Asparagus and Mushroom Scramble

Asparagus is a symbol of Spring for me. It has a nutty green taste.

Did you know that asparagus tips are immature leaves?

My husband, Jesús, used to pick it as a child farm worker. He told me that once the leaves open, the asparagus is ruined. Because of the urgency of picking the fast-growing asparagus before the leaves open, his family was required to harvest it a grueling 6 ½ days a week!  Jesús never wanted look at another asparagus stalk! I am still working on getting him to eat it.

2 medium asparagus

About 1 Tb minced chives, from 5 chives or 1 green onion (scallion)

2 large mushrooms

3 eggs

¼  tsp butter

1 Tb water

1 Tb grated sharp cheddar or Jarlsburg cheese

a few shakes salt

Soak asparagus and eggs in a bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes to warm eggs and cleanse asparagus.

Mince chives or scallions.

Rinse asparagus a few times to remove any dirt, then chop finely. Slice mushrooms

Beat eggs then grate cheese into the eggs. Add salt and beat well.

asparagus and mushrooms n green onions

Heat a nonstick skillet. Rub a butter stick over the hot pan until it is coated with about ¼ tsp butter. Add mushrooms, chives and asparagus. Sauté a few minutes, then add 1 Tb warm water so that the asparagus can steam another minute.

Pour eggs over asparagus and gently turn with spatula until desired doneness. Nice with toast.

asparagus and mushroom scramble

Chayote Salad



This spiny chayote reminds me of an old man who needs a shave! I bought the chayotes from an elderly Chinese woman selling them in her front yard on Fruitvale Avenue in East Oakland. They were so prickly that I had to use oven mitts to handle them at home and use a fork to steady it while I peeled it with a knife.

Chayote squash was grown by the Aztecs who named it chayotli in their Nahuatl language. I combined ingredients of Mexican and Spanish origin to make this salad. I drew inspiration for this recipe from Ensalada de chayote written by my friends and gourmet role models, Victor M. Valle and Mary Lau Valle, in their fascinating book, Recipe of Memory: Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine

Chayotes come in smooth skinned varieties as well, but Victor and I agree that the spiny ones are more flavorful. I suppose I could make some sort of analogy to life or raising kids who are hard to handle but, well I’ll let you finish that sentence.

Ingredients

1 large or 2 medium chayotes

about 10 Kalamata olives

15-oz  can drained garbanzo beans

1/2 tsp minced fresh oregano or 1/4 tsp dried oregano.

1 cucumber, peeled

1 small avocado

two radishes

¼ cup cilantro leaves

handful of fresh lettuce leaves for each bowl

Dressing:

2 Tb extra virgin olive oil

2 Tb fresh lime juice,

½ tsp salt

pinch of chipotle chili powder

Boil whole chayote with 2 cloves smashed garlic and a tsp salt for 30 minutes until tender. Let cool in refrigerator, then peel, remove pit, and slice. Add  kalamata olives, garbanzo beans, and oregano.

Dressing : Whisk 2 Tb garlic olive oil, 2 Tb lime juice, ½ tsp salt, with a pinch of chipotle powder. Pour over salad. Let sit for several hours.

Cut a peeled cucumber and a small avocado into bite sized chunks. Gently toss in salad with  two sliced and quartered radishes and ¼ cup sliced cilantro leaves.

Eggplant Marinara


Rich with eggplant, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes, spicy with Italian sausage,  garlic and pepper, and fragrant with fresh herbs, this marinara sauce is ideal for pasta or Lasagna. There are two ways to make this marinara: with eggplant purée or sliced Italian eggplant. You could even use both for an extra helping of vegetables. I roasted the mushrooms to bring out their earthy flavor.

I took a tip from The Breakaway Cook Eric Gower, and added ground dried mushrooms for umami, (Japanese for savory deliciousness), which wonderfully expands and rounds out flavors.

Along with my homegrown herbs, I add a fresh bay leaf. I pick them when I get the chance to hike in the hills around Berkeley and Palo Alto. Their aroma brings me memories of my youth hiking and biking those hills. Just be careful about leaving them in too long – the fresh ones are very strong and can overpower the sauce, making it bitter. Just leave it in about 15 minutes.

Serves 8 (with pasta)

3 links turkey Italian sausage or vegetarian sausage

1 Tb olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 Tb  salt (to taste)

½ tsp. red chili flakes

5 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

3 Tb minced fresh oregano OR  3 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp. minced fresh tarragon or 1/2 tsp dried tarragon

several grinds black pepper

2 bell peppers and/or red bell peppers. (can substitute 3 cups frozen or 2 cups jarred roasted red peppers)

1 small (6 oz) can tomato paste

¼ cup red wine

2 lbs or 14 large soft Roma tomatoes (substitute 24 oz can of crushed tomatoes and 24 oz diced tomatoes

1 Tb sugar to taste

1 bay leaf

3 dried mushrooms

1 roasted globe eggplant  and/or  4 Italian eggplants, cut in rounds and quartered

1 cup quartered mushrooms

1  14-oz can artichoke hearts, quartered

I bunch (1/4 cup minced) fresh basil

Italian eggplant method: Roast or barbecue eggplant and peppers. Discarding ends, slice eggplant into rounds, then quarter the rounds.

Globe Eggplant Method: Pierce globe eggplant with a fork, and roast in a heavy oiled baking pan in 400’ oven for 1 hour until it collapses.  Roast red peppers and mushrooms for the last ½ hour alongside the eggplant. You can roast the vegetables a day ahead of time.

You can also barbecue the eggplant peppers and mushrooms.

While eggplant is roasting and cooling, make the rest of the sauce.

Slice, quarter and brown sausages and drain the fat.

Sauté onion and salt in olive oil until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes Add sausage, chopped fresh or frozen bell peppers (if not roasting them), chili flakes, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme and black pepper. Sauté another couple of minutes until herbs release their fragrance.

Add tomato paste, then fill tomato paste can with water then stir in the tomato paste that has stuck to the can.

Halve Roma tomatoes and scoop out seeds and fibrous ribs.

Pulse tomatoes in food processor until desired consistency is reached. I did mine on the chunky side. (If you are using canned tomatoes, add them instead.) Stir into tomato paste and herb mixture. Add sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

If using chopped Italian eggplant, add it to sauce.

If using globe eggplant, scrape it out from the peel and mince it. Stir it into the sauce.

Quarter mushrooms and mix in sauce.

Grind the dried mushrooms until pulverized in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder. Stir into sauce.

Add 1/4 cup wine and sip some on the side…

If using roasted bell peppers, stir them into the sauce.

Stir well and let simmer for an hour. You can make this in a crock pot and let it simmer for several hours.

Add quartered artichoke hearts and tarragon for last 10 minutes of cooking. Just before serving over pasta or making lasagna, stir in basil and cook a couple of minutes.

How ugly are your cucumbers?



I bought some cucumber plants from a grade school fundraiser last spring. I had no idea what kind they were. Now in September I’m finding these ugly little treasures hiding behind the leaves. They have got to be the funniest looking veggies around! And they have prickly little bodies, so they’re not even ugly and cuddly, (unlike those cabbage patch dolls). But peel them and bite into their crisp insides and yes! That is why I faithfully watered these babies! They add crunch to sandwiches and salads including the Quinoa Tabouli salad I made today for a lovely late summer meal.

quinoa tabouli

 

A Tale of Two Squash: Squash soup and Squash tacos

It was the best of squash,  it was….well anyway, there once were two butternut squash that were roasted in the oven.

but after becoming caramelized and soft, they headed for two different fates: one a smooth creamy soup made with broth and sage; the other filled spicy tacos with a burst of freshness from cilantro.

Butternut Squash Soup

Heat 3 cups broth (see Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version)

If squash has not cooked completely in oven, put seeded and peeled cooked squash in broth. Add  a large peeled and chopped red potato, and cook until very soft, about 10 minutes.  Or I bake a Russet potato with the squash, halve it and peel it.  If both squash and potato are soft, you can skip boiling them and just plop them in the blender with the soup and sage.

squash in broth

Put it in the blender with the soup, several torn sage leaves, and a ½ to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste). You can omit the potato and make this soup with Potato-Leek soup base for a creamier, savory taste. Or try part broth, part potato-leek soup.

Heat raw pepitas (green shelled Mexican pumpkin seeds) on a comal or heavy frying pan until they begin to pop.

Garnish soup with seeds and a sage leaf.

Butternut Squash Tacos

mash squash

Simpler veggie version: Seed and peel squash and mash with ¼ cup butternut squash soup. Add ½ tsp. cumin and a few shakes chili powder or chipotle powder and salt. Grate or slice 2 tsp low fat cheddar cheese for each taco and add to squash.

tortilla with squash and cheese with pepitas on comal

Heat corn tortilla on comal, spread squash-cheese mixture on top.

Add salsa to taste, then toasted pepitas (you can toast them while heating the tortilla). Finish with chopped tomato and fresh cilantro.

ground turkey squash taco

Ground turkey version: Heat 1 Tb garlic infused olive oil (or regular olive oil) and add ½ chopped onion and one pound ground turkey. Add 1 chopped red or yellow bell pepper and 3 chopped Roma tomatoes. Season with 1 tsp each cumin and chipotle or chili powder, black pepper and chili flakes, 3 Tb salsa, and salt to taste. Cook until turkey is brown, add ½ cup butternut squash, and a squeeze of lime to cut the sweetness of the squash. Heat corn tortilla and fill with mixture. Add as desired: chopped lettuce, tomato, guacamole,  shredded low-fat cheese, more salsa, and cilantro. For a vegetarian version, substitute pinto  beans for turkey.