Today I made my first jell-o mold. My mother would be proud because she always says she can't make pie crusts or jell-o molds. I was reading something recently--I think it was by cookbook author Marion Cunningham--about the lost art of aspics, savory gelatinized dishes usually made with meat stock. Those have fallen out of vogue, but Jell-O, of course, may be around forever whether you like it or not. In trying to find a different way to use spring's bounty of rhubarb, I came up with a molded salad. I've tweaked it a bit to use local ingredients (frozen thawed raspberries instead of pineapple), but it's up to you. Cunningham's advice for dipping the bottom of the mold pan in hot water before inverting it was really the key to success. This makes a refreshing dessert.
Molded Rhubarb Salad
4 c. diced rhubarb
2 c. water
1 2/3 c. granulated sugar (you can substitute all or some of the sugar with xylitol, if you prefer)
6 oz. unflavored gelatin
2 c. frozen, thawed and drained raspberries (or fresh, crushed berries)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the rhubarb in water until tender, about 5 min. Remove from the heat; stir in sugar (or xylitol) and gelatin until completely dissolved. Add raspberries and nuts. Pour into an rinsed, but not dried, 6-cup mold. Chill until set. Before inverting, dip the bottom of the mold pan in hot water. Place a serving plate over the mold and invert. Cut and enjoy!
And let's not forget all those beautiful spring radishes. I'm growing French Breakfast and White Icicle Radishes this year and have been harvesting most of them fairly young because in the past I've had many go to seed before we could enjoy them. There's nothing worse than trying to cut or bite into a woody radish. Along with all of those crunchy treats are lots of leaves. You can certainly put them into salads though they're a bit hairy. One season I tried juicing them along with some winter storage beets and carrots. The flavor was so intense I had to hold my nose to swallow it. Last year I got a new idea from my farmer friends Sandy and David at Pinehold Gardens. None of us like to waste food, especially when we've put effort into growing it. I have tweaked this recipe a bit for my taste.
Radish Leaf Pesto
Makes about 1/2 cup
This pesto has an intense spicy flavor; you may not find it interchangeable with basil pesto. I suggest using it as a base for bruschetta topping.
2 c. radish leaves, washed and stems removed
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 c. blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan or part-skim mozzarella
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Place the radish leaves, garlic, and almonds in a food processor and process until everything is chopped to a rough or fine consistency, depending on your preference. With the machine running, add half the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Turn off the processor and add the cheese. Process until the cheese is absorbed. With the machine on, slowly add the remaining olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a small bowl. If you do not plan to use it immediately, cover with a thin layer or olive oil and store refrigerated in a tightly closed container. To freeze, portion into ice cubes trays (use trays dedicated to making pesto) or mini muffin pans. Once frozen, remove from trays/pans and store in a freezer bag. Label and date. To thaw, put in a small dish and let sit several minutes before using.
My summer garden is almost completely planted. Over the last week I've been seeding corn and beans. Today I seeded all of my cucurbitae--cucumbers, melons, zucchini, summer squash. To make the most of my urban plot, I have intercropped the next wave of vegetables in the original raised bed. By the time the salad greens are done, my cucumbers will be poking through and soon after will need trellising. I'll save the details about the trellises for a later date because they will be better understood with photos. Leftt to transplant are the tomatoes and eggplant. I didn't start any of my own bell or hot peppers this year. I haven't had success doing so in the past so I decided to purchase some starts from a local grower at the Bay View Garden and Yard Society plant sale in the next couple of weeks. This is the first year I feel like I've kept up with succession growing in our garden. Hopefully we'll get the maximum yields and will have a lot of fresh produce and preserves to show for it.