Author Archives for twistedbasics

About twistedbasics

Welcome! Food is my focus, livelihood, art form and my passion. My wife and I run a 5.5 acre organic vegetable farm. Join me fellow foodie as we explore the changing seasons and the food it brings.

Sounds Of Silence

As we move closer to the presidential election, I find myself feeling overwhelmed by both the pandemic and our turbulent political discourse. I traverse between a feeling of calm to a nameless agitation that grabs me the moment I leave the safety of our home. It seems that the world is becoming more and more dangerous. My heart grieves for the victims of Covid, the poisoning of our planet for profit, the inequality and injustice displayed by people in power. Our problems seem overwhelming. I often wonder what impact one person could possibly have to change the tone of the conversation, much less the world? As an individual how do I live a life that nurture others, the planet and myself? How do I stay authentic to my beliefs in a world that wants to label me?

In the small microcosm of my life, I look for signs of hope. How have I made a difference? Since I moved to the country, my greatest teachers have been nature, the seasons, and the land. If we care for the land, the land offers up the food that both feeds us and provides our livelihood. That clean, wholesome food is taken to the farmers market and sold to people that care about what they feed themselves and their families. It’s a life that is simple, focused and real. We place a seed in the ground and have faith that it will grow. I believe that we often receive what we put into the world; a sort of what goes around, comes around. When I am kind to people, it follows that people are generally kind to me. But what happens when people are unkind, disrespectful, and angry? What happens when there is drought or deluge or crop failure? When a pandemic strikes or unemployment, or changes we didn’t expect or ask for? I believe this is when our faith is really tested, when our priorities and attitudes matter.

It seems to me that faith, the belief in things unseen, is about the things in life that cause us to question, to change, to grow. I don’t believe that the challenges in life are judgements, but opportunities to understand the world and ourselves more fully. How do we cultivate our better selves when we are up against our fears and the rapid pace of change? We are all flawed human beings; there are no saints among us. How do we nurture our inter-connectedness? How do we come to realize what happens to one of us, happens to us all? My greatest challenge is to keep my heart open, to feel pain when someone is hurting, to look at the glass as half full.

As the fall prepares us for winter, may we take the time to reflect and adopt a slower pace. The land rests, and in the same sense so do I. Dormancy is a gift. I can’t assimilate life without periods of quiet. There is time for long morning coffee and deep listening. Clocks tick, fires burn and hearts beat. It is a season where less is more. This resting period is a time to replenish both our physical and emotional beings. In this quiet stillness I hear a small voice say, “Your faith is measured by the wideness of your heart.” One of my favorite poets, Stanley Kunitz said it in a different way: “Live in the layers, not on the litter.” In these layers of life, the peace I sought is found.

Although food is my passion, there are days when I’m involved in other interests or projects. This is when the simplicity of a sheet pan dinner is exactly what I turn to for a meal that is virtually hands off, yet delicious. They are basically designed around a protein and a vegetable. This one uses everything that I have either in freezer or pantry. Although I have used pumpkin as the vegetable, you could just as easily use sweet potatoes or butternut squash. Don’t forget to save your pumpkin seeds to roast, for an added treat.

A delicious sugar pumpkin, loaded with seeds.
Pumpkin wedges, ready to be tossed with olive oil and maple syrup.

DIJON-ROSEMARY CHICKEN THIGHS WITH MAPLE GLAZED PUMPKIN

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 5 shallots, halved lengthwise
  • 1 small sugar pie pumpkin (about 2 lbs.)
  • 2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Ready for the oven
Seasoned perfectly

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, 3 tablespoons of the oil, the vinegar, garlic, and rosemary. Add the chicken, garlic and shallots and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature while you prepare the pumpkin.
  3. Cut off the top and bottom of the pumpkin, then cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut each half into 1-inch wedges. In another large bowl, stir together the maple syrup and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the pumpkin and toss to combine. Place the pumpkin wedges in a single layer on one end of the prepared pan. Remove the chicken, garlic and shallots from the marinade and place on the other side of the pan. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast until the chicken is opaque (160 degrees F) throughout and the pumpkin is golden brown and soft, about 45-50 minutes. Serve right away. Sprinkle fresh rosemary leaves as a garnish.

Serves 4-6

Beautifully golden and aromatic
ENJOY!!

“Silence isn’t empty, it’s full of answers.”

Kneading Each Other

It’s the little things. Small gestures given freely. Each evening my wife Val makes sure that my coffee is programed for the next morning (she drinks tea). She understands the daily ritual that our coffee hour is our bonding time. She understands how much cream I like in that coffee, and that I only drink two cups. I know how she likes her Manhattan’s, how much vermouth to rye whiskey, with two drops of bitters.

These small things nurture our marriage. I bring this attentiveness into the world when I leave the farm. If farming is the what, then the farmers market is the why. Our relationships there add to the richness in our life. The Covid pandemic has completely changed our experience at the market. Val’s compromised immune system requires that she self isolate on the farm during this pandemic, to stay as safe as possible. When I go to the market on Wednesday’s I am in my own section on a slower day. Customers are not allowed to touch the produce or soap products that we sell. Everyone is required to wear masks. There is hand-sanitizer in multiple locations at our stall. You learn to read the eyes above the masks for clues about each other. Are those eyes playful, warm or anxious? There is an overall feeling of being AWOL from the usual fullness of our exchange. We give virtual “hugs”, which only underscores their absence; somehow elbow bumping just doesn’t do it.

Then Shalini appears at our stall. She comes bearing gifts of garam marsala, black salt, amchoor powder (dry mango) and Tamarind-Date Chutney. She gives me tips about how to make Indian greens and Channa (chickpea salad). She also brings the warmth of her smile. I consider Shalini my spiritual mentor of sorts. She loves Jesus, I’m not religious, yet her sense of humanity, compassion and grace comes through in our conversations. She leads by example. She shares that there are times in order to find common ground with others, she must keep her heart open and simply speak human to human. “We are all human after all. We are all suffering in our own ways. I’ve made a personal decision that if someone needs a hug, they will receive one from me. regardless of the situation we find ourselves in.”

I immediately stop what I am doing and walk purposefully around the stalls to where she is standing. We embrace, and I am awash in the sweet necessity of human contact. Something intangible is exchanged; the unseen, enters and we are nourished. We simply need each other as human beings. On the other side of this pandemic, I’m looking forward to breaking bread together once again.

I first made this bread recipe over 30 years ago. It floated up in my consciousness after Val and I had harvested and dried dill seed from the farm. It is a no-knead bread with terrific flavor. I used our own dehydrated onions as well, but the real treat is when you toast it. The scent of dill and onions will fill your home. Don’t spare the butter!

NO-KNEAD DILL ONION BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup cottage cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon dill seed
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 farm fresh egg
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of Maldon or other flake salt
Mixed dill/onion dough, ready for the oven
Dill/Onion Bread straight from the oven, coated with butter and salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Soften yeast in warm water; let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Mix cottage cheese, sugar, butter, salt and baking soda together in a large mixing bowl. I use my Kitchen-Aid mixer with paddle attachment. You can mix this at this stage with a wooden spoon or whisk. Add dill seed, dried onion, eggs and yeast mixture. Mix well.
  3. Gradually add flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, on medium speed. If you are doing this manually, you can also mix this with your hands. The dough will be sticky. It dough seems too sticky, add another tablespoon or two of flour.
  4. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 2 quart round baking dish. Gently spoon dough into prepared dish. Bake in center rack in preheated oven until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven; brush with butter and sprinkle with flake salt. Let bread cool 5 minutes before transferring from the baking dish to a cooling rack.

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” –Leo Tolstoy

Saving the Warmth

Cooler temperatures are upon us and autumn is in full swing. Boats are coming in off the lake, jeans are replacing shorts, and the farmers market is full of winter squash, peppers and mums. My seven week canning mission is officially done, yet there are still some last minute preparations to do for the cold months ahead.

One of the vendors at market last Wednesday had a section of their stall devoted to peppers, with a large display of poblanos. Their beautiful dark green color and aromatic scent invited me to stock up on them while the getting was good. I quickly bought a dozen. I enjoy roasting them on the grill, then freezing them for future use. I love putting them in stews, enchiladas, chili and my favorite: Poblano Cream Sauce. It’s wonderful over grilled chicken or flank steak, as a topping for eggs or pulled pork, even as a dip. Earlier in the summer I had made garlic scape and cilantro pesto, so I used this in replacement of the garlic and cilantro and it worked great. This sauce has a flavorful heat that tastes rich and warm. I vacuum freeze 4 peppers per bag and they are ready anytime I need a bit of warmth.

POBLANO CREAM SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 poblano peppers for each batch of sauce (I grill several at a time so I can freeze them for later use)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces sour cream (you could also use Greek yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Kosher salt to taste
Blistering poblano peppers on the grill
Steamed poblanos ready to peel

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat your gas on high for 10 minutes, until good and hot. Turn down burners to medium and place the peppers across the grill, close but not touching. I can usually get 15-20 on depending on size. Close grill and turn them ever 4 minutes, until they are wrinkled and charred on all sides.
  2. Place grilled peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10-15 minutes to sweat. Remove the plastic wrap and peel away the skin of the peppers. Remove stem, open pepper and scrape the seeds. If you are using immediately, roughly chop 4 peppers. Leave the remaining peppers whole and place 4 peppers per bag for freezing.
  3. While the peppers are sweating, heat a small non-stick skillet over medium heat, then add olive oil, onions and garlic. Sauté for about 6-8 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent.
  4. Transfer the onions, garlic and chopped peppers to a blender. Add the sour cream, cilantro and salt. Blend until sauce is smooth, 1-2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Yield: 1 pint

Poblano Sauce
Poblano Sauce over grilled chicken with sautéed cabbage

“Canning is not a hobby, it’s an obsession, an addiction, self expression and a way of life.”

Jamming…

During this time of the year, preserving food is my passion. Personally, I am obsessed with tomatoes. When I find myself up to my armpits in these delightful orbs, I consider it my mission to put up the bounty in many variations. Soup, roasted sauce, whole pastes, confi, juice, Bloody Mary mix, chutney and jam line our pantry shelves. Tomatoes are so versatile. It’s a great way to experience summer in a jar all winter long.

In the past we have grown as many as 3,200 tomato plants. Val has always found it challenging to scale back the farm, but aging and this year’s Covid pandemic has forced us to cut back out of necessity. So we settled on 850 plants, hoping it was enough for our personal needs and sharing with friends who also preserve food during high season. Why I worried that it might not be enough was beyond me! We had enough and then some.

If you haven’t tried a savory jam before, this is the recipe for you. No far out ingredients, easy to make and delicious on roasted chicken or beef. You can also spread it on a wheel of Brie or Camembert cheese, pop it in the oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes and you have a tasty and beautiful appetizer to spread on cracker or crusty bread. Or if you really want to push the envelope a little, my dear friend Dana suggests you slice sweet potatoes into disks, brush with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees F for 25 minutes; allow to cool. Place a small slice of Brie on each disk and top with tomato jam. One big mouthful of yum!!

TOMATO JAM

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 pounds paste tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (you can also try white wine or tarragon vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Toss tomatoes, sugar and salt together in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Let sit at least 30 minutes or up to overnight, tossing to coat periodically to dissolve sugar. (I let it macerate overnight, to release as much juice as possible.)
  2. Add the vinegar to the tomatoes, and bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and thyme leaves.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high, and cook the jam. Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, stir the jam occasionally, then more frequently as the jam starts to thicken. Do this until most of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have begun to break down, and the mixture resembles a very thick, shiny tomato sauce, 45-60 minutes. It’s important at this stage to keep stirring constantly along the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching and sticking.
  4. To test for thickness, spoon a bit of jam onto a chilled plate, return it to the refrigerator and chill for 2 minutes. Drag your finger through it. It should hold its shape on either side without appearing watery or runny. If not continue cooking jam and check every 10 minutes.
  5. It this point you can water bath can in 1/2 pint or 1/4 pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space for 15 minutes or refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Yield: 4 half pints

“Autumn….make a double demand. It asks that we prepare for the future–that we be wise in the ways of garnering and keeping. But it also asks that we learn to let go–to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness.”

—Jean Abernethy

Roasted Sweetness

It’s been quite a week. I’ve roasted and canned 15 pints of cherry tomato soup, along with roasted sauce and whole paste tomatoes. I absolutely love putting up food and canning. It is peaceful and steady work. As I fill up our larder we consider ourselves fortunate to grow the food we will enjoy this winter. Every time I can or freeze something I reduce the times I need to leave the farm. As we all know Covid-19 is alive and well. We really don’t know what the future holds. Staying fluid and flexible is the order of the day. So putting up food seems like a practical way to prepare for the very real possibility of staying home for much of the winter months.

The idea of being home this winter is actually something that feels welcoming. After we put the farm to bed for the season, winter is the time that our home truly becomes of haven. We read, we dream, play board games, cook, bake and of course talk. Enjoying each other never gets old, even though we are together pretty much 24/7. It used to surprise me, but now I’m just plain grateful. If there’s an upside to Covid, it’s slowing down and taking the time to decide what is important to us. I have begun to realize that those of us who feel satisfied with the simple joys of life do a little better with isolation. After several years of health trauma and loss, simple feels good.

This week I’m offering up Tomato Conserva and a wonderful recipe Spaghetti with Tomato Conserva, Pancetta and Pecorino, from my cookbook Twisted Basics: Laugh, Cook, Eat. The Italians look upon conserva in several ways. To ‘store’ to ‘save’ to ‘keep’; preserving the harvest in some way, be it sweet or savory. Sweet conserva’s might look like jam, marmalade or preserves; savory might look like roasting, dehydrating, freezing or canning. When paste tomatoes are in abundance, my favorite conserva is roasting slices of these meaty vegetables low and slow. Thick slices of plum tomatoes tossed with olive oil, garlic and flake salt (I use Maldon), result in something altogether different; rich, meaty and marvelous. Think pasta, sandwiches, salad or pizza.

Thick slices of paste tomatoes ready for roasting.
Six hours later.

TOMATO CONSERVA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 pounds of plum/paste tomatoes (I found that for 2 large rimmed baking sheets you need 24 tomatoes).
  • 4 cloves of garlic for each sheet, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher or Maldon salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Slice each paste tomato into 1/2 inch slices (you will get 3 slices per tomato and 35 slices per sheet). Place slices next to each other on baking sheets. Drizzle olive oil over slices, then sprinkle with flaked salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Place the baking sheets into the oven and lower the temperature to 225 degrees F. Slowly roast, switching the trays from upper to lower each hour, until the tomatoes look like juicy sun-dried tomatoes; wrinkly and slightly browned in spots, 5-6 hours.
  4. Let the tomatoes cool for at least 10 minutes before using or serving. I use one whole sheet for the following recipe. The additional sheet will fill 3 half pint mason jars. Drizzle some additional olive oil over them for freezing, about 3 tablespoons. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for 2-4 months.
2 cups (one sheet) of slow roasted paste tomatoes

SPAGHETTI WITH TOMATO CONSERVA, PANCETTA AND PECORINO

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, pre-chopped
  • 2 cups tomato conserva, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 ounces finely grated pecorino cheese (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup dry toasted fresh breadcrumbs (optional)
The conserva sauce coming together.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve about 1 cup of hot pasta water and drain the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato conserva, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and toss to combine. Add the drained pasta and cook, tossing until heated through about 3 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oik, and 1/2 the pecorino and parsley. Toss, adding more pasta water, if needed, to loosen the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 of reserved pecorino. Serve in shallow bowls topping with toasted breadcrumbs if using.

Serves 4-6

“Food is the most primitive form of comfort.” —Sheila Grahm

Never Enough

The memories that mark time seem to speed up as we age. Nine years ago in 2011, when our tomato production for market was at its height, we were faced with a dilemma; what do we do with all the imperfect tomatoes we could not sell at market? Val was sick of dividing them between our chickens and our compost pile. I remember her telling me, “Figure it out!” So figure it out I did and created our delicious roasted tomato sauce. This is one recipe that went into both of my cookbooks. I give it out dozens of times at market each season. In the winter, when you go into your pantry and open a quart of this luscious stuff, you smell the sun. I put up about 28 quarts of this per year, as there are uses galore.

Why do we literally swoon over this stuff? I have never tasted a commercial product that compares to it. I use six different heirloom varieties that have different colors and flavor profiles, lots of fresh garlic, olive oil and Maldon salt. The result is something not only delicious, but a sauce you will feel proud to serve your family and company. Every two hours I ladle out the liquid that is released from the tomatoes and can this as well; adding it to risottos and soups making it a win, win! You can either water bath can it for 15 minutes or freeze it for later use. Depending on the volume of tomatoes you roast will determine the length of you roasting time. You want a thick concentrated sauce as your end result.

There are things I have learned along the way about this sauce. When removing the liquid for later use, be sure you strain it through a small mesh colander to remove unwanted seeds. Also, many people don’t mind the rustic quality of the finished sauce. However, I choose to put it in my Vita-mix blender for a few minutes before heating or adding to your recipes. You will end up with a velvety sauce that has a stunning orange-red color which I find much more pleasing to the eye and the palate. You’re welcome!

BRICKYARD FARMS ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE:

INGREDIENTS:

  • A minimum of 20-30 pounds of tomatoes (I recommend a half bushel), consider a mix of many different varieties. This will add depth to your sauce.
  • 1-2 heads Brickyard Farms garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt (although I highly recommend Maldon)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. You will want to set up a “station” of sorts: sharp knife, cutting board, large stainless steel bowl, and your roasting pan.  This is when I say many hands make light work. Val and I can prep one 1/2 bushel in about 40 minutes.
  2. Next slice your tomato crosswise deep enough to eliminate the core in one step. Next hold trimmed tomato in your hand over the bowl and twist gently to remove some of the seeds.  No need to be perfect; the idea is to reduce some of the liquid. Next cut the tomato in half from top to bottom, then each half in quarters or sixths, depending on the size of your tomato.  Repeat this process until your roasting pan is heaping with tomatoes (don’t worry they will cook down considerably).
  3. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Sprinkle your garlic slices and salt over the tomatoes; pour olive oil over tomatoes. Stir gently to combine.
  4. Set your timer for one hour.  Remove roasting pan from oven and with a soup ladle, press down gently so that the juices fill you ladle.  Each time you have 4 cups, strain and fill a quart canning jar until full, leaving 1 inch head space. This juice is gold. I use it for risottos, soups, chili and stews; it’s filled with tomato and garlic flavors.  Return your roasting pan to the oven and set timer for another hour. Repeat. You will do this until the tomatoes have reduced and there is about a quart of juice left in the pan.  At this point it should be pretty thick. This should take roughly 3-4 hours (don’t be concerned if it takes a little longer).
  5. When your sauce in finished, fill quart canning jars leaving 1 inch head space. You now can choose to freeze the jars or water bath can them for 15 minutes.  When ready to use, either thaw frozen jars or open canned jars and place in a blender. Blend for about 2 minutes, or until all the skins and seeds are incorporated into the sauce.  Use in your favorite recipe.

Yields: 4-6 quarts sauce, 2-3 quarts stock

ROASTED TOMATO VODKA SAUCE:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 quart roasted tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin vertically
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup vodka, (additional for sous chef)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces dried pasta of your choice

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place your quart of sauce in a blender and puree for about 2 minutes or until smooth.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  3. Place olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, basil and red pepper flakes, stir to combine and cook for additional 3 minutes.
  5. Add vodka and reduce by half.
  6. Add blended roasted tomato sauce and simmer until hot, about 4-5 minutes.
  7. Stir in heavy cream. Place drained pasta in decorative bowl. Top with sauce and toss gently to combine.

Serves 4

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“There ain’t nothing better in life than true love and a homegrown tomato!”

Cherry….Cherry Baby!

Since we are humming in cherry tomatoes this week, I wanted to repeat this blog post. I’ll be making multiple pints of this luscious soup and so should you!

Twisted Basics

Here at the farm, we try to use whatever the land serves up; whether perfect, imperfect or abundance overload.  As we wait somewhat impatiently for our summer slicing tomatoes, we are totally excited that our cherry tomatoes are producing their delicious little orbs.  When they come on strong, as they are now, we take tons to market; but the real excitement is when I start roasting them for cherry tomato soup!  I love to stock the larder each year, and this is often where I start.  Using Sun Gold and Sweet 100’s separately or combined will offer up some of the best tomato soup you have ever tasted, and it uses only 4 ingredients! As a farmer I will have to say that the variety of cherry tomatoes does matter.  Taste your produce before purchasing to make sure yours are sweet and flavorful.  For those of you not inclined to can…

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What A Wonderful World

During this year of the pandemic, Val and I have not been going to our beloved farmers market. We felt the sales were not worth the potential health risks, so elected to stay home and stay safe. This seemed appropriate until we harvested our garlic crop. We now found ourselves with 5,000 garlic to sell. We started accepting pre-paid orders to be delivered at market on Wednesday’s as this was the calmest of the three days the market is open. I could get in and get out so to speak, staying as safe as possible. This way we could still bring our garlic to grateful customers.

As it turned out, I was the only one in our section of the market each week. Oddly, this helped me feel safer. We now have a large crop of onions and soon an additional crop of potatoes that will need to be addressed. I felt safe enough to bring our soap products, my new cookbook and produce to market under these circumstances. After discussing this at length with Val, we decided to give it a try. It went without saying we could definitely use the capital.

What I didn’t expect when making this decision, was how good this was for me as a human being. My biggest challenge with this pandemic has been the loss of physical contact with people. I am a full fledged hugger. I now find eye contact has become extremely important. I am literally drawn to the eyes in an effort to communicate. You never know whether the connections you have forged in previous seasons will hold during a lengthy absence. To my surprise, not only did they hold, they were strengthened. There was such an outpouring of concern and welcoming. Customers and friends came with simple and heartfelt gifts. Jack brought a bouquet of flowers from his garden and some baba ganoush made with our garlic. Shalani, delivered a spice concoction and fresh limes, so we could make Indian Street Corn, Phil and Amy delivered a beautiful volume of poetry from David Whyte. Artwork from Isaac and Mathew. Muffins, quail eggs and plant starts from Brandon and Molly.  I drove home in deep humility and gratitude for the tapestry of our human family. With weft and woof, we cross each other’s lives in unexpected ways. It was such a testament to the relationships built throughout the years at market. It left me filled with hope going forward on this uncertain journey.

“Start each day with a positive thought and gratitude in your heart.” —Roy T. Bennett

Think Green, Think Fresh

Summer is officially here, and it’s hotter than the hubs of hell. Although I’m still obsessed with turnips, it’s time to move on to other vegetables. Typically when it is this hot I turn to lighter fare. The heat saps me so I want something that is quick and easy to make, and uses seasonal produce. I also like options that allow you to use what might be on hand. This pasta dish comes together quickly (than 20 minutes). Although I have used fresh spinach and sugar snap peas, you could just as easily use shelling peas, asparagus or cherry tomatoes. I’m finding a lot of uses for ricotta these days. I find it refreshing and lighter than a sauce using heavy cream. Spaghetti or linguine are you best pasta choices, but feel free to use what you have on hand. Remember when you add your vegetable to the pasta water, that you want to barely blanch them. I suggest 1 minute so the freshness of the vegetable comes through. The tartness of the lemon is the perfect contrast to the ricotta and vegetables. This recipe can be doubled if serving 4 or more people.

PASTA WITH SPRING VEGETABLES AND LEMON RICOTTA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 ounces pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 8 ounces sugar snap peas, sliced vertically in 3 pieces (it’s a nice way to expose the interior of the peas)
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, zest and juice, plus a few extra wedges to serve
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile make the ricotta sauce.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, olive oil, cheese, garlic, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine, taste and adjust seasoning to you preference.
  3. In the last minute of the pasta’s cooking time, add spinach and snap peas to the pot. Stir and push the vegetables into the boiling water.
  4. Drain after 1 minute, making sure to reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water (you will use this to thin you sauce if needed.)
  5. Return pasta and vegetables to the same pot, add the ricotta sauce and a few tablespoons of hot pasta water (you will not use all of it!). Stir well to evenly coat the pasta in sauce, you want a smooth and creamy texture.
  6. Serve immediately, drizzling extra-virgin olive oil over each bowl; add a sprinkle of extra cheese.

Serves 3

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“There is nothing that is comparable to it, or as satisfactory or as thrilling as gathering vegetables one has grown.” —Alice Toklas

Your My Thrill

You do something to me! It was so unexpected when it happened. Caught totally off guard, I find I just can’t get enough of my new love! There are so many ways to use these little gems, and this recipe is perfect for a breakfast or brunch. Full of cheese, eggs, kale, cream and bread cubes it is a meal by itself, or if you prefer, with something simple from the grill. Turnips have the added benefit of not being a carbohydrate. They have less than half the calories of potatoes or sweet potatoes; and can easily be swapped out in recipes. So you can literally eat them with abandon!

TURNIP AND KALE GRATIN

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (lemon thyme is wonderful)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 bunches kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn (you can use any type of kale, I find Tuscan and Red Russian particularly good)
  • 6-8 medium turnips, trimmed, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I don’t peel mine, however if you do feel free)
  • 3 large farm-raised eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, grated (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup pecorino cheese, grated (about 1 ounce)
  • 2 cups day-old bread such as ciabatta, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a medium pan, bring garlic, cream and thyme to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-low. Add onions, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally until they turn a nice light amber color, about 20-30 minutes. Add a splash or two of water if they start to stick to the bottom of your pan. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool. Wipe out skillet.
  3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in same skillet. Working in batches, add your kale, tossing and letting it wilt slightly before adding more; season with salt. Cook until kale is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Add to bowl with onions.
  4. While kale is cooking, cook turnips in a large pot on well-salted water until crisp tender, about 2 minutes; drain. Transfer to a bowl of ice water and let cool. Drain and pat dry. Transfer to the bowl with onions and kale.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk eggs, Fontina cheese, pecorino cheese, and cooled cream mixture in a large bowl to combine. Add onion and kale mixture, along with bread; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 8 x 8 casserole dish and bake uncovered until well browned, 40-50 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Gratin can be assembled 12 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Serves 6

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“The best things happen unexpectedly.”

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