Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year Snack - Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves!

Dear Folks,

Happy New Year, Everyone!  I wish you all a wonderful, better, peaceful and productive year.

Along with my passion for growing edibles I am also always trying to figure out new ways to use some of the bounty.  Our gardening success can frequently be overwhelming with foods that are used only as condiments or simple additions/garnish -- like nasturtiums.  This beloved old fashioned garden favorite is truly a gem in our desert winter gardens, growing and blooming from late fall to early summer.

Because of their peppery bite (leaves, flowers and young seed pods) they have long been used to flavor foods with taste and color. (see note on restrictions near bottom of blog)

So two thoughts crossed in my mind recently:  1) I LOVE stuffed grape leaves (Dolma) and could (but don't) eat an entire container of them by myself, and 2) I was staring at ALL THOSE nasturtium leaves in our garden and wondering about stuffing them!

A little research online and I found several references to stuffing nasturtium leaves instead of grape.  Great!  Now, I thought, how can I make it a little more nutrient dense?  Traditional Dolma use rice.  I am always trying to find tasty ways to use quinoa because of its protein power pack (and fiber) content.  So that is what I did.

Two points about the recipe I need to point out:

1)  It is VERY important to fit the stuffed leaves tightly in the pot - you will see some space in my picture and that turned out to be a mistake as two of the nasturtium bundles separated.

2)  Use the largest leaves you can.  We are incredibly blessed in that our "nastys" freely re-seed each year and they grow huge.  The leaves I used were 7 inches across, about the size of a grape leaf.

Note for future blog post:  I had planned last year to use some of our fig leaves for this kind of recipe, after researching and finding many references to ancient stuff leaves using fig leaves.  I plan on really trying them this spring and if I do I will post my results.

These turned out so wonderful I can't wait to make them again and try some different ways.  My meat-and-potatoes guy really enjoyed them - that is a huge plus!

While it looks like a lot of work, it actually goes very fast in preparation.  Total cooking time for quinoa and finished stuffed leaves is about 40 minutes.  Putting the mixture together and stuffing takes about 5-10 minutes, so most of the work is actually cooking time.

Catherine's Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves

1 cup of cooked quinoa (cook in salted water), cooled (see note on cooking quinoa near bottom)
6-7 large nasturtium leaves or 12+ small ones, rinsed and patter dry (note: cut the leaf stem off as close to the leaf as possible.)
8 kalamata olives, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Taste quinoa for salt but keep in mind that the olives will impart salt and taste.  Mix quinoa, olives and parsley together.  Mix olive oil and lemon juice together.  Pour 1/3 of oil mixture over quinoa and fold to mix in (don't mash the grains).  Pour another third of the oil mixture in the pot you will use.

Assemble the rolls.  With the vein side up, place 2 tablespoons approximately near base on the leaf (if using small leaves about 1 tablespoon).  Roll over, then fold over left and right sides and continue folding to create the bundle, place seam side down in pot.  Make sure they are snugged tightly together.  If you can't fill the pot, put a potato, carrot or some other vegetable in with bundles to keep them close together (that is what I will do next time if I do not have enough bundles.  The veggie will get a nice flavor.

Pour the remaining oil mixture over the bundles and add enough water to come up about half way the height of the bundles.  Bring to a low simmer and cook covered for 20 minutes.  Let cool and enjoy!

I am going to grate a little carrot into the mixture next time and one future batch will have to include fresh spearmint too.

Nasturtium Health Note:  Nasturtiums contain oxalic acid, with the seeds having the highest concentrations.  Pregnant or lactating women and people with kidney issues should not consume nasturtiums.  For others, like spinach which also contains oxalic acid, eating too much will limit calcium absorption.  As with most foods eat in moderation.

How To Cook Quinoa:  Quinoa is a great grain to try, one of only two plant sources of complete protein, ttis ancient grain from the same family as spinach and epozote is tiny, and when cooked separates into two parts a curly 'c' and translucent pearl.  The little C is the fiber outer coating.  It is VERY important to rinse quinoa before cooking.  There is a powdery coating on all types which is 1) bitter, and 2) contains saponin (also found in spinach and oats) and should no be consumed in large quantities.  To cook quinoa use a 1:2 ratio of grain to water = 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of salted water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook covered for 20 minute until water is absorbed, if you are not using right away, add a touch of oil oil to keep from sticking together (although quinoa is not like rice in becoming really gluey)

Have a wonderful day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds delicious. Will have to try. Thanks for the post.