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Monday, July 4, 2011

Beacon Bits - Kitchen Fireworks

It’s the 4th of July along the Hudson River where we remember that the heart of the action took place here during the Revolutionary War. Somehow, between the mists and clouds of the early morning, it seemed easy to step into the not-so-distant past of American history. Cannons and artillery echoing from West Point past Storm King Mountain on the eve of Independence Day appealed to this historical sensibility that this very place is where battles were fought and won with the British navy as the chains across the Hudson River stopped the forces from moving forward. Wouldn’t it be appropriate for the President of the United States to celebrate in the Hudson River valley at West Point rather than on the lawn of the White House watching fireworks over the Capitol? Has anyone ever extended an invitation to the President in office, I wonder. Maybe next year some of the politicians could make this gesture?

Thinking about the past yet standing in the present reminded me that vegetables were sitting in the refrigerator that were picked up in the last two weeks at Common Ground Farm ( Since my fifth pick-up is scheduled for tomorrow and without a barbecue or picnic planned for the day, I decided it was a ‘good thing’ to spend some time in the kitchen cooking up the ‘greens’. Two hours later and very satisfied with myself, I ponder the simple wonders of fresh vegetables. Some food for thought: With the variety of cooked and stored vegetable delights, it seems easy enough to get those five to six recommended servings per day in the next week.  This kitchen duty has to be the game plan going forward since I hear that the deceivingly meager pick-ups at the farm (until you see what you have accumulated in the refrigerator bins) begin to accelerate as crops mature and are harvested in the height of the summer. Two hours per week for 6 servings of vegetables per day is merely minutes per serving. It all sounds more do-able.

For several of the recipes, the basic method is stir fry in a nonstick pan so the oil is minimal (only 1 – 2 tbs.); the amounts of vegetables are approximate so the ingredients can be adjusted according to taste and exact amount being cooked. Cooking time is about 10 minutes for each dish; it’s the preparation of the washing, chopping, and that adds up. The dishes can be done in succession or simultaneously if you like to multi-task. Tastings between the pan and storage container is the reward to keep cooking and imagining what other combinations and seasonings will be just right.

Bok Choi Asian Style: 3 heads of bok choi, a bunch of scallions, a finger of ginger, canola oil and low sodium soy sauce – start with scallions, ginger in the oil on high heat, add bok choi, stir and when wilted add soy sauce and lower heat until cooked through.
Turnip Greens and Kale Crisp: ½-1 pound chopped/mixed greens, 10-20 sprigs basil, 1-2 garlic scapes, canola and olive oil – start with canola oil, scapes and greens on high heat to crisp, then add basil until all leaves are crisp, add a little olive oil and toss; then still on high heat add some water to further wilt the greens until all liquid is absorbed. White wine would be a good substitute for the water if a bottle is open.
Snap Peas and Garlic Beans: a handful of each type of bean, 1-2 garlic scapes, lemon pepper, olive oil – start with oil and scapes, then add beans (remember to take the string off the snap peas), toss on high heat, sprinkle with lemon pepper, add some water to make tender and cook until liquid is absorbed.
Sweetened Hakurei Turnips and Onions: 12 young Hakurei turnips and 3-4 heads of white onions, butter, honey – boil together the turnips (peeled/quartered) and onions until tender; drain and add back into pot with 1-2 tbs. butter to coat the vegetables, add 1 tbs. of local honey. If you have any cognac or cointreau open, add about 1 tsp. for extra flavor.
Have-On-Hand Vegetable Broth:  For all the odds and ends of greens and whatever ends of vegetables have been used over a few weeks and stored in the freezer – wash and place all in a large pot, cover with water and bring to boil, add salt and simmer for one hour – you’ll have a good vegetable stock to use now or to freeze for those soups that will be good to have on the stove. This pot of broth had bok choi, spinach, asparagus, brussel sprouts, carrots, dill, basil, cilantro, turnip greens, scallions, white onions – the combinations are endless. Just keep storing new vegetable scraps in the freezer for the next pot. I think leftover milk containers and juice cartons would be the perfect storage to freeze the stock for future use. Another good way to recycle at home.

Not bad for an afternoon’s activities while waiting for the fireworks at West Point tonight!
Haiku for the 4th
Nature’s fireworks --
Booming and flashing above;
Rain is on the way.

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