Posts Tagged ‘fennel’

Fennel Tabbouleh

July 22, 2009

During the summer, I find myself making a lot of variants on tabbouleh, depending on what vegetables I have around.  It’s great for using pretty much any veggies that are good raw, especially when I don’t have lettuce to make salad.  I often add chick peas to turn tabbouleh from a side salad into a satisfying lunch.  Last week’s tabbouleh confetti-colorful with orange carrots, purple-skinned kohlrabi, and green fennel.  I diced the carrots, halved the small fennel and quartered the large then sliced it thin, and the kohlrabi I made into matchsticks to make sure every piece showed some purple.  (You’ll notice a total lack of the traditional tomatoes or even cucumbers.)  While fresh parsley is best, frozen-thawed works fine.  When I don’t have either of those, I use some dried parsley, which mostly serves to add some color.

I liked the crunch of fennel in my confetti tabbouleh, and I liked the way its flavor played off the lemon juice.  Then I had an inspiration: I could use the fronds!  We haven’t had parsley the past few weeks, so it was easy to leave parsley out all together and use fennel fronds as the green instead.  Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups bulgur
  • 4 cups chopped fennel:  bulbs and fronds (but not stems), which is probably 3 bunches
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint (fresh would be lovely if you have it)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water

Directions:

  1. Put the bulgur and dried mint into a large bowl.
  2. Pour the water over the bulgur and mint, stir, and let sit until water is absorbed (about half an hour)
  3. Stir the salt, lemon juice, and olive oil into bulgur.
  4. Stir in the fennel (and fresh mint if using).

Eat your Greens

July 12, 2009

If you’re used to getting your vegetables at the grocery store, then you’re used to getting only the most sought-after or unique parts.  Or that’s all that survives the journey from wherever-far-away to the produce isle.  When you get farm-direct vegetables, either from a CSA or at a farmers market, you get much more of the plant.  Including those unfamiliar parts.  Most often, those unfamiliar plants are the leaves or greens.

Which are edible?  And how do you eat them?

The short answer is you can (and should) eat greens sold with pretty much everything except carrots.

Okay, the longer answer:  Radish, kohlrabi, and broccoli leaves are not only edible but nutritious.  Beet and turnip greens are not only edible and nutritious, but sought-after.  While you’re selecting beets or turnips for the best roots, the person shopping next to you may be selecting for the greens, with the roots as an afterthought.  Fennel fronds get used as an herb, although the stems are completely discarded (possibly after being used to flavor broth).

I’m told that radish greens can be added to the same salad as the radishes themselves, as a flavorful lettuce.  Their texture seems wrong for that, so I’ve never done so.  I simply toss the radish, kohlrabi, or broccoli leaves in with any other greens I’m cooking.  Radish greens are very much like turnip greens, while kohlrabi greens and broccoli greens are very much like kale.  Discard stems that are too tough.

Many vegetables just aren’t sold with their leaves.  Rhubarb leaves are poisonous, so the leaves are cut off before they’re sold.  Corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and the like are picked off of plants and won’t come with leaves.  Turning over the earth to dig potatoes seems to separate them from their leaves.

Week 26: November 16 – 22

November 21, 2008

I’m a bit of a supermarket voyeur.  While I’m waiting in the checkout line, I look at what other people have in their carts and I make assumptions about what I see.  Today I was in line behind a woman whose cart was loaded with produce.  I thought about what she must think of me, if she was looking into my cart.  It was piled high with starches (all whole-grain, of course), some legumes, plenty of dairy.  The only produce I bought was a gallon of local cider and four pounds of cranberries.  I wonder if a stranger looking at my cart would assume (incorrectly) that I simply didn’t eat produce, or if they would assume (correctly) that my produce comes from elsewhere.

The cranberries might be local or might not.  The Ocean Spray grower’s cooperative now includes farmers in Wisconsin and Washington.  My bags of cranberries said they might have been packed in any of those places.  Simply because of the economics of shipping, though, I’m confident that my cranberries are local.

The Eat Local Challenge mentality has stuck with me.  I particularly noticed it in the fruit section, when I had to divert my gaze from juicy, delicious looking citrus and stay focused on finding cranberries.  They were next to the celery, of course.  It seemed to me a bizarre spot, but now that I think about it, maybe not so.  Celery was a fad food at the same time (1830s, give or take) that Thanksgiving was gaining prominence and becoming a national holiday.  So celery sticks have remained a Thanksgiving food, as have cranberries. 

Week 26 means we’re halfway through our challenge year.  We got our last mid-week farmers market vegetables this week (two bunches of bok choy).  The easy part is over.  Our regular sources of fresh vegetables (CSA and farmers market) are both over for the year.  Taking stock, we’re in decent shape.  We have plenty of fresh squash sitting around, and potatoes and turnips.  Inside our refrigerator are lots of carrots, parsnips, and beets.  Our freezer is full of an incredible variety of vegetables.  We have apples fresh, as frozen sauce, and as dried slices.   We need to process other things soon.  Some of the apples are developing rotten spots, as are some of the squashes.  We cut the rotten end off a butternut squash a few days ago, and baked the rest of it, and it’s just fine, especially mashed with butter and maple syrup.

The bok choy and a bit of lettuce are the only greens left in our refrigerator.  We recently ate the fennel from week 20, baked with paremesan cheese and rosemary.  Rosemary goes well with fennel, but it’s easy to use too much and overpower the flavor of the fennel itself.  It was the only way we’ve prepared fennel that we really liked, and it was easy.  The mustard greens that we picked ourselves and had intended to freeze never did get frozen.  Earlier this week, I picked through them and tossed about a third of the leaves because they had yellowed or developed too many brown spots.  The rest of it went into curried mustard greens and chickpeas (Joy of Cooking recipe), made with a hockey puck of frozen diced tomatoes

We couldn’t make it until next harvest season begins on only the vegetables we already have.  I think the plan was to see how long we could go.  As the local food movement grows, though, more options become available.  We joined our CSA the first year it operated.  (Our farmer previously grew for farmers markets and restaurants.)  We’re getting to repeat the process now as one of our farmers market growers is starting up a winter CSA.  I’m sure we’ll get yet more squash from them, because part of the CSA will be storage vegetables.  They also have greenouses, so we’ll be among the lucky few to savor fresh, local greens this winter.  In addition, they’ve arranged with other farmers and growers along the Atlantic Seaboard to get things like Florida oranges for us–not quite local food.  It’s still all from smaller farms that are important parts of their community and are mostly certified organic.  I certainly want to support that!

Week 20: October 7 – 13 (Part II)

October 9, 2008

Our CSA share this week was heavy on the apples:  16 McIntosh and 16 Cortland, making a total of 10 pounds, give or take.   Last week’s were McIntosh, also, and were very nice for eating raw.  The Cortland apples are much softer and will make a nice sauce.  What’s left of last weeks McIntoshes had to come out of the fridge to make space for new vegetables, and they’ll probably go into the dehydrator.  Some of them will go into a curried butternut squash and pumpkin soup, which will mostly go into the freezer.  The only problem is that we’re quickly running out of freezer space.

The vegetables we got this week were two bunches of parsnips, two bunches of turnips with their greens, two bulbs of fennel, two pints of tomatillos, two butternut squash, and one sugar pumpkin.

The turnip greens were too big to fit easily into our fridge, mostly becasue the stalks had gotten so long, so we cooked them up with the shell beans from the farmers market.  As usual, we chopped up the stems and used them, too.  They have a nice texture with some crunch, as long as they’re not overcooked.  The turnip greens were bitter like broccoli rabi, so they needed really strong spicing.  I didn’t want to overpower the flavor of the beans, so I didn’t spice the dish enough.  In retrospect, the beans didn’t have enough flavor to worry about overpowering.  I should probably have done a Southern cider vinegar, honey, hot sauce, and spices combination for the seasoning.

Aside from the greens and tomatillos, everything we got this week will store well.  It’s nice not to be under pressure to use things up.  I’m also wondering if we could make an effective root cellar.  I think it would have to be a sand-filled box in a cool corner of our basement, but that’s probably still too moist.  We now have carrots, beets, turnips, and parsnips in one of our crisper drawers.  We used up the potatoes we had, but I’m sure we’ll get more.  Last year we had celeriac, but this year the crop failed. 

In case you were wondering, the potato salad got its usual rave reviews at the potluck.  We ended up using all 4 pounds of potatoes because there was a lot of dill, and because when I tried to scale the dressing up for 3 pounds of potatoes, it was far too much.  I think different varieties of potatoes absorb dressing differently.