Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Weekly Ramblings...

This blogging is certainly new to me. I am trying to keep something new out here for my few readers.
So this will be my rambling blog report from the last few days.

Last Tuesday I received a text from a friend asking if we would like to be in on their reservation at Restaurant FnB. Well I said yes not even caring what my wife said. This small restaurant is probably my favorite right now. They were even donating a portion of proceeds going to the Kidney Foundation of AZ that night. I jokingly texted that I would donate a kidney if needed.  I even had people on Instagram giving me ideas on what I needed to order.

Here is the menu. Most diners might need to google up what some of these things are, but my thought is just go and eat some of the best veggie-centric dishes you will ever have. We started with the Fried Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vin, peanuts and mint. Shut the door! So Good! Also we had the Swiss chard falafel and their famous braised leeks with mozzarella and a fried egg on top.

I even took a bite with the egg! Here is a blurry pic, but I did it. I don't eat eggs by the way. My entree here was the pasta with hedgehog mushrooms, dill, roasted lemon and creme fraiche.

I have read peoples comments that say "I am a situational vegetarian. That is as long as Chef Charleen is in charge of the veggie situation". It is so true.

We also had this swiss chard with polenta croutons, parmesan and rosemary, and an order of the spicy grilled broccoli. The friendly gals at the table next to us even gave me a taste of their rutabaga dish! Finished up with this Blood Orange cake. So good! It is a must go if you live here or a plan ahead if you are visiting. I will be back soon FnB.

Jump ahead to The Day of the Purple Brussels Sprout Stalk. Here is my 9" chef knife next to it.
I came home and the Mrs had bought this beauty at a grocery store. I went into food geek mode for a bit and had to take pics and think of what to do with all these sprouts.

I came up with this salad of shaved purple brussels sprouts with lightly marinated kale and beet greens, shaved carrots and small radishes with a Meyer lemon/green garlic vinaigrette. Too strong on the green garlic was the answer from the Mrs. but I thought it was tasty even if this pic looks a little too foofy. Maybe if I was at the beach...

I even had a local chef suggest a different way to cook these sprouts. This is so cool because I have like 2 ways I cook them. Looks like I will be trying my hand at deep frying these very soon!

Forward again to Saturday and I am at the farmers market, like usual. I bought a lot of veggies and fruit (big surprise) and I also found these hidden metallic kachinas I'm guessing. #publicart

But I have a friend who brought up the idea a week or so back that I ought to start a garden.
Now I've got a bit of room in the back yard and I started thinking this was a great idea. No matter what color thumb I may have. I only grow a few herbs now.

So at the farmers market I decided to talk with Carl Seacat of Seacat Gardens. If you haven't met Carl you should. He grows some of the best tomatoes I have ever eaten. He only was selling plants at the market today because his crops are busy growing right now. 

So I now own 3 heirloom tomato plants and 2 sweet pepper plants plus I have a project going on. 

I picked out a spot and assembled this small raised bed and noticed the sunset on one of my trees. How will this all turn out?

I don't know, but I do know this will give me plenty of things to blog about.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Farmers market Saturday

Here's a little look into my trip to the farmers market Saturday..
It  has become my thing these days.

It started a few years ago just due to the fact that I live too darn close to several great markets. The ability to get farm fresh, local produce is so cool I think everyone should do it. I usually hit the market pretty early on a mission for unusual veggies but that's not the only thing there. Old Town Scottsdale is loaded with tourists these days and people watching is hot right now. I even met some friends this week.

There is artwork, pretty flowers and you can just walk around and act like a tourist.

At the market you can get breakfast pastries to go or a hot breakfast made for eating now. I've had a locally made brat on a fabulous roll and lamb chops over hummus on separate occasions before. 

I (and the family) have fallen hard for several local pastas and sauces, BBQ sauces and rubs, pickles, homemade potato chips etc. The list goes on and on. I hope to include a list of my favorites, but I'll get to that later. But for now. Veggies.

Today I bought 3 types of kale, a flowering kale, romanesco, mixed colored carrots and radishes, watermelon radishes, chioggia beets and green garlic. I'm forgetting some others I'm sure.

I get to work when I get home. I've had to teach myself a bit about storing these for use, especially the various greens that I love. They should be cut off quickly because they continue to draw nutrients from whatever root was below ground. Carrot tops seem the
most fragile so use the feathery tops in a salad or sammie at lunch.

Here are my greens wrapped in paper towels and ready to go into plastic bags and into the fridge.
The veggies themselves go into separate bags and into the fridge as well.

After all of that work, I made this nice salad of flowering kale, beet and carrot greens, green garlic, carrot and tomato with a light vinaigrette. Not the best picture but I am hungry for this fitting finish to my farmers market Saturday.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The odd area of the produce section...

I've written two posts about odd vegetables so one might wonder 'what up with dat'?! What made you want to write about these when there are lots of normal veggies that are perfectly fine and easier to buy. Potatoes, onions, bell peppers and romaine lettuce are normal veggies that most people like. Why not talk about a lighter broccoli rice casserole that has ingredients you can buy at any supermarket? A fresh spin on a Caesar salad? I can't deny all sorts of wonderful dishes can be made with 'normal' veggies.

But I have a bit of an adventurous palate. I like to try new things. I used to only order the Chef's Special when we would go out for dinner. I would hope the Mrs will order something different from me so that I could taste it. I will work through almost every item on a menu at places I frequent.

Maybe this drew me to the far end of the produce section. The area with the chard and kale greens, fennel bulbs, beets and rutabagas. Pretty much where no one usually shops. Items most probably didn't eat as a child. Things I hadn't cooked with. Hmm...

Stuff is a little foreign down there. These aren't always user friendly veggies. You might have to pick through some piles of greens to find the best ones. You will have to use your carrot peeler on some beets or rutabagas. You will have to flex your muscles to cut open a tough winter squash. I have found it an interesting culinary playground and no one will deny the health benefits of eating the rainbow.

This adventurous side has led me to the farmers market where organic and heirloom veggies and fruits live. Enough talk, here's a little recipe for roasted carrots and radishes.

Wash and lightly peel several carrots and cut the radishes in half or smaller if they are big ones. I like to just scrape the carrots lightly with a knife so that you don't peel too much of those colors off.

Lightly olive oil, salt and pepper and season with some sprigs of thyme and rosemary that are super local (from my garden). Place in a 425° oven for 25 minutes until tender shaking the pan every once in a while. I then cut the carrots into smaller pieces, and drizzled a little honey and local parsley over the top. Serve now.

It was very tasty and I suppose it could even be made with 'normal' carrots & radishes.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Purple haze...

Going to the farmers market on Saturday mornings is sometimes tough to do. Friday nights are a time to cut lose and have a good time whether out with friends or just at home. I will have a few adult beverages and then a few more. It's not a secret to my friends that I love a good tequila. This doesn't make for a good time getting up early to go to the market. I usually slam a cup of coffee and put on a hat to cover up my crazy hair. Hungover shopping for healthy stuff, it's a thing!

Often times there are unique veggies in limited quantities. That's why it helps to get here early. When going through the McClendon's Select market area, I noticed a sudden burst of color. Now there are the usual greens, oranges of carrots, red radishes etc. But this area was different.

There were the pale green romanesco which is so unusual that I must buy it on sight. But close by was a lot of purple. I'd found purple broccoli and cauliflower. Now I'd seen this purple broccoli on Instagram that morning and I wanted some. It is said that purple veggies have many healthy benefits.

Of course then the Purple Haze hit me. When I was checking out I saw that I had chosen purple cauliflower instead. Doh!!

Not too big of a deal. A couple of days later I made spicy roasted cauliflower. I've made a roasted broccoli similar to this for years, Garlicky Roasted Broccoli, so I figured this might work as well.

I cut up the head of cauliflower, stopping to take some more pics because it does look so different. 


Then I sprinkled it with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it at 425°. After 15 minutes I mixed in a couple minced cloves of garlic and a big sprinkle of red pepper flakes. It cooked for about 10 minutes longer until I thought it should be done.

It kept its color and was pretty tasty but lacked something. Too dry? Not enough seasoning? I don't know. I'm not sure what was wrong but I will try it again.
Maybe I'll even get the purple broccoli as well next time...

Some more links about purple veggies:
Purple Veggies Show Promising Health Benefits
Purple Cauliflower Pics
Spicy Roasted Purple Cauliflower Recipe

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Braising the Greens...

As I've said I really enjoy going to the farmers market and picking up super fresh organic veggies. The variety of things to pick from can be overwhelming but I just go for it. Various greens like kale, chard and spinach are a big deal here. These greens have many healthy benefits.

At the farmers market on Saturday (which happened to be the Green Out day at the Phoenix Open), 
I picked up some spigarello (a type of greens similar to kale) and several types of radishes. Now most people would throw out the radish greens but they are very tasty as well. They can even be used in green smoothies as the flavor is not intensely radish-like as one would think. However greens like these need to be used  quickly as they wilt quickly in the fridge. 
So I'm going to make a braised greens recipe.
Fresh watermelon & daikon radish greens
Now many recipes for braised greens have bacon or ham hocks included, but after the dips and munchies of Super Bowl Sunday, I'm thinking I need to do without. I like to treat these greens like fresh spinach. They will shrink a bit but not like a box of fresh baby spinach from the store. Start by washing the greens well. Cut the leaves off of the major stems as they are tough and then roughly chop them all up. 
Chop up several cloves of garlic while warming up a sauté pan to medium heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and let heat up. Cook the garlic along with several shakes of chile pepper flakes until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Place the greens in the pan and lightly toss with a spoon to begin cooking them.  

Then season with salt and pepper and begin adding some liquid. I used a bit of my frozen gory jidori chicken stock (cue the nasty picture) and some water. Maybe a half cup total. 

I also added the juice of a mini lemon that was in the fridge for a little acid.


Just keep the greens simmering in this liquid for about 20 minutes while slowly backing off the heat until they are very tender. I usually have to add small amounts of water or stock so that they don't become too dried out. I sometimes even toss ice cubes in as they cook. Weird maybe, but just keep them simmering in a little pool of flavor. Check the taste for seasoning and serve. 

I think this makes a nice little veggie side to go with dinner.  
 Don't be afraid, try some of the greens at the farmers market. 
Further reading if interested in Spigarello 
What's that Vegetable
You Grow Girl 
FnB TV episode 1 about Spigarello