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Edamame are green soy beans, and most Australians anyway only ever encounter them in a sushi bar. They’re easy to grow in a garden though, and to me, they work so well as a snack food because they have a distinct nuttiness to them. They remind me more of boiled peanuts than anything else.

Which raises all sorts of ideas about fusion-ing them into dishes from distinctly non-Japanese cuisines. This is one of the ways I like them. It’s kindof like sprinkling toasted nuts through a salad. It makes it into a satisfying meal rather than a side dish. It’s almost like your body recognises that there’s the full range of macro nutrients in there.

So edamame which is a Japanese idea, in fattoush which is an Arabic one. The joys of living in a multicultural society!

The Recipe:

Boil the edamame, in their shells, in heavily salted water for five minutes or so until they are tender, then shell them.  (They shell really easily once cooked).

While the edamame are cooking, toast some pita chips.  I use my sourdough pita, cut it into little triangles, sprinkle with olive oil, and put them on a tray in a hot oven for a few minutes till they are crisp.  You could also fry the pita chips.  Cut them into little triangles and fry in light olive oil, or some other oil with a fairly high smoke point,  for a few minutes, then drain on brown paper.  Or you could toast them under the griller. Whichever way you go, you want crisp little shards of bread.

While all this is happening, you can add another layer of multitasking and make the dressing.  This is just a very simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing: good fruity olive oil and fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of salt, in a jar and shake together.

Assembling:

By adding edamame, we’re already going non-traditional, so I don’t suppose it matters what else you add.  This one has:

  • olives (green and black)
  • tomatoes (fresh and sundried)
  • feta
  • labneh
  • chopped parsley and mint
  • cucumber
  • lettuce
  • cooked, shelled endamame
  • pita chips

Lightly dress with the dressing – be careful not to drown it – and serve.  Or pack the pita chips and dressing separately so they stay crisp, pack the salad into a lunch box and make your workmates jealous.

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The number of   Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipes based on pasta isn’t really reflective of how often we eat it.  I’ve featured Pasta Primavera Carbonara and Lemon Feta Tortellini made with home-made pasta, and Pasta Puttanesca and Summer Pasta in Five Minutes, and a couple of Asian versions – Phó Inspired Egg Noodle Soup and Wontons with Ginger Bok Choy Filling, which are really the same concept as ravioli but with Asian flavours in the filling.

But home made from scratch pasta, made with real eggs, meets all the Witches Kitchen definitions of good – it’s high protein nutrient dense good-for-you. It’s made with local, in season ingredients without excessive packaging or storage costs good-for-the-world.  And it tastes very very good.

Unless you’ve had a lot of practice, orecchiette for two only just make it into the half hour.  But it’s a very pleasant half hour, one in which you can chat, have a glass of wine, listen to music, and cook all at once.

The Recipe:

Makes two adult sized serves. Recipe doubles easily.

The Pasta

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ¼ cup fine semolina
  • ¼ cup plain flour  (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough)
  • a large egg,
  • a dessertspoon of olive oil
  • a dessertspoon of water
  • a good pinch of salt

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.

Divide the dough into four and roll each into a long skinny snake about 1 cm thick then cut the snake into 1 cm bits. There’s a knack to the next bit. I just squoosh each little orecchiette on the floured benchtop with a finger, dragging towards me to make the little ear shaped curled cups.

Put a big pot of water with a pinch of salt on to boil and let the orecchiette dry for a few minutes while you make the sauce.

Sauce:

In a heavy frypan, saute a chopped onion and a chopped trombochino or zucchini or squash till just tender.

While they are cooking, blend together

  • dessertspoon olive oil
  • ½ cup (packed) flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 5 macadamias (or you could use pine nuts or cashews)
  • juice and rind of ½ lemon
  • teaspoon capers

 Cooking the Orecchiette and Assembling:

Add the orecchiette to the boiling water and cook for just a couple of minutes until they float to the top and are tender.  Drain and add them to the frypan with the onions and zucchini, along with a couple of handfuls of halved cherry tomatoes.  Sauté for just a couple of minutes.  Toss through the blender mix and serve with grated parmesan on top.

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A couple of others in my circle have posted recipes lately for Spanish Tortilla – Cityhippyfarmgirls’s Frugal Friday Tortilla de Patatas, and Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s Dinners at Home tortilla with beetroot, kale and potato.  It must be the moment in the year when eggs and potatoes both peak together to create the perfect seasonal food moment, which is exactly what you want for a recipe that meets the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules of fast, healthy, in season, from scratch.

I get eggs all year round, even from my small clutch of chooks of motley ages and breeds.  They have a relatively high protein diet compared to chooks fed mostly pellets.  They are moved regularly to a new garden bed where they have access to greens and grubs and snails and grasshoppers and any worms that are too slow. They get the household scraps including meat and fish bones. I try to give them a some mulch with grass and weed seeds, or  waterweeds with snails and insects and crustaceans, or cow pats with the odd dung beetle, to scratch through every week.  And they get a handful of mixed grain every day, scattered over the top to encourage them to scratch.  They also get a scattering of shell grit from the beach occasionally. With a nice balanced diet and enough exercise to stay healthy, they tend to keep laying for years if a predator doesn’t get them. I’ve had a chook once, of motley mixed breed, that lived to over 10 years old.  But the peak of egg season is in spring when even the geriatrics lay most days.

Up here in northern NSW, I have two spud seasons a year.  The spring ones are planted in early August, as soon as we are over the crest of winter, and are harvested October November. The autumn ones are planted in February, as soon as we are over the crest of summer, and harvested May.  But it’s only the spring one where potatoes meet eggs, and Spanish tortilla is the obvious conclusion.  This is my version;

The Recipe:

For 4 serves.

You need a heavy plan that can go under the grill.

Chop an onion in half, peel, and slice finely into half moons.

Finely slice some potato into thin half moons too.  You need about twice as much potato as onion.

Put a good slug of olive oil in a heavy frypan and gently sauté the potato and onion together till they are soft and just starting to colour.

While they are cooking, use a fork to mix four eggs, a good dessertspoon of cottage cheese, and a good pinch of salt and pepper.  You want to just break the egg yolks and mix – don’t overbeat.

Finely chop a good handful of parsley and stir in.

Stir the potatoes and onions, pour the egg mix over them, and turn the heat down.  Cook without stirring for a few minutes then put the whole pan under the grill to brown off the top. (If you don’t have a grill, you can put a lid on and cook very slowly till the eggs set, but I like the browned top).

Cut into quarters and serve. It’s perfect with the acid sweetness of cherry tomatoes, just dressed with a little parsley, olive oil, and salt, on the side.

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It’s nut season.  Here it’s macadamia nuts, but further south it will be almonds and hazelnuts. We’re getting decent harvests from our trees now, and I’m loving learning to use them in savory food as well as baking. Pesto is a bit of a staple, and nut based curry and satay sauces, but I’m only just getting into extending the range.

Nuts are calorie dense but also really really nutrient dense. Super food sources of whole range of vitamins and minerals, as well as protein, fibre, complex carbohydrates, and monounsaturated, good fats. Even if you don’t grow them, you’re likely to be able to pick up fresh in season nuts in shell from Farmers Markets or wholefoods retailers at the moment.

I’ve tried these in a lot of versions.  They’re good just plain, or with basil and semi-sundried tomatoes, or with chili and garlic, but these parsley and lemon ones are our favourites.

The Recipe:

Nut Rice Balls

Makes around 13 balls,  probably about three adult serves.  They make great leftovers for lunch.

Cook ½ cup brown rice in 1½ cups of water with a little salt, to give you just over a cup of cooked rice.  In a pressure cooker, this takes 15 minutes so the whole recipe is do-able in less than half an hour. How I love my pressure cooker!

While the rice is cooking crack enough macadamias to give 1 cup of whole maca kernels, or about ¾ cup of chopped nuts. How I love my Maca Cracker!

Mince the macadamias with the rice, along with

  • one egg
  • one onion,
  • a good handful of Italian parsley, and
  • a scant teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest.

My trusty Braun food processor will do this in one lot, but it’s a heavy load. If you’re not sure, rather than risk burning out the motor, do it in a few batches. Or use a mincer. (I know this is getting boring now, but how I love my Braun processor).

The aim is a coarse meal, a bit like the texture of couscous. Using wet hands, squeeze spoonfuls of mixture together into small patties, about the diameter of an egg. Shallow fry in hot olive oil for a few minutes each side till crisp and golden.

Roast Vegetable Salad:

I served these with roast vegetable salad, and if you are going to go that way, to do it in half an hour, you need to get the rice on first, then get the vegetables on to roast.

The recipe is very simply a tray of vegetables, chopped reasonably small, tossed in olive oil and some herbs, and roasted in a hot oven. I used a beetroot, a carrot,  a parsnip, a red onion, and a trombochino zucchini, tossed in oregano and lemon basil, for this batch.

Allow the vegetables to cool a little, then toss with salad greens, sliced cucumber, and cherry tomatoes. Dress with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.

Did you do a Tuesday Night Vego Challenge this week? Links welcome.

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Silverbeet Frittata

Five serves of vegetables a day doesn’t seem like that much. I love vegetables and eat lots of them. But it’s amazing how easy it is to miss a day or two. Lunch at a work meeting,  nice rolls with turkey and cranberry, but really only a bit of lettuce you could count as a vegetable. Late home for dinner, make a quick pasta with a vegetarian tomato based sauce but really only a couple of serves of vegetables in it.

This takes me literally less than 10 minutes to make, and half of that time I can multi-task, it is really delicious, low fat, high protein, low GI, and there’s two serves of vegetables straight up. And one of them is silver beet, which is coming right into season now – I’m starting to pick it in bulk in my garden.. Women specially can use all the iron and folic acid they can get into their diet, and feel so good for it. And I think this might be a good way to get kids interested in silverbeet.

The Breakfast Challenge??)

The Recipe:

(Serves two adults for breakfast)

Into the food processor put:

  • two big silver beet leaves stripped from their stems
  • a spring onion, greens and all
  • a big sprig of parsley stripped from the stem
  • a small sweet pepper, or about a quarter of a standard sized capsicum
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • a heaped dessertspoon of low fat cottage cheese
  • a slice of low fat tasty cheese or parmesan
  • 2 large eggs or 3 of the little eggs my bantam crosses lay
  • salt and pepper

Put a teaspoon of butter on to melt in a heavy based frypan.

Whiz the ingredients in the processor for just a few seconds, use a plastic spatula to scrape down and whiz again. The idea is to avoid blending it too much, just chopping the ingredients together.

Pour the lot into the pan, turn the heat down to very low, put a lid on, and try to avoid peeking more than is necessary. Cook for around 5 minutes until the top is just set.  The trick here is to have the heat low enough and the lid on enough so that it sets without the bottom burning.

Meanwhile you can make coffee and toast to go with it.

Cut the frittata into quarters. It should be set enough so that you can flip one quarter on top of another. (If it breaks up, doesn’t matter, just won’t “plate up” Masterchef style!) Turn the heat off and leave it for a minute – the residual heat will make sure the middle (which was the top) sets – I really don’t like unset eggs.

A slice of sourdough toast on the side, and you’re set up for the day.

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My mowing meditation this morning – I was thinking about the basil and macadamia pesto post and how much basil we have harvested this summer.  Pesto on toast for breakfast and on sandwiches and wraps for lunch,  pesto pasto, pesto pizza sauce, basil in polenta and moussaka and fish cakes and quiches, gorgeous tomato and basil and bocconchini salads.  I think if I had had just one pot to garden this summer, I would have planted it in early Spring with a sweet basil bush – the one indispensable ingredient at the bottom of a whole season of healthy eating.

Which of course led me to thinking, if I had just one pot to plant now, what would I be planting in it?  After an hour of mowing, I settled on flat leaf parsley.  It is the thing I think would be most difficult to buy, that I would use daily if I had it sitting on the step or the windowsill in a pot, and that I would most miss if I didn’t have it. Tabbouleh and green salad, omelette and quiche, kangaroo stroganoff and tagine, maidanosalata sauce for fritters and patties, fish cakes, winter soups and stews and casseroles.

I would choose a deep pot,  preferably a ceramic one – parsley has a single deep tap root and it doesn’t like too hot a soil.  I would fill it with a mixture of compost and creek sand and feed it every couple of weeks with worm pee tea. Leafy greens like a high nitrogen diet but parsley needs very good drainage.  I would put it in a sunny spot and be careful not to overwater – it will cope with drying out better than waterlogging.

Which then led me to thinking, the hardest part would be getting the one seedling.  Buy a whole packet of seed? Find flatleaf parsley seedlings (hard) and ditch most of the punnet? Maybe I should start a random act of kindness parsley in a pot giveaway.

So, fellow gardening bloggers – if you had just one pot to garden, what would you plant now?

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This is a riff on Mollie Katzen’s Green Green Noodle Soup, with a little bit of “Green Eggs and Ham” inspiration.  Polenta is ground corn and not hard to make if you grow corn in summer. In fact, it is probably the grain staple most suited to  my climate. It’s medium GI and a good source of fibre, minerals and B6.  Its creamy texture and fairly bland flavour make it loved by kids, so this could be a good way to convince kids that green is good. It also makes it a good carrier for flavours.

If you grow your own corn for polenta, it will take 40 minutes or so to cook. But if you use the fast cooking polenta that is the kind commonly sold, this recipe comes together in literally half an hour, and it’s worth it.

The Recipe:

All the vegetables in this recipe are diced fairly fine.

Saute in a little olive oil (adding in more or less this order)

  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 – 3 spring onions (whites and greens)
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic
  • a bunch of spinach or 6 – 8 silver beet leaves stripped from the stem and chopped
  • half a cup of chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil

As soon as it is all wilted, add ½ cup of polenta and 2 cups of water.

Cook, stirring frequently for 10 minutes or so until it is thick and creamy.

Crumble in 80 grams of low fat feta cheese and cook for a minute or two to melt it through. Taste and add salt to taste.

At this point you have two choices. You can leave the vegetables as they are, or you can blend the mixture till they fleck the polenta, or blend thoroughly so you have green polenta. Kids seem to like the smooth texture and interesting colour of green polenta, but I like the flavour textures of it unblended.

Lightly grease a shallow metal pan and spread the polenta mix in it so that it is about 1.5 cm thick. Pop this in the freezer for a few minutes. It will set in literally 5 minutes and you will be able to tip it out onto a board and cut it into squares or triangles.

While it is setting heat some olive oil with a little knob of butter in a heavy pan. Fry the squares of polenta on a high heat for a few minutes on each side until they are browned and have a crisp crust. (You’ll get a better crust if you can restrain yourself to turn them just once.)

They are great as a main feature with a tomato-based sauce and a salad, or as a side dish with meat or chicken, or as the base for a poached egg.

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