Spring Produce and Lemony Spring Soup

It is easy to find dinner inspiration when it is not the dead of winter!  The garnet orbs caught my eye as I was watering.  One might have thought I had found gold the way I danced over and started pulling those beautiful earthy radishes from their bed.  The first crop.  Lettuce, lamb’s quarters, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and lemon thyme joined the pile of growing dinner plans.  And a leek!  Left over from the gardener the year before, I am thankful.  I have never been successful at growing leeks!  Home it went.

Lemony Spring Soup

First gather all inspirations.  I had small potatoes, red and yellow, from the market, a Jerusalem artichoke, radishes, herbs, greens (wild and cultivated).  Use what you have!

First we start with a sofrito.  In Italy this is onion, garlic, carrot, celery.

I chopped 1 leek, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 carrot, 1 celery stalk and sautéed in beautiful olive oil until the leeks and garlic were savory and transparent.  I chopped 2 potatoes, 1 diced Jerusalem artichoke, the radishes and added them to the pot.

I used a few leaves of lemon balm, a few of lemon verbena, lemon thyme.  I saved cilantro for the end because I am the only one who adores it.

Chop up greens and herbs and add to pot with 2 cups of vegetable broth.

To the broth I added 3 Tablespoons of Vietnamese Lemon Curry but you could add Italian seasoning, or Mexican seasoning, or Spanish, or your favorite curry or nothing at all!

Add 2 slices of lemon and 2 one inch pieces of ginger, and a real good splash of white wine to the broth and let simmer until everything is tender.

Check your flavor and add salt and pepper if needed.

I add cilantro to my bowl first so Doug doesn’t have to have any.  Remove lemon and ginger pieces.  Pour yourself a big refreshing bowl.  Delicious!

A Deliciously Simple Spring Salad

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This salad was like medicine after a long winter’s nap.  There are a lot of nutrients in this delicious and very simple salad.

Snap the woody bottoms off of asparagus and place on a cookie sheet.  Add a handful of pine nuts over the asparagus.  Drizzle with truffle oil (or olive oil) and sprinkle on salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for five minutes.

Meanwhile place a handful of spinach and arugula in a bowl.  Drizzle with truffle or olive oil, a dash of red wine vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix.

Top with sliced muenster cheese (the kids used to call it Monster cheese) or one could easily substitute goat cheese or any other favorite cheese.

Top with asparagus and pine nuts.  And there you go, a simple and scrumptious lunch!

This salad would pare nicely a cool Chenin Blanc or Pinot Grigio.  Happy Spring!

Year Round Greens

You know you are a homesteader when things like poop that doesn’t have to be composted excites you.  Alpaca poo isn’t “hot” like other types of manure so it doesn’t have to be composted for six months.  We filled a wheel barrel full of alpaca droppings and took it over to one of the raised beds to spread.

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Now in November I had every intention of getting every bed cleaned out properly, covering them with compost then mulch for their long winter’s nap.  A good kink in my shoulder decided otherwise.  It would have been nice to have it all done, but it will surely wait for me, I decided.  So, on the bed that we started putting manure on, I noted emerald green from the patch of otherwise browned kale, chard, and collards.  Tiny Swiss chard leaves, two inches high were trying with all their might to grow.  It certainly was an epiphany for me.  If I cover the greens well with loose straw next year, I could be harvesting well into January!  That is without the help of a greenhouse, hoop house, or cold frame.  An easy way to extend the season.

Since I did not expect any more greens after November, I had been diligently snipping greens and freezing them.  No blanching necessary.  I have no desire to eat slimy food…ever.  All you do is pack sandwich bags with greens, release the air, and zip closed.  Put in freezer.  Now, the next day it will be frozen solid.  Don’t let it thaw!  Just crush it between your fingers so that the greens are crumbles.  When you need greens, crush the ones on top more and sprinkle handfuls into whatever you are cooking.  Replace the rest in freezer immediately.

I have been putting greens in all kinds of soups, in omelets, scrambled eggs, on potatoes to be roasted, and in sautés.  There are innumerable ways to use greens and the nutrients are especially desired this time of year.  The perfect blend of calcium and magnesium to make it bio-available, iron, A, C, E, and K, full of anti-oxidants and cancer killing properties.

Greens are one of the foods that I would have with me if I were trapped on an island…along with margaritas.  Is that a food?

Greens in the Window (and helpful cats)

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I sure love greens, especially in the winter time with all the rich, heavy foods around.  I never liked greens much growing up because I only had the frozen or canned, therefore soggy, variety.  Fresh greens crisped in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees with a little olive oil and garlic is my idea of amazing food.  Added to soup, or on top of toast with barely a sauté is amazing too.  Oh, then there is folded into omelets, frittatas, and sprinkled on top of pizza.  Well, you get the point.  I still have some kale, chard, and collard greens in the garden, but they are looking a little rough this time of year.  I may cover them with straw and see if I can extend their season.  However, insurance is in the window.

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Pick up some seeds from your garden center and grow your own!  I so carefully planted a packet of spinach and one of kale in a pot and placed it on the shelf in the window covered with a zip lock bag so it could germinate greenhouse style.  (I put a five foot folding table in front of the south window then place a tiered shelf on the table to add space for more pots.)  Ichabod Crane (who loves trouble) knocked the whole pot over in his failed attempt to jump onto the shelf.  Fresh potting soil, and sadly, seeds were everywhere!  I was pretty mad, the cats hid from my yelling for awhile.  After I vacuumed the soil up, I replanted the pot with chard and lettuce and moved it to the west window away from furry monsters.

Frankie (the orange tabby) and Ichabod enjoy a lively game of chess.

Frankie (the orange tabby) and Ichabod enjoy a lively game of chess.

I loosely cover the pot with plastic of some sort, saran wrap or even a freezer bag, until the seeds germinate.  Keep the pots moist but don’t wash away the seeds!  In no time at all you will be harvesting baby greens for your meals.  That burst of chlorophyll enlivening your body.  After you get the greens going, they like water every third day or so in the house.

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To my surprise there are seedlings coming up everywhere in the south window!  In the Rosemary pot, in the tomatoes…seems greens really want to grow.  It’s easy to get your own indoor garden growing!   Just don’t let the cats help.