Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tumbleweed Greens with Creamy Garlic Grits

Yep, that's right - tumbleweeds are edible!

Long before they become the dried-up ball of thorns you see rolling across an empty highway, they are tender little green things that are actually pretty tasty.

We were walking near the river last weekend and came across these little guys (the one at the bottom of the photo is what you're looking for).
According to my favorite Texan, Mary, they are delicious fried up with bacon and onions atop a mess of grits. So I tried it, and I concur. I'd eat it again any day.

1/3 cup cream
1 2/3 cup water
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup stone-ground grits
1/2 tsp salt
A big bunch of baby tumbleweeds
A little piece of bacon
A small onion
A splash of cider vinegar

Bring the water and cream to a boil, toss in the garlic clove, then whisk in the grits and salt. Cover and simmer until the grits are thick and creamy, stirring once or twice, about 30 minutes.

Wash the tumbleweed greens very thoroughly and tear into small pieces, removing any tough stems. Chop the bacon into tiny bits, and fry in a wide skillet on medium heat, adding a little oil if necessary. Mince the onion and add it to the skillet, and cook until just softened. Add tumbleweeds and cook until thoroughly wilted. Add the splash of vinegar and a little salt if needed. Serve over bowls of hot grits.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tomato Jam with Honey, Black Pepper and Smoked Paprika

I first discovered tomato jam at the Corrales Farmers’ Market, a simple concoction of tomatoes, sugar, and lemon juice. I thought it was strange at first, a savory jam… but as I found more and more delicious ways to use it, I couldn’t get enough. It’s wonderful on an everything bagel with cream cheese, an English muffin with a poached egg, or alongside roasted chicken.

It took me a while to find a recipe that was similar (and along the way I found this recipe, which is also delicious) but just recently I found perhaps my favorite version yet, in Saving the Season by Kevin West. I used some gorgeous little Indigo Rose tomatoes that my favorite neighbor grew. This open-pollinated variety is extra-high in lycopene, and the purple tinge comes from anthocyanins, another great antioxidant. I love black pepper and smoked paprika, so I used way more than in the original recipe, for lots of intense flavor. I also modified the recipe to use honey instead of sugar, and it was a triumph!

4 pounds Roma or other meaty tomatoes
3 T. lemon juice
1 C. honey
1 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 t. smoked paprika

Chop the tomatoes coarsely. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, uncovered. The pan should be no more than half full, because jam tends to bubble up so much that it might overflow a smaller pot.

Cook about 30-40 minutes, stirring often, until reduced and thickened. The jam takes on a translucent quality when it is getting close to done. To test, you can put a drop on a chilled plate - if it holds together, it's done; if it leaks liquid at the edges, it needs a little more time.
Meanwhile, heat two half-pint canning jars in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, then drain and set upright (the heat from the jars will dry them quickly.) Keep the water at a low boil. When the jam is ready, pour into jars and wipe the lip with a wet paper towel. Dip two-piece lids into the boiling water to warm them, and screw on fingertip-tight. Process the jars in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes at sea level, 20 minutes at 5000 feet, or 25 minutes at 7000 feet.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sweet Corn Polenta with Summer Vegetables and Italian Sausage

Sweet Corn Polenta with Summer Vegetables and Italian SausageThis recipe is a celebration of the corn harvest!

Schwebach Farms came to the Downtown growers’ market this weekend with a trailer full of sweet corn, so I bought half a dozen ears. Then some friends who have a wonderful garden called to see if I wanted to come over and help them eat their harvest… when it rains, it pours. What could I do but make this fabulous fresh polenta?

Because it’s so sweet, this polenta needs big, savory flavors to stand up to it. The recipe is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful vegetarian cookbook, Plenty. He uses feta stirred in to provide some heft, but I didn’t have any, so I used parmesan. He cooks the tomatoes to form a wonderful sauce with eggplant, but we have such beautiful fresh tomatoes now I couldn’t bear to cook them. And I wanted to grill my eggplants instead of simmering a sauce on the stove. So feel free to experiment!


My version uses some gorgeous little Fairy Tale eggplants from Vida Verde Farm, basil and marjoram from my garden, thick slices of red tomatoes, and hot Italian sausage from Tully’s Market.

Eggplant is a marvelous vegetable in that it has a rather subtle flavor, but it really stands up to strong herbs like marjoram or oregano. Basil and sweet corn are a match made in heaven. The combination of eggplant, tomato, and herbs is meaty enough to stand up to the sweetness of this polenta even without the sausage. But there are so many great handcrafted sausages available locally that I just couldn’t resist. Several local businesses such as Tully’s, Keller’s, and my favorite, Joe S. Sausage in Los Ranchos, make their own sausages – the kind you’d actually be happy if you saw them being made.

1 pound Fairy Tale or other thin eggplants
2 Italian sausages
6 ears sweet corn
2 1/2 C. water
1/2 C. shaved parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T. olive oil
2 T. basil, minced
1 t. marjoram or oregano, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or 1 T. good-tasting vinegar
2 large red tomatoes, thickly sliced

Heat a charcoal or gas grill to high temperature. Oil the grate and grill the eggplants whole, until their skins are brown and blistered. Turn heat down to medium, and put on the sausages. Cook until internal temperature is 160F.

Meanwhile, cut all the kernels off the corn cobs, and combine them with water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until the corn is very tender and the cooking liquid is mostly evaporated, about 10-12 minutes.

Transfer corn with any cooking liquid to a food processor or blender, and process several minutes to break up the skins of each kernel as much as possible. It should be creamy but still a bit chunky. Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. Stir in most of the parmesan, reserving a few curls for garnish.

When the sausages are done and have cooled a bit, remove the casings and crumble them into a medium-size bowl. Chop the eggplants crosswise into bite-size chunks, and add them to the bowl with the sausage. Toss with olive oil, herbs, lemon juice, and remaining salt.

Serve polenta in wide bowls, with a few tomato slices topped by the eggplant and sausage and a few curls of parmesan. Serves 4.