Eating Virtuously: Swiss Chard Goma-ae

062014_chardfaceLet’s hear it for Swiss chard. Each year, Plants On Deck makes a vow to plant enough of something, anything, to enjoy a real, substantial yield. Tomatoes, beans, peppers and cucumbers have all had their shots — to varying success.  This year, POD set expectations shockingly low and let Swiss chard have a run at the title.

And it’s working. Two 24″ pots, and a couple dozen plants easily feeds a family of three that likes to eat. Chard is a pretty versatile beast — think spinach with a kick — and can be prepared any number of ways. (Oh, hey, and it’s crazy healthy. It’s good for hair, eyes, has vitamins K, A, and C, and it’s a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and fiber. Yup, it cures cancer, too. Eh, probably not, but it’s all anti-oxidant and stuff.)

This is at least the fourth cutting (fresh seedlings are in the works), so the stalks are pretty tough and the leaves have a clear bite to them, but this preparation, lovingly honed by the Endurer, covers a multitude of sins.

72614_chardmolehillSwiss Chard Goma-ae
makes 1-2 c.

20-30 oz Swiss chard (or spinach), tough stem removed
2tbs sesame seeds, toasted
2tsp raw sugar
2tsp soy sauce

Blanch chard for a few minutes in a big pot of unsalted water. The leaves should be bright and tender. Meanwhile, using a mortar and pestle, grind the toasted sesame seeds and sugar together. Whisk in soy sauce. Drain the chard, wring it out in a kitchen towel, chop it up a little bit, mix in the goma-ae (sesame sauce). Eat virtuously.

Here’s a couple more Swiss chard recipes from the POD archives:

Swiss chard and preserved lemons
Garlicky chard pasta



Paltry Peas

6_16_14punypeasOh, how we love English shell peas. This year was going to be the year that that an honest-to-goodness yield would be enjoyed. Approximately 15 of the 20 peas ‘n a pot plants germinated, but the plants were so teeny tiny (they rose to the dizzying height of 3-4″ — which is puny, even for a dwarf) that each produced one one or two pods, with 2-5 peas each. Which means we harvested about a 1/4 cup of peas.

Boo. Here’s the thing: if you can believe it, they may have been, GASP, over-watered. Excessive hydration is rarely a probably for POD, but the Hurricane helper happens to love hoses and water. So you know, things happen. For future reference, though, here’s a handy how-to from the University of Minnesota.

6_16_14peaharvestThese little guys were planted in mid-April and harvested this week. Which, thankfully, lined up perfectly with the bag o’ peas from Greensgrow’s CSA. Which mean’s the Endurer enjoyed a lovely Father’s Day dinner of seared scallops with uber locally-grown herbs, peas with fresh-picked mint, and lemon strawberry bars for dessert.

Lean Out

51814_radishharvestLast weekend the Michigan set of parents (the Endurer’s in-laws, the Hurricane’s Nana and Bappa) arrived for a long weekend. Which was great, because the kid loves her grandparents and doesn’t see them nearly enough. But tough, because the crew had only just returned from a trip to Kentucky the weekend before to visit the North Carolina set of parents (POD’s in-laws, the Hurricane’s Nana and Gramps) and the cupboards were bare and the season’s first share was scant.

After a lovely dinner at Industry and a less lovely dinner at Tun Tavern (because what does this family do after driving 12 hours? Get in the car and drive another hour — or two and a half if taking the scenic route through New Jersey in a monsoon — to the shore) everyone was hungry for some home-cookin’.

But as noted, the cupboards were bare. However, the pots out front were blissfully brimming with herbs. And ample herbs equal a couple of saffron noodle cakes and a nice pot of tomato gravy and a radish-heavy salad for the following night.

Saffron Noodle Cake
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

2 tbs olive oil
2 pinches saffron threads
1 roasted red pepper [POD’s must-do addition]
8 ounces saffron pasta, linguine, or spaghettini [or Korean noodles, if your pantry looks like POD’s]
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago [or Romano]
1 bunch scallions, including an inch of the greens, finely sliced
1/2 c. chopped parsley
1/3 c finely chopped basil [which is where POD came in handy] or marjoram
2 tbs butter, olive oil, or a mixture of butter and oil

Herbed Saffron Noodle Cake
from POD, with thanks to Deborah Madison

2 tbs olive oil
2 pinches saffron threads
8 ounces saffron pasta, linguine, or spaghettini [or Korean noodles, if your pantry looks like POD’s]
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. tarragon, thyme, rosemary, and parsley [thanks, POD!]
2 tablespoons butter

Warm the oil in a small metal measuring cup, add the saffron, and set aside. [If making two cakes, use 1/2 of the infused oil for the first and 1/2 for the second.] Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain. Rinse under cold water and shake dry. Combine it with the saffron oil, eggs, and herbs [add scallions, cheese and the roasted red peppers for the original version] and mix well — your hands will be the best tool. Season with salt and plenty of pepper.

Heat 1 tbs butter in an 8- 10-inch nonstick skillet. Add the pasta, pat it down and even the edges. Cook over medium[high] heat until golden on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Turn the cake out onto a plate, add 1 tbs butter to the pan, slide the cake back in, and cook until the second side is crisp and golden. Cut into wedges and serve.


First Harvest & Easy Weeknight Eats

41914_firstharvestLeave it to mint to withstand one of the hardest winters this gardener has experienced since moving from Michigan to Philly nearly 20 years ago. A winter so miserable, in fact, that it killed off the very thyme first featured in one of POD’s very first posts.

Moment of silence, please.

Thank you — moving on to dinner. Once again, the marvelous Moro comes to the rescue with this quick, easy, bright, meat-light, almost-pantry (in a pinch, the prosciutto could be optional — or you could use bacon or ham, I suppose.)

41914_ingredientlist(More than less) From Moro: The Cookbook, by Sam and Sam Clark

Sopa de guisantes
Pea Soup with Jamon and Mint

4 tbs olive oil [POD used 2 tbs]
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh [plant a bay plant, easy indoor mascot, so worth it]
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
150g [5 oz] jamon serrano (cured ham), finely chopped [see photo for POD’s version]
1 small bunch fresh mint, roughly chopped
500 g [just over a pound] podded peas, fresh or frozen [who can find a pound of fresh, in-season peas, ever? Frozen are fine, fresh would surely be divine.]
1 litre chicken stock [appx. 4 c.]
sea salt and black pepper

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat, add the onion, and when it has turned golden add the carrot and bay leaves. Continue to fry for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic, two-thirds of the jamon and half the mint. Give everything a good stir, fry for another minute or so, then add the peas. Cook for a couple of minutes before adding the stock. Simmer gently until the peas are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Ladle the peas and stock into a food processor or liquidiser [immersion blender, thank you] and process until smooth. Return to the pan, season with salt and pepper and add the remaining mint. Serve with the rest of the jamon on top and an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Edamame, White Bean, and Pea Shoot Dip

2914_peashootsA month after POD’s pick-me-up indoor gardening experiment commenced, shoots were snipped and added to a pretty tasty little dip.

There’s something about the fruity, light zing of pea shoots that lends a spring-like note to a tasty, but otherwise fairly standard, edamame dip. And hey, it’s also a great way to use up two bags of frozen edamame from Greensgrow’s Winter CSA.

White Bean and Edamame “Hummus”
(Adapted from CHOW)

  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled, cooked edamame (about 24-ounces, boil pods in salted water for 3-4 minutes. Cool. Shell. Share a few pods with tiny sous chef.)
  • 2 medium garlic gloves, coarsely chopped
  • 3-4 tbs water, plus more as needed
  • zest of one lemon
  • 4-5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons), to taste
  • 1/2-3/4 c. pea shoots (optional, I suppose, but kind of critical for our purposes.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Place the cannellini beans, edamame, garlic, water, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and sesame seed oil in a bowl and put your immersion blender to work (or, if you have a food processor, go nuts). Season with pepper and process until smooth. If the dip is too thick, pulse in more water, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
  2. Taste and season with more salt or lemon juice as needed.

Last Gasps

freshsauceThanks, dear Endurer, for sticking to your guns and demanding that plants be planted. Deck optional. Not a banner year for Plants on Deck, but we had a year. And we’ll take it.

This fresh tomato sauce, courtesy of Smitten Kitten, wiped out the two pounds of less-than-optimal tomatoes that had emerged from the world’s saddest tomato plants. It also takes care of the teeny carrots and the last orange bell pepper of the year. You may note that the recipe doesn’t call for peppers; but you know, there it was, so there it went. 

See you next year, friends.

Say it Ain’t So

A recent diagnosis involving the words “lactose” and “intolerance” struck fear into the hearts of the eaters and cookers here at POD.

And the gardeners.

veganpestobasilSee all this lovely basil? Ordinarily it would get chopped into a luscious Parmesan-rich pesto. But Parmesan-rich isn’t the greatest thing right now, even with its relatively modest lactose count. (And we’re trying to save those handy pills for things like, you know, ice cream. And cheese dinners.) ‘Cause ya’ know what? It’s kinda’ nice not to be tooty and stuff all time. Seriously.

Before traipsing too far down that unpleasant path, let’s get back to the basil in question. Thanks to an enterprising and totally amazing Endurer, vegan pesto has entered the world of POD.yeast

Never thought the day would come.

And while something so appetizingly named “nutritional yeast” hammered that fear in good and deep, this recipe, adapted from Food 52, actually worked pretty well. Yeah, you’ll notice that it’s dairy free, despite the recipe’s promise, but you’ll still enjoy it. POD promises.

Vegan Pesto
Makes 1 generous cup

  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (you’ll need more of both than your instincts would have you add)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  1. Use a mezzaluna to coarsely chop the basil, garlic, and pine nuts.
  2. Put the chopped basil, garlic, pine nuts, and the remaining ingredients into a bowl and use an immersion blender until you’ve achieved your desired consistency. (Nope, it’s not a terribly traditional recipe, but whatevs, it works.)

First Yield

swiss chardEven with several consecutive days boasting a heat index of 100+, POD finds it hard to hate summer.

It helps that the first real container-grown harvests are coming in. A handful of bright green leaves (and orange- and red-stems) added an extra shot of color and a bit of something in one of the Endurer’s already perfect veggie meals.

Catalan Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Almonds

Serves: 4-6

Source: adapted from The Traveler’s Lunchbox and The Essential Mediterranean by Nancy Harmon Jenkins

2 (14oz/400g) cans chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and grated or finely minced
1 can (28oz/800g) plum tomatoes in juice, preferably Italian, drained and chopped
pinch sugar
generous pinch saffron threads
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup (50g) lightly toasted almonds
small handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 bunch (6-8 oz) Swiss Chard, sliced into slender ribbons
2 cups (350ml) chicken or vegetable stock

juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste 

In a heavy frying pan, heat the oil over medium/medium-high heat and sauté the onion until it is golden brown and very soft, about 25 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and sugar, letting them fry until they melt into the onions and form a paste, about another 10-15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.

In a large mortar, combine the saffron, garlic, almonds and parsley and pound to a thick paste (add a little water if necessary to keep things moving). Add the paste to the onion mixture along with the stock and the chickpeas, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and lemon juice to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature; you’ll find that this dish keeps developing in flavor the longer it sits.

Bitty Broccoli

Top: Greensgrow
Below: PODgrown

Maybe it’s time to admit defeat.

Earlier this month we received our first winter CSA share from the good people at Greensgrow. It was gorgeous. And the ensuing lemon chicken with broccoli was delicious.

Speaking of broccoli, the broccoli was especially envy-making…given that POD’s broccoli is in a pretty pathetic state.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of fateful kale…

Waaay back in August, a shopping spree at that very same urban CSA mecca resulted in a deck full of cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. Oh, my.

But what the CSA gods provideth, the nursery demons taketh away: just days later the starts proved themselves to be crawling in loopers. Squish, squish. Problem solved.

BUT then, a couple weeks after that, a particularly nasty-looking aphid took over. All new for 2012, people: Cabbage aphids! Which, apparently, tend to be more problematic in fall crops. Good to know. These nefarious boogers were regularly sprayed with heavy doses of a Dr. Bronner’s soapy water solution  but to no avail. Deck decimation.

(SIDE RANT: So, not only did this organic “magic all-one” soap fail to kill off the aphids, but the funky-smelling unscented variety stings toddler eyes, and when the screaming toddler flails the offending suds into a nearby adult’s eyes, it stings theirs, too. Like a lot. And it leave a nasty residue on one’s skin and a milky scum on brand-new jet black vehicles. Both the human and vehicular test subjects required two non-Bronner’s scrubbings to remove all traces of ickiness. Which clearly, POD has time for.)

Defeat admitted.