Wednesday, May 30, 2018

May 31, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Hon Tsai Tai & Pea Vine

Cooking With This Week’s Box: 

This Week’s Summary of Recipes & The Vegetables They Utilize:

Mini Romaine Lettuce:  Romaine & Cheese Roll Ups (See explanation below)
Egyptian Walking Onions or Potato Onions:  Pea Vine & Asparagus Soup with Buttermilk and Mint (See Below); Sesame-Soy and Hon Tsai Tai Chicken SaladRadish & Scallion SalsaSpicy Lentil Tacos with Radish & Scallion Salsa
Green Garlic:  Skillet Chicken with Rhubarb and Green Garlic; Pea Vine & Asparagus Soup with Buttermilk and Mint (See Below); Sesame-Soy and Hon Tsai Tai Chicken Salad
Pea Vine:  Pea Vine & Asparagus Soup with Buttermilk and Mint (See Below) 

Welcome back for another week of spring cooking!  This week we’ll make the transition into the month of June which means strawberries and summer vegetables are just around the corner!  Mark your calendars for June 17 and join us at the farm for our annual Strawberry Day event! 

The theme of this week’s newsletter and box is “Greens.”  This week I used the pea vine to create a new recipe for Pea Vine & Asparagus Soup with Buttermilk and Mint.  (See BELOW)  This is a simple, brothy, light soup to prepare.  The thing that’s so striking about it though is the bright pea flavor and aroma you experience when it’s freshly made.   You can taste the vitality in this soup!

I enjoy the flavor of hon tsai tai most when it’s raw.  So this week I’m going to make this Sesame-Soy and Hon Tsai Tai Chicken Salad that we featured in a 2014 newsletter.  The recipe calls for baby white turnips, which aren’t quite ready.  In their place, you can substitute roasted asparagus.

This week I’m going to make Melissa Clark’s recipe for Skillet Chicken with Rhubarb and Green Garlic.  There’s even a video you can watch where Melissa shows you how to make this dish!

The remaining asparagus can be used to make this simple Fettucine with Asparagus.  This will make a simple, light dinner.

I seldom get past red radishes with butter and salt…before I know it the whole bunch is gone.  But this week I want to try this recipe for Radish & Scallion Salsa that can be used to make these Spicy Lentil Tacos with Radish & Scallion Salsa.  You can serve these with either saute mix or salad mix as the recipe calls for “baby greens.”  Any remaining greens will make a simple salad to serve with any leftover Skillet Chicken with Rhubarb and Green Garlic.

We’re down to a little head of romaine lettuce and some spicy radish tops.  This week I’ve been eating the romaine lettuce as a snack.  I take a leaf of the lettuce and spread a little bit of mayonnaise on the leaf and top it off with a slice of cheese.  Wrap it up like a burrito and it makes a great afternoon snack!  The radish tops have been making their way into Richard’s breakfast burritos this week.  This week’s breakfast burrito has been bacon, scallion, radish tops scrambled with eggs and Parmesan.  I spread a little sour cream on a warm flour tortilla and then wrap up the scrambled eggs in the tortilla.  Simple, delicious, and a great way to use the tops of the radishes!

That’s a wrap...I’ll see you back next week to talk cooking and share more recipes!—Chef Andrea 

Featured Vegetable: Hon Tsai Tai & Pea Vine

Hon Tsai Tai in the field
Hon tsai tai and pea vine hold an important place in our spring vegetable line-up.  We rely on them to bridge the gap between the long winter and greater availability of other crops coming in from the fields.  Hon tsai tai is in a group of plants referred to as “flowering brassicas.”  While it is related to such vegetables as mustard greens and bok choi, what sets it apart is that it has beautiful purple stems that produce a sweet, delicate, edible yellow flower.  The sweetness of the buds and flowers is the part we love the most!  While other vegetables in the brassica family also produce flowers, they do so towards the end of their life cycle and at that point there are often undesirable flavor changes in the edible portion of the plant.  Hon tsai tai is unique in that it produces the flower early in its life when all the parts of the plant still taste good.

Hon tsai tai has a mild mustard flavor.  The entire plant is edible and may be eaten raw or cooked.  The thin purple stems are more tender when the plant is young.  While still flavorful, they may become more coarse as the plant matures, so should be cut very finely at this stage.  Hon tsai tai is delicious in stir-fries or lightly steamed or sauteed, but also makes a stunning and flavorful addition to raw salads.  A common preparation in Chinese cuisine is to quickly stir-fry hon tsai tai with garlic, onions, and ginger, then add oyster sauce.  Store hon tsai tai loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until ready for use. 

Pea Vine is actually an immature heirloom snow pea plant that is harvested before the vine starts to develop blossoms.  It has a mild, sweet pea flavor and may be eaten raw or lightly cooked.  While the tendrils and leaves are tender, the main stem can sometimes get tough depending on how mature the plant is at harvest.  This week’s pea vine may be a bit more mature and you may find some of the lower stem is a bit more coarse.  If you find this to be the case, pick the leaves, tendrils and thin, tender stems off the main stem.  I must admit that I don’t like to spend a lot of time sorting through a bunch of pea vine and I prefer to use as much of the bunch as I there is a lot of flavor and nutrition in the stem!  Thus, when the pea vine is more mature and some of the stems are a bit more coarse, I tend to use pea vine in ways that allow me to blend it in a blender or food processor to make things such as pea vine pesto or pea vine cream cheese

The other way I like to use pea vine is in sauces, soups or broth.  I generally chop the pea vine into smaller pieces and add it to hot broth or a sauce base.  Let the pea vine simmer briefly to extract the flavor, but don’t overcook it or you’ll lose the bright pea flavor.  Once you’ve infused the flavor of the pea vine into the sauce or broth, you can strain it out to remove it.  If you’d like to extract just a little more flavor, blend the mixture before straining it.  Store pea vine loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until ready for use.  

Pea Vine & Asparagus Soup with Buttermilk & Mint 

Yield:  3-4 servings

¾ cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp olive oil or butter
1-2 pieces green garlic
2-4 green onions
½ pound asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 bunch pea vine
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Fresh mint, to garnish (optional)

  1.  First, measure out the buttermilk and set it aside.  You want to allow it to come to room temperature while you prepare the soup.
  2. Heat olive oil or butter in a medium saucepot over medium heat.  Separate the green tops from the lower white base of both the green garlic and green onions.  Finely chop the white part of both the garlic and onions.  You will need about ¾ cup total.  Thinly slice the green tops and set aside. 
  3.  Add the chopped garlic and onions to the pan and saute them briefly, just until softened. 
  4. Next, add the asparagus and broth to the pan along with freshly ground black pepper and a bit of salt.  Bring the soup to a simmer.  Cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the asparagus is bright green and tender.  Be careful not to overcook the asparagus!
  5. While the soup is simmering, prepare the pea vine.  Remove the lower 1-2 inches of stem from the bunch and then roughly chop the remainder. 
  6. Once the asparagus is tender, transfer the soup to a blender and add the chopped pea vine. If you have a large enough blender container you can puree the soup in one batch, otherwise you may need to puree it in two batches.  Be careful when blending the hot soup.
  7. Blend the soup until all of the vegetables are incorporated and you have a smooth soup.  You can choose to either strain the soup or leave it as is.  If you like a silky, smooth soup, strain it through a fine mesh strainer.  If you don’t mind a thicker soup, just move on to the next step and skip the step of straining.
  8. Once the soup is blended (and strained if you choose to do so), return the soup to the pan and reheat it just enough to bring it to the temperature you’d like to serve it at.  Please note this soup is good when eaten hot, room temperature or as a chilled soup.  The soup should be a bright green color at this point.  You want to minimize any further cooking time so you can keep the bright green color and the perky pea flavor of the broth.
  9. Just before serving, stir in the buttermilk.  Portion the soup into bowls and garnish with the sliced green onion and green garlic tops as well as fresh mint.

We enjoyed this soup served very simply with crackers, sliced radishes and a hard-boiled egg.  As mentioned in the method, this soup is delicious eaten at any temperature. 

Recipe created by Chef Andrea Yoder

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