Thursday, June 14, 2012

Organic Harvest Box for June 14, 2012

A potted basil plant?  What if it doesn't grow, how guilty will I feel? It's the same sentiment I had when my mother-in-law told me that she had a hibiscus tree for me when we first got married, what if I kill it?  "Maybe you should keep it for now until we get a bigger place."  That was 15 years ago, I still don't own any indoor plants.

Some basil at Belle Terre
I am pretty decent at keeping a vegetable garden but in the last few years, I haven't had any luck with basil. It could be the constant sun in the backyard, or the plant boxes that didn't retain any moisture, and most recently the children that like to water everything all of the time, over and over and over.  This year, I have my herbs in a new pot, and not surprisingly the mint has taken over almost the whole pot.  Luckily, my oldest daughter is keen to chew on anything that comes out of our garden so every time we go outside, she can have a sprig of mint.  I will try to grow the 3" potted basil in that big herb pot.  I did a bit of reading to make sure I am doing the right things with my basil, and what I did learn is that basil does need sunny conditions (up to 8 hours per day) with soil that has good moisture retention.  It is important to regularly (weekly) pick the basil leaves to encourage further growth, and apparently by pinching the centers, it will promote bushiness.  Fresh basil is so great to have all year if you can.  My favorite use for fresh basil is a simple Caprese Salad which you could do this week with the new basil plant (your first trimming) and the hot house tomatoes.  Pick up a really good piece of buffalo mozzarella or fresh mozzarella, your favorite olive oil and I opt for some balsamic vinegar as well.  Part of the fun of making Caprese salad is deciding how to present it.  Later in the summer when I have cherry tomatoes, I slice them in half and then toss them with squarish chunks of mozzarella or torn pieces of the cheese.  With the tomatoes that are coming in this week's box, a more interesting presentation would be to slice the tomatoes into 1/2" slices and mozzarella into 1/4" slices.  Overlap the tomatoes and mozzarella in a round on a plate or my absolute favorite (taken from a great meal we had at Casa Bella in Gananoque years ago) is to alternate stacking them about 2" high.  Sprinkle the basil leaves over the salad.  Drizzle the olive oil over, sprinkle with a bit of balsamic if you choose and a really good salt (I love fleur de sel for this) and a bit of pepper.

I am making a new lamb dish this weekend for friends from the Early Summer edition of LCBO's Food and Drink magazine - it is Slow-Roasted Breast of Lamb with Potatoes and it calls for Yukon Gold potatoes - how apt that we are getting some in our box.  This dish is a bit fancy, but you could also use your potatoes for roasting in the oven or on the BBQ, or sliced with some onions, the green garlic, and some butter wrapped in tin foil and placed on the BBQ.  Here however is the LCBO recipe - I'm sure in a few months it will be available, but not just yet.

4lbs lamb breast on the bone (about 2 breasts), trimmed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2lbs large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut in thirds
1/2 c. 2 inch rosemary sprigs
1 whole head garlic, separated into cloves

1/2 c. red wine
2 tbsp. port
2 c. beef or chicken stock
1 tsp. tomato paste

Preheat oven to 275F.  Cut away any excess fat from the top of the breasts.  Sear, fat side down in a large skillet over high heat for 3 min. or until browned.  Turn over and repeat for bone side.  Season lamb with salt and pepper and place, fat side up, in a roasting pan.  Add potatoes to skillet and toss in lamb fat to coat.  Season with salt and add to roasting.  Sprinkle over rosemary sprigs and garlic cloves and cover pan tightly with lid and/or foil.  Place in oven and roast for 3 to 3 1/2 hrs or until the meat is fork tender and much of the fat has melted.  Uncover, raise heat to 400F and roast for 20-30 minutes longer until potatoes are golden and meat is browned.  Remove lamb and potatoes from roasting pan to a carving board.  Let rest for 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

Discard all fat from roasting pan but keep any juices.  Discard rosemary.  Slip garlic out of skins and discard any burnt ones.  Mash the remaining garlic.  Add red wine and port and place over high heat scraping the base of the pan to incorporate all the browned bits as well as the garlic.  Reduce by half then add stock and tomato pasted.  Continue to boil until sauce coats the back of a spoon.  Divide the breasts into ribs and serve with potatoes and sauce.

I got a sneak peek at the green garlic when I was picking up last week's box from Tasha, it looked so good and I can't wait to use mine.  Green garlic is regular garlic that is picked before the bulbs start to form.  It can be called spring garlic or baby garlic.  Farmers sometimes offer it up when they are thinning their crops and lately as it becomes more popular, some are growing it as a crop.  It has a milder flavor than garlic but still stronger than a green onion or chive.  To use green garlic, slice off the root and remove any tough green leaves.  It can be used in very much the same way as green onions, baby leeks, regular garlic or chives.  I plan to use some of the green garlic in the sauce for a big batch of pasta that I am making for the kids (who are not getting served the breast of lamb).  I also came across this article from the New York Times, Grassy, Sweet and in Season when gathering info on green garlic, and I am definitely going to try their Seared Pork Cutlets with Green Garlic Salsa Verde - with my overabundant mint, my own chives and fresh lemon juice from the lemon in the veggie order.

In wanting to give a few more ideas to use some of the vegetables in this weeks box, I thought that broccoli and lemon or green beans and lemon would make a great combination.  Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks this - I came across so many recipes for both.  I think the appeal is in the contrast of yellow zest against some fresh dark green vegetables and also the fresh taste of lemon paired with some crisp greens. I really had to narrow down the list of recipes so I'm recommending to use the broccoli and lemon with chicken in any one of these recipes: Lemon Chicken and Broccoli, Chicken, Broccoli and Lemon Stir Fry, or Lemony Broccoli Pasta with Chicken.  Or use the lemon with the green beans in Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic, Lemon Green Beans, or Green Beans with Lemon Butter.  All are pretty straightforward easy recipes and most can use the green garlic as well.

Good luck with the basil plant, hopefully it will continue to prosper throughout the summer so it can be used over and over in a variety of recipes and doesn't get sunburned, over watered or picked by little hands too soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment