Balsamic Roasted Green Beans

Balsamic Roasted Green Beans

We’re well into fresh-from-the-garden green bean season, and green beans are one of my favorites. My usual preparation involves steaming them for a few minutes then slathering them in fresh butter and a sprinkle of salt in order to get them on the table as quickly as possible!

But occasionally, everyone needs a change of pace, so I recently tried these balsamic roasted green beans. Quite delicious, I  must say. The balsamic cooks down into a syrupy glaze, and there’s a subtle sweetness that emerges after spending some time in the oven that I don’t get from the standard steaming.

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Plated Landscape 2015

For the fourth year running now, we’ve attended a Plated Landscape dinner put on by Chef Ben Bebenroth and Spice of Life Catering. This year’s event was made special by the fact that, not only was it the first dinner of the season, but it was the first one ever held at the Bebenroths’ new farm in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, christened Spice Acres.

Beautiful, and no artificial colors!

Beautiful, and no artificial colors!

S and I were joined by most of our mushroom-hunting group from last year, as well as about 60 others. Pre-dinner festivities involved a beet-infused vodka cocktail, cucumber gazpacho, and mushroom-pork pot stickers, all enjoyed while resting on velvet couches placed upon a carpet of needles within the cozy confines of a small stand of old pines. With live music to boot.

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Eat Your Weeds: Purslane

Edible Purslane

Every now and then, I do a little piece highlighting one of the edible plants that grow nearby, often without us even realizing it. There are so many things that we classify as weeds that, in reality, are completely edible, often very healthy, and surprisingly delicious. And the best part is, because they’re weeds, you don’t have to do anything to take care of them. It’s quite fun to go out and gather a salad consisting of nothing that you actually planted.

Today’s weed is purslane, a low-growing succulent. If you think that it looks like that portulaca that you plant for flowers, you’re right: it’s a member of the same family. It will radiate outward along the ground for a foot or more if you let it. The reddish stem is covered with fat, fleshy, rounded leaves, and the flowers do resemble the ornamental portulaca’s, though they’re much more inconspicuous.

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What Are Garlic Scapes?

Garlic Scapes

I told C the other day that we were going to have garlic scapes for dinner.

He asked, “where is the garlic trying to escape to?”

Probably not an uncommon response to a mention of garlic scapes. But while it certainly does look like the scapes are trying to escape, a garlic scape is simply the flowering part of the plant. If you’ve ever seen an onion or other allium in bloom, that’s kind of what this is like. The big difference from onions is that garlic scapes grow long and curly and people often pick them to eat.

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The Backyard Medicine Cabinet: Valerian

The Backyard Medicine Cabinet - Valerian

If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping, as I have, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of valerian.

Valerian is a well-known herbal sleep aid that has, in recent years, popped up more and more in the vitamin and supplement section of drug stores. It’s become more popular because it can be just as effective as many pharmaceutical products, but has none of the side effects.

The plant is a native of temperate Europe, and while it has naturalized in North America, it’s probably not something that you’ll find amongst the dandelions in your yard. I’ve never seen wild valerian around here, but I’ve planted some and it has adapted just fine.

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