalls was already making vinegar pickles in the late 1800’s, but the cookbook describes fermenting pickles in a large barrel in a cellar. What seemed exotic when I first read it is now a regular part of my diet.
This is the first successful ferment I’ve made. I started some sauerkraut once long ago and unexpectedly had to abandon it, leaving me with quite the mess to come back to later. I’m pretty used to culinary fails and find it an important part of learning, but this was a fail that was hard to shake for a while. While I’ve been getting over it, I have appreciated the variety of ferments available for purchase, from national brands such as Bubbies, to friends making it, to Harvest Roots Ferments.
I was itching to make my own, though. I wanted the satisfaction of successfully making a ferment and the novelty that comes from making something different from what I can buy. Also, using up the bounty of each season appeals to me. Root to Fruit also has various other ways of preserving the harvest: preserving in oil, sauces, and quick pickles, among others. I look forward to trying different ways of preserving that I have not experimented with, either at all or in a long time.
Laura used purple-topped turnips in her ferment, but I love the look of all-white turnips. Note that the end product of an all-white ferment was not the prettiest to photograph, however. I added some additional green onion strips for color. It sure tastes yummy, no matter how it looks (much better in person, actually). The flavors of various turnips do differ with color and size, so use what you prefer to look at and taste. Larger turnips are going to be stronger and hotter, while smaller are more mild.
Laura provides excellent instructions for this recipe and has additional advice for fermenting as well. Her recipe was easy to follow and the end result tasty.
From Laura Robinson via Tant Hill Farm
Makes about 2 cups
Photo by Zachary Cross
This week I’m sharing a recipe from Michael Rice of Mad Priest Coffee Roasters. Each month or so Michael has been featuring one of his coffees and the country it’s from, along with a recipe from that country. Mad Priest’s mission is to “craft good coffee, educate the curious, and champion the displaced”. The coffee/country/recipe combination is one of the ways they are doing that. This month’s country is Laos, the coffee is Typica from Nongsamphan, and the recipe is for Beef Larb. Although the recipe contains some exotic ingredients, they are available locally and there are ingredients found at the market as well.
Quite a few ingredients can be found at market, in fact: beef, spring onions, mint, cilantro, cucumbers, and lettuce are available right now, though you might want to plan ahead and ask your farmer about such large quantities of mint and cilantro. Lemongrass may be available and hot chilies will be as the weather continues to warm up.
For the galangal and fish sauces you will want to try an Asian or other specialty store. Galangal is a rhizome, like ginger, but has a different flavor and a woodier texture. Find it at Asian Food and Gifts of Chattanooga, though I’ve heard it’s sometimes at Whole Foods as well. Or substitute fresh ginger. Ginger is always a nice flavor though it won’t be the same as galangal. Padaek is a fermented fish sauce and found at Asian gifts as well. If you love to DIY, recipes abound for this “lifeblood of Lao cuisine.”
And remember flowers for your table! Southerly Flower Farm is back at the market with spring flowers to brighten your table.
Photos by Zachary Cross
From Mad Priest’s website about Laos:
Laos has seen an incredible amount of upheaval and destruction since its independence from the French in 1954. The Laotian Civil War (the Communist Pathet Lao versus the Royal Lao Government) raged alongside the Vietnam War for many years, and by the end in 1975, around 25 percent of the population of Laos was displaced from their homes. Then the victorious Communist party cracked down on all dissention, and over the next two decades 360,000 Laotians (about 10% of the population) were forced to flee across the treacherous Mekong River to Thailand, from there resettling mostly in the US and France.
In the 1920s, the French first introduced coffee to the fertile Bolaven Plateau in Southern Laos, but the decades of continual violence obviously took a toll. Most notably, American B-52s relentlessly bombed sections of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that snuck into the Laotian jungle, killed an untold number of civilians and contaminated many coffee fields with craters and unexploded ordinances. But since 1992, when the Communist regime began to soften its stance, there has been a quiet rebirth of coffee as farmers have returned and the region's wounded fields are once again producing world-class beans.
About the featured coffee:
Laos, primarily known for their Robusta coffee, has had a rough past with frosts and rust diseases. But a resurgence of Arabica beans and a push to infiltrate the specialty market has allowed crops like this one to make their mark!
100% washed Typica from Nongsamphan. Grown at 1100-1250 masl (meters above sea level), you'll taste a strong rhubarb overtone with a dry green tea finish. An interesting brightness and a full earthy body makes this coffee worth trying!
About Beef Larb:
"Larb" means "Good Fortune" in Lao, and this spicy, tangy, salty Laotian beef salad is sure to bring you some! It is a party in your mouth and a culinary journey into the essence of Laos. While Laotians eat more sticky rice than any other people in the world, they also love meat (sometimes raw) and fresh vegetables. Galangal (a rhizome similar to ginger), lemongrass, and padaek (fermented fish sauce) are prominent flavors in Lao Cuisine.
What you need:
What to do:
Place the beef in a bowl with all marinade ingredients, combine well, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Heat a wok or frying pan until smoking hot. Add the vegetable oil and wait until it smokes. Add the beef and toss for just a few minutes (Beef Larb is generally medium-rare). Place the beef in a large bowl and toss with the fresh and dried chillies, ground toasted sticky rice, spring onion, mint, coriander and lemongrass. Serve with cucumbers, lettuce, watercress, and extra fresh herbs. If you like it spicy, you can experiment with more chilies, lime, and fish sauce.
*To toast the sticky rice, place in a dry wok and stir over medium heat until dark golden, then pound to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle or spice mill.
Printable recipe here
Flowering stinging nettles - photos by Zachary Cross
Eat stinging nettles? Who would want to do that? As it turns out, they can be eaten safely and they have both culinary and medicinal benefits.
Nettles are a springtime dish, best only until June in our climate. They’re a distant relative of mint and could be confused at first sight. Unlike mint, they are covered with hollow stinging hairs which can inject skin with chemicals if they are touched. These chemicals cause a stinging sensation. Interestingly, nettles are also a remedy for allergies as well as other autoimmune disorders. Whether eaten or drunk as an tea, the components that cause the sting can also help the body’s histamine and other inflammatory reactions to calm down.
Dead nettle is more closely related to mint than stinging nettles. It gets its name from its resemblance to stinging nettles but without the sting it is “dead.” Like stinging nettles it has medicinal and culinary value and is found at the market in season.
Stinging nettles are also full of nutrients, including a high level of protein for a green. They can be added to a mix of greens in a sauté, in a soup, in very green baked goods, or as pesto. Cooking takes away the sting and makes it safe to eat. However, folks come from all over the world to enter the Nettle Eating Championship in Dorset England and see if they can eat the most amount of the raw, still stinging plant.
Watch out for those stingers!
If you’re not interested in the sting you’ll want to handle your nettles carefully. Your farmer may have already washed them for you - ask! If not, wash them like any other green, but use tongs or a pasta server to transfer them from the water. I’ve read that soaking them in water takes away the sting, but I’ve always parboiled. Three to five minutes is plenty of time to neutralize the stingers. Save the cooking water and drink it as a spring tonic, alone or mixed with another herb tea like mint. If you are not accustomed to nettles, start small! Drink just a little per day at first and work your way up. Nettles can be somewhat laxative, and the dose varies from person to person.
Once your leaves are not a hazard, you can add them to any meal you’d use spinach in. The flavor is equally mild but I find the texture to be lacking. I typically mix it with other spring greens if I’m using it in a sauté. I was excited to try nettle pesto as I figured that would eliminate any issues with the texture. This recipe is from Suzanna Alexander of Alexzanna Farms and is very flexible. Use nuts and cheese you have on hand. I substituted green garlic, too, for the regular garlic. A great thing about nettle pesto is its color. Unlike basil pesto it stayed a bright green, even after a few days in the refrigerator.
Note again that nettles can have a laxative effect. This is not usually a problem with the small amount of pesto used in a pound of pasta. It’s so yummy, though, beware the temptation to eat a whole bowl of it as a dip!
From Suzanna Alexander, Alexzanna Farms
4 cups fresh nettle tops - roughly chopped
⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup nuts of your choice (I used ½ almonds, ½ pecans in my last batch...yum!)
2-6 cloves of garlic according to taste
¼ cup Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional)
(Remember: Parboil nettles for 3-5 minutes, drain.)
Put all ingredients into food processor and process until creamy, making sure all the nettles are incorporated. That’s it! What an incredible taste!
Not only is it good on the traditional pasta, but the pesto makes a wonderful spread on toast or crackers. Also good as a dip. (Note from Heather: watch your portions till you know your tolerance level!) It freezes well.
Printable recipe here
Photos by Zachary Cross
Often on the blog I post other people’s recipes that I’ve found online or in cookbooks or elsewhere. Sometimes they’re tweaked and sometimes as they are written. I do come up with my own recipes once in a while, whether on purpose on by accident.
This recipe was definitely a happy accident. One evening I had market ingredients I wanted to use, looked at a cookbook or two, and just threw a few things together. At supper Jeffrey asked, “is this the blog recipe this week?” I said no and he said it should be. All right, then! I made sure to write down what I did right away so I could remember it.
The ingredients I especially wanted to use that night were shiitakes and pea shoots. In the past I’ve had pea shoots that were trimmings off of regular pea vines, but these were very young plants grown in soil. Pea sprouts grown in water are also available. They all taste like peas. I’ve found that pea trimmings from the vines get woody very quickly, so use those within a day or two of market. The shoots grown in soil, otherwise known as microgreens, were tender and tasty after quite some time in the fridge. Although, like most vegetables, their nutritional value is highest right after cutting, you can be certain they will be usable for longer.
Microgreens are fairly new on the food scene. I see recipes online going back as far as 2009 but presenting them as something new. They are grown both for their taste, much like the mature plant in a compact and tender form, and for their nutritional value, up to 40 times greater than mature plants. The definition of microgreen is a pretty loose one. They’re older than a sprout and have at least their first set of true leaves. They’re usually going to be smaller, though, than the greens sold as baby greens. A more complete description can be found here.
Because the shoots have a pea flavor, I looked in my cookbooks at pea recipes - I don’t think any of my cookbooks have pea shoot recipes. In Vegetables Every Day I came across a recipe for a side dish called Peas with Onion and Mushrooms. That gave me the basic idea to saute an onion and the shiitakes and add a fresh herb garnish at the end. From there I decided to make it more of a main dish, adding tempeh, and making the flavors more Asian with fresh ginger and cilantro.
Although the flavor combination in this recipe is excellent, it’s still a flexible recipe. For instance, tempeh is not currently a product available locally (The Farm was growing soybeans and making tempeh back in the 70s and 80s, at least, so it is possible!) Chicken breast is a logical substitute, and would be prepared similarly, though I have not tried this variation yet. I did try substituting Pacific cod from Wild Alaskan Seafood. I cut it into small chunks and added it at the very end instead of the beginning. It only needs to be cooked briefly, until it begins to get opaque. I’ve also substituted green garlic and leeks for the onion. Any available green can be substituted for the chard. A quick-cooking green such as any baby green or any spinach will cook the same as chard. A tougher green should be parboiled so it can be ready quickly in the sauté.
The basic flavor should be pretty consistent whichever variation you choose. Sometimes I like to use soy sauce or one of San-J’s gluten-free sauces in a sauté or stir fry but for this recipe I chose to leave them out. I like the way the flavors of the ingredients shine through: alliums, ginger, and the nuttiness of the oils, plus the mushrooms and pea flavors.
Serve your veggies with rice, bread, squash, or sweet potato. The herb garnish at the end adds even more green color, crunchy texture, and complementary flavors. Use these to taste, but I enjoyed a lot of them: two kinds of chives and parsley as well as the cilantro.
1-2 packages of tempeh (8 oz each)
1 medium onion, cut in half then sliced thin
8 oz shiitakes, stemmed and sliced (about 6 oz after stemming)
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
Leaves from 1 bunch of chard, cut in ribbons, then chopped
~2 cups of pea shoots
Palm and sesame oils, or other fat for cooking
Chives, parsley, and cilantro, chopped, to taste