Hungry Gap?

Hungry Gap?

IMG_3941

 

In temperate climates like ours in western Oregon, and also traditionally in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the weeks between March and April are known as the Hungry Gap for gardeners and local producers because we have nearly run out of winter storage crops and the new season’s growth does not provide a substantial amount of nourishment.

 

IMG_9570

 

Most of us don’t think about this anymore, since we have access to almost any type of food we’d like from all across the globe. Easter is next weekend however, and for me, Easter marks the beginning of true spring. Likewise, I associate Easter with strawberries and rhubarb at home with my parents and extended family. Because I manage a garden, I’ve become aware that this pairing won’t come together locally until early May, and though I’m okay with purchasing a few berries from afar to enjoy sooner, I’m nearly always disappointed with the flavor. When I spent a summer on the strawberry farm as their trials intern, I was surprised at the diversity of varieties. Some were super-packed with flavor and others were big and beautiful, but tasteless. Interestingly, all the varieties went into the same punnets and at the grocery store, I could just as easily pick up tasteless strawberries as flavor-packed ones. In any case, it is not common for commercial fruit and vegetable varieties to be bred for outstanding flavor. It is early yet in this new season and this year we won’t be traveling home for Easter. So I think I will wait on strawberries.

 

IMG_9583IMG_9603IMG_9632

 

I’ve noticed a little of this hungry gap in shopping for local vegetables lately too, as there is a plethora of greens and some winter storage roots like rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, and beets, but the variety that other seasons provide is missing. Still, in our age of abundance, there is a bounty during this season.

I’ve been doing a better job too, of planning meals since moving, taking on grad school, and commuting. I thought I would be letting go of cooking creatively during this new phase, but the opposite has actually been true. Using seasonal produce as the foundation for meals and then planning for busy weeks, being flexible, and doing a little more batch cooking on slower days has been quite instrumental. William’s one day of managing dinner has also allowed for simpler things like pizza, tacos, and pasta primavera to show up in our rotation.

 

IMG_9602

 

Even during this hungry gap and busy season, we are enjoying lots of variety. This is what I picked up in the last week, and how we enjoyed them:

Turnips + Rutabagas: Rustic Indian Samosa Pie

Beets: We had beets, lentils, tahini + flatbread last weekend and leftovers into the early part of the week.

Leeks,  Nettles + Potatoes: We enjoyed a nice Irish Nettle Soup with leeks and potatoes for St. Patrick’s Day.

Sprouting Purple Broccoli + Collard Raab: I lightly roasted these with tempeh and za’atar, and served them alongside harissa and millet. Yum!

Eggs : William powers through tax season by eating eggs and green juice most mornings for breakfast.

Green Salad mix with lots of winter greens like kale, arugula, frisée, bok choy, and chard: To round out meals.

Carrots + Parsnips: For snacking and carrot + parsnip oatmeal.

Parsnips + Sage: I am experimenting with a parsnip + sage risotto for dinner tonight and serving it alongside white bean fagioli from Heidi’s new book.

 

 

What local abundance is available lately in your corner of the world?

 

IMG_9629

 

Rustic Indian Samosa Pie with Mint + Cilantro Chutney, serves 4

I first got the idea for this pie from Kelsey, when I attempted to make her Sweet Potato Samosas and failed miserably with tiny pastries and gluten-free crust. Since then, I decided to turn it into a seasonal veg pie and finally perfected a savory crust. I’ve made this a few times and change up the vegetables depending on what I have. It is a good one for using up random vegetables that might be hanging about. This version has rutabagas, turnips, and peas and only a top crust. If you want more of a true pie, double the pastry recipe and make a double crust. It will take a little longer to bake. A word to the wise, I tend to air on the side of spicy with seasonings, and then serve a cooling mint and cilantro chutney alongside to tame it down. Use a little less cayenne if you prefer less heat. 

Savory Pastry

1/2 cup brown rice flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 cup quinoa or amaranth flour

3/4 cup chickpea flour

1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup olive oil

 

Filling:

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 medium onion, medium-diced

5 cups chopped vegetables (mix of turnips, rutabagas or any others)

1 cup frozen peas

2 cups vegetable broth

1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

3/4 tsp. ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp. garam masala

3/4 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

3/16 tsp. cayenne

1-inch piece ginger, minced

1 Tbs. arrowroot or tapioca starch

 

Cilantro-Mint Chutney:

1 large bunch cilantro

1 cup tightly packed mint

3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup plain coconut yogurt

1/4 tsp. salt

  • Make the crust: Combine the flours and salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times to aerate and mix. Add the olive oil and 1/4 cup cold water. Pulse until the dough just comes together, adding a little more water as needed.
  • Transfer the dough to a plastic wrap, wrap it loosely and press it into a flat disk. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes while preparing the other ingredients.
  • To make the filling: Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and then add the onion, and cook until lightly browned. Add the chopped vegetables and 1 cup broth and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add vinegar, coriander, garam masala, cumin, cayenne, salt, minced ginger, and remaining cup of broth. Simmer for another 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Stir in the peas and arrowroot starch mixed with a small amount of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer and let cook a couple minutes more. Remove from heat and transfer to a 9-inch pie dish.
  • Dust a large flat surface with rice flour, and roll the pastry out until it is about 1/8-inch in thickness. It should be just larger than the pie pan. Roll the dough carefully around the rolling pin and transfer it to cover the filled dish. Trim the edges and fold under. Crimp them around the edge of the pan, then cut a couple slits in the top to let steam escape. Bake in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, or until starting to bubble and the crust has become golden.
  • To make the chutney: Put mint, cilantro, lemon juice, yogurt, and salt in a food processor, and purée until smooth. Serve alongside the pie.
Advertisements

Quinoa + Chorizo Wintry Salad

Quinoa + Chorizo Wintry Salad

IMG_7232

 

My mom and I sat at the farm table this morning planning this week’s holiday meals. There is ham, turkey, prime rib and likely a roast to be served up in the coming days. Last night we had steak for dinner, good steak of the homegrown variety. I failed to mention to the family that I haven’t had meat since Thanksgiving, and the steak was enough to last me for the next couple months. I don’t strictly avoid meat, but it’s never been my thing and I tend to partake in small amounts, infrequently. The stretches in between have grown wider in the last couple years and this being the case, I’m generally put on vegetable duty for family meals. I’m happy to have all the holiday sides for the planning, so there will be the full spectrum of winter roots and greens putting on their best show this week.

 

The Recipe Redux folks asked us to share a peak into the cookbooks we’re using, so this salad is from a current favorite that gets much use. Green Kitchen Stories(UK)/Vegetarian Everyday(USA) absolutely reflects my style of eating (and William’s too, as long as meat makes an appearance in his diet semi-regularly). It is written by the Swedish/Danish couple, David and Luise, of the lovely Green Kitchen Stories blog. Their recipes are the inspiration behind many a meal in our home, whether it be via their cookbook, blog, or instagram feed. They’ve also recently released a second cookbook, Green Kitchen Travels, and it’s super-duper on my Christmas wish list. This meat-free(!) Chorizo & Quinoa Salad is perhaps the most time-consuming of recipes I’ve made in their book, and its super-packed with feel-good-tasty-nutritiousness that we could all use this time of year.

 

IMG_7212

 

I made up a big batch of this salad before making the trek across the state to visit the family, and though I get a lot of flack for being oh-so-health-nutty ’round these parts, these people also like to eat my salads and approvingly devoured every bit of the simple Mushroom, Tomato, and White Bean Stew I made for this evening’s dinner. I do like Chorizo if it’s of the small-batch made, not wrapped in plastic sketchy supermarket sort, and this salad would definitely be excellent with the real deal instead. I’m not at all into fake meat so endorsing a homemade vegan chorizo means David and Luise are truly on to something. If you’ve extra time on your hands in the next few days or your holiday meals need a hefty dose of antioxidants, this is your dish. I changed up the original recipe quite a bit, adding in wintry broccoli, broccoli sprouts, turnips, pomegranate and garbanzo beans in lieu of the original fruit, vegetable, and bean mixture. The chorizo makes it super tasty and balances out the stronger brassicas and mustard dressing. Perhaps, if you’re anything like me, this will be a welcome reprieve from the many heftier meals that will be had in this season.

 

IMG_7225

 

Chorizo + Quinoa Salad, adapted from Vegetarian Everyday. Serves 4-6

VEGETABLE CHORIZOS

Scant ½ cup sundried tomatoes, rinsed

½ cup cashews, toasted

¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted

2 leeks, diced

2 green chili peppers, diced

6 unsulphured dried apricots, finely chopped

2 sprigs of oregano, leaves picked and chopped

1 cup brown rice flour

1 Tbs. xanthan gum

1 Tbs. ground flax seeds

3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

4 ½ cups vegetable stock

2 tsp. olive oil, for frying

 

QUINOA SALAD

1 cup quinoa

3 medium turnips, chopped

Seeds from one pomegranate

One bunch broccoli florets

4 leeks, diced

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans

1 cup broccoli sprouts, more or less to taste

 

DRESSING

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Zest and juice of ½ a lemon

3 Tbs. hot English mustard

Sea salt

A few sprigs of oregano, to garnish

 

To prepare the chorizos, combine the sundried tomatoes, cashews, hazelnuts, leeks, chili, and apricots in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the oregano, rice flour, xanthan gum and flaxseed and pulse until everything is combined. Add the olive oil and ¼ cup water and pulse until a dough is formed. It should be easy to handle and form into a sausage shape.

Divide the dough into 5 equal parts. Roll each piece into a sausage, place on a piece of cheesecloth, roll up and tie both ends firmly with a piece of twine.

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a large, wide saucepan. Lay the chorizos in it and let them boil for about 45 minutes. Next, carefully remove the cheesecloth from the boiled chorizos. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat and fry the chorizos until they are nicely browned all over.

In the frying pan, next lightly sauté the leeks and turnips until just tender. Toss in the broccoli florets for a minute or so to soften. Transfer them to a large serving bowl.

Next, prepare the quinoa salad. Place 2 cups water, the quinoa, and a pinch of salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool. Slice the fried chorizos.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Add the quinoa, remaining vegetables, pomegranate seeds, beans and chorizo to the serving bowl. Pour about half the dressing over and toss until everything is well coated. Add more dressing, as necessary. Garnish with oregano and serve.