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But first, fennel pollen, and the shug recipe. Fennel, a great companion plant in the right place, otherwise obnoxious, shoots up seven feet in a cluster of branches. It is hard to believe that a tiny fennel seed turns into... that. So, sensible Italians eat the fennel stems if caught young, the ferny foliage in salads, and drop the head of flowers, laden with yellow pollen, into the marinara sauce. Take the head out before serving. It looks a bit prehistoric over noodles. Pollinators love fennel flowers and beetles overwinter in the hollow stems. The sweet seed makes amazing biscotti. You can buy, for a small fortune, wild fennel pollen, no doubt hand picked by virgins in white dresses in the storied hills of Greece, or at least runny nosed ten year olds in Adidas sneakers. Or you can take a piece of printer paper and knock the pollen off the heads onto the paper until you get tired of doing that and pour it out into a clean aspirin bottle, for nothing except missing a few crucial shots of the video. Fennel allowed to go seed gives on the order of a thousand to one return, so no surprise that it is used generously in Greek and Italian cooking. The stuff will reseed, so best to put it somewhere a shaggy giant is welcome.

Shug (pronounced SHOOOG) is a Middle Eastern hot sauce, difficult to find in these parts, but inexpensive to make at this time of the year. Shug is green hot peppers, garlic and green coriander seed, smashed up in olive oil with a fat pinch of salt. Green coriander seed is the little hard balls on your cilantro that bolted. Later they will ripen to brown coriander seed, and you can harvest them to go in curries and Tex Mex dishes. But it you only have a little, make shug with the green seed. Cut off the stems, come in out of the heat, and pull all the little green seeds off. It's OK if some are turning brown. Get green hot peppers, remove the stems and seeds with due caution, and cut them into pieces. Chop up 2-3 cloves of garlic per handful of seed. Put the lot into a blender, food processor or mortar and pestle with enough olive oil to lubricate it. Taste some on a cracker and add more garlic or hot peppers if desired. Preserving ratio is a rounded quarter teaspoon kosher salt for each six ounces of shug. Scald lids and 8 oz jelly jars, salt the shug, pack into jars and float a good half inch of olive oil over top. Keeps well in a cool, dark cupboard or the fridge after opening. Just keep it upright, so the olive oil seals out air. Shug is excellent on bean burgers or top rice pilaf with a spoonful. I like the way the ingredients all appear in a brief window in late summer. The garlic harvest is in, the cilantro has bolted but not yet ripened, and if you have any hot peppers, they are still green. Otherwise, cheat and buy some.

Dry beans are much better than the canned ones. The trick to beans is to start the night before. Soak beans overnight. The next morning, drain the beans and put into a pot with water to cover by about a half inch. While you are cooking breakfast, put the beans on and let them boil, adding more water if necessary. Remember to turn the pot off before you go off to work. Put the lid on and let the beans sit there on the warm burner while you earn a living. When you get home from work, test a bean. It may be done, otherwise simmer until tender.

Black Bean Burgers

2 cups cooked black beans, drained
2-3 carrots, grated
1-2 cups bread crumbs, maybe more
1 onion, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch black pepper
pinch ground coriander seed
fat pinch savory leaves, crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg

Put everything except the bread crumbs in a bowl and mix, smashing up most of the beans. Add the bread crumbs a bit at a time until the mix can be formed into burgers. Fry gently in a little oil. Makes excellent cheese burgers.

Rice Pilaf

1-2 cups long grain brown rice
whole spices: mustard, coriander, fennel, cumin, fenugreek about 2 teaspoons total
a little oil

Heat oil in the bottom of a large frying pan, one with a lid. Gently toast spices in the oil, then add rice and brown, stirring constantly. Before the rice starts to burn, add 3 cups water for each cup rice. Allow rice to just boil for five minutes, then cover and reduce heat to low until rice is cooked. Check it and add more water if needed.

Falafel

2 cups cooked fava beans or garbanzos, drained
small onion and 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
something green: parsley or cilantro leaves, green onions or chives, kale in a pinch, minced
1 teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander
pinch each ground black pepper and cayenne powder
1 egg
liberal quantity bread crumbs

Same deal: smash everything up together except the bread crumbs and add bread crumbs until it sticks together. Traditionally falafel balls are deep fried. I like to make burgers and fry them gently in a little oil. Eat in pita with some plain yogurt, sliced cucumber and shug.

Almond Fennel Biscotti

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon baking powder
or 3 cups bread crumbs
1 cup almond meal (cold case at Terra Organica, Coop)
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon any extract you have: vanilla, orange, almond, etc.
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 stick butter, softened to room temperature

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine everything and slowly add more flour or crumbs if the dough is too soft to handle. Shape into flat loaves and cook about 20 minutes. Allow to cool enough to slice, slice and allow to dry. If you start with flour, baking the slices another few minutes at 200 degrees F will give you nice firm biscotti.

See previous post Slow Bread for homemade bread recipes for an ongoing source of bread crumbs. Just keep baking bread, and your household will leave loaf ends and bits around for a plentiful crumb supply. Cube up the bits, store in the freezer in a large plastic zip bag. And never buy stuffing mix again.

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Comment by Celt M. Schira on August 17, 2010 at 10:46am
Shannon, thank you. It's nice to get comments. Often I send this stuff out and wonder if anyone reads it.
Heather, the oats are well past the milk stage, already dry and hard, already half gone to wildlife support. I've been just cutting up what's left of the heads and stems and putting it where I want a winter cover crop, the low work approach. To save your seed heads from the birds, cut up an old stocking and put a hat on the seed head. Very useful for sunflowers, also. The giant red heritage celery strain is floating around town. I have some that might still be viable, if you like. It makes skinny, strong flavored stems that are excellent in soup.
Comment by Shannon Maris on August 16, 2010 at 9:40pm
GREAT post Celt.
Thanks for the cool ideas and recipes!
Comment by Heather K on August 16, 2010 at 6:59pm
Are those Milky young oats you're harvesting? I didn't get any planted and have been keeping my eyes open for some fields....Sure would like some to dry and store for medicinal use.

Both my celery & parsnip have gone to seed and the birds have found! They are new seed plants for me so at times hard to tell apart...I think it was the parsnip the birds were eating (carrot family!!)...
I should try to catch some even though I haven't yet read up on the possiblity of them breeding true...(unfortunately the celery that last all winter and went to seed, was bought from a grower who used hybrid seeds!
Comment by Celt M. Schira on August 16, 2010 at 3:43pm
Heather,

Birds indeed. I thought of that this morning when I was harvesting oats. A person can buy a plastic bird feeder from China and fill it with purchased bird seed - or just allow the garden to get ragged and the cover crops to go to seed, and the birds are happy.
Comment by Heather K on August 16, 2010 at 3:32pm
My garden is looking soo ragged...but when I am still in the garden long enough, the birds come in closer to feed on seed heads, and I see hear the bees drunk with nector working, and I remember ragged gardens with pollen filled flowers and dried seed heads are a sign of abundance & natures cycles!

Yum! Fennel pollen & green coriander & celery seeds!

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