Monthly Archives: July 2014

How do I love thee, watermelon?

With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, let’s talk about watermelon.

Watermelon is one of those iconic American foods and the ones we have got from Frog Song Organics every week have been delicious. Often the ones I have bought in the store have been too large and lacking in flavor. You grow bored of their wateriness and the rest rots in the fridge. Not these ones. They aren’t too big and the flavor is sweet, fruity and refreshing. Still, there is a limit to how many watermelon slices you can eat. So here are some others things we have done with them.

Watermelon, Green Bean, and Feta Salad

This was inspired by a recent recipe in the New York Times, which, in an epic librarian fail, I cannot find. Anyway.

Watermelon, green bean, and feta salad
Watermelon, green bean, and feta salad
  • A good amount of watermelon, cubed.
  • 8 oz of green beans (we used yard long beans from the garden, but regular green beans would work as well) cut into 2 inch lengths.
  • 2 oz of feta cheese, crumbled.
  • Sliced almonds (the NYT used pistachios, but I prefer almonds.)
  • Good olive oil and a little lemon juice.
  • Very little salt and enough pepper to taste.

With a bowl of iced water to hand, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the beans for 2 to 3 minutes until they turn bright green. Strain the beans and immediately plunge into the iced water. They turn and remain a gorgeous vibrant green that complements the red water melon beautifully. Set aside. Add the cubed watermelon to the salad bowl. Strain the beans and add them. Gently toss with oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Crumble the feta on top and sprinkle with almonds. Serve chilled.

Watermelon Margaritas

Bethany enjoying a watermelon margarita
Bethany enjoying a watermelon margarita

 

Place two large tumblers filled with ice in the freezer.

In a cocktail shaker add 4 oz of reposada tequila, 1 oz of triple sec, the juice of half a lime, and the cup of watermelon juice. Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Shake. Strain into the tumblers and garnish with a small wedge of watermelon. Some like a salt rim. I don’t.

Watermelon Pickles

This recipe is a variation on one Sam introduced me to from John Currence’s Pickles, Pigs, and Whiskey. Strangely, because I have never made watermelon rind pickles before, I peeled the dark green skin from the rind. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but it tastes good. Maybe next time I will try it with the skin.

Watermelon Rind Pickle in the fridge.
Watermelon Rind Pickle in the fridge.
  • As you use the watermelon throughout the week, retain the rinds, peel them, or not, and cut them into strips (half an inch by two inches.) place in a bowl of water with a good handful of salt in the fridge. You should end up with about 4 cups of watermelon rinds.
  • 2 cups of sugar.
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of vinegar (Currence calls for Apple cider, I just use distilled.)
  • 2 tsp of mustard seeds.
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.
  • 6 lemon slices.
  • 1 tsp whole cloves.
  • 1 cinnamon stick, crushed.
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns.

 

Mix the sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, pepper flakes, and 1 cup of water in a large non-reactive pot. Once simmering, lower the heat. Tie the lemon slices, cloves, cinnamon, and peppercorns in a coffee filter or cheese clothe and place in the pot with developing the syrup. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the strained watermelon rind and bring back to the boil. Remove the spice packet. Ladle the mixture into quart jars, so that the syrup covers the rind. Fill to just below the neck of the jars. Screw on the lids and store in the refrigerator. Let them mature for a week.  Currence says they last for 6 to 8 months, but mine get eaten long before that!

These are sweet and sour and pretty spicy, so adjust the spices according to your taste.

Jimmy Nardello Peppers

Yet another thing I had never heard of. I regard myself as a reasonably knowledgeable gardener and eater, but that is now twice in four weeks that the folks at Frog Song
have stumped me. First with papalo and now with this sweet pepper. This was not in the CSA box this week, we just picked it up at the market.

Jimmy Nardello peppers
Jimmy Nardello peppers

John assured us that this was a sweet pepper. But come on! Look at them, they look just like a red hot pepper, maybe an Anaheim or a fresh arbol. So, somewhat dubious, we brought them home. I nibbled the end of one, no heat. So I sliced one and ate a seed. Most of the heat of a pepper is in the pith and the seeds, not the flesh. Still no heat. So this is what we did with them.

Sausage with mushrooms, peppers, and onions

  • 2 mild Italian sausages (Wholefoods or The Meat House have good ones.)
  • 2 red onions, sliced radially (stem to root.)
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped.
  • 8 oz crimini mushrooms, quartered.
  • 8 oz Nardello peppers, cut in half with the pith and seeds removed.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil. More if necessary.
  • Fresh thyme.
  • 1/2 cup of red wine.
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Brown the sausage in the oil in a skillet. Remove, slice, and set aside.
Sauté the onions in the same pan until beginning to brown. Remove and set aside. Add the peppers to the pan, try and keep as much of the skins on the skillet bottom as possible so that the skins brown and blister. Add the onions back in and the garlic until they are thoroughly cooked through. Add salt and pepper. Remove everything and set aside. Add the mushrooms and sausage to the pan. Add the thyme. You may need to add a little more oil. Cook covered until the mushrooms are cooked. Add the wine and reduce. Then put back the peppers and onions and cook until the favors meld. Not long. At this point you can leave the dish on a warm stove top, or simmering, covered until you are ready to serve. Correct the seasoning, serve in a large serving dish with a splash of balsamic vinegar. It is great with crusty bread and a green salad.

Jimmy Nardello peppers came from Italy in the 19th century. Jimmy Nardello donated them to the Seed Savers Exchange. They are a lovely Italian frying pepper.

Sweet and Sour Okra (Kutchhi bhindi.)

One of my oldest and most beloved cookbooks is Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery which Bethany and I must have bought in London back in the mid eighties. The pages of favorite recipes are stained with the rich colors of Indian spices and splattered with oil.

Here is her lovely way to prepare okra, or as they were traditionally known in Britain, ladies fingers (yuck) and, much more evocatively called by Jaffrey, bhindi.

Sweet and Sour Okra.

Sweet and Sour Okra
Sweet and Sour Okra
  • 14 oz okra
  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • 1 whole dried hot red chili
  • 7 tbsp of water.
  • 2 tsp of ground cumin.
  • 1 tsp of ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric
  • 4 tbsp of vegetable oil.
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 tsp lemon juice.

Cut the okra into 3/4 inch rounds. Put the garlic and chilli in a blender with 3 tsp of water. Blend to a paste. Add the ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric, blend briefly to mix.
Heat the oil to medium in a skillet. When hot, add the whole cumin seeds. As soon as the seeds begin to sizzle, turn the heat down and add the spice paste. Stir and fry for a minute. Add the okra, salt, sugar and lemon juice and the rest of the water. Stir to mix and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover tightly and cook until the okra is tender, no more than ten minutes.

Papalo (Porophyllum ruderale spp macrocephalum)

This herb was unknown to us when it appeared in our Pick box last week. Frog Song called it Bolivian Coriander and one sniff tells you why. You can definitely get the cilantro like smell of it. So we used it as a garnish on an okra frittata, in banana wrapped fish, and in a mango salsa.

Bethany and Sam described it as lemony, citrus, pungent, medicinal. I think I prefer cilantro overall. This herb is a bit stronger. It lasts well in the fridge standing in a glass of water.

Here is what I found out about it. It is native to Central America and the southwest of the US. The USDA plant profile is here.

Eliza Lord at Appalachian Feethas a good post on growing the herb and has a number of recipes and Victoria Challancin at Flavors of the Sun adds a few more, and finally Gina Ruiz adds a dose of enthusiasm for the herb at Doña Lupe’s Kitchen. On page 190 of Diana Kennedy’s classic book The Essential Cuisines of Mexico she mentions this herb in her recipe for Pueblan Semitas (a sandwich) and calls it  papaloquelite.

I would love love to find one of those sandwiches.

Week three pick box

Watermelon, Chinese eggplant, okra, peppers, red onions, Malabar spinach, and corn.
Watermelon, Chinese eggplant, okra, peppers, red onions, Malabar spinach, and corn.

Here is what we got in the box this week. John kindly swapped out the yard long beans for some malabar spinach, since we have so many of the beans from our own garden. By the way, here is the recipe I use for pickled yard long beans. You curl them into the jars whole so they look great in the jar and they come out like a Slinky.

Tilapia with Mango Salsa.

This was Bethany’s idea for papalo. This is a variation on a recipe supplied by Sam. Here is the recipe.

Tilapia with Mango Salsa

The salsa

One Florida mango, diced.
One small sweet onion, thinly sliced.
One diced sweet pepper.
Juice of one lime.
One tablespoon of chopped papalo leaves.

Mix all the ingredients together and set aside for the flavors to blend.

The Tilapia

Two tilapia fillets
Juice of one lemon.
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste.

Marinade the tilapia in the other ingredients. Heat skillet to medium high add olive oil. Pan fry the tilapia, two minutes on one side, turn it over, add rest of marinade liquid, cover, turn the heat down low and cook for a few minutes (until the fish flakes.)

Place the fish on a serving dish, and top with salsa. It was delicious.

Tilapia with mango salsa
Tilapia with mango salsa

Playing with Papalo

It has been fun trying this new (to us) herb from Frog Song Organics, papalo, in various ways. It is also known as Bolivian Coriander and is said to taste like cilantro, so that is what we tried first.

I have been growing okra in the garden this year, so for brunch this Sunday I made a okra frittata and sprinkled papalo on top. Here is the recipe. It makes enough for four people.

Okra Frittata

Okra Frittata with Papalo
Okra Frittata with Papalo
  • One dozen okra
  • Four eggs
  • Tablespoon of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped papalo leaves for garnish.

Heat a ten inch skillet, add olive oil. Slice the okra in rounds. Add to the skillet and sauté until bright green (2-5 minutes). Beat the eggs and add salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into the skillet and cook until browned on the bottom. Loosen the frittata from the skillet bottom. Place a large plate over the skillet and turn it over. Add more oil to the skillet if necessary, then slide the frittata back into the skillet and brown the other side. Repeat the plate trick with a clean plate, sprinkle with papalo and serve warm.

Amaranth in Hot Garlicky Sauce (Suan Ni Xian Cai)*

My new favorite way to cook amaranth leaves. This is another variation on a Fuchsia Dunlop recipe from Land of Plenty.

Amaranth, all ready to go.
Amaranth, all ready to go.

Amaranth can be a somewhat fibrous vegetable, so prepping is well worth the time. Nip off the smallest leaves and set aside. Nip the leaves from the petiole at the base, so that the petiole remains on the stem (not sure about your parts of the leaf? See here.) using a paring knife, strip the petioles from the stem pulling them down the stem so that you remove the petiole and some of the fibers from the stem, just like you would peal a stick of rhubarb. Wash everything thoroughly. Amaranth can be gritty as well. Chop the stems in half inch pieces and roughly chop the leaves. Now you are ready to begin. By the way, this prep is pretty much what I use for any amaranth recipe. Here is the recipe.

 

Amaranth in Hot Garlicky Sauce

  • One bunch of amaranth, prepped as above.
  • Four tablespoons of sweet aromatic soy sauce (fu zhi jiang you).
  • Four tablespoons of chili oil.
  • 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic.
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame oil.
  • Chopped papalo (or cilantro) for garnish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. In the meantime mix the soy sauce, chili oil, garlic, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Blanch the amaranth for about 3-5 minutes. Test a leaf to check if it is cooked. Strain the amaranth from the water. Thoroughly mix the sauce into the amaranth and place in a serving bowl, sprinkle with the papalo. Serve warm.

image
Front; amaranth in hot and garlicky sauce. Back dried fried beans.

We had this with dry fried yard long beans (gain bian si ji dou) and we just couldn’t resist traditional corn on the cob with lashings of butter, since it was so fresh. So this was an all-CSA meal tonight. The pork in the beans is just a flavoring and the beans are crunchy, the amaranth is very garlicky and somewhat spicy. All in all a great combination. ll washed down with a Vouvray.

* My Chinese is virtually non-existent. So I hope I have this right. Let me know if I need to correct it.

More than we expected this week.

We got more than we expected this week. Amaranth, sweet corn (John threw in a couple of extra ears), sunflowers, sweet onions, sweet peppers, yard long beans, and papalo, but also another gorgeous watermelon and some nice complements on the blog from the good folks at  Frog Song.

That papalo is definitely the most intriguing. I am going to have to do a whole post on that. Anyone have any ideas how to use it?

Clockwise from the sunflowers, sweet corn, sweet onions, papalo, sweet peppers,  amaranth, and watermelon.
Clockwise from the sunflowers, sweet corn, sweet onions, papalo, sweet peppers, yard long beans, amaranth, and watermelon.