Leeks are grown in sandy soil. Most tutorials talk about slicing a leek lengthwise, removing the root and dark green portions, and rinsing the exposed portion under water. This is appropriate if you’re grilling or roasting the halved leek as a dish in and of itself, but a much CLEANER and very easy way to clean leeks if they are an ingredient is to fill a bowl with cold water, slice off the root and dark green, cut the leak in half lengthwise, then lay the cut sides down on a cutting board and slice through the leeks at 1/4 to 1/2 inch intervals. Dump the slices into the water and swoosh around with your hands, let them sit and settle, then gently lift out the floating leeks and see all of the dirt at the bottom of the bowl! If you’re sauteeing you can just lay them on a towel or paper towels to drain; if they’re going into a soup or stew just dump them right in – the extra moisture won’t harm a thing. Here’s to “clean eating”! For more tips and tidbits you can subscribe to Lula’s blog here.
You’re dying to know..you can’t fool Lula. What in the world ARE capers? Answer – capers, sometimes called caperberries, are the unopened, pickled flower buds of the trailing Capparis spinosa shrub that grows in desert regions. Most of these shrubs grow in the Sahara and surrounding regions. They can be found, however, in various climates that are dry and arid – southern France, for example, and any other place (Texas comes to mind) with similar climate.
There are 170 or so species, and we know they’ve been used in cuisine since around 600 BC. The younger the caper, the better. In France, gourmets pick the berries every two days off of the shrubs to ensure the best flavor. Capers are one of the primary ingredients in any “piccata” dish. Lula’s for Lunch..and More! Catering uses capers in our Chicken, Veal (it goes without saying free range!), Pork, and Salmon Piccatas, as well as in our Tuna Tapenade Salad and our Nicoise creations. You can find these selections at our Lula’s for Lunch website and order them any time – because capers come pickled they are not “seasonal” – though people tend to prefer light, refreshing piccatas throughout spring and summer. Which is happening now. Put a little piquancy in your life! Enjoy!
Ever wonder why Easter Eggs are “Easter” eggs? For anyone marginally schooled in Christianity lamb is a given, borrowed from the Jewish Passover tradition (sacrifical lamb, Lamb of God, etc.), but spring lamb, ham, and eggs far predate Christianity.
Spring lamb is just coming to market at Easter and has been a celebratory menu item for eons across the world symbolizing new beginnings and rebirth. The pig was considered a symbol of luck in pre-Christian Europe and, hence, the bringing of ham to the table in springtime.
Pagan rites of spring brought the egg to the table. The egg is a symbol of rebirth, rejuvenation, and immortality. The early Christian calendar forbade the ingestion of eggs during lent, so everyone was really excited to eat them again when lent was over (Easter). Egg decorating has been around for thousands of years. Particularly intricate and beautiful designs come from central Europe.
Egg breads, particularly the hot cross bun, are very popular at Easter. Archeological evidence however, proves that the hot cross bun has been around since 79 C.E. at the ancient site of Herculaneum.
Whatever you bring to your Easter table, enjoy with family and friends and celebrate rebirth of all kinds!
Every year around this time I publish something about asparagus – it’s in season and cheap and always delicious – whether it’s thick or thin. “Diameter” of the asparagus has nothing to do with its age in season, it has to do with the age of the plant. A thin spear in February for example, if left on the plant, will not grow into a thicker spear in March.
A thinner spear indicates a young PLANT, and vice versa. Both are equally sweet and tender after snapping off the woody bottoms (or shaving them as I sometimes do for presentation). Thin is better for steaming and stir frying (quickly, now!), and thick is better for grilling/roasting. We love to serve our “medium stalked” asparagus grilled with our Feta Jalapeno Dipping Sauce pictured here. Did you know it is also perfectly acceptable to eat asparagus with your hands? The Viking in me loves this. 🙂
I love Rhubarb. Every year I make a big batch of Raspberry Rhubarb Preserves and use it in various applications till it’s all gone (usually end of summer). Sometimes though, I run across Green Rhubarb, and because I use it in savory applications as well, I researched a bit about this “twin” (think of it as a fraternal twin) – it only lacks the anthocyanin pigments which gives certain rhubarb its red hue. This pigment is flavorless so there’s no difference in taste between red and green rhubarb (sour!!).
…AND I’ll say it again…DANGER WILL ROBINSON!! Do not try to cook the leaves or eat them raw – they are not innocuous like beet greens – they are poisonous to the point of DEATH!!! If you’d like occasional tips, fun facts and cooking info click here!
Lula will be foraging in the Red River Gorge this weekend for these lovely delicacies…a bit early but hey! we’ve got Global Warming!! Ramps are also called Wild Leek, Wild Garlic, and/or Ramson, and are a member of the onion family that sprouts in early spring in woodlands all over the world. Bulbs AND leaves can be used raw or cooked. To me, they are reminiscent of a blend of chive and garlic. Yummy!! So…you’ll be finding them all over fun menus where creative chefs dwell – and you won’t need to ask “what’s this?!?” – Lula has already educated you!! For more fun tips like this one, subscribe to my blog here .
Once again, my friend and author Heidi Bright (“Thriver Soup”) has offered such a simply written and informative piece that I am compelled to copy:
“Fresh, fragrant mandarins are precious, full of flavor, and full of power. The magic lies in their peels—which are quite edible and contain potent anti-cancer properties (see links below). Also called clementines and tangerines, these citrus fruits are fresh and sitting in grocery stores now.
If you have a high-speed blender, mix two whole mandarins (peel on) with a quarter cup cranberries (at this time of year, try frozen, not the packaged sugary snacks), a little raw honey and/or stevia, a quarter cup raw/soaked-in-salt-water pecans, and coconut butter. Blend. Mmmm! Add chia seeds if desired. Taste the fragrance, ingest the power.”
I would like to add my two cents worth: Wash your fruit with a scrubbing sponge and some dishwashing liquid if you intend to eat the skins – even organic can be sprayed with color – which doesn’t taste as good!
…and other myths…one of my favorite finger foods, the artichoke, is in season right now, and you needn’t be afraid of it! Think of the artichoke as your well worth it high maintenance expensive girlfriend (around $2.25 each as one roughly weighs a pound). But hard? No. First, let’s talk about the benefits:
- Artichokes ROCK when it comes to vitamins and minerals: they have one of the highest total antioxidant levels of any vegetable, as well as folate, magnesium and potassium, and vitamins K & C.
- Evidence from research shows that artichokes decease cholesterol, increase probiotic bacteria in the gut, and help maintain a healthy liver.
- Artichokes are packed with fiber at more than 10.3 grams per artichoke (the edible part!).
- You have to eat an artichoke SLOOOOWWWLY. Need I tell you the health benefits?
Now, let’s talk facts:
- The artichoke is part of the thistle family – it is simply the bud before it flowers. See? (this one has flowered obviously)
- A baby artichoke is not another type of artichoke, it’s just a smaller less mature choke on the same plant down at the bottom. It is fully edible as it hasn’t developed a choke yet (the only part of the artichoke you can’t eat).
- The sunchoke has nothing to do with the artichoke; it is part of the sunflower family.
You can find all kinds of recipes that, step by step, will intimidate the crap out of you from acidulation to scissoring the thorns – ignore them. Do this: choose artichokes that are green – not purple or bluish – those are overripe. Take them home, slice them in half lengthwise and steam them for 20 minutes. Heat your grill while this is happening, and transfer the steamed artichokes to the grill flat side down, for about 15 minutes, then turn over (if there aren’t any grill marks yet your grill isn’t hot enough so keep on grilling on the flat side). If there ARE grill marks it’s time to lay them awkwardly on the grill on the opposite side for 3-4 minutes till the leaves are charred. Plate them (1/2 artichoke per person) and either brush them with melted butter, sprinkled with a tiny bit of sea salt (the good kind that have large crystals) on them, maybe some cracked pepper if you’d like. If you want to be fancier whip up some remoulade for dipping. Truly, you don’t really need anything. Just pluck each individual leaf off, put it in your mouth upside down and scrape the flesh from the leaf using your bottom teeth. Don’t eat the fuzzy choke in between the leaves and the heart though – it’s yucky. The heart will be your final reward. The smokey, creamy taste and texture will make you close your eyes and sigh with pleasure. Now, if you want to pay me to make the frittata you see at the top of the page just let me know! There are MANY ways that Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering incorporates artichokes into our menus, including one of our 6, to date, GREEN soups!!!
We’re talkin’ Rhubarb, here…known all over the US as “Pie Plant”. I first tasted rhubarb when my daddy began growing it in our back yard for my mother to make pies. He had grown up on Rhubarb Pie in Michigan and my mom had never heard of it!
Officially a vegetable, rhubarb has been treated as a fruit for centuries. I find it to be a very interesting vegetable because of all of its contradictions: used as a fruit but it’s a vegetable, its leaves are toxic (yes they will KILL you if you eat a bunch, or just make you really sick if you only eat one or two), and its root has been used medicinally for eons to cure several maladies, constipation for one!Chemicals in rhubarb have also been found to destroy leukemia cells and lung cancer cells. Go figure!
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie comes to mind when rhubarb is brought up in conversation, but Lula has a base recipe for several lovely dishes using RASPBERRY Rhubarb. Enjoy this pic of our Raspberry Rhubarb Fool! You can ask for a derivation of this combination anytime from February thru July usually – or until we run out!!
Spring has sprung and with it so has the asparagus! Did you know asparagus is related to the lily? You can get green, purple, and white asparagus for a lovely bouquet. Don’t shave purple asparagus either – the fabulous color is only skin deep. Purple asparagus contains about 20% more sugar than the other two, and less fiber, so it’s sweeter and more tender.
Store ALL of your asparagus upright (cut stalk down) in a little bit of water in the fridge – it’ll last much longer! The next time you visit Lula’s website, or Lula’s Facebook Page, order our refreshing Chilled Creamy Asparagus Soup, our lovely Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart (or tartlettes if you’re having an appetizer party!) or our FABULOUS Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Roast Beef with our Homemade Wasabi Crème!