Tag Archives: Organic

Collards

I grew up in the south. In spite of this, I survived to adulthood without the foggiest idea of what collard greens are. So, for those of you who are as uninformed as I was, here is a brief introduction:

Collards are broad leaf-like objects constructed by angry garden gnomes out of high density rubber and aircraft grade titanium. Intended by the gnomes as personal protective shields, collards are able to survive all but the most intensive heat, and have a tough stem that is best removed before eating. Their high degree of resilience allows collards to resist the attacks of insects, disease, and photon torpedoes. Thus, they grow quite well in the south, where such things are common.

With this in mind, I can now acquaint you with the classic southern approach to eating collards… try not to taste them. Collards have an incredibly unremarkable flavor, which is characterized as bitter. In good southern style, the typical treatment is to add fat, acid, and heat to mask the less desired flavor, while drawing on the bitter edge. So, here’s the recipe:

First, remove the stem rather far up the leaf. Next, cut the leaves into strips or small pieces, chop one small onion, and set aside. In a pan large enough to contain the collards, cook several pieces of bacon until crispy, then add onion and cook until onion is mostly done. Next add some water, vinegar, and the collards and cook until collards are soft enough to eat.

Ingredients:
One bunch of collards (about 8-10 leaves)
One small onion
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (probably any kind would work ok)
3-4 strips of bacon (turkey bacon did not produced the proper effect when I tried to substitute)
Enough water to cook the collards

I’m not very specific about the water here because I’ve never measured it. You should need around a cup, but the idea is to mostly steam the collards. You don’t want to make a stew, and you are supposed to consume the liquid with the greens.

It is possible to simply steam collards and eat them as you would any other green, but the steaming process leaches out some of the nutrients you may want to keep. So, if the only green thing you find at the market this week is a few tough shards of leftover gnome defenses, try out the southern style. You might actually like it!

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chili w/out tomatoes (or winter bean soup)

There is probably a hilarious coincidence behind the English word chilly (origin ~1570) and the Spanish name of the chili pepper (~1500). Nevertheless, the irony is that chili, formed by adding lots of chili pepper to meat and beans, goes well with chilly weather.

The modern American version of chili almost always contains tomatoes, a delicious fruit to which my wife is allergic. This allergy, and our combined desire for good chili, drove us to explore some tomato-less recipes. The first step in the most promising versions began with mixing several types of beans. Obviously, kidney beans were necessary, but we were surprised to find the addition of great northern, navy, and lima beans, and even various lentils.

Once we assembled a collection of beans to our liking, we soaked them overnight. Now here I must add that in a second run of this recipe we bumped our menu by one day, and the beans soaked for an additional day. This was one of our best culinary accidents yet. By soaking the beans for one day, they begin to sprout, which leaves them tasting a little ‘green’. The second day of soaking killed this taste, and made for a good flavor. Page 495 of NT indicates that beans should be soaked for ‘…a long time’, but does not indicate if more than one day would be harmful or not, so I don’t know the impact on nutrition after a two day soak.

Anyway, we then covered the beans generously in chicken broth, and simmered for awhile on low. Next we browned some ground beef with a chopped onion and chili spices. Mixing the meat into the pot with beans, we let this simmer until we were too hungry to wait, and ate it topped generously with cheddar cheese and cilantro. We probably only let this cook for 2-3 hours total, but longer would be better. Below I’ll try to give the full recipe. One note, I prefer a very un-spicy version of chili, so if you like the hot stuff, modify to your preference.

Chili (bean soup for a cold day)

1 lb. ground beef or lamb
1.5 – 2 cups of mixed beans (navy, great norther, kidney, lima, and lentils + whatever you like)
3-4 cups of chicken or beef stock
1 onion
heaps of cheddar cheese
1 clove of garlic, crushed (optional)
Fresh cilantro as garnish (optional)

Spices:
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions:
Soak beans for 1-2 days in water, then drain and cook on low in broth. Brown meat on medium and onion, adding spices except basil. Taste spices when meat is sufficiently cooked, make adjustments. When meat is nearly done, add basil and garlic to the beans. After the meat is seasoned correctly (defined by you), add the meat to beans and simmer on low until you think it’s done (an hour or so).

So that’s the basic approach. This makes a good (heavy) meal for a cold day, we got about 4 serving out of these amounts. You could probably make this vegetarian style by subtracting the meat and substituting for the broth.

Try it out yourself! You have plenty of winter left to go, so you have no excuse.


Chicken soup for the toothless soul

Quite recently, my wife had two wisdom teeth removed. (Very much against her will, but it seemed the best thing to do in the end). She has incredible teeth, no cavities or anything, but randomly (the dentist can’t explain it) one broke. Soo, the difficult challenge became to make Real Food, that doesn’t require any chewing. Since that list boils down really fast to soup, we ate mostly soup for about a week. And since I was promoted to head chef, I can claim full credit for the one stellar success in that department: Chicken Radish Soup.
Editors note: Radish is really just the ‘secret weapon’ of this recipe, so the recipe could be called Chicken Harvest Soup. (Loosely follows the Chicken Rice recipe on page 199 of Nourishing Traditions, minus rice).

First we needed a good base for soup. I considered importing a French sous chef to oversee this part, but in the end settled for a temperature controlled crock pot. (It’s not even french, but it is pretty reliable). So we tossed a whole chicken in the crock pot for about 9 hours, and after the chicken was cooked, we separated the meat. Then we put the bones (fat, cartilage, and skin) back in with enough water to cover, and cooked that again overnight. Once the stock was strained, we had enough for a couple of meals of soup.

The next step was to account for our vegetable population. The inhabitants of our refrigerator included: Celery, Carrots, Onions, and Radishes. Plus we had some Potatoes in the cabinet. I chopped what I needed of the veggies, and set them to cook in the stock, added a bay leaf, and a generous amount of powdered garlic. I let these simmer until the potatoes were soft, and added them to the chicken. Since the goal was to have food that required no chewing, we had to convert this soup to baby food. I used a blender, starting with some chicken and adding a little of the broth and then combining everything as the blender was able to handle it. And of course, sea salt to taste.
This was by far the best baby food I’ve tasted. And yes, I have tasted quite a lot (my youngest brother is 15 years my junior, so I stole my fair share of his food). Anyway, as far as the soup goes, I think the radish was the amazing part. It was subtle, but brought a freshness that really suited the carrots and soup as a whole.
I’ll try to put all this here is a concise form:

Chicken Radish Soup

5-6 Cups of Chicken stock
2-3 Cups of chopped cooked Chicken
4 medium carrots.
One bunch of radishes (about 10)
1/2 large Onion
4 small Potatoes
2 stalks of Celery
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 – 1 Teaspoon of Garlic Powder
Sea Salt
Optional water.

Chop the vegetables, and place them in a stock pot.
After the veggies are chopped, add enough stock to cover them, and thin out the stock if needed. (I only thin out my stock if it’s pretty dense).
Simmer with the Bay Leaf and Garlic powder for about an hour, or until the potatoes are soft. The other veggies should cook faster than the potatoes, but they aren’t bad if they are undercooked. You can add the chicken at any time, I add it near the end so it retains flavor. We take half of a chicken that has been cooked in the crock pot for our soup, so the measurement is approximate.
Remove the Bay Leaf, and salt to taste.
Enjoy!

We had these veggies on hand since we wanted to have something to boost the immune system, and there are a lot of nutrients in Carrots, Radishes, and Celery. Some vitamins are destroyed by heat and cooking, but you can hang on to a few in a broth. So I think this make a good soup for healing, but it’s also really tasty.


Stringy Squash

So, I have to brag. My wife just cooked an incredible meal, and pretty much made it up off the top of her head (which is very cute).

It’s nearing Autumn around here, and the only local crop that came out well is squash. Several varieties have made some good dishes for us in the past few weeks, particularly the Butternut squash. (In case you are not familiar with Butternut squash, when it is in it’s prime, it tastes like some kind of creamy-nut-concoction infused with butter. Amazing.)

Today we stopped at a produce stand along our way, and picked up some squash. I was excited about the Butternut, but my (very smart) wife had also slipped some Spaghetti squash (image at right) into the basket. Later she informed me that we would have some Spaghetti on greens with some ground beef. ‘Hm,’ thought I, ‘I guess that won’t be too bad’.

Not too bad? I am clearly an idiot for not seeing the potential. It certainly wasn’t bad, in fact it was great! And here, (as far as I can get out of her), is what she did:

Ingredients:
1 Spaghetti squash (AKA: noodle squash,vegetable spaghetti, or spaghetti marrow)
12 oz or more Spinach (we had less than we would have liked, so go all out on the Spinach)
2-3 cloves of Garlic
1 -lb grass fed organic ground beef
A few Tablespoons of Olive oil for cooking
Spices ~2 teaspoons of each
Oregano
Basil
Garlic powder (Yes, more Garlic)
Toppings to add after cooking:
Shredded raw cheese such as Parmesan, (we used Manchego)
Pitted, marinated black olives
Process:
Cook the Spaghetti squash for about an hour until done (a butter knife should easily pierce the outside). If you are not familiar with Spaghetti squash, you should cut it length-wise and bake it face down on a buttered dish. This will help it cook evenly and retain moisture.
While the Spaghetti squash is cooking, begin to brown the beef (on low for grass fed beef) and slowly add the spices when it is partly browned.
Shortly before the squash is done, start sauteing the Spinach in the Olive oil, and add the Garlic cloves. Mix well, and cook the Spinach as much as makes you comfortable.
After the squash is cooked, scoop out the flesh, which should be very stringy (like Spaghetti), onto plates.
Add Spinach and beef. Then top with cheese and olives, and salt to taste.

So, if you have any sense at all, and are within range of a fresh, locally produced, organic Spaghetti squash, devour it immediately! (Before I do).