Pesto Rice Bake

Have my fellow intern to thank for this scrumptious innovation, resulting from a fortunate oversight. (Turns out she’s not able to follow a recipe much better than I am.) We loved this dish so much we’ve made it twice since then: versatile, satisfying, quick and simple to pull together, especially if you have leftover rice on hand. We particularly loved it with broccoli, but no doubt other veggies would also work well in this. Sun-dried tomatoes and cheese were great additions that really made it sing. I was not quite as keen on summer squash, however, but we tend to have a tenuous relationship to begin with. A few nasturtium flowers on top add a colorful splash of cheer and pizazz!

Pesto Rice Bake
About 2-3 cups cooked brown rice
About 2 cups pesto (we often use tulsi and nasturtium leaves these days)
Broccoli, chopped into small chunks (and/or whatever desired seasonal veggies)
About 1 cup vegetable stock
Cheese of your choice — mozzarella, parmesan or romano, feta, etc. (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
A few nasturtium flowers, for garnish (optional)

Grease a deep baking pan, then mix pesto into the rice, fold in broccoli and/or other vegetables, mix in a little cheese if desired, drizzle with stock, and bake, covered at 350 for about 30 minutes, until broccoli is fork tender and the rice is heated through. Let bake for a couple minutes uncovered to help crisp it up a bit, if you’d like. Let cool a few minutes, then dig in!

Posted in Casseroles and Baked Dishes, Garden Originals, Gluten Free, Quick and easy, Vegan | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Lemon Pound Cake

Got to watch the total solar eclipse with my parents and Chrysalis Earth “family” — truly a once in a lifetime experience! Almost as wondrous as the eclipse itself was seeing my father all aglow, so excited to geek out with others who shared his immense knowledge and passion for astronomy, and enlighten the rest of us, who for once were eager to learn all we could about the topic.

I welcomed my parents with my best attempt at a special meal, quinoa & white bean risotto and roasted eggplant marinated overnight in balsamic vinegar. (Yum!) Since my father’s birthday was only a few days ago, it seemed the perfect excuse to also bake up a bright dessert for the occasion: lemon pound cake, which I remembered being one of his favorite.

Of course, I couldn’t quite bring myself to use a full pound of sugar — one of the reasons I can’t stand lemon desserts myself is their cloying sweetness. I drastically reduced the amount of sugar in the original recipe down to a mere 2/3 cup, and even so everyone found the cake still verged on overly sweet for their taste. I might try reducing it further, down to 1/2 or even 1/3 of a cup in the future, and not bother with the syrup. I also used watered down yogurt in place of the buttermilk. Otherwise, I stuck closely to a wonderful recipe from Once Upon A Chef, and was rewarded with a delightful treat that certainly earned a warm reception!

This might work with a gluten-free mix, though I have not yet attempted it.

Lemon Pound Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/3 to 2/3 cup sugar, to taste
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (yogurt-water works fine)
4-5 lemons

Mix together dry ingredients in a small bowl. Zest and juice lemons into a second small bowl (a mug also works, then mix in the milk. In larger bowl, cream together sugar and butter — a mixer makes short work of this, but it can also be done with a fork and determination if, like me, you don’t have one kicking around. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then alternate mixing in dry ingredients and milk mixture, a little at a time, until evenly incorporated. Preheat oven to 325°F, grease and flour a bundt pan, then pour in the batter and level the surface as much as possible. Bake for about 60-70 minutes, until a knife or toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan, then gently loosen and invert onto a plate (or cooling rack if you have one). Let cool completely, then slice and enjoy!

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Fermented Salsa

Well, it’s that time of the season when we suddenly have tomatoes coming out of our ears, and are constantly scheming ways to make our way through the growing pile of split and blemished tomatoes. So far we’ve made various tomato salads and platters (along with the classic caprese salad, I love mint and tomato together), cooked them into curries, simmered them with herbs and veggies to top pasta, baked them into quiche and fritatta, sliced them onto burgers and our morning eggs, and blended them into soup. They keep coming. For every two or three that we find a use for, at least that many more arrive at the doorstep. Since we don’t have a dehydrator, I think I will soon resort to freezing them to cook with or turn into sauce later in the season, when late blight finishes off the plants and we find ourselves hankering for tomato again. But first, I wanted to whip up a batch of fermented salsa.

We made a fermented tomato-peach salsa by the bucketful back at Chrysalis Earth last summer, and it was by far the most amazing salsa I’ve ever eaten. Unfortunately, the recipe they had never quite worked as written, requiring a few adjustments of the proportions before it fermented properly, and was at a completely different scale than I was looking for. Thankfully, I was able to find great guidance online from Zero Waste Chef.

I didn’t follow the recipe precisely, as usual. I only had one stray jalapeño and garlic clove, only one quart jar free, all our cilantro is about one inch tall at the moment, and I didn’t have a lemon or a scale to measure out the tomatoes. Nonetheless, I appreciated the insight into the process and a rough sense of proportions, and to have discovered what looks to be a great resource not only for whole-foods cooking, but also sustainable living. Will have to peruse it more soon, with a bowl of chips and salsa in hand!

UPDATE (8/31/17): Made a second batch… this time I was able to scrounge up four jalapeños and a bolted cilantro plant. (The rest are still no taller than they have been for months, we finally realized a rabbit keeps munching on them!) I also left out the onion initially, so that I could add it already cooked once the fermentation period is over — I noticed with the last batch that while the fermentation helped make the onion more digestible, especially the longer it sat in the fridge, it still did bother my digestion some. I used about 6 medium tomatoes, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt. Yielded a full quart plus almost a pint. Pint was already a bit over-fermented for my taste after about 36 hours, despite the cool weather — I imagine the greater surface area and air space, since the smaller jar wasn’t filled to the brim, made it ferment more quickly and get away from me. It was still great cooked into eggs and beans and greens. And the quart was at the perfect stage! Yum!

Fermented Salsa
(Makes a little over a quart)
3 large tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
2 bell peppers, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, seeds and veins removed,finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 large sprigs of oregano, leaves removed and finely minced
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked chili powder

Mix together in a bowl, then pour into a jar or another non-reactive container (glass, ceramic, or plastic) with a lid, leaving only a slight airspace at the top. Place in a tray or baking pan to catch any overflowing liquid and let sit out of direct sunlight for stirring and tasting it once or twice a day, until it reaches the flavor you like — usually this is within 2-4 days, though you can allow it to ferment for up to a week. Move it to the fridge and enjoy!

Posted in Fermentation, Gluten Free, Low Carb, Sauces, Condiments, and Dips, Vegan | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment