food: new and exciting

i’ve been eating solid food for over 30 years now.  and while i wouldn’t call myself an “adventurous eater” necessarily, i’d say with confidence that i’ve eaten or am least aware of eating a wide variety of food.

so when i’m presented with something that i’ve never seen eaten, but it makes total sense, i do a facepalm and an “of course!”

we live in a very chinese neighbourhood.  well, that could be said for most of the metro vancouver area, but in our area of coquitlam, there is definitely a very large asian community including japanese & koreans as well, but mostly folks of chinese decent.
which means a few things, including a delightful presence of pretty authentic chinese, japanese & korean restaurants… but also grocery stores stocking ingredients that you otherwise wouldn’t see in a “western” grocery store.

we also have a solid persian community here.  which again, means persian markets and a handful of restaurants.
which is awesome.  because persian folks that i know have informed me of some little culinary secrets, like that halal meat is grass fed.  so all those months i spent feverishly searching for grass fed meats, they were right under my nose for cheaper than i thought.  although halal is not a guarantee of quality of life for the animals (and there is a very divided view on the slaughtering of the animals), so my preferred purchases are still from the farm, but in a pinch, its good to know there’s options.

we try to soak up as much knowledge as we can… whenever we see a vegetable thats unknown, we also whip out our phones and try to figure out what it tastes like and how (or if) you cook it.
vegetable adventures are fun to me.  because at the very worst, its just a vegetable.
i can’t claim to be *quite* as adventurous when it comes to mystery animals found in the exclusively asian targeted grocery stores.
frankly, i’ve come to the conclusion that in many other parts of the world, asia in particular, people will eat parts of animals that us north americans just haven’t quite wrapped our heads around yet.  and i’m not entirely sold that we need to, lol.
organ meats in particular just don’t jive for me.  *shudder*

but i digress,  because this is a story about vegetables.

over the past year, i can think of 3 new vegetables that we’ve “discovered” that i had previously never known.
one was a whole new thing altogether and the other 2 were just other parts of plants i already knew.

brand new to me: fenugreek.

i was familiar with fenugreek as a spice, but until last year had never seen (or noticed) it being sold as a vegetable.
so, thanks persians in my neighbourhood!

apparently fenugreek has long been used as a milk stimulant in lactating mothers and a libido enhancer.
but i just ate it as a tasty vegetable.

we enjoyed it in salads and also cooked down by lightly sauteing with butter, garlic & lemon.
it was peppery, flavourful and cheap.  and entire big bag of fenugreek leaves was about $1.50 and lasted us for several meals.
so while this is a very prevalent ingredient in persian cuisine,  it was totally new to me.

brand new to me last year: garlic scapes.

hello gorgeous!
i LOVE garlic scapes.  LOVE THEM.
contrary to what they may look like, they’re not super curled green onions.
think of them more like a fresh green bean or asparagus with a mild garlic taste.  aka – fucking delicious.

we came across these last spring at the farm market and bought them on the advice of the vendor.  he said to chop them and saute them in butter and nom down.
so we did.  and we’ve never looked back.

now they’re one of those items that if we see them, we buy up as many as possible.
they’re extremely seasonal.  and you’d only ever see them if you shop at good farm markets.  this is certainly not a big grocery store item.
and sadly for me, garlic scape season has passed with the spring.
but next year i’ll be prepared – i’m going to grow my own.

anyways, it seems that most people (on the internets) use the scapes raw in a pesto.  i liked mine raw too, but one of my favourite methods was to rub them with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper and throw them in the bbq like i do my asparagus.
you end up with a very similar texture, but a yummy garlic flavour, like you’d seasoned them.

they’ve proved to be as versatile a vegetable as the asparagus to me.
when raw, they can be slivered and added to salads, soups, as garnish, whatever…
and they saute, steam, roast or grill wonderfully.

if you’ve never had them, i can’t recommend them enough.
and bonus – they are also pretty cheap.  usually $1.50 to $2 a bunch.

and lastly, brand new to me as of 2 days ago: pepper leaves.

yes.  like the actual LEAVES of a pepper plant.
and here’s my internal self conversation:  “you can eat those?  of course dummy, why *wouldn’t* you be able to eat them?”
it was just not a thought that had ever occurred to me.
but those clever and waste-less folks at the local chinese owned produce market schooled us on them.

this is information i wish i’d had years ago.
i’ve grown many pepper plants over the years.  and while my actual pepper production has been spotty… there were always at least leaves.
and i wish i had known they could have been eaten.

my husband was at the market and picked up a bag of dark green leaves and asked “what are these?” and was told by the staff that they were pepper leaves and were really good.  he asked if you eat them raw and they kind of chuckled at him and said “no, we saute them, like stir fry them.”
so alright.  home they came.

last night we chopped them up and used equal parts pepper greens and kale and sauteed them with a touch of butter and coconut oil, garlic and lemon juice.
and they were GOOD.
slightly spicy and peppery (duh) but with a nice spinach meets kale texture.

this whole pepper leaves thing especially is now making me question my garden.
what else could i be eating that i’m not?
how much is hitting the garbage that should be hitting my plate?
this may require some further investigation.