Sprouting sprouts @ home

Since I became interested in growing my own food, I have been curious about sprouts. I love them! I buy them all the time. But, until recently I was never able to grow them myself. I worried about e. coli, all the rinsing, getting the right container, etc. Maybe it was laziness, I just don’t know what kept me from just giving it a shot. I’ve been hoarding different types of sprouting seeds and have read plenty of instructions and blog posts about it.

Finally, I’ve sprouted my own sprouts – and I love it.

A new year and it is time to fulfill a resolution from 4 years ago! I purchased a very cool jar from Mom’s Organic Market that has mesh on the top to make it really easy to rinse the sprouts. Equipped with the right container, I overcame another obstacle: disinfecting the seeds. All you need to do is soak the seeds in a 2% bleach solution (ie 1 tsp bleach to 1 cup hot water) for 15 minutes.

First I tried a “sandwich mix” – but I didn’t like that the different seeds had different sprouting times. My second attempt was with alfalfa sprouts and it was wonderful. I’m also planning on trying broccoli sprouts, radish sprouts, and more! It is so much fun to do and these sprouts are tastier and much cheaper than the ones you can buy in the store.

Here is the step by step process:


What You Need

  • Jar
  • Seeds (I suggest finding sprouting seeds – I used organic seeds from Botanical Interests)
  • Water
  • Towel (I used this to keep the sprouts from direct sunlight until they sprouted – but not necessary)
What You Do
  1. Measure 1.5 tablespoons of sprouting seeds.
  2. Disinfect your seeds by soaking them in a 2% bleach solution (1 tsp bleach to 1 cup hot water) for 15 minutes.
  3. Rinse well!
  4. Fill jar with enough water to cover seeds three times their depth with cool or room temperature water.
  5. Let soak overnight (8-12 hours).
  6. Pour off water and rinse with cool/room temperature water.
  7. Shake the jar gently to spread out the seeds.
  8. Away from direct sunlight (this is where I used by towel), let your jar sit.
  9. Rinse the sprouts 2-3 times a day by filling the jar and draining well.
  10. Harvest your sprouts when they are 1-2 inches long – it usually takes about 4-6 days.
  11. If you let your sprouts drain thoroughly, you can store them in the refrigerator in your produce drawer!


Enjoying the Fruits of Fall’s Labor: Jellies!

I’ve been thrilled with the canning I did in the fall throughout the holiday season – using the jellies as homemade gifts for friends. But, with the cold weather today, I was feeling particularly thankful the preserved bounty.

Here is a recipe I’ve been meaning to share. This tomato-basil jelly was the biggest hit of the canned jelly gifts this season.

Tomato-Basil Jelly (from Better Homes and Gardens)

*Makes 5 half pints

What You Need

  • 2 1/2 pounds fully ripe tomatoes (about 5 large)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 3 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 1.75-ounce package powdered fruit pectin for lower-sugar recipes

What You Do

  1. Wash tomatoes. Remove peel, stem ends, cores and seeds. Finely chop. You should have 31/2 cups.
  2. Place tomatoes in 6-quart kettle and heat to boiling.
  3. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Measure again to 31/2 cups and return to pan.
  4. Add lemon juice and basil.
  5. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar with pectin.
  6. Stir pectin mixture into tomatoes and heat to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.
  7. Stir in remaining sugar and return to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim foam with a metal spoon.
  8. Ladle into hot, sterile jars, leaving about 1/4-inch head space. Wipe rims. Place on lids and loosely tighten rings.
  9. Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes and cool on wire rack. You should hear the distinctive ping as lids seal. If any lids don’t seal (check by trying to depress lid with a finger. If it resists, jar is sealed), reprocess or simply store jam in fridge to be eaten right away.


Making Sauerkraut

“You are really going back to nature”, my mother told me in response to my excited announcement that I was going to try to make sauerkraut. I thought I went off the deep end with my vegetable garden, at-home composting, and sprouts. But, for my mom, sauerkraut-at-home was the sign.

When Deb provided me with two beautiful heads of red cabbage from Willowsford Farm and a challenge to make sauerkraut, I was intrigued and a bit perplexed. I read Alton Brown’s recipe and many other blog posts about fermentation. I wondered aloud about botulism and whether or not it would smell up my kitchen, forcing my roommate out of the house. Then, I found Wild Fermentation! and Sandor Ellix Katz’s recipe for sauerkraut. Amazed, I got started the same day as my first attempt at growing sprouts at home. It was a great day!

All you need to make sauerkraut is cabbage (and other vegetables if you want), a little salt, and a container to put it in. I couldn’t believe that was all it takes. I went on a mission to find a food-grade container to make the kraut- I went to the market and asked for an old plastic container which was used for tofu. I brought the container home, washed it, and disinfected the it with bleach. I’ve since learned that this container is WAY TOO BIG for the amount of cabbage I had on hand. You can use canning jars or other types of containers as well.

Here is what I did:

  1. Clean and disinfect container.
  2. Chop cabbage in small pieces and add salt.
  3. Put cabbage in the container.
  4. Cover with a plate and some weights (I used water in jars).
  5. Cover the container and store out of the way.
  6. Wait, look, taste, and wait…

I realized that my pantry was very cool and that the fermentation process was taking longer than I expected. So, I moved the container to my dining room in the corner. When the container was closed, there was no odor from the developing sauerkraut. But, I was still feeling unsure about the process.

Coincidentally, I was already signed up for the Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) conference last weekend – including a pre-conference workshop with Sandor Ellix Katz himself! WILD FERMENTATION! The class was wonderful and I was able to pick up a signed copy of The Art of Fermentation. Some important take-aways from the class:

  • You really cannot get botulism from sauerkraut
  • It is okay if your sauerkraut has some mold on the top – just remove what you can and don’t worry about the rest
  • Fermentation is the oldest and most important method of food preservation
  • Making sauerkraut really is that simple! and it is fun
  • You can ferment any vegetable – and way more food items
  • The sauerkraut you buy at the store has been pasteurized, so the best way to get the health benefits from fermented foods is to do it yourself – ensuring that the good-bacteria in the food are still alive when you eat them!

Emboldened from the workshop and the conference, I went home and tasted my kraut. Of course, I found some of the white-mold on the top.

Ick. I removed as much as I could and realized how important it is to use an appropriately sized container – to avoid contact with the air as much as possible. The result of the fermentation was not too bad. It definitely tastes like kraut. I packed the sauerkraut into two smaller jars, moved one to the refrigerator and I’m going to keep letting the second one ferment on the kitchen counter to see how it tastes over the next week.

I am eager to try again. I will make sure to really smash my cabbage before putting it into the container to make sure all the water comes out. I will also use smaller containers to reduce contact with air (or WAY MORE CABBAGE). Plus, next time I’ll try adding in some other vegetables like carrots, onions, and garlic.

Here is the recipe from the master, Mr. Katz!

Sauerkraut (from Wild Fermentation)

What You Need

  • Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket, one-gallon capacity or greater
  • Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
  • One-gallon jug filled with water (or a scrubbed and boiled rock)
  • Cloth cover (like a pillowcase or towel)
  • 5 pounds cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons sea salt

What You Do

  1. Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely, with or without hearts, however you like it.
  2. Place cabbage in a large bowl as you chop it.
  3. Sprinkle salt on the cabbage as you go. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage, and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting.
  4. Add other vegetables. Experiment.
  5. Mix ingredients together and pack into crock. Pack just a bit into the crock at a time and tamp it down hard using your fists or any (other) sturdy kitchen implement. The tamping packs the kraut tight in the crock and helps force water out of the cabbage.
  6. Cover kraut with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the crock.
  7. Place a clean weight (a glass jug filled with water) on the cover. This weight is to force water out of the cabbage and then keep the cabbage submerged under the brine.
  8. Cover the whole thing with a cloth to keep dust and flies out.
  9. Press down on the weight to add pressure to the cabbage and help force water out of it. Continue doing this periodically (as often as you think of it, every few hours), until the brine rises above the cover. This can take up to about 24 hours, as the salt draws water out of the cabbage slowly. NOTE: Some cabbage, particularly if it is old, simply contains less water. If the brine does not rise above the plate level by the next day, add enough salt water to bring the brine level above the plate. Add about a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water and stir until it’s completely dissolved.
  10. Leave the crock to ferment.
  11. Check the kraut every day or two. NOTE: Sometimes mold appears on the surface. Skim what you can off of the surface; it will break up and you will probably not be able to remove all of it. Don’t worry about this. It’s just a surface phenomenon, a result of contact with the air.
  12. Rinse off the plate and the weight. Taste the kraut. Generally it starts to be tangy after a few days, and the taste gets stronger as time passes. In the cool temperatures of a cellar in winter, kraut can keep improving for months. In the summer or in a heated room, its life cycle is more rapid. Eventually it becomes soft and the flavor turns less pleasant.
  13. Enjoy. NOTE: Make sure the kraut is packed tight in the crock, the surface is level, and the cover and weight are clean. Sometimes brine evaporates, so if the kraut is not submerged below brine just add salted water as necessary.

Good luck and have fun.

When in St. Louis, Eat Ethiopian Food? Part 2

One of my favorite Ethiopian restaurants is Shagga in Hyattsville, MD. But, now that I know how easy it is to create these dishes myself, I think I might be able to satisfy the craving for these wonderful spices and flavors at home. Here is the run-down on what we prepared and the details about how to do it yourself.

Sautéed Cabbage and Carrots with Turmeric (from Food and Wine Magazine)

What You Need

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium red onions, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • Salt
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 1 pound carrots, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
  • 5 pounds green cabbage, cored and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

What You Do

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil.
  2. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger and turmeric and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are fragrant and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots to the casserole along with 1/2 cup of water and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the carrots are just starting to soften, 7 minutes.
  5. Stir in the cabbage in large handfuls, letting each batch wilt slightly before adding more.
  6. When all of the cabbage has been added, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender, 40 to 45 minutes.
  7. Season with salt and serve.

Spiced Red Lentils (from Food and Wine Magazine)

What You Need

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium red onions, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3 tablespoons berbere, plus more for sprinkling (See previous post)
  • 2 teaspoons nigella seeds, finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 cups red lentils (1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 cup butternut squash puree (we had it leftover-and I thought it might add some nice flavor)

What You Do

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil.
  2. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and just starting to brown, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, berbere, nigella seeds, cardamom and a generous pinch each of salt and black pepper and cook until fragrant and deeply colored, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the red lentils with 8 cups of water to the casserole and bring to a boil.
  5. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils have cooked downand thickened, 25 minutes.
  6. Stir in butternut squash puree.
  7. Season the lentils with salt and pepper.
  8. Ladle the lentils into bowls, sprinkle with berbere and serve.

Timatim Salad (from the Berbere Diaries)

What You Need

  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. berbere (see previous post)
  • 3-4 large tomatoes
  • 1/2- 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers, chopped and if desired, de-seeded for less heat
  • 2 pieces Injera, torn into bite-size pieces

What You Do

  1. Combine the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the chopped vegetables and Injera
  2. Serve chilled.

And for next time, I will try my own Injera. I am so happy to now know the secret of this amazing bread- cooked like a pancake! Teff flour is an ancient grain that is gluten-free and provides calcium, iron and protein. So, now I don’t have to feel so guilty when I fill up on it during the meal.

Injera (from Food and Wine Magazine)

What You Need

  • 4 cups teff flour (about 5 ounces)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

What You Do

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the teff flour with the water until a smooth batter forms.
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight; the batter will be slightly foamy.
  3. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat.
  4. Whisk the salt into the batter.
  5. Ladle 3/4 cup of the batter into the skillet; swirl to coat the bottom with batter.
  6. Cook over moderately high heat until the injera just starts to bubble, about 30 seconds.
  7. Cover the skillet and cook for about 30 seconds longer, until the injera is cooked through and the surface is slightly glossy.
  8. Invert the skillet onto a work surface, letting the injera fall from the pan.
  9. Repeat with the remaining batter.

This meal will feed an army! We had so much leftover. If you are just feeding four, I suggest cutting all the recipes in half (excluding the Injera!). Or, if you are like me – enjoy the leftovers for lunch and dinner for days.

When in St. Louis, Eat Ethiopian Food? Part 1

My sister and I love Ethiopian food. So, when my sister moved to St. Louis, we worried she’d have to go without the delightful dishes until her visits with me in D.C. This weekend, as Frankenstorm Sandy neared the East Coast, I left to visit my sister in her new city, hang with her new politically active puppy, Aidan (shown below), and check out the food-scene in St. Louis.

Before boarding my flight, I picked up a copy of this month’s Food and Wine Magazine. While the front featured the expected Thanksgiving ideas, I found the most amazing surprise: A Lesson in Ethiopian Flavors. The feature included not only some of our favorite vegetarian dishes, but also the characteristic Ethiopian Injera Bread. Amazing!

We were able to successfully make a number of great dishes including sauteed cabbage and carrots, spiced red lentils, and timatim salad. We also prepared some sweet collard greens with balsamic, maple syrup, and dates (not Ethiopian flavors, but very yummy). Unfortunately, when we went to the market, we picked up teff grain instead of teff flour and could not prepare the Injera. So, instead, we resolved to try Injera another day and purchased it from my sister’s nearby Ethiopian restaurants (yes, they are there in St. Louis!).

The first step was to buy the ingredients and prepare berbere, a spice commonly used in Ethiopian dishes. While we didn’t find the spice mixture in the store, we found some great recipes and instructions online.

Berbere (from kadirecipes.com)

What You Need

  • 1 tsp of fenugreek seeds
  • 6 dried chilies (I only used 3, because I can’t handle the heat)
  • ½ cup paprika
  • 2 tsp ground ginger (I used fresh)
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 and ½  tbsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp of ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

What You Do

  1. Combine all ingredients together in a blender.
  2. Mix!!
  3. Store in a jar in the fridge, the recipe makes approximately one cup.

Stay tuned for more recipes from the wonderful evening, as I continue my extended trip here in St. Louis. All flights have been canceled back to BWI, so I will be here through Thursday at the earliest.

Stay safe, dry and warm to all those effected by Sandy.

Purple Potatoes

While we were digging these puppies out of the ground at Willowsford Farm, I knew they would lead to a delicious adventure in the kitchen and spur a little research on origins and nutrition. Here goes!

The All Blue planted, nurtured, harvested and pictured here is one of several heirloom varieties known for their earthy, starchy, nuttiness and antioxidant/flavonoid-rich, nutritional properties.  A staple in South American kitchens, the purple potato has Peruvian origins and is now cultivated throughout North and South America and Europe.

Like other potatoes, they are great roasted, braised, baked, boiled or made into chips and a great veggie for those savory herbs. I chose to roast them with hand-pressed olive oil, fresh rosemary and a culinary lavender and sea salt mix from Lavender Fields in Milton, Delaware.

After slicing the already-fairly-small potatoes into half inch wedges, I tossed them with the oil and spices and popped them into a 375 degree over for about 45 minutes, flipping them a few times along the way. As is common when cooking with fresh, raw materials, I made more than enough to set a few servings aside to be re-heated on a skillet for another breakfast or dinner. Lots of websites and chefs suggest pairing them with pork, poultry, salad greens and cheeses.

A little more about their nutritional value:

  • Contain B-Complex vitamins, particularly B-6
  • Contain minerals: magnesium, potassium, niacin, iron
  • Contain folic acid and pantothenic acid
  • They are anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial and contain the flavonoid: anthocyanin
For more history and recipe ideas, check out the Purple Potato Page on SpecialtyProduce.com. They’ve got links to recipes far fancier than mine!

Oven-Roasted Spiced Beets

With guidance and inspiration from Chef Mike Isabella‘s new cookbook, Crazy Good Italian: Big Flavors, Small Plates, and freshly harvested beets from the farm, I was able to bring fall into the kitchen in a new way: with dry sauteed spices and herbs and oven-roasted root veggies.

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Remove the greens and scrub clean approximately two pounds of beets. I used golden beets but any variety will do.
  3. In a dry saute pan, toast two flaked cinnamon sticks, two tablespoons of coriander and two tablespoons of peppercorns over medium heat for five minutes. Shake the pan frequently so spices toast rather than burn.
  4. Once toasty, move them onto a 9″ x 13″ baking sheet. Chop up and apple and several slices of ginger root and place them on the baking sheet.
  5. Toss the beets in two tablespoons of olive oil and two teaspoons of salt (and a little lavender if you love it as much as I do) and then add them to the baking sheet. Squeeze half of a lemon over everything, toss the rind on the pan too, and cover it all tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 50-60 minutes (depending on the size of your beets).
  6. After roasting, remove aluminum foil to allow beets to cool before sliding the skin off with a paper towel. Slice the beets, toss with some of the leftover spices and roasted apples, and allow them to cool to room temperature and soak up more flavors.

The dish is a great hearty side item or topping on an arugula salad.  Be sure and take the bulk of the cinnamon sticks and all lemon rind and ginger root remains out of the mix before serving.

BONUS: I put some turnips on the pan with them (and the same preparations) and they were fantastic. They came out with the freshness of bok choy – that made them a great pair with salmon and braising greens – as well as hints of those spicy fall flavors. They only needed 50 minutes of roasting.

Backyard Fall Hangout and the Onion Tart

Last week, a friend of mine visited from FL. Before her arrival, I promised her the crispness of fall and told her to pack a sweater. Of course, when she arrived — it was well over 80 degrees. After a couple hot, summer-like days, we were relieved that we got a taste of fall weather over the weekend. To celebrate the season, and her visit, I hosted friends over to my house for a fall-cookout and fire in the backyard. We had grilled summer squash and eggplant as well as roasted winter squash – a bridge between the two seasons.

I also made an onion tart – from a recipe that I’ve been eyeing for the last three weeks. It was amazing! Perfect as an appetizer or side dish for your festivities this October.

Onion Tart (from TasteFood)

What You Need
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut in 1/4 inch cubes
– 3 tablespoons ice water
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 pounds yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 tablespoons port wine (I used the red wine open and leftover from earlier in the week)
– 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 2 ounces finely grated Gruyère cheese (I used parm, but I think other cheeses would work here- I’m thinking of trying goat cheese next time)
– 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
– 1 egg, slightly beaten

What You Do
1. In a food processor, combine flour, salt, butter, and water. (Note: you can also do this with a folk)
2. Pulse until it resembles coarse meal, with some pieces of the butter apparent, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary.
3. Form into a ball and flatten.
4. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.
5. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a deep skillet or pot.
6. Add onions and salt. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown, soft and squidgy, about 30 minutes.
7. Add port wine and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
8. Remove onions from heat and stir in the pepper. Cool slightly.
9. While the onions are cooling, roll out the dough to fit in the bottom and up the side of a 10-inch round tart tin.
10. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bottom of the tart.
11. Spoon onions into the shell and spread evenly.
12. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon thyme over the onions.
13. Brush the exposed crust rim with the egg wash.
14. Sprinkle the tart and crust with the remaining cheese.
15. Bake in a preheated 375 F. oven until the crust is firm and golden and the onions have turned a rich golden brown, without blackening, about 30 minutes.
16. Remove and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature garnished with thyme sprigs.

Here is the tart before it went into the oven!

We ate it so quickly there are no “after” shots.

Time for Fall Squash: Delicata

Baked/Roasted Delicata Squash

‘Tis the season for hearty veggies! For the past few weeks, we’ve been harvesting and curing acorn, butternut and delicata squash. Carrying heavy baskets and bins of them (and their neighboring pumpkins and sweet potatoes) is a little tougher than say… lettuce… but oh-so-worth-it on a lazy Sunday in the kitchen. The delicata especially.

In an effort to find an interesting recipe to suggest to CSA members and folks at the farmers market, I Googled delicata and found out that there is another way to cook it than the butter boat method I use with butternuts: Roast them up like sweet potato fries!

While preheating the oven to 405-425 degrees (depending on the level of crisp you desire), chop off the ends of the squash and cut it in half vertically. Clean out the seeds and gunk with a spoon, then chop those halves up into half-inch thick smiley-face pieces. Toss them by hand in a bowl with olive oil and a little salt then place them on baking sheets in a single layer. They need 15-20 minutes in there and a flip midway. If you’d like more detailed instructions, find them in this great post, “Better Than Butternut,” on Summer Tomato.

This is some seriously awesome squash! I highly recommend looking for it at a farmers market near you!

Sweet Potato Fries

#39: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

One of my favorite Food Rules in Michael Pollan’s compilation.

A few years ago, we explored this rule with a pizza-making party and reported the details in Apples to Apples, Pizza to Pollan. Now, we are taking the rule to a new level:

Eat all the sweet potato fries you want as long as you grow the sweet potato yourself. 

The recipe is simple:

Harvest a few sweet potatoes.Wash them. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Slice and chop the potato into fairly equal fry-like pieces. Toss them in a bowl with the following mixture:

1/4 cup of olive oil + 1 tablespoon of sugar + 1 tablespoon of salt + 1 teaspoon of paprika (or chipotle powder or any spice you like)

Then lay them out on a baking sheet with some space in between piece to ensure they get crispy rather than soggy. Bake ’em for 15 minutes, flip ’em, and then bake ’em for another 15 and viola! Deliciousness.

The only question that remains is: How many sweet potato fries do you think could be made from the 12 inch, 7-pounder my parents just harvested?!