Lemon & Olive Oil Preserved Asparagus Recipe

It’s full on asparagus season. Those verdant stalks are a dime a dozen these days, so while I full encourage GORGING on them any chance you get (morning omelet, shaved raw in salad, in my awesome lettuce + pasta dinner & of course grilled) I also highly encourage you to do some preserving this spring!

True confession: before I moved to Washington as a 20-something, I had never eaten asparagus. I grew up in New York and while we ate vegetables at every meal, asparagus was never one of them. It wasn’t until I started working in the Seattle restaurant industry in the late ‘90s that I got into the swing of things and started looking forward to our local asparagus season. With such a versatile vegetable, the chefs would grill, sauté, steam and bake asparagus, creating a two-month parade of verdant and fresh-tasting dishes.

Luckily for us, Washington is a major producer of the country’s asparagus supply, producing over 22 million pounds annually, making it that much easier for locals to gorge. Sadly, these snappy green stalks are gone too soon—the season never lasts as long as I like.

The solution to this, of course, lies in preservation. While it’s difficult to keep the crisp in an asparagus spear, the flavors are easy to preserve. Here, a delicious way to put up a spring glut – a preserved asparagus recipe wherein the spears are submerged in flavorful oil. Of course, it’s never a bad idea to quick-blanch and freeze a bag or two. Between jars in the cupboard, containers in the fridge and a handful of freezer bags, you can stock up enough to last nearly until next spring.

Lemon & Olive Oil Preserved Asparagus
makes 4 pints | start to finish: about 30 to 45 minutes active time

Asparagus is a low-acid food and therefore needs special care when preserving. Here, olive oil preserves by inhibiting oxygen from touching and spoiling the asparagus. It will not, however, ward off bacteria. To insure you do not introduce bacteria, you briefly pickle the asparagus before the oil bath. The final product is stored in the fridge, as a cool refrigerator will also retard bacterial growth.

To eat this, simply strain from the oil (reserve the infused oil for sautés or salads) and use the spears in salads, soups or as a light snack. I love it for breakfast, underneath an over-easy egg and alongside buttery toast.

5 pounds asparagus, woody bits trimmed
1 ½ cups white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 wide strips lemon zest
2 sprigs rosemary, cut in half
2 cups olive oil

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add pint jars (you may need to work in batches) and let sit for 10 minutes to sterilize. Using tongs, remove jars from water and set aside until ready to use.

Measure the asparagus to match the depth of the canning jar, leaving a 1” gap at the top for headspace. For pint jars, the spears should be about 4” long.  Rinse the trimmed spears and set aside in a shallow baking dish.

Add the vinegar to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour over asparagus spears, letting them marinate for 10 minutes.
While the asparagus is brining, add the aromatics to the jars. To each pint jar, add equal parts salt and peppercorn, one half a garlic clove, 2 ounces of lemon juice and 1 strip of lemon zest. Set aside.

After 10 minutes, drain the vinegar and pack the pickled spears tightly into the jars. It helps to turn the jar on its side while adding the asparagus. When the jar is nearly full, add one rosemary sprig. Press asparagus together as firmly as possible and pack the jar completely.

Pour the olive oil over the asparagus, tapping the jar lightly on the countertop to release any bubbles. Cover the asparagus by 1/2”, creating an olive oil seal, and leaving about 1/2” of headspace. Place in the fridge to macerate for at least two weeks before eating. Asparagus will last about 3 months.

sterilized jars • store in fridge

Chia vs Hemp :: A Health Lovers Guide

Nutritious eating has always been my game – I like getting the proper proportion of fats, protein and healthy carbs in on a daily basis. Like most people, I’m also following food trends and hoping to anticipate them. Flax meal? On it – you can catch a recipe or two in Urban Pantry. Fermented foods? Eat them – I have several jars in my fridge and eat them with a soft-boiled eggs as a quick lunch when I’m in the gardens.

chia vs hemp Lately, it seems everyone is going ga-ga over hemp seeds and chia – me included. I wrote about hemp seeds in the February issue of Seattle Magazine and received a bag of ‘cereal’ at IFBC 2014 that included chia with hemp and buckwheat (and was delicious). Experimenting with healthy foods is fun, but I can’t help but wonder……why the fuss? What ARE these proclaimed super foods actually adding to our diet and do we need them? I had a vague understanding that both would add healthy fats and protein to my daily intake, but why choose them over my regular smoothie addition of a nut butter?

Here, I did a little investigative reporting, hoping to suss out the low down. While sources and packing information vary across brands, oddly, here is the essential caloric breakdown for both hulled/shelled hemp seeds and chia, based on a 1 ounce portion:

CHIA : 137 calories, 9g of fat (a significant portion of which are omega-3 fatty acids), 12g of carbohydrates (the bulk of which is dietary fiber) and 4g of protein

HEMP : 174 calories, 14g of fat (half of which are omega-6s), 2g of carbohydrates and 11g of protein.

From this, it’s clear that hemp has way more protein and chia has way more fiber. They both contain a decent amount of healthy fats, but chia is higher in omega-3 (like you find in salmon) and hemp is higher in omega-6, which is also found in poultry, nuts and whole grains. A healthy diet needs to balance the two, so increasing our intake of omega-3s is typically recommended. Not to get too heady, but these omegas are both essential fatty acids – we don’t produce these fats naturally so we must get them from our diet. They are used as an energy source, help to regulate inflammation and are thought to protect against diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Additionally, both have the ability to level out blood sugar, working to avoid spikes and valleys of energy while evening out our metabolic rate. Good stuff!

So why choose one over another? Well, our diets do include a decent amount of omega-6  already (whole grains, nuts & poultry, remember?), so we’re not missing that fat as much as the omega-3s. That’s a +1 for chia! Fiber is filling and sustaining – that’s another +1 for chia, as carbohydrates keep us feeling satiated longer. Hemp, on the other hand, has way more protein – +1 for hemp if you’re a vegetarian or looking for an alternative protein source. Hemp is also a bit higher in calories – another plus for anyone hoping to gain weight. (Hey, it happens.)

seed table

Sourced from licensed nutritionist, Monica Reinagel

Flavor-wise, the two don’t really compare. The flavor of chia seeds is not strong – it’s more about the texture. Through absorption of an added liquid, chia seeds create a gelatinous exterior, similar to that of tapioca pudding or bubble tea. If you like this toothsome, custard-like quality, chia is a win. People like adding chia seeds to their morning smoothies, which makes for a pleasantly thick shake. Hemp, as you might expect, has a nutty flavor that is similar to pine nuts. When added to a smoothie, there is a distinct undertone of a nutty quality, though the seeds are soft and therefore blend well without leaving chunky bits behind.

Hemp seeds can also be soaked and pulverized with liquid to create a savory sauce or sprinkled over salads for a bit of crunch – a great option for anyone with nut allergies. Chia makes for a healthy snack by way of pudding. Cover the seeds in milk, coconut milk or nut milk and you wind up with a pudding-like treat. Adding cocoa powder and honey sweetens the bowl for a dessert, whereas adding cinnamon and maple syrup makes for a more breakfast-friendly meal.

So maybe the real trick is in adding both on a more regular basis? Instead of using only almond butter, try pureed hemp seeds. Or skip them both and opt for the fiber-rich chia a couple of times a week. That’s definitely my plan, as well as stocking the fridge occasionally with a chia-coconut milk-cocoa ‘pudding’.

And lest you get too carried away with all these fad-forward foods, don’t forget about good ol’ flax seeds, which are another wonderful plant source for carbs, fat and protein. (More on that here, from Nutritionist Monica Reinagel) Having had their day in the sun, they may not be as trendy just now, but pound per pound they’re less expensive than chia or hemp – a budget-conscious health-lovers dream.

 

Chamomile and Coconut Granola Recipe

chamomile granolaOriginally published in my book Apartment Gardening, this is one of my all time favorite recipes. This is also the recipe that was highlighted in this fun interview I did for the Wall Street Journal. (And YES, I still feel the same way about bacon.) With all that recipe sharing, I figured I should probably offer it here, too – right?!

I often have a jar of this granola on the shelves of my pantry. It’s a nutritious and filling topping for non-fat yogurt, making it an excellent choice for anyone trying to eat healthy or commit to a morning routine.

My friend Lynda worked as a cheese maker at a goat dairy. A few summers ago I got to spend a few days out in farm country with her, and every morning for breakfast I had a deep bowl of her perfect goat milk yogurt topped with spoonfuls of her homemade granola and a drizzle of honey. Her granola has no added butter or sugar, so it’s not gooey-crunchy like most granola, but it does have toasty, flaky bits like coconut, oats, and almonds. The flavor is intensified with some chamomile buds and sesame seeds. After trying this, you’ll never think of granola in the same way again.

Chamomile & Coconut Granola

Makes 6 servings

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup raw, unsweetened coconut flakes
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed dried chamomile buds
1 tablespoon untoasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon flaxseed meal

Preheat the oven to 350 ̊F. Place all ingredients on a sheet pan and stir to combine. Place in the oven and toast for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and toss, redistributing granola into a single layer. Toast until the coconut flakes are golden brown, another 3 to
4 minutes. Serve by the handful over a bowl of plain yogurt with a drizzle of honey and some fresh fruit. Cooled leftover granola can be stored in the pantry, in a sealed container, for about 3 weeks.
For MORE recipes using chamomile, check out my Chamomile Cordial recipe here.

For TIPS on harvesting and drying chamomile for recipes or medicinals, check out my How-To guide here.

Rhubarb Recipe

Rhubarb Yogurt SauceWe are firmly rooted in rhubarb season and while my preferred consumption is via my morning raw juice, I do love rhubarb for it’s astringent, bracing quality. Pairing well with fatty foods and delicious when raw, rhubarb is often overlooked as a staple and treated simply as an addition to cakes and pies. Big mistake! Here, a more simple rhubarb recipe highlighting the bitter qualities of rhubarb – a great place to start for anyone puckering at the thought of eating rhubarb raw – from my eBook series, Fresh Pantry. Get the eBook here, and the print book (full of seasonal references & growing tips) here.

I absolutely love yogurt, especially when served alongside a savory dish of roasted or heavily spiced meat. Here, yogurt is made into raita, a traditional yogurt sauce often made with cucumber and mint, but I’ve replaced the cucumber with small bits of rhubarb. Honey is added to the mix to round out the sour flavor of both the yogurt and the rhubarb, but it can be omitted if you prefer the tang.

Lamb Meatballs with Rhubarb–Yogurt Sauce

SERVES 4

LAMB MEATBALLS
1 pound ground lamb
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon red chile flakes
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

Fresh-Pantry-RhubarbRHUBARB-YOGURT SAUCE

4 ounces rhubarb (about 2 stalks), trimmed and cut into a very small dice
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Put the ground lamb and all of the spices except the nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, mix well until the spices are evenly distributed throughout the lamb. Shape the mixture into small meatballs, about 3 inches in diameter, and place them in a roasting pan (be sure to leave space between the meatballs). Drizzle olive oil over the top of the meatballs and put in the oven. Bake until golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes.

While the meatballs are roasting, make the rhubarb raita. In a small bowl, combine the rhubarb, yogurt, honey, and nutmeg, stirring to combine well. Set the mixture aside.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving alongside a bowl of rhubarb raita.

PANTRY NOTE: Lamb meatballs can be made ahead and chilled until ready to use, up to three days. Leftover rhubarb

 

 

Best Trellis Ideas

pea trellisIf you haven’t planted your Sugar Snap, English or Snow peas by now, it’s time to get them in the garden! These springtime plants grow quickly and can be used in a vertical garden, thereby freeing up precious space on the ground. I use all sorts of different trellises in the garden and no one exhibits these better than Lily over at Rake & Make.

This is her favorite pea trellis, and I’d have to agree. We use string in all of our gardens, but a staple gun and netting is a fine idea – you can roll it up when the season ends. I also love her version of a cucumber trellis – it’s a great way to get those heavy fruits up and off the ground and makes them easy to harvest.

Incidentally, both peas and cucumbers can be grown in pots, making them a great choice for anyone with limited space or a small balcony. These tall pea vines would provide temporary (and delicious) privacy between neighbors.

Lily and I met in 2007 when we both attended an intensive organic gardening series. She had just bought a home and I was researching an article for Edible Seattle. Since then, she has become and urban farming master and a wonderful homemaker as well. She made her own wedding dress, knits her own sweaters and grows her own food. Marry ME, Lily! Her blog is an amazing resource full of great information.

Check out her site for more awesome vertical garden tips and best trellis ideas, along with crafty DIY projects. I highly recommend!

Le Pichet’s French Onion Soup Recipe

1214frenchonionThis is the recipe for french onion soup perfection – that uber rich broth that holds velvety onions and is covered in burnt cheese. Le Pichet is in Seattle and a def must-visit if you haven’t been in some time.

For Le Pichet’s French onion soup (aka soupe a l’oignon gratinée or gratin lyonnais), chef/co-owner Jim Drohman uses at 14-month cave-aged Comté cheese, which has a strong, nutty flavor and smells slightly of the barnyard. Continue reading

Best Soups in Seattle

I loved putting together this list of what I think are the best soups in Seattle. The article ran in January’s Seattle Magazine, but I’ve condensed it here to a selection of soups that I would personally recommend, versus having to include neighborhoods across town. I would eat these soups any day of the week. What am I missing?!

DOWNTOWN 

Tom’s Tomato Soup at Dahlia Bakery and Dahlia Lounge 
In the jewel-box space that houses the Dahlia Bakery, people queue up year-round for takeout soups, salads and sandwiches. Just like mom used to make, Tom’s tasty tomato soup (available daily) is loaded with canned tomatoes and cream in perfect proportions, creating a super tomatoey soup that is best eaten with the brown-butter croutons (always served in Dahlia Lounge, next door; order as an extra at the bakery).
Tom's Tasty Tomato

Continue reading

Homemade Yogurt

yogurt + bowlHomemade yogurt is ultimately an easy kitchen project anyone can put together with success, as long as you’re willing to accept a little inconsistency………

When I was in elementary school, my mom packed my lunch every day. I wasn’t one of those kids who glamorously got to wait in line for a hot lunch; I was the one with a grease-stained paper bag. On the very rare occasion, my mom would pack up a yogurt cup. I favored the kind with sweetened yogurt on top and jam-like fruit on the bottom.

Thankfully, my taste buds have matured and the thought of pre-sweetened yogurt is cringe-inducing. And while I eat yogurt daily, I never considered making it at home until Continue reading