Tag Archives: hot peppers

Sweet Potato Vines

Enough sweet potato vines to fill the sink.
Enough sweet potato vines to fill the sink.

I had no idea one could eat sweet potato vines until earlier this year. Like every good European gardener I knew that every part of the regular potato above the ground was poisonous and just assumed the same was true of the sweet potatoes. How wrong I was!

From back to front; pock Marked Mother Chen's Bean Curd, Steamed Eggplant with Chile Sauce, and stir Fried Sweet Potato Vines.
From back to front; pock Marked Mother Chen’s Bean Curd, Steamed Eggplant with Chile Sauce, and stir Fried Sweet Potato Vines.

When we got sweet potato vines in the pick box this week I immediately thought about a Chinese stir fry but I also wondered whether they were eaten in Africa as well.

We tried Frog Song’s vines in a stir fry from Katie Cannon. We had them with brown rice and Fuchsia Dunlop’s Pock Marked Mother Chen’s Bean Curd (Ma Po Dou Fu, sounds better in Chinese doesn’t it, but delicious in any language) and her Steamed Eggplant with Chile Sauce that I mentioned in an earlier post. But I have to say, the addition of the fish sauce did not make this a Bethany favorite. Just a bit too pungent. Next time I will stir fry them in a hot and garlicky sauce.

Getting the vines from Frog Song made me look at the vines in my own garden, which at this time of year are rapidly taking over. So I send Bethany out to bring back a laundry basket full of vine clippings (I kid you not) and began preparing a version of this recipe. I couldn’t get goat, so I used lamb, find a nice fatty cut. I also didn’t pound the leaves, just cut them and I didn’t cook the leaves for so long. No need to boil them to death, they will meld in the stew nicely enough. Finally, I just used a few fried anchovies instead of making a fish stock. Also, note in the recipe at Shepherd’s Song the cooked leaves are “set aside” and, as far as I can tell, never make it back into the stew!

Sweet Potato Vine Stew

  • 2lbs lamb shoulder chops, or neck.
  • 2 tbsps of canola oil.
  • 1 half large onion, diced.
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 2 Chinese eggplant, cubed.
  • 4 Spring onions, chopped.
  • 2 dried chilies, I used arbol.
  • 3 anchovy fillets, packed in oil, finely chopped.
  • A large amount of sweet potato leaves, chopped.
  • 1 half cup of peanut butter (I used Smucker’s Natural Chunky. Use one with nothing but peanuts.)
  • Water.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
Spicy Sweet Potato Vine Stew with Lamb
Spicy Sweet Potato Vine Stew with Lamb

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boiling. In the meantime, brown the lamb chops in the oil until nicely browned on both sides. Remove from the skillet and place in the bottom of a casserole. Add the diced onion, the anchovies, garlic, and eggplant to the remaining oil and brown. Grind one chili and add it to the onions. Add the spring onions. Place the chopped sweet potato leaves in the boiling water and cook until bright green. Remove from the water and place in the casserole on top of the meat. Then place the browned onion mixture on top of that. Season the whole thing generously with salt and pepper. Add the second chili, whole. Add enough of the water from the vines to almost, but not quite cover the meat and vegetables. Mix the peanut butter with another half a cup of the cooking water and add that to the casserole. Cover and bake in the oven for approximately one hour. Remove the casserole from the oven. Fish around in the stew to remove the chops. The meat should easily fall away from the the bone and remaining fat. Return the meat to the stew, stir and adjust the seasoning.

Serve over brown rice. We drank a Californian Pinot Noir with it, but you could choose a more full bodied red.

Bethany loved this one!

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.

The Fish Issue

My favorite thing to do with a bunch of amaranth leaves is to make Jamaican Callaloo. Callaloo seems to be one of those words that is used to mean the soup, the cooked vegetable, and the growing vegetable, at least in Jamaica. Callaloo soup in Trinidad seems to be made with a different plant. I use a a variation of this recipe.
Amaranth grows very well in Florida. Once you have it in the garden, you will never get rid of it and it is a green that will survive the heat and humidity of a Florida summer, so I am not surprised to find it in Frog Song’s CSA box this week.

Here is the recipe that makes enough for four.

Thyme, okra, chopped amaranth stems, coconut milk, chicken broth, crab meat, scotch bonnet pepper, amaranth leaves, onion and garlic. Ready for callaloo.
Thyme, okra, chopped amaranth stems, coconut milk, chicken broth, crab meat, scotch bonnet pepper, amaranth leaves, onion and garlic. Ready for callaloo.
  • One large bunch of amaranth leaves.
  • One onion, sliced.
  • One clove of garlic, sliced.
  • Few sprigs of thyme.
  • Half a dozen okra.
  • Four cups of chicken broth. I like to make my own, but we didn’t have any in the house today.
  • Half a pound of crab meat (more about that later.)
  • One whole scotch bonnet or habanero pepper (I got mine from a friend’s garden.)
  • One cup of coconut milk (I have seen various callaloo recipes with this, but having made the soup with it, I don’t think it adds much to this recipe.

Wash the callaloo thoroughly. It can be one of those gritty greens. Separate the leaves from the stems and chop the stems roughly. Add all the ingredients, except the crab and the okra, to a soup pot and simmer down until cooked through. Perhaps 20 minutes. Remove the scotch bonnet pepper and be very careful to keep it whole. This way it adds great flavor but not intense heat to the soup. If you purée the pepper, watch out! It will be very hot. Strain the solids and place in a food processor and purée. If you prefer a non-puréed texture, strain the solids from the liquid and chop finely. Return to the liquid. Add the crab meat and the chopped okra. Add salt and pepper to taste and heat through. I served it with lovely Olde Hearth whole wheat levain bread.

Jamaican Callaloo.
Jamaican Callaloo.

So the verdict? Bethany likes it, but would prefer better crab. Sam is not so keen. Deborah is too polite to say. I agree, a can of crab from Publix is not a great ingredient, but this is why I titled this post the fish issue. Getting good seafood is a big problem in Central Florida. Wholefoods has some good choices, but they are very expensive. Lombardi’s isn’t great. Publix’s is slightly cheaper, but the quality is not great and you are buying into the global seafood industry (my crab came from the Philippines) with all the problems that come with it; unsustainability, poor labor conditions, and environmental damage. See this interview with Paul Greenberg on NPR’s Fresh Air for more on this issue.

My callaloo would have been great with fresh crab caught from the end of the pier by the kids on a family vacation. But is that the only way to have seafood in my diet? That doesn’t strike me as globally sustainable either. We will return to this issue when I write about our second course.