Roasted Shrimp and Feta Over Fennel-Scented Tomato Sauce

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Roasted shrimp with fennel, tomatoes & feta cheese by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

There's something magical about this meal -- a rich, fennel and garlic-scented tomato sauce topped by a layer of shrimp, lemony bread crumbs and little chunks of salty feta cheese. You bake it all in the oven until everything gets piping hot, melty and browned, then serve it over a pile of spaghetti.

The flavors manage to be both complex and comforting at the same time and it's filling and warming. I learned about it from my friend, Kali, who found it in Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That? I don't own this book yet but if the other recipes in it are anything like this one, I need to get a copy.


You start with the sauce. We happened to have quite a lot of fennel growing in the garden that needed to be picked before the first frost.

Fennel from the garden by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

I love fennel's feathery, licorice-scented fronds and saved them for use in salads. You chop the bulb up and it lends a lovely anise flavor to the tomato sauce. Trust me, it goes beautifully with the feta and the shrimp.

I was fortunate in that our garden also provided the tomatoes for the sauce. Lots of ripe Romas and cherry tomatoes. But you can use a jar of chopped or whole tomatoes, too. I try to avoid canned tomatoes because there is still no way to avoid BPA in those cans - more info on how to find BPA-free tomatoes here.

Today's tomato haul from the garden by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Saut矇 the fennel and garlic until softened then deglaze with white wine and add the tomatoes, herbs and other flavorings and let it simmer for a little while.

The wonderfully flavorful sauce made with tomatoes, fennel and garlic from the garden by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

While it's cooking, prepare the breadcrumbs which are speckled with lemon zest and parsley and made rich with melted butter. You can either cook this dish in the same skillet you made the sauce in (assuming that it's ovenproof) or transfer it to a baking dish. Top the sauce with the shrimp, scatter the feta over them and top with the lemony breadcrumbs.

Roasted shrimp with fennel, tomatoes & feta cheese by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Then bake it until the top is nicely browned - about 15 minutes.

Roasted shrimp with fennel, tomatoes & feta cheese just out of the oven by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Serve over pasta with a vegetable side or a green salad. Delicious, warming and filling in the best sense of the word.

Roasted shrimp with fennel, tomatoes & feta cheese by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

-- print recipe --
Roasted Shrimp and Feta Over Tomato Fennel Sauce
Serves 6

Ingredients

* 4 tablespoons organic olive oil, divided
* 1 1/2 cups medium-diced fennel bulbs
* 3 large cloves of organic garlic, minced or pressed
* 1/4 cup dry white wine
* 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced organic tomatoes (I used fresh as they taste better)
* 2 tsps tomato paste
* 1 tsp dried oregano
* 1 Tbsp Pernod (I skipped this - still good without!)
* 1 tsp sea salt
* 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
* 1 1/4 pounds peeled shrimp with tails on
* 5 ounces feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
* 1 cup bread crumbs
* 3 Tbsps minced fresh parsley
* 1 tsp grated lemon zest
* 2 lemons, cut into wedges (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10-or 12-inch heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat. Add the fennel and saute for 8 to 10 minutes, until the fennel is tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes with the liquid, tomato paste, oregano, Pernod, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Arrange the shrimp, tails up, in one layer over the tomato-mixture in the skillet. Scatter the feta evenly over the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, and lemon zest with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle over the shrimp.

3. Bake for 15 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked and the bread crumbs are golden brown. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the shrimp. Serve hot over pasta with the remaining lemon cut into wedges.

You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Harvesting Hen-Of-The-Woods Mushroom

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Will with his find - a gigantic hen of the woods mushroom by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

A few weeks ago, our mushroom foraging friend, Rick advised our son, Will to keep an eye out for hen-of-the-woods mushrooms at the base of oak trees. Will, who is quite good at spotting things, eventually found a truly enormous one growing from the base of an oak tree at his grandma's house next door.

So we went for a walk in the woods to retrieve it a few days ago.

Into the woods at grandmother's house by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

It was a beautiful, warm afternoon filled with the golden light of Fall. I am not at all religious but find it impossible to think about autumn's riotous colors and silent beauty in anything other than reverent terms - glorious, holy, hushed, brilliant, burning...

A golden chapel by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

I wore my rain boots because they give me the illusion of invincibility - like I can go anwhere and do anything without getting my socks wet or bitten by ticks or scratched by thorns.

Boots on the ground by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

We went a little ways down the hill and Will pointed out his find. The mushroom was BIG. However, I've read that these mushrooms can grow to at least 50 pounds so it's all relative.

A massive hen of the woods mushroom growing out of the base of a big oak tree by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Will was very proud of his find. I was, too. Here he is with a little piece of the mushroom. I often ask him, "Why are you so cute?" and he always responds, "Because I'm yours," which has always impressed me since I think it basically sums it all up.

Will with his find - a gigantic hen of the woods mushroom by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Hen-of-the-woods (Grifola frondosa) is native to the northeastern U.S. as well as Japan where it is known as maitake - the "dancing mushroom" because people were supposedly so happy to find it that they would dance for joy.

It's not poetic but it reminds me of a brain - especially on the inside. And it was a surprise to find a few centipedes and a salamander curled up in one of the mushroom's little cavities. Luckily, it was not hard to relocate these guests.

A massive hen of the woods mushroom growing out of the base of a big oak tree by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

The flavor is fantastic - so much depth and richness - it makes you realize that those white button mushrooms you get at the store taste like absolutely nothing except what you cook them with. Maitake is a pretty meaty mushroom and can stand up to long cooking. I like it cooked with some liquid to make it more tender. Thus far, we have eaten it sauteed with butter, garlic, thyme and oregano (MWAH, so good!) and also in a mushroom risotto (also delish.) And there's still quite a bit to use. I may end up freezing some.

Hen-of-the-woods mushroom also known as Maitake mushroom by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

In addition to tasting good, this mushroom seems to have both nutritional and medicinal benefits. It's rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, vitamin B2, D2 and niacin and amino acids. Memorial Sloan Kettering has done some clinical trials that indicate the mushroom has the power to stimulate certain types of immune cells. Maitake also appears to help regulate glucose levels which can be helpful in managing and preventing Type II diabetes.  Paul Stamets wrote an interesting article about maitakes which goes into a little more depth.

Hen-of-the-woods mushroom also known as Maitake mushroom by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Right now is a good time to look for hen-of-the-woods as they like warm days and cool nights. Look at the base of oaks, elms and maples (but mostly oaks) in the forest. And you needn't be afraid of accidentally poisoning yourself because there are no poisonous look-alikes. Which is always nice.

You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Making Membrillo - A Delicious, Sweet Quince Paste

Monday, October 19, 2015

Membrillo (sweet quince paste) with Irish cheddar and crackers by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Despite feeling heartily sick of peeling, slicing and canning after making a rather large batch of applesauce, I found myself unable to resist the lure of the pile of fragrant, fuzzy quinces next to the checkout counter at Sunfrost Farms. "I'll just get a few," I told myself, thinking longingly of membrillo while willfully ignoring the many hours of work it would require.

For those of you who do not already know about membrillo, you're in for a treat! Dulce de membrillo is a sweet, dense jelly made from the pulp of the quince fruit. This Spanish treat has a wonderful, richly fragrant, almost floral taste that pairs beautifully with cheese. The traditional accompaniment is Manchego but it is also good friends with many an aged sheep's milk cheese, as well as sharp cheddar, goat cheese, Tomme and many more. In short, membrillo is a welcome addition to any cheese plate.

Quince fruit hanging from the branch. Photo by Colin (colinsd40) via Flickr.


Quinces are related to apples and pears and have been around for a long time - ancient history is littered with references to them. Quinces were apparently a ritual offering in Greek weddings and Plutarch reported that Greek brides would often nibble on a quince before entering the bridal chamber on the wedding night, "in order that the first greeting may not be disagreeable nor unpleasant." Unfortunately, for the poor Greek girls, a raw quince is basically inedible between being rock-hard, puckeringly astringent and not at all sweet. The things we do for love...


When I got home, I put the quinces in the sink, enjoying their unique texture - a curious, slightly sticky, almost waxy fuzz - and their lovely, floral scent. Then I thumbed through all my preserving books until I found a membrillo recipe that sounded good in Kevin West's Saving the Season which has recently joined the ranks of my favorite canning cookbooks.

Saving the Seasons cookbook by Kevin West by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Our beloved next-door neighbors in Berkeley had a quince tree so I was already somewhat familiar with the fruits and knew that I preferred not to have to peel them raw. Happily, West's recipe called for me to roast them whole before removing the skin and cores so into the oven they went in a covered baking dish.

When they emerged, they were soft and far more pliant. These particular quinces, which had been grown organically, had a number of blemishes that made them rather time-consuming to peel. But eventually, I managed to get all the flesh into the pot. It looked like this and smelled lovely.

Roasted quince flesh by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

I added a little water, turned the heat on medium-low and got out my immersion blender (one of my all-time favorite kitchen tools) and turned it into a smooth puree.

Pureeing the quinces by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Then I measured the quince puree and poured out an equal amount of cane sugar. Yowzas, that's a lot of sugar. In this case, I had about four cups of each.

Equal amounts quince flesh and sugar by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Then back into the pot to cook down, along with some spices. As I cooked it down, it turned a deep orange-red. It took a lot of stirring because quinces have a lot of natural pectin and so it makes a very "sticky" jam. I cooked and stirred every couple of minutes until it was thick enough for me to drag a spoon along the bottom and be left with a furrow that stays.

Drawing a line on the bottom of the pot to test whether the quince paste is ready by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Then I poured the paste out onto a sheet of parchment paper into the tray of my toaster oven which seemed to be just the right size and depth for the volume I had - roughly one inch deep - and smoothed it out with a spatula. I also kept a bunch aside in jars.

Drying the quince paste by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

After cooking it for many hours on low heat, after flipping it over once or twice to ensure even cooking, the membrillo was fairly solid and dry (though still sticky) to the touch and ready to package. I turned it out onto a cutting board and sliced it into little blocks. I wrapped them in parchment paper and tied them with string and am now storing them in some tupperwares in my fridge to give as gifts to deserving loved ones.

Packages of quince paste wrapped in parchment paper by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

By the end of the process, as with most of my food preservation projects, I was sick and tired of the stuff but now that a few days have passed and I've gotten to enjoy some of the membrillo, I feel that it was well worth the effort.

Membrillo (sweet quince paste) with Irish cheddar and crackers by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

And my fridge drawer is now stocked with ready-made gifts...

Packages of quince paste wrapped in parchment paper by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Hearty Braised Kale, Roasted Tomato and Egg Breakfast Sandwich

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Braised kale, roasted tomato & egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Here's what we have -- a thick slice of toasted peasant bread topped by a schmear of creamy mascarpone, a layer of herb and garlic-spiked roasted tomatoes, a heaping of garlicky kale and a rich, perfectly soft-boiled egg topped with a sprinkle of sea salt. It's hearty and savory and addictive.

The inspiration for this delicious sandwich comes from a similar one that I tried a few months ago at Oriole 9, one of our family's favorite restaurants here in Woodstock. It was so good that I decided to recreate at home. Their version was topped with a poached egg but I don't have a great way to poach eggs at the moment so I went with a soft boiled egg, instead with delightful results.

Slow roasted heirloom tomatoes with garlic and herbs by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Roasting is my favorite way to deal with the rag-tag assortment of tomatoes we're still harvesting from our garden as the season winds down. Simply cut them in half, toss with some minced garlic, some basil, oregano, thyme or rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper and then place them, cut-side-down on a baking sheet and cook at low heat until they reach the desired consistency. I usually do this for a few hours to give them time to fall apart and for the sugars and flavors to get nice and concentrated. Like liquid gold! Then you can either store in an airtight container in the fridge or freeze for later use.

The oven roasted tomatoes with garlic and herbs for the braised kale, roasted tomato, mascarpone and egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

The kale is similarly simple - just separate the leaves from the ribs and wash to remove any sand, dirt or straw. Then cut or tear the greens into strips. Sautee a couple cloves of minced or pressed garlic in oil and then add the greens along with a cup of water or broth. I often add a little vegetable or chicken stock in place of water to give it extra flavor. Cover and simmer on low until the kale is tender.

Cooking the kale with garlic and broth for the braised kale, roasted tomato, mascarpone and egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Mascarpone is an extra creamy Italian-style cream cheese. It makes a nice base layer of rich schmear for all your toppings. Just use regular creamcheese if you can't get your hands on any mascarpone.

Mascarpone for the braised kale, roasted tomato, mascarpone and egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Then add a layer of roasted tomatoes, followed by a layer of kale. Don't skimp, this stuff not only tastes good, it's also good for you.

Adding the garlicky kale to the braised kale, roasted tomato, mascarpone and egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Then add the coup de grace, the eggy, as my little boys call them. This is your sandwich so make the egg as soft or hard as you like.

Braised kale, roasted tomato & egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

If you don't feel well and truly fed by this sandwich, I will eat my words.

Eating my delicious braised kale, roasted tomato, mascarpone and egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

-- print recipe --Hearty Braised Kale, Roasted Tomato & Egg Sandwich
Serves 1

Ingredients

* 1 egg, soft boiled or poached (choose pasture-raised if you can)
* 1 slice peasant or farm bread, toasted
* Garlicky braised kale - follow this recipe, omitting the soy sauce and the tomatoes - you'll find plenty of ways to enjoy the leftovers
* Roasted tomatoes - follow this recipe, making as many as you can get your hands on - they're delicious!
* Mascarpone cheese (substitute cream cheese if you can't get mascarpone)
* Sea salt to taste
* Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. I recommend that you make the kale and the tomatoes ahead of time - both store well and can be used in many other tasty ways. Once you have both those ingredients ready, cook the egg - either soft boiling it or poaching it, to your desired degree of doneness.

2. While the egg is cooking, toast your bread then spread it with a layer of mascarpone. Top with a layer of roasted tomatoes, a heaping of braised kale and then lay the egg on top. Sprinkle with sea salt and a couple grinds of pepper and tuck in.

You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Roasted Shrimp and Feta Over Fennel-Scented Tomato Sauce

Roasted shrimp with fennel, tomatoes & feta cheese by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

There's something magical about this meal -- a rich, fennel and garlic-scented tomato sauce topped by a layer of shrimp, lemony bread crumbs and little chunks of salty feta cheese. You bake it all in the oven until everything gets piping hot, melty and browned, then serve it over a pile of spaghetti.

The flavors manage to be both complex and comforting at the same time and it's filling and warming. I learned about it from my friend, Kali, who found it in Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That? I don't own this book yet but if the other recipes in it are anything like this one, I need to get a copy.


You start with the sauce. We happened to have quite a lot of fennel growing in the garden that needed to be picked before the first frost.

Fennel from the garden by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

I love fennel's feathery, licorice-scented fronds and saved them for use in salads. You chop the bulb up and it lends a lovely anise flavor to the tomato sauce. Trust me, it goes beautifully with the feta and the shrimp.

I was fortunate in that our garden also provided the tomatoes for the sauce. Lots of ripe Romas and cherry tomatoes. But you can use a jar of chopped or whole tomatoes, too. I try to avoid canned tomatoes because there is still no way to avoid BPA in those cans - more info on how to find BPA-free tomatoes here.

Today's tomato haul from the garden by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Saut矇 the fennel and garlic until softened then deglaze with white wine and add the tomatoes, herbs and other flavorings and let it simmer for a little while.

The wonderfully flavorful sauce made with tomatoes, fennel and garlic from the garden by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

While it's cooking, prepare the breadcrumbs which are speckled with lemon zest and parsley and made rich with melted butter. You can either cook this dish in the same skillet you made the sauce in (assuming that it's ovenproof) or transfer it to a baking dish. Top the sauce with the shrimp, scatter the feta over them and top with the lemony breadcrumbs.

Roasted shrimp with fennel, tomatoes & feta cheese by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Then bake it until the top is nicely browned - about 15 minutes.

Roasted shrimp with fennel, tomatoes & feta cheese just out of the oven by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Serve over pasta with a vegetable side or a green salad. Delicious, warming and filling in the best sense of the word.

Roasted shrimp with fennel, tomatoes & feta cheese by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

-- print recipe --
Roasted Shrimp and Feta Over Tomato Fennel Sauce
Serves 6

Ingredients

* 4 tablespoons organic olive oil, divided
* 1 1/2 cups medium-diced fennel bulbs
* 3 large cloves of organic garlic, minced or pressed
* 1/4 cup dry white wine
* 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced organic tomatoes (I used fresh as they taste better)
* 2 tsps tomato paste
* 1 tsp dried oregano
* 1 Tbsp Pernod (I skipped this - still good without!)
* 1 tsp sea salt
* 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
* 1 1/4 pounds peeled shrimp with tails on
* 5 ounces feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
* 1 cup bread crumbs
* 3 Tbsps minced fresh parsley
* 1 tsp grated lemon zest
* 2 lemons, cut into wedges (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10-or 12-inch heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat. Add the fennel and saute for 8 to 10 minutes, until the fennel is tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes with the liquid, tomato paste, oregano, Pernod, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Arrange the shrimp, tails up, in one layer over the tomato-mixture in the skillet. Scatter the feta evenly over the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, and lemon zest with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle over the shrimp.

3. Bake for 15 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked and the bread crumbs are golden brown. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the shrimp. Serve hot over pasta with the remaining lemon cut into wedges.

You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Harvesting Hen-Of-The-Woods Mushroom

Will with his find - a gigantic hen of the woods mushroom by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

A few weeks ago, our mushroom foraging friend, Rick advised our son, Will to keep an eye out for hen-of-the-woods mushrooms at the base of oak trees. Will, who is quite good at spotting things, eventually found a truly enormous one growing from the base of an oak tree at his grandma's house next door.

So we went for a walk in the woods to retrieve it a few days ago.

Into the woods at grandmother's house by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

It was a beautiful, warm afternoon filled with the golden light of Fall. I am not at all religious but find it impossible to think about autumn's riotous colors and silent beauty in anything other than reverent terms - glorious, holy, hushed, brilliant, burning...

A golden chapel by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

I wore my rain boots because they give me the illusion of invincibility - like I can go anwhere and do anything without getting my socks wet or bitten by ticks or scratched by thorns.

Boots on the ground by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

We went a little ways down the hill and Will pointed out his find. The mushroom was BIG. However, I've read that these mushrooms can grow to at least 50 pounds so it's all relative.

A massive hen of the woods mushroom growing out of the base of a big oak tree by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Will was very proud of his find. I was, too. Here he is with a little piece of the mushroom. I often ask him, "Why are you so cute?" and he always responds, "Because I'm yours," which has always impressed me since I think it basically sums it all up.

Will with his find - a gigantic hen of the woods mushroom by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Hen-of-the-woods (Grifola frondosa) is native to the northeastern U.S. as well as Japan where it is known as maitake - the "dancing mushroom" because people were supposedly so happy to find it that they would dance for joy.

It's not poetic but it reminds me of a brain - especially on the inside. And it was a surprise to find a few centipedes and a salamander curled up in one of the mushroom's little cavities. Luckily, it was not hard to relocate these guests.

A massive hen of the woods mushroom growing out of the base of a big oak tree by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

The flavor is fantastic - so much depth and richness - it makes you realize that those white button mushrooms you get at the store taste like absolutely nothing except what you cook them with. Maitake is a pretty meaty mushroom and can stand up to long cooking. I like it cooked with some liquid to make it more tender. Thus far, we have eaten it sauteed with butter, garlic, thyme and oregano (MWAH, so good!) and also in a mushroom risotto (also delish.) And there's still quite a bit to use. I may end up freezing some.

Hen-of-the-woods mushroom also known as Maitake mushroom by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

In addition to tasting good, this mushroom seems to have both nutritional and medicinal benefits. It's rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, vitamin B2, D2 and niacin and amino acids. Memorial Sloan Kettering has done some clinical trials that indicate the mushroom has the power to stimulate certain types of immune cells. Maitake also appears to help regulate glucose levels which can be helpful in managing and preventing Type II diabetes.  Paul Stamets wrote an interesting article about maitakes which goes into a little more depth.

Hen-of-the-woods mushroom also known as Maitake mushroom by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Right now is a good time to look for hen-of-the-woods as they like warm days and cool nights. Look at the base of oaks, elms and maples (but mostly oaks) in the forest. And you needn't be afraid of accidentally poisoning yourself because there are no poisonous look-alikes. Which is always nice.

You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Making Membrillo - A Delicious, Sweet Quince Paste

Membrillo (sweet quince paste) with Irish cheddar and crackers by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Despite feeling heartily sick of peeling, slicing and canning after making a rather large batch of applesauce, I found myself unable to resist the lure of the pile of fragrant, fuzzy quinces next to the checkout counter at Sunfrost Farms. "I'll just get a few," I told myself, thinking longingly of membrillo while willfully ignoring the many hours of work it would require.

For those of you who do not already know about membrillo, you're in for a treat! Dulce de membrillo is a sweet, dense jelly made from the pulp of the quince fruit. This Spanish treat has a wonderful, richly fragrant, almost floral taste that pairs beautifully with cheese. The traditional accompaniment is Manchego but it is also good friends with many an aged sheep's milk cheese, as well as sharp cheddar, goat cheese, Tomme and many more. In short, membrillo is a welcome addition to any cheese plate.

Quince fruit hanging from the branch. Photo by Colin (colinsd40) via Flickr.


Quinces are related to apples and pears and have been around for a long time - ancient history is littered with references to them. Quinces were apparently a ritual offering in Greek weddings and Plutarch reported that Greek brides would often nibble on a quince before entering the bridal chamber on the wedding night, "in order that the first greeting may not be disagreeable nor unpleasant." Unfortunately, for the poor Greek girls, a raw quince is basically inedible between being rock-hard, puckeringly astringent and not at all sweet. The things we do for love...


When I got home, I put the quinces in the sink, enjoying their unique texture - a curious, slightly sticky, almost waxy fuzz - and their lovely, floral scent. Then I thumbed through all my preserving books until I found a membrillo recipe that sounded good in Kevin West's Saving the Season which has recently joined the ranks of my favorite canning cookbooks.

Saving the Seasons cookbook by Kevin West by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Our beloved next-door neighbors in Berkeley had a quince tree so I was already somewhat familiar with the fruits and knew that I preferred not to have to peel them raw. Happily, West's recipe called for me to roast them whole before removing the skin and cores so into the oven they went in a covered baking dish.

When they emerged, they were soft and far more pliant. These particular quinces, which had been grown organically, had a number of blemishes that made them rather time-consuming to peel. But eventually, I managed to get all the flesh into the pot. It looked like this and smelled lovely.

Roasted quince flesh by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

I added a little water, turned the heat on medium-low and got out my immersion blender (one of my all-time favorite kitchen tools) and turned it into a smooth puree.

Pureeing the quinces by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Then I measured the quince puree and poured out an equal amount of cane sugar. Yowzas, that's a lot of sugar. In this case, I had about four cups of each.

Equal amounts quince flesh and sugar by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Then back into the pot to cook down, along with some spices. As I cooked it down, it turned a deep orange-red. It took a lot of stirring because quinces have a lot of natural pectin and so it makes a very "sticky" jam. I cooked and stirred every couple of minutes until it was thick enough for me to drag a spoon along the bottom and be left with a furrow that stays.

Drawing a line on the bottom of the pot to test whether the quince paste is ready by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Then I poured the paste out onto a sheet of parchment paper into the tray of my toaster oven which seemed to be just the right size and depth for the volume I had - roughly one inch deep - and smoothed it out with a spatula. I also kept a bunch aside in jars.

Drying the quince paste by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

After cooking it for many hours on low heat, after flipping it over once or twice to ensure even cooking, the membrillo was fairly solid and dry (though still sticky) to the touch and ready to package. I turned it out onto a cutting board and sliced it into little blocks. I wrapped them in parchment paper and tied them with string and am now storing them in some tupperwares in my fridge to give as gifts to deserving loved ones.

Packages of quince paste wrapped in parchment paper by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

By the end of the process, as with most of my food preservation projects, I was sick and tired of the stuff but now that a few days have passed and I've gotten to enjoy some of the membrillo, I feel that it was well worth the effort.

Membrillo (sweet quince paste) with Irish cheddar and crackers by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

And my fridge drawer is now stocked with ready-made gifts...

Packages of quince paste wrapped in parchment paper by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hearty Braised Kale, Roasted Tomato and Egg Breakfast Sandwich

Braised kale, roasted tomato & egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Here's what we have -- a thick slice of toasted peasant bread topped by a schmear of creamy mascarpone, a layer of herb and garlic-spiked roasted tomatoes, a heaping of garlicky kale and a rich, perfectly soft-boiled egg topped with a sprinkle of sea salt. It's hearty and savory and addictive.

The inspiration for this delicious sandwich comes from a similar one that I tried a few months ago at Oriole 9, one of our family's favorite restaurants here in Woodstock. It was so good that I decided to recreate at home. Their version was topped with a poached egg but I don't have a great way to poach eggs at the moment so I went with a soft boiled egg, instead with delightful results.

Slow roasted heirloom tomatoes with garlic and herbs by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Roasting is my favorite way to deal with the rag-tag assortment of tomatoes we're still harvesting from our garden as the season winds down. Simply cut them in half, toss with some minced garlic, some basil, oregano, thyme or rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper and then place them, cut-side-down on a baking sheet and cook at low heat until they reach the desired consistency. I usually do this for a few hours to give them time to fall apart and for the sugars and flavors to get nice and concentrated. Like liquid gold! Then you can either store in an airtight container in the fridge or freeze for later use.

The oven roasted tomatoes with garlic and herbs for the braised kale, roasted tomato, mascarpone and egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

The kale is similarly simple - just separate the leaves from the ribs and wash to remove any sand, dirt or straw. Then cut or tear the greens into strips. Sautee a couple cloves of minced or pressed garlic in oil and then add the greens along with a cup of water or broth. I often add a little vegetable or chicken stock in place of water to give it extra flavor. Cover and simmer on low until the kale is tender.

Cooking the kale with garlic and broth for the braised kale, roasted tomato, mascarpone and egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Mascarpone is an extra creamy Italian-style cream cheese. It makes a nice base layer of rich schmear for all your toppings. Just use regular creamcheese if you can't get your hands on any mascarpone.

Mascarpone for the braised kale, roasted tomato, mascarpone and egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Then add a layer of roasted tomatoes, followed by a layer of kale. Don't skimp, this stuff not only tastes good, it's also good for you.

Adding the garlicky kale to the braised kale, roasted tomato, mascarpone and egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

Then add the coup de grace, the eggy, as my little boys call them. This is your sandwich so make the egg as soft or hard as you like.

Braised kale, roasted tomato & egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

If you don't feel well and truly fed by this sandwich, I will eat my words.

Eating my delicious braised kale, roasted tomato, mascarpone and egg sandwich by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2015

-- print recipe --Hearty Braised Kale, Roasted Tomato & Egg Sandwich
Serves 1

Ingredients

* 1 egg, soft boiled or poached (choose pasture-raised if you can)
* 1 slice peasant or farm bread, toasted
* Garlicky braised kale - follow this recipe, omitting the soy sauce and the tomatoes - you'll find plenty of ways to enjoy the leftovers
* Roasted tomatoes - follow this recipe, making as many as you can get your hands on - they're delicious!
* Mascarpone cheese (substitute cream cheese if you can't get mascarpone)
* Sea salt to taste
* Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. I recommend that you make the kale and the tomatoes ahead of time - both store well and can be used in many other tasty ways. Once you have both those ingredients ready, cook the egg - either soft boiling it or poaching it, to your desired degree of doneness.

2. While the egg is cooking, toast your bread then spread it with a layer of mascarpone. Top with a layer of roasted tomatoes, a heaping of braised kale and then lay the egg on top. Sprinkle with sea salt and a couple grinds of pepper and tuck in.

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For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.