Roasted Eggplant–a how-to guide for easy roasting, freezing and preparing

Eggplants Growing in a Container--Nubia VarietyHere in Southern Wisconsin, eggplant has enjoyed a great season but it is nearly at an end.  Get to the farmers market before it is all over–you still have time –and buy some beautiful, large American or Italian varieties.  Get a bunch—think 2 large eggplants per dish. Roast and freeze them now and for the rest of the year, you’ll be able to whip up some amazing tasting dishes lickety split using locally grown eggplants.  Baba ganoush is one of my favorite roasted eggplant dishes but so many world cuisines use this beautiful, meaty, veggie in so many creative ways. (Skip to the end for some inspiration and motivation to get you to the market.)

About: Eggplants come in many shapes and sizes, with the exception of Hmong Red and African varieties bred to be bitter, they all have a similar mild taste and meaty texture.  While any variety can be roasted, the fleshier Italian and American varieties work best.

How to Roast Eggplants: Charring the skin of the eggplant imparts a rich, smoky flavor to the flesh—an essential flavor to any roasted eggplant dish.  Eggplants can be roasted in a 400° F oven, but it takes an hour or more if the eggplant is large. Also, the skin doesn’t blister enough to create a strong smoky flavor.  Try one of the following methods instead:

Eggplant Roasting on the Grill

Grill Method 

  1. Place whole eggplant on a hot grill.
  2. Char each side of the eggplant for about 8 minutes; turn with metal tongs—about 30 minutes altogether.
  3. Once the eggplant is charred evenly, place in a bowl and cover with a plate or a non-reactive pot with a lid to steam. Allow the eggplant to steam and cool—at least 15 minutes.
  4. The eggplant should be completely caved in on itself and the flesh soft. Peal off the charred skin.  If there are a lot of seeds, remove some.  If the flesh does not seem to be completely tender, finish cooking in the microwave. Discard the liquid; it may be bitter.Eggplant Roasting & Steaming

Oven Broiler Method: Follow the steps above but #1.  Instead, place eggplant on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler.

Stove Top Method: Follow the steps above but #1.  Instead place eggplant directly on the grate of the stove top and turn gas to high.  This only works with gas stoves.

Storing in the Refrigerator: Roasted eggplants will keep for 3 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Eggplant--Roasted in Freezer Bags Eggplant--Roasted in Freezer Bags Eggplant--Roasted in Freezer Bags

 

 

 

 

 

Storing in the Freezer:   Eggplant cannot be canned or dehydrated. You could peel, blanch, and freeze fresh eggplant, but why bother as it looses its texture and has a bland flavor.  Instead preserve it by storing roasted eggplant in sealed freezer bags; the difference between fresh and frozen roasted eggplant is indistinguishable. NOTE2 lbs. fresh eggplant yields about 1 cup roasted.

  1. Place 2 large, roasted and peeled eggplants in a freezer bag. (about 1 cup)
  2. Press flat removing all air.
  3. Label and date.
  4. Place stacked bags in the freezer.  They will keep for a year or more.

Cooking Methods:  Roasted eggplant is served mashed—from roughly chopped with a lot of text to a fine puree. Try pairing it  with various seasoning and spices for a great dip, spread, or sauce.  Add some stock and cream and you have a soup.

Add 1 cup roasted eggplant with the following seasonings:

  • Japanese: 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon mirin; garnish with 1 stalk green onion finely chopped
  • Korean: do the same as Japanese and add one small clove garlic mashed to paste and 2 teaspoon Korean chili pepper or 1 teaspoon paprika and a pinch of cayenne
  • Mediterranean: one small clove garlic mashed to paste, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 2 Tablespoon chopped mint or cilantro, and 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Greek: juice of half a lemon, one small clove garlic mashed to paste, 1 Tablespoon mince oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt

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How to Freeze Strawberries

StrawberriesIt is strawberry season, and once again, you got carried away at the u-pick farm and the farmers market. Or maybe it was just me. (The kids each wanted to pick their own flat, and I couldn’t deny them the pleasure, could I?) Household members (one in particular not pictured here) accuse me of food hording all through Wisconsin’s short growing season particularly with fruits as sweet and ephemeral as the strawberry. So while the season is here for 3 or 4 weeks in June and early July, we indulge in fresh and the extras we freeze.  Freezing offers the quickest and most simple way to preserve them, and it allows us to eat local strawberries all year long.

Frozen strawberries can be eaten as is.  My kids think this is the best treat ever–like a popsicle–and sometimes prefer this to a fresh berry.  You can also add them to smoothies; they bake up beautifully in pies and cobblers.  It is also a good idea to freeze berries before preserving them in other ways.  Frozen berries make a superior quality jam with fewer floaters than jam made with fresh.  Freezing berries pasteurizes them; this is an essential step in making fruit leathers with a longer shelf-life as freezing kills any bugs or eggs. With so many uses and freezing this easy, let the berry hording begin.

Steps to Freezing Strawberries–Individual Quick Freeze Method (IQF)

  1. Clean the fruit.
  2. Remove the stem.
  3. Spread the fruit so that the pieces are not overlapping on cookie sheets and freeze.
  4. Once frozen, place in freezer bags or containers and label.  They will keep in a deep freeze for up to a year.

This yields individually frozen fruit which you can use in any portion you want later–a single berry or a quart.  All berries freeze well using this method.  You may also freeze rhubarb like this.  Simple chop the rhubarb first before laying it on a cookie sheet.

Quick Pack Methods: You can simply dump the clean and de-stemmed fruit in a bag in the portion you desire–pint, quart etc. You can even mix in a little sugar. They will freeze as a mass. Not as flexible for later use, but the job gets done even quicker.

Strawberries--Freezing

Use a spatula to transfer the frozen berried from the cookie sheet to the freezer bag.

2014 Jul 03_0956

If the kids picked the berries, why not have them freeze them too?

Strawberries--Freezing

Always use “freezer” bags, not “storage bags”.  If you don’t over stuff them you can stack them neatly in the deep freezer.

If you don’t have a deep freezer (and I suggest you get one if you want to eat locally grown food as much as possible) you can transform these into fruit leathers and store them on a shelf.

Click on the links for these frozen strawberry recipes:

Copyright Notice: Local Global Kitchen images and original content are copyright protected.  Please do not publish these materials without prior consent.

 

Bread & Butter Freezer Pickles–Sandwich Toppers Made Easy

This time of year, when everything is in season, you will find me at the farmers market wringing my hands and looking a bit frantic—so many veggies and so little time.    Soon after, I will begin talking out loud to myself.  Naturally.  How else does one make plans and set priorities?  “Mid-September.  Okay, pickling cucumbers are on the way out, and I still have about a month before the first frost takes the tomatoes and even longer for the peppers, soooooo cucumbers it is…”

…which means pickles.”   I did the full ferment kosher sours long ago at the start of the season.  If you read this blog or know me even a little, you know that I am passionate about pickles and pickling. If you didn’t know, well, let me tell you that I’m kind of a big dill in the world of pickling.  Get it, kind of a “big dill.”   I even have a T-shirt that says so.

My tastes run toward salty, savory, garlicky, or hot when it comes to pickles.  However, another camp of pickle connoisseurs stand firmly in allegiance with the sweet pickle.  I don’t share that opinion, but a sweet pickle, I admit, does have its place on the plate. Tart, tangy, and sweet, a tuna fish or pulled pork sandwich wouldn’t be the same without an old-fashion bread & butter pickle on top.

Bread-n-Butter Freezer PicklesWhile I’m not a sweet pickle fan per se, this is no second-class bread & butter.  I’ve taste-tested it on bread & butter fans and have received rave reviews. The simplicity of the recipe with its consistent, flavorful, and crunchy results has led me to make this year after year.   Moreover, it takes just minutes of prep time and freezing allows me to store it in small and extra-small portion sizes.

Bread-n-Butter Freezer Pickles--Ingredients

Bread & Butter Freezer Pickles--Sandwich Toppers Made Easy
Author: 
Recipe type: Pickle
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 cups
 
Salt and sugar (for unknown reasons) keep cucumbers crisp even after freezing them. If you want them even crisper, dry soaking the cukes in ice cold water for 12 - 24 hours before cutting and preparing them.
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ lbs. pickling cucumbers (5 cups sliced)
  • 2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced (1 ½ cups)
  • 2 T pickling salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ t turmeric
  • ½ t paprika
  • 1 T whole mustard seeds
Instructions
  1. Wash and thinly slice the cucumbers removing the blossom end—do not peel.
  2. Combine cucumbers, onions, and salt in a large glass bowl and let stand for 2-4 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, vinegar, and spices and allow the sugar to dissolve completely.
  4. Rinse and drain the vegetables well, drying and blotting them on a clean tea towel.
  5. Combine all ingredients and place in individual freezer containers leaving an inch of head space for expansion.
  6. To use, thaw for 4 hours in the refrigerator. Serve chilled.
Notes
Once thawed, these pickles will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

Blossom-EndCooking with Kids:  Let the kids slice the cucumbers while you slice the onions.  Use a steak knife if they are under 11.  They should still use safe knife skills especially tucking their fingers in on the hand that holds the cucumber.   Kids are also able to measure the salt, sugar, vinegar, and spices. (It’s not canning so you don’t have to get too panicked about precise measurements.)  Lastly, my kids really like to mix so let them toss the cukes with salt using their clean hands or mix the sugar into the vinegar.

Bread-n-Butter Freezer Pickles--Preparing

Bread-n-Butter Freezer Pickles--drying

Bread-n-Butter Freezer Pickles--freezer bags

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sofrito

Because exploring ethnic grocery stores remains one of my favorite past-times, I feel fortunate to live in a city as ethnically diverse as Milwaukee.   I love ethnic food adventures so much, that 2 years ago for Mother’s Day, my husband drove me all over Milwaukee’s South side so that we could investigate all of the Greek and Turkish grocers.  We took turns going in the stores while our girls slept in the back seat.  It was nap time.

Milwaukee’s South side is rife with immigrant-owned mom and pop establishments.  Although we have fewer on the North side, a few gems exist.  El Pueblo, a Puerto Rican/Caribbean specialty store just down the street from my house, is one such gem. It was here that I discovered sofrito in the freezer section.  After asking, the owner explained that sofrito is a seasoning made with tomatoes, peppers, onions and herbs.  Sofrito is a constant of Puerto Rican cuisine added to various dishes like beans, eggs, rice, and meats.  I took it home; I tried it out; I loved it, and thought, “I can make that.”  And so I did with all locally-grown ingredients of course.  After researching and testing many recipes I came up with my own.

Sofrito
Author: 
Recipe type: Condiment & Seasoning
Cuisine: Latin American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: about 8 cups
 
Sofrito can be made with green or red peppers. I prefer the red for sweetness and color. When red peppers come into season, make a large batch of sofrito--enough to last the entire year--then freeze it. I add it to beans for a quick delicious side dish. I also like to add it to Latin inspired soups and sauces.
Ingredients
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 cups onions, minced
  • 3 cups red and green bell peppers, minced
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 cup tomato, cored, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 lime, juice
  • 2 t salt
  • 2 t black pepper
Instructions
  1. Chop or process ingredients in a food processor and combine.
  2. Place sofrito in freezer safe bags, removing all air.
  3. Date and label.
  4. Freeze sofrito flat in the bags so that it is easy to break off frozen chunks as needed.
  5. Fresh sofrito will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Cooking with Kids:  I make sofrito with a food processor. The kids are in charge of pushing the button. They love this task. The processor is a noisy, electric machine with a button and a sharp blade. Nothing could be more irresistible to a little kid

Fresh Shelled Beans

Fresh shelling beans or “shellies” are hard to come by.  Oh now and then, I come across a bin of chickpeas at the Persian or Indian grocery store, but only at the farmers market do I find such tender delicacies as fresh cranberry beans (Phaseolus Vulgaris); Limas (Phaseolus Lunatas); or purple-hull peas (Vigna Unguiculata).

Even though I live in the North, the farmers at my market cater to a clientele with strong ties to the South.  Southerners know and love their shelled beans. Line up a variety of shellies and challenge anyone who grew-up in rural Mississippi to name them.  Not only will they rattle off the names of each variety with ease, but they will also give you a tutorial on how to best cook them—Southern-style of course!

Their passion has become my passion. I always loved beans, but have come to cherish that rare specimen, the fresh shelled bean.  When they arrive at the market, I buy them, lots of them.  Some I cook immediately, but most I squirrel away in my freezer to be enjoyed all winter and spring long until the next harvest season brings more.  Even frozen, their flavor and texture is superior to dried or canned.   I’m not poo-pooing canned and dried beans.  They have other advantages, and I use them too, but nothing can compare to the fresh shellie.

Season & Selection: Fresh cranberry beans begin appearing in Southeast Wisconsin in early August, followed by Lima beans in mid-August.  Purple-hull peas appear last in late August.  Shelled beans will remain at the market through November, though starting in October, they will gradually begin appearing as dried shelled beans as opposed to fresh.  When at the market, choose plump, filled-out pods. Immature seeds are too difficult to shell.  Slightly yellowing or drying pods are perfectly acceptable but avoid completely dry, brown pods.

Storage:  Short term—keep pods for only a few days in the warmest part of the refrigerator in a paper not plastic bag.  Long term—shell beans and blanche in 5 quarts of boiling water a pound at a time: 2 minutes for small, 3 minutes for medium, and 4 minutes for large beans.  Cool in an ice bath, dry and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Freeze beans completely then transfer to freezer bags, label and date. Fully cooked beans can be refrigerated for about a week and frozen for 6 months. Cooked beans freeze very well.

Yield: 50%—2 pounds of pods yield about 1 pound of beans (3 cups)—more for cranberries and less for Limas.

3.0 from 2 reviews
Basic Fresh Shelled Beans
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish
Yield: 6-8 servings
 
Make Tuscan beans by adding a few cloves of crushed garlic, 2 T olive oil, and a bay leaf to a pot of cranberry or Lima beans. Using the slow cooker makes this dish even easier.
Ingredients
  • 3 cups fresh shelled beans = 1 pound shelled = 2 pounds in pods
  • 1 t oil (optional)
  • Salt
Instructions
  1. Shell and wash the beans.
  2. In a large heavy sauce pan, add beans and enough water to cover by 2 inches.
  3. Add oil to prevent foaming.
  4. Cover and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer covered on low heat until tender—15 minutes for small beans, 25 minutes for medium sized, and 35 minutes for large beans like cranberries. Test for tenderness often.
  5. Alternatively, place all of the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 4 - 6 hours or high for about 2 hours.
  6. When beans are tender, remove lid, drain excess liquid if desired, stir in salt to taste and serve.

Optional Additions While Cooking

  • 2 T olive oil, butter, or bacon fat
  • Stock instead of water
  • Any smoked meat
  • Aromatic herb—bay leaf, or sprig of fresh oregano, sage, thyme, celery leaf or rosemary
  • Crushed garlic cloves or small onions
  • Spices like curry, cumin, paprika etc.

Optional Additions After Cooking

  • Fresh chopped herbs—parsley, cilantro, dill, mint or basil
  • Sauces like salsa, BBQ; vinaigrette or cream sauce to cooled beans

Preparations:   Shelled beans are not necessarily the star of the meal, more like a strong backbone.  Their forte is providing a creamy satisfying texture. Their mild  flavor makes them versatile.  Follow the recipe for basic shell beans and serve them plain or purée into a dip, sauté them with garlic, herbs or vegetables, add them to a soups, salads or stews.  Shellies pair nicely with garlic, shallots, onions, herbs, cream, butter, olive oil, tomatoes, vinegars, lemon, and smoked meats.

Cooking with Kids:  Put the kids in charge of shelling the beans. I usually participate and play word games to keep them amused while we work.  I also let them help me with freezing them.  They prepare the ice water bath, dry the beans, place them on cookie sheets and my big girl does all of the labeling.  

 

WARNING:  All shelled beans must be cooked and never eaten raw as the mature beans contain a poison that is neutralized in heat.

 

 

Gazpacho—Salad Gone to Soup

A certain ambiguity takes over when tomato season comes bursting in. Vine ripened, locally-grown tomatoes are hands-down the best veggie in the world. Not only are they delicious sliced and eaten on their own, but they also lend themselves to so many cooking applications. Just image what Italian or Indian food looked like before Columbus brought back this versatile fruit to the Old World—a dull culinary landscape for sure!

But as much as I love tomatoes, the short season can transform me into a galley slave as my inner ant kicks in, and I begin to work feverishy to squirrel them away in anticipation of the winter months to come. While I am passionate about preserving, canning 22 pounds of tomatoes could steal anyone’s joy.

That is why gazpacho is such a blessing. Not only is it a refreshing, easy-to-make, ready-to-eat, delicious cold soup, but it also freezes very nicely.   I know what you’re thinking–more processing?!  But relax. Gazpacho doesn’t require the hullabaloo of removing skins, and you get a preserved product at the same time you made dinner.

Classic Gazpacho
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 servings
 
This is my launching point recipe, but you can tweak it with different spices to blend with many different cuisines.
Ingredients
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped herbs (any combination of basil, tarragon, parsley, dill, oregano or chives)
  • 2 or 3 slices stale bread
  • 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 1 lbs. cucumber, peeled and de-seeded
  • 2 lbs. tomatoes, cored and de-seeded
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • salt and black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Add ingredients one by one to a food processor or blender and puree. If you don't have a food processor, finely chop ingredients and mix. Serve with bread, cheese or summer sausage for a light quick meal.
Notes
You can create other versions based on different cuisines by changing ingredients. Think of gazpacho as a finely chopped or puréed salad and then let your imagination go. MEXICAN: Tomatillos or tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno pepper, cucumber, bread, garlic, olive oil, and lime. Garnish with cubed avocado. INDIAN: Tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, red pepper, radishes, green chili, cumin, tomato paste, vegetable stock, garlic, bread, olive oil, and lemon. FRENCH: Tomatoes alone with lemon, tarragon and parsley garlic, bread, olive oil. GREEK: Follow the recipe for Classic Gazpacho above using oregano and parsley as the herbs. Also add a sweet red bell pepper and kalamata olives. Garnish with cubed feta.

Preserve It: Place gazpacho in freezer-safe bags or plastic containers in desired proportions, then label and freeze.  I like to put the gazpacho in 1 – 2 cup plastic containers leaving 1-inch headspace for expansion in the freezer.  I use these later in packed lunches.  They keep the lunch cool while defrosting.

Freeze Peaches & Make Fresh Peach Lemonade

Peaches grow best in sub-tropical climates, not here.  I know a few farmers with a few trees, but the harvest is hit or miss.  Happily, this year was a hit.  With our balmy, seemingly endless-summer, which felt more like the South of France than Southeast Wisconsin, peach-tree growers experienced a bumper crop.

Hooray, because eating a fresh, tree-ripened peach is a small slice of summertime heaven.  Second to that, a properly preserved tree-ripened peach surely beats a rock-hard, off-season grocery store peach any day of the week.  So while the season lasts, eat them…and preserve them.  Options remain endless—syrups, pie filling, even pickles.  I prefer to freeze them mostly, but I also make peach fruit leathers and peach butter, neither of which can easily be found at the supermarket. I do follow a strict rule and never can peaches.  Canned peaches conjure memories of bad times like junior high school lunch or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

HOW TO FREEZE PEACHES

Step 1: Blanch and Remove the Skins

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
  2. Add whole peaches no more than 8 at a time to the boiling water, cover with lid and time for 3 minutes.  Start timing immediately. Don’t wait for it to return to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or the sink, create an ice-water bath.
  4. After 3 minutes, remove peaches with a slotted spoon and place the fruit in the ice-water bath to cool as quickly as possible. This is called blanching, and it stops the activity of the fruits’ enzymes thereby preventing browning.
  5. Once cooled, the skins should slip off easily.
  6. Cut into wedges or halves removing the pit.  I sometimes skip the knife and just use my hands depending on how I will use the fruit later.
  7. Next transfer the cleaned fruit to another large bowl of ice-cold water which has been acidified with lemon juice—¾ cup lemon juice to 8 cups water. The lemon water is an additional safe-guard against browning.  Leave the cleaned peaches here until you are ready to pack and freeze them, and do not dump the water out at the end.  You can turn it into a Peach Lemonade. I’ll show you how.  Read on. (Crushed ascorbic acid/vitamin C will also do if no lemon juice is on hand, but you won’t be able to experience the peachy lemonade).

Step 2: Choose a Freezing Method

Wet Pack Methods:
1.  Sugar Pack
Sprinkle desired amount of sugar over the peaches as you layer them in the freezer-safe storage bags or containers. I use about 1 tablespoon sugar for every 2 cups peaches. Let it set at room temperature for about 5 minutes before freezing it.  This allows the sugar to bring out the peach juices.  Leave ½ inch headspace to allow for expansion in the freezer.
This is my preferred method—great results with less work.  I pack them in 1-cup or 2-cup plastic containers, and use them in my packed lunches or for after-dinner treats all through the winter.  The kids love them.
2. Honey Syrup Pack
Honey syrup is much simpler to make than simple syrup with sugar and water.  You don’t have to make it in advance as it doesn’t require cooking and cooling. Moreover, it has more sweetness with fewer calories. The syrup will be easier to make if the water and honey are warmed slightly.
  • Very Light Honey Syrup—4 parts water: 1 part honey
  • Light Honey Syrup—3 parts water: 1 part honey
  • Heavy Honey Syrup—3 parts water: 2 parts honey

Again, pack the peaches in desired proportions in freezer-safe containers leaving ½ inch headspace to allow for expansion in the freezer.

Dry Pack Method:
Blanch and remove peach skins and pits. Cut into wedges, place on a cookie sheet and set in freezer.  Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe storage container. I can easily remove the number of frozen wedges that I want anytime.  This method is great for storing peaches which you will later bake.  I also like to throw these into smoothies and of course I use them to make Peach Lemonade.
“No time–Freeze now, Prepare Later Method”:
Use this method when you’re really pressed for time and the peaches are on the verge of spoiling.  Put the entire peach in the freezer. That’s it. Transfer it to a freezer bag if you’re planning on leaving it there for more than a few days, otherwise, it will start to shrivel. You can later run the peach under warm water and the skins will slip right off.  I use these peaches to make fruit leathers or peach butters.  This “No time” method works for tomatoes too. 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Peach Lemonade
Author: 
Recipe type: Beverage
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: About 2 quarts
 
Why waste even a bit of peachy goodness? I think of this as my reward after an afternoon of processing and preserving peaches.
Ingredients
  • Lemon water used to hold the cleaned, blanched peaches (about 8 cups)
  • Lemon juice as needed
  • ¾ - 1 cup sugar
Instructions
  1. Take the lemon water that the clean peaches were floating in awaiting processing and place it in your blender or if you have an immersion blender, transfer it directly to a pitcher. The water will be a peachy-orange color with small bits of peach flesh floating in it.
  2. Add sugar and blend thoroughly in your blender.
  3. Taste and add more sugar or lemon juice if needed.
Notes
Because of the peach bits, it will be a nectar consistancy. Add a whole, clean peach (no skin, no pit) if you'd like an even thicker nectar. This will also work if you want Peach Lemonade on a day you don't want to process a batch of peaches. Ingredients 1 - 2 peaches sans skins and pits ¾ - 1 cup sugar ¾ cup lemon juice Directions Blend in your blender, adjust for flavor, and serve.

Cooking with Kids:  Let your kids help with removing the skins and pit.  I also let my girls spinkle in the sugar while I layer the fruit in containers–just measure out the sugar in advance or have them. They also love to use the blender.  What kid doesn’t like using a noisy machine?  Lastly, the kids must participate in adjusting the taste–great sensory exploration for the little ones and an opportunity to describe flavor for the older ones.

Tip: I want to give a shout out to Tree Ripe.  Long before I knew that we would get a bumper crop of peaches, in late June I headed to the parking lot of the Ace Hardware in West Allis to buy peaches off the back of a truck arriving straight from Georgia.  I bought 70 pounds of peaches. I know GA isn’t exactly local, but it directly supports farmers, and Georgia is closer than California, and I can’t live on apples only.  I also bought 10 pounds of MI blueberries.  If you live in the Midwest check Tree Ripe out.

 

 

 

 

Sweet & Savory Whole Wheat Crepes

I love crepes.  Versatile, elegant, and quick, they can be used for breakfast, dessert or dinner.

If you make them with whole grains, (and you all know my point of view on whole grains), they are not only delicious but good for you.

Sweet & Savory Whole Wheat Crepes
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish, Breakfast, or Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 10 crepes
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 T butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • Additional butter for skillet
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a blender; pulse for 5 seconds until blended; allow batter to rest in the refrigerator for 1 to 48 hours. (This is important if you want a crepe with a silky texture).
  2. Heat a 10-inch Teflon non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and grease with a bit of butter. Ladle about ¼ cup of batter in the hot pan and swirl until the bottom is thinly and evenly coated. Cook until the batter sets and the edges become golden—less than 1 minute. Flip and cook another 15 seconds. Lay on a rack. Repeat until all are cooked.
Notes
*Sweet Variation: Add 2 T sugar or honey *Savory Variation: Add ¼ t salt Preparation Tips: Only use whole wheat pastry flour. Bread flour or regular whole wheat flour will produce a tougher crepe. Flipping the crepe in the air is easier than using a spatula—try it. If you made your crepes in advance, wrap them in a damp paper towel and again in a tea towel and microwave briefly—about 2 seconds per crepe.

Storing: Stack crepes once they’ve cooled and store them in an air-tight container for up to 5 days in the fridge.  To freeze, stack them with wax paper between each crepe, and place them in an air-tight freezer bag in the freezer for up to 2 months

Stuffings and Toppings: The other half of the fun.  You don’t have to do much to make them tasty.  My children love to top them with a squirt of lemon followed with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Savory Ham & Spinach

Filling for savory or plain crepes       Yield: 3 cups

    • 1 T olive oil

    • 3 oz. ham, chopped

    • 1 small onion, chopped

    • 1clove garlic, minced

    • 6 – 8 cups chopped spinach

    • 1/2 cup grated cheese, try gouda, Swiss or gruyere

    • 1/4 cup chopped herbs like dill (optional)

    • 1/4 cup half & half or cream

    • Salt & pepper to taste

    • 6 – 8 plain or savory crepes for stuffing

Directions

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet.  Add onions, a little salt, and ham and sauté until onions are glassy.  Add garlic and sauté another minute.  Next add spinach and cook until barely wilted.  Add cream and grated cheese and continue to scook on medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens.  Add pepper and more salt if needed.

To Assemble: Add about 1/2 cup to each crepe, roll and serve. Or place in a baking pan, cover with grated cheese and bake at 325 F for 10 minutes or until cheese has melted.

Simple Strawberry Compote

Filling for sweet or plain crepes    Yield: 4 cups

  •  2 pints strawberries, sliced

  • 3 T sugar

  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon

  • Garnish with whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce

Directions

In a sauce pan, add all ingredients and cook over medium heat until sauce thickens.  Ladle over crepe, garnish and serve.

 

 

Garlic Scapes

They look like art—a sculpture of inviting green.  Available only in farmers markets and gardens for a few weeks in June, their ephemeral nature and rarity only adds to their allure. If you are like me, you will spy them in the market and feel compelled to buy them even if you have no clue as to what to do with them.

More than vegetative art, the scape is the flowering stalk of hard neck garlic.  Young tender stalks grow in beautiful curlicues, but as they mature, the stalks straighten and dry and the flowering bulb turns to seed.  To direct the plant’s energy away from making seeds and towards producing a large, flavorful garlic bulb, the farmer removes the tender edible scape.  Viola! My most coveted springtime treat with a taste nearly  identical to garlic with a fresher, milder, more herbal quality.

What to do with it once you’ve brought it home? Well you could chop it up and add it to stir fry or perhaps pickle it, but I suggest  that you make Garlic Scape Paste and add it to everything you would have added garlic…and then some.


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Garlic Scapes
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 2 cups
 
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch, about 14 scapes, flowers removed and stalks coarsely chopped
  • ⅔ cup oil (olive, canola, grape or safflower are good choices)
Instructions
  1. Remove the flower portion of each scape as it can be bitter. I like to save them and use as a garnish.
  2. In a food processor, add scapes and pulse until finely minced.
  3. Next, slowly pour in the oil while processing.
  4. Transfer paste to a glass or plastic jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  5. Paste will keep refrigerated for about 2 weeks. Add to recipes as needed. You can also freeze it.

 
Preserve It: 
Buy a few bunches at the market, make it en masse, and freeze. Place paste in a freezer bag, press flat removing as much air as possible, label and seal.  If you freeze it flat on the shelf, you can break off bits of garlic scape paste as you need it as long as it lasts.  Even if freezer real estate is an issue for you, put this on the A-list.  It is a tasty time saver-—better-than-minced-garlic-flavor-at-the-ready.

Cooking with Kids:

Have your kids help with the prep by using scissors to remove the flowers, and cut the scapes into chunks for easy processing.  They are also very good at pushing buttons…I mean for the food processor.