This week’s share includes Bull’s blood beets, cabbage, salad greens, fresh garlic, spearmint, hyssop, and lemon balm. After this share, the farm’s garlic will be harvested and cured for several weeks, which makes it ready to store throughout the winter, so this is the last of the fresh garlic.
Native to the Mediterranean, hyssop has a long history of medicinal and culinary uses, including the main flavor in the liqueur Chartreuse. This aromatic herb is also loved by honey bees, producing a delicious honey. The flavor of the leaves is similar to thyme but stronger, making fresh leaves a great addition to meatballs, fish or fruit dishes. The flavors of hyssop show well in syrup, which is delicious poured over fresh fruit or added to sparkling water or ice tea.
Lemon balm is best used fresh and brings a delicate lemon-mint flavor to drinks, smoothies, salads, cooked grains and fish. Fresh leaves also make a great addition to fresh fruit desserts and cream sauces. Fresh herbs will store best in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. All the herbs this week can also be dried and stored for use in winter teas. If you don’t have a cool, dark place to dry herbs, dry herbs in a paper bag in a cool place.
Bull’s blood beets are a beautiful heirloom beet from 1840 that has distinctive purplish-red tops. Beets store best if the greens are removed. With a sharp knife, remove greens just above the stem and store separately in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The beet root will keep well for weeks in the refrigerator in a paper bag or perforated plastic bag, while the greens are best used within a few days. Beets are a versatile root which can be eaten raw, roasted, steamed, grilled, or boiled. Their natural earthy sweetness pairs well with olive oil, sour cream, vinegars, citrus, mustard, horseradish, dill, tarragon, onions, apples, and goat cheese. Red beets bleed and tint everything they touch but leaving the skin, tail, and at least 1 inch of the stems intact while cooking will help keep all those juices locked inside. Once cool to touch, beets are very easy to peel. Beet greens are edible and can be treated like Swiss chard or spinach. If the greens are young and tender, they can be used in salad mixes.
Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette (serves 6)
Adapted from Mustards Grill by Cindy Pawlcyn
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ shallot, minced
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch large beets or 2 bunches baby beets
Olive oil for rubbing beets
1 bulb fresh garlic or 6 to 8 garlic cloves
Salad greens of your choice
½ cup crumbled goat cheese
To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl until dissolved. Gradually whisk in the olive oil and continue to whisk until fully emulsified. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut off the stems from the beets, leaving about 1 inch intact. Do not trim the root ends. Rub the beets with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in a baking pan and bake for 40-60 minutes, until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. The timing will depend on the size of the beets. When the beets are done, allow them to cool enough to handle, then peel and quarter lengthwise. Cut each quarter in half. Toss the warm beets with enough vinaigrette to coat, and allow them to marinate for 30-60 minutes.
If using spring garlic, slice the bulbs and blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on how tender they are. If using regular garlic, peel, slice, remove the green sprout and blanch for 1 minute. If needed, wash lettuce, dry, and cut into bite size pieces.
To serve, combine salad greens with garlic and beets in a large bowl and toss with enough vinaigrette to coat lightly. Arrange greens with beets on top and sprinkle with goat cheese.
1 large handful flowering stems and leaves of hyssop, about 30 sprigs
1 ¼ cup water
¾ cup sugar
Put the sprigs of hyssop in small pan with the water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Strain into a glass measuring cup, pressing the stems with a wooden spoon to extract all the flavor and liquid. You should have about 1 cup of liquid. Add more water if needed. Return mixture to the pan, add sugar and heat gently, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Boil hard for 5 minutes. Skim and pour into a glass container to store in the refrigerator.