Image Source: tastespotting.com

February is a difficult month for seasonal produce. It’s lodged in the desolate space between the lushness of spring and the heartiness of winter. After a while even the strictest of seasonal eaters will be craving something brighter.

Snacking on something that reminds us of spring, however, isn’t as easy as running to the supermarket. There’s no question that an in-season strawberry is more flavorful and sweet than one sitting on a shelf in the middle of February. Or that the short three week season of the garlic scape isn’t worth the forty-nine weeks of waiting.

This is where a great pesto comes in. Pesto is such an easy sauce to whip up, and so versatile, that even months away from the best basil of the year you can grab some fresh greens from the farmers’ market (even if their only neighbors are squash, potatoes and hothouse apples) and have a meal just begging to be eaten al fresco.

The best recipe for pesto that I’ve found is simple: greens, garlic, nuts, olive oil and hard cheese, blended to taste. I’ve successfully skipped the cheese for vegan friends, substituting a few more nuts and some high quality sea salt, and once even left out the garlic for a picky five year old.

If you’re looking for a little more structure the following is adapted from tastespotting.com.

1 clove garlic

3 cups chopped kale

½ cup raw walnuts, roughly chopped

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pulse garlic clove in food processor until it is chopped finely, about 30 seconds. Add kale, walnuts and Parmesan cheese and pulse until chopped.

With the food processor running on low, add olive oil in a steady stream until you get the consistency you want.

(For the record I use a funky old one speed blender and never have any problems.)

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss over warm quinoa or the pasta of your choice, smear on a baguette or eat right off the spoon.

And when spring rolls around don’t forget to flex your pesto making skills on some garlic scapes.

Erin Tewes – Brooklyn.

Gluten-Free Certificat​ion Laws

Image Source: Gluten-Free Pittsburgh

“Gluten-Free” has become a bit of a buzz phrase in the last few years, owing to increased awareness of celiac disease and other types of gluten intolerance, along with savvy marketers looking to find a way to position their product. When it comes to labeling regulations, however, the classification starts to get a bit fuzzy. The FDA implemented a set of suggestions in September 2011 designed to restrict the use of the phrase “Gluten-Free” and its synonyms but as of yet there are  no concrete laws.

While gluten-conscious shoppers have been thrilled to see the abundance of options recently, some nutritionists and doctors are more wary. The website Celiac.com points to a number of areas of concern including cross-contamination and an unwillingness by some companies to participate in fair labeling. The federal suggestions maintain that a Gluten-Free product should have traces of gluten less than 20 parts per million, but testing is currently optional.

Until the FDA catches up to Australia, Canada, and the European Union it seems it’s best to carefully examine products using the Gluten-Free phrasing and refer to trusted sources.

Celery Mash: A Mashed Potatoes Alternative

Image Source: NourishNetwork.com

Source: Spark Recipes

Though this recipe comes to us via Spark Recipes, we were inspired by the absolutely outstanding Brooklyn restaurant Five Leaves, funded by the estate of the late actor Heath Ledger.

Celery mash is a gluten-free, healthier and much more fun spin on mashed potatoes, with only a few ingredients required.

INGREDIENTS (4 servings):

  • Approx. 1 lb of large celery root
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • Dashes of salt & pepper

Peel your celery root and chop into one-inch cubes. Toss cubes I medium saucepan with water and boil for 10 minutes, or until they’re soft. Drain cubes and mash until smooth. Stir in your butter and season with dashes of salt and pepper to taste.