This time of year, sometimes the garden can get away from you. We make the same mistake every year and plant too much all at once so that all of a sudden, we have more greens, cilantro and herbs than we know what to do with. And this is from a measly “flower pot garden” growing on our back deck! Fortunately, Alice is a great salad builder and her meticulous washing and drying of the greens, allows us to keep a large salad bowl in the fridge for extended periods. This year is no exception. We have a bumper crop of sorel, cilantro, parsley, mescaline, nasturtium, arugula, Swiss chard and of course a variety of mints (basil, lemon basil, and spearmint) as well as thyme, rosemary, chives and garlic chives. I’m planning on making pesto from the more aromatic herbs and greens, but, have been seeking a use for all the leafy salad greens that are starting to go to seed.
With Alice’s infinite library of cookbooks, magazines and on-line recipes, she found one for an awesome dressing for strong flavored greens. The recipe only calls for arugula, but we put some nasturtium, mescaline, and cilantro in as well. It is on the epicurious.com website if you wish to see the original recipe prior to some changes that we made to it.
Aromatic and Bitter Greens with Lemon-Parmesan Dressing
2/3 cup of grated Parmesan/Pecorino Romano cheese blend, divided
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cups of mixed greens including arugula, mesclun, nasturtium and cilantro
½ cucumber sliced
1/3 cup of toasted pine nuts
(optional: 1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes)*
Blend half of the cheese and the next three ingredients in a food processor or blender. Season the dressing with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.
Combine all of the greens and cucumbers, season with additional salt and pepper, toss with enough dressing to coat, add the remaining cheese and pine nuts and toss again. ENJOY!
*Our tomatoes weren’t ripe yet, so we left them out, but, they will be included when we make this again in about a month.
I like the looks and texture of cilantro and nasturtium stems in a salad. Alice does not like stems of any kind in her salads, so, what to do with the stems. They are my favorite part! As I thought about it, I remembered many years ago when we were in Cape May, New Jersey eating at the Blue Pig Tavern in the Congress Hall Hotel that I ordered the special of the day, a rich flaky white fish (I do not remember the variety) with a coulis of cilantro stems. At the time I thought it was odd that the chef would make a coulis from the stems without the leaves. I reasoned that yesterdays special must have been Mexican tacos and that he had a lot of stems left over. Once I tasted it, the light came on and I have never de-stemmed cilantro since (except of course, when Alice objects to them). So, on this occasion, we were having the salad recipe above with cod fish filets cooked in a cast iron skillet and I knew that there would be lots of nasturtium and cilantro stems left over from the leaf-only salad. I have no idea how true it is to the Blue Pig recipe because that was a long long time ago, but, it was spot on delicious as a garnish for the fish. Here’s what I came up with:
Skillet Fried Cod with Cilantro/Nasturtium Stem Coulis
1/3 cup of mixed cilantro and nasturtium stems cut as tiny as possible
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (I like to use a lot!)
Freshly ground garlic salt
Pinch of Mrs. Dash’s Onion and Herb blend or similar spice blend
2 cod or other skinned and boned flaky white fleshed fillets
4 lemon wedges divided
Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic or other seafood seasoning
Mrs. Dash’s Lemon Pepper seasoning or similar seasoning
Mix all coulis ingredients in a small bowl and allow to stand a few hours for flavors to meld.
At least an hour before cooking, season the cod fish fillets with the seasonings and spread butter on the flesh side of the fish (note that the fish is skinned, but, it should be obvious which side the skin had been on. Allow to sit in the fridge for a good hour or more.
When ready to eat, heat a cast iron skillet big enough to accommodate the fillets until the residual oil that has absorbed into the pan starts to smoke. Add enough frying oil to coat the bottom of the pan about ¼ of an inch deep. When the oil is about 375 degrees (plenty hot) put the fish in butter side down. It will splash and sputter a bit, so, if you have a grill outside with a burner on it, you may like to cook outside to keep your kitchen from getting oil splattered all over the stove area. Having the oil hot is very important because fish with no flour or batter on it likes to stick to the pan if it isn’t hot enough. Cook about 2-3 minutes and flip the fish. Squeeze one wedge of lemon on each of the fillets and, yes, it will splatter some. When the fish flakes easily and appears done, remove from the pan and place it on a platter. There will be a bit of oil on the fish, but, we’ve never found it greasy when the pan is hot. Serve with more squeezed lemon and the coulis.
Monster Pork Chop stuffed with Stem Coulis
Yes, we found another use for a "stem coulis". If you've ever bought those two inch thick pork chops from Sam's Club or Costco and really didn't want a bread stuffing, here is an idea. Alice found this in "dinner spinner" in allrecipes.com November 2017 but, we made several changes. We cut a pocket as if we were stuffing it with typical bread stuffing but, instead stuffed it with the following coulis.
Lots of nasturtium, cilantro and arugula stems chopped tiny
Crushed red pepper
Freshly ground salt and black pepper
A tablespoon or so of lemon juice Enough olive oil to make a sloppy consistency
Add together and allow to meld for an hour or more. Put inside the pork chop pocket and pin shut. Rub on the outside with dried rosemary, sage, garlic salt, and cracked pepper. Allow to rest in the refrigerator at least an hour. Brown on all sides in a frying pan and bake for about 25 minutes. It doesn't hurt to put a little stock in the pan so as not to burn up all the bits and au jus stuck to the bottom of the pan. After about 25 minutes, if you bake it any longer the perimiter will become over done so cut the porkshop in half lengthwise making two chops. Crumble feta cheese over both halves and put it under the broiler for a minute or so.
Enjoy in Good Health! Brian Cain, the Michigan Vintner
PS. My fascination with nasturtiums goes back to my childhood. I had been spending a few days with my paternal grandmother who had a big pot of nasturtiums in her kitchen window. When I asked “what’s for lunch” she replied “flower sandwiches”. To my surprise and amazement, she spread mayo on white bread and loaded it up with the flowers and leaves of the plant she was growing in the kitchen. To my astonishment, it was a delicious sandwich that I’ll never forget! ABC