Posts Tagged ‘green onions’

Spring Alliums

Green onions and green garlic are always the first food to show up in my yard. My onions are the Egyptian and produce hugely with no input from me. In fact, they are becoming a weed in places and need to be dug out. But I would hate to be without them.

Green garlic of the ultra-early Chinese Pink variety is ready at about the same time. I plant plenty the previous fall and plan to eat most of it green, on grounds that I can always buy organic garlic bulbs if needed but can’t get good green garlic anywhere but my own yard.  Most of the green garlic that I have seen in stores and farmers market has been overly mature and well past its best. When it is young and tender, you can eat everything up to the leaf tips. Just peel off the lowest leaf and the outside layer of the stalk and you are ready to go.

Green onions and green garlic can be cooked the same way, and I  usually cook them together. Slice the stalks in quarter inch cross section and sauté them with a little salt and butter or olive oil for about five minutes, add the leaves also sliced in quarter inch cross section, and sauté until the leaves are tender and done. Taste for salt, and you can eat your allium mix as is or add it to other dishes. It’s good with scrambled eggs or in an omelet with a little cheese, and makes a good side dish for many, if not most, main dishes. It’s great on pita with  some pan-grilled halloumi. It can be the basis for a horta of mixed greens. It’s full of allicin and other benefits, but I make it because it tastes good.

Green Alliums Madeleine

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In my home state of Louisiana there is a popular dish called Spinach Madeleine. It combines spinach, bacon, onions and garlic, flour, cream, and (no kidding) Kraft Jalapeño Cheese Rolls, back when those existed. True Louisiana cooks now use Velveeta Mexican cheese instead. It’s really delicious, a testimonial to the Cajun ability to bring gastronomic harmony out of any degree of chaos. I use a mild grass-fed cheddar instead. I never tire of this dish, which made the River Road Cookbook go viral back before the Internet existed.

Recently I found myself interested in the lovely warm flavor of sautéed green onions and green garlic, as well as being interested by their high health benefits, and decided to try giving them the Madeleine treatment. My freezer is full of sautéed green alliums, so this was a quickie dish for me, made with equal parts of sautéed green onion and green garlic. If you’re starting from scratch, you will need about 10 ounces of spinach and three standard bunches of green onions, chopped in 1/4 inch slices and sautéed in 1/3 cup of olive oil until tender.

Other ingredients:

1/4 lb bacon

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon flour or porcini flour

1/3 cup cream

2 cups grated mild cheddar, preferably grass-fed

1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile (optional)

1  pinch (no more) grocery-store chili powder

Cut  the bacon in strips or lardons and fry brown in their own fat over medium heat. When done, add the chopped garlic to the pan, stir a minute, and add the flour or porcini flour and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the green onion mixture and cook over medium heat until heated through. Stir in the cheese and seasonings and stir just until the cheese is melted. Turn into a buttered baking dish. Top with buttered bread crumbs if you like them. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, and brown the crumbs just a touch if you used them. Yum.

If you want a look at the original recipe, it can be found here: http://www.jfolse.com/recipes/vegetables/sidedish45.htm

Sweet Spring Onions

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Sometimes it’s possible to gain benefit from distraction. In the spring I usually buy some  plants of the sweet onion variety Candy, because I like them for scallions in midsummer. Last summer one short row of them got away from me and matured, and since I was focused on other things at the time, I never got around to harvesting them. Early this spring they began to sprout in place, and now each of the original bulbs has produced 3-5 large sweet scallions as thick as my thumb. These are lovely as a vegetable, sliced in cross section and stewed in butter over medium-low heat with some salt until done. They are superb brushed with olive oil and grilled over coals until cooked through, taking care to keep the heat low so that they don’t burn, which happens easily. One or two grilled on the stove in a grill pan would make a nice cook’s treat while you’re cooking other things.  They need to be eaten as soon as they’re a good size, before they start to produce a flowerscape. The scapes are edible too, but personally I don’t care for the texture and usually use them to flavor broth.

I plan to harvest all but one scallion from each cluster and leave the remaining ones to mature, picking off the scapes and leaving the bulbs in place over the winter, to see if I can get a similar harvest next spring. A self-perpetuating patch of Candy onions would be a great way to greet spring.

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Low Carb Colcannon

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A few decades ago when I owned a sheep farm, I grew a lot of potatoes and made a lot of colcannon in the winter. This old Irish dish combines smashed boiled potatoes with milk and cream, and incorporates other vegetables according to your fancy. Onion and cabbage are traditional favorites, herbs and greens are common, and others are possible.

These days I want low-carb vegetable dishes, but I still want my easy accommodating colcannon and I have a ton of green garlic and green onions around, so I started there. I write a lot about green garlic and green onions because they are so easy to grow and have available for earliest spring, so chock-full of allacin and various antioxidants, and so very tasty. If you grow no other vegetable, put some small organic onions and at least a few dozen garlic cloves in among your ornamentals in fall (as long as you don’t use pesticides,) and next spring you will have these sweet and delicious vegetables to work with.

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I started with six big green onions, a dozen stalks of green garlic, a head of cauliflower, half a head of cabbage, and butter and cream.

First, cut the florets off the cauliflower and put them in the steamer for half an hour. They need that much steaming time to be soft and smashable. I use my old couscousierre to steam veggies because I like to look at it, and incidental pleasures are half the fun of cooking.

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Wash the green alliums and trim off any yellowing or dry-looking leaf tips. On a large cutting board, slice the washed and trimmed green onions and green garlic into quarter inch cross-section slices.

imageHeat a large skillet over medium heat, put in about 3 tablespoons of good butter, and sauté the greens over medium heat, adding some salt and stirring frequently, until thoroughly cooked, soft, and sweet. Meanwhile, slice the cabbage into very fine slices, discarding any thick ribby pieces. When the green alliums are cooked, scrape them into a bowl, return the skillet to the heat, add another good-sized knob of butter, and put in the cabbage shreds. Cook them over medium heat with some salt, stirring frequently, until very thoroughly cooked and sweet. This takes a while, and you need to keep an eye on the time and open your steamer when the cauliflower has cooked for 30 minutes.

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When the cabbage is cooked, put in the steamed florets and start smashing them with the back of a big wooden spoon. When thoroughly smashed, add half a cup of heavy cream and the cooked green garlic and taste the mixture for salt, correcting to taste. Cook over low heat for another half hour, stirring occasionally, to let the flavors amalgamate. Stir in a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and serve.

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This is the fun part. Serving possibilities are endless. I pan fried some lardons of mild bacon to top it off and put a small steak on the side. It’s so filling that I didn’t eat more than a bite or two of the steak, so now I have leftover steak to plan another meal around.

Unlike potato colcannon, which can get gummy if reheated, the cauliflower version is even better when left over. You can top it with sautéed greens, or a fried or poached egg, or both. A bit of mild cheese could be grated in or gratineed on top, or this could accompany a roasted chicken. It is a wonderful basis for meals in mixed omnivorous-vegetarian crowds, because the vegetarians will find it satisfying on its own or with an egg and the omnivores can have meat on top or alongside and will probably not eat much meat because it isn’t needed.

I do think it’s wise to respect the essentially sweet and delicate nature of this dish, and keep seasoning simple. If you take your time with the sautéing, and use butter, the cabbage and green alliums develop wonderful depth of flavor. Heavy cream is essential in my opinion, and it has a lovely sweet flavor of its own. I also think a key step is to add some salt during the sautéing process so that it cooks into the vegetables well. Just not too much. This all takes some time, about an hour from bringing the green alliums in from the garden to finished colcannon, so there is no point in making smaller quantities. It will get eaten.

 

 

 

Spring in the food garden


I’m not a winter person, so wherever I move, I always plant a patch of the early little species crocus “Cream Beauty” in my garden. When I see the first glowing blooms, I’ve officially survived another winter.

“Cream Beauty” is also a kind of floral nag, reminding me that there’s no time to hang around luxuriating in the sunlight; I need to be prepping and planting furiously. It’s one of the ironies of garden writing that, just when you actually have something to say, you have no time in which to say it. So here are a few spring tidbits in no particular order:

Last fall I coated all my “greens” beds thickly with horse manure, and dug it in as soon as the ground thawed in early February. Fresh manure needs to go on in the fall, but you can apply well-aged manure or finished compost now. Now the beds are ready to plant, and I put in three kinds of lettuce, several types of mustard, two kinds of spinach, snap and shelling peas, and a wide assortment of chicories, both leaf and heading. It’s important to get them in early so that they don’t fry in overly hot summer sunlight. Chard, parsley, and potatoes will be planted within the next week or two. Leeks and scallions were started in seed trays last month, and the multiplier onions, garlic, and shallots planted last fall are sprouting. I planted grey shallots once and didn’t find the bulbs useful- too small and too much work to peel- but they provide generous cuttings of sharp shallot greens every spring to season salads and soups. They are like chives but with a distinctly stronger flavor.

Every year I try a few things that are completely new to me, and one of my newbies this year is bladder campion, which, according to the catalog, provides young greens that taste something like green peas. It’s a common weed in wetter parts of the country, but here it needs some shelter and encouragement. Bear in mind that many plants which need full sun elsewhere prefer some shade from our high-desert sun. If you fail the first time, as I did with bladder campion last year, try giving a little afternoon shade.

Don’t forget to plant more peas than you need so that you can cut the sweet young greens for spring stir-fries.

If you’re going to try chickens this year, build the coop and make a brooder set-up now, BEFORE you buy the adorable baby chicks. I’m going to try a few meat chickens this year, so I’m building a large open-bottom cage to keep them in. It’s my first effort at carpentry, and I don’t think that there is a perfect 90 degree angle anywhere in it, but the chickens are unlikely to care. Make your chicken construction sturdy and raccoon-proof, not beautiful.

Gardening is a natural process, with all the entropy of any other natural process. Success does not pile upon success in an automatic fashion. Our freakishly cold snap is likely to result in some garden disappointments. My artichokes all seem to be dead, a sad event because they are offshoots of the first plants I grew from seed, many years ago. But that’s a reminder that nature is under no obligation to respect our sentiments. If you are very fond of getting your own way, gardening might not be for you. Nature offers some consolations too, like the glut of big brown eggs with deep orange yolks flowing out of the henhouse. There are a million ways to enjoy them, but while I’m waiting for the spring bulbs to bloom I enjoy eating what I think of as Daffodil Salad. The name comes from the colors, which remind me of the exquisite Poet’s Narcissus. Please know your edible flowers if you use them, and remember that daffodils are NOT edible.

To make a main dish, put three eggs per person in cold water, bring to a boil, simmer 10 minutes, and cool quickly in cold water. If you have your own hens, the eggs need to be at least a week old to peel cleanly. With store eggs this is seldom a problem. The ten-minute simmer gives yolks as shown, just barely solid in the center and a rich orange. Peel the eggs and cut them in half. Put the amount of salad greens you prefer in a big bowl; I use about three good-sized single handfuls per person. Toss with the dressing below or your own favorite vinaigrette. Pile on plates, top with the egg halves, and drizzle a little more dressing over the eggs. Scatter on some thin shavings of your best Parmesan and enjoy.

Spring dressing
1 small shallot or the white part of one scallion or the white part of one stalk of green garlic
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup best olive oil
2 tablespoons roasted hazelnut oil
half a teaspoon of salt, or to taste.
fresh pepper, about 15 turns of the mill
a small handful of chopped chives or about 2 tablespoons very thinly sliced shallot greens

Chop the shallot bulb, scallion, or green garlic bulb very finely and marinate in the lemon juice for fifteen minutes, with the salt added. Don’t skip the marinating step. After fifteen minutes stir in the other ingredients, shake in a jar, taste for seasoning, and use. Any not used immediately will last a day or two in the refrigerator.

The Greens of Spring: Alliums

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Onions and garlic are among the most common and useful seasonings worldwide, as well as in my kitchen. In spring my garden is full of green fresh forms of these lovely vegetables, and this is the time to plan for the green onions you’ll want later in the year. Start now, because they won’t be ready for a while. I suggest starting some long red onions from seed. They are available under several names. At Gourmet Seeds International in Tatum, New Mexico, they’re sold as Rossa lunga de Firenze. Also get a packet of the lovely Japanese green onions. My favorite is Shimonata. Don’t worry about the late start; you’re planting for the future. Start them now, and plant them out in fertile soil when they’re big enough to take care of themselves. I plant mine in clusters of 3-5 plants, with at least 8″ between clusters. They will grow slowly through the summer, and some of the Shimonata will be big enough to eat in the fall. In early fall the red onions will seem to mature and die at a small size. Don’t panic. Leave them in place. Both types will sit motionless, sulking, through the winter and will burst into lively growth in early spring. Usually the red onions will divide, and you will get two or even three beautiful mother-of-pearl-colored spring onions like the ones below from each. The shafts of both types will be thick, sometimes an inch in diameter. Harvest them as soon as they’re big enough to be usable, and keep harvesting until the flowerscapes appear.
They are useful in all kinds of cooking, and I love the shafts trimmed, rubbed with olive oil, and grilled slowly until sweet and softened. Slice up with a good sharp knife (very messy eating if you skip this step) and serve with sea salt and a little of your best olive oil.
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To have green garlic next spring, stick cloves in the ground about 6″ apart in the fall. For this purpose, any good organic garlic from the store is fine. Harvest when they just begin to form a bulb swelling, trim the roots and peel, slice finely, saute in good butter, and season with sea salt. Good with pasta, on good toasted sourdough bread, or as a sauce for fish.
A few years ago I ordered some “French gray shallots,” which the catalog claimed were the only real shallot to use in French cooking. I was unimpressed: the shallots were strong-flavored, garlicky, small, and maddening to peel. I left a lot of them in place out of disinterest, and discovered that in late winter and spring their foliage makes great greens. Cut and use like chives, but they are significantly stronger in flavor. They add zip scattered in a salad, or add them to greens dishes for the last few minutes of cooking.
Sauteed green onions are a great addition to hortapita fillings and other greens dishes, so please check out my “greens” category on the sidebar for more recipes. Or, for a recipe in which green onions are the stars, click here!