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Colorful spring veggies

Beet greens and turnip tops are among the most underrated edible foliage in the garden. Susan recently forwarded an email to me from Saveur magazine that contained a mouthwatering recipe for saag paneer. The savory Indian spinach dish is seasoned with fragrant garam masala and uses cubes of homemade cheese that are pan fried before serving. Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard. I salivate just thinking about the dish.

One week later, strolling through the Capitol City Farmer’s Market I spotted beautiful spring beets with their big leaves still attached. Susan and I included them, along with bunches of young bok choy, in our weekly market basket and I immediately thought of making saag paneer with the beet tops. Then I sang my turnip happy song when I spotted young white turnips with their tops still on, too. Roasted turnips make me swoon, but I’ll write poetry about them another time.

Ha! Who needs spinach? Although the traditional recipe for saag paneer is based on spinach, I am not afraid to modify. In place of the one leafy green I used two others: beet tops and turnip greens, plus sliced bok choy and chopped asparagus, to form my fresh green base.

Also, being short on time, I did not spend three hours making cheese from scratch but substituted halloumi style Golden Greek cheese from Ballard Family Dairy in Gooding. I bought it at Boise Co-op.

The heady, exotic fragrance of the ginger, garlic and garam masala that season this dish turns the simple act of cooking into mouthwatering kitchen therapy. Be prepared to drool.

Bok Choy

Modified Saag Paneer

Adapted from recipe at Saveur.com

Serves 4

½ pound halloumi style Golden Greek cheese

6 TBL ghee or vegetable oil

1-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 jalapeno chile, stemmed and chopped

1 bunch beet greens, washed, trimmed and chopped

1 bunch turnip tops, washed, trimmed and chopped

1 bunch baby bok choy, washed and chopped

½ bunch asparagus, washed, snapped and chopped

Salt

½ tsp garam masala

1-2 pinches cayenne

6 TBL heavy cream

Cut the cheese into 1-inch by ½ -inch pieces. Heat ghee in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add cheese and fry until golden brown all over, 4-6 minutes. Transfer cheese with a slotted spatula to a plate and set aside. Set aside skillet with ghee.

Put ginger, garlic, jalapeno and ¼ cup water into a blender and puree to a smooth paste. Return skillet with ghee to stove and heat over medium-high heat. Add ginger-garlic paste and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 30 seconds. Add beet greens, turnip tops, bok choy and asparagus; season lightly with salt and cook, stirring often, until greens wilt, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring often, until greens are very soft, 10-15 minutes. Stir in garam masala, cayenne to taste, and cream.

Add fried cheese to skillet, cover, and continue cooking until liquid thickens and greens are silky soft, about 15 minutes more.

Crunchy vegetables, hummus and modified saag paneer

I like to try out new flavors so yesterday morning I bought a bag of sorrel at the farmer’s market while shopping with Susan, her mom and her aunt. Strolling away from the vendor, all four of us suddenly made puckery faces as we sampled the green leaves and tasted the herb’s sharp, sour flavor. I wondered what the heck I’d just bought and whether I’d been the victim of some mischievous farmer’s joke.

This morning I hopped online hoping to find out what on earth to do with the stuff and came across a post on RiverCottage.net for Poached Egg on Toast with Sorrel. The recipe called for ingredients I had just purchased, like whole grain bread from Great Harvest, and also put to use fresh turnip greens I’d bought and just-laid-eggs from the chickens in my backyard. In an effort to temper the sorrel’s sharp flavor I added the turnip greens and a dash of Starlight Herbs‘ Moroccan seasoning to the sautéed herb as well as a thick smear of fresh avocado on the toast.

The result was a satisfying breakfast dish with a lemony bite enriched by the buttery avocado and the Moroccan seasoning’s exotic touch. I was going to snap a photo but all I have left is two empty plates that appear to have been licked clean.

Saute 1 bunch chopped sorrel leaves and 1 bunch chopped turnip greens in butter. You’ll start out with a lot of greens, but they wilt down to almost nothing. While cooking, add a few shakes of Moroccan seasoning, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Remove pan from heat.

Toast two slices of whole grain bread. Smush and smear half an avocado on each toasted slice. Top with sautéed greens.

Poach four eggs the way you like them; place them atop the toast. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves two.