Archive for December, 2011

Zucchini flowers were in great abundance in my garden this year. During the month of August, I picked flowers almost every morning. Because the plant was zucchino rampicante (yields very big zucchinis) the flowers were much bigger than the ones from regular zucchinis.   The male flowers are picked and cut with a long stem for easy handling.

The flowers are usually fried. Each region of Italy has its own preparation. The south tends to fry them as-is, while Tuscany typically stuffs and then fries.

The stuffing varies. Fillings may include fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf, ricotta and herbs, or perhaps an anchovy or slice of prosciutto. There are differences in the batter as well. Some use an egg and others find egg makes the batter too heavy for the delicate petals.

Experiment. Try different things. Because no matter which batter you use, which stuffing you choose or which way you fry them – you’ll be surprised how deliciously light and addictive they are!

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This is a quick and easy way to deep fry the flowers with no stuffing.

20 zucchini flowers

2 eggs

1/2 cup of herb mixture finely chopped

(I used parsley, basil, garlic, but you can add any herb you like)

salt

flour

breadcrumbs

extra virgin olive oil for frying

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With a dry dishtowel, gently brush off any dirt on the flower. Do not rinse with water. Check inside for any insects and shake them out.
 
Whisk the eggs in a bowl with ½ teaspoon of salt and half of the herb mixture.
 
Mix the flour and breadcrumbs together in a plate, in a ratio of 1 part of flour to 2 parts of crumbs and the rest of the herb mixture.

Dip the zucchini flowers in the egg wash and then in the crumb mixture.

Fry blossoms in a saucepan, 2 or 3 at a time, in 1 inch of hot (375°F) oil.
Place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

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zucchino rampicante

This year the star in our vegetable garden was the zucchino rampicante.

My friend, Lucy, gave me three innocent looking plants at the beginning of the summer. I planted them along the side of the garden close to the fence. In a couple of weeks the plants were big enough to run them along the fence. Because of the beautiful sunny days the plants just kept growing and growing and soon covered the fence and continued it’s path to my neighbors side.

In the end I harvested more than 20 huge zucchinis and hundreds of zucchini flowers. The fruit is quite firm to the touch and surprisingly did not take a long time to cook.  I gave to my neighbor, friends and family . We ate this fruit grilled, fried, sliced thin to make zuchini parmigiana, cut in cubes and added to roasted veggies, pureed for soups….endless ways to cook this amazing fruit.

A Rave Review for Zucchino Rampicante Squash

Here’s a “zucchini” for those that hate the taste of traditional zucchini.

I have to admit that traditional green zucchini is not my favorite vegetable;  it’s not that I won’t eat zucchini when it’s presented to me on a plate, but given the choice, I go for other fare.  For this reason, we generally forgo planting traditional zucchini in favor of a hybrid patty pan variety called Sunburst. (available from Burpee Seed Company)

However, this year, I decided to try a new type of summer squash called Zucchino Rampicante.  It’s a crookneck variety so it is visually very interesting —  a very long, slender neck with a bulbous end.

I planted Zucchino Rampicante in late April, and we harvested our first batch this last weekend.  After tasting this variety, I have to say it is now high on my “recommended” list.  Despite its name, this squash does not taste like “zucchini.”  To my palate, the flavor is much closer to acorn or butternut squash.

When harvested, the fruit is quite firm to the touch and I was convinced it would take a long time to cook.  But we decided to try grilling it on the barbecue and the squash was cooked perfectly after just 10 minutes.

Zucchino Rampicante has a few other characteristics that are worth mentioning:

  • Like other summer squash, it’s easy to grow and very prolific.
  • Unlike other summer squash, it’s both a summer and a winter variety.  That’s right — You can harvest the squash in about 65 days and eat it like a summer variety, or let it mature for another 35 days and harvest it as a winter variety.    As a winter vegetable, the color changes from a variegated green to an orange brown that is similar to the color of a butternut squash.  So far, I’ve only tasted it as a summer veggie, but I anticipate enjoying it as a winter crop based on this first test.  Even if I decide other winter varieties are better, zucchino rampicante will stay on my grow list because it produces a winter squash flavor in a summer variety.
  • Zucchino Rampicante is almost seedless (at least as a summer veggie), with no seeds in the neck, and only delicate seeds in the body which do not require removal prior to eating.
  • Finally, it’s an open pollinated variety, so you can save the seeds if that floats your boat

Zucchino Rampicante Part II

Earlier this year, I posted a rave review about a summer squash variety called Zucchino Rampicante.  I also noted that this squash could be grown as either a summer or a winter variety.  Well here’s the update on how this squash performs as a winter veggie.

I planted Zucchino Rampicante in late April, and harvested the first batch at the end of June.  At that time, I reviewed this variety and placed it high on my “recommended” list.  I liked its flavor — closer to acorn squash than zucchini — and I loved its beautiful “crookneck” shape.

After trying this variety as a winter squash, I have to say my enthusiasm is undiminished.  It is mildly sweet and as good as many other winter squash varieties I’ve tasted.  If you only have room in your garden for one squash variety, this is the one to pick for the following reasons:

  • Abundant harvests — like zucchini, the squash just kept coming throughout the summer and into the fall.
  • Unique flavor — as noted, more like acorn squash when eaten as a summer vegetable with the flavor intensifying as a winter variety.  It’s mildly sweet as both a summer and winter variety.
  • Dual purpose — You can harvest this squash in about 65 days, or let it mature for another 35 days and harvest it as a winter variety.  As a summer vegetable, it is light green.  As a winter vegetable it takes on a light orange-brown color that is similar to butternut squash.
  • Almost seedless — this variety has relatively few seeds that are located in the body of the squash (none in the neck).  The seeds are easy to remove when eating Zucchino Rampicante as a winter squash and do not need to be removed at all when consumed as a summer squash.
  • Open pollinated — if you like to save seeds.

I love this squash and will be growing it again next season.  If you like summer and winter squash, I encourage you to give this one a try.  You can buy seeds at Baker Creek or other seed merchants.

Zucchnio Rampicante (Summer)

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ciabotti

There are as many names for this fritter  as there are recipes.

In Molise the fritter is known as “screppelle,” and in dialect as “scr’pell'” and/or “scr’pell’ natalizie” —  other spellings include: “scrapelle,” “scrapelli,” “scrappelles,” “scrippelles,” and “screppelli.” In Agnone, a town in Molise, they call them “ciabotti”.

The dough is shaped into countless different styles. Long strings, short, a ring like a donut,  or some just grab chunks of dough and fry them, resulting in different shapes. My mother-in-law, Adelina, is such an amazing cook and baker, she makes this beautiful twist (above).  Each time she makes them she adds a little something extra or changes the flavour from orange to lemon or by adding a little cinnamon, nutmeg or punch. Whatever she does, it works perfectly.

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ingredients

1 kilo of flour

5 teaspoons of yeast

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

grated rind of half a lemon (or orange)

2.5 – 3 cups of lukewarm water

vegetable oil for frying

for dusting:  table sugar or icing sugar (optional)

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Mix the ingredients and work into a fine dough (Should be softer than a bread or pizza dough).

Let the dough rest until it starts to rise (about to two to three hours).

Cut the dough into pieces and stretch it out about 20 cm long and 1 1/cm wide (The pieces do not need to be uniform in size). Unless you want perfect twists like the ones in the photo.

Fry the stretched dough in hot oil until golden brown. Best served freshly made.

Offer a bowl of table sugar so those who like their fritters sweet can sprinkle a touch of sugar on them.

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fiddleheads stir fry

Fiddleheads are one of the world’s coolest greens. These unfurled fronds of the ostrich fern are known as fiddleheads because they resemble the finely crafted head of a violin. Depending on the weather, they begin to appear around late April to early May along river and stream banks, in open woodlands and at the edges of swamps and marshes across New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. They are harvested when just a few inches off of the ground so they are still tender and tightly coiled.

Loaded with healthful properties (such as iron and potassium. omega 3 and 6), fiddleheads are easy to cook and, like asparagus, have a delicate green flavour that is best accentuated by simple cooking.

Cooking fiddleheads

Fiddlehead preparation is easy. With a brush, carefully remove brown scales then wash well under cold running water to remove dirt before cooking; trim woody stems. Boil fiddleheads in lightly salted boiling water for 10 minutes (or steam for 20 minutes.) Serve at once with a drizzle of olive oil or melted butter and a squeeze of lemon.

Cooked fiddleheads can also be used like blanched or steamed asparagus in pasta, quiches or omelettes. They also make lovely salads when tossed with diced tomatoes and lemon-garlic vinaigrette.

After a quick blanching I tossed them into a stir fry, yummy!

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ingredients

2 tbsps olive oil

2 shallots chopped

2 cloves garlic chopped

1 red pepper cut in strips

1 yellow pepper cut in strips

a few cherry tomatoes cut in half

handful of parsley, basil and celery leaves chopped

3 cups of fiddleheads

salt and pepper to taste

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wash fiddleheads and blanch them –  put aside

caramelize shallots, stir in garlic, peppers, cherry tomatoes.

add fiddleheads

stir until tender

add herbs, salt and pepper

stir until well blended

serve as side dish or over rice, pasta etc…..

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hemp seeds

All about hemp seeds (wikipedia)

Hemp is the natural, durable soft fiber from the stalk of Cannabis sativa plants that grow upwards of 20 feet tall. Cannabis plants used for hemp production are not valued for recreational uses, as the plants that are cultivated for hemp produce minimal levels of the psychoactive compound THC. Cannabis plants intended for any drug cultivation is not so easy to hide in a hemp field either, as the size and height of each are significantly different.

Hemp producers sell hemp seeds as a health food, as they are rich in heart-healthy, essential fatty acids, amino acids (both essential and nonessential),vitamins and minerals. Hemp “milk” is a milk substitute also made from hemp seeds that is both dairy- and gluten-free.

Hemp is fairly easy to grow and matures very fast compared to many crops; the growth is however in no way exceptional. Compared to cotton for clothing, hemp cloth is known to be of superior strength and longer-lasting. The fibers may also be used to form cordage for industrial-strength ropes. Hemp plants also require little pesticides and herbicides because of their height, density and foliage. This also makes the hemp plant environmentally very friendly (with the exception of the chemical fertilizers used in industrial agriculture). The world leading producer of hemp is China.

Hemp can be utilized for 25,000 very durable textile products, ranging from paper and clothing to biofuels (from the oils found in the seeds), medicines andconstruction material. Hemp has been used by many civilizations, from China to Europe (and later North America) for the last 12,000 years of history. In modern time with modest commercial success.

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Article from Hempseed.ca

Have you ever wondered about hemp seed? Perhaps you are looking for a source of protein that is better than meat. Maybe you are a vegan and need an excellent source of protein? Perhaps you have heard of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) and are looking for a web site with more information about EFAs and hemp. Well Hemp Seed .ca is the perfect place for you to find all this information and more.

It is not widely known that Hemp seed is the highest in essential fatty acids of any plant. Hemp seed contains all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids needed to maintain healthy human life, which makes it a perfect substitute for meat or as a protein supplement for anyone in their diet. No other single source provides such a complete protein in a form that is so easily digested and absorbed by the body. No other plant contains the essential oils necessary for perfect health in a ratio exactly suited to the bodies needs.

There is no other plant like hemp; there is nothing that competes against hemp. The hemp plant and hemp seed are perfectly suited to do what nature intended them to do, provide us with a sustainable source of protein food, fibre for clothing and paper, hurd for plastics and oils for nutrition and paints. If we were to wake up and realize that we could end our dependence on petrochemicals and still have the same lifestyles with the same vehicles and conveniences yet be cleaning the planet and providing a sustainable future for our children just by growing one plant, Cannibis Sativa, why would we not? Well, the answer to that is part of the biggest industrial conspiracy in modern history. Hemp is too perfect, hemp seeds are too much of a viable alternative to the petrochemical age we live in. So much so that the only way the people in power for the last 80 years could control it was to first demonize the plant, then when people had forgotten how amazing it was and how many things used to be made from it, then they made it illegal.

Since 1990 when we were first introduced to hemp and hempseed we have been on a crusade to educate as many people as possible about the reality of hemp and hemp seeds since the misinformation put out by the US seems to be so effective in deterring people from finding out the truth on their own. We have had a whole range of reactions to hemp seed. There was the old Eastern European man who approached our table at an outdoor event with tears in his eyes because it had been so many years since he had seen hemp seeds. He told us that the seed from the hemp plant was such a common thing to him when he was a child, his Mother used to make the hempseed into a gruel for him and seeing the hemp seed on our table brought back fond memories of his Mother’s kitchen. There was the Mother who dragged her Daughter away before she could sample the hemp seed exclaiming “Honey, don’t eat hemp seed, you’re pregnant!”, HOW FOOLISH, it would have been excellent for both her and her unborn baby! There was the man who approached the table looking like he was going to become quite violent exclaiming “you’re feeding my children DRUGS!”. Of course, he was totally wrong, there is no drug content in hemp seed. Just as there is no drug content in poppy seeds, even though they come from the plant that produces opium. It’s just that poppies cannot make 75000 different products that compete with just about every industry that makes money for the rich people currently in power.

So you see, hemp seed and the Cannabis Sativa plant are the unfortunate recipients of a bad rap simply because they are just too good! What other plant could boost your immune system decreasing your need for doctors and pharmaceuticals; provide you with your daily requirement of protein, making meat obsolete; allow you to make clothing using minimal pesticides, unlike cotton which has half of the world’s pesticides sprayed on it; providing you with a renewable fuel for your more efficient diesel engine as the engine was initially intended to run on vegetable fuel; providing you with a non-toxic biodegradable source for the manufacture of plastics; allowing you to make the highest quality paints without the toxic smells and by-products; and if all that weren’t enough, providing you with everything you might need to live a very long healthy life while returning the planet to a garden rather than a toxic waste dump.

The answer to all the world’s problems is the hemp plant and the answer to the shortage of food and protein is the hemp seed. Hempseed is the solution. Will you make the change in your life and add this wonder food to your diet? We sure hope so. Not convinced yet? Please read on, use the menu to the left to find out more about hemp and the amazing wonderful hemp seed!

Hempseeds R Us 🙂

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time for pesto


When the basil and parsley are this big in the garden, it’s definitely time to make pesto.

Everyone in my family makes enough pesto to last the winter. This year, because the kids are all on their own, they decided to join the pesto making ritual. So of course we made a few batches of different kinds.

Basil pesto, parsley pesto, basil and parsley pesto, etc…..

Here is a very basic and simple recipe.

Since pesto is always made to taste based on the ingredients at hand,  adjust the ingredients to your taste. Most pesto recipes call for Parmesan cheese, we sometimes use Romano which has a stronger flavor.

If you want to freeze the pesto you make, omit the cheese (it doesn’t freeze well). Line an ice cube tray with plastic wrap, and fill each pocket with the pesto. Freeze and then remove from the ice tray and store in a freezer bag. When you want to use, defrost and add in grated Parmesan or Romano.

If you can get a hold of individual small plastic containers, fill a bunch of them and freeze.

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Basil and Parsley Pesto

ingredients

3 cups basil leaves, loosely packed

1 cup parsley leaves, loosely packed

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp chopped fresh garlic (4 – 6 cloves)

1 cup toasted pine nuts (walnuts or hemp seeds)

optional 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2 or 3 lemons)

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper or to taste

1 tsp salt or to taste

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Add oil, lemon, garlic, salt, pepper to the blender

Blend until smooth

Keep the blender running on low, add the parsley and basil a handful at a time, blending coarsely

Add pine nuts 1/4 cup at a time, and blend. Add more olive oil & lemon if it gets too thick to blend well. Taste and blend in more salt and pepper if you like.

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Helpful Pesto Hints

Fresh herbs, especially basil, don’t keep well – the least time between picking and pestoing, the better

Pine nuts can be expensive, but much cheaper walnuts or hemp work well in pesto. 

To freeze pesto, coat with a little oil to preserve the color, or freeze in a vacuum sealed freezer bag.

When you add pesto to hot pasta, oil the pasta first, or thin the pesto with some of the cooking water.

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A little more information on HEMP SEEDS.

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quick veggie stir fry

quick vegetable stir fry

Stir fries are fun to make especially when you have lots of colorful veggies in the garden.

During the month of July and August, a walk through the garden picking a few leaves of swiss chard, cherry tomatoes, some celery leaves, a bunch of parsley, a handful of  different basil leaves will magically turn into this colorful dish that can be mixed into almost anything. Rice, noodles, any pasta, quinoa, bulgar, lentils, couscous, you get the idea.

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ingredients

2 tbsp of olive oil

one big onion

minced garlic

a few leaves of swiss chard (if you don’t have, use spinach, kale or bok choy)

bunch of parsley

handful of basil leaves

a few celery leaves

different colored cherry tomatoes cut in half

salt and pepper to taste

chop everything the size you like

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Heat oil in a wok or large skillet, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the swiss chard and cherry tomatoes and stir until wilted

Remove from heat

Add all the herbs, salt and pepper and stir until well blended.

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