Garlic scape, basil and almond pesto

Garlic scape and basil pesto

Garlic scape, basil and almond pesto on Instagram

If you follow Emmet Street Creations on Instagram, you know that I have been somewhat obsessed by a culinary delight known as a garlic scape. Last fall, I planted around 30 cloves of hard neck garlic in my garden for the sole purpose of harvesting the scape.

The garlic scape is the flower that grows from the bulb of hard neck varieties of garlic. As it grows, it forms a graceful curl.

Harvesting the scape allows the plant to put its energy into growing the bulb. The scape has a very mild garlic flavor and can be used in any way that garlic can be used. I’ve roasted them whole with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, diced them to add flavor to roasted asparagus and I’ve frozen a bunch for future use.

So far, my favorite way to use them is in pesto. You can make pesto with only the garlic scape, olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan. But, I love basil pesto so I incorporated basil as well. For a twist, I used almonds instead of pine nuts.

Garlic scape and basil pesto

10 to 12 garlic scapes, roughly chopped with the bulb removed

1 cup tightly packed basil leaves

1 cup chopped almonds

1 cup parmesan cheese

1/2  to 1 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Add the first 4 ingredients to a food processor or blender. (I used my Vitamix.) Start blending on a low speed and gradually add the olive oil until the pesto is a creamy consistency. I ended up using the entire cup of olive oil but you may prefer less. If needed, increase the mixing speed to fully incorporate the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can serve this immediately on pasta, as a spread for bruschetta or as a fancy homemade pizza sauce. It also freezes very well. I plan to use my left-over pesto the next time I make my quick and easy pesto salad.

 

 

Grill recipes Dad will love (and don’t involve hamburger, steak or hot dogs)

 Grill tongsImage credit: Grill Tongs by Steven Depolo, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

I don’t about your dad’s claims, but MY dad is King of the Grill. However, his repertoire is pretty limited as to what he is willing to cook (chicken and beef, with an occasional pork rib), and how he is willing to cook it (well done only thankyouverymuch).

This Father’s Day, I thought it might be nice to expose dad to some new “thrill of the grill” items that might inspire him to expand his horizons. So, I turned to the internet and found some outdoor grilling recipes for salads, main dishes and dessert!

Grilled Salad Recipes

  • Grilled Romaine Lettuce Salad – I have never thought to grill lettuce. I’m not sure I’m sold on this one, but there is bacon and blue cheese involved so that might help convince me.
  • Grilled Potato Salad – I’ll bet the smoky char on the potatoes would add a nice flavor to this potato salad. This recipe also contains bacon, making dads everywhere very happy.
  • Grilled Avocado with Cherry Tomatoes – While I suppose this isn’t technically a salad, it’s is a nice meal starter. And me-oh, my-oh, grilled avocados sound wonderful.

Grilled Main Dish Recipes

Grilled Dessert Recipes

Do you like outdoor grilling? What have you tried?

Heart of palm salad with cherry tomato and avocado

Heart of Palm SaladIn November, I took a trip to Costa Rica.  While I went for the flora and fauna, I was pleasantly delighted by the food. Rice and beans for breakfast? Yes, please. Freshly juiced oranges, mangos, papayas, and pineapples any time I want? Yes, yes, yes and yes. I could have eaten my weight in avocados and fried plantains.

My first dinner in the country was the Talamanca salad at La Luz restaurant in The Alta Hotel. Talamanca, I learned from our friendly waiter, is a canton (or county) in Costa Rica, not an exotic fish or vegetable. The salad consisted of avocado, cherry tomatoes, roasted corn, a creamy basil yogurt dressing and the most romantic sounding vegetable I’ve heard of, heart of palm.

I obsessed about this salad the entire trip. As soon as I returned home and unpacked, I started looking for recipes online so I could recreate it. I found a recipe by Patricia Jinich on The Splendid Table that seemed very close, though it uses a bright lime vinaigrette instead of the basil-yogurt dressing.

I’ve made this salad several times and have made some minor changes along the way to suit my tastes. I cut the oil from 4 to 3 tablespoons and use only olive oil. I substitute basil for the oregano. I leave out the pumpkin seeds, although I’m sure they would add a delightful crunchy texture. Pine nuts might also work well.

This salad is light, refreshing and surprisingly filling. We’ve eaten this as a main course several times and have been completely satisfied.

Talamanca inspired heart of palm salad with tomato and avocado

Adapted from Avocado and Hearts of Palm Chop Chop Salad by Patricia Jinich via The Splendid Table

For the salad:

1/4 small red onion, finely chopped. Use less or leave out completely if you don’t like onions.

1 can whole hearts of palm, sliced into rounds

2 ripe avocados

1/2 a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed (or, for extra flavor, roast an ear of corn on the grill and remove the kernels)

For the vinaigrette:

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon brown sugar

Black pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a bowl and whisk it well.
  2. Add the chopped onions to the vinaigrette and set aside. I like to let the onions soak to remove some of their oniony bite. If you like that oniony flavor, then skip this step.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine all of the remaining ingredients, except the avocado.
  4. When you are ready to serve, pour the vinaigrette and onions over the salad and mix well. Divide the salad into bowls and then add the avocado. This will ensure the avocado is nice and green when you serve it. Keep one of the avocados to use with leftovers later.

Has a vacation ever inspired you to create a new dish at home? Let me know in the comments section. I’d love some new cooking (or vacation) ideas!

Cooking curiosity: What is heart of palm?

Hearts of palmImage credit: Hearts of palm by Joel Kramer, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

What is heart of palm?

Heart of palm is the inner portion of the stem of certain types of palm trees. These trees grow in tropical climates with Costa Rica being one of the largest exporters of heart of palm to the United States.

What does heart of palm taste like?

The texture of a heart of palm is firm and crisp. It has a mild flavor that tastes similar to artichoke.

What are the nutritional benefits of heart of palm?

Heart of palm is important to staying healthy, by providing several key vitamins and minerals that support growth and immunity. Heart of palm contains 2% of your recommended daily intake of zinc which supports immunity and wound healing, vitamin C (4% of your recommended daily intake) and manganese (20% of your recommended daily intake), is a mineral important to bone building and wound healing.

How do you use heart of palm?

Heart of palm is typically eaten raw as a salad ingredient, it can also  deep fried or added as a crispy treat to a stir fry. Have you gotten your hands on some fresh heart of palm and don’t know how to get started? Here are some recipes using heart of palm:

What you about you? Do you love heart of palm? What’s your favorite way to eat it? 

You can’t beat this cooking technique: My favorite way to eat beets (Or, how to roast beets)

How to roast beetsImage credit: Beet it by darwin Bell, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0. (modified)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve developed a fondness for eating beets and have developed a hobby of finding new recipes with beets as a featured ingredient. A few years ago, the technique of roasting vegetables came my way, and I was grateful for this new way to enjoy vegetables. Since then, it’s been my go-to method to prepare any fresh beets that come my way, but roasting vegetables is a technique that can be used on most types of vegetables.

Why roast vegetables?

Roasting vegetables is a simple technique that helps bring out the deliciousness of vegetables. Roasting vegetables brings out their sweetness, which makes vegetables like Brussels sprouts more palatable to many.

You can roast just about any vegetable. Hearty root vegetables (like onions, garlic, carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes and beets) and winter squash (think butternut squash) tend to work best, because they hold up to the high heat roasting requires and contain more natural sugars to support caramelization, but I also like to roast peppers, squash, cauliflower and tomatoes.

How to roast vegetables

To roast vegetables, cut them into similarly sized pieces and toss them in a little olive oil and any seasonings you wish. Then, spread your vegetables out on a baking sheet, leaving a lot of room between the pieces. The temperature you use will vary depending on how hearty your vegetables are and how brown you want them to get, but somewhere between 400 and 450 degrees (vegetables with a higher water content, like tomatoes, should be cooked a the lower range).

Cooking time will vary as well, but generally 30-45 minutes is the average. You’ll want to toss your veggies a few times during the roasting process, to ensure everything cooks evenly. You’ll know your veggies are done when they start to get a pleasing brown color on the outside and, for vegetables like butternut squash, a fork pierces through easily.

It’s that easy!

My favorite way to eat roasted beets

My favorite method for preparing beets is slightly different from the method I just described. I clean the beets and trim the tops and bottoms, then I put them on a piece of aluminum foil. I take a second piece of foil and place on top of the beets. Then I fold the edges of the two pieces of foil together, to create a pouch to cook my beets in.

Next, I place the pouch on a baking sheet and bake it in a 400 degree oven. After 20 minutes, I flip over the pouch and bake for 20 minutes more. Then I check the beets for doneness, by piercing a beet with a fork, if it passes through easily they’re done, if not, I reseal the foil flip them over and check again every 10 minutes until the beets are the desired tenderness.

Once they’re done, I leave my these little gems in the foil pouch to cool. Once they have cooled to room temperature, I peel and slice the beets into a bowl. Next I drizzle with a nice balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. This preparation makes a nice dish own its own or atop a nice salad.

What about you? Do you love roasting vegetables? What’s your favorite way to eat them? Let me know in the comments or take your discussion to Facebook!

Did you know this was a thing? The International Biscuit Festival

Biscuits will save your soulLast year during my “Great Dolly Parton Adventure” in Knoxville, Tennessee, I learned that I had just missed an event of monumental proportions: The International Biscuit Festival.

This festival spans a jam-packed weekend each May and celebrates the Southern biscuit making tradition with a juried art exhibition, a songwriting competition music, dance and a Mr. and Miss Biscuit pageant. I was also interested to learn than the Southern Food Writing Conference is held concurrently with the festival, making me disappointed my schedule did not allow me to make a trip to Knoxville this year.

To soothe my disappointment, I’ll read these biscuit making tips from the Tupelo Honey Cafe and watch an excerpt from Alton Brown’s former Food Network show, “Good Eats.” (Specifically, this clip where Alton Brown makes biscuits with his meemaw.)

How about you? Do you looooove a good biscuit? Have you ever been to the festival?

Get this all up in your grill: Vegan beet burgers

Vegan Beet BurgersWhen I met my beloved, I had no idea he would open up a whole new world of eating to me. At the time, he had a small specialty produce business, growing heirloom vegetables such as tomatoes and fingerling potatoes and selling the fruits of his labor to local restaurants. One of the most popular sellers in his lineup was a surprise to me: beets! (They were second to heirloom tomatoes, because who doesn’t love a good homegrown tomato amiright?)

During the early days of our dating, I learned two things: I love beets and small-scale farming is hard and takes a lot of time (so don’t scoff if the prices at farmers market are a bit higher than what you’d pay at your local grocery).

As time has marched on, I’ve become increasingly interested in finding tasty, satisfying vegan recipes. Eventually I stumbled upon Isa Chandra Moskowitz and her website The Post Punk Kitchen, a great source for vegan recipes (though it isn’t updated as frequently as I’d like).

When I was first gifted beets, I was puzzled what to do with them. The PPK came through, with a wonderful vegan beet burger recipe. I’ve tinkered with the recipe a bit, and thought I’d share it (also, Christine has been bugging me to share the recipe ever since she tried my version).

The only downside I can find with this recipe is that it’s basically impossible to make it without a food processor (unless you have a lot of time on your hands and endless patience). I find my food processor to be as essential to my kitchen adventures as my refrigerator–so if you don’t have one, drop some hints to your loved ones that you’d like one as a gift!

Have you tried The PPK version of this recipe? Have you tinkered with it?

Beet Burgers

Makes 6 burger patties, or 12 slider-sized patties

1 c.  shredded beets

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

1 c. cooked brown lentils

1/2 c. dry bread crumbs

2 cloves garlic

2 T. ketchup

1 t. dried thyme

1/2 t. fennel seed

1 t. dry mustard

1/2 t. salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Hamburger buns (optional)

Prepare your food processor to use the metal cutting blade. Add all ingredients to the food processor bowl and blend, until all ingredients are well incorporated (it will resemble bright red Play-Doh). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, cover and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. While the oven is heating, form the burger mixture into patties and place on a nonstick cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, turning patties once halfway.

Alternate cooking methods: I always bake my burger patties to keep the fat content low. If you like a nice burger-y charred crust on your burger, you can cook the patties in a well-oiled skillet (instead of baking them) or if you bake them, you can lightly oil the patties and broil them for a few minutes on each side. I think these burgers would probably hold up to grilling, if they are baked first, but I haven’t tested that method to know for sure. (If you try grilling them, let me know if are successful.)