Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring greens with chicken in peanut sauce

A friend and I went to the last Winter Pantry at Schlafly Bottleworks today. It's their continuation of their summer Wednesday night Farmers Market.

As I hoped, I brought home a big bag of spring greens -- chard, baby kale, and beet tops. We've been practicing a dish for a couple of weeks using spinach that we wanted to try with greens.

There were four kinds of leaves, I'm not really sure which is which. Numbering from the left, I think 1 and 2 are the chard because of the deeply colored veins. 3 is the most bitter of the greens. But I don't know whether that's the kale or the beet top. [Edit 7/06/08: now that I've had a whole spring's eating of greens, I'm pretty sure that left to right is chard, beet green, collard green, and kale].

We learned recently that chard and beets are the same species, Beta vulgaris. Varieties cultivated for leaves are called chard, varieties cultivated for roots are called beets.

The recipe originated with the booklet, Stir-Fry Recipes: Light and Easy Recipes, that came with R's new wok. But we've now modified it beyond all recognition and we're still thinking that it could use more greens and fewer peanuts. Here's the version we made tonight.

Spring greens with chicken in peanut sauce
5 cups baby greens, washed, spun dry, and put in the refrigerator for awhile to dry further, coarsely chopped

Chicken & marinade
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into thin pieces about 1 inch long
1 Tbl chicken stock
2 tsp hoisin sauce

Peanut Sauce
2 Tbl reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbl chicken broth
2 Tbl peanut butter
1 Tbl hoisin sauce
2 tsp honey

2 oz dried Asian noodles (broken angel hair pasta works, too)
1/4 large onion, chopped
scant 1/2 cup of unsalted roasted peanuts
sunflower oil as needed for stir-frying (we don't measure this)

Prepare the greens so that they have time to dry in the refrigerator for awhile before cooking (dry ingredients work much better in stir-fries).

Marinate the chicken for 10 minutes to an hour in the broth and hoisin sauce.

Whisk the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

Cook the noodles in boiling water, uncovered, until just tender. Drain, then toss with oil in the cooking pot. Put the lid on to keep them a little warm and set aside.

Stir-fry the chicken for a minute. Add the onions and continue stir-frying until the chicken is opaque. Add the greens and stir-fry until they wilt, about a minute or two more. Stir in the peanuts, noodles, and sauce. Stir until everything is combined and hot.

We used angel hair pasta the first few times we made this until we found Asian noodles at Global Foods Market. We use one and a half of the bird's nests of noodles. They untangle themselves in the boiling water. We found that the Asian noodles have a fuller flavor than the angel hair pasta. We like the Asian noodles better in this dish.

If we're both hungry, this is two servings (yep, that means we eat 2 1/2 cups of greens each!). This time we have a snack-sized portion leftover for tomorrow.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring floods

Flooding is a sign of spring we would rather not see, but we got a big one on the Meramec and some of the other rivers south of us after about 36 hours of rain earlier in the week.

My favorite place to watch the Meramec, any time of the year, is at Emmenegger Park in Kirkwood. The water is often low enough to walk out on a gravel strip into the river. Today, though, the parking lot is under water. I couldn't get closer than 200 yards to the parking area and trail entrance. That gravel strip is probably under 15 feet of rapidly moving water right now.

The bathrooms were once part of the swimming pool complex. Easy to see why they moved the pool to higher ground. Only birds and fish are swimming there today.

Lovely weather for ducks...and geese.

We're thrilled that Highway 44 is going to stay open. Our family Easter celebration in Washington this afternoon was going to be quite an adventure to get to if it had closed.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Rooting stem cuttings

Today is a rare spring-like day, even if there are still patches of snow on the ground. My unhappy herbs did manage to survive the winter, just long enough that I could use this warm day to take stem cuttings so that I won't have to buy new plants this spring. I learned everything I know about rooting stem cuttings in water from Easy Plant Propagation by Nancy J. Ondra.

This is a sprig of apple mint that I cut from my plant.

And here's the same sprig, with the lower leaves removed, ready for rooting.

I root my cuttings in mason jars filled with water. A square of chicken wire forms a structure that keeps the leaves out of the water.

The peppermint leaves are too small to catch on the chicken wire, so R made me a new structure out of hardware cloth.

Works perfectly!

I also took stem cuttings from basil and sage. I've done the basil and mints before, but not the sage, so I don't know if it will work or not. After I took this picture, I moved the jars to the back of the bay window--the cuttings want "bright but indirect light." I'll change the water every few days. In a couple of weeks, I should start to see roots. In four or five weeks, I'll be able to pot these. I'll have more plants than I want to pot, so if you're in the St. Louis area, let me know if you want a rooted cutting or two.