Community Recipes

Greek Salad

 

August is when you start to see many large vegetables at your local farmer’s market. After one trip to the market, you can come home with fresh green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. With these vegetables, some fresh basil from your garden or the market, and a few extra ingredients bought from the store, you can create the freshest Greek salad that you may eat all year.

Peppers are harvested in August in British Columbia, and you will certainly find some at your local farmer’s market during this month. Their variations in colour can add a lot of visual appeal to your Greek salad as well as slightly different tastes. Did you know that a red pepper is only a green pepper that has matured for longer on the plant? Red peppers are also known to be sweeter, while green peppers are more bitter. Either way, peppers from the market in August are nearly all crisp and fresh.

Cucumbers are available at the farmer’s market in August too. Although they may not all have the same shape (or even same colour) as your typical cucumber from the grocery store, the cucumbers at the farmer’s markets are unbelievably delicious and fresh.

I use cherry tomatoes as the main tomato variation in my Greek salad. This is because they are easy to cut, not very messy, and have a sweet taste. Cherry tomatoes are also extremely plentiful at the farmer’s markets in August. I would suggest using a combination of tomatoes in your Greek salad. For example, try cherry tomatoes with pear drop tomatoes. Both small, the pear drop tomatoes are actually yellow when ripe and have a very different flavour and texture then that of the cherry tomato.

Onions are an option for your Greek salad, although some may not like their harsh taste. Yes, onions are very powerful, but they are also very flavourful and can be quite sweet. Ask a stall vendor at the farmer’s market for his or her sweetest onion, like a Walla Walla. These onions are still quite powerful, but they also have a taste of sweetness to them.

To make a Greek salad, I first cut up my vegetables from the farmer’s market in chunky bits, each large enough to be pierced by a fork. I put them all in a bowl and then I use my hands to crumble some feta cheese on top of the vegetables. I then top that with a little fresh cracked black pepper to add some spice. Finally, I rip up a little of the “king of herbs”, basil, that I cultivate from my backyard garden. If you do not have a garden, basil will surely be available at the farmer’s market. I sprinkle the basil on top of everything in my bowl.

I use only olive oil to dress my salad at this time of year. The vegetables are so fresh that I allow their flavours to dominate the dish without the use of a heavy dressing. Olive oil is a nice touch, but, if you want a stronger dressing, feel free to use a salad dressing of your choice bought from the grocery store or try an artisan dressing from your farmer’s market.

Gardening Recipes Restaurants

Basil in the Garden

Basil is a wonderful and versatile herb that is found frequently in Italian and Southeast Asian cooking. Known as the “king of herbs,” basil has a long history as an herbal symbol in Christianity as well as having an unusual association with scorpions. If you have been growing basil, now is the time to start using it up as it does not keep growing once the weather starts to cool off.

Basil grows best in hot, dry climates. It is very sensitive to cold and that is why it is best to plant your basil quite late in the season when there is no chance of frost. If your outdoor climate is not very dry, as is the case for most of Vancouver, basil can be grown indoors by a window.

If you grew a lot of basil this year and do not quite know what to do with it all, it can be kept for a short time in the refrigerator, or for a longer time in the freezer. If you are going to put your basil in the freezer, you should first blanche your basil leaves quickly in boiling water for no more than 5 seconds. After you blanche, quickly put the basil in an ice bath and then dry. After the basil leaves are dried, put them in the freezer.

If you did not grow your own basil this year but would like to taste the herb, there are a number of delicious Italian restaurants around Vancouver that serve dishes involving basil. Basil Pasta Bar on Davie Street has a pesto shrimp linguine, as well as a spaghetti puttanesca and lemon chicken fettuccine. Nicli Antica Pizzeria on East Cordova Street has the pesto B. B. T. pizza and the diavola pizza. Pronto, on Cambie Street, has a caprese salad, pasta pomodoro, and margherita pizza. All of these delicious dishes use basil to an extent.

Finally, Mama Friesen has a delicious pesto recipe to share. Done largely in a food processor, pesto is a great addition to all sorts of dishes including pasta sauces. It also freezes well and can be stored into the winter so you can have that fresh basil taste all year around. The recipe is as follows:

2-3 cups fresh basil leaves

2-3 cloves of garlic (preferably Russian)

100-gram package of toasted pine nuts

Ground pepper

½ teaspoon Sea salt

¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan

¼ cup Olive Oil

1 Lemon (optional)

Add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, sea salt, pepper (as much as you prefer), and Parmesan into a food processor. Whirl the ingredients together until they are mixed. Slowly drizzle your olive oil into the mixture through the feed tube while the processor is still running. If you wish, you can add the juice from your lemon at this time too. Mix well.

Store the pesto in a Tupperware. Drizzle some olive oil on the top of the stored pesto to keep it from turning brown (the lemon helps with this too).

 

Websites consulted for this article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil

http://www.thekitchn.com/3-tips-for-preserving-fresh-basil-all-year-long-tips-from-the-kitchn-207032

 

Gardening Recipes Share Your Ideas!

IMG_0443-3IMG_0440-2 Tea

 

As an avid tea drinker, I love to grow my own herbs throughout the summer and add them to my teapot. There are so many herbs that can be used, but the ones that I like are mint, garden sage, pineapple sage, and catnip. However, you can also use lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, lemongrass, and many more.

I usually make my tea one pot at a time, and because of this I do not dry my herbs, I just pick them and put them in the pot. You can dry them if you want; they keep better. Drying can release more flavour from the herbs. However, for my tea, I usually use store-bought tea bags as a base and then add the herbs to bring a unique flavour to my drink.

I start with a mix of black tea and green tea, usually store bought bags but loose leaf also works. Then I add one good-sized sprig of mint, a few leaves of garden sage (as much as your plant will offer. I have one growing in Tsawwassen that is very small so I only use a little. I also have access to a plant in Summerland that is very large so I can use quite a bit), a sprig of pineapple sage, and a sprig of catnip. I pick all the leaves off of the stem and add the leaves to the pot with the tea bags. Then I pour in the hot water and steep for a good length, usually between five and ten minutes. After that, it is ready to serve.

This mix also makes a great iced tea. What I do to make my iced tea is first pour a cup of hot tea from the pot to free space for ice. Then I add two heaping teaspoons of honey (sugar also works) and stir it in the pot with the tea bags removed. I add the tea bags back in when the honey is dissolved. Then I fill the pot up with ice. This cools the tea enough that you could have a glass of iced tea right then, if poured into a cup also full of ice. Usually, though, I keep adding ice until either the teapot is full again or the ice no longer melts quickly. Then I put the tea into the refrigerator and let it sit overnight. This makes delicious sweetened iced tea.

Adding herbs to your tea has many benefits. Each herb will make your tea taste more unique, and they allow for a lot of creativity and variation with each new batch. Each herb also has its own soothing effects. Mint, for example has a calming effect and helps with digestion. Catnip also has a calming effect. Pineapple sage adds a natural sweetness to your tea, while garden sage adds an earthy flavour to your brew. Some herbs can have a detoxification affect when added to tea, like milk thistle and nettles. Lemon balm will add a lemon scent and slight flavour to your tea as well as having a calming effect.

Tea is a great drink no matter the season. It can be drunk either hot or cold and it is a great, natural way to relieve stress. If you are growing herbs this summer, definitely try to make your own homegrown brew. As stated, I start with a couple tea bags as a base and then add my herbs for a unique flavour.

 

Websites consulted for this article:

http://garden.org/learn/articles/view/1339/

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/hgen/herbal-tea-plants.htm

http://www.motherearthliving.com/gardening/create-tea-time-in-your-tea-garden-best-herbs-to-grow-for-tea.aspx