May 20, 2015

NETTLE OMELET WITH SPRING ONION

I know.... it's weird that we cultivate weeds in our backyard, especially when you consider how unfriendly nettles appear to be. One touch and you know why they're called "stinging" nettles. But this luscious weed is worth the hassle. Not only are stinging nettles absolutely delicious, they're super good for you...packed with fiber, protein, vitamins A, C, D, and K. Nettles are a miraculous anti-inflammatory, treatment of seasonal allergies, and a known blood purifier. We brew nettles as a simple tea, saute them as we could spinach or other tender greens, and puree them into pesto. Once nettles are cooked, the infamous sting disappears.

Nettles seem to be cropping up at more and more farmers' markets these days. I've even seen them at Monterey Market. Or if you're of the adventurous foraging ilk, you might find nettles growing wild nearby. Please, harvest the nettles with care. Using gloves is always a safe bet, though I find a good set of tongs and scissors to work for me as long as I'm careful not to casually brush my arm against the bush while harvesting.








Nettles and eggs make delicious companions. The tender greens are so good sauteed with a little spring onion and Parmesan and tucked into a tender omelet. Of course you can eat this dish for breakfast, but remember omelets make a nice lunch or easy supper.

If you're curious about nettles, read more here and here.

INGREDIENTS makes 1 omelet, though you can easily double, triple... the recipe to feed as many as you choose
  • 3 packed cups trimmed and washed nettle leaves (see my notes above about the necessary precautions for handling fresh nettles)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped spring onion or scallion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan 
  • 2-3 eggs
  • splash of water
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • unsalted butter
  • optional for garnish: chopped onion greens and/or onion blossoms
Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add nettle leaves. Use tongs to toss nettles and coat them in the warm oil. Add a sprinkling of sea salt to the greens. Cover the pan, turn then flame to low and continue to cook nettles for a few minutes until the leaves are wilted and tender.

Place cooked nettles on a cutting board, and coarsely chop. Set chopped nettles next to your stove so that you can easily add them to your omelet in just a few minutes. Place your grated Parm next to the stove top as well.

Set a small, well-seasoned cast iron (or non-stick) pan over medium heat so that it can thoroughly preheat before you cook your omelet. In the meantime, whisk eggs vigorously in a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and a tiny splash of tap water.

If you're new to cooking omelets and would like some visual help, you might want to check out this post from my archives. 

Place 1/2 tablespoon butter in the hot pan. Swirl it around to coat all sides. (If the pan is too hot and the butter browns, use a paper towel to wipe out the pan, adjust the flame and start with a fresh pat of butter.) Once the melted butter has coated the sides of the pan, immediately add the whisked eggs. Grab the handle of the pan and tilt it so the eggs evenly coat the bottom, and slightly up the sides of the pan. Once the eggs start to form large bubbles, use a spatula to pull the eggs from the edge towards the middle of the pan, letting the runny eggs fill the void. Repeat this action in 3-4 places until there's no longer any excess runny egg.

Once your eggs have a nice rumpled surface, sprinkle the grated Parm onto the omelet. Next add the chopped, cooked nettles. (If the omelet still looks a little underdone to your taste, turn the flame to low and cover the pan for just a minute or so. I personally like my omelets with a slightly gooey middle.) Slide the omelet from the pan onto a plate, letting it fold onto itself.

Serve omelet right away and garnish with onion greens (and blossoms, if you've got them.) Enjoy!
 

April 15, 2015

FIZZY RHUBARB SHRUB





I don't know about you, but I take immense pleasure in a good drink. Coffee is a daily necessity for me. I try to be diligent about my water intake. But really I find nothing more refreshing than a fruity, homemade beverage.

I'm guessing most of you are hip to the shrub thang, but if shrubs are new to you, you're in for a treat. If you're solidly in the ultra sweet soda-y camp, you might find the vinegar hit of a shrub to be odd, but if you're like me and dig a drink that's sweet, tart, and bubbly all at the same time, shrubs will treat you right.

Rhubarb - always a good player in the tangy-sweet world - seems a perfect springtime star for a homemade shrub.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 pound rhubarb, sliced into into 1/4 inch semicircles
  • 2 cups light agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup good quality apple cider vinegar 
  • sparking water
  • optional for serving: sprigs of fresh thyme, kumquat slices, or an orange twist would be nice here






In a medium mixing bowl, combine sliced rhubarb and agave. Cover and let sit at room temp for 48-72 hours. Strain, reserving syrup. Add good apple cider vinegar to the liquid and you’ve got your shrub. (Feel free to add more vinegar if that suits you, adjusting the tang to your liking.) Transfer syrup to a lidded container - and keep in the refrigerator.

( You can discard the rhubarb slices, or I save them in a separate lidded container and add them to my morning bowl of granola and Greek yogurt.)

I'd suggest combining 3-4 portions sparkling water to 1 portion of shrub, but feel free to make a more concentrated or diluted shrub depending on your taste. Serve over ice. Add a little citrus or fresh thyme if you please. You can also add a splash of rhubarb shrub to your cocktails.







March 18, 2015

QUINOA ORZO WITH ASPARAGUS + PRESERVED LEMON DRESSING



Purchasing my first bundle of asparagus each year marks a tectonic shift in our kitchen. I feel ready to let go of heartier soups and starchy roots as I start to dream of the vibrant greens that only early spring can bring. Peas, wild nettles, bright salads, freshness...

Today I wanted to share a super easy dish that lets asparagus bask in its natural glory. Speaking of natural glory... have you tried storing your asparagus in water? It's a great way to keep the spears firm and fresh. I like the notion of treating asparagus like any other spring bloom... maybe I'm just a produce nerd, but I'd be quite happy to get a bouquet of asparagus in lieu of flowers.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa orzo* (any orzo will do here, or you could substitute a few cups of cooked wild rice for this recipe)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 large or 2 small preserved lemons (if you don't have access to preserved lemons - I think using additional fresh lemon juice and fresh lemon zest would make a nice substitution). For details on making your own preserved lemons, here's a recipe for you.
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice + more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan + shaved Parm for serving
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
  • for serving: arugula or chopped parsley; another squirt of fresh lemon juice; shaved Parm or crumbled goat cheese
*A local company named Edison Grainery has been doing all sort of interesting things with grains, specifically organic quinoa. We're addicted to their quinoa crispies and I really like their quinoa orzo.




Fill and large stock pot with tap water and salt very generously. Set pot over high heat and bring water to a boil.

In a large mixing bowl, set up an ice bath for the asparagus.

When the water comes to a rolling boil, blanch asparagus slices until vibrant green and just tender, depending on the thickness of your stalks, this could take 1-3 minutes. Don't pour out the cooking water, simply scoop out tender asparagus with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge the veg into an ice bath. Keep your salty cooking water on the stove and use it for your orzo.

Cook orzo until it reaches your desired texture. (For those of you using the Edison quinoa orzo, I've found that the cooking time is much longer than that suggested on the package.)

While the orzo is cooking, go ahead and make your dressing. A note on preserved lemons: when using preserved lemons, you want to discard the flesh and use only the peel. Rinse the pieces of preserved lemon peel and place them in a blender or food processor. Add olive oil, lemon juice, grated Parm, plenty of ground black pepper and salt to taste. Blitz all ingredients. Taste for seasoning and add a little more lemon juice and/or salt as desired.

When the orzo has finished cooking, drain and transfer it to a serving dish. Pull asparagus from the ice bath, pat dry and add to the orzo. Generously dress the dish, adding additional salt or lemon juice to your liking.

Serve warm or room temp with ample freshly ground black pepper, shaved Parm or creamy goat cheese, scattered arugula leaves or chopped herbs. Although not necessary, I like to give the dish one last squeeze of fresh lemon juice just to bring out the springy brightness.

Enjoy!

serves 4-6

BTW, did you guys read the new piece by Mark Bittman about cooking and eating in Berkeley? I'm happy to see Mark so enjoying California produce and our beloved Monterey Market, but I have to say... I'm scared that the already-insane parking lot situation is about to get much much worse!

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