Greek Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium berlandieri) Pesto

So as to not disappoint you, my readers, let me say right up front – this post is not about juicy roasted lamb legs drizzled with earthy pesto sauce, though that sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it?

This post is about a weed.

That’s right, a common plant found all over the world, that many people pull out of their gardens and dump in the trash.

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If they only knew what they were missing out on! Lamb’s Quarters (scientifically known as Chenopodium berlandieri and also called goosefoot, fat-hen, bacon weed, pigweed and many other unappetizing names) is from the same genus as quinoa and beats spinach as a source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin C and vitamin A. It also contains B1, B2 and oxalic acid (Source: Lambsquarters: Prince of Wild Greens The leaves are tender, like spinach, and mild, but it doesn’t leave that chalky feeling in your mouth like spinach does. However, underneath the leaves it looks rather like it’s dusted with vitamin C powder.

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Mom has a lot of this green growing in and around her garden and gathered a bunch of it for me. It’s easy to use because you can replace it with spinach in anything from smoothies and salads to creamed dishes and sauces.

I decided on a pesto to go with last night’s Mediterranean Couscous Salad.

Greek Lamb’s Quarters Pesto

  • 6 c. loosely packed lamb’s quarters
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 oz. Parmesan, grated or sliced
  • 1 oz. feta cheese (My favorite? Double Cream Mykono’s Feta made by Central Valley Creamery)
  • 1/4 -1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin seeds
  • 2 fresh sprigs Greek oregano and 2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed from stems

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Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Lamb’s quarters is drier than basil so you may need more olive oil if you like a finer consistency.

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There’s some great information to glean from the internet about Lamb’s Quarters. I found this video by Eat The Weeds that would be helpful if you want to find your own greens. I had to bookmark his site as it looks like it will be a very helpful reference on gathering wild edibles.

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Enjoy your pesto on pita bread (or Sourdough) with cream cheese, or toss it into warm, buttery pasta. Oh, and it’d also be amazing as a sauce to drizzle over a roasted leg of lamb! ;)

Caution: Hot Sauce!

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So, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve never been a huge condiment fan, but suddenly I find myself eating hot sauce on everything. It’s crazy! After polishing off the remains of the Cholula (who can resist the cute bottles!) and chugging down the “Breakfast on the Edge”, I knew I had to do something about this…

Like make my own.  Yeah.

I browsed recipes, but in the end, just looked at the ingredients on the bottle and tried to replicate what I liked. Of course, who knows what “natural flavor” and “spices” really embody. At the very least, I now know what’s really in my hot sauce! And it’s as simple as this…

(Makes about 16oz. )

3 oz. package dried red peppers

boiling water

2 small cloves garlic

1 1/2 t. ground chipotle

1/2 c. distilled vinegar

1 T. salt

1 t. smoked salt

1 T. organic cane sugar

2 T. butter

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Soak the peppers in the hot water for about 30 minutes.

Put the vinegar, garlic, chipotle powder, sugar, salt and soaked, drained peppers (reserve liquid) in a blender…

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And puree until well blended, adding the reserved water to get the right consistency. Strain through a mesh strainer, unless you want all the seeds. They will make the heat much more intense. I prefer the look of no seeds. I know, it’s all about looks, right?

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Use a spoon to get ever last drop of delicious liquid out of the pulpiness.

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Place the strained liquid into a sauce pan and bring to a boil.

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Add butter and whisk to combine. Lower to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes, whisking occasionally. Let cool before bottling.

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And be ready for some HOT STUFF!

This is the perfect thing to make on a freezingly bitter cold day because it warms you up from the outside in. No kidding! I was practically sweating while making it. And remember – DON’T rub your eyes or skin after handling peppers! Here’s a cool tip from Alton Brown on Good Eats to help take care of that! (Start watching the video at 14:48 for the hot pepper tip, or watch the whole video for a very interesting and practical guide on knives, knife handling, cutting boards and chopping techniques.)

To prevent burning your hands with capsaicin, the oil in hot peppers that causes such discomfort, occasionally dip your fingers into a 5 to 1 solution of water and bleach while you’re working. That will turn the capsaicin into a water soluble salt that washes away with water.

How cool is that?

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Next up, I’ll share one of my recently discovered favorite breakfast dishes that, of course, calls for hot sauce.

Speaking of breakfast dishes…

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I stumbled upon a frittata idea just this morning by accident and absolutely have to share it with you this minute!

Sauteed mushrooms, spinach, and cubed, leftover sweet potato (winter squashes like butternut or pumpkin would work as well) – seasoned with fresh rosemary, oregano, sage and salt and pepper. Pour eggs and cream over the mixture, sprinkle on some cheese (creamy goat or something sharp would be outrageous, but I just had cheddar.) and bake until set. Oh my! I love “accidental stumbles” in the kitchen!

And speaking of eggs…

My Mom bought some beautiful Cuckoo and Black Copper Marans and Welsummer hens and chicks (originating from France and Holland, respectively) and we hope to have our own farm fresh eggs soon.

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Black Copper Maran eggs are a dark chocolaty brown – the darkest of any other laying hens. These eggs are prized by French chefs and and are so expensive here in the US that a 3 egg omelet would cost $30.00! I wonder if someone could even enjoy eating an omelet that expensive?? Anyway, Mom wants to get several breeds of chickens that lay eggs of all different colors, so I’m excited to see that egg basket when they start laying!

Speaking of chickens…

My Mom is not only a chicken farmer, along with a gillion other titles, but she’s a great artist too. And, over on her garden/chicken blog, she’s giving away this oil painting of a Columbian Rock chicken. It’s it lovely?

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Folksy Chicken

Head over to Rosemary, Lavender and Thyme for a chance to win!

Speaking of winning…

Just kidding! I’m done…for now.

But don’t you wish I wasn’t? Winning is always such a great topic!

A Tribute to the Man Who Made Mango Salsa

I remember it like it was yesterday…

It was one of the few family reunions on my Mom’s side  where we all met at my grandparent’s house on the lake – my Mom, her Mom, her brother Tom  and his family.

It was always fun when Uncle Tom came to the lake. He, without fail, brought fun stuff – jet skis or dirt bikes and a great big trash bag of the best beef jerky you can imagine tasting. He was famous for his line-hung, Texas sun-dried jerky – in a trash bag.

He was also quite the chef. One Thanksgiving, Uncle Tom brought a deep fryer for the turkey…well, it ended up being 3 turkeys – and that’s not counting the one we roasted in the oven. I think we ate one whole turkey as an appetizer.

Uncle Tom and Aunt Kim always brought something unusual and amazingly good to the table. They were the ones who introduced me to mango salsa. I remember thinking how very odd it was to put mango in salsa, but that was before my culinary horizons were broadened by the many amazing cooks I find peppered throughout my life.

Uncle Tom passed away on the 7th of September after a battle with cancer. He’ll never know how much his cooking influenced me. I wish he could. I wish I had spent more time with him in the kitchen and learned some of his tricks.

Growing up, time with my uncle was limited, but I always felt his love for me along with the rest of his nieces and nephews. I’ll always remember his smile and his dry sense of humor. I’ll remember him as strong, tan, and healthy. I’ll remember his beef jerky and mango salsa.

I’ll remember, Uncle Tom.

Mango Salsa

mango

purple onion

jalapeno

cilantro

lime juice

sea salt

cumin

Slice the mango on either side of the seed.

Cut the flesh – without cutting into the skin – diagonally left to right, then right to left to create a diamond pattern.

Invert mango and slide a knife under each piece to remove from skin.

Mince purple onion, jalapeno and cilantro. Sprinkle with sea salt and cumin. Squeeze on some lime juice.

Toss and serve.

This is fabulous with fish or chicken tacos, over grilled meat, or just with chips.

Who were the people in your life that influenced you the most in the kitchen?