...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


If You Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em!

Of all the invasive species in our region, I would have to say that garlic mustard is one of the most useful.  Though the local parks organizations have scheduled a series of spring weed outs for years, it's never enough to completely eradicate these noxious weeds.  So we might as well find a way to savor those that are determined to grow despite our best efforts.  There is plenty of garlic mustard to be gathered at the south shore lakefront.  A quick internet search got my mouth-watering when I saw a recipe for Dandelion Pasta and Garlic Mustard Pesto.  Looks like the dandelions have already gone to seed around here, but I'll file that away for next year.  Anyway, I have always wanted to make garlic mustard pesto; this season I've had my chance.  If you are using garlic mustard, please be sure it's from an area that's not sprayed with chemicals.  And, personally, I would also avoid roadsides because of pollution.  Trust me, even if you exclude these locations, you'll still have plenty from which to choose.

Garlic Mustard Pesto (with Dairy-Free options)
Makes about 12-2 oz. portions

I made the vegan version of this recipe, but one could certainly add cheese.  Also, depending on how much you LOVE garlic, you could use additional garlic cloves as well.

2 c. garlic mustard, leaves only (washed)
4 garlic cloves, peeled (optional, as desired)
1/4 c. blanched almonds, toasted
1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 c. grated Parmesan (optional) OR 2 T. nutritional yeast (for that savory flavor)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place garlic mustard, optional garlic, and almonds in food processor and process until everything is chopped to a rough or fine consistency, depending on preference.  With machine running, add half olive oil in a slow, steady stream.  Turn off processor and add Parmesan (if using) or nutritional yeast.  Process until absorbed.  With machine on, slowly add remaining olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  To freeze, transfer to mini-muffin pan (about 2 oz. portions) or ice cube trays (slightly smaller) and freeze until solid.  Transfer "cubes" to a freezer bag or container, label, and seal.  If refrigerating, cover pesto with thin layer of olive oil and store in tightly closed container.  Enjoy on pasta, bruschetta, or pizza.

Garlic Mustard Pesto
Photo courtesy of Straight From the Farm
This past week V and I went to our first outdoor farmers' market of the season.  The West Allis Farmers' Market--one of the oldest farmers' markets in southeastern Wisconsin--is the first to open around these parts.  And it's in the afternoon, three days a week, which is so very convenient for our current nap schedule.  This is Vera's third season of regularly shopping at WAFM so many of the vendors have seen her grow like the weeds I'm sure they're fighting back at their homesteads.  On Tuesday the farmers were mainly selling vegetable starts and bedding plants, but we did sniff out one stall with fresh, local spinach (and another selling apple cider donuts...what a mother will do when the snacks are out and her child is still hungry.  I believe this was Vera's first donut.)  Because of last Monday's holiday, our soup night was shifted back one day.  We ate half the batch of this spinach soup and shared the rest with a couple of new mommies and baby.  There's nothing I love more than sharing homemade food with friends.  

Italian Spinach Soup
Makes 4-5 servings

It was a rather hot day for soup so we enjoyed this lukewarm.  To maintain the beautiful green color, I wouldn't suggested heating this much after pureeing.  Add the remaining fresh spinach as garnish (do not cook further.)

6 ramps, washed and chopped (whites separated from greens)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. dried basil
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried marjoram
2 T. coconut oil
2 T. dry sherry (optional)
4 c. vegetable broth
1 large potato, washed and diced
1 1/4 lbs. fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Barley and/or lentils, fully cooked
Yogurt, to garnish (optional)
Coconut milk, to garnish (as a vegan alternative to yogurt)

In a stockpot, saute white part of ramps, garlic, and dried herbs in coconut oil over medium heat about 5 min. or until ramps are tender, stirring occasionally.  If using sherry, remove stockpot from heat; slowly pour in sherry.  Return to heat; cook and stir 1 min.  Add broth and potato.  Bring to boiling.  Simmer, covered, 10 min. or until potato is tender (adding green parts of ramps just a couple of minutes before the 10-min. timer goes off.)  Remove from heat.  Set aside 2 c. of spinach.  Stir remaining spinach, half at a time, into soup just until wilted.  Cool about 5 min.  Transfer soup, half at a time to food processor or blender; cover and process or blend until smooth.  Return to stockpot; heat through.  Season with salt and pepper.  To serve, top with reserved spinach, grains/legumes, and yogurt/coconut milk.  

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