Wild Ginger

recipes for pleasure and nurishment

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Pesto Cheat (Spinach Pesto)

Once, in the fall but when the herbs were still going in the garden, I planned on making a pesto dish, banking on the mostly bolted but still edible sweet basil in my garden. But, alas, the frost had turned each and every leave a deep black. It was ruined and so were my plans. Standing in front of the fridge, with not enough time to shop, I spied the large bags of garden spinach, thankfully harvested before the frost. My mind jumped to the recently purchased basil olive oil, and I decided to make a basil pesto out of spinach.

It worked. People had no idea it was spinach. This is great for pasta salads and to replace the tomato sauce on many pizza recipes. I especially like it on my variation of The Nutcracker pizza from Iowa City’s The Wedge Pizzeria, which is a delightful veggie pizza that features pistachios and gorgonzola and fontina cheeses. As with many of my recipes, I adapt this pesto as suits my needs, taste, and what I have in the pantry, which can be frustrating for those cooks who like very specific instructions. This is why I rarely bake!

4.5 ounces of fresh spinach or 1/2 bag of spinach
1-2 fresh garlic cloves (if you use more it may be too powerful)
1/2 cup of nuts (pine nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds–or mix them)
1/4 cup Basil olive oil (you can use more or less, depending on the texture you want. I prefer less and add oil as needed as I process)

Rinse and spin dry spinach. Add all ingredients to food processor. If using a small processor, do this in batches. Begin with half the amount of oil, process, and look over the texture. I like the greens to be a bit flaky looking, not the normal green glop of pesto. One can also heat it up and add pepper flakes or chopped fresh peppers.



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Golden Beet and Feta Salad

I recently spent about a week in Denver attending the American Educational Research Association conference, and a friend of mine (who also attended AERA) found a great salad restaurant, which is a godsend for those long trips when veggies sometimes get lost. I went there once, but I think she went to Mad Greens everyday, and her favorite was the “Crazy Ivan.”

For a recent family dinner, I wanted to recreate this salad (though I forgot about the pumpkin seeds, drat!) because I had just scored some fresh golden beets and arugula. It was delicious.

Two hearts of romaine, chopped
2 cups baby arugula
3-4 small golden beets, roasted or boiled, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup feta
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds or blanched almond slivers (unsalted if possible)
Apple-infused olive oil to taste

Cut up the romaine and toss it with the arugula in a large bowl. Cool, peel, and cube beets. Add to salad. Crumble feta and add it and seeds to the salad. Drizzle apple-infused olive oil to your taste. Toss salad. Keep at room temp for serving for the sake of the beets, as they lose flavor in the fridge. Add ingredients as you will. The next day, I added slivers of red bell pepper and halved grape tomatoes.


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Rhubarb and Strawberry Salsa

The giant rhubarb in the backyard keeps getting bigger and bigger, taunting me. Luckily, my partner has an eagle eye and spied a non-bake rhubarb recipe in the May 2010 issue of Runner’s World. Pam Anderson, cookbook author and Runner’s World contributor, has a simple recipe that I used as a guide for my own concoction. The salsa was fabulous with tortilla chips, and it would be good mixed into greens for a salad (no need for dressing) or as a relish for chicken or fish.

1/3 cup diced rhubarb
1/2 cup ripe strawberries, diced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 TBS red onion, diced
1/2 jalapeño, diced
1 TBS cilantro, diced
Juice from 1/2 lime (or less)
Dice first five ingredients, about ¼ inch. Add cilantro and lime juice. Mix and let sit at room temp before serving.


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Salmon and Asparagus Quiche

Yesterday began Bike to Work Week. Our city has the beginnings of a great idea for gathering bikers and getting out the word for sharing the road, leaving cars behind, and hitting the wonderful trail system we have. We biked in the AM and then took a longer ride in the evening. For dinner, I knew we’d be hungry but also would want something simple and ready for us when we got home. Aha, bake a quiche beforehand and let it set and cool. Perfect, with an arugula (local and yummy!) salad and honeydew and blackberries.

For over a week, I knew I wanted a quiche, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to put in it. We had grilled salmon and steamed (local) asparagus the night before and the leftovers were perfect for a simple and tasty dinner.

8 eggs
¼  cup milk (I used Dairy Ease)
1 pinch garlic powder
1 pinch salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
¼  cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup leftover salmon, shredded
¼ cup leftover steamed asparagus tops
9 inch, frozen deep-dish, all vegetable pie shell (I used Pillsbury®)
    Pre-bake pie crust, following instructions, about 10 minutes. Let cool a bit. In large bowl, beat eggs, milk, garlic powder, salt, pepper and parmesan. Set aside. In 9 inch deep-dish pie shell, evenly fill the bottom with the salmon and asparagus. Pour egg mixture over all. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until center is set when touched lightly. For last 15 minutes of baking, put on pie crust shields (or foil). Place on wire rack to cool. Serve and room temperature or chilled.

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    Poached Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce

    There are many, many blogs out there, and some of them have wonderful recipes. One that I follow is Smitten Kitchen because the recipes are never too daunting, they go beyond baking (I’m not a baker–all the measuring–too precise), and the pictures entice me to cook even when I am tired.

    Poached eggs are a favorite of mine, and I wanted a recipe that would make them palatable and interesting for my partner. I found these traits in a Smitten Kitchen recipe for Shakshuka, is a Libyan dish, that has some heat. While the dish would make a great breakfast or brunch, especially for those who like more of the savory early in the morning, I made this for a light supper, with warm French bread (the chewier the better). We had this as a early spring dinner out on the porch, and it warmed us up. This would be a nice dish any time of the year, and one could play around with ingredients according to taste or what one has in the fridge/pantry.

    The creaminess of the poached eggs melds with the tang of tomatoes and the bite of the Anaheim peppers. The Smitten recipe calls for five Anaheims or three Jalapenos, but I found that three Anaheim peppers was perfect so you don’t lose the other tastes with too much heat. Likewise, I did not use as much garlic because I wanted to really taste the tomatoes. We had some leftovers, and this heated up well.

    My recipe is adapted from SK, who adapted it from Saveur. It reminds me of a tasty game of telephone.

    1/4 cup olive oil
    3 Anaheim chiles , stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
    1 small yellow onion, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 tablespoon paprika
    1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
    Kosher salt, to taste
    6 eggs
    1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
    1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (or parsley)
    Warm French Bread.
    Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
    Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands (This part is fun). Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.
    Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs do not touch. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle with feta and cilantro and serve with French bread, for dipping the aromatic sauce.


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    Green Chile and Black Bean Tamales

    My partner being gone for a week, I needed to make something really cool to make him wish he was back home. Wait, that sounds mean. Actually, I was reading a book for my comps, I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, in which there are many, many references to tamales and I got the clever idea of making tamales–because who doesn’t want homemade tamales. Besides, I froze a bunch for him. FYI, tamales freeze very well in air-tight baggies.

    Since sweetcorn was in season, I decided to add freshly cut cut to the masa, and I used green chilies and black beans for filling. I did not make my own masa but used a mix, which was fine, especially since it takes a lot of time to make tamales. I followed the recipe on the back of a bag of Maseca Corn Masa Flour for Tamales and adjusted it as needed. Since I was planning on sharing with a vegetarian friend, I refrained from the chicken broth (and the chicken), though that would have been tasty.

    The smell of these steaming away in the kitchen was amazing. I want to try some other ones, namely butternut squash with raisins and pine nuts. And, I really, really want to serve these with mole. Here’s an Tamales 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Traditional Tamales that one can follow or use as a springboard to more personalized tamales. The best part of this excellent cookbook is that the authors really cover the diversity and regionality of tamales.
    6 cups Maseca Corn Masa for tamales (add 1/2 to 1 cup of fresh cut sweet corn for texture)
    6 cups Chicken broth OR veggie broth OR water

    1 cup cooking oil
    2 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking powder
    1  large rotisserie chicken OR can black beans and can green chilies, sliced
    2 cans salsa verde (homemade is best)
    1 bag corn husks

    1. Cover and Soak the corn husks in warm water until soft.
    2. Blend with an electric mixer Maseca corn masa for tamales, corn oil, salt, baking powder and water to obtain a consistent mixture.
    3. Drain black beans and chilies.
    4. Spread masa evenly over corn husks, and spread a spoonful of beans/chilies on top of the masa.
    5. Fold the sides of the cornhusk to center over the masa so that they overlap to make along package.
    6. Fold the empty part of the husk under so that it rests against the side of the tamale with a seam.
    7. Place the tamales in tamale steamer and cook tamales for 35-40 minutes. Since I did not have a “tamale” pot or a very tall steamer, I just used my biggest pot and tucked a double-ply clean dishtowel (not the fuzzy kind) around the top to hold in the steam. It worked fine. Check every 20 minutes.