Perennial alliums

The “lilies of the kitchen”–yes, I borrowed the title from a book by Barbara Batcheller (See Bibliography–Vegetable Cookbooks)” are onions, leeks, garlic, shallots, and scallions!  They are often hidden away in the sofrito/soffrito or the mirepoix, but they can make fantastic dishes on their own.  I can’t imagine a kitchen without these “lilies”.  In my kitchen, being without onions and garlic is just about as big a catastrophe as being out of chocolate or coffee!

Can you really cook without all the Allium family? Caramelized onions, roasted garlic, scallions or green onions to add to salads and chives to top the baked potato.  Then there are leeks…another under-used, and perhaps, under-appreciated vegetable as an ingredient as a vegetable on their own.

While most of this family are now readily available in the supermarket, there are some that it’s worthwhile growing in your own garden.  Others, unless you have a huge garden and want to be self-sufficient, it’s much easier to buy.  The regular “yellow” or storage onions that we cook with–they’re inexpensive.  Most of us don’t have space or the humidity/temperatures required to store the quantity that we use in a season so buying those makes good sense.

Others like leeks, shallots, and garlic I use in such quantities that I don’t have space or time to tend. Since they are also readily available from the supermarket or the farmer’s market I’ll opt to buy as well. Some that we use “green”–like scallions might be worth growing but still demand space and time.

When we speak of “fresh” onions, we often use the terms green onion, scallion, and spring onion interchangeably but there really are some differences. The green onion and scallion differences are mostly marketing semantics. Spring onions are just regular onions (that would eventually form a bulb) harvested while immature–as when you have to thin the onion you planted too close together. Scallions, on the other hand, are species of allium that do not form a fully developed bulb. If you’re a huge fan of alliums of all sorts there are some perennial perennials that can be good substitutes for those fresh ones that we normally buy, and they can be grown in small spaces–or even large containers.

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A. fistulosum

Allium fistulosumor bunching onion is a possible stand-in for those green onions from the grocery store if you want to grow your own. While the “Welsh” is a misnomer since these came from China originally, the taste is still “green onion”, sometimes grown as an ornamental. You can find bunching onions from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

 

 

 

The Egyptian (this may also be a misnomer) –my favorite–is just plain fun with its unusual appearance that will definitely be a topic of conversation.

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A. cepa x proliferu

Other common names include tree onion, top onion, walking onion, Canada onion, and Catawissa onion which may all refer to various cultivars. The Egyptian Walking Onion,  Egyption Onions , Biodiverseed and Mother Earth News websites provide some glimpses into the rather mysterious history of these (and other) onions.

Genetically it has been shown to be a cross between the common allium (Allium cepa) and the “Welsh” onion (above). Botanically speaking, it is Allium cepa x proliferum. These form bulbs, but also have top-sets which can be shared with friends. These plants multiply from the bulb in the ground as well as by producing top-sets, and sometimes topsets on topsets, rather than seeds. These onions are most often found from growers or seed catalogs specializing in heirloom vegetables such as Territorial Seeds, although a Google search shows them available from eBay and Amazon.

Potato onions (multiplier onions, shallots)  or Allium cepa var. aggregatum are also perennial alliums. These do not produce topsets, but rather “multiply” from bulbs left in the ground over the winter.

Multiplier (Allium porrum), perennial, multiplying or “Musselburgh” leeks (Allium ampeloprasum), though smaller than annuals,  can provide the taste of leeks without the amount of effort involved with annual leeks. These are also called garden leeks.

More information on sites like Edible Gardening, Hope Seeds, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, FoodForestFarm.com , inhabitat.com, and icultivate.net.  Grow some “lilies of the kitchen” and don’t ignore others like chives. Then there’s garlic: for a method of growing without yearly planting check out The One Straw Revolution.

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Crudités

After my last visit to my physician for my 100,000-mile maintenance check, I was appalled at the numbers I read on the scales when I weighed in. Arrrggghhhhh! So it time to do something about those numbers. Obviously, more exercise–and I’ve actually Radish Varietiessuccumbed to a fitness device that will make me (horribly) aware of how inactive I can be, especially during working days.

Along with trying to get my butt out of my office chair even on work days, I’m trying to get more veggies and fruits into me. As the weather gets hotter, I want cool things so crudités are appearing often. Most often served with a dip of some sort but I was looking for something to add a bit of zip and zing to raw (or lightly blanched) vegetables: celery, radishes, zucchini, jicama, kohlrabi, etc.

As you all know by now, Bull City Olive Oil is one of my favorite places to find tasty stuff (like truffle salt for popcorn). In addition to olive oil and salts, there is a grand array of balsamic vinegars. I’ve discovered that some of these make a marvelous “dip” for all these veggies–without adding any oil–so that it keeps my cruditès low calorie but still never boring.  Some of the ones I use are honey-ginger, blackberry, blackberry-ginger, black mission fig, and lemongrass-mint.

And–the dark chocolate! Just a few drops with berries or fruit makes a wonderful treat–as does the passionfruit, or the lavender.  All very low cal, but so tasty! I suspect that the coconut white balsamic would be pretty darn good with fruits and berries too. So many possibilities for good taste–and there are always new ones to try–and healthy eating, too.

A son gôut!

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Lentil soup from Taste magazine

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We all know that I’ve got a “thing” for lentil soups. Here’s the latest recipe added to my collection:  Lentil Soup with Sausage and Fennel.

(I’ve become a serious fan of Taste magazine, especially the cookbook recommendations and the great deals on ebooks.)

My pantry always contains Le Puy lentils; they are for anything made with lentils. This hearty soup is great in cold weather. But, now it’s starting to get warmer here, so it will soon be time to switch to lentil salads. The sausage doesn’t suggest a salad, but I think the fennel and lentils have possibilities for a salad–add some cheese…

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The Instant Pot cult

I admit that I’ve succumbed and now have an Instant Pot (IP).  I’m pleased with everything I’ve done in it so far, but I think I’m cognizant of what its capabilities are so I’m not going to ask it to do things that just aren’t realistic. I don’t expect the same results from a braise done in the Instant Pot as I would from a braise done in my Le Creuset enamel cast iron dutch oven over hours in the conventional oven, and to be perfectly frank, I’ll not quit doing braising in that conventional oven even though the results from the IP can be very good but definitely not the same.

I’ve been looking at cookbooks oriented to cooking with the instant pot–and I find that a lot of them need a healthy dollop of skepticism about what the IP should–not can–do. The IP is, after all, a kitchen tool. There is no such thing as one-tool-does-it-all. My expectations of the IP are based on what I know about the cooking environment inside that appliance–just as were my expectations of what my Krups multifunction cooker would do.

The article from Taste titled “Don’t Cook With an Instant Pot Just Because You Can”  (a discussion of Melissa Clark’s IP cookbook titled “Dinner in an Instant“) has that healthy bit of skepticism–no one tool does it all. The book confines itself to recipes which the IP does really well making it a good addition to the library if you are learning about an IP–it will help with a realistic expectation about what this kitchen tool does really well.

The other cookbooks that I’ve added to my library since acquiring the IP are “The Essential Instant Pot CookbookThe Essential Instant Pot Cookbook” by Coco Marante and “The Instant Pot Miracle” (authorised by Instant Pot). These two books provide a good introduction to the IP and to pressure cooking, as well as an array of recipes that have been tested in the IP.  So, good additions.

I guess my point in this ramble is that the IP is an expensive kitchen gadget and you don’t want to be disappointed and relegate it to a dusty corner somewhere to be with the “fry baby” that also never gets used. So far I think it is well worth the price so long as I have realistic expectations of what it does well.

I know that it’s not going to put out anything crispy or crunchy, and I haven’t really figured out why I’d want to use it to cook fish. I do like steaming some vegetables in it, and I love the way hard-cooked eggs peel when cooked in it. Rice was fine too, although I did mine with the pot-in-pot technique which is wonderful for cooking for one–so far a very happy addition to the kitchen!

 

 

Another Beet Soup

Beets image from Swallowtail Garden seeds

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It’s no secret that I love beets, beet soups (cold or hot) and salads so any recipe for beets catches my eye, and may evoke some interesting gustatory imagery as well as an urge to run to the kitchen and cook.

Perusing my email this morning I found a recipe for a beet soup from Will Frolic for Food that sounded so intriguing that I just had to add it to the collection. I’ll confess to total ignorance about hemp hearts until reading this recipe, but I did note that they may be omitted if they don’t occupy a place in your pantry.

The list of ingredients really sparked my interest–lots of things that I have in my herb and spice collection, but that I hadn’t thought to combine with beets. And if you’re wondering I haven’t made this yet, but I’ve updated my grocery list for a few of the things that I need to make it–including the pink peppercorns for garnish.

 

 

Beans & Rice

This was a kitchen happening–not really a recipe with given quantities of anything–just because I wanted rice and beans. Everything is flexible, depending on your taste and how many servings you need. (I wanted to have some extra to put in the freezer for quick side to grilled meat.)

It’s SO hot here that cooking just isn’t very appealing even with air conditioning on. One of my solutions is to eat things can be prepared without turning on the stove. I did this in the Krups multi-function pot that I love and use in so many different ways. (Tomorrow I’ll be using it to make tuna confit since my supermarket had lovely tuna medallions on a really special sale. That will keep me in tuna for my summer salads for a bit.)

Black Beans & Rice with Chorizo

Ingredients

  • rice (about 1 cup)
  • olive oil (healthy dollop)
  • onions, chopped (lots)
  • black beans
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • canned diced tomatoes with green chilis
  • red pepper flakes (dash)
  • pimenton (dash)
  • Mexican oregano (good healthy pinch)
  • pork chorizo (about 1/2- to 3/4-pound fresh)
  • water or extra tomato juice/V8 juice as needed for the rice

Preparation

  • Sauté onions in olive oil until translucent and starting to soften
  • Add red pepper flakes, pimenton, oregano, salt and pepper and sauté until the spices are aromatic
  • Add chorizo and sauté until it starts to turn opaque
  • Add canned tomatoes
  • Add rice and black beans (canned or frozen)
  • cook until rice is tender

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It’s hot and humid here, and I was being particularly lazy, despite my desire for food so I did this in the multifunction pot. I did make this as easy as possible–frozen chopped onions, canned tomatoes, and frozen black beans (these from 13 Foods) but Stahlbush Island Farms also has black beans and brown rice that make a good starting place for this. The result with frozen legumes is much better than with canned, though those will work as well.

A note on the oregano–it was Mexican oregano which is definitely not the same as Greek or Turkish oregano. If you don’t have Mexican oregano, then I would substitute thyme or cilantro. I can’t get my head around the Greek or Italian with this mix of flavors.  The pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) adds a bit of smoky flavor.

I first measured my rice so that I’d know how much liquid needed to be added to have it cook to proper doneness. Everything else was added (as indicated) by the dash, dollop, or pinch.

The chorizo that I used was fresh, made in-store from my Harris-Teeter supermarket, and not in casings so all I had to do was break it up into the pot to sauté.  Couldn’t get any easier. If you can’t find “loose” then just remove from the casing, or put the whole sausages in to make this a meat-centric dish.

Everything was sautéed using the rice cooker setting with the lid open. Quite quick and easy although it does require a little attention. Once the tomatoes (with juice) and beans were added, with just a bit of spicy V8 juice to give enough liquid to cook the rice, the lid was closed, and I went away to do something else–until my meal was done. The caveat here is that you do need to be sure that the amount of liquid is appropriate for cooking the rice–too much and you’ll have “blown out”, mushy rice; too little and it will still be crunchy–you’ll need to add more liquid and continue to cook until tender.

Quantities and totally flexible–maybe you like more rice than beans–or the other way round. I love lots of onions, but if you don’t, then just don’t use many.  The proportion of chorizo depends on how meat hungry you are–it can vary too, from almost a seasoning to a lot. Next time I make this I will add just a bit more than I used this time, although it was quite good this way.

A son gôut!

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A one-dish oven meal

It’s time to do the weekly (at least I try to make it weekly) troll through the fridge to see what is left from last week, to use for the first two or so meals this week. There’s some kohlrabi, radichio, fresee, lettucepart of a rutabaga, a head of radicchio, and there’s part of a bag of frozen butternut squash in the freezer that should be used as well since it’s already open. There are also two boneless, skinless chicken thighs and two black pepper and onion sausages.

The chilly, drippy, damp and grey weather calls for something warm and colorful. This weather has left me feeling like I really want quality time with the cat and a good book, so I’m thinking oven type meal. It can’t be a stew–already did that quite recently. So a roasted supper seems like a good idea–and something with lots of flavor!

I’ve been wanting to try roasted radicchio, butternut squash is good roasted too–and that certainly would be cheerful and colorful. Although I usually use bone-in chicken thighs for roasting, a little perusing of recipes from The Kitchn I found a suggestion for roasting the boneless, skinless ones as well.

  • A little further browsing suggested 425ºF.for about 20 minutes for the thighs.
  •  From Bon Appetit for roasted radicchio suggested 450ºF for 12 minutes for a head cut into six wedges–I think I’ll cut mine a little thicker
  • For the butternut squash, a recipe from Food & Wine suggested 425ºF for about 40 minutes for 1-inch dice of raw squash. The frozen squash is par-cooked, so I think the 20 minutes should work for that. Since this is frozen, I’m not expecting it to brown in the oven–it will be too wet, but better than dealing with way too much squash. It should still taste good.

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It was a pretty good result for a trial run with just whatever was in the fridge, and went into the oven all in one baking dish.  It’s a combination that will likely even happen as a planned meal in the future.

The chicken thighs didn’t brown much but were tasty; however, I definitely my chicken thighs bone-in and skin-on–especially if you salt and air dry the skin so that it gets crispy and brown. I may have to give bone-in a bit of a head start on cooking, then add the other stuff.

The butternut squash did as expected–cooked fine but didn’t brown. Again, still tasted good and it was great with the radicchio.

I didn’t get part of the core with the radicchio, so my wedge fell apart–oh well, a learning experience. But roasted radicchio is now right up there with grilled or roasted cabbage. The edges a little brown and almost charred, but tender (though still some texture. The bitterness of this against the sweetness of the squash was great. That’s a combination I’ll come back to again.

It wasn’t particularly photogenic since the radicchio fell apart as I removed it from the baking dish to my plate and the chicken wasn’t browned, but it was a very tasty meal with some good taste contrasts.

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 A son gôut!

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