Eating babies

IMG_9284While thinning beets in my garden the other day, I stopped to consider the little plants I was killing. The slim red root that would never grow into a round beet. The first tiny seed leaves and larger dark green adult leaves. They looked so fragile, uprooted from the soil. I knew that thinning the crowded seedlings was necessary if the chosen few I left in the ground were to mature into beets for my table. I felt some remorse for the ones I pulled out.

Then I wondered how these babies would taste. Afterall, you can eat beet greens and we grow beets for their roots. The pulled seedlings were nothing more than tender young leaves and immature roots. I brushed the soil off one of the tiny roots and tasted a leaf. It was crunchy and mild. I ate the rest of the leaves with the root and decided it was pretty delightful.

Mature beet greens are slightly bitter and tough, and are best sautéed with garlic and olive oil. But as I munched another seedling, I decided its delicious crunch and fresh green taste would be best raw, in a salad.

On my way from the garden I picked a few nasturtium flowers to add to the salad. Nasturtium flowers are tender and have a slightly peppery taste. Their bright yellow and orange petals add beautiful color to dishes.

The salad I made for dinner guests that evening consisted of rough chopped romaine lettuce, sliced cucumber and orange bell pepper, the little beet seedlings—washed and chopped in half—and a handful of nasturtium petals. I tossed it with a simple lemon dressing (recipe below).

You’d probably pay a fortune for this early summer treat in a fancy restaurant, but I will look forward to making it at home every time I sow beet seeds. In fact, I might be making room in my garden for an extra row of beet seedlings from this point on, just so I can eat the baby plants.

Simple lemon salad dressing

  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper

Shake all together in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Taste and correct flavors as needed. Dress salad and toss just before serving. Any leftover dressing can be refrigerated to use later.

Pictured here are golden beet seedlings and nasturtium flowers. I grew two other kinds of beets, Detroit Red and Chioggia, and they were tasty too.

 

Use your rosemary!

Got a pot of rosemary growing? Sure, it’s beautiful. It’s really useful too! One of my favorite ways to use it is with roasted vegetables. Choose whatever root vegetables you like. Potatoes are wonderful of course, as are carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, and rutabagas. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and squash also roast well.

Chop up whatever you like and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Above, I’ve used carrots, red potatoes, and butternut squash. Add 2 or 3 sprigs of rosemary and drizzle the whole thing with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss everything with your (washed) hands to distribute the oil. Roast in a 400-degree oven. Give the vegetables a stir after 15 minutes or so. Continue roasting until the vegetables are just soft on the inside and nicely browned on the outside, as pictured on the right, above. Generally this takes about 45 minutes. Discard the rosemary before serving.

Feeling festive? The following rosemary-infused cocktail is simple yet delicious. Perfect for winter!

  • 1 oz. cranberry juice
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary simple syrup
  • 4 oz. prosecco

Chill all ingredients then pour in the order listed into a champagne flute or white wine glass. Give it a quick stir to combine and enjoy!

Rosemary simple syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

Combine sugar, water, and rosemary in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir to dissolve sugar. Turn heat off and let syrup cool in the pot. Strain the syrup to remove rosemary sprigs and any leaves that might have fallen off. Keeps for months covered and refrigerated.

How to freeze garlic

Having a stash of peeled garlic in the freezer is a terrific time-saver. You can freeze it in various forms, as described below for about a year. Pick whatever form you find most convenient.

Whole raw cloves–Scatter whole peeled cloves of garlic on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the freezer overnight. The next day, use a flat spatula to loosen the cloves. Place them in freezer bags or airtight containers and store in the freezer.

Chopped or minced raw cloves–Chop or mince peeled garlic, make tablespoon-sized mounds on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, then place in the freezer. The next day, loosen the garlic mounds and freeze as described above. You can also suspend the garlic in olive o

garlic paste with olive oil in food processor and small trays ready to freeze (3).JPG

Mincing garlic is fast and easy in a small food processor. Loosen it with a little olive oil. These cool little trays are from my niece’s Pampered Chef party.

il by adding a little to the minced garlic before freezing. Old ice cube trays work great for freezing a garlic/oil mixture. Once it is frozen, pop the “cubes” from the tray and store them in the freezer in freezer bags or airtight containers. Frozen chopped or minced garlic is super convenient for making garlic bread, sauces, and dressings.

Roasted garlic–Roasted garlic is a vastly different creature than raw garlic—mellow, nutty, and slightly smokey. It’s delicious spread on bread or crackers and in dressings. Garlic can be roasted by placing whole peeled cloves on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing them with a little olive oil, and roasting at 350 degrees til soft. Alternatively, slice the heads longitudinally, place them in a small baking dish or piece of foil, and brush with olive oil. Either cover the baking dish with foil, or wrap the heads in foil and roast at 400 degrees until the garlic is soft. Let cool slightly then squeeze each half to release the cloves. Freeze roasted garlic in airtight containers or freezer bags.