Posts filed under ‘Recipes’

Wild perennial pesto

ChickweedBy Dee Reid

The only crop that was ready to be harvested this week in my early spring garden was one I had nothing to do with.  When I went out to the garden to check on my sugar-snap peas (they finally germinated!), imagine my delight when I also discovered a whole bed of chickweed and dead nettle. These delicious and nutritious wild, edible, perennial and ubiquitous greens had taken over a bed of soil that I had not yet planted.

What could be better? They grew on their own, with no help from yours truly. I didn’t have to buy seeds, nurture the transplants, weed, feed or fret about this crop. It just took care of itself, and in so doing, it is taking great care of me, too.

So I thanked Mother Nature and grabbed up several fistfuls to eat and cook with. I learned about this “manna” from heaven a couple of years ago when I went for a walk with the amazing  herbalist and wild foods enthusiast Kim Calhoun, and later took a class with her at Central Carolina Community College. She showed me some of the weeds growing in our backyards that can easily be used in salads, soups and pesto.

She also told me that wild greens are packed with nutrients — or “goodiments” as she likes to say. Then she shared her recipe for Wild Greens Pesto, which also features garlic, one of the most nutritious cultivated foods we know.

I made my first batch of the season this week and it’s even more delicious than my last batch. It tastes great on sandwiches, pasta, vegetables, seafood, meats, etc. You can keep it in the refrigerator for weeks at a time (if you can manage not to gobble it all at once) and it keeps well in the freezer in individual ice cubes for easy future use.

Planty Kim’s Wild Greens Pesto


3 medium garlic cloves

½ cup walnuts (or pecans, almonds, cashews, pine nuts)

3 cups firmly packed greens (any combo of seasonal wild & cultivated herbs—see list below)

¼-½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon UME plum vinegar (or sea salt to taste)

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (a dairy-free option instead of parmesan cheese)


1. Blend garlic and nuts in food processor until coarsely chopped.

2. Add remainder of ingredients to food processor and blend till desired smoothness. Yields approximately one cup.

3. Eat on crackers, mixed into pasta, smeared on a frittata or fried egg sandwich, spread on rolls or pizza, get creative!

4. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for a week or more. I like to triple the recipe and freeze some Wild Green Pesto in half pint (8oz.) glass mason jars.

Wild Greens of the NC Piedmont in early Spring (to name a few): chickweed, purple dead nettle, creasy greens/cress, dandelion leaves, plantain leaves, tender yellow dock leaves, wild lettuce leaves, cleavers, wild garlic, self heal, violets,henbit…don’t forget flowers too—dandelion (remove bitter green base), henbit…

Cultivated Greens: parsley, cilantro, nettle, lemon balm, thyme, rosemary, nettle, oregano…

Before you pick something to eat, you should be sure you know what it is. Check online for color photos of these greens, or ask a friend who knows. Also be sure it’s growing in an area that is not polluted by chemical pesticides, herbicides or road runoff. Always wash the greens before consuming them, in case any of our four-legged friends “fertilized” them when we weren’t looking.

March 26, 2015 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment

What’s wrong with this picture?

By Dee Reid

Once I heard Jim Minick read from The Blueberry Years, I knew I had to take one home with me. It wasn’t just that this “memoir of farm and family” was named the SIBA Best Non-Fiction Book of the year.  Or that Jim is a superb writer and story teller. Or even that  his book might contain a young couple’s familiar real-life account of how they found their calling on an organic farm at the end of a dazzling country road.

What really attracted me was Jim’s honest approach to each story, which I suspected would reveal much more than the usual sustainable farmer’s story of salvation.

The first hint was when someone asked about the book’s cover image. Jim winced and quietly acknowledged that the idyllic scene on the front was not his farm after all. The publisher took a picture of a dairy farm, Photo-Shopped in an image of a man walking down a central row, and added some generic berry bushes.  We’re not sure they’re even blueberry bushes. The result is a symmetrical flat field that bears no resemblance to the Floyd County, Va. , hills where Jim and Sarah planted and mulched their pick-your-own berry operation over the course of a decade.

Thankfully, Jim’ s saga of the berry life is the real-deal. It’s a coming of age tale told with love and reverence for the complexities of small farming in America today. I savored the sweetness in each chapter along with the “What’s wrong with this picture?” moments tucked instructively between them, which  Jim labeled “Blue Interludes.” Here’s one entitled “Working off of the farm.” To wit: “One report summarizes that ‘the off-farm income share of total household income…rose from about 50 percent in 1960 to more than 80 percent in the past ten years….the message for those still wanting to farm has become: ‘Get big or get a job.’ Be a not-farmer in order to also be a farmer.”

Jim allows us to taste the freshness of ripe berries, the richness of teaching yourself a new way of life, the  challenge of making new friends, and the inconvenient truths about  the economics of small-scale farming.

Though he and Sarah usually excel at everything they try, they can’t harvest a viable living by cultivating one of the first organic blueberry farms in the mid-Atlantic region. Even after they pay off the mortgage in less than four years (!), it looks like their off-farm income will always have to exceed the dollars they glean from some of the healthiest blueberries the Blue Ridge has to offer.

It’s not their fault of course. It’s the reality of “sustainable” farming that is often not so sustainable for farmers even when they do their homework and their chores as well as these two bright pioneers do.

In the end, Jim and Sarah decide they desire time to pursue writing and basket-making more than farming. They sell the blueberry business and move to the next county, where  they live as teachers and artists, enjoy a slower rural pace, and grow enough food for their table.

The Blueberry Years were hardly wasted, though, in the living or the writing. This is the best small-farm book I’ve read in years, precisely because it’s as much about pursuing one’s passion as it is  about how farming should be.  I wish I could send a copy to every ag official and politician in the country, so they could learn a few lessons about what’s really needed to improve the future of sustainable farming.

I’m glad Jim has more time to write these days and I look forward to the completion of his novel in progress.

May 28, 2012 at 8:12 pm Leave a comment

When it’s too hot to can: slow roasted tomatoes

Reprinted July 31, 2011/ I’ve never gotten the hang of canning and, let’s face it, who wants to stand over a boiling cauldron during absurdly steamy weather anyway? But then, what to do with all of these home-grown tomatoes? About a year ago, local food artisan and writer April McGregor (The Farmer’s Daughter) published the perfect solution in her online column for Grist: Slow-roasted tomatoes. Same idea as sun-dried, except in this case you put them in the oven on low (2225-250 degrees Fahrenheit) and let them cook very slowly all day long for large tomatoes, 2 hours for cherry tomatoes. You won’t even break a sweat.

What you get are densely flavored, juicy, roasted tomatoes that can easily be kept in the fridge or freezer for a long time, or, if you insist, in a canning jar. I’ve tried this recipe with large Big Boys and tiny Juliets (small Roma style tomatoes) and the results are amazing. Now I have slow roasted tomatoes for salads, pizza, pasta, soup, quiche, bruschetta, and more. You store them in olive oil and can use the tomato-enhanced oil for salad dressing. Slow food at its tastiest.

Thanks, April! You made my summer (and winter!).

Here’s her recipe:

“Similarly to the Sicilian semi-sun-dried tomatoes, large and juicy heirloom tomatoes can be slow-roasted in a low oven to reduce excess liquid, concentrate flavor, and increase acidity. Plus, we can keep the oven at such a low temperature that it doesn’t even heat up the house. As an added bonus, this method couldn’t be easier. There’s no peeling or seeding involved. Even if you don’t can them, they will keep covered in olive oil for several months in your refrigerator, where they will serve as your secret weapon. Chop for an instant pasta sauce; add zip to beans or soups; use as the basis for roasted tomato vinaigrette; pair with fresh mozzarella & a loaf of bread for a perfect picnic. The possibilities are endless, and the flavor is unparalleled. So what are you waiting for?

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes
If you like you can pack different varieties of tomatoes in alternating layers in your canning jar, or you can separate them by color for more distinctive tastes and hues.

Makes about 3 pint jars
10 pounds heirloom tomatoes
1 head of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
A couple of shallots, halved, but not peeled, optional
A handful of thyme sprigs
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
Your favorite fresh herbs for tomatoes–basil, marjoram, or oregano
A few dried red chili peppers, optional

Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper or foil. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.

Rinse your tomatoes, and slice them in half across their equator, or into thirds if they are particularly large. Line them on the baking sheet in a single layer, seed side up. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Scatter the garlic cloves, shallots, garlic, and thyme over the tomatoes. Sprinkle each tray of tomatoes with 1 teaspoon of salt.

Place the tomatoes in the oven and roast for about 6 hours (only 2 hours for small cherry tomatoes), until much of the tomato juices have evaporated, and the slices have shrunk to about ½ their original size.

Let the tomatoes cool at room temperature. Then with a spatula transfer the slices to your very clean pint jars (wide mouth canning jars will be easiest to deal with.) Layer fresh basil, or your preferred herb, between the slices of tomato, as well as the cloves of garlic and shallots that you squeeze from their hulls. Leave about 1 inch of headspace at the top of each jar.

Choose your Preserving Method

• Short-term: top with a 1 inch thick layer of olive oil and a clean lid, and they will keep in your refrigerator for 3-4 months.

• Long-term: Top the jars off with a thin layer of olive oil, leaving a good inch of head space. Date the jars and place them without lids into the freezer. Because liquid expands as it freezes, it is best to let the jars freeze without lids first to be sure that the jars to not crack. After your tomatoes are frozen, you can top with clean lids, and they will keep for up to one year. Alternately, pack the tomatoes in quart freezer bags, date them, and keep them for up to 1 year in your freezer.

• Long Term Shelf – Pack tomatoes into sterilized jars, leaving about 1 inch of head space. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or red wine vinegar to your tomatoes and top off with extra virgin olive oil, leaving a final 1/2 -inch of head space. The added lemon juice or vinegar increases the acidity of your tomatoes even further to prevent the growth toxins or bacteria. Top with sterilized lids. Line the bottom of a large pot or canning kettle with a folded dishtowel. Place your jars of tomatoes in the kettle on top of the dish towel at least ½ inch apart. Fill the pot with water until it covers the tops of the jars by at least one inch. Bring the pot of water to a low boil. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer and process the jars for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the jars with a jar lifter and place on a clean towel to cool completely without disturbing. Store on a cool, dry shelf for up to 1 year. ”

July 31, 2011 at 8:18 pm 6 comments

A great year for pecans

By Carol Peppe Hewitt

Arlo's pecan pie

The pecan drop this year is huge. The ground under the pecan trees that line our driveway is covered with them, and more seem to fall every day. Pecan pie (recipe below), pecan peach cobblers, toasted pecans with cinnamon, a handful of raw pecans to snack on, pecan granola, and more – so many great feasts ahead. Locally grown, fertilized by the ducks and deer who frequent the place, no pesticides, and free for the picking up.

I remember another year like this one, 1984, the year I was carrying Emma. Eight months pregnant, leaning over was out of the question. Luckily the ground was so densely covered with nuts that I could sit in one place, pick up 30 or 40 pecans and then scoot to a new spot and do it again. I managed to fill buckets that way. This year has been like that one. I have picked up about 100 pounds and there are still more on the ground.

Our driveway is part of the Old Raleigh Road, the carriage road that cut across Chatham County long before Route 64 was built. The trees are at least 100 years old.  The girth of the largest one is 12 and ½   feet.  Several years ago we were approached by the DOT. They wanted to pave the half-mile, dead end road that we live at the very end of, and the neighbors were all for the idea. So we agreed, but only with the stipulation that they stop at the top of the lane of pecan trees and leave the dirt road as it is for the last 200 yards that passes underneath them.

The fancy new paved road would have required cutting the trees down, a senseless slaughter that the DOT seemed to have no qualms about. But we did. Now the new paved road ends in a cul de sac, just short of these wonderful old trees, marked by a sign that says “State Maintenance Ends.”  Maybe I should add one that says “Pecan Preservation Begins.”

For many years I would look out the kitchen window this time of year and see somebody hunched over picking up pecans. The old timers knew about these trees and we were happy to see them filling their buckets. As I filled mine today I realized they have all stopped coming. One by one they have died off, and the next generations in the area don’t know, or don’t care, to come picking.

Instead we have a murder of happy crows, and the squirrels are keeping very busy as well. Which is fine. There is a generous plenty.

What’s next? The nuts need to dry for a while to concentrate the sugars and lose their raw flavor. Then there is the massive task of shelling them all. A few nights at the kitchen table with various styles of nutcrackers won’t get it done, and I’m open to suggestions.

With all the talk of GMOs, pesticides, food miles, and such, these are a treasure in our local foodshed, planted by our ancestors to nourish us.  Take a walk, there may be some in your neighborhood as well. And this is the moment to find them. Native pecan trees, I am told, take 15 years before they bear fruit. I am thankful for the farmer who had patience to plant these trees and wait.

And I am inspired to plant more fruit and nut bearing trees for those coming along behind me.  May they enjoy their own great years, just as we are doing with this one.

* * *

Arlo’s Fabulous Pecan Pie

Delicious Pie Crust

¼ c sugar

2 tsps freshly grated orange or lemon peel

½ c chilled butter, cut into chunks

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ c flour

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1-2 tbl  water if needed

Mix sugar and citrus peel until thoroughly blended. Add butter, salt, flour.  Rub together until mixture is crumbly, work in egg yolk until the dough is light yellow.

Sprinkle vanilla and water (if needed) over the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pie filling

3 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

pinch of salt

¼ cup local sorghum molasses and ¾ c maple syrup

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup pecans

Fill crust and lay an additional ½ cup of pecans artfully on the top.

Bake for 350 degrees for 50 minutes in a 9” pie pan.


November 11, 2010 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

No Worry Curry

By Camille Armantrout

The other day, I pulled open my vegetable drawers and saw: two bags of greens, half an onion, garlic, a pile of sweet peppers, cilantro, basil, some sweet potatoes, a couple of eggplants, carrots, green beans and okra.  Only one word came to mind: Curry!

I had an hour until dinner, so I got right to work.  First, I pulled a container of chick peas from the freezer.  I chopped the onion and garlic and began sauteing them in olive oil in a big pot.  I started some water boiling for brown rice and turned the oven on to 350 degrees.

While the garlic and onion sizzled away, I chopped the okra into 1/4 inch rounds, tossed it with olive oil, minced garlic, and a light mixture of corn meal, onion powder, salt and pepper.  I put the okra into a 9″ x 13″ pan and set it in the oven for 45 minutes.

Next,  I went to my cupboard and got a can of coconut milk and one of tomatoes.  I cut the carrots, green beans and sweet potatoes into bite-sized pieces and added them to the curry pot.  I added the coconut milk, tomatoes and two cups of veggie broth.

I started rinsing and chopping the greens.  First, I removed the stems, chopped them and threw them into the curry pot.  Then I stacked the greens on the cutting board and sliced them into thin strips about 2 inches long and put them aside.

When the curry came to a boil, I added the peppers in big pieces, the chick peas and turned the pot down to simmer.  Then I added one tablespoon each of curry powder, cumin and cinnamon and some salt and cayenne.  I checked the okra and flipped it with a spatula.

As soon as the carrots and potatoes were fork tender, I turned off the heat, added 1/2 a cup of peanut butter, adjusted the seasoning and stirred in the greens.  I sliced the basil and cilantro into thin strips to use as garnish.  By now the the rice was done, so I opened a can of sweet peaches that we’d put up in July, pulled the crispy roasted okra from the oven and got out the peanuts.

Then we sat down to one of our favorite meals.  We scooped some rice into a bowl, sprinkled it with basil and cilantro, ladled thick, rich curry on top and garnished with okra, peaches and peanuts.

Curry is the perfect fall meal!  It feeds a lot of people so we trotted the leftovers out for a potluck later in the week.  And it freezes very well for those times when we don’t have a potluck lined up.

When you find yourself with a mish mash of fresh vegetables, don’t worry – just make curry!

October 17, 2010 at 8:29 pm 1 comment

Cooking it right

By Lyle Estill

As a mere eater in our food shed I have to say that cooking is everything.

People sign up for CSA shares and don’t know where to start with a box of raw food.

Enter C’est Si Bon,  a cooking school in Chapel Hill that has been serving up cooking skills  for a long time now.  And they take on children.  They recently brought a crew by the plant to harvest food from the farm and cook it on site.

This summer I have one son at tennis camp, and another studying cooking.  Tonight we were served a four- course meal, and we were required to report on it by the class instructor.  Here is what we said:

Arlo’s Four-Course Dinner

I have to say I was skeptical. Arlo has long worked in the kitchen, but he often makes a greater mess than a fantastic meal.  When I arrived home from work he was chopping.  Furiously.  It was amazing. Garlic was flying everywhere.  The house smelled fantastic.

He asked me to leave, so I went down to the shop to let him work in peace.

When I returned to the kitchen for a beer, the place smelled entirely different, and amazing, and what astonished me was that he had cleaned up.  He refused to let me open the refrigerator, and fetched a beer for me instead.

By the time Tami came home I was spent, and ready to eat.  It was the hottest day of the year, and a difficult time to be exiled from the house.

Course one was garlic bread.  He had used a sourdough loaf from Weaver St. as a base, and I have to say it was both crispy and soft with the perfect amount of garlic.  I scored it as a 10/10.  It was too much garlic for Zafer, who gave it a 7/10 because it made his eyes water.

Course two was a cold potato soup.  I don’t like cold soup.  But it was remarkably refreshing.  Also high in garlic.  When I reflected on how the two courses were rather “garlic on garlic,” Arlo’s heart dropped.  He had deep-fried bananas in local canola oil with which we could cleanse our palettes. He fetched them from the fridge and the meal continued.

Course three was steak wrapped in cheese wrapped in salami.  It was exquisite.  In the middle of his preparation Arlo came down to the shop to ask about the availability of skewers.  We had none.  I suggested that he cut stalks of rosemary and use them instead, and he did that.  We had a rosemary infused meat and cheese course that left us all stunned and amazed.

Our fourth course awaits us. It appears to be crème brulee.  He caramelized the sugar on top with his new fancy torch, and set things back into the fridge to gel.

The kitchen was clean, the presentation was amazing, and I am more than a little bit taken aback by what Arlo delivered in the form of tonight’s meal.

Thank you C’est Si Bon.

July 8, 2010 at 1:58 pm 3 comments

Got scapes? Try Presto Pesto

Scapes growing in the garlic patch at Edible Earthscapes

Here’s an update on a discovery I made last spring:

Wondering what to do with those ‘scapes? You know those curly stalks that shoot up from the garlic before they flower and are ready to harvest? The green stalks taste just like garlic, and rather nippy garlic at that, so of course you can chop ’em and dice’ em and saute them in butter or olive oil and add to just about any dish.

But there’s something even better you can do with them: make pesto. I stumbled over a recipe in an issue  last spring of Edible Piedmont for Raw Garlic Scape Pesto.

Sounded great, especially since we put pesto on just about everything we eat. Could this be a new easy way to produce my favorite secret sauce?

I was game. I cut Edible Piedmont’s recipe in half for our trial run and threw the following into the blender: 1/4 pound scapes chopped into 1 inch sections, 3/4 cup of olive oil and 1 cup of Parmesan cheese. Hit “blend” and 60 seconds later I had a pint of something tangy that looked like guacomole and tasted every bit as good as my favorite pesto.

Whoa, that was too easy (no pain, no gain and all that), so I threw in a handful of walnuts (pine nuts would probably be just as good), mashed the blend button one more time, and oh-my-god: presto pesto perfecto. I heated it up and tossed it over leftover spinach/feta ravioli.

I was unstoppable at that point, so I had some Swiss chard sauteed in olive oil with a splash of scape presto pesto on the side. All of this took all of about five minutes, my kind of dinner. I’m sure this will be dynamite on bruschetta or garlic bread, just about any kind of pasta, as well as chicken and seafood.

And here’s a tip for freezing: make presto pesto ice cubes in your freezer tray, then wrap them individually and store them in a freezer bag so you can take out as much as you need when you need it throughout the year.

Thanks, Edible Earthscapes, the lovely CSA that first turned me on to ‘scapes,  and Edible Piedmont (we’ve named this version of garlic scape pesto for you:  Edible Presto Pesto).

–Dee Reid

May 28, 2010 at 7:55 pm 3 comments

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