Sunday, April 25, 2010

Great Food & Garden Weekend!

This might be surprising considering how unlovely our weather in Madison, WI has been this weekend. It turns out though with a great speaker on gardens you can feel like you're out there doing garden activities. This actually for me as the best kind of gardening. I just like the stuff you get from your garden not doing the work. OK, to explain this event--Saturday, April 24, the Madison Herb Society and Olbrich Gardens cosponsored Jim Long, Herb Companion writer, lecturer, and nationally renown herbalist to come to Madison to present a slide show/demonstration entitled "Eat Your Landscape." This is a link to Jim's website: and also his blog:
Preceding the talk was an herbal potluck brunch for MHS members. And preceding this on Friday night, the MHS board members gathered at the president's home for a pizza party with Jim. The president made all the pizza crusts and supplied all the toppings. We had carmelized onion pizza, Thai shrimp pizza, sausage sage pizza, and others. We all congregated in her kitchen to prepare the pizzas and sip wine. I'm sure this enhanced the quality of the pizzas. She made lovely panna cotta infused with bay (I think) and strawberries for dessert.

I wanted to share the recipe for my contribution to Saturday's brunch which would also make an excellent appetizer. They are a little putzy to make, but you get a very good return on time invested.

Pesto Twists
1 package frozen puff pastry
1 cup or a bit less homemade pesto (or purchased is OK too)
1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds
1/2 cup shredded parmesan (not the stuff that's like sawdust in a green can!)
I purchased my puff pastry dough at Whole Foods. I'm sure grocery stores carry it as well. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight or for 2-3 hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the dough in quarters and roll each piece into a 12 inch square on a floured surface. Spread pesto over 2 of the rolled out pastry sheets. I did mine one at a time since that way some of twists can be baking while you're working on the rest. Sprinkle the nuts and cheese on top and then lay another pastry sheet on top. Press down lightly so it stays together. Cut the pastry into 12 one inch wide strips. A pizza cutter works well to do this. Then cut all the strips in half so that you have 24 small pieces. You can do this with just one swipe of the pizza cutter. Twist each piece and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool before storing.
Adapted from
Jim's talk was fascinating. He told us that nothing gets to be in his garden just because its pretty. The plants have to justify their existence. I have the same type of garden on a very tiny scale and grow herbs in containers on the deck of my condo. If you have a chance to go to one of his talks sometime, be sure to do so.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Oven Roasted Potatoes

This is my favorite recipe for roast potatoes. Butter Mountain Potatoes has the best potatoes in the Madison area! They sell their potatoes at the Dane County Farmers Market. They have a booth at the indoor farmers market in the senior center all winter long as well as at the outdoor market on the square. They have a wonderful variety of potatoes, probably 8-10 at any one time. Besides the great variety, John and his brother and son are extremely knowledgeable. Just tell them what potato dish you're planning to make and they'll tell you what kind of potatoes you need. Now that you have some great potatoes or even if yours are just some ordinary grocery-store potatoes, this recipe will make all of them taste super.

I frequently double this recipe, especially if I'm preparing the dish for more than just Arthur and myself.

1/8 cup olive oil (2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use less or more depending on how spicy you like your potatoes)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large potatoes, cut in wedges--I never peel mine, but I guess you could--especially if your potatoes are less than stellar

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine oil, garlic, basil, marjoram, dill weed, thyme, oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir in potatoes until evenly coated. Place potatoes in a single layer on a roasting pan or baking sheet.
Roast for 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, turning occasionally to brown on all sides.

Adapted from

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mustard Greens

I bought some mustard greens and some other greens which are similar to bok choy according to the farmer at the market. They were so fresh and tasty--I could have eaten all myself! They really cook down, so don't be put off with the original quantity of raw greens.

1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2-1 pound mustard greens or other greens, washed and torn into large pieces
2 to 3 Tbsp chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil

In a large sauté pan, sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat until the onions begin to brown and caramelize, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook a minute more, until fragrant. Add the mustard greens and broth and cook until the mustard greens are just barely wilted. Toss with sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Adapted from Simply Recipes, a food blog

Pesto Polenta Lasagna

This is a very flexible as well as quick recipe. Amounts aren't very important. Other ingredients can be added if you wish. I have frozen homemade pesto that I made with my basil last summer and wanted to use. I brought the spinach at the first farmers' market of the season and decided to add to the recipe. The original one didn't call for it.
1 1/2 packages of 1# rolls of polenta, cut in 1/4 inch slices
Bottled pasta sauce, I used Muir Glen Italian Herb Pasta Sauce (24 oz.)
1/4 cup pesto
2-3 cups shredded or torn raw spinach (optional)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1-2 cup shredded mozzarella or other milk melty cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 inch square pan with non-stick spray. Arrange a single layer of polenta in the bottom of the pan. Spread a thin layer of pesto over the polenta slices. Top with shredded raw spinach if using. Then spoon half the sauce over the spinach. Next top with another layer of polenta and sauce.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler. Top the polenta with cheese and pine nuts and broil until cheese melts and nuts are toasted. Watch carefully because the nuts burn easily.
Adapted from