Ingredient:
Aphids – the Yucky Bug, and How to Prep Brussels Sprouts

Member Anna Weber writes, “What are those ‘bugs’ that I find in vegetables like broccoli and now the Brussels sprouts? Are they aphids? Are they edible? The thought just grosses me out so I end up throwing away a lot of healthful vegetables. Can I wash/rinse them off, and how?” Folks, Anna brings up a good question. This is a subject none of us like to deal with but which we have all inevitably encountered.

Yes, Anna, those’re definitely aphids. Tiny soft-bodied grey fuzzy trouble-makers. Sesame-seed-sized Tribbles. You “can” eat them, as in they’re not harmful (technically I suppose they’d be protein), so it won’t hurt if you ingest a few — but they don’t taste good. (And don’t ask me how I know this; you probably, ahem, already know the answer!) A solution from bygone days was to introduce lots of ground black pepper to the dish you were making — the pepper flavor hid the aphid taste, and the little black flecks of pepper hid the… well, you get the idea. I’ve never consciously done this myself, but it’s a bit of lore that could come in handy if you were stuck between a rock and a hard place (i.e. between hunger and no other options). But don’t despair; there are other ways to deal with them!

In our CSA shares we most often encounter them in the brassicas — broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale. With leafy things like kale, they’re easy enough to spot and wash/rub off; they are a bit clingy though, so a simple rinse doesn’t always cut it. Sometimes you have to get your fingers down in there and rub while rinsing, to dislodge them. Cleaning them out of Broccoli and Brussels sprouts is another story entirely though, as both have lots of little interstices for hiding in.

First, broccoli. About a year ago I wrote a comprehensive treatment (with good pictures) for dealing with aphids in broccoli so definitely go there if you specifically want to address aphids in broccoli. This is by far the best technique I’ve come up with. Rinsing does not work; not even rinsing with hot water.

On to Brussels sprouts. Here, eradicating aphids is a wee bit easier than with broccoli as a) you have to prep each individual sprout before you cook them anyway, b) the buggers are easier to spot, and c) the techniques for removing them are essentially a slightly more aggressive version of the prep you’re already doing.

So: that provides a nice segue into simply showing you how to prep Brussels sprouts!

Prepping Brussels sprouts takes some patience, because there’s no getting around having to deal with them one at a time. It’s all well worth the trouble though, because boy are they good! Think of it as a zen exercise; makes it very contemplative, calming.

Generally speaking (and especially if aphids are not evident), you don’t have to wash Brussels sprouts because you are already “cleaning” them by trimming off the bottom and then peeling away a few outer leaves.
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If aphids are present, simply trim off the areas where you see them, or remove more leaves until you’ve reached a layer where they are no longer present.
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Or if after trimming and removing a few leaves there are still some aphids and it seems a waste to cut away more sprout to remove them, use a soft-bristle brush under a little running water to clean remaining aphids out of the crevices. I sometimes do this; I go back and forth. Cutting them in half is a reassuring step as well, as this makes it easy to confirm you got all the aphids.
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(Cutting in half is not a required prep step though; it’s just one I commonly make, as I like to pan brown them. They are also delicious oven-roasted whole, with a little olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.)

Sometimes a sprout will just have too many aphids; if that’s the case, chalk it up as a loss and move on to the next sprout.

Pan-Browned Sprout Recipes
There are really many variations, and you should totally feel free to experiment, but the basic steps are: steam trimmed, halved sprouts for a scant two minutes, then brown in a heavy-bottomed skillet in some sort of fat (olive oil, butter, or a combination of both; bacon drippings; coconut oil; whatever you like to cook with), and season with salt. Beyond that, you can introduce herbs; you can introduce other veggies or alliums (onion, leek, garlic); mushrooms, eggs, bacon/ham/pancetta type things, cheeses… I’ve even added nuts and liqueur and flambeed them! (Stand back or you’ll singe your eyebrows!)

In the first example I browned them in a combo of butter and olive oil, then embellished by adding herbes de provence, salt and pepper, mushrooms and shelled pistachios. I like herbes de provence a lot with sprouts, but they would also be good with thyme, or sage.
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I try to turn them all cut-side down, so they get nice and browned on the flat sides.
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In the second example – a simple breakfast scramble – I used the same butter, oil and seasonings combo (herbes de provence, salt and pepper), but instead of the mushrooms and nuts I added beaten eggs and made a scramble, then served ’em up with a side of sourdough toast. A yummy addition to this combination, if you have it, is to crumble some feta cheese on top and let it melt for a minute or so before serving. But if you don’t have cheese (as I didn’t in this example), they are still perfectly yummy!
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Bon appetit!

New Kale on the Block

Before I get started on this week’s blog, I want to run an idea by you members. Do any of you guys ever just have questions about how to deal with something in your box? Something you get or have gotten that confounds you or that maybe you don’t even know what it is, and want to learn more so you can prepare and eat it? If so, drop me a line and ask away. No question is stupid (trust me on that). Besides, if you have a question, you’re probably not alone so speak up. I would be more than happy to answer (or try to!) here in this blog so you and everyone else can learn. Email me at deb@writerguy.com. Okay, on to the kale!

I’ve been a member of this CSA for what, going on 17 years now…? and this is the first time in memory that Tom’s grown curly kale, otherwise known as Winterbor. I’m so accustomed to the Red Russian and Lacinato (Dinosaur) kales that he’s grown for years; this took me by surprise. Tom will probably talk at some point about his choice to grow this new variety, but my job is to let you know how to cook with it! So I got myself a “pre-release” bunch from Luis at the Los Gatos Farmers Market in order to play with it and report back to you. Here’s the skinny.

The curly kale (aptly named… talk about ruffles!) is much milder in flavor as compared to Red Russian and Lacinato. Like the Red Russian though, it is especially sweet in wintertime, when the cold causes it to grow slowly and concentrate its sugars. As always, my first recommendation with a new leafy green is to just tear off a piece and chew it, see what it tastes like. Take your time and chew it well enough so that your saliva (and its helpful enzymes) kicks in to help break down the leaf so you can really taste its essence before swallowing. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

So what can you do with curly kale? Pretty much anything you can do with other kales. Probably the only thing for which it isn’t well suited is chiffonading (slicing into thin ribbons), because the leaves are so curly you can’t really stack, roll and slice them. But that’s merely a technique for cutting greens into manageable pieces; if you have winterbor kale and want to use a kale recipe that calls for chiffonading, don’t throw up your hands! Just skip that step and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces instead. That’s what I did when I made the massaged kale salad below.

Speaking of massaged kale salads, there is almost as much variety in making them as in making your more typical lettuce-based salads. In a regular lettuce salad, what do you do? You wash, dry, and tear up your greens; add other goodies like cut up, sliced, or grated other veggies; add things like fruit or cheese or nuts or mushrooms or sliced meats or crumbled bacon or (etc etc); then dress it with some dressing you’ve decided goes well with the combination of fixings you’ve chosen. Sometimes you just dress the plain greens — no “added goodies” at all. Well you know what? You can do the same thing with a kale salad. Just substitute massaged kale for some or all of the lettuce (yes, I’ve even massaged up a handful of kale and tossed it into a regular lettuce salad, instead of spinach leaves, to add that rich, dark-green color and contrast).

Sometimes I think it’s a misnomer to even call this a salad; it is equally also a side-dish (I would use it as a side dish of a meal anytime; just plunk it on the plate along with whatever else I’m serving). But “salad” is a convenient moniker, so we’ll call it that for convention’s sake. Here’s what I made with my curly kale this time around:

Massaged Winterbor Kale and Apple Salad

First, of course, comes the massaging part. [By the way, in this example, I’m making a salad based on one bunch of kale.] Strip the leaves off of the stems and tear them into pieces in a bowl large enough to contain them. Notice how they’re a kind of dusty, grey-green at the outset.
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Now wash your hands, roll up your sleeves and start massaging! Squish, squeeze, mash; grab handfuls and roll them between your hands – however you want to do it. I like to add my salt during the massaging process as this aids in breaking down the cell walls of the leaves, softening them (just like when massaging cabbage for making sauerkraut), and lately I’ve found that it helps to partially massage the kale first, then sprinkle in the salt and continue to massage. The salt sticks better to the partially-massaged leaves, whereas if I salt them at the very beginning, it tends to fall down through to the bottom of the bowl. Some folks will say you can just leave the water from washing clinging to the leaves and the salt will stick to that, but I don’t like wet greens of any sort when making a salad – it just dilutes flavors in a way I don’t like. But you could of course drizzle a little oil on the leaves and the salt will stick to that if you like. Even messier, but what the hey – that would work too.
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Notice how once you’ve massaged the kale the leaves turn a lovely dark, translucent emerald green, and are now much softer to the touch. The chlorophyl in the leaves will color your hands, but not stain; the green will wash off readily with soap and water, so not to worry.
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Now all’s left to do is add toppings and dress! Here I diced up and added one of the apples from the box, then threw in some dried cherries (you could just as easily use raisins or some other dried fruit if you like), then some toasted sunflower seeds (Rebecca got me on that kick; they add a little protein and a nice crunchy, contrasting texture to the softened kale).

[One thing I didn’t add but which is really nice in a salad like this is some macerated onion (sometimes I’m in a mood for onion, sometimes not). The maceration process cuts the sharpness of raw onion, and is very simple to do. Just thinly slice — red onion would be prettier but yellow’d be fine too — and immerse the slices in a small dish of a combination of cider vinegar and water. Let that sit 10 or 15 minutes while you’re doing other salad things, then drain, squeeze it out, and toss it into the salad.]

Since I’d chosen an apple theme, I made a cider-vinegar based dressing — even took measurements so I could pass ’em along (I usually never measure):

2 tbsp. cider vinegar (you could substitute balsamic or some other fruity vinegar if you like)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 to 3/4 tsp honey
3 tbsp. grapeseed oil (a pretty green-hued oil that doesn’t have a strong flavor of its own; it’s not a “must” for this dressing by any means, it’s just what I used. You could easily substitute a different oil.)
>> don’t add salt, because you’ve already salted the kale

Whisk this all together in a small bowl with a fork, then pour over the salad and toss to coat. Lastly, grate in a little fresh parmesan cheese and crack in some black pepper and toss again to combine.
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You can eat the salad right away, or make it ahead of time and eat it later. One of the really nice things about massaged kale salads is that they make great left-overs! As opposed to their delicate-hinied cousins, the leaf lettuce salads, which will wilt and get yukky if dressed too far ahead of time, the kale salads are robust and can be made one day, eaten the next… and even the day-after-next, and still be good to go.

Sweet, Sweet Dumplings

Hi everybody! Welcome to 2013, and to my new Debbie’s Kitchen 2.0 blog — folks at the farm say members have been missing me, so I’m coming back. For those of you who don’t know me, my goal is to educate and entertain, while at the same time helping you to become comfortable using “what’s in the box”. For me, cooking and eating is a joy. Every day. And I hope to pass that joy along. It’s all about the ingredients, really. When you have good ingredients — fresh from the farm, nurtured in healthy soil, such as you get in your CSA box — you can’t go wrong. It’s just a matter of learning how to use them. Over time, via this blog, I hope to demonstrate how easy this can be. Make it all as accessible as possible.

Cheers!
Debbie

PS – I will gladly take questions or comments and respond to them in this blog, so feel free to email me at any time.

Ooohhh-kay, here goes! This week, I’m going to focus on Sweet Dumpling squash. Next week, look for scuttlebutt on the new Curly Kale. Enjoy!
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Now I know we’re supposed to be getting Butternut squash this week, but if you’re like most people (i.e. like me), you still have extras of these guys (the Sweet Dumplings) hanging around your kitchen, waiting to be loved. We all are familiar with Butternut — it’s a very accessible winter squash, reliable, tasty, can’t go wrong — but the Sweet Dumplings are bigger strangers to us. A little off-putting, with their lumpy, unassuming, hard-to-peel exterior. Let’s see if I can’t shine a little love on these guys.

To start with — are you ready? You don’t need to peel them at all.

Yeah, I too was once of the mind that all winter squash needed peeling. Is it an American thing, this impetus to peel? Don’t know. I have gone the peel-them route with Sweet Dumplings and it IS do-able… but geez, talk about a pain in the patootie! All those ridges, trying to peel the bits down in the crevices; you have to cut them into pieces and then peel the pieces… ugh! Takes forEVER. And then there’s the risk to life-and-limb (okay, to our knuckles, anyway) when using a sharp object (peeler) against an awkward surface. Slip, slice – ouch!! Band-aid time. So the formula goes something like this: Peeling Sweet Dumplings = Time consuming + Risky. It’s this formula which explains why we tend to use them as centerpieces but avoid them in our diet. But the formula is based on faulty data, cuz you don’t need to peel them at all.

Oh, and are you ready for more? You can eat the peel too! Think: baked potato. You don’t have to, of course, and there’re times I do and times I don’t (just like with potatoes), but don’t assume it is not edible.

Okay, that being said, here are two simple ways to prepare them. One where you eat the peel, one where you don’t. One which is quick, one which takes longer… but only in the cooking time, not the preparation time. Neither involves peeling.

Sweet Dumpling Slices Steamed in a Pressure Cooker
Takes about 15 minutes, including preparation and cooking time. (No pressure cooker? No problem. You can steam ’em in a regular steamer; just takes longer.)

Since in this case I’m gonna eat the peel, I like to give the squashes a little scrub with my veggie brush, remove any dirt or skoogie stuff. Then comes cutting it up (remember, no peeling – yay!). These babies are hard, so keep fingers safely out of the way! There’s a trick to cutting out the stem area too; for god’s sake don’t try to do this like you do when carving a jack-o-lantern – you WILL injure yourself. Start by cutting ’em in half. Set them on a hard, stable surface to do this. Keep your fingers safely out of the way!

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Scoop out the seeds and stringy slimy gook in the interior. [What to do with the insides? Talk to Rebecca; I’m sure you can toast the seeds if you want to. Or compost them. I feed them to my chickens.]

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Then quarter them (put halves flat-side down to do this – much easier), THEN you can easily cut away the stem area from the quarters (and the knobby little blossom end as well). If the squash has its stem intact, snap it off by holding the squash firmly in both hands and pushing with your thumb(s). If it doesn’t want to give, a pair of pliers should do the trick. Do this before halving and quartering — it’s nigh impossible to cut through the stem.

Okay so now you’ve got four, clean squash quarters (or eight, or sixteen, depending on how many squash you’re cooking). These are relatively easy to cut further into wedges; cut each quarter into roughly a half-inch thick wedges (depends on how big the squash are).

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Place cut up squash in the basket of your pressure cooker, but don’t stick the basket into the cooker itself until the water is boiling. The basket should be elevated above the level of water in the bottom of the cooker, just like for a steamer. Close and lock lid, then when the cooker comes to full pressure (when steam is escaping from the valve) — that’s when you start your timer.

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Cook the wedges at full pressure for about 4 minutes. Quick-release the pressure by running cold water over the cooker in your sink. Remove lid and check for doneness; it should pierce easily with the tip of a sharp knife; no resistance. If you don’t think it’s done enough, lock the lid back in place and cook another minute.

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You can serve the squash immediately or keep it warm while you prepare the rest of dinner; it’s not so fragile. During cooking, its nutty, sweet aroma fills the kitchen; really pleasant on these brrr-chilly nights! Be sure to serve it hot, so that butter melts easily on it. Sprinkle with a little salt to bring out its sweetness. That’s it! Of course there are all sorts of ways to gussy foods up before eating them, but I often enjoy meals where the food is served very simply, so I can enjoy the flavor of the items themselves. And remember, the steam pressure has rendered the skin tender enough to eat right along with the squash.

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Baked Whole Sweet Dumplings

Takes about 1 hr 45 min, but only 10 – 15 minutes of that is prep; the rest is just time in the oven. This is a good “slow food” dish…

If you bake Sweet Dumplings, rather than steam them (as above), the peel dries and becomes a vessel for holding the sweet, creamy flesh; in this case I don’t generally eat the peel (though you certainly can if you like).

No need to remove the stem in this case. Turn squash on its side and cut off the top quarter or so; save the top – you’ll use it as a lid. Scoop out the insides, put a pat of butter (a tablespoon, more or less) inside the cavity, sprinkle in some salt, and (optionally) tuck in a sprig of fresh rosemary. Set the top back in place.

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(On one of the squash I cut the the top a little too shallow; the stem was set deep - hence the "peep-hole" in the lid!)

(On one of the squash I cut the the top a little too shallow; the stem was set deep – hence the “peep-hole” in the lid!)

Put thus prepared squashes (do as many as you like) in a baking dish, pour a little water in the bottom, and bake in a preheated 325 – 350 degree F oven for about an hour and a half. This is the “slow food” part… you don’t want to rush them; if they’re underdone and still firm, eh… not so good. But when they’re baked long and slow, they are just delicious! The test for doneness is simple: they should give easily when squeezed with the fingertips, like a soft loaf of bread. Be quick with your squeeze test though — remember, they’re hot! I don’t want any scorched fingers!

(I baked these in my toaster oven, so the tops were pretty close to the heating elements. But the "lids" keep the tender flesh inside from drying out, so no big deal.)

(I baked these in my toaster oven, so the tops were pretty close to the heating elements. But the “lids” keep the tender flesh inside from drying out, so no big deal.)

The baked Sweet Dumplings, like their steamed siblings, also “keep” well; not like a touchy souffle that must be served immediately. Just cover the baking dish with foil after removing from the oven. You can even keep them on “standby” in the still-warm oven for an hour or more.

When you go to eat them, just remove and discard the rosemary sprig, which has now imparted its perfume to the butter and flesh of the squash; scrape the squash away from the sides of the skin and mix it around with the pool of melted butter inside; the peel acts like a bowl to hold the squash, which works nicely for serving – each eater can have their own squash!

And it doesn’t show in the picture (‘cuz I only just started the scraping process when I took it), but by the time I’m done eating I will have scraped the flesh all the way down to it’s papery exterior, to the point where it becomes translucent; an empty husk. Don’t want to miss one morsel of its yumminess!

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Grilled Padrón Peppers

Two weeks ago I talked about how to cook Padrón peppers – and how I never prepare or use them any other way. Well… since we’ve been getting them rather regularly, I must admit I branched out a little. Not much.

It was still really hot last week, and so not having A/C, firing up a blistering hot cast-iron griddle in my kitchen was the last thing I wanted to do. But I had this bag of Padrón peppers… so I figured if Tom can roast Padróns in the farm’s wood-fired oven, I could probably grill them (outdoors – yay! no added heat in the house!). So I simply double-skewered them with bamboo skewers (see picture – makes them easier to ‘flip’ ‘cuz they don’t spin around when they get floppy this way) and popped them on the grill, just a few minutes per side, enough so they blistered and got soft… then I just treated them the same as always: remove to a bowl, drizzle with good olive oil and coarse sea salt and eat while still warm.

Okay, I know that’s not branching out so very much, but this was:

Instead of roasting or grilling I just rough-chopped the raw Padróns, seeds and all (did cut off stems though), chopped up some onions and garlic, and some tomatoes… sauteed the onions and padrons until soft and starting to brown (fairly high heat, stirring), added garlic and cooked another minute or so, then threw in the chopped tomatoes and cooked them all together until the tomatoes just started to get hot and soften. Can’t remember if I threw in any herbs but your certainly could… if you get basil this week, chop up and add a little. Anyway, that’s it! Less than ten minutes! I just put that over pasta and ate it. Yum! I like to drizzle my pasta sauce with additional “good” olive oil at the table and sprinkle on some salt as well, so I got the Padrón ‘olive-oil-coarse-salt’ thing going on after all; all I added was some onion, garlic and tomatoes. Oh, and pasta. 😉 You definitely got that “Padrón” flavor in the sauce though – it was lovely.

How to cook Padrón Peppers

Cooking Padrón peppers – I have got this dialed in now, and they are so so so delicious prepared this simple way that I never prepare or use them any other way. There are never left-overs.

The best pan for preparing them is a dry cast-iron skillet or comal. I know that from the outset this may deter some of you, so after I’ve described how I make them I’ll offer some alternatives for those of you don’t have this kind of cookware.

It is quite simple, really. As usual, it is all about the quality of the ingredients — of which there are only three: 1) the Padrón peppers themselves, 2) a really good quality, flavorful olive oil (I love using Apollo olive oil, but there are lots of good ones out there, and Taylor would probably say I was remiss if I didn’t remind you that you can get a good local Valencia Creek olive oil through the web store), and 3) a good, coarse sea salt. Come to think of it, you can also get the wonderful local Monterey Bay Sea Salt through the web store too! Its coarse, faintly moist, crumbly texture is perfect for this. That’s what I use.

If you’ve refrigerated your Padróns, try to remember to bring them to room temperature before cooking; not a deal-breaker, but I think they brown a little more evenly (and quicker) if they’re not chilled.

Pick the peppers over and remove any odd bits of schmutz or dirt, if any. (Sometimes there’s a brown, papery bit around the base of the stem – vestiges of the old blossom, perhaps?) Leave peppers whole, stems intact. The stems are handy handles to hold them by when eating, so don’t cut them off!

Heat your comal or griddle or cast iron skillet dry — i.e. no oil. The oil in this preparation is for seasoning with afterwards, NOT for cooking. Have a pair of tongs handy, and maybe an oven mitt or similar, because you’re going to have some serious heat radiating off your pan. Heat it good and hot (not cherry-red hot; we’re not doing “blackened” anything, but if a spritz of water on its surface should dance a quick jig and vanish almost as quickly, then it’s ready).

Spread the Padróns in a single layer on the hot skillet (if you have a lot of peppers to prepare, do them in batches; they need to all be in contact with the hot metal). Oft-times the peppers will dance and jiggle just like the water did; fun to watch. After about a minute, start to turn them with your tongs, and keep cooking and turning them every minute or so, until they are mostly browned and blistered (some black spots are fine), and going limp. Remove them to a bowl as you determine they are done (some will cook faster than others).

Once they’re all done and in the bowl, drizzle with your good olive oil and toss lightly to coat. You will notice that the heat radiating off the peppers volatilizes the olive oil in the most fabulous way, creating this heady aroma of roasted padron [once you are familiar with the smell, you won’t forget it] and olives… it is really something! Now just sprinkle the sea salt over all and call everyone to the table (if they’re not already in the kitchen with you, lured there by the smell) and eat them! As Tom says, have something cool standing by in the event you get a hot one, but mostly they are just really, really tasty and not hot at all. I hold them by the stem and bite off and eat everything else, especially if they’re small. If they’re bigger, I’ll take a tentative nibble first, as they’re more likely to be hot, but I have found more often than not that size does not matter; sometimes little ones will be hot, and sometimes big ones will not.

Here are some pictures, and below, as promised, alternative cooking methods.

I think you will probably have decent success if you use a regular skillet; in this instance I would put a little oil in the pan (not your good stuff!), and go as hot as you can without warping the pan (heat oil until almost smoking, then toss in the peppers). The oil will help give them that surface contact and transfer the heat. Stir/toss often though, and then when done treat them the same as above: transfer to a bowl, drizzle with the good olive oil, sprinkle with the salt.

Do you have a griddle? A griddle would probably work too. Or an electric skillet.

Lastly, although I have not tried it, it seems logical that you could roast them in the oven just like you do other peppers; try a fairly hot oven — say, 475° F — and spread them in a single layer in an ovenproof baking dish. Give ’em ten minutes and check in on them. Are they starting to blister? If not, leave them in until they do. You probably want to pull the dish out and turn them once, or at least shake the dish to get them to roll about. Once they are blistered, proceed as above with the olive oil and salt.

Oh yes — and of course if you should happen to have a wood-fired oven, you can roast them in there!

Many Mizuna Ideas

A member who prefers to remain anonymous sent me these great suggestions. He, his wife and two children manage to consume TWO shares a week, so I know they know what to do with greens!

We eat mizuna in many ways, but here are just a few:

As a salad. Toss mizuna with whatever other salad goodies you like. Any and all.  Here’s one way I like to go: I’ll take orange slices, roasted cashews, and cubed jicama and toss them together into a kind of salsa, with a home made orange-honey dressing. We serve a pile of Mizuna (with or without other goodies) and spoon helpings of the above “relish” on top and chow down! The orange-honey dressing is simply frozen orange juice concentrate thinned with just enough water (or olive oil or any liquid, incl. wine) to reach a desired consistency, then combined with a little honey. I have no precise measurements; all done by tastes. You adjust and add as you wish.

Stir-Fry. This is wonderful with green garlic.  Divide green garlic into two parts: the green top and the lower half including the bulb. Slice the bulb portion and slice the green top portion. Heat a pan to cooking temperature, add oil, then quickly add in sliced bulb portion and let it sear for 5-7 seconds or so, or until the garlic aroma hits the nose, then add in the green top portion and stir a bit and cover. Let sit for 10 seconds or so, then add Mizuna and start tossing until it just begins to go limp (not until wilted). Cover for 10 more seconds or so and serve. Basically it’s a quick hot-tossed Mizuna with garlic.  The green garlic tops take longer to cook than the mizuna, so add it to the pan first. The desirable texture is ‘just-cooked mizuna’, not ‘dead and wilted mizuna’… with sparkingly garlicky flavors.

Other methods. We like using fresh Mizuna as a bed for cooked goodies. The fresh greens counter-balance the cooked and seasoned flavors of the goodies on top: Stir-fry sliced beef in various sauces and pour on top of a bed of fresh Mizuna (sliced to bite size) to serve. Curry stewed vegetables or meat on top of Mizuna, or braised tofu or braised shitake on top of Mizuna. Be creative!

In the end, I just cook with whatever is on hand and make the best of it, so it is hard to provide measurements. Sometimes I cannot repeat what everyone likes because the ingredients are gone or proportions are forgotten! 🙂

Here’s an undated Bon Appetit recipe I modified to use mizuna (it just says ‘greens’ and mentions mustard greens, so since mizuna is a mustard green, I think it will be just fine!)

Penne with Greens [Mizuna], Olives, and Feta
serves 4 to 6

“Greens are paired with salty olives and feta – to great effect. The greens cook in the pasta water, making this an efficient one-pot meal.”

¼ C chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large bunch of greens (such as spinach, mustard greens, kale, or broccoli rabe; about 1 lb.), stems removed (except for spinach), torn up
12 oz. penne pasta
5 tbsp. olive oil, divided
½ C coarsely chopped pitted Kalamata olives
½ C crumbled feta cheese (about 3 oz.)

Mix parsley, lemon peel and garlic in small bowl; set aside.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add greens and cook just until tender, 1 to 6 minutes, depending on type of greens [the mizuna would be a minute or less!! Probably more like 30 seconds or so]. Using skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer greens to colander to drain. Return water to boil. Add pasta and cook until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving ¾ C pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot; add greens and 3 tbsp. oil and toss. Stir in olives, feta, and enough reserved pasta cooking water by ¼ cupfuls to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Drizzle with remaining 2 tbsp. oil, then sprinkle with parsley mixture and serve.

Arugula Ideas

Although I’ve seen recipes where it is cooked, hands down I prefer it raw, as a salad green or bedding for cooked meat or fish, pasta or grains. In salads, it pairs nicely with fruit, cheese and nuts. For example, consider making a salad with arugula (washed and spun dry), sliced strawberries, a few thinly sliced rings of spring onions, some crumbled goat cheese, and toasted walnuts. Toss this with a simple balsamic dressing (balsamic and strawberries love each other!!): balsamic vinegar, a dab of dijon mustard, maybe a touch of honey, a light olive or other vegetable oil, and a pinch of salt. A savory alternative: arugula and lettuce, feta and kalamata olives, with a dressing of lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic, olive oil, and lots of minced cilantro (from last week’s share!).

Barbie’s Kale (and Chard) Tip

Member Barbie Aknin has her own way of working with kale. She says she chops the greens first, then soaks them in a tub of water to remove any dirt. After that, scoop them out (leaving any dirt at the bottom) and drop them into boiling salted water until just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Strain and drop into cold water to stop the cooking, then squeeze out excess water (or just let it drain), then put in batches into small ziploc bags, squeeze out extra air, and freeze. In winter, simply remove from bags and drop into soups, tomato sauce, anything you can think of!

Another Kale Processing Tip

Member Lisa Bautista sent in this comment, “I was looking for something new and exciting to do with kale last fall and thumbed through old copies of Fine Cooking magazines.  The author had several recipes but here is what she does to have kale on the ready AND reduce cooking time.  I especially like the less cooking time plus the color of the kale doesn’t have to go all the way to grayish green.  So she strips the stem, stacks the leaves and cuts them into slices and spins the extra moisture away.  Then the kale strips are packed into a freezer bag and put in the freezer.  You can reach into the bag and pull out just the amount of kale you need whenever.  The freezing softens those cells so you need much less cooking time.  Et voila!  Kale whenever you want.  We eat much more kale now.”

[And I imagine this would work for other greens, like collards, too. – Debbie]

Arugula and Mizuna: What’s what?

Mizuna, a member of the mustard family, has a delicate, feather-like (or sometimes described as sawtooth) multi-pronged pale to medium-green leaf on a whitish stem. You’ve probably seen baby mizuna in mesclun or salad mixes in stores or at restaurants.

Mizuna in the field.

Arugula, also a member of the mustard family, has a broader, darker green leaf, on a green stem, and although its leaves, too, are kind of sawtoothed, the tips are more rounded, rather like an oak leaf.

Arugula has a wonderful peppery flavor that I just adore. I can eat lots of it all by itself in a simple balsamic-dressing salad. Mizuna is a ‘bitter green,’ also flavorful, but I like to mix it with other things.

Fortunately, both greens are rather versatile, and can be used either as a salad green or in cooked dishes, so if you got them mixed up there likely would be no great harm done. Heck, try combining them! Put some of each in with your lettuce for a wonderful salad.

Arugula leaves.

In fact, here’s a salad I’d make with them: wash, spin and blot or air dry a bunch of arugula, mizuna and lettuce. Tear into bite-size pieces and dump into a big bowl. Thinly slice some English cucumbers and add to the mix. Wash, top, and quarter several strawberries and add too. Make a simple fruity or balsamic dressing: balsamic or fruity vinegar*, a little dijon mustard, a little salt, some lemon juice (optional), and some oil – a nice nut oil if you have one (I have a roasted walnut oil I love!). Dress the salad with this and eat it! Optional additions: toasted walnuts, crumbled feta cheese or chevre, some very thinly sliced fresh onion.

*Like raspberry or blackberry; sometimes I’ll just add a dab of honey to apple cider vinegar to achieve the ‘fruitiness’ I’m looking for.

Arugula Ideas
Many Mizuna Ideas.