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Dandelion Fritters 0

Posted on May 10, 2011 by crankycheryl

It’s May in Vermont so I’m looking at leaves.  With the rain, all the rain, and the sun the world just seemed to bounce into technicolor overnight.  Now the trees are all blossoming in that golden green of spring, vibrant everywhere.  Chartreuse fuzzy leaves, new red maple buds, dogwood and flowers suddenly there.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit how amazing I find plants.  Really – a tomato plant in fruit can leave me speechless.  How do these simple life forms know to do what they do – a petal here, a bud there, a leaf that curls just so.   How does a bud know when to open?  How does it turn that tightly curled bead into an unfurled leaf overnight?

But this year I’ve been teaching in our school’s environmental education program and I’ve learned that I had that point wrong.  The bud forms slowly in the year before it blossoms.  It spends the good growing days using the plant’s resources to build the leaves that will appear next year.  It’s not a miracle, or maybe not a sudden miracle:  it’s slow growth under the surface.  The plant doesn’t have to spring into action when the weather is most in doubt and turn itself beautiful.  It just had to do a little bit at a time when light and food and water were plentiful, and then sit tight and wait through the hard times.

And when the sun is good and strong get out there and stretch and reach and grow.  And, if you’re in my family, get out there and forage for what you can freely find – like the dandelions just after they burst bright and yellow into the spring.

Dandelion Fritters
Serves 2

  • 2 cups of dandelion flowers, rinsed gently but thoroughly (make sure to pick them where the dogs haven’t been and nothing has been sprayed on them)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used chick pea flour, but just about anything would be fine)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. black pepper

Whisk together eggs, flour, salt and pepper until smooth and free of lumps, then beat in the dandelions.

Heat up 2 T. butter in a medium skillet until bubbling and fragrant, then pour in dandelion-egg mixture.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or until firmly set on bottom, then flip and cook 2-3 minutes more.  Serve immediately.  It’s nice with a salad, and a little hot sauce won’t hurt a thing.

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Insalata Caprese – Vegan 0

Posted on August 03, 2010 by crankycheryl

The vegan minister at our church retired recently, and we sent him off in fine Unitarian style with a big potluck picnic, music, bounce castle, and all manner of wholesome fun and well-wishing.

Though I knew most people in attendance are happy omnivores, I couldn’t bring myself to make something that the guest of honor wouldn’t eat.  And a quick review of what was in the fridge turned into this take on the summer classic, which seemed like one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-this-before sorts of dishes once it occurred to me.   There was something especially fab about having it on the church picnic table right next to the genuine orange carrot-Jello mold, which I did indeed help myself to a big day-glo scoop of.

Vegan Insalata Caprese
Serves 8

Prepare tofu:

  • 1 lb. package extra firm (not silken) tofu, pressed, then sliced fairly thickly, and marinated for 1 hour in 1 cup of water with 1/2 t. kosher salt and 2 cloves chopped garlic

While the tofu’s marinating, reduce to 1/3 cup over low simmer:

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar (don’t waste super-high quality stuff on this – run of the mill stuff will be fine)

Pat the tofu dry, then layer it in whatever shape suits you and your serving dish with:

  • 4 ripe tomatoes, sliced into pieces about the size of the tofu
  • 1 cup large basil leaves

Drizzle the vinegar over the top, then top with:

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to tastev

Voila.  Now you’ve made the vegans happy.

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Beet, Fennel & Goat Cheese Crostini 2

Posted on June 25, 2010 by crankycheryl

Well, not crostini exactly since the bread isn’t crisp.  Maybe canape, but they anyway were what I brought to a veggie potluck this week.  I skipped the crisping because I always kind of hate the inevitable crumble and collapse of bruschetta and crostini after you take one bite and before you know it you’re dripping tomato cubes and apologizing to the hostess about the carpet.

Not only was I taking such care of my future co-eaters, but then I felt myself simpering with smugness about being able to combine thawed roasted beets from the freezer, fresh snipped fennel fronds from the garden, a Brie-like goat cheese from our CSA share, and apricot preserves from last year.

Character flaws aside, what’s really nice about these is that they can be an inspiration for all sorts of summer eating.  A piece of good bread, crisped or not, a slice or schmear of cheese, a tart and fruity something on top, and a sprig of some fresh herb or other – lots of possibilities.   I made this version thinking about how the different kinds of sweetness of beets, apricots, and fennel would play with the creamy cheese on baguette.  But you of course will adapt it to use what you’ve got around.

Beet, Fennel & Goat Cheese Canapes
About 25 pieces

Arrange on a platter:

  • 25 (or whatever) thin slices of baguette, lightly brushed with
  • extra virgin olive oil (you’ll need about 2 T.)

Place on bread:

  • 1 slice Caprella, Camembert, Brie, or any soft cheese you like

Set bread aside.

Combine and puree in a blender, or a bowl that will accommodate an immersion blender:

  • 1/4 c. apricot (or other fruit) preserves
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. sherry (or other mild) vinegar
  • pinch salt
  • pinch sugar

Pour dressing into a medium bowl.

Cut into small dice:

  • 2 c. worth roasted beets (or plum, peach, apricot, melon, tomato, etc.)

Combine dressing and beets or fruit with:

  • 2 T. finely chopped fennel fronds (or basil, lemon balm, nasturtium leaves)

Place a heaping teaspoon of the beet mixture on top of the bread and cheese and top with:

  • 1 small sprig of your chosen herb.
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First CSA Pick-Up of the Summer 2

Posted on June 12, 2010 by crankycheryl

Waiting for the farmers to be ready for the onslaught.

Start of season = many greens.

Our beloved Gerard’s bread.

And equally loved Does Leap.

I love this arbor.  Two years ago the field just beyond it was where the pick-your-own herbs grew.  Last year it hosted strawberries, and this year it’s the flower field.

Beautiful flowers.

Not a ton of food or variety at the start of the season, but still so lovely to return.  Many recipes to come.

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Stuffed Grape Leaves: Further Encounters with Weed-Eating 2

Posted on June 10, 2010 by crankycheryl

So at last I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and the truth is that I’m liking it so much that I’m a little bit embarrassed.

I was sure that I was going to find it a total snoozer, and roll my eyes at all the stuff I already know.  Like I need to be taught how to eat locally and why it’s a good idea?  But reading it is like talking to another localvore friend, one who’s clever and funny and self-deprecating and good-hearted, and not as “preachy” as I’ve heard the book described.

Maybe that’s why I took it a little personally when I read the passage about how my new BFF’s year of eating locally was going to mean growing food and buying from local farmers.  And ABSOLUTELY NOT going to include gleaning weeds by the roadside because she didn’t want to fit some low-class stereotype.

Ahem.

I like collecting weeds, and I’m okay with knowing that my sons will grow up to be mortified by the habit.  It’s okay because one day they’ll appreciate my boundless creativity and thriftiness.  Of course by then I’ll be dead and my ghost will be hovering over the heads of their wives or husbands saying things like, “Really?  You’re too good for that?  You’re just going to throw out the peel and those greens and not even make soup out of it?  And what the hell is that thing you’re wearing?  You call that a shirt?”

But here and now my target is grape leaves (well, grape leaves plus eight uninterrupted hours of sleep and maybe paying my bills on time for once).  The vines are absolutely everywhere, and I’m gearing up for a big harvest and preservation.

And in the meantime, I’m preparing lots of dolmades with the fresh ones.  They’re a quick snack or meal, taste great, are gluten- and dairy-free, and easily made vegan.  Come on by and join me among the weeds.

Stuffed Grape Leaves
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
About 40 rolls

Pour 2 cups of boiling water over:

  • About 40 large grape leaves (or 2 small jars if you haven’t gotten the fresh wild ones around).

Let sit for 1 hour.

In the meantime mix well together in a large bowl:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb or beef (locally, humanely raised)
  • (if you want a vegetarian version substitute 2 cups dried lentils plus 1/3 cup of water for the meat)
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (your choice – I used oregano and thyme)
  • 1/3 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 T. salt (don’t skimp)
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Line a large saucepan with several leaves.  Then roll the remaining leaves by placing a leaf on a small plate or cutting board, vein-side up and with the stem facing you.  Put a heaping teaspoon of filling about an inch above the leaf’s bottom.  Fold over the left and right sides, then roll from bottom to top and place in the pan with the flap-side down.  Roll the rest of them and place in concentric circles in the pan, building to a second level as necessary.  Save a few smaller grape leaves aside.

Drizzle over the top:

  • 3-4 T. olive oil

Pour in:

  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 cups stock/broth or water,

Place remaining grape leaves on top, and cover with a small plate (this will ensure that all the stuffed leaves are sufficiently submerged).  Cover the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the rice and meat/lentils are cooked.  Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature – which is how much Mediterranean food tends to be eaten.

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Three Things to do with Lamb’s Quarters 5

Posted on June 05, 2010 by crankycheryl

“Why on earth,” my friend wants to know, “would you eat lamb’s quarters when there’s good fresh spinach in the garden?”

It’s a decent question.  Why do I compulsively seek out weeds to eat when we’ve got good cultivated foods right at hand?

There’s the thriftiness factor, with the undeniable appeal of free food.  And there’s a very pleasant satisfaction in finding food where others look out and see a wild patch of mess.   I love the unpredictability of what grows on its own, how I have to hunt for this thing that’s beyond my control.  Where I’m attempting to make a garden that conforms to some sense of order and productivity, these wild edibles are on their own trajectory.  It’s not up to me to protect them from pests or be obliged to extend their season of growing.  They come, they go, I find and use them or I don’t.

There’s some kind of lesson about gratitude and grace in this.

Here are some of the things that I do with them:

  • Chop and saute them with some fresh garlic and oregano, then add to ground grass-fed beef with crumbled feta for delicious Greek-flavored burgers.

  • Chop, blanch, and pack into ice cube trays for easy-portioned greens to add to soup, sautees, pasta, or whatever you like.

  • Cook up with some quartered new potatoes and eggs or tofu for a great breakfast (lunch, dinner, snack).

Also in season right now: wild grape leaves, which I’ll share a recipe for this week.

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Cross-Posting from Red Wagon Plants: 0

Posted on March 25, 2010 by crankycheryl

Inspired by Julie’s visit and emboldened by the sunshine, I went out to clear away some of the mess from last year.  I was rewarded with a peek at what’s coming up … just in time for a cold snap this weekend.

3-20-10 Dakin Bfast 001

There was the wintergreen, staying as bright as it’s supposed to.

3-20-10 Dakin Bfast 002

The first shoots of the soon-to-be inedible sorrel I mentioned last week.  I’m planning to harvest its first leaves for salad before I pull it out to replace with currant bushes.

3-20-10 Dakin Bfast 006

Oh, and look – some perky German thyme from RWP last year.  This is making a roast chicken more and more likely this weekend.

And as I was looking at the bare dirt, I had the sudden thought that I have no idea what is going on with it.  Julie, should I get it tested?  What should I do next to prep it?

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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