Most Sundays, I hit up the Hiawatha Farmers’ Market in the 10th Avenue parking lot of Guthridge Park. It is my favorite farmers’ market in the Cedar Rapids area not only because it is conveniently close to home but also because it is just the right size. You can really get to know the vendors.
Last Sunday I picked up some snow peas from the friendly folks at Wittenburg’s Farm located just up the road in Springville, Iowa. I thought these would be a great side with the tomato and basil salad and mini-Hasselback potatoes made with other produce purchased from them.
This side comes together and is ideal to make the last minute before sitting down to eat. If you are serving a steak entree as I did, it can be made while the meat is resting.
Here is what I did:
Sautéed Snow Peas with Garlic
2 Cups fresh snow peas, washed, trimmed, and dried
2 Cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Fleur de sel or other finishing salt
Heat skillet or preferably wok over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat until shimmering. Add garlic and sauté until just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add snow peas and sauté constantly stirring until bright green yet still crisp, about 5 minutes. You do not want to over cook the snow peas as they will turn dull and become limp.
Remove from heat, move to serving bowl, and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Serve immediately.
I love the peppery zing of radishes and look forward to them in Spring. They’re great for snacking, sliced thinly on salads, and always find their way onto a crudités tray, but have you ever roasted them? If not, you don’t know what you’re missing.
I am a big believer in the transformative power of roasting almost any vegetable and radishes are no exception. One problem with radishes is that late in the season they tend to get hot. Roasting them can help tame this hotness.
I like to use slightly larger radishes when I roast them. I also like to mix up the variety by combining various colors of globe and white icicle, but any one type will work. This recipe also utilizes some of the radish leaves. Contrary to popular believe, radish greens are edible and quite tasty. Radish leaves do not keep more than a couple days, but you might also consider adding the leftover leaves to your salad mix.
This recipe also calls for browned butter. Browned butter is easily made, but can go from browned to burnt in seconds if not watched. Always use a heavy bottom, light colored sauce pan and begin on medium-low heat. Using a light colored skillet like a stainless still will allow you to better see the color change. I also suggest near constant stirring to prevent the milk solids from sticking to the bottom of the sauce pan and burning.
Here is what I did:
Roasted Radishes with Rosemary Brown Butter
1 bunch radishes (approximately 8 to 12 depending on size) trimmed, reserve some leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Teaspoon Kosher salt
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Pinch of finishing sea salt
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Wash and trim radishes reserving the radish greens. Radish leaves can be gritty. Rinse thoroughly in cold water. Spread them out on paper towel and let them dry completely before removing the tougher center rib and roughly chopping. Set aside.
Cut the radishes in half and toss them with olive oil and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
Place the radishes cut side down on a large baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes until cut sides begin to brown and can easily be pierced with a knife.
About five minutes before the radishes finish roasting, prepare the brown butter sauce. You want it hot to wilt the radish tops. Begin by melting butter in a heavy bottom, light colored sauce pan. Using a light colored skillet like a stainless steel will allow you to better see the color change.Butter can go from browned to burnt in seconds. Stir with a wooden spoon and after about 4-5 minutes add the rosemary. The butter may crackle and foam again but you will notice an almost immediate release of rosemary fragrance. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook until it turns a beautiful, deep brown color, about another 3-4 minutes Remove from heat.
Place the radishes and leaves in a large serving bowl. Pour the brown butter sauce over the radishes and gently toss. Season with additional finishing sea salt if desired.
My favorite farmers’ market in the Cedar Rapids area, the Hiawatha Farmers’ Market, opened this past weekend and I stopped by to say hello to some of my friends.
This market is my favorite because it opens the earliest in the year and is the last to close in the area. It is also just the right size. It isn’t filled with the craziness of the Downtown Farmers’ Market which is more a place to be seen and not a farmers’ market. I build relations with the growers at Hiawatha which is what a market should be.
This visit to the year’s first market was simply to reacquaint myself with the vendors. I didn’t buy anything this visit as the offerings were mostly bedding plants. Some of the vendors have large green houses and so they were able to offer some items like lettuces and other greens as well as hot house tomatoes.
One green I am really looking forward to is fresh spinach and that got me thinking; I’m hungry for spinach pie.
Not finding any spinach at the market and a few days latter when this craving became an obsession, I did the next best thing. I went to the organic section of my grocery and bought a couple pounds of spinach. Craving satisfied.
Here is what I did:
Savory Spinach Pie
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds fresh spinach, larger stems removed, washed and thoroughly dried (See note)
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
3 large eggs (one egg is used for an egg wash)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
Pie crust for double crust pie
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Add the olive oil to a large skillet and sauté the onion and garlic over medium-high heat until the onion is translucent and beginning to soften. Season with salt and pepper. Add about 1/4 of the spinach, or whatever will fit in your skillet, and sauté until it cooks down. Repeat this until all the spinach is wilted. Continue cooking until most of the liquid is cooked out, about 10 to 12 minutes. Place spinach in a sieve and press the spinach to remove as much of the remaining liquid as possible. Set aside.
Whisk the cream, 2 eggs, and nutmeg together in a suitable bowl and set aside.
Fit the bottom crust in a 10″ pie pan. Layer half the spinach mixture in the bottom crust and then layer half the grated cheese. Repeat layers. Pour cream and egg mixture over spinach and cheese. Fit top crust over the pie and crimp the edges together. Beat remaining egg in a suitable bowl and brush over top crust with a pastry brush. Slit the top crust with a sharp knife to create steam vents.
Bake in 375F oven for 45 to 50 minutes and crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 30 minutes.
Note: You may substitute 2 10 ounce packages of frozen spinach for fresh. If you choose to do this, thaw and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. After you have sautéed the onion and garlic, add this to the skillet to warm though and incorporate the onion and garlic.
I have previously mentioned I sometimes try to recreate a dish I had at a restaurant. Here is a good example. Lion Bridge Brewing Company, located in the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids, not only brews some tasty beers, but their kitchen creates some excellent food as well. The Mint and Beet Grilled Cheese is one of my wife Susan’s favorite sandwiches. The sandwich is described on their menu as “local roasted beets, mint oil, and warm goat cheese.” Susan has been begging me to recreate it.
I have, but with a few minor tweaks. First, we love beets and I didn’t think the original version had enough beets. Lion Bridge also dices the beets. I think the sandwich is more structurally sound if the beets are sliced. Secondly, they use mint oil while I used fresh mint. I believe the mint oil makes the flavors too pronounced. You want the mint to be subtle.
Here is what I did:
Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese, and Mint Grilled Cheese
1/2 pound roasted beets (2 medium sized beets)
1 sprig fresh mint (leaves only; about 12 leaves)
4 ounces plain goat cheese
4 slices sourdough bread sliced about 1/2 inch thick.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut tops and root tip from beets. Wash and place on a baking sheet. Roast beets for about one hour or until the beet is soft and can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Peel the beets when they are cool enough to handle. The skin should slip off relatively easily. Slice the beets into about 1/4 inch slices and set aside. The beets can be roasted ahead of time.
While the beets are roasting, set the goat cheese out to come to room temperature. Remove the leaves from a sprig of mint. Chop the leaves and slightly muddle the leaves in a small bowl. The muddling will release some of the mint oil from the leaves. Add the softened goat cheese and blend the cheese and leaves together so the mint leaves are well distributed. Set aside.
Heat griddle to medium-high heat.
Butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread one-half of the goat cheese and mint mixture on the non-buttered side of two of the slices of bread. Top the goat cheese with beets. Place the halves with the goat cheese and beets on the heated griddle facing up and top with the other slice of bread buttered side up. Grill until golden brown, about three minutes.
Asparagus will soon poke its delicious little spears from the cool earth giving us one more sign it’s spring. There are few things I look forward to in spring more than the fresh, herbaceous taste of freshly cut asparagus. Well, maybe morel mushrooms, but that’s another recipe.
I love how this recipes takes advantage of asparagus and eggs pair well. One of my favorite side dishes is grilled asparagus topped with a poached egg. Because of this, I prefer a medium boiled egg with the yolk still slightly soft in the middle; about a 6 minute boil, but feel free to use a harder set yolk.
This recipe uses my Quick Pickled Red Onions. You will need about 10 to 15 minutes of active cooking time and at least 30 minutes of resting time to prepare them. These store wonderfully for about a month in the refrigerator and are great on so many things. The recipe can be found here: Quick Pickled Red Onions.
Boiled Egg, Seared Asparagus, and Pickled Onion Sandwiches
Makes 2 sandwiches
2 eggs, medium or hard boiled (your preference)
2 demi baguette loaves (may use one regular baguette cut in half)
½ a bunch of asparagus spears (about 15-20 spears)
Fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (approximately, plus more to brush on baguette)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Pickled red onion (see Quick Pickled Red Onions recipe link in above introduction)
Spritz of lemon juice
Boil the eggs to your desired preference, peel and set aside.
Meanwhile, split two demi baguettes in half and remove a little of the doughy center so the asparagus and egg can fit inside. (The bread that is removed would be wonderful to toss with a bit of olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper then toasted for croutons if you serve a salad with this sandwich.) Brush a little olive oil on each half and toast the bread lightly.
Trim the asparagus by removing the woody ends. Then slice the spears in half length–wise as best you can and place in a large bowl. Drizzle some olive oil over the asparagus and then sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Heat a large skillet over high heat and sear the asparagus spears, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. The asparagus will become a darker green and should begin to char in spots.
Place ½ of the asparagus on the bottom half of bread then top with one egg and pickled onion. Spread Dijon mustard on top half of bread and then sprinkle with dill. Spritz a little lemon all over the interior of the sandwich. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat for other sandwich and serve with crisp salad.
I used what I call the cover method to baste these eggs in heavy cream and butter.
Knob of unsalted butter and a tablespoon or so of heavy cream with fresh thyme leaves.
Shirred eggs? Ain’t nobody got thyme for that.
I was hungry for shirred eggs this morning but didn’t want to take the time to heat the oven for just two eggs. Shirred eggs are delicious and a great way to cook eggs if you are serving a group. Click here for my Shirred Eggs Recipe.
I began to wonder if I could achieve a similar result without the oven. Using a skillet and a method of basting an egg that I call the cover method, I came up with what I believe is a very tasty egg. To truly baste an egg you would ideally use bacon drippings to gently baste the eggs. With the cover method, I simply crack the eggs into a lightly oiled non-stick skillet along with a tablespoon of water and cover. The water will essentially steam the eggs giving a very similar result as basting.
Drop a knob of softened, unsalted butter in the center of a cold 7″ non-stick skillet. You want to start with a cold skillet so the cream comes up to temperature slowly and does not immediately curdle. Crack two eggs in skillet and add a tablespoon or so of heavy cream. Sprinkle fresh thyme leaves over the eggs, cover and turn burner on to medium. Resist the temptation to look at eggs for four minutes. Check eggs after four minutes and check to see how well the egg whites and yolk are set.
Plate eggs when yolks are set to your desired doneness. Drizzle any remaining cream and butter left in pan over eggs and serve.
Pickled red onions are a great condiment to have on hand. Add them to your favorite sandwich, use them on tacos, or add them to a salad. They provide a nice tanginess to food without quite a strong onion taste. They only take about 15 minutes of active prep time and will last stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Quick Pickled red onions
1 quart water
1 medium red onion
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 small clove of garlic, halved
4 or 5 black peppercorns
4 or 5 allspice berries
2 or 3 small springs of thyme
Bring 1 quart water to a boil. Meanwhile peel and slice the onions into no wider than ¼-inch rings. Peel and cut the garlic clove in half. Pour the vinegar into a one-pint mason jar or other suitable glass container. Add the sugar and salt to the vinegar and stir or shake to dissolve. Then add the garlic, peppercorns, allspice berries, and thyme sprigs.
Place the sliced onion rings in a sieve and place the sieve in the sink. Slowly pour the boiling water over the onions. Let the onions drain and cool slightly in the sink. Add the onions to the jar and stir gently to evenly distribute the flavorings.
The onions will be ready in about 30 minutes, but only get better with time. Store the onions in the refrigerator. They will keep for for close to a month in the refrigerator properly sealed.