Collards in Tomato Sauce with Penne

I've mentioned before what an amazing plant my collard is. Crop after crop I've harvested from this one lonely guy. He went through a bad patch recently. Sort of like me with this cold. We revitalized the garden bed around him though, and voila! Back in the groove. His stalk is just getting taller from all the croppings.

The latest harvest is now featured in my delicious entry for June's GYO. Grow Your Own, for the uninitiated, is a monthly event featuring a recipe made with something you grew or foraged your very own self.

I've cooked collards the quick way and the slow Southern way, but I was in the mood for a slow Italian version. So, they did some time with a ham hock, an onion, peppercorns and garlic - a few hours worth. Then I removed most of the stock (which was very useful a few days later to cook up some of those fabulous Le Puy lentils). To the remaining collards and stock, I added a bit of tomato paste, some really good tomato sauce and meat pulled from the ham hock.


1 large bunch collard greens, washed, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
1 ham hock
1 onion, in large chunks
1 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic
2 all spice leaves
1 bay leaf
6 or so peppercorns
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups good quality tomato sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
Penne pasta
Parmesan Cheese for topping

Put ham hock in large saucepot, adding enough water so that it is well covered and bring to a boil. Then add the remaining ingredients, except tomato paste and sauce, turn down heat and simmer 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until the greens are soft and tender.

Remove ham hock and set aside. Drain off stock, except for about 2 cups. Add to that the tomato paste and sauce. Take meat off the ham hock, and add it back into the pan as well. Stir up everything. Now, while all the flavors are melding together nicely, cook your pasta. Combine sauce with the pasta, or serve separately, tossed with the olive oil.

Top with some Parmesan cheese. I loved the flavor combination of tender collards, ham and tangy tomato. This is great with a side of crisp salad, like fresh arugula and baby greens. Add a baguette and you're in business.

Enjoy my entry for June's GYO event. And be sure to check out all the great dishes, hosted this month by Graziana at Erbe in Cucina.


Fabulous Ginger Cake

Just finished The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, for June's Cook the Book event. What a lovely little fairy story. Though meant for children, I enjoyed this tale of how forgiveness, love and understanding hold a force strong enough to conquer evil.

The dwarf cook also welded an extraordinary power in turning out prodigious amounts of delicious sounding food for the Manor house meals, particularly the final tea, given to reconcile formerly warring parties at the book's conclusion.

I've been wanting to make a Yorkshire pudding with roast beef. It was served in the Manor house, but somehow just didn't go with this warm weather. Gingerbread however, is good for all seasons. In winter with a scoop of whipped cream and in summer with fruit sorbet or vanilla ice cream. It calls to mind a wonderful English style tea party.

I printed out this recipe several months ago from Deb at the Smitten Kitchen site, and had been meaning to try it, so this was a perfect time. I'll be bringing it to a wedding reception, and will add a photo from that to my post as an addendum.

This Gramercy Tavern recipe calls (appropriately) for a cup of Guinness or oatmeal stout. Since I've tried the famous Chocolate Stout Cake and found it awesome, I figured this should be good. I got the oatmeal stout, and thought (ha) I had all the remaining ingredients. This seems to happen a lot. You're ready to bake, and then don't have one little thing. In this case, we needed a cup of dark molasses, not blackstrap, which is what I had. My daughter had about half a cup so I filled it the rest of the way with Agave Syrup. I figured, hey, this syrup has been in my fridge for awhile, might as well use it. Though I did add a few tablespoons of the blackstrap too. So There.

Also, as is often the case, I couldn't resist a bit more fiddling. Instead of 2 tablespoons of ground ginger, I used 1, plus a tablespoon of fresh, raw, finely minced ginger. Since I had it. Other than those two changes, I followed the recipe. Since many of you may not have either Agave Syrup or raw ginger handy, I'll give the original ingredients list here:

1 cup Guinness or oatmeal Stout
1 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of ground cardamom
3 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used Canola)
confectioners sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F. Generously butter a bundt pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Bring stout and molasses to a boil in large saucepan and remove from heat. Be careful, I used a medium pan, and almost failed to grab it off the heat in time, before it boiled up and over the top.
Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature.

Sift the dry ingredients together onto a piece of waxed paper. Whisk the eggs and sugars well in a large bowl. Whisk in the oil, and then the molasses mixture. Add the flour and whisk until just combined.

Pour batter into your bundt pan and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in the middle of oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 50-55 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Serve cake, dusted with confectioners sugar, with unsweetened whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or a fruit sorbet.

This cake is better made a day ahead. In fact, it's fabulous the same day. I had to try it. To make sure it was ok to bring. Not poisonous or anything. So moist, with a bit of crunch to the crust that is delightful. Rich, spicy, extraordinary and shouldn't be designated bread of any sort. It is an elegant Ginger Cake. A real keeper, and I wouldn't change a thing.


Move Over Sam Choy Fried Rice

This fried rice was sooo delicious, I made a main meal of it. What else do you really need? A few sun-ripened cherry tomatoes and fresh cilantro from our garden is all.

When we get to visit Honolulu every so often, Sam Choy's is a favorite stop for breakfast or lunch. The food is terrific, and his fried rice is pretty darn good. But, if I say so myself, mine is really, really good. Awesome, in fact.

By now you know how I do love duck, so the last of the confit went into this - mostly giblets, sliced up, some still-a-bit-crunchy green beans, flavored with shoyu, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, etc. Add whatever vegetables you have on hand. I definitely used more than is typical for our local fried rice. Peas are good, slivered carrots, shitake mushrooms, celery, and of course spring onions, scallions or regular old onions. I put so many goodies in there, they almost aced out the rice. But, I do think this is about the tastiest way to use up your left-over rice. Mine is usually a blend of brown long-grain, wild rice and white basmati.

Move Over Sam Choy Fried Rice

1 egg, beaten
2 - 3 tablespoons duck fat or olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 thumb raw ginger, finely grated or minced
1/2 cup or so chopped fresh or frozen vegetables
1-2 tablespoons shoyu
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce (or to taste)
1 tablespoon patis or oyster sauce if desired
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/3 - 1/2 cup diced cooked bacon, duck, chicken, ham or Portugese sausage
2 or more cups cooked rice
2 tablespoons chopped green onions, chives, parsley or cilantro

First slice and dice your vegetables and bit of meat or tofu, then get out a wok or large frying pan, heating a tablespoon of oil (I used that lovely rendered duck fat). Gently pour the beaten egg in a thin layer, let firm up, then remove and slice into long strips (or you can just scramble the egg). Put that aside, then saute onion in a bit more oil, or fat of choice, til turning translucent.

Next add the ginger and garlic, fry a minute or two then toss in whatever other vegetables you're going to use, stir frying madly til just barely tender, adding more oil if needed. If you have something that takes a bit longer add your shoyu with a tablespoon of water and put a lid on it for a few minutes. Which is what I did for the green beans.

Now add whatever left-over meat you want, if any, or tofu cubes (teriyaki tofu would be good) and let it heat through. Many locals would use diced, fried Spam here. Finally add the chili sauce, shoyu, sesame oil and rice. Stir fry til heated then taste and see if you want to add any salt or fish sauce. Toss the egg in and finish with green onions if using, or cilantro. I often add a topping of crispy fried duck cracklings.

I just had a little left from dinner, so for breakfast added an egg over easy. Truly great with a half papaya and some green jasmine tea. Breakfast, lunch or dinner actually, all three. I love this ono fried rice any old time.

As a side note, you may have noticed, I'm not doing too many of my rants these days. I figure focusing on all of the idiocy going on in the world at large is too depressing. We can pray for our leaders, love one another where we are and just do our best. Not that this was ever intended to be a food and garden blog, but at the very least, I'm enjoying it.


More Mushrooms

Oh no, there she goes again, with those "edibility unknown" mushrooms. But, I just can't resist. They tasted fine, and as mentioned previously, I didn't die. They're growing right outside, by the new galangal bed, and in the wood chips mulch by the orange tree, begging to be used. Though, Bob informed me he didn't want to eat any mushrooms that weren't bought in a store. Period. So, either I eat them all myself or find a more infallible source of information on this variety.

I just finished a fantastic book, The Last Chinese Chef, by Nicole Mones. I got a bit ahead of myself reading for the Cook the Books event, but do you see where this is leading? If I can just find an authentic Chinese chef, from China, I'm betting he (or she) would know these by sight. It's a possibility. So I'm putting in a call to Dora, a friend of ours who escaped from China during a difficult period there, to see if maybe she knows someone. She's also a very good cook, but I think I should invite her out for lunch. To discuss. And, I think we need to go to Honolulu. There's probably nothing suitable here in little old Hilo. I want to try the lotus leaf wrapped pork ribs mentioned in Mones' book (the recipe is on the above referenced web site.) I'll keep you posted.


Banana Ice Cream with Dulce de Leche

If you've thought I was through posting banana recipes, you'd be wrong. As long as they keep coming, I'll be trying to do something creative with them. When I can't think of anything or am too lazy to cook, there's always dried bananas.

But, just couldn't resist this recipe I found at Mike's Table. What an outstanding combination: bananas, roasted in brown sugar and butter, vanilla ice cream, and Dulce de Leche swirled in at the end. Of course, I had to fiddle with it. No cream?? This is ice cream folks. So, instead of using whole milk, I used half milk and half heavy cream. But, the good thing is, no cooking an egg custard. Plus, since I was making it for my grandson's birthday party, where there would be all kinds of picky kids running around (confession time here) I thought, if I throw in some lovely, toasty, macadamia nuts, there will definitely be enough. Ha ha, for the adults. And, won't it add to the whole flavor combination? And, I was right, on all counts, though the more discriminating of the children had some. "Honey, do you want chocolate ice cream, or the banana one with nuts?"

Roasted Banana Ice Cream with Dulce de Leche Swirls

This is derived from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, via Mike's Table

7 ripe bananas (plus one for adding later in frozen or fresh chunks)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter
3 cups whole milk (as much of this as you want can be cream)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup toasted, chopped macadamia nuts
1/2 - 3/4 cup dulce de leche

Slice 7 of the bananas, and toss them in the brown sugar and butter (melted a few minutes in the baking dish). Bake in a 400°F oven for 40 minutes, stirring once.

Once time is up, the bananas should be nicely browned and syrupy. Scrape the contents of this pan (bananas and syrup) into a blender/food processor along with the milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, lemon, and salt and blend until smooth. Cover and chill this in the fridge for a few hours.

While that is cooling, you can make the Dulche de Leche (very easy - milk cooks in oven) or if you don't want to heat up your kitchen, you can maybe buy this in some supermarkets. I wasn't able to here in Hilo, but you may be able to in a bigger city, one with more strange/ethnic stuff available.

Dulce de Leche.
one14 oz can of condensed milk
dash salt
Pour the condensed milk and dash of salt into a nonreactive oven-proof container (enamel, glass, etc). Cover with tin foil and put this in a warm water bath so that the water goes about halfway up the height of the pan. I used a heavy glass measuring cup. How simple is that?

Set this in preheated 425F oven at least an hour - check if it is looking like caramel yet. Is it thick and gloppy? Then it's done.

Here you see the Dulce before whisking smooth.
So, when it resembles dark butterscotch, remove from the oven, carefully take off the foil, and let it cool to room temperature, whisking well once it does. While it's cooling, you may want to toast some chopped macadamia nuts. Watch them so they don't burn. I overdid mine and had to do another batch.

Once well chilled, churn the banana-cream mixture in your ice cream maker, according to manufacturer's directions, for about 20 minutes. About 5 minutes before it's finished, dump the nuts in. I sliced a frozen banana (you can use a fresh one as well) into little bits, and once time was up, mixed it into the ice cream along with a few globs of dulce de leche. Immediately scoop your finished ice cream into a suitable container and put into the freezer.

It should sit overnight to take on the right texture. This is so creamy, nutty, rich caramelly good, yikes!


And Pretty Yellow Flowers

Here's another in the formerly obnoxious weeds of the garden category. Not a weed to everyone though. My gardening helper/expert has been planting them around trees and in my raised vegetable bed. When people would ask me why, and aren't those pods poisonous? I would say something ignorant like, I think they're some kind of companion plant. Every tree needs a friend. Or, people use the seeds to worm their horses or dogs.... I think.

Well, decided it was time to get more knowledgeable on the subject. I asked Sean how to spell Crotalaria, but he wasn't sure. Knew the common name was Sun Hemp though, so I had a Googleable name. What a marvelous thing the interweb is.
Crotalaria juncea
A tall East Indian shrub, Crotalaria juncea, known also as Sun Hemp, of the legume family, having slender branches and yellow flowers, and an inner bark that yields a hemplike fiber used for making ropes, sacking, etc.

Crotalaria juncea L. is a rapid growing crop that is used for fiber production in Indo-Pakistan. It is also good for use as a green manure in many tropical and subtropical areas in the world as an organic and nitrogen source. It suppresses weeds, slows soil erosion, and reduces root-knot nematode populations (Rotar and Joy, 1983). When plowed under at early bloom stage, nitrogen recovery is the highest. *Tropic Sun* sun hemp can produce 150 to 165 kg/ha of nitrogen and 7 t/ha air-dry organic matter at 60 days of growth under favorable conditions (Rotar and Joy, 1983). In southwestern Alabama, plants grown for 9 to 12 weeks produced 5.9 t/ha dry-matter and 126 kg N/ha (Reeves et al., 1996). Leaving these residues on the soil surface over the winter resulted in the release of 75 to 80 kg N/ha (Reeves et al., 1996). In the tropics, *Tropic Sun* grows and produces seed year round at elevation of 0 to 300 m, and in summer up to 600 m. In Guam and Puerto Rico, C. juncea is grown under conditions similar to Hawaii. In the continental United States, C. juncea is adapted to spring and summer planting in the South and Southwest (Rotar and Joy, 1983) and can be grown as a winter cover crop in Alabama (Reeves et al., 1996). It is suitable as a green manure crop as far north as Maryland, but may not seed well north of 30* latitude.

As with many other members of the genus, C. juncea contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are converted into potent toxins in the liver. Highest alkaloid levels are found in the seeds. Toxicity varies from toxic to non-toxic among genotypes. Laboratory tests and feeding trials with the Hawaiian variety, 'Tropics Sun', suggest that both seeds and forage of are nontoxic. Stress conditions may also affect the degree of toxicity. To reduce chances of poisoning, it is best to limit C. juncea forage intake to no more than 45% in rations for sheep, 10% for cattle, and not fed at all to horses and pigs.
So, looks like it does quite a lot towards improving a garden. Suppresses weeds, produces nitrogen, and reduces nematode populations. Plus, not toxic to animals in moderate quantities. And, pretty yellow flowers too. I don't think you're supposed to smoke it though.
Whataya know, glad we checked into it. Now I won't sound so dumb when people ask.


Leaf of Life

This is not it
Today I discovered some information about two more of the "weeds" in my garden. One I think I can leave in the weed category and not have any angst about ripping it out. Pictured above, it is known variously as Wild Tobacco, and Woolly Nightshade, officially as Solanum mauritianum.

It is poisonous, and handling the plants can apparently cause irritation and nausea. I didn't notice any, but after I read that, I immediately washed my hands.

On the other side of the spectrum of good and evil, there is the "Leaf of Life", (Kalanchoe pinnata) also known as air plant, miracle leaf, goethe and the katakataka plant.

This little baby, which heretofore I'd pretty much barely tolerated, has all sorts of wonderful, healthful applications. Also, though admittedly rather decorative, it has the ability to propagate itself from each and every dropped leaf. But now I'll be looking at my air plants differently. To give you an idea of the extent of its use, from an interesting site on Tropical herbs.


Kalanchoe is somewhat of a panacea to the indigenous peoples of the Amazon; they employ it for many different purposes. The Creoles use the lightly roasted leaves for cancer and inflammations, and a leaf infusion is a popular remedy for fevers. The Palikur mix the leaf juice with coconut oil or andiroba oil and then rub it on the forehead for migraines and headaches. To the Siona indigenous peoples, kalanchoe is known as 'boil medicine' and they heat the leaves and apply them topically to boils and skin ulcers. Along the Rio Pastaza in Ecuador, natives use a leaf infusion for broken bones and internal bruises. In Peru, indigenous tribes mix the leaf with aguardiente (sugar cane rum) and apply the mixture to the temples for headaches; they soak the leaves and stems overnight in cold water and then drink it for heartburn, urethritis, and fevers. The root is also prepared as an infusion and used for epilepsy. Other tribes in the Amazon squeeze the juice from fresh leaves and mix it with mother's milk for earaches.

Throughout South America kalanchoe has had a long history of use. It is commonly called the 'miracle leaf' and 'life leaf' for its remarkable healing properties. In Brazil the plant is considered a sedative, wound-healer, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and cough suppressant. It is used for all sorts of respiratory conditions-from asthma and coughs to bronchitis. It is also employed for kidney stones, gastric ulcers, skin disorders and edema of the legs. Externally a leaf infusion or the leaf juice is used for headaches, toothaches, earaches, eye infections, wounds, ulcers, boils, burns and insect bites. In Peru the plant is employed for the same uses. In Mexico and Nicaragua kalanchoe is used for similar purposes and also to promote menstruation and assist in childbirth.

God has given us such an amazing world. So much to learn, absorb, use. I've started a collection of pages with pictures and information on what is growing around here. We have a veritable pharmacy right at hand.