Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Purslane Plus Kale Equals Love

I've been trying to put up 40 pounds of tomatoes so please forgive me if this post is a little rangy, disheveled, and rambling.  That's pretty much me at the moment.  (Also, I may be slightly over caffeinated *tremble, tremble*)  Before you ask, no I didn't grow the tomatoes.  My tomatoes are barely larger than an egg and greener than a leprechaun on Sunday.  And there are about 6 of them.  Fried green tomatoes, here we come... =)

 See the tomatoes?  (Pobre tomates.)

Anyway, I am still geeked about finding purslane at the market last week.  I hadn't found any for years and when I saw it, I giggle-snorted like an Urkle and shoved handfuls of it into my shopping bag.  Strange looks from my vendor aside, I've been holding on to this recipe I created a few years ago and was really excited to get to dust if off again.

This is a great recipe for using up leftover quinoa and lentils.

Purslane Stuffed Kale Leaves
Yield: 4-5 servings
1C quinoa
4 C water, divided
1 tsp vegetable bullion
1 C lentils
1/4 medium onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
8-10 leaves kale
1/2 C chopped purslane (stems, too!)
4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 C freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Bring quinoa to a boil in 1 3/4 C water and stir in the bullion.  (I like Better than Bullion Organic Vegetable or Mushroom.  You could substitute vegetable stock if you like.)  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes.  Fluff with fork.

Meanwhile, boil lentils in 2 C water until soft, around 20 minutes.

Sauté garlic and onion in a little olive oil until softened and slightly browned. 

Combine 1 C quinoa, 1 C lentils, onion/garlic sauté, and optional cheese.  Season with salt and pepper as desired and set aside.

In the same hot sauté pan, brown kale leaves slightly, then add remaining 1/4 C of water, stock, or even wine to the pan and cover.  Steam leaves until stems are soft and pliable, around 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat.  When leaves are cool enough to touch, place one heaping spoonful of quinoa mixture on the leaves, then top with a generous helping of purslane and a little thyme.  Roll the leaf and put it on a plate.  If your leaf is coming unrolled, you can use a toothpick to help hold it together.

I served this with steamed butternut squash last night and it was fabulous.  This keeper would make a nice side dish for chicken, also.  The hubs and the eldest loved it.  The youngest ate two bites of squash.  *sigh...*

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Praise of Weeds

I know you've heard that you can eat dandelions.  You might know about chicory or wild carrots.  But I bet you didn't know about this little guy.

This here is purslane.  It is a lovely little baby of a plant.  It's also widely regarded as a weed.  Which is a shame since, according to the magical high and mighty source of all wisdom on the internet: Wikipedia, it's got the most Omega 3's of any vegetable. It's high in vitamins A and C and contains magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron.  It's Latin name is Portulaca oleracea.  There are around 40 varieties.  And I happened to find two at my local farmer's market last week!

The one on the left here (the smaller one) is the one I consider more weedy.  I think the larger one was probably cultivated.  These two seem to have a more upright habit.  At my parent's house in NC, they've got this beauty growing as a weed in their vegetable garden, but it grows along the ground in a supine fashion.

 Here is a close-up of the difference in size between leaf whorls.  It's hard to believe they're the same type of plant!  Purslane is a succulent so the leaves are pretty... uh... juicy.  "Mucilaginous," is another word to describe it, but only slightly.  The flavor is very nice.  Apparently, depending on the time of day you harvest it, it can have a different flavor.  Earlier in the day, the leaves are more lemony.  These small plants had quite a bite compared to the larger ones which were more lettucy.  I'm not sure if it was because of when they were harvested or just a difference in the variety.  I actually tried to grow purslane from seed this year and they didn't even sprout.  Some green thumb I have.  I can't even grow weeds!
I made lasagna with mine using the purslane as a layer and I have another recipe in the box that I'll share next week.  You can basically use this any way you'd use spinach.  I even put some in my smoothie this morning!  

Keep an eye out for it at your farmer's market, but don't eat anything out of your garden if you don't know for sure what it is.  For more information about identifying purslane, check out "Wildman" Steve Brill's website.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vegetarian Heaven

Moussaka originated in the Mediterranean region and is one of those dishes that's made by lots of cultures in many different ways.  And almost always with meat.  I found this vegetarian version and made it once, years ago, when my eldest was still a hip hugger.  It takes a lot of work.  I mean a lot.  So I didn't make it again for years.  But the thing about all that work is it's totally worth it.  I could not believe how mind-blowingly good this was the first time I made it.  I was really excited to try it again when I didn't have a tot permanently attached to my extremities.  The day has finally arrived!  This recipe came from All Recipes, and was submitted by Anne Buchanan.  Depending on your skill in the kitchen (I'd say I'm probably slower than average) you're looking at around 1 1/2 to 2 hours prep-time here, so plan a good chunk of the day. 


1 eggplant, thinly sliced
1 T olive oil
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
2 potatoes, thinly sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 T white vinegar
1 (14.5 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
1/2 (14.5 ounce) can lentils, drained, juice reserved
1 t dried oregano
2 T chopped fresh parsley
1 C crumbled feta
1 1/2 T butter
2 T flour
1 1/4 C milk
black pepper to taste
1 pinch nutmeg
1 egg
1/4 C Parmesan cheese
  1. Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C).
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brown eggplant and zucchini slices on both sides; drain. Adding more oil if necessary, brown potato slices; drain.
  4. Sauté onion and garlic until lightly browned. Pour in vinegar and reduce. Stir in tomatoes, lentils, 1/2 the juice from lentils, oregano and parsley. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes.
  5. In a 9x13 inch casserole dish layer eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, onions and feta. Pour tomato mixture over vegetables; repeat layering, finishing with a layer of eggplant and zucchini.
  6. Cover and bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan combine butter, flour and milk. Bring to a slow boil, whisking constantly until thick and smooth. Season with pepper and add nutmeg. Remove from heat, cool for 5 minutes, and stir in beaten egg.
  8. Pour sauce over vegetables and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for another 25 to 30 minutes. 
My substitutions/additions:
I have never bought a can of lentils in my life and probably never will.  They are so simple and quick to make from dried I always have some in my pantry.  Because this recipe takes so long anyway, having some lentils made up a day ahead of time is probably the best way to go on this.  If you happen to have some left over, more's the better. 

I also omitted the nutmeg.  I don't like it if it's not in some sort of spice cake at Christmastime.  Otherwise, it just tastes funny to me.  I'm not doing all this work to have it ruined by weirdo nutmeg!  =)  If you like nutmeg, I'm not offended, go for it! 

    Holy Grecian Gramma!  I could eat this every day.  I mean it.  If I could find some sweet little septuagenarian to come live with me and make me moussaka, I would love her and pet her and call her Georgeina.  As it stands though, since I don't see many Gramma stores opening up any time soon, I reckon I'll keep this recipe.

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Celebrating   Summer...

    This may come a day late and a dollar short to most of you fine folks out there, but here in the Pacific Northwest it's finally (dare I say it?) Summer!  The sun is out.  It's slightly warmish.  Some days it's downright, nearly, almost hot!  Time for some cucumber soup!  I got this recipe from a friend of mine who asked me to make it for a Ladies' Tea.  I was relatively new to cooking and decided to punch it up a little with curry powder.  I loved it.  But let's just say there were several ladies who were less than impressed...  Something about curry not quite complimenting clotted cream...  If you like a little curry and you're not trying to impress the Ladies Tea Society, go for it.  It's fantastic.  If not, make it like this, it's still great.  It originally came from Gourmet Magazine, apparently.

    Chilled Cucumber Soup
    3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped, plus 1 C peeled, seeded, and finely diced
    1 1/2 C plain yogurt
    1/4 C sour cream
    1/2 tsp English-style dry mustard, or to taste
    Salt and Pepper
    1/4 C chopped fresh dill
    Fresh lemon juice, taste
    Cucumber slices, dill sprigs, for garnish

    In a blender, puree chopped cucumbers, yogurt, sour cream, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a bowl.  Chill soup until ready to eat.  Before serving, stir in finely diced cucumber, dill and lemon juice.  Garnish soup with cucumber slices and dill sprigs.
    Yield: 4 1/2 C Prep time: 20 minutes

    I used the juice of one whole lemon, but I was using my own homemade yogurt, so it was pretty mild.  Using store bought, you could probably get away with half a lemon.

    One of my crumbs loved it, the other wouldn't touch it, but what else is new?  Hubby and I thought it was great.  It's great as a first course, or even a whole meal if it's really unbearable outside, though you might want to double it up.  I served this with some sauteed shrimp and garlic on a bed of rice and parsley (fake chicken chunks for myself...)  Very nice.
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