The Kitchen Garden

It’s time to harvest; tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, parsley, squash, mint are all begging to be brought inside and cooked, preserved, fermented and/or dried. Though, if you are an edible food in my garden, more likely placed directly on a plate as salad. More recipes will come on cooking from the kitchen garden. But, for now, a bit about the garden.

 

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Our kitchen garden was designed based on some simple permaculture ideas. We are novices in this field, but we are guided by the principles of using local resources, planting edible fruits, keeping your herbs and annuals close to the house so you can tend to them, building garden beds that require little irrigation, composting EVERYTHING, planting a “food forest,” and generally establishing systems that take a while to create but are low maintenance and autonomous in the long run.

My favorite permaculture technique? Hugelkultur. Long story short, hugelkultur entails burying logs or big sticks underneath your layers of compost, leaves, mulch, soil etc. Why would you do this? Less irrigation for starters. (I watered my vegetable garden 3 times this summer, after planting). Lots of oxygen for the plant roots is another reason. Third, if your compost is like mine and comes mostly from kitchen scraps, the carbon in the wood (brown stuff) balances out all the nitrogen from your kitchen waste (green stuff). The result? We are harvesting zuchinni, basil, crookneck squash, bushels of cucumbers and lots of beans and peas; all out of a bed we hardly watered. And they taste amazing.

 

Let us know: what are your favorite fruits or vegetables in season right now?

 

 

 

 

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Carrot Cupcakes and Carrot Jam.

Guess what vegetable is in season? We just bought a 25 pound bag of them, and can’t make enough carrot juice. The bag is emptying surprisingly quickly. Fast enough that I have checked our skin to make sure it doesn’t turn orange. Yes, it can happen.

This recipe is gluten-free. The flour blend is 2 parts brown rice flour, 1 part teff flour, 1 part chickpea flour. The carrot jam decorative topping is originally a Persian recipe. So easy to make- just julienne some carrots and put them on the stove with 3 tablespoons of water, sugar (to taste), and some cardamom pods. Cook them until they are quite soft.

 

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Recipe for Gluten-free Carrot Cupcakes:

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • zest of 1 lemon or half an orange
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons gluten-free flour blend (above)
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened

Combine the wet ingredients, then add the dry ingredients spices first, then the flour and the last 3 ingredients. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes in a greased muffin tin.  Makes 12 cupcakes.

I made a butter cream cheese frosting for the top, put it in the fridge for a good hour, then decorated the cupcakes with the carrot jam. You can decorate with extra coconut or pecans, too.

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Vegan Burgers

These falafel burgers are lightly fried, and then baked. This makes them much less greasy, but maintains the delicious crunchiness. We served them on fresh organic blue corn tortillas, to make them gluten-free. Most traditional Mexican tortillas are made with nixtamalized corn (a process of soaking the kernels in wood ash), which releases its nutrients and rids it of toxic phytic acid. Organic corn is the best because it is free of GMOs. (Assuming that pesky wind didn’t cross-polinate any of the crop with some frankenpollen).

Falafel Burgers*

The recipe for the burgers depends on your preference. The basic ingredients are chickpeas, fava beans, onions, garlic, parsley, and thyme. These get blended in the food processor. To this you can add an egg for stickiness and grated potato sweet potato.  The result should yield a doughy mix that can be formed into patties. Lightly fry them on either side, then continue cooking in a 350° oven until crispy, about 15 minutes.

*Another lovely photo by Kaela Greenstein.

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A Handmade Gift

In general, I prefer to use my teapot to brew loose leaf tea. When we make Persian black tea, we use a special pot to brew the leaves over heat. It tastes better than teabags, and wastes less.

But, when brewing spiced chai (Masala chai), it is best to steep the the tea in a pot of milk on the stove. These teabags make it simple to do this. I made these as a gift for a dear friend, and sent them by mail.

DSC00677The tea mix is loose leaf ceylon tea with ground spices (I always grind them myself). I used cardamom, cinnamon, clove, fennel seeds,  powdered ginger and a little nutmeg and black pepper. I used some coffee filters I had lying around, and red thread. You must double up the filters as they break apart easily. Do not overfill them! Tea leaves expand many times their dried size when steeped.

You can cook the tea in milk, (1 cup per person), strain and sweeten with honey.

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Sumac Salad Dressing

Sumac is the best-kept secret of spices. It comes from a species of Sumac tree native to the Middle East and North Africa. The taste is subtle, so it’s best eaten raw. Persians simply sprinkle it on meats right on the plate, adding a slightly sour lemony taste. You can find it at spice shops and Middle Eastern specialty stores.

I make this salad dressing in large batches  in a mini-blender, so it lasts a  few weeks. The onions actually improve (as in become less spicy and more sweet) in the lemon juice as it sits in the fridge.  It tastes amazing on salads, falafel, french fries, or just as a dip. The amount of lemon juice should be almost the same as the other wet ingredients. Use equal portions of olive oil and tahini. If you blend it, stir in the sumac at the end so it doesn’t lose its texture.

Sumac Salad Dressing

  • Tahini
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Onion, blended until smooth
  • Mustard
  • Salt
  • Sumac
  • Honey (optional)

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Danish Apple Pancakes (Ebelskiver)

Danish pancakes are made in a special cast-iron pan with small half-circles. If you don’t have one, you can find it here. I use mine for many recipes besides the typical breakfast pancake- cheddar corn cakes, teff flour chocolate desserts, even small potato latkes. The pancakes shown here are like tiny muffins, perfect for eating right out of your hand or dipping into hot coffee.

The wonderful thing about these pancakes is you can stuff them with brie or chocolate chips to get a delicious melted center. Traditionally, they were served with a fruit or jam inside. The recipe that follows calls for a pecan in the middle, making them a little more substantial.

Danish Apple Pancakes

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted until liquid
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 3/4 cup oatmeal, soaked
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • handful of pecans

Mix together the dry ingredients, except the pecans. Add the buttermilk, oil, apple, and the egg yolk. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Allow batter to sit for 10 minutes.

Add a little butter to the ebelskiver pan and fill each hemisphere with batter. Place a pecan in the middle of each pancake and press down with a spoon until it is submerged. When the batter begins to bubble, flip the pancakes using wooden chopsticks or a plastic spoon. This takes a little practice; you can start by turning them 90 degrees first, then 90 degrees again until they are fully inverted. Serve warm with jam.

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Filed under Recipes, vegetarian

Simple Hummus Recipe

Hummus is very easy to make, but if you really want to start from scratch it takes some time. Sure, you can just open a can of chick peas and throw them in the food processor. But soaking or sprouting your own makes them much easier to digest, not to mention the avoidance of BPA. (For a great sprouting how-to, see Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Tradions).

Photo by Kaela Greenstein*

To cook dry chick peas, start the night (or better a full day) before by soaking your beans. Add lots of water, as they will expand a lot. A cup of dry beans will yield two cups or more when cooked. Rinse them well. You can then cook them in a crock-pot on high for about 4 hours (for a big batch), or on a low setting of your stove. A small batch should only take a couple hours. They are done when they are almost falling apart, but not quite.

After the beans cool, for each cup add the following and blend:

  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 clove of garlic

My favorite way to serve hummus is to spread it on a plate with copious amounts of olive oil, olives, thyme, and chili flakes. You can also add more lemon at this point as the tartness of the lemon sometimes recedes in the mix.

*Check out more of Kaela’s delicious photography

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