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2014 0718 Pickled garlic scapes and clovesI got on a roll. With a bucket full of garlic scapes and one successful Korean pickle, I knew there had to be more options. Of course there were.

2014 0718 Garlic scapes and clovesOn a blog called Kimchimari was a versatile recipe from the author’s Korean mother-in-law. It consisted of a pickling base of equal parts soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar that was boiled and poured over, in one recipe, sliced cucumbers and chili peppers, and in the other, garlic cloves and scapes. They were called “summer pickles” or “jangahjji.” Fermented for three days or so at room temperature submerged in the pickling liquid, the vegetables were drained and the liquid was re-boiled and poured over the vegetables. They were then left to ferment for another three days or so, after which they were jarred and refrigerated. What could be simpler than that?

2014 0718 Cucumber chunks for picklesFor the cucumber pickles, I soaked small Persian style cukes in ice water, which both allows them to crisp and also to shed any hidden sand. If the cucumbers are bumpy and thorny, scrub them with a little coarse salt before slicing them.

2014 0718 Pickled cucumbers and peppersAlso, before you start, pack the vegetables in the storage jar you will be using and fill it with water. Drain the vegetables and measure the water. Adjust the pickling liquid to match this amount, erring on the high side, since it’s better to have too much and use it for some other purpose than have too little and not have the vegetables submerged. I used wheat-free tamari, unseasoned rice vinegar and white granulated sugar, 1 cup of each for a 1 1/2 pint straight-sided canning jar.  This is a new style for Ball, and uses a wide plastic cap or two-piece canning lid. To keep the vegetables submerged during the fermenting period, I used an inverted small plastic Ball cap, which fit perfectly.

How are Korean summer pickles eaten? Stirred into rice of course, along with a little of their liquid. Very refreshing in the summer heat. They are just “cooked” vegetables and not condiments, though a little lovely piece of simply cooked fish on the side does wonders for the combination.

2014 0714 IMG_4809 Garlic scapes in Korean red pepper sauceIt was quite by accident. Just when I thought I’d exhausted my repertoire of things to do with garlic scapes, I discovered Korean pickling. I had a large Chinese cabbage from our CSA and set out to ferment it into kimchi with the idea of adding garlic scapes instead of (or in addition to) scallions. There, at the blog named Kimchi Mom, was a recipe for spicy pickled garlic scapes that was receiving rave reviews.

2014 0714 IMG_4795. Korean hot pepper paste sauceThe scapes are fermented (and pickled) using a pour-over-brine method for a few days until they soften and start to turn yellow, and are then dressed in a combination of Korean red pepper paste (kochujang), red pepper flakes, fish sauce, white vinegar, brown sugar and minced fresh garlic.

This is an addictive condiment that probably would store well in the refrigerator except for being devoured on the spot. I have another batch underway already!

The kochujang that I can get at our local Asian food market is hot red pepper paste, and since I didn’t want to burn our mouths, I diminished the proportion in the mix. I noticed that Kimchi Mom has a way of making her own fermented paste from red pepper flakes, so that will be on my future list to try. I am astonished that Korean red pepper is sold in such extraordinary volume. The smallest package is 500 grams (a little over a pound) but you can get it in 2- and 5-pound bags. Since that could be a lifetime supply, the fact that it loses potency when the package is opens means it’s time to experiment.

Fermented Garlic Scapes, Korean Style adapted from Kimchi Mom blog

1 lb garlic scapes

3 c water

2 tbsp sea salt

2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

2 tbsp hot Korean red pepper paste (Kochujang)

2 tsp Korean red pepper flakes (sometimes called “powder” but it should be flaky)

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp white vinegar

1 tbsp brown sugar

Wash and trim the garlic scapes and cut them into approximately 2-inch lengths, placing them into a glass or ceramic bowl. Bring water and salt to a boil and pour over the scapes. Place a saucer or other object in the bowl so that the scapes are submerged. Set the bowl aside out of sunlight and away from heat, and let the scapes ferment for 4-5 days or longer, until they are softened and somewhat yellowed. Drain and discard the liquid. Taste the scapes for salt, and rinse them if they seem too salty.

Combine the remaining ingredients into a spicy sauce and stir it into the drained scapes. Pack into a jar and refrigerate.

2014 0712 IMG_4867 Zucchini Tomato Corn Soup

Summer cooking is mostly simple and fast. My husband says he’s starving and putters in the garden for half an hour. Meanwhile, I can make an entire lunch, including soup from scratch. Nothing beats freshness, especially when it seems more complex with a few simple tricks. My trick in this case is having vegetable broth on hand, corn broth made from a dozen stripped cobs after I made a fourth of July picnic salad, and trimmings of celery, onions and carrots. 

2014 0712 IMG_4854 Floral Spires BasilThe broth, along with leftover homemade tomato puree, was poured over chopped onion, diced zucchini, and corn kernels and simmered for 20 minutes. It was simply seasoned with fresh basil from my garden, a variety called “Floral Spires White,” which like “Fino Verde,” stays relatively small-leafed and is therefore ideal for garnish. Floral Spires, compact like some of the Thai basils, comes in lavender and white, and is more ornamental than most varieties without losing any of its value as an herb. I am growing mine in the ground this year but it makes a great potted plant.

Zucchini, Corn and Tomato Soup with Basil

1 small onion, diced

2 tsp olive oil

6 plum tomatoes, chopped (or 1 c homemade tomato sauce)

2 small-medium zucchini, diced (1/4-inch or slightly larger)

1 ear corn, kernels stripped

3-4 c vegetable broth (corn broth is perfect) or light chicken stock

Salt and pepper

Basil

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the onion in olive oil until translucent. If using fresh tomatoes, add them to the onions and cook for about 7 minutes until they have softened and collapsed. (If using tomato sauce, add it with the broth.) Add the zucchini and corn and stir well. Add the broth and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the zucchini is soft but not mushy, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with fresh basil.

Serves 3-4

2014 0705 IMG_4607 Peas in potsI grow climbing peas and beans in pots. Their rambling vines wrap around upturned tomato cages and provide a sculptural dimension to the garden through two or three growing seasons. Pot gardening is a handy way to deal with weather conditions since I can start the peas in pots at nearly any time past winter, moving them around to obtain the best light conditions. That might mean starting peas early in the full but weak sunlight of spring, or late in dappled shade out of the early summer heat. The other advantage of pot growing is the avoidance of rabbits, which can devour an entire crop when your head is turned, even just for a minute.

2014 0705 IMG_4691 Potato and Yellow Pea SaladSince I belong to a robust CSA that offers good variety of pick-you-own produce, including peas and beans, what I choose to grow at home are vegetables and herbs that they don’t grow, or that I want at my fingertips just a few yards from my kitchen door. That includes pale yellow Indian snow peas with beautiful and dainty violet flowers and luscious green leaves and tendrils that I toss into salad, stir fry, or use as garnish. I have gotten the seeds from various sources, most recently Baker Creek but also Fedco, and these peas make a regular appearance each year. (I do save seeds as well but typically re-stock from a reliable professional.)

Here, I scattered steamed yellow peas over sliced pale yellow potatoes. I added a few drops of white vinegar and salt to the potatoes as they were cooling, and then dressed them with a drizzle of olive oil. Garnished with pea shoots, this seasonal salad is simple and refreshing.

 Bowl of cherriesLocal cherry season is so fleeting that you can easily miss it. Every year, I pounce on the opportunity to harvest the first sweet cherries, followed a week or so later by sour cherries. Sour cherries – an annual staple for my jam making – are in short supply so far but I have liberal amounts of sweet cherries. Longing for the tartness that makes the sour type legendary, I decided to add roasted rhubarb and recreate the tang. Success! 

Unlike softer fruits such as strawberries and raspberries that are macerated in sugar in proportion to weight (I use 1 unit of sugar to 2 of fruit, or sometimes 2:3), cherries as well as blueberries can be cooked first and sugar added according to volume (I use 3 units of sugar to 4 of fruit puree, sometimes less). After a second round of cooking with the sugar, the cherries are set aside for a few hours (or longer in the refrigerator). The reason is both to allow the fruit to plump and to allow pectin to develop, since I cook the cherries from the outset with lemon juice, and seeds and a little rind tied in a muslin sack. This helps create the characteristic gel and keeping you from overcooking the jam in its final stage.

Sweet Cherry and Roasted Rhubarb JamI made this jam with roasted rhubarb since I thought it would add tartness, but you could simply add sliced rhubarb to the cherries in the second stage of cooking. Roasted rhubarb would be added in the third or final stage. I left some of the cherries whole, pureeing the rest, since I wanted a chunky jam. You can adjust the texture by chopping the cherries to varying degrees of fineness.

Sweet Cherry and Roasted Rhubarb Jam

2 lbs sweet cherries, pitted (yielding about 4 cups)

1 lemon

Sugar (around 1½ c, to be measured)

3 stalks red rhubarb, sliced

Optional: 3 tbsp brown sugar for roasting

Reserve about a cup of whole cherries and coarsely chop the rest. Pour all the cherries into a large saucepan.

Peel the lemon, leaving the pith intact. Juice the lemon, reserving the seeds. Place the lemon peel and seeds in a small muslin sack. Add the lemon juice and the muslin bag to the cherries.

Bring the cherries to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to avoid scorching them, and cook for about 5 minutes or until the cherry flesh is completely soft and the juice has been rendered. The cooking time may vary based on the variety and ripeness of the cherries.

Remove the muslin sack and pour the cherries and their liquid into a large measuring cup (mine yielded 2 cups.) Add ¾ of that amount (for me 1½ c) of sugar and return the mixture, including the muslin sack, to the saucepan. Add sliced raw rhubarb at this point, unless you’re roasting it, in which case, it will be added later.

Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into the measuring cup, cover with parchment paper (love that trick from Christine Ferber), and, once cooled, let sit for 6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. The parchment paper keeps the cherry juice from evaporating while allowing the mixture to breathe. If your refrigerator has odorous contents, cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

If you are adding roasted rhubarb to the jam, cook sliced rhubarb tossed with brown sugar in a 350-degree oven until it collapses and starts to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add it to the cherry mixture.

Prepare jars and lids for water bath canning (boil then submerged in water by one inch and keep them hot.). Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the gel. Get a small pan of water ready to boil for sterilizing the lids.

Bring the cherry and rhubarb mixture to a boil in a large wide heavy pan over medium-high heat and continue to cook until gelled. Mine set in about 5 minutes. Test the gel on the frozen saucer by placing a drop on the plate and patting it with your finger. If it wrinkles, it’s gelled.

Set the pan aside off the heat for a few minutes until the foam subsides. Remove the muslin sack and skim the foam. Meanwhile, bring the small pan of water to a boil, add the flat lids and turn the heat off.

Ladle the jam into the prepared (hot) jars, clean the rims thoroughly, cover with the two-part lid, and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water boils. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing to a counter to cool undisturbed.

Makes approximately 6 four-ounce jars.

2014 0621 IMG_4620 strawberries in bowlStrawberry season’s grand finale yielded two delights: ice cream and cake. While berries continue to be available, the major push around here is over by the fourth of July. The last berries have been fragile and prone to mold because of rain, and therefore we used them as quickly as possible when they got home.

 Strawberry ice cream Strawberries, like many fruits, are constituted largely of water. When you puree fresh fruit to incorporate in ice cream, they freeze into chunks of ice. Of course, for fruit ice creams such as peach or blueberry, it’s typical to poach the fruit first. For strawberries, I macerate them in sugar for an hour, which draws out the liquid and softens the berries. Adding a tablespoonful of alcohol – vodka, or as I did, kirschwasser – helps to allay the iciness of the end product (so does eating the ice cream soon after making it, which isn’t a problem in our household).

2014 0620 IMG_4465 Strawberry cake, beforeHere, I made the ice cream with half heavy cream and half sour cream, a tip from David Lebovitz writing in The Perfect Scoop. I wanted to avoid the unctuousness of a custard-based ice cream since I thought the additional eggs would be too heavy for strawberries. Sour cream did the trick for a mellow but slightly tangy flavor that perfectly complemented the gorgeous pink clouds of just-churned ice cream.

Strawberry cakeThe strawberry cake was a version of classic blueberry boy bait cake, made with strawberries.

Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream adapted from David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop

1 heaping quart (about 1 lb) fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled

¾ c granulated sugar

1 tbsp kirschwasser (or vodka)

1 c heavy cream

1 c sour cream

Mix the prepared strawberries with sugar and kirschwasser (if using), stir to dissolve the sugar and let sit at room temperature for an hour, stirring again to make sure the sugar is fully dissolved.

Pulse the strawberry mixture, heavy cream and sour cream in a food processor until almost smooth, but still slightly chunky. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for a few hours and then process the ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Makes approximately 1 quart.

2014 0627 IMG_4675 Garlic scape soupI fooled him with soup. Soup always makes good use of excess vegetables and transforms them into something new. I’m not sick of garlic scapes just yet but I could already hear the groan of a certain family member’s thoughts of “what, again?” Ahem, you’re the one who planted so many. He loved the soup, and I told him it was garlic after all.

Like many vegetable soups, this is one that you just feel your way into it in terms of complementary ingredients, proportions and seasonings. I added a potato to the garlic scape base to give the soup body and a handful of green chard leaves (I could have used spinach) to lighten and brighten it. I used a combination of vegetable broth made with the garlic trimmings and chicken stock. And I found that this particular soup — because of the potato — needed ample salt, even though I garnished it with garlic scape pesto. (Off the subject, but BTW, if you ever over-salt soup or stew, toss in a potato and cook it for a while, since the potato will suck the salt from the water. Good little trick.)

The soup came together in under half an hour, and unlike most potato-based soups, was actually very good the next day.

Garlic Scape and Green Chard Soup

8 oz trimmed garlic scapes, cut into manageable lengths

1 tbsp butter or vegetable oil

8 oz floury potato, peeled and cut into big chunks

Approximately 4 c chicken stock or vegetable broth (add scape trimmings if making fresh)

2 large or 4 medium-small leaves of green chard (or spinach), stems removed, roughly chopped

Salt

Garnish: sour cream, garlic scape pesto (cut scapes whirred in food processor with olive oil and salt)

Place the garlic scapes and butter or oil in a medium-large saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the scapes. Add potatoes and stir to coat. Add the liquid (enough to cover), bring to a simmer, lower the heat slightly and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes and scapes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the chard or spinach leaves and cook until they have just wilted but still hold their bright color.

Puree with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Adjust the level of liquid if needed and add salt to taste.

Serve hot, garnished with sour cream and garlic scape pesto.

Serves 4.

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