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I didn’t grow up eating pumpkin, we were more of a sweet potato family! I can’t ever remember my mommy using pumpkin at all. In fact, I was grown when I start eating it. Not sure if my mom just didn’t like it or what but I can certainly compare the taste of pumpkin vs. sweet potato:  to me, pumpkin’s flavor is more pungent, it’s sorta in your face like, “Notice me, I’m a Pumpkin!” Sweet potatoes have a more sweeter, more laid back flavor like it doesn’t have to be the star of the show! And, of course when you’re driving around town at this time of year in the U.S., you don’t see a bunch of sweet potatoes in the fields!!! haa haaa!

I love to see all the pumpkins out and people picking them up. So, when Jen and I chose to feature them this month, of course my mind went to the obvious dishes – pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, etc., but when I post a menu here I sorta want to break with tradition so I chose a more unconventional menu I think. And, I know my vegetarian friends will like this as well! As I mentioned, I didn’t grow up eating pumpkin so my first experience with it was pumpkin butter. At first, I wasn’t sure what the stuff would taste like but one of my dearest friends bought some for me for my birthday one year and I decided to try it. Well…after I put a little on my butter knife and tasted it, it wasn’t soon after that it found its way onto a slice of toast! And then, there were the pancakes, waffles, sandwiches, you name it! So….I was obviously hooked and off to experiment more with it.

So without further ado, I introduce you to this month’s menu featuring Pumpkin!

First off, we’ll start with:

Pumpkin Ginger Soup

Next…

Vegetarian Pumpkin Risotto

Pumpkin Orzo

with Pumpkin Whole Wheat Bread

And for Dessert…

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake

Lastly,

I’ll share a recipe for Homemade Vegan Pumpkin Butter

So starting with our soup, I love to start any meal with a nice warm soup and to me this time of year is all about comfort. I generally curl on my loveseat with a blanket or quilt, have a bowl of soup and watch an old 1940s movie. So, this Pumpkin Ginger soup hits the spot!

Pumpkin Ginger Soup

Ingredients:
2 c. pumpkin, cooked
3 c. chicken broth
3 tbsp. butter
1 c. light cream
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium apple, diced
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt

Preparation:
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Saute onion and apple until tender. Stir in pumpkin, broth and spices. Remove from heat.
Process or blend until smooth. Return to saucepan and stir in cream. Heat through and serve.

Vegetarian Pumpkin Risotto

Even though risotto requires a lot of extensive stirring, I think it’s so worth the effort and the aroma of pumpkin cooking in the house is just insane!

Ingredients:
1 onion diced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 c. risotto rice
1 c. apple juice
4 c. vegetable broth
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated or minced
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp. margarine
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
Saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat for three to five minutes, or until soft. Add the rice. Allow to cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Slowly add the apple juice.

Start to add the vegetable broth, 1/2 cup at a time. Allow the moisture to cook off before adding the next 1/2 cup. Stir frequently. Add remaining ingredients, stirring well, and cook for just a few minutes, until heated through.

Pumpkin Orzo

I know I’m doing two pastas but you can cook the risotto one day and then fix orzo another day! I adore Orzo and there are so many uses for it, put it on a bed of salad or let it be the side dish for Thanksgiving!

Ingredients:
1-1/4 c. chicken broth
3/4 c. canned pumpkin
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 c. orzo pasta
fresh basil for topping

Preparation:
In a medium saucepan, combine chicken broth, pumpkin, butter, honey, balsamic vinegar, ginger, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add orzo. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes, or until orzo is tender. Top with basil. Serve immediately.

Pumpkin Whole Wheat Bread

YUMMO! BREAD!

Ingredients:
1-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. sugar
1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 c. solid pack pumpkin, preferably fresh (but canned works fine)
1/2 c. butter

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 1 loaf pan. Combine eggs and pumpkin in large bowl. Add flour, one cup at a time. Add sugar, baking powder and soda. Mix until smooth. Mix in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Pour batter into pan. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Invert onto rack and cool before slicing. Makes 1 loaf. Slice and serve!

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake

I have a few friends who LOVE to bake pumpkin cheesecakes and I thought that would be perfect to share here instead of pumpkin pie. It is so good and one of the things I like about pumpkin is that it doubles as a veggie or as a dessert! Can’t beat versatility and diversity huh?

Ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin butter
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust

Preparation:
Combine pecans and 1/4 cup brown sugar; cut in butter or margarine with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Set aside. Beat cream cheese at high speed of an electric mixer until smooth. Add 1/3 cup brown sugar; beat well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in pumpkin butter. Pour mixture into crust.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 40 minutes and then sprinkle pecan mixture over pie. Bake for 5 additional minutes, or until butter or margarine and sugar melt. Cool on a wire rack. Cover, and chill for at least 4 hours.

Homemade Vegan Pumpkin Butter

And this is what started this love affair of mine! Pumpkin butter! Taken my Vegan All American Biscuits recipe from Ordinary Recipes Made Gourmet.

Stirring is crucial in this recipe to prevent burning your pumpkin butter. If you must walk away, add a few tablespoons of apple juice and turn down the stove heat to medium-low, still continuing to stir as you can. (Add about 5-7 minutes additional cooking time if you do this.)

Makes about 2 cups, prep time: about 15 minutes, cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
1-15-oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 c. agave syrup*
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch of salt

Preparation:

Combine the pumpkin and agave nectar* in a small saucepan over medium heat, mixing until well combined. Stirring constantly, cook for about 15 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in the spices and salt, and cook for about 5 minutes more. Remove the pan from heat, and transfer your pumpkin butter to a small heat-proof dish or jar. Let cool completely before covering and refrigerating. Pumpkin butter will keep for about 2 weeks in a covered container in the refrigerator.

_________________________

*Agave nectar also known as agave syrup is an alternative sweetener that can be used in place of maple syrup, honey or sugar in cooking and baking recipes. Derived from the agave plant, agave nectar has a higher ratio of fructose to glucose than most sweeteners, so it has a lower glycemic index and glycemic and is thus a good substitute for persons who are watching their blood sugar levels. Available in light to dark grades like other syrups, agave nectar can be found in most groceries and health food stores among baking products and other syrups.

I hope you’ll try some of these recipes or think of making any of them for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, I’m sorta out with the old and in with the new myself!

Well…that’s all for this month everyone, I hope you enjoyed Jen’s and my take on pumpkin, tune in next month for our next chosen ingredient, you never know what we might write about so be sure to keep following and let us know what you think!

See ya next month!

Kim

At this time of the year the rainy season sets in here and there are few crops left in the fields to harvest. What is still left to be harvested will need a few more cold nights to sweeten the crop. Driving along Pat Bay Highway into Victoria I am reminded of the time of year by the Pumpkins lying waiting for some lucky family to come and pick them up to carve them into a Jack ‘o’ lanterns for Halloween.

The endless fields of Pumpkins along pat Bay Highway near Victoria.

The endless fields of Pumpkins along Pat Bay Highway near Victoria.

Pumpkins are a form of Squash and are from the family Cucurbitaceae which also includes cucumbers and gourds. It is an important agricultural family which produces many types of edible food which is enjoyed around the world.  Pumpkins in particular have been known to man for a very long time, the first evidence of human use dates to between 7000-5500 B.C. in Mexico. it was most likely the species Cucurbita moschata which is a species that tolerate hot temperatures.

Two unsuspecting Pumpkins in the field sunning themselves, little do they know what comes next!

Two unsuspecting Pumpkins in the field sunning themselves, little do they know what comes next!

Pumpkins are generally hybrids of several species which have been crossed to produce certain qualities such as size, better form for cooking and color variations. Then now famous ‘Giant’ Pumpkins are from the species Cucurbita maxima  were crossed and recrossed with Kobucha Squash by Howard Dill of Nova Scotia to produce the first Pumpkins over 500 pounds(227 Kg)  in 1981. Since that time the largest Pumpkins are weighing in at around the 2000 pound (907 Kg) range. This type of Pumpkin does not grow well here. Here we grow the standard Halloween pumpkins which are good for eating as well.

New ghostly colors of Pumpkins are become popular.

New ghostly colors of Pumpkins are become popular.

The name pumpkin originates in ancient Greece were melons called ‘Pepon’ meaning large melon. Pepon was in turn adapted by the French in to ‘pompon’. Pompon was then taken by the British and changed into ‘pumpion’. In America ‘Pumpkin‘ was first used as we know it today. Halloween as we know it is from the celebration of All Souls Day at the same time of year. It is a celebration of all souls who are in purgatory and all who have died. The tradition of carving vegetables comes from this event. Originally  large turnips were carved into lanterns to light the way. The use of pumpkins for carving started in the 1860s in North America where the fruit was more commonly grown.

Pumpkins large, small and mis-shaped all make good shapes for carving of the traditional Jack 'O' Lanter

Pumpkins large, small and mis-shaped all make good subjects for carving of the traditional Jack 'O' Lantern.

If you have the space, growing pumpkins is great fun especially for children. All parts of the plant are edible including the flesh, seeds, flowers and even the leaves.  Pumpkins are big eaters and need lots of nutrients to grow big and healthy. They require full sun and because they are vines, space to sprawl. A long hot summer will produce a great crop every time, this year was very good here for pumpkins.  Many people first grow their pumpkins on top of their compost heap which is a good way to make sure they are well feed. They also require a good supply of water during their fruit growing phase. Male and female flowers are separate so you might have to hand fertilize to get a good crop, it is best to do this in the morning when the flowers are freshly opened. The males are more frequently produced with the females having tiny fruit at the base of their flowers. You have to be quick to do the hand fertilizing as the flowers do not last long.

This Pumpkin has a ways to go before it is ready for carving.

This Pumpkin has a ways to go before it is ready for carving.

There are many types of pumpkin to choose from, it all depends on what you want to use it for. Most Halloween type pumpkins are great for eating, so be sure not to through it out after you use it. Pumpkins store very well because they have hard skins which protects them from being damaged easily. Other hard skinned squash include Hubbards and Kobucha.  Small oddly shaped Gourds have the hardest skins but are generally dried and not used for eating.

Hubbard Squash are closely related to pumpkins and the flesh can be used the same way in recipes.

Hubbard Squash are closely related to pumpkins and the flesh can be used the same way in recipes.

Next week Kim will post some tasty recipes for use of your Halloween Pumpkin, stay tuned for that.

Right now you can check her blog here: http://ordinaryrecipesmadegourmet.com/

Jen: I used to have a vegetable garden when I lived in Prince George which is a cool climate. Lettuce, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and many others grow very well there. The challenge was to grow the warmer climate, longer ripening  vegetables. I mastered them all with careful research on the best varieties for short season growing, sometimes as short as 1 month between frosts. One plant I especially wanted to grow were Tomatoes (Solanum lycopericum) which require lots of heat and sun.  Fortunately there are many special seed varieties of tomatoes just for northern climates and other tricky situations which grow just fine.

The many forms of heritage Tomatoes now available again for all to enjoy.

The many forms of heritage Tomatoes now available again for all to enjoy.

It is believed that the first Tomatoes which we might recognize came from the highlands of Peru. The plant diversified into 20 subspecies as it moved to different areas of the Americas. It is known that tomatoes have been eaten since prehistoric times in Mexico.  Hernando Cortez (1485-1547), the Spanish explorer is said to be the first European to have seen the fruit in the Aztec capital of Tenochititlan (modern day Mexico City). it is Cortez  who it is said introduced the fruit to Europe. The fruit he would have brought back to Europe would have probably been a small yellow fruit called ‘Xitmalt’ meaning plump thing with a naval.

A few of the many varieties available today, from large fleshy beefsteaks to the tiny berry forms.

A few of the many varieties available today, from large fleshy Beefsteak to the tiny berry forms.

Europeans where first suspicious of the fruit and thought it was poisonous, this was because early tableware had a high lead content.  The acid in the Tomatoes reacted to the lead and caused it to leech into food they were eating. Lead is highly toxic. Poorer people who used wooden plates and utensils never had this problem and commonly ate the fruit. Once dishes and utensils were made of better materials such as tin and porcelain Tomatoes made their way into wealthier families foods.

A family plot of Tomatoes.

A family plot of Tomatoes.

Tomatoes are especially popular which warmer climate countries such as Italy, Spain and of course South America. These countries have shown the way with their tasty use of tomatoes in all forms of cooking. As their forms of cuisine have become more popular, we have become more adventurous in using tomatoes in more unusual ways. We now use thick walled ‘plum’ tomatoes for making sauces, cherry  sweet Tomatoes for salads and for nibbling on and heirloom varieties for their rich deep unique flavors.

The big 'Beefsteak' Tomatoes are a favorite for Hambugers and sandwiches everywhere!

The big 'Beefsteak' Tomatoes are a favorite for Hamburgers and sandwiches everywhere!

Depending on your experience and the time you have, you can either start Tomatoes from seed or buy small starter plants. If you choose seed you can grow whatever type you want. I have always grown them from seed.  When growing them you need a sunny warm location which has food air circulation. they need to be well watered when growing and blooming and then less when the fruit is set. Tomatoes grow well both in the ground or in a large container which make them popular for patios and highrise apartments and condominiums.

This is the low acid Tomato variety 'Golden Girl'.

This is the low acid Tomato variety 'Golden Girl'.

Tomatoes like rich soil which drains well. It is important to stake your tomatoes to keep them off the ground as the fruit will rot if it is damp. Tomatoes have few problems if grown correctly and produce huge crops. Don’t worry if they do not all ripen before winter, there are many tasteful green tomato recipes such as relishes and chutney which will add flavor and interest to your dinner.

More on Tomatoes:

Tomato species: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomato

A great history of the tomato: http://www.tomato-cages.com/tomato-history.html

Hernando Cortez who brought us the tomato: http://library.thinkquest.org/J002678F/cortez.htm

Finally, how to grow them: http://www.helpfulgardener.com/vegetable/2003/tomatoes.html

Are You Tomato Crazy Like Me?

Kim: I have always loved tomatoes whether eating them or cooking with them, they are one of the things my kitchen can’t do without and every time I’m grocery shopping I buy them diced, tomato sauce, raw, paste, crushed – I don’t care, they have such good uses for all kinds of dishes!

https://i0.wp.com/ordinaryrecipesmadegourmet.com/red-tomatoes.jpg

I’ve never grown my own tomatoes yet but someday after we move out of our lovely apartment life (I’m being sarcastic), I’d love to actually have a garden and growing tomatoes are first on the list, let me tell ya! Now before my post here, I was doing research on red tomatoes but I was also curious about green tomatoes too and especially since I don’t use them much. And tomatoes is our choice for September so I couldn’t limit my recipes to just using the reds.

https://i2.wp.com/ordinaryrecipesmadegourmet.com/green-tomato-growing.jpg

Green tomato growing – beautiful!

To begin my menu, I’ll start off with a familiar one but maybe overlooked a bit…

Fried Green Tomatoes

https://i0.wp.com/ordinaryrecipesmadegourmet.com/fried-green-tomatoes.jpg

Ingredients:
2 or 3 green tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 c. flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying

Preparation:
Roll green tomato slices in flour. Salt and pepper and fry on both sides in oil until brown on both sides. Serve immediately. So good as a snack too!

Next on my list is a wonderful stuffed tomato and all my veggie friends will love this!

Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers

https://i0.wp.com/ordinaryrecipesmadegourmet.com/stuffed-tomatoes-peppers.jpg

I borrowed this recipe from Recipezaar and I think it’s a great way to use up fresh tomatoes!

Ingredients:
5 medium perfectly-ripe yummy tomatoes
5 medium green peppers
3/4 c. olive oil
15 tbsp. rice, 1-1/2 tbsp. per tomato or pepper, to be stuffed
1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1-1/2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced very fine
1/4 c. fresh spearmint, minced (1 1/2 tblsps dried, crumbled)
1/2 c. parsley, minced (or cilantro)
1/2 c. pine nuts or slivered almond
1/2 c. hard mizithra cheese or kefalograviera cheese or parmesan cheese, cut into tiny cubes
1/2 c. sultana raisins (optional)
1 tsp. salt (I like using kosher salt)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1-1/2 c. water
1/2 c. olive oil
1 tbsp. tomato paste
salt and pepper

Preparation:
Cut off tops of tomatoes (retain tops) and carefully scoop out flesh (retain this as well) and the tops of peppers (retain tops) and remove seeds and membrane.

Place tomatoes and peppers in a pan large enough to hold them comfortably and give each vegetable a tiny dash of sugar with the tips of your fingertips (important!). Take tomato flesh and process it until pureed.  Add olive oil, rice, onion, garlic, mint, parsley/cilantro, nuts, cheese, sultanas, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper (or season to taste). Stuff the vegetables evenly with this mixture.

Replace tops of tomatoes and peppers. Combine 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup olive oil with a scant tablespoonful of tomato paste and a little salt and pepper and pour this around the vegetable.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven (180 C) for approx 1-3/4 hours (vegetables should pierce easily and be slightly blackened in parts). Turn off oven and leave in for another hour to ‘set’ before serving. This is best served slightly warm or at room temperature.  YUMMY!!!

And no post on tomato is complete without using it in PIZZA so I won’t disappoint…

Tomato Mozzarella Pizza

https://i1.wp.com/ordinaryrecipesmadegourmet.com/tomato-mozzarella-pizza.jpg

Ingredients:
1 pkg. Pillsbury pizza dough (regular or thin crust)
2 c. shredded mozzarella
1/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. fresh basil, snipped
2/3 c. mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, pressed
4 plum tomatoes (Roma tomatoes), thinly sliced
olive oil spray

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 12 x 15 cookie sheet with olive oil spray or just use a pizza stone (preferable). Roll dough onto cookie sheet. Sprinkle crust with 1 cup mozzarella.

Combine the remaining mozzarella cheese, parmesan, basil, garlic, and mayonnaise in bowl. Layer tomatoes over mozzarella and top with cheese and mayo mixture. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

I love all these dishes and I love how they can be served as snacks, side dishes, party or as an appetizer! I think it’s dinner time now and pizza sounds good to me right about now!!!

So that does it for our September choice but check us out next month where we pick another herb, plant, veggie or whatever is on our minds to write about! Haa haa!

Until next Month! Cheers!


Posted twice monthly by Jen and Kim

It’s like you getting two posts for the price of one….and it’s free and fun.

Kim and I have decided to change our blog format to make it easier for us and you to use. We have decided to remove our separate pages and just post now. We each will post on a different day. Instead of one big post a month, there now will be two smaller ones, one on recipes and the other on the plant itself and how to grow it.  This month we are posting on Tomatoes,  I am posting first on this Well Traveled Fruit. Kim will post next Wedsday.

Yum,Yum,Yum! Soon to be ripe tomaotes.

Yum,Yum,Yum! Soon to be ripe tomaotes.

Living here in the Northwest I am always happy to find free sources of food. What I mean is I have learned about and have sampled many native plants which grow here. Some are the same ones I knew from growing up in the interior and others are strictly coastal natives. Other plants have been here so long and are so abundant that we assume they have always been here. Himalayan or more correctly Armenian Blackberries (Rubus armeniacus) fall into the brought here category. It has in North America since it’s introduction in 1885 by Luther Burbank who exchanged seeds with a source in India. This is why they have long been mistakenly called ‘Himalayan’ Blackberries. We now know the Blackberries that billow over hills around here are not Rubus discolor or R. procerus.

The Armenian Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) produces bountiful crops year after year.

The Armenian Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) produces bountiful crops year after year.

One can understand why he was interested in the Armenian Blackberry, it is a tough as nails plant which grows extremely fast and produces large crops of delicious berries regularly. I am sure Mr. Burbank never would have thought it would become a problem in many areas as it has.  Luther Burbank(1849-1926) was an American botanist who was involved in agricultural sciences. He was interested in improving and introducing better forms of food into a growing population. He brought several species of blackberries over and crossed them looking to produce a better plant with the attributes people would find useful. In all he introduced 16 selections of Blackberry some which are still used today.
A few minutes of picking Armenian Blackberries will produce enough for a delicious dessert.

A few minutes of picking Armenian Blackberries will produce enough for a delicious dessert.

At this time of the year as I travel about I will be sure to see people stopped a long roads getting a quick snack straight from Armenian Blackberry bushes that grow near by. Today as I walked downtown a mother and her children were munching on some berries that they picked from a bush conveniently close to the sidewalk. Here there is no real need to grow these plants in your garden, all you have to do is watch out for where people are stopped by the roadside and look.
My nephew Owen picking Armenian Blackberries.

My nephew Owen picking Armenian Blackberries.

As a child my mother enjoyed the Blackberry pies her mother made and as children we thought we would surprise her by picking enough berries for a pie.  She was surprised and appreciative of our efforts. What she forgot to tell us was the blackberries used for the pie of her youth were the real native ones (Rubus ursinus) which ripen much earlier.  Trailing Blackberries are abundant here on southern Vancouver Island but had are not so common anymore in South Surrey where my mother grew up.
Trailing Blackberry(Rubus ursinus) is sometimes called the 'Whipcord' Blackberry.

Trailing Blackberry(Rubus ursinus) is sometimes called the 'Whipcord' Blackberry.

Blackberries, whatever species are a great fruit packed with vitamins and minerals. They are very versatile and are used in many sweet delectable treats such as jams, jellies, liquors and many ways in desserts. Last week I made a Blackberry Shortcake and have used them in muffins recently. The flavor ofArmenian Blackberries has a touch of earthiness which works with many other flavors and savory things. Favorites of mine include adding a little orange zest, Blackberry with ginger and, sweet  Blackberry vinegar salad dressing added to shrimp salads or other delicate fish.
Freshly washed Blackberries waiting to made into Blackberry Shortcake.

Freshly washed Blackberries waiting to made into Blackberry Shortcake.

When Picking Armenian Blackberries always remember to pick the darkest, blackest berries as these will be the sweetest. When they are fully ripe Blackberries will practically pick themselves for you by falling into your hand. I always wash my berries as soon as I get them home and put let the water drain as much as possible before storing them in the fridge if I am not using them right away. They do not store well or last long so use them within a few days or freeze them if you want them later.
Armenian Blackberries like to scramble up trees, you can pick the hanging ones.

Armenian Blackberries like to scramble up trees, you can pick the hanging ones.

The best places to pick Armenian Blackberries are in areas where there is good moisture during the early summer so the berries are nice, big and juicy. I like to pick my berries as far from roads as possible so they are cleaner. When picking you should wear dark clothing and consider wearing long pants and shirts as the brambles are prickly and the fruit can stain lightly colored clothes. My sister and I always thing a hook on a long handle would be a good thing to bring as it always seems the best berries are too high up for us to reach.  We like to pick our berries in small containers so we do not squish the bottom ones. Another thing to bring is something to wipe your hands with to remove the sticky sweet berry juice.

East Coast or West Coast We all Love Blackberries.

East Coast or West Coast We all Love Blackberries.

More About Armenian Blackberries:

Luther Burbank: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther_Burbank

Trailing Blackberries that my mother loved: http://www.gardenwiseonline.ca/gw/plants/2005/04/01/wild-about-native-blackberries

Unscrambling this Blackberries correct botanical name: http://www.ou.edu/cas/botany-micro/ben/ben230.html

From Kim: It’s a Blackberry Brunch!

The blackberry fruit is particularly abundant in eastern North America and on the Pacific coast; in the British Isles and Western Europe. The bush is characterized by its usually prickly, erect, or trailing stems. The leaves usually have three or five oval coarsely toothed, stalked leaflets, many of which persist through the winter. The blackberry fruit is an aggregate fruit that is composed of many smaller fruits called drupes. A drupe is a type of fruit in which the outer fleshy part surrounds a seed. Another example of a drupe is the peach. There are two types of blackberries, erect and trailing. The primary difference is the growth habit of their canes. Erect blackberry fruit types have stiff, arching canes that are somewhat self-supporting. Trailing blackberries, also called dewberries in the East, have canes that are not self-supporting. Their leaves are what’s used to make blackberry tea. I was reading several sites about this and its correlation to high discounts of stomach cancers related to Asians and British because of the quantity of teas they consume, however studies are still being done since this is not conclusive. The leaves are said to be helpful in reducing blood sugar levels and is a good source of Vitamins C and E and selenium. And new research shows that blackberries (also known as black raspberries) reduce the risk of esophageal cancer. For more information, check out Whole Fruit Supplements Guide. Some of the other health benefits attributed to blackberry tea are:

  1. Blackberry Tea may be helpful in treating sore throat.
  2. Blackberry Tea is said to be effective when used to treat diarrhea.
  3. Blackberry Tea may be useful in fighting dehydration.
  4. Blackberry Tea may complement efforts to help prevent cancer and heart disease.
  5. Blackberry Tea may be used to compress varicose veins and combat hemorrhoids.

Berries are my favorite fruit, I love their sweet taste and when cooked, I love their aroma. I can’t put it any plainer than that. But within all the berry family, I’m most familiar with strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries so when we picked the blackberry as our herb plant this month, I had to do a little digging. I’m glad we did pick them because it gave me a chance to do a little research as well as experimenting. And I love to work with something I don’t have a ton of experience on to see how it turns out. So in coming up with a menu for this post, I thought of brunch. I hardly ever think of this meal. It’s always breakfast, lunch, dinner. But what about mixing breakfast with lunch? I think this menu makes a wonderful get-together on a Saturday late morning/early afternoon. It could also serve as a tea time too. I’m going in order with my menu as with the storybook form, since most of this menu takes time and it’s baking so patience is virtue and I always like doing the most time consuming or complex things first and finish off with the easy stuff. That’s just my way! It helps me get the big stuff out of the way!

Cheese Blintz Topped with Blackberry Sauce

For the Crepe:
1-1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1-1/2 c. milk
2 tbsp. melted butter

For Filling:
16 ounces cottage or ricotta cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese finely ground
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp. melted butter
3 tsp. vanilla

For the Sauce:
3 c. fresh or frozen blackberries
3/4 to 1 c. sugar (depending on the tartness of the berries)
1 tbsp. water
1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

Preparation:
Put all of the crepe batter ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth, adjusting the flour and/or milk to get the consistency of heavy cream. Cover and set aside for at least an hour to allow the batter to rest. While the batter is resting, beat or mix the filling ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. Cook the berries in a saucepan over low heat, until bubbling. Mash, using a potato masher. Add sugar, a few tablespoons at a time and taste for tartness then mix the water and cornstarch in a small cup and add to the sauce. Stir over low heat until you’re satisfied with the thickness of the sauce. If too thin, add some more cornstarch and water. If too thick, thin with some water. All of the ingredients can be refrigerated overnight at this point. Grease an 8-inch skillet with light coating of butter. A non-stick or well-seasoned pan works best. Pour three to four tablespoons of batter into the skillet, turning the pan to coat it.

Note: it might take at least two or three crepes to get the right balance between the amount of batter and the heat of the pan, so be patient and don’t get frustrated! 🙂

Fry lightly on one side for about two minutes, then flip and fry for about 10 seconds on the other. (You don’t even need a spatula, just carefully grab the crepe with your fingers at one edge and turn it over.) Slide the coked crepe onto a stack, separating each crepe with a square of waxed paper. Repeat with remaining batter. You should get about a dozen. Put about 2 heaping tablespoons of filling in the middle of the browned side of the crepe. Fold the bottom third of the crepe up over the filling first, then fold over the sides, and finally fold down the top to form a small envelope. Place blintzes “seam side” down on wax paper. Refrigerate them for an hour or so to firm them up. They can also be frozen at this point, and then fried without defrosting. Melt two tablespoons of butter in large skillet over medium heat. Fry blintzes seam side down until golden brown on all sides. Arrange on a warm platter and pour blackberry sauce on top to make a lovely presentation.

Blackberry White Chocolate Muffins

Ingredients:
2 c. self-rising flour
1/4 c. caster sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 lemon zest of
90 grams unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
150 grams frozen blackberries, (½ box)

Preparation:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin well with butter or spray oil. Sift flour into a large bowl and stir in the sugars to mix evenly. In another bowl mix together the egg, lemon zest, butter, buttermilk, milk and choc chips and add to the flour mixture with the blackberries. Spoon into muffin tin and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 12 muffins.

Blackberry Raspberry Pie

adapted from recipezaar.com

Ingredients:
1 (10 inch) double pastry crust, unbaked (Pillsbury preferred)
2 c. blackberries
2 c. raspberries
1-1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. flour
3 tbsp. butter

Preparation:
Roll half of the pie crust very thin and line a 8x8ish inch baking pan, then roll other half of pie crust very thin and cut into 2 inch strips. Bake half of the 2 inch strips at 350-375F on a cookie sheet. In a saucepan, cook blackberries and raspberries, 1 cup of sugar and water until it boils. Mix together flour and remaining sugar; add to berry mixture and stir constantly for 3 minutes, until thick. Spoon into pastry lined pan and push the cooked crust strips to the middle, dot with butter and cover with remaining strips. Bake at 425 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Serve hot alongside ice cream! Serves 4 – 6. Note: 55 min baking time | 25 min prep

Blackberry French Toast with Homemade Blackberry Jam

Ingredients:
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla, optional
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
10 slices bread blackberry jam
fresh blackberries

Preparation:
In a large bowl, mix beaten eggs with the milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Dip a slice of bread into mixture then place on a heated griddle that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side on medium / medium-high heat or until desired doneness. Top with a mixture of blackberry preserves along with fresh blackberries. It will melt a bit from the heat of the toast and yummy!!

Homemade Blackberry Jam

Ingredients:
1 lb. blackberries
1/2 lb. brown sugar

Preparation:
Gather the fruit in dry weather, allow half a pound of good brown sugar to every pound of fruit. Boil the whole together gently for an hour or until the blackberries are soft, stirring and mashing them well. Put in small jars and tie down and store. Note: This is also such a great gift for Christmas time because you can make pretty bow ties and place cards for the jars for friends and family and because it’s homemade, it makes the gift that much more special.

Blackberry Tart

Ingredients:
4 c. blackberries (or dewberries)
Sugar to taste or 2/3 cups
One ten inch tart crust, unbaked, frozen (smittenkitchen.com’s recipe for unshrinkable tart crust)

Preparation:
Prepare washed berries with sugar and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill with berries. Put the pie crust on top of a baking sheet to catch any berries which can bubble over. Bake for about 35 minutes or until pastry shell is browned and berries are bubbling. Your oven temperature may differ from mine, if I bake anything over 350 degrees, it burns the bottom too quickly but not all the way through. It took me many times experimenting along with burned pies, not fully cooked pizza dough to finally find the perfect temperature! Ahhhh… the trials of a baker right? Last, but certainly not least is having something to wash all it down with so why not a blackberry tea?

Blackberry Tea

Preparation:
Allow 1 heaping tablespoon of dried blackberry tea leaves per cup of boiling water, cover, and steep 10 minutes. Strain and add honey or sugar to taste. You can combine equal amounts of dried mint and dried blackberry tea leaves as a combination. Check out Jen’s post for some wonderful historical facts as well as her great photo on blackberries! And see ya next month when we pick another herb to feature!

Until next month…from The Garden Palette!

Chives are Our Choice!

The mild flavor of Chives makes it a wonderful versitile herb which as you will see can be used in many different situations whether it is in your garden or on your place. So now its time to High Five the Chive!

Since I grew up in a very cold zone 3a( can get as cold as -40c/f) we were severely limited in what kind of plants could be grown. The growing season is short and fast, it can freeze into June and has beeen known to do the same in late August too. Fortunately many good vegtables can be grown as they many have quick seasons being annuals. Salads are supreme!  Once we conquered vegtables next we wanted to do herbs. This was more of a challenge. The first one my mother was given was Chives( Allium schoenoprasum) which has survived and thrived admirably there, producing year after year and happily seeding so we had to give it’s offspring away.

The Familiar Papery Purple Flowers of Chives.

The Familiar Papery Purple Flowers of Chives.

Allium schoenoprasum have been with us a long time as they naturally grow over a wide area of the Northern hemisphere. They are found wild in not only Europe and Asia as well as North America, which makes them the only Allium species which is known in the new and old world. Chives were known to be used by Gypsies in fortune telling( don’t ask me how)! They early on where known to ward off disease and it was common to see dried bunches hanging in the house for this purpose. Medicinally Chives where used as far back as the Roman era to relieve sunburn and sore throat pain. It was believed that eating Chives would increase blood pressure and increase urination. Farmers also knew that Alliums repelled bugs and other pests and would plant Chives along the edges of their crops to protect their main harvests.

Chives Are Ready to Harvest When They Are in Bud Like This.

Chives Are Ready to Harvest When They Are in Bud Like This.

Since we all know and have experienced with Onions(Alliums) we know something about Chives, They taste oniony. They can be a tasty addition to many culinary concoctions, the same can be said for in a garden.  Chives are one of the more well behaved members for working with in designing.  They can be Incorporated in many places and look perfectly at home. They can be used formally or informally and look like they belong. They have long been used in vegetables and herb gardens, but also can be used as an informal, low edging which is soft in the spring and becomes more colorful when in bloom.

Here Chives are used as as an informal edging in a medicinal/herb garden.

Here Chives are used as as an informal edging in a medicinal/herb garden.

All parts of Allium schoenoprasum are edible with the leaves cut finely to add to flavor soups, salads, sauces and other things. the flowers are added to salads more for the color. the bulbs are generally not harvested now as there are better members for culinary use such as Shallots. Other members of the onion family are very similar with thin grassy leaves and slightly differing flavor. I especially like the local Nodding Onions(Allium cernuum)  which have been harvested for centuries by the native peoples of this area which makes an attractive addition to my garden. Another small attracive Onion for your garden would be the white flowering Garlic Chives(Allium tuberosum) which has flat leaves which are slightly ‘garlicy’.

Allium cernuum(Nodding Onion) in my garden.

Allium cernuum(Nodding Onion) in my garden.

Growing Chives and other smaller onions is easy. they need full sun and well drained fertile soil. they do not like drought conditions are will become susceptible to disease if this happens. remember to clean all the debris of the dead leaves in the fall to keep them free of any problems. As they are a bulb it is best to remove the flower buds if you are growing them for repeated harvest throughout the year. they also seed seed very freely if not deadheaded after blooming. Large clumps can be divided in the spring or fall to increase their vigour.

More About Chives:

Growing Chives the easy way: http://www.garden.ie/howtogrow.aspx?id=1047

A little about the history and the family of Alliums: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chives

Until We Meet Again Next Month Happy Eating…. and Happy Gardening!

From Kim: Our Choice is Chives!

Chives is one of those ingredients I use a lot in cooking and oftentimes I use in conjunction with green onions. I love its mild flavor while yet still giving me that onion taste I want without being overbearing. There’s so many uses for this herb, mostly you’d see it as a garnish to a loaded baked potato or pasta dish but I wanted to do more with it for this post – and show chives as a topping but also cooked within the dishes. Now for a few facts about chives:

They are part of Alliaceae (onion family). Chives’ constituents equal those of the close relatives, onions and garlic. The following volatile com­ponents have been identified: dipropyl disulfide, methyl pentyl disulfide, pentanethiol, pentyl-hydro­disulfid and cis/trans-3,5-diethyl-1,2,4-tri­thiolane. Chives contain significant amounts of the vitamins A and C.

Gernot Katzer’s Chives Spice Pages | see Jen’s page also for more information on Chives

One of the ways I use chives also is in stir frying. Because most of the time I use fresh chives, I don’t want them to cook too long and burn so stir frying which takes such a short time is perfect for this long stem onion and so now let me introduce you to my menu, first up:

For Breakfast – Scrambled Eggs & Chives

Easy dish in the morning to make and remember that breakfast really is the important meal of the day – this is not a heavy meal in the mornings either. It’s not good to eat anything that weighs you down when you still have eight or more hours to go before dinner.

Ingredients:
4 eggs
1/4 stick butter
Pepper to taste
chives (rough chop)

Preparation:
Warm pan, add butter. Beat eggs in a separate bowl and add chives. Add eggs to pan. Scramble and pepper to taste. Best to eat right after you fix them.
So, now that we’ve taken care of breakfast, it’s time to go on to lunch and so how about:

Carmelized Onions Mushroom & Chives Quiche

Isn’t this a pretty dish? Love it! This could also be a side dish for dinner too or served at a dinner party. I think it’s elegant looking enough but the primary thing is that it tastes good and the recipe is quite simple:

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. minced shallots or white of green onions
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. chicken stock
3 eggs
1 c. heavy cream
9″ pastry shell
1/4 c. shredded Swiss cheese
Snipped chives

Preparation:
Saute shallots in butter until tender. Add mushrooms, cook until tender. Stir in salt, lemon juice, flour, and stock; simmer 5 minutes or until liquid has evaporated; cool.

Beat eggs and cream until mixed. Stir in mushroom mixture. Pour into shell and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until set. Garnish with chives.

Notice with this dish, I’m combining three onions – shallots, green onions, and chives. They’re all a mild flavor – shallots having sort of a sweet aroma to them and so they complement each other well. I love vidalias and use them the most as far as onions go and I have mixed them with chives too, to me they balance each other out.

And so now I need to get on with supper right? So don’t want to disappoint…I have two choices for you so without further ado First Choice:

Capellini Shrimp Chives Served with Sour Cream Chives Biscuits

Oh boy now seafood and chives, I’m really in my element now!!!!!

Ingredients:
1/2 lb. raw med. shrimp, cleaned, peeled & deveined
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 med. vidalia onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1/4 tsp. pepper
Dash of cayenne
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt to taste
1/4 c. minced fresh chives
1/2 c. pitted, chopped black olives
Grated Parmesan cheese
12 oz. capellini or long pasta

Preparation:
Heat oil in large skillet; add onion, garlic and shrimp; saute until shrimp turns pink. Remove shrimp and set aside. Add tomatoes, pepper, cayenne, basil and salt to the onion mixture. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes. Add shrimp, parsley and olives to mixture. Serve over noodles with chives.

I even like to use chives for the presentation to make the whole meal come together pretty on the plate. It just adds a special touch that the eyes feast on first and I love to play with my food.

Ingredients:
2 c. Bisquick
1 c. dairy sour cream
3/4 c. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. dried snipped chives

Preparation:
Mix all ingredients until dough forms, beat 30 seconds. Turn onto surface, dusted with baking mix, gently roll in baking mix to coat. Shape into ball. Knead 0 times. Roll 1/2 inch thick. Cut with 2 inch cutter dipped in baking mix. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet until golden brown, 8-10 minutes, in preheated 450 degree oven. So good!!!!!

Here’s my second choice and to me it is a sophisticated looking dish, colorful and all!

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Chives

Isn’t this a lovely way to use chives? I think so, the cherry tomatoes add such dimension with its color but flavor too! Who says everyday ingredients together have to look boring?

One last thing…

Suppose you’re hosting a party and you need a good appetizer for it? I know that when I host a party, which is rare, I clam up beforehand and I look for something simple to serve to sort break the ice but also to help me calm down a bit. So I have a really good idea to serve up:

Smoked Trout Served on Crackers with Cream Cheese and Chives



Ingredients:

10 ounces smoked trout fillet, skin and bones removed
cream cheese
Crackers (your favorite brand)
Chives, snipped

Preparation:
Cut smoked trout and to fit on top of the crackers. Spread each cracker with cream cheese, top with the trout and sprinkle chives on top. Makes a pretty appetizer!

This simple appetizer you can’t go wrong with and I think that when you make anything look nice on the plate, your guests will think you’re a gourmet chef but you don’t have to be to serve really beautiful looking and great tasting dishes! Remember that if you’re not big on cooking. You don’t have to be afraid to experiment – it doesn’t have a set formula the way baking does.

And with that said, this concludes my take on chives for this month! Hope you try any one of these and let us know what you think. Visit Jen’s page will give you detailed information on chives along with some beautiful photos!

Until next month…from The Garden Palette!

Star of The Spice World

Star Anise is our Spice Choice for June!

In my volunteer job I have cataloged the plants of a very large property in the Victoria area. This entails comparing the on hand information with what I know and can find out from various reputable sources that are available to me. The plant collection was mostly planted nearly 100 years ago and this has lead me to become interested in other similar collections of the same age in the area. One such collection is very close to where I live and i was lucky to meet a lady who had done exactly the same job there. She briefly told me about the collection and then showed me a plant which does not grow anywhere else that she or I knew of. It was the Star Anise(Illicium vernum) the wonderful sweet licorice-like spice plant.

The interesting Illicuim vernum flowers which are related to Magnolias.

The interesting Illicuim vernum flowers which are related to Magnolias.

Here in the Victoria area Star Anise are absolutely at the coldest limits of where it can survive. Normally these plants grow into trees up to 5m (18ft) tall, yet here and in the in warmer areas of Great Britain it can only muster up a lumpy 3m (9-10ft) shrub form.  This shrub is a common site in many areas of Asia including Vietnam north through China and Korea. It was imported into Japan by Buddhists and is often found growing beside temples and in grave sites. It is now grown in southeastern U.S.A. as a spice crop.

Illicium vernum Also Known as Star Anise or Aniseed.

Illicium vernum Also Known as Star Anise or Aniseed.

Medicinally Star Anise has many useful properties. It has commonly been used as a carminative(reducing flatulence and other internal gases) , stimulant and as a stomachic which strengthens and tones the stomach. It is useful in promoting digestion and appetite which is not surprising as that is what the other ‘Anise’(Pimpinella anisum) is used for. It has also been used for colic in babies and a treatment for rheumatism. With it’s wonderful and strong flavor, it is often added to medicines to make them more palatable.  Homeopaths make a weak infusion or prescribe a stronger tincture which is diluted in a liquid.  This will be made using the crushed seeds. the bark is pounded and used to make fragrant insense.

Star Anise Seeds are starting to develope from a recent bloom.

Star Anise Seeds are starting to develope from a recent bloom.

To grow one of these interesting plants you will need to live in a warm climate to produce the best specimen.  Zone 8 or above is a must to produce one a healthy Illicium vernum. It likes light sandy to medium loamy soil which is well drained. It grows best in a shaded position which is protected from cold winds to protect it’s glossy dark green evergreen leaves. As a shrub it has many uses such as in a shrub boarder or as a screen or fragrant hedge. it also works well as background shrub which can be used in a shady area.

Star Anise with it's star-like seed capsules.

Star Anise with it's star-like seed capsules.

The Latin name of ‘Star Anise‘ is Illicuim (meaning allurement) vernum (which refers to spring).  As you can see the fruit capsules are formed into a star-like structure which is where the plant gets it’s name. There are even better examples that the above picture, maybe the cold effects the fruit structure.

The flowers of Illicium vernum are very primitive.

The flowers of Illicium vernum are very primitive.

To find out more about Star Anise:

The Wiki page is interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_anise

The best place to learn about any spice: http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Illi_ver.html

Until next month….

From Kim: Star Anise – June’s Herb of Choice!

This month we’re featuring a great spice very well known in Asian cooking. I admit I am still a novice in Chinese, Thai, and Japanese cuisine but I do love to dabble with herbs and learn all I can. All over China, five spice powder (Mandarin wu xiang fen [五香粉], Cantonese ngh heung fan [五香粉], according to dubious sources also hung-liu) is known and valued. This spice mixture contains star anise, cassia (or cinnamon), cloves, fennel and Sichuan pepper usually to equal parts. Optionally, ginger, galanga, black cardamom or even liquorice may be added. These spices should be kept whole and powdered before usage.

Illicium verum: Star anis flower
Star anise flower – www.botany.hawaii.edu © Gerald Carr

Five spice powder is often added to a batter made from egg white and cornstarch, which is used to coat meats and vegetables to keep them moisty and succulent during deep-frying. Meat is also frequently coated with a mixture of corn starch and five spice powder and deep-fried. Lastly, it is often contained in marinades for meat to be stir-fried. Since the mixture is very aromatic, it should be used with care. The subtle aroma of five spice powder is particularly effective in steamed foods. Steamed pork belly can indeed be a delicacy, even if it is, of course, never low in fat. For this recipe, the so-called five-flower cut is used that consists of three fatty and two lean layers. The meat is marinated in soy sauce and garlic, coated by a mixture of five-spice powder and ground, toasted rice and steamed until very tender (wu hua rou [五花肉]). This pork dish is very mild, but highly aromatic and pleasing. For more examples of star anise in Chinese cookery, see orange about the Sichuan-style beef stew au larm and cassia about master sauce. Outside China, star anise is less valued. In the North of Vietnam, it is popular for beef soups (see Vietnamese cinnamon). Star anise is also used in Thailand: In the North, it is often employed in long-simmered stews; elsewhere, especially in the tropical South, it is a common flavourant for ice tea. Thai iced tea (cha dam yen [ชาดำเย็น]) is brewed from black tea and flavoured with star anise powder, sometimes also cinnamon, licorice, vanilla and orange flowers; it is enjoyed with crushed ice, sugar and evaporated milk. To obtain a bright orange colour, azo dyes (typically, tartrazine) are usually added.
Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages | see Jen’s page also for more information on Star Anise

So for my menu using this wonderful herb, I’ve chosen 2: Beef Noodle Soup – Taiwanese-Style and Red Cooked Beef! I think you’ll love using this herb and trying either dish. Plus soups just smells so good when cooking.

When you purchase star anise, get the dark brown and not other anise powders which have a gray color.

Beef Noodle Soup – Taiwanese-Style

Ingredients:
5 c. water
1 c. soy sauce
1 c. Chinese rice wine
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1 (1-inch) cube peeled fresh ginger, smashed
1 bunch scallions, white parts smashed with flat side of a large knife and green parts chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
10 fresh cilantro stems plus 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro sprigs
2 (2-inch-long) pieces Asian dried tangerine peel*
4 whole star anise
1/4 tsp. dried hot red pepper flakes
2-1/2 lbs. meaty beef short ribs
1-3/4 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 ounces)
10 ounces dried Chinese wheat noodles* or linguine
1 c. fresh mung bean sprouts
4 tbsp. Chinese pickled mustard greens**
1 (4-inch-long) fresh red chile (optional), thinly sliced

Preparation:
Bring water, soy sauce, rice wine, brown sugar, ginger, white parts of scallion, garlic, cilantro stems, tangerine peel, star anise, and red pepper flakes to a boil in a 5- to 6-quart pot, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Add short ribs and gently simmer, covered, turning occasionally, until meat is very tender but not falling apart, 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours. Let meat stand in cooking liquid, uncovered, 1 hour.

Transfer meat to a cutting board with tongs and discard bones and membranes, then cut meat across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Pour beef broth through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl and discard solids. Skim fat from cooking liquid and transfer liquid to a 3-quart saucepan. Add chicken broth and meat and reheat soup over moderately low heat.

Meanwhile, cook noodles in a 6- to 8-quart pot of (unsalted) boiling water until tender, about 7 minutes (14 to 15 minutes for linguine). Drain noodles well in a colander and divide among 4 large soup bowls.

Ladle broth over noodles and top with meat, scallion greens, bean sprouts, pickled mustard greens, cilantro sprigs, and red chile (if using).  Note: Meat and beef broth can be cooked and strained three days ahead. Cool completely, uncovered, then chill meat in broth, covered. Skim fat before adding chicken broth.

Next Up: Red Cooked Beef!

Ingredients:
2 lbs. chuck steak boneless
2 tbsp. peanut oil
2 scallions cut to 2 inch length
4 slices ginger root
2 pieces Star Anise
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. dry sherry
1 c. water
2 dried red chilies, optional

Preparation:
Cut beef into 1 inch cubes and sear on all sides in hot oil in a heavy pot. Add all ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook covered on low heat about 2 hours or until meat is tender. This should reduce liquid to approximately 1/2 cup. If more than 1/2 cup liquid remains, uncover and increase temperature to boil liquid away to approximately 1/2 cups. Serves 6.

Be sure the beef is fresh and has a good expiration date. I don’t like to buy any beef with less than 2 days expiration date. And boy when this dish is done the meat melts off the fork and is so flavorful! Try using star anise in your next meal if you haven’t tried it. I would always caution too that if you’re using a spice for the first time, try a little at first. You can always add more, but you can’t take out! ENJOY! Until next month….