New Ingredient: Beet Greens

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If you’ve ever bought beets, you’ve probably noticed that they’re often sold with their leafy tops attached. More often than not, these leafy heads get tossed away, but don’t let them wilt in the compost bin!

Beet greens are 100% edible. They can easily be substituted for another dark, leafy green, like rainbow chard or spinach, but they have their own distinct flavor. They shockingly taste a bit like beets!
The first time I discovered beet greens could be eaten, I was addicted! The hearty flavor of dark greens, paired with a subtle sweetness in the stems – sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic, it’s a simple delight that showcases the beauty of using kitchen scraps.
This humble green is also extremely versatile; you can:

  • quickly sauté in olive oil & garlic
  • blanch & add to eggs or a vegetable hash
  • chop and stir fry in a wok with mushrooms
  • add to borscht (duh), minestrone, or vegetable soups
  • toss with grains to up your vegetable intake

There are also recipes for beet green, kale, & cauliflower salad, simply sautéed with their roots, or even in a beautiful mushroom frittata!

What you do with beet greens is really up to you! Just make sure they don’t end up in the compost 😉

New Ingredient: Quark cheese

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On the weekends, I always like to have a bit of something special with breakfast.

Hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows, an omelette strewn with seasonal vegetables, freshly baked granola, or even a taste of cheese make weekend breakfasts special and allow me to really appreciate the extra time I have.

Wandering through the dairy aisle at whole foods, I spotted this little gem amongst the chèvre and ricotta. It’s similar in texture to full-fat greek yogurt, but less tangy and more akin in flavor to a mild chèvre.

 

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According to the packaging, it’s made in Vermont from cow’s milk (which accounts for its mild flavor) and can be an ingredient in cheesecakes.

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I was immediately drawn to the idea of having it with fresh fruit. With spring having just begun, we now have (better) strawberries & blueberries to enjoy here in sunny California. My favorite way to enjoy the berries with quark is to cut them up and spoon a dollop of cheese on top. The cheese is light, fluffy, and cloudlike, and its tanginess highlights the sweetness of the berry. It’s almost tastes like a cheesecake in a bite! All that’s missing is a bit of butter crust, but that’s a bit indulgent for breakfast, isn’t it?

Fruit & quark cheese could also make a great light sweet treat or dessert. 20140323-175429.jpgSo if you see quark cheese at your grocery store & you’re a fan of greek yogurt, chèvre, ricotta, or dairy in general, don’t hesitate to try it out! It could really brighten your breakfasts, or lighten your desserts. And if you’re already familiar with quark, what is your favorite way to use it? Happy eating!

*This post was not sponsored by any third parties.

New Ingredient: Cherimoya

Look at this cool fruit! Scaly green skin, with teardrop shaped, hard seeds throughout the flesh. The pulp is sweet, a little tangy, and creamy. It’s called a cherimoya, and it’s one of my favorite tropical fruits!

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The cherimoya is a fruit thought to be native of the Andes or Central America. Today, cherimoya is grown throughout South Asia, Central America, South America, Southern California, Portugal, southern Andalucia [La Axarquia] and South of Italy (Calabria).

The fruit flesh is white and creamy, and has numerous dark brown seeds embedded in it. Mark Twain called the cherimoya “the most delicious fruit known to men.” The fruit is fleshy and soft, sweet, white in color, with a sherbet-like texture, which gives it its secondary name, custard apple.

Some characterize the flavor as a blend of banana, pineapple, papaya, peach, and strawberry. Similar in size to a grapefruit, it has large, glossy, dark seeds that are easily removed. When ripe, the skin is green and gives slightly to pressure, similar to the avocado. Many people often chill the cherimoya and eat it with a spoon, which has earned it another nickname; the ice cream fruit.

(Wikipedia)

My mom grew up eating tons of these in Vietnam. Unfortunately, now, we’re lucky if we can find one or two good ones a year. On our travels, we’ve seen varieties in Hawaii, Vietnam, and Jamaica.

IMG_0066As mentioned in the above description, these are ripe when they have a bright green skin color and are soft, like an avocado. Be careful with this tip! My mom has brought home so many that didn’t ripen, instead they turned black and became very firm. The fruits sold over here in the United States are picked so green for shipping that they lose a chance to ripen correctly. So pick a good cherimoya, if you do see them at the store!

IMG_0067While it is good to simply cut the fruit in half, remove the stem & core, and eat it chilled or frozen with a spoon, my mom and I like to cut them in wedges, down the skin, and eat them almost like sliced oranges or mangos. It’s such a treat on a hot day, with an amazing, creamy sweetness and tropical flavor. 

So there you go, the cherimoya! If you stumble upon it in your travels, or even at your local produce store, try one! But make sure that it’s ripe!

New Ingredient: Basil Seeds

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These are NOT chia seeds!

Yeah, they look a lot like them, don’t they? However, these are basil seeds. Commonly an ingredient in cold Asian drinks, they swell up in liquid and have a jelly-like, chewy texture. This is characteristic of the seeds of several varieties of basil species (sweet basil, thai basil, italian basil…). The seeds are about the size of a sesame seed.

While basil seeds do not have the same healthy fat benefits as the recently-popularized chia seed, they are still just as fun to play with in drinks! And bonus: they’re much cheaper! A bag of basil seeds typically costs me about $2, while I’ve seen chia seeds at health stores for about $8.

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But don’t be weirded out! They are amazing little seeds to add to a sweet drink. Often they are components in faluda,  and I like to add them to Sam Bo Luong (or Ching Bo Leung).

Faluda/Falooda

Faluda/Falooda

Sam Bo Luong/Ching bo Leung

Sam Bo Luong/Ching bo Leung

Unfamiliar with these names? All of them are refreshing, sweet drinks from South Asia that are eaten with a spoon. They all contain many types of jellies of differing textures, so it’s a lot of fun to eat! Faluda is creamy, while Sam Bo Luong is tea-like.

IMG_0071How do you use basil seeds? Simply soak them in a liquid for 1-2 hours, and they will expand and become gelatinous. 1 tablespoon is probably enough to add to a drink.

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They have pretty much no flavor; it’s all about the texture! I bet they’d also be cool to add to raspberry-flavored jello 🙂

If you’re feeling adventurous, you have to try these! They are fun ingredients that are often sold in bags (the one I bought was in a shaker though, how convenient) at most Southeast Asian groceries. They are awesome!

New Ingredient: Finger Limes

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What are these things?

According to wikipedia, (and the little package they came in), these are finger limes. Appropriately named for their size and shape, this citrus australasica grows mainly in Queensland, Australia. They have a distinctly strong zest, and inside, the pulp is round and bright green. The juice inside each piece of pulp is sour, but not unpalatable like that of a true lime. Almost comparable to fish roe or caviar, the little beads of citrus burst in your mouth!

I have yet to use these lovely little finger limes in my cooking, but the lime that I had by itself was a refreshing little treat! I imagine the zest would be great to add in a ceviche, fruit salad, baked fish or grilled chicken, pork, added to cheesecakes or sorbets, or wherever a little burst of citrus and texture is needed!

If you ever see these, you have to try them! They are amazing and just show the unique and beautiful nature is.

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