A couple of weeks ago I told you all we are now sprouting our own seeds. The first batch was successful, and they are SO good. Just like getting fresh lettuce out of the garden and not the store, these sprouts definitely taste better.
Alfalfa is a crop native to Iran (it is also known as lucerne). Generally it is used as a “green manure” or a feed crop for cattle or other farm animals. Alfalfa made its way to Europe around 491 BCE, showing up in Greece after the Persians invaded there. In the second century BCE, they showed up in China. There alfafa was also typically used in these places also as livestock feed, but people would eat it in times of famine or shortage out of desperation. It was notably consumed for this reason durin Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
A perennial crop (meaning you can plant it and it will grow again the next year by reseeding itself), it grows well in either warm temperate, or cool subtropical settings. It has deep roots, and is able to grow even in very dry places. It is a member of the clover family that grows 3 leaves that have a serrated tip upon short stalks. Alfalfa flowers are blue or purple and small. It is a legume, which means it fixes nitrogen in the soil – a very important process that actually improves soil conditions (unlike corn which tends to leach nutrients without replacing anything at all). It is a fantastic crop to grow as part of responsible farming within a crop rotation cycle in between crops of less soil-friendly plants.
The sprouts are easy to make by soaking them overnight in a thin layer that is covered, then leaving them in a warm place to sprout. They must be drained twice a day, and will sprout within a few days! The sprouts are mild (unlike other more intense varieties, such as sprouted onion, broccoli, etc.). They have a nutty, mild flavor that is versatile in its uses on salads, sandwiches, or garnish. The mature alfalfa plant has a pungent, earthy flavor and its young leaves are eaten as a vegetable in China.
The sprouts are extremely nutritions, containing high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin K, and minerals introduced by the soil they are grown in. They have been used throughout the world in traditional medicine – both Chinese, Ayurvedic, and now modern alternative medicine as a solution to urinary tract infections, digestive ailments, ulcers, arthritis, and fluid retention. Important to note, though, is that all legume sprouts contain toxins, so eating them in moderation or cooking them is important to take into consideration.
I have been putting the sprouts on green leaf salads mainly, but I made this panzanella salad for my mom to take with her to work for her class to eat. We had this loaf of day old black bean salsa bread, some stale chips, and so I made a quick migas/panzanella dish.
Spicy Bean & Salsa Panzanella Migas Fusion
- 2-3 cups cubed bread, toasted until dried out
- 1 cup stale chips, crumbled up
- 1/2 cup onion, finely minced
- 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup store bought salsa, or diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- juice of a lemon or lime & zest
- salt & pepper
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- chili powder to taste
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 cup hard cheese (I used asiago because that’s what we had)
- 1-2 cups spinach or arugula
- Chop up your bread, and spread it out on a jelly roll pan. Place it in the oven and turn it on to 350. Check on it periodically and once it is dry, you can take it out.
- Drain your can of beans in a colander, and rinse.
- Heat up 1 tbsp olive oil in a saute pan, and begin to saute your onions and mushrooms until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste, and you can add in some of the spices mentioned in the list to flavor the vegetables if you like. Mix in the beans at this point.
- In a large bowl, mix the rest of the olive oil through cheese with a whisk, add in the bread, and toss. Add in the sauteed vegetables and continue to toss. If the mixture is dry, you can add more oil or citrus.
- Mix in the arugula, and place in a serving dish. Top with sprouts!
I have been meaning to update this since I got back, so I am going to begin with this:
I also had the pleasure of cooking with my cousin, Shelby. She and I have not spent much time together in general, let alone just the two of us. We went on a nice walk, and I showed her how to poach fish! We used this steelhead that my Grandpa’s friend, Jason, caught. It feels good to eat fish that someone got out of the water themselves, not from some distant ocean with so much bycatch, fossil fuels, and storage involved. It kind of sucks because I love to eat fish, and I want to eat more of it, but I always feel kind of …. fishy when I do. My cousin Cameron is a fisherman, though, so maybe he and I can spend some time in a boat catching blue gill. That would be pretty awesome.
We also made dessert – blueberry crisp!
The Diner was definitely still open, as well. Breakfast & coffee with my mom has been a special time for me over the years – we both always have breakfast, and so this part of the day is the bedrock for the rest. It makes me super happy.
I have cooked more for people [that I know] than I have in months, and it made me so happy.
Yesterday I walked to the cafe where I took all those photos I posted yesterday. My walk took me from the Arcadia neighborhood down through the bro student ghetto area, across the bridge over Howard, down the road with no sidewalk, across the train tracks, up a big hill, and down a scenic route [Oakland Drive]. There were a few people jogging by, and just as I was beginning to wonder about the sanity or lack thereof that seemed to be the reason for such sparing outdoor activity, I saw something which made me very happy: a girl on her bicycle wearing fuzzy plaid pants and a dayglow blue nightgown with bright yellow ducks in a grid covering it. She was practicing as her grandfather watched from a slight distance, and a charming golden retriever smelled the grass near a pine tree. It made me smile, remembering my own bike learning experience. I am super stubborn, so I remember deciding I was going to learn to ride without training wheels, and with single minded obsession, I practiced for a very short time – perhaps only 2 or 3 days, and then I could do it. Perhaps that is what cooking is like, or any process based challenge or learning experience: focus helps. So does a stubborn streak. But Perhaps even more than that, a singleminded drive and vision of some sort, is super helpful.
Today I had a nice lunch all by myself. I went to this restaurant Ezme in Dupont that I had heard serves delicious Turkish food. I have been wanting to try this cuisine to see how it differs from Lebanese fare. I had a very lovely waiter, and I read my fun art magazine while I ate. Sometimes a nice lunch brightens up the day just enough.
I screwed up and accidentally used the hipsamatic camera thing for some of the photos, but oh well. I got an arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette and feta cheese, a yogurt dill cucumber cold soup, scallops on an eggplant puree, and it came with this cute Turkish pillow bread. The scallops were PERFECT – I think the last time I ate them they were overcooked and rubbery. This place nailed them – crunchy, salty sear, and a buttery center… awesome. It felt good to sit at the cafe on my own, eating food that I was so nourishing. I might try to recreate the soup sometime soon because I really liked it. I think that the only thing I would have changed in its presentation would be to include some kind of crunchy topping to sprinkle on, or perhaps a roasted pepper aioli or even a carrot or pea puree to swirl in the middle. I think that would taste great and look really pretty. And definitely a little bit of cayenne for punch.
I am going home for a visit, so look forward to more exciting dinner posts from me in the near future. I got this fish cookbook at the neighbor’s moving sale (the girl who was there for the dinner I wrote about the 3 posts ago), and it teaches you how to properly choose, prepare, and use all sorts of fish. That is something I would like to learn. I remember watching this episode of some cooking show where three chefs are, of course, having a time sensitive showdown. They were supposed to use fish, beets, beet greens, and I think it was like coffee or something really weird in the dish. One of the participants was totally caught off guard because he was unable to debone the fish properly, and wasted more of the flesh than he should have, thus affecting the size of the portions the judges were eating. They also thought that it was simply cooked poorly. I think that learning more specific techniques with cooking fish and shellfish would be a nice thing to focus on this summer, since all the fresh produce and summer heat will give rise to many interesting possibilities for that. Should be fun.
Yesterday I finally cooked with Leran. We have fairly different schedules, and have managed to only go out to eat and then about cooking over huge bowls of Pho. Leran is a fellow DC food writer, consumer, and cook – this is his blog! It was hilarious both having our cameras out taking photos for our respective posts about this dish, which will then be cross linked to the other’s blog. Oh, internet.
Leran got an Arganica farm share box. This company is nice because, unlike a regular CSA share, you can pay for boxes a la carte. Then, instead of paying a lot up front, it is up to you to choose when you have the time or inclination to have a big box of vegetables. We started with the following items: yellow summer squash, radishes, carrots, bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, salad greens, tomato, spicy chiles, and garlic. I brought over Soy Boy smoked tofu, Hawaiian Black Lava Salt from The Spice House this goyza sauce I like using in stir fries, rice vinegar, and mirin. Leran picked up this thick soy sauce because we both really like the stuff they have at pho restaurants, and he wanted to try using it at home. It was strange, included molasses, tasted very sour – definitely not what we were expecting.
While Leran roasted the radishes, pine nuts for salad, and helped chop things up, I made a stir fry sauce.
Make Do Stirfry Sauce
- 2 tbsp weird thick soy sauce
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (add more if you want more salt)
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp orange juice 0r lemon
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp goyza sauce
- 2-4 cloves minced garlic
- ground black pepper
- salt to taste
Mix all this together and add in some while you are building up your stir fry, then dump the majority in at the end. The trick to getting that lovely take out glazed effect for your stir fry is to add some corn starch at the end – 1 or 2 tablespoons. Works like a charm.
Our stir fry contained all of the veggies from the list above, but you could use it with anything you have on hand. First we fried the smoked tofu to keep it crunchy once we cooked all the vegetables. Then we built the stir fry by adding in harder things first with longer cooking times, and then gradually going towards the soft things. Always add your aromatics last if you are using them – cilantro, basil, etc. I think it tasted pretty good, considering the thick soy sauce had such an unusual flavor.
Leran’s roasted radishes were so delicious – I would like to try that again next time I make a salad. I have been eating salad a lot lately, and I am growing bored by my usual concoctions. I had mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to make an interesting salad. I plan to do that this week, as I now recall finding this amazing sounding salad dressing concept which would work out well with the radishes. Leran’s family always has kept it simple when making salad dressing – tossing everything with oil and vinegar. Since his salad greens were so delicious and fresh, the light dressing was perfect! We both enjoyed the dish, and it was so nice to eat all this brightly colored food while sitting on the porch looking at flowers and getting sleepy in the afternoon on a warm day.
So there are times that call for naan bread pizza. A day last week was one of them. My dinner companion did not arrive until late, and I thought we might cook together, but he thought I was going to have everything ready when he got there… This was the (delicious) result:
Packages of store bought naan bread
Preheat oven to 425. Toast bread brushed with olive oil until top is SLIGHTLY browned.
Place rounds of fresh mozzarella, or any melting cheese you have, on top
I chopped up sundried tomatoes and tossed them on,
Broil until cheese has melted and browned a bit
Drizzle with some more oil, sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper.
For a breakfast pizza, top with a fried or poached egg 🙂
Whenever someone tells me they feel under the weather, I immediately tell them I would like to cook something for them that seems like it could help. Rob has a cold/cough that has been hanging on for weeks, has been stressed, etc. so I decided perhaps black bean soup would help. Nutritious beans, tons of garlic, hearty comfort food, potatoes, some cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and a lot of potential ways to incorporate it into a larger meal, or keep it simple as a light lunch or snack.
Simple Black Bean Soup
2 cans black beans, 1 drained/rinsed and the other not
1 28 oz. can tomatoes (diced or whole, whichever you prefer)
1-2 andouille style chicken sausage
1 small potato, small dice
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/2 large red onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
5 cloves of minced garlic
1 cup stock (or more if you like)
2 bay leaves
1-2 tbsp dried mexican oregano
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
a generous splash of worcestershire sauce
cayenne pepper to taste
salt and pepper to taste
lemon and or lime juice
1. Saute onions and diced potatoes
2. Add in garlic, cook with onions until fragrant.
3. Add in bell pepper, mushrooms
4. Pour in cans of beans, tomatoes, stock, and seasonings. Toss in chopped up chicken sausage, if you like. Let simmer for 30 min-1 hour.
Serve with crusty bread, over a potato, with quesadillas or nachos, topped with yogurt or sour cream, sharp cheddar, chopped cilantro and scallions…you know the drill.