Eat Your Weeds: Garlic Mustard Greens Pesto

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Garlic mustard green pesto by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I've got another invasive weed that's bad for native plants but good for you. Meet garlic mustard greens (Alliaria petiolata), one of the most common invasive weeds out there. Imported to the U.S. by European settlers in the 1860'a as a culinary and medicinal plant as well as to help prevent erosion, it quickly got out of the garden and went rogue, putting down roots as far north as Canada, as far south as Virginia and as far west as Kansas and Nebraska.

Garlic mustard greens by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Although rather pretty, it's bad news for local ecosystems since it spreads like wildfire, is not appealing to deer (they don't like anything that tastes or smells of onions or garlic or has thorns, sadly), and produces chemicals that suppress the mycorrhizal fungi most native trees and plants require to thrive. Clever, eh? Even while I am yanking it up by the roots, I have to admire this plant's ability to survive and thrive.

Garlic mustard green leaf, flower and root by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Garlic mustard is a member of the mustard family (duh) and has a pronounced garlicky smell and flavor (duh again) in addition to the characteristic bite of mustard greens. All parts of the plant are edible at various points in the plant's two year life cycle although I have only ever tried the leaves which are best before the weather gets hot and they become more bitter.

Garlic mustard has a two-year life cycle. It begins life as a rosette of green leaves that stick close to the ground.

Garlic mustard greens by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

The plant overwinters under the snow (tough, as well as clever) and then shoots up during the spring of its second year before putting out white flowers in late spring and producing long seed pods during the summer that end up scattering everywhere once the plant dies and dries out.

Harvesting garlic mustard greens by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Yank it up by the roots whenever you see it, especially before it has a chance to form those seed pods. If you're not sure what you're picking is actually garlic mustard, break a leaf and sniff - it should smell strongly of garlic. If not, leave it be as there are several native plants -- toothwort, sweet cicely and early saxifrage -- that produce white flowers and look similar enough to be confused for it.

But save some of what you pull up as it has an interesting flavor that is quite good in certain applications and it is also high in vitamins A, C, carotenoids, several minerals and fiber.

Harvesting garlic mustard greens by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

When you get your haul home, you'll need to wash it as there will undoubtedly be both dirt and insects clinging to its roots and leaves. I removed the leaves and washed them in several changes of water before drying them in the salad spinner. Since there is no shortage of this stuff out there, I used only the newer, tender leaves as they are not as bitter as the older, rounder leaves.

Washing the garlic mustard greens by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Then I got out the ingredients for pesto - Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, pepper and nuts. I used both pine nuts and also some toasted almonds. Had I had any basil on hand, I would have added that, too. I did not add garlic since the greens have their own allium appeal but if you do want to, I would consider sautéeing it first to cut down on its bite and enhance its natural sweetness.

Ingredients for garlic mustard green pesto by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I dumped it all into the Cuisinart and in less than a minute, I had a beautiful, bright green pesto with a mildly garlicky flavor and a definite bite. I would not use it exactly as I would use a traditional basil pesto because it lacks basil's sweetness. It needs to be paired with something more substantial than plain pasta but I used a generous amount of it to dress up some cheese tortellini and added some of my oven-roasted cherry tomatoes from the fall and it was delicious.

Garlic mustard green pesto by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

In general, I would consider adding some sort of roasted vegetable to the pasta when you use it - roasted butternut or delicata squash would be good as would broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant or tomatoes - anything that caramelizes nicely when roasted or has a good nutty flavor to it. And this pesto would make an excellent addition to a charcuterie plate, too.

Other ways to enjoy garlic mustard greens include:
  • Add the leaves to salads (again, now is a good time to do this unless you're into bitter greens);
  • Add the leaves to soups or stews - substitute them for the mustard greens in this recipe for curried chicken with kabocha squash and mustard greens;
  • Toss some of the chopped leaves into mashed potatoes;
  • Saute some garlic in olive oil and give the leaves a quick saute until wilted then add a splash of good balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper and consider adding a handful of currants and toasted pine nuts or almonds - substitute garlic mustard leaves for the spinach in this simple preparation if you want to follow a recipe;
  • Blanch the greens and use them as you would collards, kale, chard or mustard greens. I had some with brown rice, tofu and peanut sauce recently.

Garlic mustard greens with miso peanut sauce, fried tofu, brown rice and avocado by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

You might also like:

Eat Your Weeds: Strawberry Apple Japanese Knotweed Crisp

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Strawberry Apple Japanese Knotweed Crisp a la mode by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I hope, for your sake, that you've never set eyes on Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica) because it is wildly invasive here in America - and most other places -and more or less impossible to get rid of. Knotweed grows extremely quickly - as much as three feet in just a few weeks - and can destroy building foundations, not to mention wreaking havoc on native ecosystems.

Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica) by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

It's considered noxious enough to land a coveted spot on the IUCN's list of the world's 100 most invasive species where it hobnobs with things like gypsy moths, kudzu, mosquitoes, rats (my personal favorites), and more.

Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica) by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

That said, it does have a few good points, as well, including:

1. Knotweed is an excellent source of resveratrol which some people believe has healing properties. Scientific proof is not abundant yet but it certainly can't hurt.

2. Knotweed's prolific white flowers provide plenty of nectar for honey bees and pollinators well into the fall, when other food sources are falling off.

3. Knotweed is edible as a tender young thang in early spring. The flavor is sour and a little earthy -- somewhat similar to rhubarb but definitely unique.

Which brings me to the reason for this post...

I've been hearing about eating knotweed for several years now but had never tried it. However, since two of our neighbors have massive (and fast-growing) knotweed patches, I figured I would give it a try. I think there's something rather primal about eating your enemies, don't you?

Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica) by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

It turns out that in this case, at least, revenge is sweet. This crisp was a hit with my family.

It's easy to harvest Japanese knotweed but you need to catch it quite early in the spring when the stalks are still tender and only a foot or two high at the most. A good rule of thumb is not to pick anything taller than your knee or wider than your thumb as the shoots turn woody very quickly. Also, you'll know it's too late if you need scissors or a knife, the stalks should snap off when you bend them - similar to snapping a stalk of fresh asparagus.

Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica) by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Japanese knotweed has trowel-shaped green leaves, some of which can be variegated  (meaning they have white dots or stripes on them), hollow stems that are jointed like bamboo with a papery bit at the joints, the stems start out quite red (as do the leaves) and become greener as they age but always have this reddish spotting on them. In late summer and fall the plants bloom with large sprays of small white flowers.

Rinsing the Japanese knotweed stalks in the sink by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2016

Once you get them home, rinse them in cold water to remove any dirt or insects.

Cleaned Japanese knotweed stalks by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2016

Then dry them off and cut off the leaves and any portions that seem too tough and chop the stalks into roughly one-inch pieces. I removed all the joints since they are tougher than the rest of the stalk. If you'd like, you can freeze some of the knotweed to use later - something I often do with rhubarb when it's in season.

1 cup chopped Japanese knotweed stalks by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2016

I mixed the knotweed with apple, strawberry, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar to make a very tasty crisp.

Tossing the strawberries, apples and knotweed with lemon juice and sugar by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

The topping was a mixture of oats, almond meal, brown sugar, butter and a little salt. My mom-in-law gave me the idea to start using almond meal as a topping - it's a great addition.

Mixing oats, almond meal, butter and sugar for the crumble topping by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

We ate ours with vanilla ice cream. So good! The knotweed goes really nicely with the other fruit and the lemon zest which picks up its natural tartness.

If you want to give this dessert a try, do it ASAP since the window when the knotweed is tender enough to eat is truly brief.

Strawberry Apple Japanese Knotweed Crisp by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

-- print recipe --
Strawberry Apple Japanese Knotweed Crisp
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

For the filling
* 1 cup chopped knotweed
* 1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
* 1 1/2 cups chopped apples
* 1/4 cup cane sugar
* Zest of 1 lemon
* Juice of 1 lemon
* 1/8 tsp sea salt
* 1/2 tsp vanilla
* 1 tsp corn starch

For the topping
* 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
* 1/4 tsp sea salt
* 2/3 cup cane sugar
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 1/8 tsp ground cloves
* 1 cup almond meal
* 1 cup oats

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and grease your baking dish - you can use a 9-inch pie dish or a 9 x 9-inch square dish. Make the filling: in a medium to large bowl, mix all the filling ingredients, stirring the cornstarch in last to mix with the juices. This will help keep the crisp from being runny.

2. Make the topping. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, stirring until everything is moist and mixed. Arrange the filling in a layer on the bottom of the baking dish and distribute the topping evenly over it.

3. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the fruit filling is bubbling and the topping is nicely browned. Let cool slightly and serve warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

You might also like:
Apple Crisp - Humble, Homey & Delicious
Ginger Rhubarb Johnnycake- A Seasonal Spring Dessert
Eat Your Weeds: Wood Sorrel, Potato & Egg Salad


Nutty Farro and Chickpeas Topped with Honey Roasted Carrots and Herb-Spiked Crème Fraîche

Monday, May 9, 2016

Honey-roasted carrots with herby creme fraiche over garlicky farro & chickpeas by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

This dish is so unexpected and tasty. Carrots roasted with honey and a sprinkle of sea salt, black pepper and dried cumin are served atop a jumbled bed of farro and chickpeas that have been tossed in a very simple garlic, olive oil and lemon juice dressing all of which is drizzled with a rich, tangy, cilantro and mint-spiked crème fraîche that ties all the flavors together and a sprinkle of salty, roasted pepitas.

Carrots drizzled with honey, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin powder by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

The recipe below is adapted from the original on Cookie + Kate, a lovely blog that is new to me. I have to thank my friend Kathleen for mentioning this dish while we were watching our sons' karate class last week.

Dried chickpeas cooked with garlic and bay leaf by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I used dried garbanzo beans but you can use canned, too - no judgment here! If you do want to use dried beans, my recommendation is to make a much larger batch than you need and freeze whatever extra beans you have after draining them and letting them cool down. I like having a container or two of chickpeas in the freezer ready to toss into a curry - no soaking and no cooking necessary.

Farro by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Farro has a pleasantly chewy texture and a mild, nutty flavor. It's a member of the wheat family and although it does contain gluten, I believe it is often easier for people with sensitivities to tolerate than wheat (no promises, though!) There are several kinds available - whole, semi-pearled and pearled. The whole kind is the healthiest and takes a lot longer to cook than the other two options which contain less or none of the bran and, therefore, cook more quickly and are not quite as nutritious. I have never actually seen the whole kind for sale in a store - it's probably easier to find in a major metropolitan area although you can also buy it online, of course.

Mixing the farro and chickpeas with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and salt by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Once the farro is done, you mix it and the chickpeas together with some olive oil, a little garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and set it aside while you finish the rest of the dish. You can make this the day before if you like - it will taste even better for having more time for the flavors to develop.

Meanwhile, your carrots should be done about now - delightfully shriveled and browned and caramelized.

Carrots roasted with honey, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin powder by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Feel free to play around with the herbs for the crème fraîche - I liked the idea of cilantro and mint as a nice pairing for the cumin in the roasted carrots but you can use parsley or dill or basil, too. If you're new to crème fraîche - it is similar to sour cream, albeit with a higher fat content (30% vs 20%). You can definitely taste that extra 10% butterfat - it's got a creaminess that feels a little decadent.

Fresh mint and cilantro by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Stir the herbs into the crème fraîche along with some salt and pepper and a little water to thin it to a "drizzle-able" consistency. The resulting sauce lends the whole dish a lovely, rich, tang that is brightened by the herbs.

Chopped cilantro and mint with sea salt, pepper and creme fraiche by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

This is one of those dishes that is a lot of fun to plate. Make a base of your grain and bean mixture then lay the carrots on top of it, drizzle with the crème fraîche sauce and sprinkle with pepitas or toasted pinenuts.

Honey-roasted carrots with herby creme fraiche over garlicky farro & chickpeas by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

-- print recipe --
Garlicky Farro & Chickpeas Topped with Honey Roasted Carrots & Herb-Spiked Crème Fraîche
Serves 6

Ingredients

For the beans and grains
* 1 cup dried farro, rinsed
* 1 1/2 cups or 1 can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (if you use canned, Eden Organics sells their beans in a BPA-free can)
* 1 tsp good olive oil
* 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
* 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
* ½ tsp sea salt

For the carrots
* 1 lb small carrots, scrubbed or peeled with the tops cut off
* 1 Tbsp good olive oil
* Drizzle of honey (buy local if you can)
* Sprinkle of ground cumin powder
* Sea salt
* Several grinds black pepper

For the crème fraîche
* 1/2 cup crème fraîche (try to find organic if you can)
* 1 Tbsp chopped, fresh cilantro
* 1 Tbsp chopped, fresh mint
* 2 tsps water to thin
* Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the pepitas
* 3 Tbsps pepitas (I used tamari roasted pepitas from the store but if they're not available, add the rest of the ingredients and toast in a pan)
* 1/2 tsp good olive oil
* Pinch each of ground cumin powder, sea salt and chili powder

Directions

1. Start by making the farro and chickpea mixture. Add the rinsed farro and three cups of water to a smallish pot and bring to a boil, then turn the flame down and simmer until the farro is tender but still chewy. This will take roughly 15 minutes if you're using the pearled kind of farro and 25-30 minutes or more if you're using whole farro - check the package on whatever kind you use for a more precise estimate. When it's done, drain the farro and return it to the pot along with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Stir well and then add the chickpeas and stir again to combine it all. Cover and set aside until you're ready to assemble the dish. You can make this a day ahead of time and store in the fridge if you like.

2. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Toss the carrots with the olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper on a large baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Drizzle with honey and roast for 20-25 minutes (time depends somewhat on how large the carrots you're using are), until tender with plenty of browning, then remove and let cool.

3. In a small bowl, combine the crème fraîche, chopped herbs, sea salt, pepper and water and stir to combine. Set aside until you're ready to plate. It's also fine to make this sauce up to a day ahead of time to give the flavors more time to meld.

4. If you're not using already roasted pepitas, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over a medium flame until it shimmers. Add the pepitas and spices and cook, stirring frequently until the pepitas begin to brown a bit and start to make little sizzling, popping noises. Remove from the pan to let them cool to prevent them from burning.

5. You can either plate this dish individually or assemble it on a large platter. Arrange the chickpea and farro mixture on the bottom and lay the carrots over it, drizzle with the herbed crème fraîche, sprinkle with the pepitas and serve.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Eat Your Weeds: Garlic Mustard Greens Pesto

Garlic mustard green pesto by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I've got another invasive weed that's bad for native plants but good for you. Meet garlic mustard greens (Alliaria petiolata), one of the most common invasive weeds out there. Imported to the U.S. by European settlers in the 1860'a as a culinary and medicinal plant as well as to help prevent erosion, it quickly got out of the garden and went rogue, putting down roots as far north as Canada, as far south as Virginia and as far west as Kansas and Nebraska.

Garlic mustard greens by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Although rather pretty, it's bad news for local ecosystems since it spreads like wildfire, is not appealing to deer (they don't like anything that tastes or smells of onions or garlic or has thorns, sadly), and produces chemicals that suppress the mycorrhizal fungi most native trees and plants require to thrive. Clever, eh? Even while I am yanking it up by the roots, I have to admire this plant's ability to survive and thrive.

Garlic mustard green leaf, flower and root by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Garlic mustard is a member of the mustard family (duh) and has a pronounced garlicky smell and flavor (duh again) in addition to the characteristic bite of mustard greens. All parts of the plant are edible at various points in the plant's two year life cycle although I have only ever tried the leaves which are best before the weather gets hot and they become more bitter.

Garlic mustard has a two-year life cycle. It begins life as a rosette of green leaves that stick close to the ground.

Garlic mustard greens by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

The plant overwinters under the snow (tough, as well as clever) and then shoots up during the spring of its second year before putting out white flowers in late spring and producing long seed pods during the summer that end up scattering everywhere once the plant dies and dries out.

Harvesting garlic mustard greens by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Yank it up by the roots whenever you see it, especially before it has a chance to form those seed pods. If you're not sure what you're picking is actually garlic mustard, break a leaf and sniff - it should smell strongly of garlic. If not, leave it be as there are several native plants -- toothwort, sweet cicely and early saxifrage -- that produce white flowers and look similar enough to be confused for it.

But save some of what you pull up as it has an interesting flavor that is quite good in certain applications and it is also high in vitamins A, C, carotenoids, several minerals and fiber.

Harvesting garlic mustard greens by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

When you get your haul home, you'll need to wash it as there will undoubtedly be both dirt and insects clinging to its roots and leaves. I removed the leaves and washed them in several changes of water before drying them in the salad spinner. Since there is no shortage of this stuff out there, I used only the newer, tender leaves as they are not as bitter as the older, rounder leaves.

Washing the garlic mustard greens by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Then I got out the ingredients for pesto - Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, pepper and nuts. I used both pine nuts and also some toasted almonds. Had I had any basil on hand, I would have added that, too. I did not add garlic since the greens have their own allium appeal but if you do want to, I would consider sautéeing it first to cut down on its bite and enhance its natural sweetness.

Ingredients for garlic mustard green pesto by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I dumped it all into the Cuisinart and in less than a minute, I had a beautiful, bright green pesto with a mildly garlicky flavor and a definite bite. I would not use it exactly as I would use a traditional basil pesto because it lacks basil's sweetness. It needs to be paired with something more substantial than plain pasta but I used a generous amount of it to dress up some cheese tortellini and added some of my oven-roasted cherry tomatoes from the fall and it was delicious.

Garlic mustard green pesto by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

In general, I would consider adding some sort of roasted vegetable to the pasta when you use it - roasted butternut or delicata squash would be good as would broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant or tomatoes - anything that caramelizes nicely when roasted or has a good nutty flavor to it. And this pesto would make an excellent addition to a charcuterie plate, too.

Other ways to enjoy garlic mustard greens include:
  • Add the leaves to salads (again, now is a good time to do this unless you're into bitter greens);
  • Add the leaves to soups or stews - substitute them for the mustard greens in this recipe for curried chicken with kabocha squash and mustard greens;
  • Toss some of the chopped leaves into mashed potatoes;
  • Saute some garlic in olive oil and give the leaves a quick saute until wilted then add a splash of good balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper and consider adding a handful of currants and toasted pine nuts or almonds - substitute garlic mustard leaves for the spinach in this simple preparation if you want to follow a recipe;
  • Blanch the greens and use them as you would collards, kale, chard or mustard greens. I had some with brown rice, tofu and peanut sauce recently.

Garlic mustard greens with miso peanut sauce, fried tofu, brown rice and avocado by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

You might also like:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Eat Your Weeds: Strawberry Apple Japanese Knotweed Crisp

Strawberry Apple Japanese Knotweed Crisp a la mode by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I hope, for your sake, that you've never set eyes on Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica) because it is wildly invasive here in America - and most other places -and more or less impossible to get rid of. Knotweed grows extremely quickly - as much as three feet in just a few weeks - and can destroy building foundations, not to mention wreaking havoc on native ecosystems.

Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica) by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

It's considered noxious enough to land a coveted spot on the IUCN's list of the world's 100 most invasive species where it hobnobs with things like gypsy moths, kudzu, mosquitoes, rats (my personal favorites), and more.

Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica) by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

That said, it does have a few good points, as well, including:

1. Knotweed is an excellent source of resveratrol which some people believe has healing properties. Scientific proof is not abundant yet but it certainly can't hurt.

2. Knotweed's prolific white flowers provide plenty of nectar for honey bees and pollinators well into the fall, when other food sources are falling off.

3. Knotweed is edible as a tender young thang in early spring. The flavor is sour and a little earthy -- somewhat similar to rhubarb but definitely unique.

Which brings me to the reason for this post...

I've been hearing about eating knotweed for several years now but had never tried it. However, since two of our neighbors have massive (and fast-growing) knotweed patches, I figured I would give it a try. I think there's something rather primal about eating your enemies, don't you?

Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica) by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

It turns out that in this case, at least, revenge is sweet. This crisp was a hit with my family.

It's easy to harvest Japanese knotweed but you need to catch it quite early in the spring when the stalks are still tender and only a foot or two high at the most. A good rule of thumb is not to pick anything taller than your knee or wider than your thumb as the shoots turn woody very quickly. Also, you'll know it's too late if you need scissors or a knife, the stalks should snap off when you bend them - similar to snapping a stalk of fresh asparagus.

Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica) by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Japanese knotweed has trowel-shaped green leaves, some of which can be variegated  (meaning they have white dots or stripes on them), hollow stems that are jointed like bamboo with a papery bit at the joints, the stems start out quite red (as do the leaves) and become greener as they age but always have this reddish spotting on them. In late summer and fall the plants bloom with large sprays of small white flowers.

Rinsing the Japanese knotweed stalks in the sink by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2016

Once you get them home, rinse them in cold water to remove any dirt or insects.

Cleaned Japanese knotweed stalks by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2016

Then dry them off and cut off the leaves and any portions that seem too tough and chop the stalks into roughly one-inch pieces. I removed all the joints since they are tougher than the rest of the stalk. If you'd like, you can freeze some of the knotweed to use later - something I often do with rhubarb when it's in season.

1 cup chopped Japanese knotweed stalks by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2016

I mixed the knotweed with apple, strawberry, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar to make a very tasty crisp.

Tossing the strawberries, apples and knotweed with lemon juice and sugar by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

The topping was a mixture of oats, almond meal, brown sugar, butter and a little salt. My mom-in-law gave me the idea to start using almond meal as a topping - it's a great addition.

Mixing oats, almond meal, butter and sugar for the crumble topping by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

We ate ours with vanilla ice cream. So good! The knotweed goes really nicely with the other fruit and the lemon zest which picks up its natural tartness.

If you want to give this dessert a try, do it ASAP since the window when the knotweed is tender enough to eat is truly brief.

Strawberry Apple Japanese Knotweed Crisp by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

-- print recipe --
Strawberry Apple Japanese Knotweed Crisp
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

For the filling
* 1 cup chopped knotweed
* 1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
* 1 1/2 cups chopped apples
* 1/4 cup cane sugar
* Zest of 1 lemon
* Juice of 1 lemon
* 1/8 tsp sea salt
* 1/2 tsp vanilla
* 1 tsp corn starch

For the topping
* 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
* 1/4 tsp sea salt
* 2/3 cup cane sugar
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 1/8 tsp ground cloves
* 1 cup almond meal
* 1 cup oats

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and grease your baking dish - you can use a 9-inch pie dish or a 9 x 9-inch square dish. Make the filling: in a medium to large bowl, mix all the filling ingredients, stirring the cornstarch in last to mix with the juices. This will help keep the crisp from being runny.

2. Make the topping. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, stirring until everything is moist and mixed. Arrange the filling in a layer on the bottom of the baking dish and distribute the topping evenly over it.

3. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the fruit filling is bubbling and the topping is nicely browned. Let cool slightly and serve warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

You might also like:
Apple Crisp - Humble, Homey & Delicious
Ginger Rhubarb Johnnycake- A Seasonal Spring Dessert
Eat Your Weeds: Wood Sorrel, Potato & Egg Salad


Monday, May 9, 2016

Nutty Farro and Chickpeas Topped with Honey Roasted Carrots and Herb-Spiked Crème Fraîche

Honey-roasted carrots with herby creme fraiche over garlicky farro & chickpeas by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

This dish is so unexpected and tasty. Carrots roasted with honey and a sprinkle of sea salt, black pepper and dried cumin are served atop a jumbled bed of farro and chickpeas that have been tossed in a very simple garlic, olive oil and lemon juice dressing all of which is drizzled with a rich, tangy, cilantro and mint-spiked crème fraîche that ties all the flavors together and a sprinkle of salty, roasted pepitas.

Carrots drizzled with honey, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin powder by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

The recipe below is adapted from the original on Cookie + Kate, a lovely blog that is new to me. I have to thank my friend Kathleen for mentioning this dish while we were watching our sons' karate class last week.

Dried chickpeas cooked with garlic and bay leaf by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

I used dried garbanzo beans but you can use canned, too - no judgment here! If you do want to use dried beans, my recommendation is to make a much larger batch than you need and freeze whatever extra beans you have after draining them and letting them cool down. I like having a container or two of chickpeas in the freezer ready to toss into a curry - no soaking and no cooking necessary.

Farro by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Farro has a pleasantly chewy texture and a mild, nutty flavor. It's a member of the wheat family and although it does contain gluten, I believe it is often easier for people with sensitivities to tolerate than wheat (no promises, though!) There are several kinds available - whole, semi-pearled and pearled. The whole kind is the healthiest and takes a lot longer to cook than the other two options which contain less or none of the bran and, therefore, cook more quickly and are not quite as nutritious. I have never actually seen the whole kind for sale in a store - it's probably easier to find in a major metropolitan area although you can also buy it online, of course.

Mixing the farro and chickpeas with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and salt by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Once the farro is done, you mix it and the chickpeas together with some olive oil, a little garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and set it aside while you finish the rest of the dish. You can make this the day before if you like - it will taste even better for having more time for the flavors to develop.

Meanwhile, your carrots should be done about now - delightfully shriveled and browned and caramelized.

Carrots roasted with honey, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin powder by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Feel free to play around with the herbs for the crème fraîche - I liked the idea of cilantro and mint as a nice pairing for the cumin in the roasted carrots but you can use parsley or dill or basil, too. If you're new to crème fraîche - it is similar to sour cream, albeit with a higher fat content (30% vs 20%). You can definitely taste that extra 10% butterfat - it's got a creaminess that feels a little decadent.

Fresh mint and cilantro by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

Stir the herbs into the crème fraîche along with some salt and pepper and a little water to thin it to a "drizzle-able" consistency. The resulting sauce lends the whole dish a lovely, rich, tang that is brightened by the herbs.

Chopped cilantro and mint with sea salt, pepper and creme fraiche by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

This is one of those dishes that is a lot of fun to plate. Make a base of your grain and bean mixture then lay the carrots on top of it, drizzle with the crème fraîche sauce and sprinkle with pepitas or toasted pinenuts.

Honey-roasted carrots with herby creme fraiche over garlicky farro & chickpeas by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2016

-- print recipe --
Garlicky Farro & Chickpeas Topped with Honey Roasted Carrots & Herb-Spiked Crème Fraîche
Serves 6

Ingredients

For the beans and grains
* 1 cup dried farro, rinsed
* 1 1/2 cups or 1 can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (if you use canned, Eden Organics sells their beans in a BPA-free can)
* 1 tsp good olive oil
* 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
* 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
* ½ tsp sea salt

For the carrots
* 1 lb small carrots, scrubbed or peeled with the tops cut off
* 1 Tbsp good olive oil
* Drizzle of honey (buy local if you can)
* Sprinkle of ground cumin powder
* Sea salt
* Several grinds black pepper

For the crème fraîche
* 1/2 cup crème fraîche (try to find organic if you can)
* 1 Tbsp chopped, fresh cilantro
* 1 Tbsp chopped, fresh mint
* 2 tsps water to thin
* Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the pepitas
* 3 Tbsps pepitas (I used tamari roasted pepitas from the store but if they're not available, add the rest of the ingredients and toast in a pan)
* 1/2 tsp good olive oil
* Pinch each of ground cumin powder, sea salt and chili powder

Directions

1. Start by making the farro and chickpea mixture. Add the rinsed farro and three cups of water to a smallish pot and bring to a boil, then turn the flame down and simmer until the farro is tender but still chewy. This will take roughly 15 minutes if you're using the pearled kind of farro and 25-30 minutes or more if you're using whole farro - check the package on whatever kind you use for a more precise estimate. When it's done, drain the farro and return it to the pot along with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Stir well and then add the chickpeas and stir again to combine it all. Cover and set aside until you're ready to assemble the dish. You can make this a day ahead of time and store in the fridge if you like.

2. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Toss the carrots with the olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper on a large baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Drizzle with honey and roast for 20-25 minutes (time depends somewhat on how large the carrots you're using are), until tender with plenty of browning, then remove and let cool.

3. In a small bowl, combine the crème fraîche, chopped herbs, sea salt, pepper and water and stir to combine. Set aside until you're ready to plate. It's also fine to make this sauce up to a day ahead of time to give the flavors more time to meld.

4. If you're not using already roasted pepitas, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over a medium flame until it shimmers. Add the pepitas and spices and cook, stirring frequently until the pepitas begin to brown a bit and start to make little sizzling, popping noises. Remove from the pan to let them cool to prevent them from burning.

5. You can either plate this dish individually or assemble it on a large platter. Arrange the chickpea and farro mixture on the bottom and lay the carrots over it, drizzle with the herbed crème fraîche, sprinkle with the pepitas and serve.

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