Purslane

Local farmers’ markets are in full swing here in Boston and I couldn’t be happier. Every year the farmers bring new and interesting produce to the market giving adventurous eaters plenty of great things to try.

Purslane

Purslane

Purslane has turned up in my local markets (Central Square and Davis Square), and I love it. In America we’ve treated purslane (also known as Portulaca) as a weed. Other cultures have recognized it as a remarkably healthy vegetable that just happens to grow like a weed!

Purslane is loaded with all of the nutrients you expect to find in a leafy green vegetable: vitamin A is present in large quantities, as well as vitamin C and multiple B vitamins. It contains a decent amount of minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

The truly exciting nutrient in purslane is Omega 3 fatty acids. Purslane has a large serving of ALA, which is usually found only in fish, flax, hemp seeds and chia seeds.

So, how do you prepare it? What does it taste like?

Like most foods that contain omega 3s, heat is the enemy. Purslane is delicious raw, either as a stand-alone salad or mixed in with other salad greens. It has a nutty/lemony flavor with a great crunch when you have it raw.

It’s also nice quickly stir-fried. It’s great stirred in to scrambled eggs. Saute an onion first, then briefly saute the purslane before adding your scrambled eggs to the pan. Serve with salsa and maybe corn tortillas.

Eggs poached in stock with spinach and buckwheat

I made a lot of soup this winter and came to appreciate the joy of home-made stock. With just a little extra work, you can get a stock pot going and then forget about it for at least 45 minutes. Strain it and you have a flexible base for a lot of good meals. It freezes beautifully, so make more than you need and bank some in the freezer for a future meal.

Spring allergy season has begun early in Boston. It’s predicted to be an especially bad year because of our mild winter. It’s also several weeks early.

We felt particularly under the weather last weekend, so I decided to cash in two jars of stock from the freezer stash. A quick and healthy meal can be had with two eggs, some pre-made stock, some leftover cooked grains and a handful of something leafy and green. Enhance the flavor as you time an inclination permits. If we’re feeling really under the weather, I add a few cloves of garlic to the stock and boil for at least 15-20 minutes. This time I sauteed some sliced garlic in olive oil and added it at the end, along with some chopped green onions. I had leftover cooked buckwheat in the fridge, but really any grain would do. I especially enjoy small round grains like quinoa and millet.

Eggs poached in stock with spinach and buckwheat

3 cups stock
4 eggs
1 cup cooked grains (give or take), preheated
a few handfuls of baby spinach
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
2-3 green onions, sliced

Bring stock to a boil, taste for seasoning. Crack eggs into 4 small bowls (like ramekins). To poach eggs, bring bowl very close to the boiling stock and gently tip in. Repeat with other 3 eggs, giving each egg a little room. Gently boil for about 3 minutes.

While eggs are cooking, saute garlic in some olive oil, taking care not to let it brown.

Divid preheated grains between two large soup bowls. Top with a generous handful of baby spinach (you can use a lot here–it will reduce down to nothing once the soup hits it.

Stir sauteed garlic into broth, taking care not to break the eggs. Gently spoon 2 eggs into each bowl and divide the stock evenly between the two bowls. Top with sliced green onions.

Serves 2.

Montreal and a quick egg recipe

Every few years my husband and I trek to Montreal for the Montreal Jazz Festival. The festival has changed a lot since our first trip their. On this trip we realized that instead of going to mostly listen to music, we were going to mostly enjoy some favorite things about Montreal, and then listen to a little al fresco music in the evening. It was one of our best trips yet.

Community garden in Montreal

We rented a small apartment near the Atwater market and the Lachine Canal, two of the highlights of our trip. The lovely community garden pictured above was next to the apartment, and it was pure joy to walk past it several times a day and see gardeners tending their tidy plots.

Farm stand at Atwater Market

The Atwater Market was a delight for me–a permanent farmer’s market with a wide variety of small local vendors. Quebec is a bit behind Boston in their season, so they still had strawberries and asparagus. Both were delicious and so simple to enjoy in our our little kitchen. We also bought some delicious local goat and sheep’s milk cheese, some maple syrup and La Messagere, a wonderful Quebec-made gluten-free beer.

The Lachine Canal (with access conveniently located right behind the market) is an amazing urban park, perfect for biking. It was originally built as an industrial canal, and spurred development in that parts of Montreal that it traversed. Biking along it is fascinating–a range of historic stone buildings, modern buildings and infrastructure, crumbling factories, and luxury condos line the path. There’s even one section that travels parallel (and within a visible, but safely distant) section of a major highway. Despite all of this human-made scenery, sections of it are lush with greenery and overall it was a peaceful ride.

Our bike journeys were made possible by the BIXI bike share program that’s like the one we’re getting here in Boston. It was a great service and I’m so excited to have something similar in Boston.

Kusmi Tea store

We also found a shop dedicated to selling our favorite tea, Kusmi Tea. It’s Russian-via-Paris, expensive, decadent and totally worth every penny.

Most of our meals were simply prepared dishes with loot from the farmer’s market (like the egg, potato and asparagus recipe that follows), but I have to mention the fantastic vegetarian restaurant we visited in the Plateau neighborhood, Aux Vivres. They serve a nice variety of interesting and healthy vegetarian fare, including several gluten-free items.

I’ve found that one of the easiest and healthiest foods a vegetarian can prepare when you’re traveling is eggs.

They’re versatile–on recent trips I’ve made omlettes and fritattas, hard-boiled, scrambled and poached in spicy tomato sauce–all with minimal equipment and seasonings.
They’re healthy–the white is almost pure protein, providing slow-burning fuel. Eggs are also an important source of B vitamins for vegetarians, something in short supply in the vegetable kingdom.
They’re filling–perfect to fuel a morning or afternoon of walking around or biking (or after, to refuel for the next adventure).
They cook up fast! Perfect for a quick lunch after a morning of exploring

They’re also available everywhere, maybe one of their best features.

Taking advantage of the delicious local asparagus and some nice new potatoes, I made this “hash” for lunch after one of our bike rides. It’s so simple it’s hard to call this a “recipe.” If you can use real butter, I encourage you to do it tastes great! If butter is not you’re friend, use your favorite butter substitute.

Eggs with potato and asparagus hash

For 2

4-6 eggs, depending on how hungry you are, beaten
8 small, 2-3 medium or 1 large potato
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces.
1 small onion or 2 shallots, chopped
butter
Salt, pepper
Optional additions: crumbled goat cheese (or any cheese), tabasco, avocado, chopped fresh herbs

Cut potatoes into a 1/2 inch dice. Boil until just cooked through (about 8-10 minutes).
To prepare asparagus, either add to potatoes in the last minute of cooking, or parboil or steam them separately until bright green and just tender.

Heat butter in a large frying pan. Saute onion or shallots until soft. Add potatoes and allow them to gently brown in the butter (but don’t burn the butter!). Add asparagus, stir to coat with butter.

Push veggies to the side of pan, add a bit more butter and pour eggs into the empty 1/2 of the pan. Scramble until mostly cooked, then stir veggies and finish cooking the whole process should take about 5 minutes, depending on how well you like your scrambled eggs to be done). Salt and pepper to taste

Served topped with any of the optional additions you’d like.

Camping, Biking and tasty poached eggs on polenta

Every August my husband and I celebrate our anniversary with a long camping trip. This year we camped in Vermont at Grand Isle State Park on the Lake Champlain Islands. It was divine!

We brought our bikes and spent our days cycling and swimming in the lake.

There are some excellent maps with suggested bike routes here and here. The island routes were primarily on empty country roads with little traffic and quaint farms and lake views throughout.

Our routes also took us past apple orchards and farms selling eggs and other assorted produce. Most things were sold on the honor system–a sign announced what was available, and a jar or box was available for you to leave your money in.

After an active day of biking and cooling off in the lake, we like to prepare simple, tasty meals to replenish and set us up for another day of biking. But what can you cook when you are camping? Our camp stove is sort of like a little jet engine, and the only thing it really does is boil things at a high temperature. In our early days of camping we did a lot of mix-type things. You know, boil some stuff and dump in some seasoning. Those mixes didn’t make us feel very good, though because they were basically boxes full of chemicals.

We realized that we could make healthier, tastier food with just a little more work than dumping a box of stuff in water. Since we’re only car camping (not backpacking–we’re too old for that!), we can bring heavy canned foods, some fresh produce and most importantly a cutting board. Now when we camp we eat variations on this recipe–a can of tomatoes with some sort of seasoning and some protein. This version has eggs, but it works well with a can of black beans, too. We buy a roll of prepared polenta, use 1/2 of it for one meal, and keep it fresh in our cooler to use the next day.

Camp Cuisine Poached Eggs Diablo on Polenta

Serves 2

1/2 roll of prepared polenta
1 onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
Olive oil
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1-2 tsp. cumin powder
Salt to taste
1 can Muir Glen Adobo tomatoes or Ro-Tel tomatoes (something spicy)
4 eggs

Saute onion, garlic and dash of salt in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add bell pepper and continue sauteing until everything is soft and the onions are starting to brown. Add cumin powder and saute for just a few seconds, then add entire can of tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn fire down to simmer for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
Make 4 indentations in tomato mixture and crack eggs into the pot. Bring back to a boil and poach eggs for about 3-4 minutes (or longer if you don’t like runny yolks).
Cut polenta into at least 4 slices and divide them between 2 bowls. Top each with 2 eggs and 1/2 of the sauce.
Enjoy!

This tasted amazing on our trip, sitting in front of the fire ring under the stars, listening to the crickets and cicadas. If your surroundings are less divine, you might need to up the flavors–maybe some oregano? Maybe some tabasco?

Quick and healthy: Poached egg on kale and millet grits

My work as an acupuncturist allows me to have lunch at home several days a week, and it’s something I’ve come to enjoy immensely. I love to cook, but I don’t want to go to a lot of trouble in the middle of the day (too much time, too many dirty dishes), so my challenge is to find something quick and healthy that I can whip up quickly.

Lately, all of my lunches involve eggs in various forms. I never get tired of eating them since you can do so many things with them. Eggs are an excellent source of protein for my mostly vegetarian diet, and pack a whallop of solid nutrition. The whites are almost pure protein, and it is a complete protein with the full compliment of all 8 amino acids. The yoke has gotten a bad rap in the past since it contains most of the fat in the egg, but it turns out that that fat is not so bad for you as they used to think. The yolk also contains most of the other nutrients, including healthy doses of B vitamins and minerals. They have an extremely low glycemic index, a 2 out of 100.

When I eat eggs, I feel comfortably full for longer, with steady-burning energy the whole time.

I feel best when I pair them with a whole grain and something green. Kale is another of my favorite super-foods. It has similar, almost complete amino acid compliment like eggs, along with a host of vitamins and minerals, including a hefty dose of vitamin A. Kale also has a low glycemic index.

I made this dish last week when I had some left over millet grits. Next time I have some of my Millet-Amaranth-Quinoa blend on hand, I think I’ll make this again.

This recipe is for 1 serving, and the quantity of kale is up to you–I like having a lot!

Poached egg on kale and millet grits

Millet grits (or other grain), prepared according to package instructions with small pat of Earth Balance dairy-free “butter” added (or real butter)

1-2 hands full of chopped kale (or any other leafy green)
Chopped garlic, to taste
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 or 2 eggs
Sriricha chili-garlic sauce (optional)

Place small pot of water on to boil for poaching your eggs (use a larger pot if you plan to poach more than 1 egg at a time). Add 1 tsp white vinegar to the water (this helps keep the egg together while it poaches).

Saute garlic and kale in a skillet. Season with small pinch of salt. If necessary, add a bit of water to steam the kale a bit until you get a texture that is soft but still toothsome.

In the meantime, poach your egg(s). Poaching instructions can be found here and here. You want to have a nice, runny yolk at the end.

Serve in a bowl large enough for you to stir everything together. Start with your grains, then top with sauteed kale and then your egg. If you like spicy things like I do, garnish with your favorite hot sauce (mine is Sriracha). Stir, making sure to break up the yolk and stir it in.