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Crustless Quiche

Fresh spinach, greens and green onions from the cold frame.

Last night I looked in the cold frame for some ideas for supper. What I really wanted was turkey and dressing. That's about my favorite meal of the year, a turkey big enough to have lots and lots of leftovers. Turkey pot pie. Turkey sandwiches. Turkey hash. And finally, turkey soup from the bones.

But... it's not Thanksgiving yet and I wasn't going to cook a turkey just for supper for the 3 of us. So, back to the cold frame search. I chose a colander full of spinach, I had some ham in the refrigerator, I'd make a quiche. Barbara and Josh both like quiche.

One of my medicines (Cyclosporine), which is one of the anti-rejection drugs I have to take in order to keep my kidney, has pushed me to the border of type 2 diabetes. What that means, if you don't know about such things, is to get extra exercise and eat little or no white foods. Why white, you may wonder? White foods include bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, sugar, pastries, and yes, pie crust. I can eat a small amount, but the less I eat, the better for my health and quitting the anti-rejection drugs isn't an option. So I decided to make a no-crust quiche. I've done it before but I never write the recipe down. Maybe if I put it here, I'll remember for next time.

I started with 6 cups of fresh spinach leaves and put them in a glass bowl in the microwave. I pushed the "vegetables" button and let the microwave wilt the greens. While the microwave was doing its work I chopped a heaping tablespoon of onions and about half that amount of chives. Green onions work just as well. When the spinach was wilted, I drained the liquid and set it aside.

In a bowl I beat 4 eggs and added 1 large can of evaporated milk. I added a tablespoon of cooking sherry and about 1/4 teaspoon of hot sauce. Next I grated 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and mixed it in.

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees F. I have a favorite clay, deep dish pie pan from Hess Pottery (you may remember my earlier postings about them at the Reeds Spring Farmers Market; they've had national publicity for their perfect-baking pie pans) and sprayed it heavily with olive oi. I put a layer of already cooked and coarsely chopped bacon - 3 slices in all. On top of that I spread the wilted spinach leaves. I poured in the egg/milk and cheddar mixture and added 1 cup of diced ham and stirred in around slightly.
Tom Hess' pie plates bake perfectly on the bottom of the plate better than any others I've found.

The quiche baked for about 40 minutes then I checked to see if it was done by inserting a knife blade in the center. It needed to cook another 5 minutes, then I let it set for about 10 minutes while I got a salad ready - also from the cold frame.

And there it is, no crust quiche, easy and out of the garden. Here's the list of ingredients in case you missed them in the text:
See, it really doesn't need a crust.

No-Crust Ham and Spinach Quiche

6 cups fresh spinach, wilted and drained (or you can substitute 1 1/2 cups frozen, thawed and drained)
4 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 slices cooked and cut up bacon
1 cup diced ham
1 tablespoon cooking sherry or brandy
1/4 teaspoon any brand hot sauce
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons green onions
Salt and pepper to taste
A pretty healthy dish. Spinach, onions and eggs, all came from right here on the farm.


Fish House Style Green Tomato Pickles

This week I've been picking as much of the garden produce as I can before a killing frost comes. We've had 2 light frosts but even the basil plants haven't been hurt much. Yet. After a summer of drought and heat and low tomato and pepper production, those plants have gone into high gear, trying to catch up on production.

Adam, who I have written about here many times, left us with a fabulous fall garden. Too bad he didn't get to enjoy such lushness during the summer when he was farming the garden and selling at local farmers markets. (Adam left in mid September to work on a farm in Maryland for the winter; that farm sells at the DuPont Circle farmers market the year around).

Ten pints of fish house green tomato pickles.

I've spent the day today, putting up some of the excess produce. With all the green tomatoes, I wanted to use the smaller ones for fish house green tomato pickles. They're a favorite in the catfish restaurants in the South and it's a great way to use up some of the tomatoes. Josh plans on making green tomato mincemeat, too, for pies this winter.

Tomatoes ripening in the window.

The larger green tomatoes will simply stay on the kitchen windowsill where they will slowly ripen over the few weeks. (I've used the wrap-in-newspaper method, which is a hassle, also the put-in-the-basement method, also a hassle to check every couple of days; on the windowsill, where I see the tomatoes every day, is the easiest and simplest and works just fine. Some years we have the last of our summer's ripe tomatoes on Christmas Day. However on the windowsill, the tomatoes ripen a lot faster).

You can use green tomatoes in any recipe that calls for ripe tomatoes, too.

Here's the recipe in case you want to use up your green tomatoes:

Catfish-House Green Tomato Pickles

2 quarts quartered green tomatoes
2 cups chopped onion - about two onions
1/3 cup chopped hot peppers
1/3 cup chopped sweet red bell peppers
2 (scant) cups sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons salt
3 cups white vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seed

Combine ingredients in a large cooking pan and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Ladle into hot, sterile jars, wipe lip edge of jars, screw on hot, new jar rings and flats and lightly tighten. Place into a boiling water bath, with at least 1/2 inch of water above the jar lids. Bring to a boil and keep slowly boiling for 15 minutes (for pints). Remove and cool on a towel. Don't tinker with the lids, they will seal in a few minutes. Let cool overnight then label and store in the pantry. These are best after the flavors have matured, about 2 weeks or more.


Green Tomato Hot Sauce for Canning

The hot sauce and the salsa are the same recipe, just processed differently.
I have a lot of green tomatoes, harvested in advance of the freeze that's coming. The larger ones are on the windowsill to slowly ripen over the next couple of months. Some are reserved for Josh's green tomato mincemeat, and some have been made into Fish House Green Tomato Pickles (for the recipe, go to my garden blog).

Green tomatoes with a few ripe cherry tomatoes.

Green tomatoes can be used in salsa recipes. They're more acidic (a good thing when you're canning) than ripe tomatoes, and they still have a tomatoey flavor. So the base of this recipe is green tomatoes, with a lot of hot peppers. I used a variety of peppers, including scorpion, yellow bhut jalokia, jalapeno, cayenne and seranno, plus some sweet New Mexico peppers. I divided the recipe in half, after cooking, and processed some into hot sauce and kept the rest for green tomato salsa. Here's the recipe.
I used a variety of hot pepper varieties in this recipe.

Green Tomato Hot Sauce and Salsa

2 1/2 pounds green tomatoes, quartered
2 yellow onions, cut up
Mixed hot peppers, seeded (if you wish), cut up to make about 1 cup or more
2 large red bell peppers or 1 large New Mexico sweet pepper
6 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 3 limes
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 sprigs Mexican oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried regular oregano)
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons dry, ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Combine ingredients in batches in the food processor, coarsely chopping.

Don't over-process the ingredients.
Pour the chopped ingredients into a cooking pan and bring to a simmer, cooking for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Hot jars, ready for filling. They'll go back into the pan for processing.

Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars, attach hot, new jar rings and flats and tighten moderately. Lower into a hot water bath with at least 1/2 inch of water over the tops. Bring to a boil and begin timing. Let slowly boil for 15 minutes. Remove from hot water bath and cool on dry towels.

I divided this recipe in half when it was cooked and ready to can. I put half of the salsa into a blender and blended to a sauce and canned that. The remaining batch I canned as salsa. Both have the same flavor and heat, but I'll use them differently. Sauce goes on eggs, salsa goes on burritos and everything else.
Hot sauce and salsa, great way to use up green tomatoes.


How to Freeze Pesto

Rows of sweet basil in our garden.

With predictions of frost in our area in the next week or so, friends have been thinking about ways to preserve basil. It doesn't have to actually frost, for basil to drop its leaves, just a very chilly night and the leaves start falling. I know my friends have been thinking, "pesto" because I've gotten 2 phone calls and an email, asking for a good pesto recipe. Here's my favorite and it can be frozen and kept for the winter months. Just fill ice cube trays with the fresh pesto, freeze, then pop out the pesto cubes into plastic bags and keep frozen until ready to use. And there's asimple trick to keeping frozen pesto tasting fresh (below).

Freezer Pesto

4 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons almonds or walnuts (you could use pine nuts, they're more expensive, but I like almonds better)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put everything into the food processor and blend ingredients until smooth. Scrape the edges to make sure everything has been processed.
Pour the mixture into ice cube trays, filling each section. Freeze for 24 hours, then pop out the cubes into Zip-Lock bags and keep frozen.

Now the trick. When you are ready to use pesto, combine it with half Romano, half Parmesan cheese, freshly grated if possible. Since those cheeses don't freeze well, the flavor of your pesto will stay much fresher if you don't put the cheese in the pesto before freezing.

Rose and Basil Pesto
Roses and basil taste great together!

2 cups fresh basil
1 cup fragrant *rose petals
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts (I prefer walnuts)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon food grade rose water
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (don't substitute bottled juice) 
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/4 cup Romano cheese, freshly grated
Salt, optional

Peel and coarsely chop garlic, then add rose petals, basil, nuts and olive oil in food processor. Pulse blend until everything is well pulverized.
Add remaining ingredients and mix well. This can be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

*If you aren't sure what roses you can use, visit my YouTube video for tips on using roses in food.
You'll find more of my videos at http://youtube/longcreekherbs/ as well.

You might also enjoy my book, How to Eat a Rose, available from my website.

Another suggestion about pesto. Collect the leaves from plants that aren't blooming, the flavor will be better. Lemon basil is tasty mixed with sweet basil or any of the varieties. Thai basil is the least interesting basil for pesto, but even that works if you've kept the flowers clipped off.
Sweet basil is one of the best flavored basils for pesto. Clip off and discard the flower stalks.

Lemon basil gives a fresh flavor to pesto, so use it in combination with other basils if you have it.


German Potato Salad, DayliliesGerm

Barbara Young and her cucumber crop.

Josh and his mother, Barbara, made it back from Rhode Island yesterday. They'd driven my books and products to Pittsburgh, PA where I was speaking at the Herb Society of American conference. I flew home and they drove on to Rhode Island where the Young family had lived. Barbara hadn't been back to visit in nearly 10 years so it was fun for her to see relatives and friends. That's  Barbara, below, with her Photoshop cucumber, obviously having more luck than we are here. Cucumber beetles wiped out several melons in just 2 days and are hard at work on the cucumbers. It's discouraging, as you can imagine. Nothing stops cucumber beetles (and no, don't suggest what someone last year did; we're organic, I'm not going to call an exterminator and spray the garden). Here's another of Barbara's giant Photoshopped vegetables.
Giant tomato, as created by Barbara's grandson, Christopher Young.
Heat is hovering in the upper 90s every day and we are getting serious about needing some rain. Constant watering, using drip irrigation and over-head, as well, keeps things alive but doesn't satisfy the plants like a soaking rain would. It's hard to believe we were inundated with rains and flooding less than 2 months ago and now we're getting desperate for moisture. Lady bugs are keeping up with aphids and other critters but they're no match for the bigger pests like the cucumber beetles, squash bugs and squash vine borers.
Lady bug on a native Solanum plant.
Here's a spotted cucumber beetle, in the photo below, taste-testing a winter squash leaf. Not even birds or chickens will eat these little yellow and black spotted critters.
Such a little bug, the same size as the lady bug, but one's helpful, and this one is a threat to crops.
The potatoes are nearly all dug, most have been sold at the farmers markets on Friday and Saturday night. We may try to plant a fall crop in a week or two. Friends told us they always plant their fall crop of potatoes in mid July so I think we'll give it a try.
Red potatoes, ready for market at a friend's house.
We had a very good crop of fingerling potatoes earlier (those aren't fingerlings, above, those are red potatoes). One favorite of the fingerlings is Anna Cheeka's Odette, one of the best for making German potato salad. Fingerling potatoes stay firm when cooked and aren't mealy, which means they don't break up into mashed potatoes when you make potato salad. Here's the recipe I like:

German Potato Salad
l pound fingerling potatoes, (or substitute German butterball or Yukon), skins left on
 8-10 slices bacon
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 T. sugar

Put the potatoes in a steamer or double boiler and cook over salted water for about 30 minutes or until tender when forked. Let the potatoes cool, reserving 1 1/4 cups of the salted cooking water.

Fry the bacon over medium heat until nearly crisp but still bendable. Remove bacon from pan and cut into 1 inch pieces. Leave bacon fat in the pan. (Bacon drippings, after all, are "America's olive oil!")

Reduce skillet heat to low and add the chopped onion, cooking until soft. Raise heat to medium, sift flour into the onions, stirring for about 5 minutes to make a roux. Let the flour and fat become well bound together and lightly brown in color.

Slowly add the vinegar to the roux, stirring steadily until the sauce thickens. Next, add the potato water, also slowly, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved.

Cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes and add the sauce, tossing with the bacon pieces. Mix gently. Best served immediately while still hot.

Summer here at Long Creek Herbs means daylilies and we have several colors. Here's one of the orange doubles...

And this white one was a new one last year.
And one more, for contrast.

Rose Butter-2

Both pretty, and food!
There are lots of kinds of roses that are also wonderful seasoning and decorative herbs. How do you know which ones to eat? (Click this link to see my YouTube video on eating roses:

1-Don't eat roses from a florist shop. Those have been highly sprayed with insecticides. Additionally, they have little fragrance, and thus, no flavor.

2-Don't eat roses from your own garden if you are using systemic fertilizers - those include insecticides that are taken up by the rose bush with the fertilizer, and dispersed throughout the leaves and flowers.

Other than that, if the roses are un-sprayed, and have good fragrance, they will also have good flavor and are good to eat.

Roses are related to apples and several other fruits, all edible plants.

Rose butter, made with very fragrant dark pink roses. It's delicious on any good bread!

An easy way to start eating roses is by making rose butter.

Start with a pound of unsalted butter (don't substitute margarine, use real butter for this, your taste buds will thank you). Let it come to room temperature or soften it slightly in the microwave but do not let it melt.

Gather a heaping cup full of fragrant rose petals in the morning, after the dew has evaporated but before the heat of the day. Why? Because the rose oils are strongest then and the flavor will be the best.

Chop up the rose petals, or put them in a blender and gently pulse-blend until the petals are finely chopped.

Combine the finely chopped rose petals and the butter and mix well. Form the butter into a mound, add whole, fresh rose petals to the outside, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The flavors will be best after about 24 hours or overnight.

Food grade rose water is available in many whole foods stores.

Note, if you are using red rose petals, most red rose varieties have little flavor or fragrance ('Mr. Lincoln', a hybrid tea, is an exception, it has pretty good fragrance and flavor. But if you want rose butter and your roses aren't the tastiest, add 2 teaspoons of food grade rose water as you are mixing the rose petals into the butter.


Banana Salsa

If this is what you think of when you think, salsa, then you're in for a treat!
Every time I give a Sensational Salsas workshop, I ask the participants to vote on which of the 3 salsas I demonstrate are their favorite. Every time, and to everyone's surprise, the taste-tests reveal Banana Salsa to be the favorite.
White Grape-Mint Salsa is a cool, refreshing dip for chips in summer.

The three salsas I talk and about demonstrate are: White Grape and Mint Salsa, Canteloupe Salsa and Banana. Sometimes I include Peach-Mango Salsa if peaches are in season. Even then, Banana wins!

You can always use these salsas with your favorite chips, but I like to use them as toppings for grilled fish, as a dip for shrimp, or layered in a wrap with lettuce and grilled chicken. The Banana is so tasty we seldom get beyond using it with chips, but try it on grilled salmon, or as a relish side-dish with curried shrimp.

Here's the recipe. The ingredients may not't sound that appealing, but when you get them all together - yumm.
Serve Banana Salsa with your favorite chips, or as a relish with grilled fish.

Banana Salsa
2 not-fully-ripe bananas, cut in pieces
1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut in pieces
1/2 cup green bell pepper, cut in pieces
1/2 habanero pepper, seeds removed, cut in pieces
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced (don't substitute dried ginger)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 to 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Salt, optional

I use a hand-cranked, plastic food chopper ($3 at yard sales, $12 new at places like K-Mart) but you can also use a regular food processor. Either way, put the ingredients in the bowl of the chopper/processor and pulse chop until everything is blended but still coarsely chopped. Let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes for flavors to combine, or refrigerate for an hour or more, then return to room temperature before serving.

If you would like more of my salsa recipes, order my book, Sensational Salsas, from Apple to Zucchini here, on my website.
Banana Salsa can be made as hot or as mild as you wish. I like it hot!


Lavender Cookies

Lavender flowers give wonderful flavor to cookies. Even people who say they don't like all that "herby stuff" like these. They're so easy to make, it only takes minutes. I use the food processor and unless you're a cookie purist, you'll never know that I used shortcuts and simple methods. Here's the recipe.

Jim's Lavender Cookies
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup additional sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 3 Tablespoons dry lavender flowers in the food processor and pulse blend until the flowers are well chopped. Set aside.

Cream the butter and 1 cup of flour in the food processor until the sugar is well dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients, including the sugar-lavender mixture and pulse blend just until the dough is mixed.

Roll each ball in the additional sugar, then place on an oiled cookie sheet and bake at 37

Roll out the dough in golf ball-sized balls in your hands, then roll that in the reserved sugar and place about 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Bake a minute longer if you like dryer cookies, or take out at the 8-9 min. mark for softer, chewier cookies.

Makes about 16 cookies.