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Facts About Growing Okra and Recipes from our Latest Grow and Graze Event

 

Botanically speaking, okra is a member of the mallow family. Looking deeper into the Malvaceaes, we learn that it shares family ties with cotton, cocoa, balsa wood, hibiscus and durian fruit. Ancient cultivation of okra can be traced back to East Africa, West Africa, India and Southeast Asia. Its arrival in America is documented as one of Africa’s major crops that were brought to the United States on slave ships. Okra probably landed in the US through the ports of Charleston and New Orleans in the 1700s.

Varieties:

The USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) yields 1,099 accessions, most unnamed.

The National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources in New Delhi claims over 4,000 accessions. 

Okra comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes: fat and thin pods, long and short pods and all sorts of variations in between. Colors vary from Burgundy, Red River, Louisiana Green Velvet, Emerald, Silver Queen, White Velvet and Jing Orange to Hill Country Red.

Tips:

Okra prefers a pH of around 6.5 and performs well in soils that are rich with organic matter.  Full sun is required. For best results, soak seeds for a few hours up to overnight. Plant okra seed 3” to 4” apart, thinning to 12”. For summer crops sow seeds in April and May. For a fall harvest, plant in late July to early August.

After the first harvest, remove the lower leaves to help speed up production. 

When shopping for okra, look for small bright green or red pods with no browning or discoloration, especially at the tips. Okra should be firm to the touch with no signs of limpness. Plan to use within a day or two or it will lose its texture and may even turn moldy. 

Interesting facts:

Okra will produce large flowers about two months after planting. The okra pods will be ready to pick three-to-four days later.

India is the largest producer of okra in the world. 

Okra leaves are incredibly nutritious. However, they need to be cooked as you would spinach or collard greens. Young leaves can be fried.

Okra plants are stunning and can be grown for their landscaping aesthetics alone, especially the red-stemmed varieties. We are currently growing both red and green varieties in the edible landscape at Raincatcher’s for this purpose. It’s something we hope to continue in 2020.

Following the program, guests were treated to a corn and okra flavor-filled lunch menu. Enjoy the photos and recipes from this delicious experience hosted by the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. 

Our final ‘Grow and Graze’ event of 2019…Pumpkins on Parade and Sweet Potatoes for Adornment will be October 22nd.

Sign up will begin on September 24th. Ticket sales for our last event sold out in a few hours so mark your calendars now….

 

Warm Okra and Red Onion Salad with Pine Nuts

Ingredients

½ cup pine nuts

1 ½ tablespoons coconut oil (divided use)

½ red onion, thinly sliced

¾ pound okra, halved lengthwise

½ teaspoon kosher salt (divided use)

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped basil

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

Directions

Toast pine nuts: Heat oven to 400˚F. Place the pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, shaking every 2 minutes. Remove from the oven when golden. 

Place ½ tablespoon of coconut oil into a large cast iron or nonstick pan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the onions and set aside. 

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and increase temperature to medium-high. Once the pan is hot, add half of the okra and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Sauté for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove the okra and add to the onions. 

Add the second batch of okra to the pan (add a bit more coconut oil if the pan is dry). Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onions and okra back into the pan. Stir to combine. 

Add the Worcestershire and vinegar to the pan. Cook on medium-high until the liquid is reduced by half. 

Remove from the heat. Stir in the parsley, basil, mint and toasted pine nuts. Stir well to combine. Salt to taste and serve immediately. 

Yield: Makes 6 servings.

Fried Okra with Pickle Aioli

Ingredients

Pickle Aioli

½ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chopped dill pickles, plus 2 tablespoons pickle juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Okra

Vegetable oil, for frying

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

Kosher salt

1 pound okra, halved lengthwise

Directions

To make the pickle aioli: In a medium bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, pickles, pickle juice, dill and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

To make the okra: In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 inches of the oil to 350˚F over medium-high heat. Alternatively, heat the oil to 350˚F in a deep fryer following the manufacturer’s directions. Line a large plate with paper towels. 

While the oil is heating, whisk together the buttermilk and hot sauce in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, Old Bay and 1 tablespoon salt. 

Add the okra to the buttermilk mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to the flour mixture and toss to thoroughly coat. 

When the oil is hot, remove the okra from the flour mixture, shaking off any excess, and fry the okra in two batches until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the prepared plate and season lightly with salt. Repeat with the remaining okra. 

Serve hot with the pickle aioli.

Yield: Serves 4

Fresh Okra Muffins

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising cornmeal

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon hot sauce

2 cups thinly sliced fresh okra (about ½ pound)

¼ cup chopped onion

Directions

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; make a well in center of mixture.  Combine milk and next 4 ingredients; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.  Fold in okra and onion.

Grease muffin pans, and place in a 400˚F oven for 5 minutes.  Quickly spoon batter into prepared pans, filling two-thirds full; bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pans immediately.

Yield:  1 ½ dozen.

Linda Alexander

Facts About Growing Corn and Recipes From Our Latest Grow and Graze Event

Corn, the golden essence of summer and okra, a garden giant, were the two features at last week’s ‘Grow and Graze’ event. A panel discussion led by master gardener, Linda Alexander also included Dorothy Shockley, master gardener and vegetable specialist, along with Jeff Raska, Horticulture Program Assistant, Dallas County.

Starting with an historical look into the recorded beginnings of both crops, our panelists shared helpful suggestions and tips for growing them in our home gardens.

CORN
Some sources say that corn’s true origins date back 10,000 years ago to the pre-Columbian civilization. It is native to southern Mexico.

There are 5 main classes of corn:
Dent – called dent because of the small dent in top of the kernel. Used for livestock, the dinner table when harvested early enough, cornmeal and oil.
Flint – or Indian corn, this the colorful corn used for fall décor.
Flour – used for starches, flour, cornmeal and masa harina.
Popcorn – for popping, also can be colorful. Interestingly, any dried corn will “pop”.
Sweet – open pollinated and hybrid. The hybrid sweet corn is what we find in our markets today.

Tips:
Growing corn requires full sun, well prepped soil and varieties recommended for our area:
Kandy Korn, Silver Queen, How Sweet it Is, Merit, G90.

Plant corn seed 8” to a foot apart and always in a square or rectangle to help with pollination. Dorothy recommends putting two seeds in each hole and then thinning out the smaller one. Pollination should start in about two months.

Interesting facts:
Corn takes about 70 to 80 days to maturity. The tassel starts to emerge about 20 days before maturity. In that 20-day period, the most interesting part of the pollination takes place. The tassel, the male part of the plant appears. The tassel has anthers that will open up and spray the pollen. As this is happening, the silks, the female part of the plant emerges from the ear. The silks will be sticky on the ends, which allows the pollen to stick. The leaves will also be collecting some pollen. Along comes the wind blowing that pollen around your corn patch which connects with the silks. This is the main reason for planting corn in a square or rectangle
and not a single row.

Each one of those silks run down that ear, inside the shuck to a kernel. This pollinates the kernel and it starts to swell or fatten and develop.
Remember, when purchasing corn at the grocery or farmer’s market always buy corn with husks still in place. Look for ears that are full, filled out at the base and fresh silks that are not dried out. And, don’t forget to do the “peel back” test to check for freshness and plump, full
kernels. Ideally, fresh corn should be prepared either the same day or within two days.

Corn Trivia:
*Each corn stalk has two ears. Most ears have exactly 16 rows of kernels. Cut an ear of corn crosswise to see the formation. The number of lines may vary but, generally, every ear of corn
has 400 to 600 kernels.
*The average American eats 25 pounds of corn a year. This include everything from corn-on-the-cob, to cornbread, corn syrup, corn starch and, of course, tortillas.
Enjoy these delicious corn recipes from our picnic-style lunch and you might be well on your way to consuming the yearly average of 25 pounds per person.

Recipes

Santa Fe Corn Soup

Ingredients

3 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (8 to 12 ears), or frozen corn

1 cup chicken broth

¼ cup butter

2 cups milk (or 1 cup evaporated milk and 1 cup water)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons canned chiles, rinsed and diced

1 cup cubed cooked chicken

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

Garnish: Fresh oregano and fried tortilla triangles

Directions

Combine corn and chicken broth in blender or food processor and puree. 

In 3-quart saucepan combine butter and corn mixture and simmer slowly 5 minutes, stirring to keep corn from sticking to bottom of pan. Add milk, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and add chiles and chicken. Simmer 5 minutes. 

Remove soup from heat and add cheese and baking soda (to prevent curdling). Stir until melted. To serve, ladle soup into 6 bowls. Top with tomatoes and garnish with tortilla triangles and a sprig of fresh oregano. 

Yield: Serve 6

Fresh Corn Cakes with Heirloom Tomato Relish and Tarragon Crème Fraiche

Ingredients

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill 

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon 

¾ cup whole milk

1 large egg

2 cups fresh corn kernels

Salt and pepper, to taste

Vegetable oil (for frying)

Tarragon Crème Fraiche (recipe follows)

Heirloom Tomato Relish (recipe follows)

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, dill, parsley and tarragon. 

In a small bowl, whisk together milk and egg until smooth. Add milk mixture to cornmeal mixture, stirring just until combined. Stir in corn kernels. 

In a large skillet, pour oil to a depth of ¼ inch. Heat over medium heat. Drop cornmeal mixture by one-fourth cupfuls into hot oil, and cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Let drain on paper towels. Serve corn cakes topped with Tarragon Crème Fraiche and Heirloom Tomato Relish. Garnish with herbs, if desired. 

Yield: Makes approximately 18

Tarragon Crème Fraiche

Ingredients

1 (8-ounce) container crème fraiche

2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon 

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together crème fraiche, tarragon and mustard. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. 

Yield: Makes approximately 1 cup

Heirloom Tomato Relish

Ingredients

3 large multicolor heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes, olive oil, basil, lemon zest, salt and pepper just before serving. 

Yield: Makes approximately 2 cups

Corn and Jalapeno Jelly Muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1 egg

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn kernels, defrosted

¼ cup jalapeno pepper jelly

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 373˚F.  Generously butter 12 muffin cups; each 2 ½ inches in diameter.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and pepper flakes. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter and corn.  Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and stir lightly, using no more than 15 to 20 strokes, to combine. 

Fill each muffin cup about half full with batter; reserve ⅓ of the batter.  With the back of a teaspoon, make a small depression in the center of each muffin and drop in 

1 teaspoon of jalapeno jelly.  Divide the reserved batter over the tops to cover the jelly (do not spread the batter). 

Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes, or until light golden on top.  Let the muffins rest in the pan for about 2 minutes. Using a blunt knife, ease the muffins out onto a wire rack and let cool for about 20 minutes.  

Yield:  Makes 12 muffins

Esquites: Mexican Street Corn Salad

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels removed, (about 3 cups fresh corn kernels)

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 ounces feta or Cotija cheese, finely crumbled

½ cup finely sliced scallions, green parts only

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and stemmed, finely chopped

1 to 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced on a Microplane grater (about 1 to 2 teaspoons)

1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lime

Chili powder or hot chili flakes, to taste

Directions

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over high heat until shimmering. Add corn kernels, season to taste with salt, toss once or twice, and cook without moving until charred on one side, about 2 minutes. Toss corn, stir, and repeat until charred on second side, about 2 minutes longer. Continue tossing and charring until corn is well charred all over, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a large bowl. 

Add mayonnaise, cheese, scallions, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, and chili powder and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more chili powder to taste. Serve immediately. 

Yield: Serves 4

Chocolate Polenta Pudding Cake

Cake Ingredients

2 ½ cups whole milk

¾ cup coarsely ground cornmeal

½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Shredded zest of ½ large orange

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 large eggs, separated

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup heavy whipping cream

Topping Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon sugar

Powdered sugar for dusting

In a 2-quart saucepan bring the milk to a boil. Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal, ½ cup sugar and the salt in a medium metal bowl. Whisk in the hot milk until smooth.

Wash out the saucepan, fill it two thirds full of water, and bring it to a simmer. Cover the bowl with foil, set it over the water and cook 40 minutes; the polenta will be thick and stiff.  Stir three or four times as it cooks and add water to the pan if necessary. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter an 8-inch springform pan. Finely chop three quarters of the chocolate and cut the rest into generous 1-inch pieces. 

When the polenta is cooked, remove the bowl (or pan) from the water. Blend in the finely chopped chocolate, the orange zest, cinnamon, pepper, yolks, and vanilla. Place 1 cup of this mixture in another bowl and stir the cream into it. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy. Beat in the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, and then whip to soft peaks. Fold a quarter of the whites into the non-cream chocolate-polenta mixture to lighten it. Then fold in the rest, leaving a few white streaks. Fold in the chocolate chunks with one or two strokes. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Using a spoon, hollow out the center of the batter so the polenta-cream mixture will sit in a pocket. Add the cream mixture. Cover with the rest of the batter. Sift the cocoa over the top, the sprinkle with sugar. 

Bake 1 hour, or until a knife inserted at the edge of the pudding comes out with moist crumbs on it, but when put into the center, comes out with creamy streaks. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.

Release the sides of the pan and set the cake on a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.

Yield: 1 8” cake (8 servings)

Recipe adapted from “The Italian Country Table”

Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Blackberry Lemon Verbena Sauce

Ingredients

4 ears fresh corn, shucked

1 ½ cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

6 large egg yolks

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ cup sour cream 

2 sprigs lemon verbena or ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 ½ cups blackberries (about 6 ounces)

Directions

Using a large knife, slice the kernels off the corn cobs and place in a large saucepan. Break cobs in half and add to the pot along with milk, cream and ½ cup sugar. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring, then remove from heat. Let stand to infuse for 1 hour, the discard corn cobs. 

Using an immersion or regular blender, puree kernel mixture. Return mixture to a simmer, then turn off heat. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks, ⅛ teaspoon salt and another ¼ cup sugar. Add a cup of hot cream mixture to yolks, stirring constantly so they don’t curdle. Add yolk mixture to saucepan, stirring. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until custard thickens enough to coat the spoon, about 10 minutes. 

Pass custard through a fine sieve, pressing down hard on the solids. Discard solids. Whisk in sour cream until smooth. Let custard cool in an ice bath, then cover and chill for at least 4 hours.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine remaining 5 tablespoons sugar, lemon verbena sprigs (or zest) and ¼ cup water and bring to a simmer. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts and syrup thickens slightly, about 7 minutes. Add blackberries and cook for 5 to 7 minutes longer, until fruit just softens, but doesn’t fall apart. Let cool, then discard verbena. 

Freeze corn mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Serve with blackberries and syrup on top. Recipes makes 1 ½ pints.

Linda Alexander

More recipes to follow later this week.

 

Thai Basil Sorbet, a Cool Taste of Summer

Thai Basil Sorbet

When one mentions ‘basil’, immediately people think of Italian-type basil – the Genovese variety that is used for pesto and caprese salad.  Thai basil, if it’s thought about at all, is best known as a garnish in the popular Vietnamese soup pho.

But with its spicy licorice and lemon notes, this cousin of mint works well in desserts, too.  Any variety of Thai basil can be used – we have both Persian and Cardinal cultivars in the Edible Landscape and both worked equally well.

An ice cream maker does its magic by keeping the ice crystals small while they’re being created.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker or aren’t in the mood for sorbet, there are other ways you can enjoy this syrup.  You can make a granita or popsicle if you still want an icy treat, or simply take the syrup you’ve made and pour it over a white cake, brownies, or even the olive oil semolina cake from our Grow and Graze event – it’ll infuse the cake with a lovely extra layer of flavor!

Above: Cool and refreshing Thai Basil Sorbet

The recipe below makes about a pint of sorbet – feel free to multiply it and make more.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups water

1 cup sugar (192 g)

1 cup basil (leaves and/or blossoms) (about 55 g)

2 Tablespoons corn syrup*

2 Tablespoon lime juice

*The corn syrup is to keep the sorbet from becoming a popsicle without making the sorbet too sweet.  The alternative to the corn syrup would be a tablespoon of vodka (or rum).  If you’re not making sorbet, but the granite, popsicle, or syrup, you don’t need the corn syrup (or vodka or rum).

METHOD for SORBET:

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the corn syrup and lime juice.

Spin it in your ice cream maker using the manufacturer’s instructions, then put in the freezer to finish hardening off.

METHOD for GRANITA:

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the lime juice.  Don’t use the corn syrup.

Place the syrup in a shallow pan (metal is good, but something it would be okay to scratch with a fork, or use a plastic container) in the freezer for about a half hour.  Pull it out and with a fork, scrape the frozen portions into large flakes.  Return to the freezer and repeat 2-3 times or until the whole thing is a bunch of frozen flakes.  Cover, and store in freezer until ready to serve.  When you go to serve, use that fork again to make sure you’ve got flakes!

METHOD for POPSICLES:

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the lime juice.  Don’t use the corn syrup.

Pour into popsicle molds and freeze!  This is a pretty intense way to enjoy the basil flavor – I’d suggest adding some berries to the mold and have a berry basil popsicle.

METHOD for SYRUP (over cakes, brownies, etc.):

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the lime juice.  You don’t need the corn syrup for this use, but it won’t hurt your final product, either.

The Edible Landscape Team

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

Protecting Fig Trees and Grapes

July 20, 2019

To protect your fig trees from hungry birds, cover the tree canopy with bird netting.  The netting operation needs to be completed before the fruit begins to ripen. Timing is critical. Generally the birds leave unripened fruit alone but once the fig or grape shows color they are all in for their feast and little will be left for you.

This was our project last week at Raincatcher’s. We were lucky enough to have Captain in the US Army and Dallas County Master Gardener, Jon Maxwell, leading us.

Netting for the fig was from Lowes; netting for the grapes was purchased on line as it needed to be larger, 28′ x 28′ vs 14′ x 14′ from box stores.

Jon’s tips for bird netting application-have a lot of help and keep your fig tree pruned short.

Above you see Jim Miller, Jon Maxwell and one of our Dallas County Master Gardeners interns at work.

Annette Latham is a steady help with the net in the top picture.

The netting was large enough to basically hang to the ground, so heavy objects were placed at the bottom  to help hold it in place.  Mockingbirds, who love figs and grapes, have been quite furious!!

Written by Ann Lamb as explained by Jon Maxwell

Pictures by Starla Willis


Looking forward to fig harvest? Here’s few fig recipes from last year’s Grow and Graze event

Don’t forget Grilled Figs with Thyme Honey and Gorgonzola Toasts.

By the way, if you are interested in the Dallas County Master Gardener program, call our help desk at 214- 904 -3053 or go to our website here. Classes start in January when it’s cool!

 

Herbs of the Mediterranean Recipes

 

Iced Herb Gazpacho

This recipe first appeared in the Dallas County Master Gardener Association cookbook, ‘A Year on the Plate’ and on our blog in 2016. It remains our very favorite for recipe for gazpacho. The addition of 5 fresh herbs gathered from the garden give it an exciting boost of flavor.

 

 

 

Ingredients

6 large tomatoes, quartered (peel, if desired)

4 cloves fresh garlic, pressed

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

½ cucumber, peeled and chopped

2 scallions, chopped

1 sorrel leaf, deveined and coarsely chopped

2 sprigs fresh basil

3 sprigs salad burnet

3 sprigs cilantro

3 sprigs parsley

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Cucumber slices and fresh thyme sprigs for garnish

Directions

Roughly puree tomatoes, garlic, cucumber, red pepper flakes, vinegar and oil in the workbowl of a food processor.  Leave some texture to the ingredients.

Add the herbs and pulse just until chopped.  Do not “blend” or mixture will become too brown.

Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend.  Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.  Garnish with a cucumber slice and a fresh thyme sprig.

Every Herb Pesto

When selecting recipes for our cookbook, the testing committee concluded that this was the most delicious pesto they had ever tasted. A perfect combination of seven garden-fresh herbs elevates the flavor profile to superior status. (Chervil is the ‘tricky’ herb. Early to late fall, and then again in spring, is when you typically find it growing in our garden).

Ingredients:

½ cup Marcona almonds, toasted

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

½ cup fresh parsley leaves

¼ cup basil leaves

¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves

⅛ cup fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon fresh chervil leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Zest of lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

¾ cup canola oil

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Garlic-rubbed crostini, optional

Heirloom tomatoes, chopped, optional

Directions:

  1. Blend the almonds and garlic in a food processor until fine. Add the spinach, cheese, herbs, lemon zest and lemon juice to the food processor.  Blend the herbs just enough so they are mixed, about 3 seconds.
  2. Add the canola oil and olive oil while the food processor is on a low setting. Season with salt and pepper. Blend to desired consistency.
  3. Transfer the pesto to a serving bowl. Place the chopped tomatoes on top of the crostini if using and top with pesto.

Yield: 2 cups

Note:  Any leftover pesto should be placed in a bowl and covered with plastic wrap.  Press the plastic wrap right on top of the pesto and refrigerate.

Above: Swiss Chard and Black Olive Tart

Black Olive and Swiss Chard Tart

In her beloved cookbook, ‘Pedaling Through Provence’, Sarah Leah Chase takes you on a technicolor journey through the sun-blessed cuisine of the Mediterranean. She calls this savory version of the tart, “love at first and last bite”.

 

Pastry Ingredients

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ½ tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

Pinch of sea or coarse salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 teaspoons imported Dijon mustard

2 to 3 tablespoons ice water

Filling Ingredients

1 large bunch Swiss chard (about 1 pound), washed, stems and thick center ribs removed, leaves patted dry

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon dried thyme

Pinch of grated nutmeg

½ cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese

2 large eggs

½ cup light cream or half-and-half

Sea or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 cups pitted Nyons or Kalamata olives

2 tablespoons pine nuts

Directions

Make the pastry: Place the flour, rosemary, salt, and butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the mustard and enough ice water so that the dough begins to form a ball as the machine is pulsed on and off. Gather the dough into a flat disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Cut the Swiss chard leaves into ½-inch-wide strips. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, 7 to 10 minutes.  Add the chard, garlic, thyme, and nutmeg. Cook until the chard leaves have wilted and any water given off has evaporated, 5 to7 minutes. Remove from the heat and gently mix in the cheese.

Beat the eggs and cream together in a mixing bowl and then fold in the chard mixture, blending well. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled pastry dough to form a 12- to 13-inch circle. Transfer to an 11-inch tart pan and trim and crimp the edges decoratively. Spread the chard filling evenly in the tart shell. Arrange the olives in concentric circles over the top, pressing lightly into the filling. Sprinkle the pine nuts in between the olives.

Bake the tart until the crust is golden and the filling is set, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8 as a luncheon or 12 to 14 as an appetizer.

Green Herbs and Butterhead Lettuce Salad

This recipe and the  from award-winning cookbook author, Georgeanne Brennan, inspired us to get busy growing, harvesting and using herbs daily. While one delicate herb, sweet cicely, succumbed to our summer heat, plans are to include it in our fall garden. Stay posted for updates.

Ingredients

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped shallot

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 head butterhead lettuce, leaves separated

1 cup fresh chervil sprigs

½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

¼ cup small, tender fresh sorrel leaves

Directions

In the bottom of a salad bowl, combine the olive oil and shallot and stir together. Whisk in the lemon juice or vinegar. Taste for balance. Add the salt and pepper and taste again, adjusting as desired.

Tear the lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces, and put them into the bowl along with the chervil, parsley and sorrel. When ready to serve, toss well.

Yield: Serves 3 or 4

Herb-Seasoned Croutons

Ingredients

8 slices day-old coarse country bread, each about 1 inch thick

¼ cup extra-virgin oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or sweet marjoram

Directions

Without removing the crusts, cut the bread slices into 1-inch cubes. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the bread cubes, reduce the heat to low and cook slowly, turning once, until golden and crusty, 4 to 5 minutes on each side.

Sprinkle the cubes with the salt, thyme, rosemary and oregano or marjoram. Turn a few times in the pan to coat evenly. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the croutons to paper towels to drain and cool. To store, put in a paper bag, fold the top over several times and keep for up to 1 week.

Yield: Makes About 32 Croutons, About 4 Cups

 

Raincatcher’s Garden Summer Ratatouille

There are countless recipes for Ratatouille. However, this simple and colorful version ‘wowed’ guests at our ‘Herbs of the Mediterranean’ Grow and Graze event. Don’t let summer pass without making this one!

Ingredients

3-4 baby eggplants

3-4 medium tomatoes

1 yellow zucchini squash

1 green zucchini squash

1 yellow straight-neck squash

2-3 shallots

Olive oil, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Endless Summer Tomato Sauce

Several sprigs of fresh oregano

Directions

Pour 1 cup of tomato sauce into the bottom of an 8- to 9-inch baking dish.

Using a mandolin, slice first six ingredients thinly and evenly approximately ¼” thick. Make mini stacks using one of each sliced vegetable. Arrange a few stacks at a time into the prepared baking dish forming concentric spirals from the outer edge to the center. Fan out slightly allowing top part of vegetables to be seen. Use any leftover slices to fill the center.

Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and season with fresh pepper. Bake at 350˚F until vegetables are just soft to the touch but not overcooked. Check at 20 minutes.

Options: Fill center with goat cheese just as dish comes out of the oven. Spoon sauce over the top and serve with a crusty slice of bread.

Olive Oil Cake

You seldom here about this intensely moist and flavorful cake served during the dessert course. We hope to change you mind.  Restaurant owners, Jennifer and David Uygur  shared their recipe in the Dallas Morning News. Each slice was topped with a generous dollop of lavender-infused whipped cream and a sprinkling of fresh, locally grown blueberries.

Ingredients

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

3 large eggs

1 ½ cups sugar

1 cup fruity olive oil

1 ½ cups whole milk

3 tablespoons microplaned mixed citrus zest (lemon, orange, grapefruit)

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Heat oven to 360˚F (this is correct) if using a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan.

Heat oven to 350˚F if using a 10-inch cake pan with removable bottom.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powered and salt together into a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar, then add the oil and mix until homogeneous.

Add the milk, zest and thyme. Gently mix in the flour and pour into a greased and floured 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan. (If using a 10-inch cake pan with removable bottom, grease, line with a parchment circle, then grease again and flour).

Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean (baking times vary depending on oven and pans, so keep an early eye on it). Place on a rack to cool. After 10 minutes turn cake out of the pan onto rack and let cool completely. Slice and serve on a plate. Garnish with your choice of toppings; whipped cream, whipped crème fraiche, fresh berries, sliced peaches or apricots.

Yield: Makes 12 servings.

Linda Alexander

 

 

 

Grow and Graze, Herbs of the Mediterranean

Herbs of the Mediterranean can and should be grown in Dallas, Texas. Embrace our hot and usually dry climate to grow the herbs of France, Greece, Italy and Spain.  Herbs like rosemary, lavender, thyme, and oregano thrive in Dallas gardens. Ounce for ounce, many herbs used to flavor foods have more antioxidant power than berries, fruits, and vegetables according to a recent agricultural study.  The herbs with the highest antioxidant activity are in the oregano family.

Last week Dallas County Master Gardener, Marian Buchanan, came to teach us about these herbs and afterwards guests enjoyed  an herb inspired lunch.

 

Above: Our centerpiece of fennel, sage, rosemary, lavender, sorrel, and tarragon

Some of our guests were kind enough to tell us what they thought about the day:

“I’m not a gardener at all and was afraid the presentation would be clinical or over my head. It was so much fun. There was something for everyone, details that a professional would enjoy as well as useful, interesting information for anyone. Then, the food. It was filling and flavorful and so much more interesting after having learned a bit about each of the herbs and herb combinations. I hope to come again.”Chris Bradshaw

“Thoroughly enjoyed & highly recommend Raincatcher’s gardeners’ events. Learned so much about the planting & care of herbs, many of which were on the menu of our delicious lunch. And Beverly was the best hostess when afterwards she took a small group of us on a tour of their amazing, beautiful & peaceful gardens.” A Fan

 

I appreciated the useful information about each herb (varieties, preservation, use in cooking) and helpful growing tips. The volunteers at Raincatcher’s did a stellar job organizing a delightful lecture and lunch.” Kateri Allen


Thank you to everyone who worked so hard clipping and snipping and tying bundles of herbs and cooking, decorating, teaching and organizing.

Above: Dallas County Master Gardeners smiling and ready to serve at the  ‘Grow and Graze’ event

In the next few days, we will share recipes and pictures. Here’s the list of herbs featured.

Linda Alexander and Ann Lamb

Picture by Starla Willis

 

Herbs of the Mediterranean, A Grow and Graze Event

Herbs of the Mediterranean

Herbs activate our senses. Join us for a culinary trip to the Mediterranean where we’ll explore some of the world’s best tasting food. Be inspired by this delightfully aromatic way of using fresh and dried herbs in your cooking.

Tuesday, June 25th

A “Grow and Graze” Event Hosted by

 The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

Time:  10:00 – 11:00

Location:  11001 Midway Road Church Sanctuary

Instructor: Marian Buchanan, Dallas County Master Gardener, Herb Specialist

(Master Gardeners earn two CEU’s)

Immediately following the program, please join us at our Mediterranean Table

Lunch: 11:15 – 12:30

$15 per person, Reserved seating for 60 available starting May 20th. Deadline June 18th

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/herbs-of-the-mediterranean-tickets-60462949309

Menu

Iced Herb Gazpacho and Toasted Baguette Slices spread with Every Herb Pesto

Black Olive & Swiss Chard Tart

Green Herbs & Butterhead Lettuce Salad with Herb-Seasoned Croutons

Salad of New Potatoes with Sweet Cicely, Lovage and Green Peppercorns

Mediterranean Summer Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille

Honey-Lemon Olive Oil Cake with Whipped Crème Fraiche and Fresh Berries

Lavender Honey Ice Cream

All members of the public invited for the free lecture. To make a reservation for the lunch use the eventbrite link above.

Linda Alexander

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