Monthly Archives: July 2015

Kohlrabi Apple Matchstick Salad

kohlrabi apple salad with hazelnuts

Crunch, crunch.

Everyone knows that apples and cheese and mustard go together, right? What they may not know is that kohlrabi is adds an important edge to the mix. Just enough zing to tie it all together and a very pleasant crispiness, especially since it’s not apple season and your apples may not have the ideal firmness. (This was my roommate’s idea, by the way)

Cutting up anything into matchsticks makes it more fun, too (besides the bit where it takes dressing more handily). I recommend peeling kohlrabi, cutting in half and then thin slices, then take half of that, flip it sideways (on the flat side) and cut more thin slices. You can kind of do the same thing with apples (don’t peel, but core them), but it’s a little trickier with the core gone. I bet there’s some ridiculous fancy kitchen gadget that will do matchsticks for you, if you really can’t stand cutting them up.

To elucidate some comments I’ve made previously re: farm tech, the problem with technological change is much the same problem as GMOs: copyrights. Farmers end up needing to hack into the systems of tractors and other equipment in order to use them. When you reach the point that the farmers are seeking out old versions of tractors just to avoid this problem, you know there’s something wrong with the system. The same could potentially be applied to seeds—the only reason we get so excited about heirloom (historic) seeds these days is because we haven’t been breeding for the right traits (i.e. flavor), so important qualifiers have been lost over time, and some of the newer interesting seeds have weird patents on them. Harumph.

There are some cool new developments though (well, a combination of new and old, like many of my favorite innovations), like a tree that has been grafted to produce 40 different kinds of fruit! Trees are so neat. I need to get an orchard when I have a real place, whenever that will be.

It’s almost tomato season and I am beyond thrilled. Stay tuned.

Kohlrabi apple matchstick salad
2 kohlrabi bulbs
1 apple
2-4 oz. extra sharp cheddar
Parsley
1 small scallion, or 1/4 red onion
Chives
Nuts, if desired
Dressing: 
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 large spoonful mustard (more than you would put in an ordinary salad)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon
Honey, if desired
Tahini or cream, if desired
Salt and pepper

Cut up the kohlrabi and apples into matchsticks (see above for technique recommendations). Matchstick the cheddar as well. Chop up parsley, green onions, chives, and any other additions you would like. Toast nuts, if using.

Whisk together dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss, making sure cheddar pieces separate from each other.

Serve with toasted nuts on top.

Other variations: More lemon; mint instead of mustard; parmesan instead of cheddar; add radishes for an extra bite or cucumbers to make it milder.

Picnic time!

kohlrabi apple salad

P.S. I added my Instagram to the side of the page! Now you can see all my pretty pictures even without an account. You’re welcome.

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Deconstructed Summer Fruit Tart

deconstructed blueberry tart

Deconstructed desserts are very mod these days, you know. They also happen to be both a lazy and single person’s version of a tart, capturing the flavors and textures without the work of assembling an entire creation, which I like to save for parties or potlucks. I typically use an almond tart crust for the more official version of this dessert, but couldn’t quite be bothered without an occasion, so topped pastry creme and berries with loosely chopped toasted almonds instead. If you want to tie it together, drizzle a little honey or jam over top.

A few more items you may be interested in. First and most self-aggrandizing, I now have an Instagram! Follow me @dancingtreekitchen. I only have a few pictures up so far but if you want to keep up with what’s cooking in Dancing Tree Kitchen in real time, that’s the new spot! Expect lots of food and a few nature shots (mostly trees), because that’s what inspires me to pull out my camera.

blueberries

I don’t often share stories about trees, because I get so caught up in the food and ag-gy news, but it just so happens that there are many people who love trees as I do, and some of them expressed it when trees were assigned email addresses. I will now be accepting odes to your favorite tree…

Human vaccines have turned out to be rather controversial for parents worried about unknown side effects, but as a whole they have been hugely beneficial in that small task of preventing humans from dying… what about plant vaccines? Researchers are trying to find ways to help boost a plant’s immune system, instead of adding external protections like pesticides. Seems like a good idea to me, although of course it depends on implementation.

And if you’re wondering how the Greeks can become a little more stable, I think this guy growing his own food has the right idea.

deconstructed berry tart materials

“Summer fruit” is intentionally ambiguous in this -recipe-. Your particular landscape and certainly the weather and seasons will probably have different fruits coming up every week. Here in Maine, we are in that fantastically lucky timeframe when blueberries are beginning to proliferate but strawberries are still abounding, and sweeter than at the beginning of the season.

I love pastry creme with raw berries. Another fabulous option is grilled stone fruit, which I tested for the first time last week to the gastronomic delight of my roommates. Cut peaches or plums in half, remove the pit, and grill for a few minutes until soft. They get warm and caramelly; my plums highlighted the delicate almond flavor in the creme. Fabulous.

grilled plums with pastry creme
(I was too busy eating to capture a good picture, apologies)

Deconstructed Summer Fruit Tart
Pastry creme
1 1⁄4 cups half and half 
2 Tablespoons cornstarch 
3 egg yolks 
1 tsp vanilla, or 1/4 tsp almond extract
3 Tablespoons sugar 
2 1⁄2 Tablespoons butter

Summer fruit (berries, stone fruit, grilled stone fruit, a combination...)
Almonds, or other nuts, toasted and chopped to desired texture
Honey or jam for drizzling

Pastry creme (involves lots of whisking to prevent it from curdling): Heat half and half in the microwave until almost boiling. In medium saucepan, whisk together the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch. Add the hot half and half slowly, whisking continuously, then bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Keep at a boil, whisking, for 1-2 minutes—it should be thick and creamy. Remove from heat and scrape into a bowl. Let sit for a minute or two, then whisk in the butter and vanilla/other flavoring. Let cool—once cool enough, press plastic wrap directly onto surface to prevent a skin from forming, and place in refrigerator.

Serve a dollop of cold pastry creme with fresh or grilled fruit, sprinkled with nuts and drizzled with a little honey or jam. Happy summer!

P.S. I highly recommend going blueberry picking! Ask around for the non-secret secret spots near you and bring your friends and containers. Don’t go at dusk though, I ended up with an enormous array of bug bites (including one on my ankle that swelled up rather nicely for the subsequent few days).

Hummus and its many uses

Hummus and avocado toasts

Summer is here! I am quite pleased. Go jump in the ocean if you haven’t yet.

(Sorry for the avocado toast taking up half that picture. Also delicious though, btw.)

As summer is road trip and picnic season, I thought I’d share with you the classic vegetarian staple, hummus, which is perfect for both activities. Note that the sort you eat has two m’s. The other is great and important to food too, but somewhat less appetizing: humus is dark, organic material that forms in soil when plant and animal matter decays, according to National Geographic. Very important for nurturing the soil, but perhaps less delicious than its name cousin.

I would like to share this video with you all, as it encapsulates a few excellent points written by Nathanael Johnson at Grist over the past couple months. If it doesn’t embed properly here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtFU2_RydcQ

Feeding the world and ending poverty, you know, no biggy.

I’ve discussed this at some length already, because it is often in the news and I am fascinated, but how much do you think technology will help? We discover scientific advances that can help improve the lot of humans everywhere (yes, even controversial developments like GMOs have their uses), although at times science itself can be biased, either from publishing primarily positive results or from industry influence (read: $). I suspect that food will go the way of other tech, with the largest innovations in the knowledge sphere—sensors learning the quality of individual patches of soil, translating that to a nutrient mechanism that can feed and water plants, and an integrated system that indicates when crops are ready and can go straight to consumer’s demanding them. Random cool ideas like underwater farms are possible too. And we might see some new appliances in the kitchen—technology in the kitchen hasn’t really been updated since the microwave, but we are beginning to see computers that create recipes for us, and robotic prep workers. I doubt that the human element will entirely disappear from the kitchen, since we add that creative je-ne-sais-quoi element, but as tech gets smarter you never know.

You do need a bit of tech for making hummus—a food processor—but the human element remains essential at least for determining taste preferences, like how much lemon to add. Fortunately if you add too much of one thing at the beginning you can always supplement with more of the other ingredients, and can prepare as much as hummus you like. It keeps well and while does better refrigerated, can survive a long trip without being kept very cold. Do make sure to put it in a good container though—especially if you put oil on the top, spillage is less than fun to clean up.

Also, don’t feel limited to using chickpeas! Other beans make fabulous dips and can vary the flavor and texture if you get bored with classic hummus. More on that below.

Basic Hummus
2 cups chickpeas, or other bean (I prefer cooking my own but a can works too), with a little of the the juice
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup tahini
Juice from 1 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
Cumin (or other seasonings)
Salt and pepper
Other seasonings (optional; see below)

Put everything in a blender and whir away. Taste and adjust seasoning, especially lemon. You can make it as smooth as you like—I can never seem to get mine to quite the consistency of store-bought hummus, but I’m not sure I’d like to anyway. Add water as necessary to help it blend.

If serving as a dip, I recommend putting a drizzle of olive oil on top and a little paprika for color.

Now the fun part: extras to blend in! This can be almost anything you want. Some suggestions:
-Lots of smoked paprika
-Sundried tomatoes
-Green garlic or garlic scapes
-Roasted garlic
-Roasted beets
-Roasted anything really (nuts, veggies, fruit??)
-Pesto
-Spinach or kale
-Artichokes
-Extra lemon
-Olives
-Go crazy! Tell me your best ones!

Like anything, play around to find out what you like. Start with your favorite kinds of flavors and go from there. Experiment with different beans too—I had an excellent black bean green garlic dip the other day that I aspire to recreate in the near future—probably will skip the tahini and add extra cumin.

Roasted beet hummus sandwich

The other fun part: how to eat it! The classic use is a dip for fresh veggies (carrots, celery, salad turnips, radishes, what have you) and pita chips. I also love it on toast, drizzled with a little extra olive oil (the fancy stuff if you have it) and some smoked paprika. Throw on a couple roasted beets if you like and take it to work as a sandwich. Also good in a wrap with a bunch of veggies (lettuce, tomato, avocado, sprouts, julienned kohlrabi, carrots, radishes, turnips, don’t forget the salt…).

One of my favorites is eating hummus with salad. Put a big dollop on the side of your plate and dip your fork into the hummus before every bite. Adds protein and delicious creaminess but keeps the indispensable quality that salad performs so well of feeling good after you eat it. Excellent with a good vinegar-y balsamic dressing.

Roasted eggplant salad with hummus
Roasted eggplant green salad with gorgonzola balsamic and hummus

Happy eating!

Corn Cakes

corn cakes

Possibly also known as corn fritters. The jury’s still out on that distinction (or I just haven’t consulted the right court)—I incline towards thinking of fritters as rounder and more fried and cakes a little flatter.

In any case, it isn’t corn season yet but fortunately I still have corn from last season in my freezer. And now that all the fresh vegetables are coming up (salads with EVERYTHING) I feel comfortable using up the tasty foodstuffs frozen away. And I need space in my freezer anyway to make room for the buckets of pesto that summer shall endow.

The possibilities for local food feeding all of us, by the way, are growing. Which is great, because “local”  (i.e. less commodity-based) farmers tend to follow more sustainable practices, which is helping decrease global malnutrtion.

And we sure do have some great local products! I favor using a mix of cornmeals here, as in most corny delights. Helps vary the texture. Similarly to pancakes, these are flexible, and take new additions and flavors quite well (within reason). Chives are fabulous, as are most green onion-types. Or you can go the other way and add a little sugar, maple syrup, or top with molasses.

corn cakes batter ingredients

Corn cakes
1/2 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal, mixed varieties
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
Chives or scallions
1 tsp baking powder (soda if using yogurt or buttermilk)
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup hot water, supplemented with yogurt, buttermilk, or milk as desired
Vegetable oil for cooking

Mix the dry ingredients (including corn kernels and chopped chives) in a bowl. Stir in the hot water and let sit for a few minutes, then mix in the egg. Adjust liquid as necessary so the batter spreads enough in a pan.

Heat up a flat pan with a good bit of oil (more if you want to make actual fritters), and put the batter in the pan like pancakes. Cook for a minute or two then flip and cook again. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

I enjoyed mine with a balsamic reduction and a large salad; they take other sauces nicely too—tomato, vinegar, mushroom…

corn cakes batter