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.

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

What is it about walls that seems to bring out a collective reaction of distaste?  Let’s face it our political discourse has taken on a polarized view of such things.  But the wall I’m referring to is a wall we can all agree on.  Brickyard Farms uses “The Wall” to showcase our amazing hard-neck garlic.  The first week we have German White and the next week is for Music (yes the hills are alive).  It is incredibly satisfying to sell about 2500 head of garlic each of those weeks.  For those of you not familiar with hard-neck garlic, it is distinctly different from the soft-neck garlic you purchase in your local grocery store.  Most soft-neck garlic is grown in China and is required by law to be refrigerated during overseas transport.  When garlic is refrigerated it changes the sugars to starch and makes the garlic bitter.  It also signals to the garlic that spring has arrived and it needs to grow.  This is why you typically find a green sprout in the center of each clove.

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Many of our customers purchase in bulk; anywhere from 60-250 at a time.  We are humbled by the support and enthusiasm over the years for this savory allium.  We typically store 200 heads for our personal consumption.  In addition to this I roast an additional hundred head to use in soups and stews.  When garlic is roasted it becomes beautifully sweet and nutty.  Typically garlic is roasted as a whole head with most of its papers in tact.  You simply cut the tips of each clove, baste it with olive oil, wrap it in foil and roast it in a 375 oven or on your grill for 50-60 minutes.  This works well when you are thinking of a luscious appetizer; but I want to freeze it for future use.  The method I describe here will yield two six-cube silicone ice cube trays of roasted garlic; each cube being the amount of one large head of garlic (although you can purchase bulk quantities of pre-peeled garlic I would NOT recommend it).  My suggestion is that you go to your local farmers market and stock up!  Fresh garlic season is usually July-August; and if you’ve never had fresh garlic you are in for an incredible treat!  Once they’re frozen, you just pop out the cubes and place them in a zip-lock freezer bag or container and they’re ready for something yummy when you are.

Roasted Garlic In Quantity

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Ingredients:

  • 15-20 medium size heads of garlic (remember, fresh is best)
  • Good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (I use Maldon)

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Peel all your garlic and place in an 8×8 or 9×9 ceramic dish.
  2. Pour enough olive oil in the dish to cover the garlic cloves halfway.  Toss to coat.
  3. Sprinkle coarse salt over garlic and cover with aluminum foil.
  4. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, then remove foil.  Roast for an additional 30 minutes or until soft and slightly golden.  Let cool.  Place in ice cube trays using any oil in the dish to cover each cube (I use a teaspoon in each one, then cover with additional oil if needed).
  5. Freeze overnight.  Remove from trays and put in zip lock bags or freezer containers.

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“There is no such thing as a little garlic!”  —Arthur Baer

 

 

Wild Thing

Boy, are we ever having a heat wave!  Just in time for harvesting our 5500 heads of garlic.  The good news is it’s great for garlic; not so much for us garlic diggers and cleaners.  We get up early while the heat is bearable, then stop by midday to avoid becoming ill.  This is definitely the time of year for simplicity in the kitchen.  You can always throw something on the grill, but I really go for meal salads.  They don’t heat up the kitchen, and you can munch on them for a few days.  Virtually any grain or bean will work well, combined with vegetables of your choice.  I go for texture differences whenever possible; which usually means crunch and savory elements.  I’ve been making this salad for decades.  It’s great for a picnic (no mayo) and can be doubled or tripled to serve a crowd.

WILD RICE SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup long grain wild rice, cooked, drained and cooled
  • 8 pieces of bacon, chopped, fried and drained
  • 2 cups celery, diced
  • 2 cups white onion, diced
  • 4 ounces white or brown mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
  • 2 cups curly parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup pecans or almonds, toasted

DRESSING:

  • 1/2 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Measure 3 cups water into a medium saucepan and add 1 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil and stir in wild rice.  Turn down to low, partially cover and cook for 40 minutes.  Drain in a wire colander and set aside to cool.
  2. Chop bacon, fry until crisp and drain on paper towels.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, place cooled wild rice, with celery, onions, mushrooms, pecans and parsley.
  4. Place ingredients for dressing in a pint mason jar.  Seal with lid and shake vigorously.  Pour over salad and mix thoroughly but gently.
  5. Serve on a platter and top with crumbled bacon.

Serves 4-6

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“I love how summer just wraps its warm arms around you like a blanket.”  —Kelle Elmore

It’s Bean A Long Time Coming

This has not been a typical farm year for us.  Challenges with weather, deer, woodchucks and bunnies have made it difficult to grow our delicious haricot verts called Maxibels or as we call them at market, ‘skinny French girls’.  Finally after 3 tries we have succeeded in harvesting our first beans.  I wait all summer for certain vegetables.  Garlic, tomatoes and Maxibels.  I couldn’t wait to make this protein filled, colorful, crowd pleasing salad.  I did a Mediterranean spread today with our dear friends George and Karen.  Lamb meatballs in tomato sauce and feta, roasted beets with preserved lemon and dill, hummus salad, raw zucchini thyme and walnut salad, and this was a wonderful addition.

This salad has an assortment of textures; al dente green beans, toasted almonds, sweet cherry tomatoes, quinoa, chickpeas, onion and feta.  Although it originally calls for red onion, we had my favorite sweet onion Bianca and I substituted that variety (poetic license)  During the summer, after working all day on the farm, it’s nice to have meal salads that are simple to make and refreshing to eat.  Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.  This salad can be doubled to serve a crowd.

 

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HARICOT VERTS, QUINOA AND CHICKPEA SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup quinoa (any color)
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 pound green beans (I like haricot verts) or a combination of yellow and green
  • 1 cup almond slivers, toasted
  • 1 can canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 small red onion  (or onion of your choice), thinly sliced vertically
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (I used my homemade tarragon vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 ounces feta, crumbled (optional)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (any color)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium saucepan combine quinoa and cold water; bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, cover and turn heat to low.  Cook for 20-25 minutes.  When finished pour onto sheet pan and let cool completely.
  2. Toast the almonds on a sheet pan in a 350 degree F oven for 5 minutes.  Remove from sheet pan and let cool.
  3. Wash and trim the beans.  In a large pot bring salted water to a boil and blanch beans for 3-6 minutes depending on the variety that you use.  Maxibels 3 minutes, traditional green beans 6 minutes.  Drain and place in ice bath to cool completely.
  4. To make vinaigrette, place olive oil, vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, and salt and pepper to taste in a pint mason jar.  Place lid on snugly and shake vigorously.
  5. To assemble, place cooled quinoa, drained green beans, onions and chickpeas in a large salad bowl.  Mix gently with your hands;  add 1/2 of the dressing and mix again with your hands.  Add almonds and additional dressing if needed.  Place salad on serving platter and top with crumbled feta and cherry tomatoes if using.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a entree, 6-8 as a side

“Nothing is more memorable than a smell.  One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the woods.  –Diane Ackerman

The Hummus Among Us

There is family that you are born into, and there is your tribe that you adopt.  Your tribe may be a collection of people that enjoy some of the same things you do, or perhaps are like minded in their approach to living.  Frequently, conversations and laughter take place over food.  There is something special about gathering around a table that can evoke extraordinary sharing.  This is much more than the sum of its parts.  Breaking bread with people you love and respect can teach you unexpected lessons in life; particularly when there are multiple generations present.

Part of our tribe is a mother and daughter that started out as customers at our farmers market where we have a seasonal stall.  Over time, our conversations became lengthier and more personal.  We invited them out to our farm.  We met their spouses, and then their daughters/granddaughters.  Sometimes we would meet at a local restaurant to enjoy each other.  We all loved food and drink.  Our relationship was cemented when my wife Val had her brain surgery last year, and they were here to help in anyway they could.  They planted garlic, tomatoes, weeded and gave emotional support.  With the help from our extended tribe we managed to get through an extremely difficult time.  It was a real honor to be present to openhearted, loving and freethinking people.  Not only were they generous with their time, but with their hearts.  In a world filled with too much animosity, this is a real gift.

One of things that I love to both eat and serve during gatherings is some kind of hummus.  The possibilities are endless for incorporating it into a meal.  Folks it is not just something to scoop up with a pita chip.  Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food is endlessly creative.  You can serve it on a platter with braised meat or like this recipe does with assorted colorful vegetables on top.  It packs in lots of protein and deliciousness, not to mention how it can easily feed a crowd.  If you want a textured hummus, keep out half the chick-peas and mash them in a bowl with a potato masher.  This recipe is a lighter version, using less olive oil and replacing it with yogurt.  The topping of tomato, cucumber, onion and parsley makes use of all things fresh and flavorful during summer.

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LAYERED HUMMUS SALAD

INGREDIENTS

FOR HUMMUS:

  • 2 (15-ounce) can chick-peas, drained, reserving 1 cup of their liquid
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sesame tahini (well mixed)
  • 1/4 whole fat plain yogurt (or more as needed)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Kosher salt to taste

FOR MIDDLE LAYER:

  • 2 cups whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (from a 15-ounce can) chick-peas, drained

FOR SALAD:

  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes or 8 Campari salad tomatoes, cut into 6th sixths
  • 3 green onions, or 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh curly parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Turn  on a food processor fitted with a steel blade and drop in the garlic.  When the garlic is finely chopped, turn off the machine and add the chick-peas.  Process for about 30 seconds, or until the chick-peas are chopped and mealy; then add the lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, yogurt, cumin, and salt.  Process until the mixture in smooth.  Thin out as desired with additional liquid from chick-peas, adding 2 tablespoons at a time.  The hummus should be smooth but not runny.  From time to time, scrape the sides of the processor bowl.  If the puree seems dry, add a bit more yogurt or olive oil.
  2. Remove the mixture from the food processor and combine with the mashed chick-peas if using.  Taste and adjust salt.
  3. Next prepare you middle layer.  Mix Greek yogurt with tahini and salt.  Set aside.
  4. Lastly, prepare your salad.  Mix parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers and onion; dress with extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar.
  5. To serve spread hummus on platter, top with yogurt leaving 2 inches of hummus exposed.  Sprinkle 1 cup reserved chick-peas around border.  Top with reserved salad.  Use vegetables such as red bell pepper, cucumbers or pita bread to scoop up salad.

Serves 8-10

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What’s for dinner doesn’t matter–it’s the communal environment that you create that makes all the difference.”  –Ronnie Koenig

An Uncommon Flower

Just past the summer solstice, and we have gone from wet and cool to hot and humid.  The vegetables are breathing a sigh of relief as the heat gives us hope of regaining momentum for the farm year.  One of the first signs of optimism is seeing the garlic scapes develop.  Garlic scapes are the flower head or bulbil of the hard-neck garlic bulb.  In early summer each bulb sends up a bright green flower head as one way of reproduction.  If left to grow these bulbils will develop small seeds, after the bloom dies back.  Garlic growers cut off these bulbils or ‘scapes’ for two very good reasons.  One, if left on the plant, the bulb will send all its energy to the bulbil and seed development rather than bulb size; and two, the scapes themselves are a delicious culinary treat.

Scapes are wonderful in stir fries, pasta, potato salad or scrambled eggs.  Anything you can use garlic in, you can use a scape.  In fact I put up several freezer bags full to use  throughout the year.  Simply cut the scape into one inch pieces and fill up your freezer bag or container.  No need to blanch and they don’t stick together when frozen.  This way you can remove whatever quantity needed and seal the bag back up.  Easy peasy.

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One of my favorite ways to preserve their early summer flavor is to make pesto.  The wonderful thing about pesto is you can adjust it to your taste preferences.  Feel free to substitute Italian parsley, cilantro, Swiss chard or spinach for the basil; or pistachios, walnuts and sunflower seeds for the pine nuts.  Pecorino Romano can be substituted for Parmesan.  It also freezes beautifully.  Simply place in 4 ounce canning jars but be sure to drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil on top of each jar; this prevent discoloration.  If making pesto to freeze multiply the recipe for the quantity needed.  Try it as a substitute for tomato sauce on a pizza, spread it on a sandwich or toss it with pasta.  I like to top grilled chicken breasts, fish or a steak with a dollop of this green magic.

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GARLIC SCAPE PESTO

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup garlic scapes, sliced crosswise (about 10-12 scapes)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or other nut of your choice
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan or Pecorino
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves or other green of your choice
  • Juice from one lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place everything except lemon juice and olive oil in bowl of a food processor.  Pulse for 5-6 times or until ingredients turn into a paste.
  2. With motor running, slowly pour olive oil through feed tube.  Stop when necessary  to scrape down sides.
  3. Open lid and add lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Pulse a few times.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Place in 4 ounce canning jars to freeze and/or use in recipe of your choice.

Yields: 1 cup

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“Too lazy to peel fresh?  You don’t deserve to eat garlic!”  — Anthony Bourdain 

 

Stand By Me

“Have a little kindness for your fellow man.”  I learned this directly from my father.  Yesterday was Father’s Day and my father William Howard Sanwald has been on my mind.  He died of early-onset Alzheimer’s in September of 1980 long before much was known about the disease or the treatment to keep it at bay.  He was only 53 years old.

When I was a small child, it was my father who bathed me.  I still remember how he went in between each toe to make sure it was dry.  It was a tenderness I will never forget.

I am grateful for the many mental pictures of our time together. As a child I remember  my parents had an evening cocktail hour.  I carry this tradition forward to this day.  My parents didn’t go out much, but when they did, I remember that it was a big deal.  My mother would get dressed up and my father always the gentleman’s gentleman, would light my mother’s cigarette, cupping his hand around the flame, my mother’s lipstick surrounding the filter of her cigarette as she exhaled.

When I turned sixteen, my parents took me to Chicago to celebrate my birthday.  My June celebration was delayed until it worked in my parents schedule, so it actually happened in January.  My mother didn’t like being outside, but my father and I walked several miles down Michigan Ave. in brutal winds, taking refuge in a small cafe to warm up before we headed back to the hotel.  In companionable silence, we sipped our coffee and hot chocolate.  It did not matter that I was frozen to the core.  What mattered was that I was doing this with my father beside me.

When I remember my father, I remember a man who was generous and kind.  My friends loved him.  He was quiet yet interested.  Serious, yet playful.  He had many sayings that he would share on a regular basis.  Such as, “Kindness is free.  And “Do not judge someone’s history that you have not lived.”  Or “Do not make a federal case out of a county courthouse issue.”

He was a man with depth and compassion.  He felt that education taught people to open their heart and minds to a deeper reality.  He loved classical music and was a grill master.  I begged to go with him on any errand.  He had a FM unit in his Volkswagen beetle and he was surprised that I enjoyed his FM stations.  He called the car wash the ‘the sea monster’ and we loved going through the tunnel together.

My most vivid memory was our last walk together.  Walking was soothing while my father was losing is cognitive abilities.  While we were walking we came across a field of cows.  They were close to the fence.  We stood there for several minutes, when he said, “I can see my soul in the eyes of this cow.”  This was a reflection of how my father saw life.  It was real, spontaneous and true.  He lives in my heart and I hope to honor his memory.  The men in my life that are dear friends, have personality traits similar to my father; somewhat reserved, the ability to laugh easily and are loving and kind to others.

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My father loved all the things that fed him.  Nature, people, food and drink.  This salad satisfies on many levels.  Wild rice, harvested in long-boats by hand, mushrooms growing from the spores of things ended, interesting textures and a vinaigrette that elevates the salad to perfection.

WILD RICE SALAD WITH LEMON VINAIGRETTE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 10 slices bacon, chopped, fried and drained on paper towels.
  • 1 cup celery, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup green onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup avocado oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a heavy medium size pot, combine 1 cup wild rice with 4 cups salted water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes, or until soft and chewy.  Drain in colander and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, fry up bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl combine celery, green onions, pecans, mushrooms and parsley.  Add cooled rice.  Mix gently but thoroughly.
  4. In a pint Mason jar, combine avocado oil and lemon juice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Shake thoroughly.  Pour over salad, combining dressing with other ingredients.
  5. Arrange salad on a platter or bowl.  Sprinkle with fried bacon.  Serve.  (salad will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days)

Serves 4-6

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“When my father didn’t have my hand, he had my back.”   —Linda Pointdexter

 

 

 

 

The Power of Tenacity

It’s looking like our cool wet weather is finally coming to a close.  Although we are 2-3 weeks behind in our planting, we know that when we actually get in the fields, things seem to straighten themselves out.  One of my favorite jobs on the farm is tilling. Our tractor was purchased 11 years ago and christened Towanda, from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes.  It wasn’t long after, that I too was christened T.B., short for Tractor Bitch.  If anything needs to be tilled, scooped or plowed, I’m your gal.  I loved learning the nuance of all the attachments and hydraulics.

If my passion is cooking, my wife Val’s is farming; and she’s darn good at it.  We literally limped through last year’s farm season, while Val was recovering from emergency brain surgery.  Thank God for volunteers that came to our aid!!  The hardest part of her recovery for her was not what you would expect.  It wasn’t learning to walk, read or working to regain her cognitive skills; she was depressed about not getting out in her fields.  Val is happiest when she is dirty.  Yesterday was the one year anniversary of her surgery.  We were advised that her recovery would take 2-3 years, and she is making an amazing comeback.  Those that have spent any time with Val know how incredibly funny she is; and she amazed both nurses and doctors alike with her wit.  I still remember when they wheeled her into NCU, she was in rare form, just hours after surgery.  A first year resident was examining her and asked if he could look into her eyes.  She responded with, “As long as I can keep them closed.”  After several series of  questions from him, she said, “Questions, questions, questions! Is this a slow night?”

Val came home from the hospital in just two days, refusing to consider a rehab facility.  She felt she would do best at home, and she did.  She was up walking around the island in our kitchen several times a day without prodding.  She began reading as soon as she could and did not watch television.  I have never known a more motivated and tenacious person.  She rarely complained, was determined to improve each day and stayed her beautiful stubborn self.  Val works in spurts of energy.  She is good for about 4 hours, then requires a 1-2 hour restorative nap.  Sleep is the only time her body and brain can continue to heal.  I couldn’t be more proud of her.  It’s not often you meet someone with such a can do attitude.  It certainly is a testament to the power of tenacity.

This week we planted 500 tomato plants, with Val beaming the entire time; and mind you it only took 8.5 hours!  This is largely due to Val’s invention, the Potato Rickshaw.  For tomatoes she sits on it backwards with a flat of plants on one side and fertilizer on the other, while I pull her with the tractor, tilling as I go.  We use it to plant garlic, onions, shallots, potatoes and tomatoes.  It’s amazingly efficient and saves our knees in the process.

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Michigan asparagus are coming to an end and I’m always surprised at how fast the season for it goes each year.  We’ve gone through 2-3 pounds a week for a month and can’t get enough.  Today I finally made asparagus soup.  In cooking, it is sometimes surprising how small adjustments really make a difference.  For example, I like to use butter, leeks, green garlic and white vermouth.  Two herbs that are a must are tarragon and dill, along with a little heavy cream.  But oddly enough, it was the chive finish oil that made it something special.  I know, I know, for those of you without homemade chive oil on hand, feel free to use extra-virgin olive oil.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I use Kerrygold)
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts, cut in half vertically and thinly sliced
  • 2 green garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup dry white vermouth
  • 1 pound asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 cups organic or homemade chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chive oil or extra-virgin olive oil (optional)

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium-sized heavy pot or Dutch oven, melt butter on medium heat.  Add green garlic, leeks and tarragon.  Saute until the leeks are soft and translucent.
  2. Add vermouth, and salt and pepper; continue to cook until most of vermouth has almost evaporated.
  3. Add asparagus and chicken stock.  Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until asparagus is very tender.
  4. Blend with a stick blender (or in batches in a regular blender).  Add cream, blend again; adjust seasoning adding more salt and pepper if necessary.
  5. Ladle into shallow bowls, and top with chopped dill and olive oil if using.

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Serves 4

“Being cool is about keeping your blood pressure steady. So no. Don’t be cool. Be passionate. Be dedicated. Be tenacious. Be uncompromising. Be pissed.”  —Justin Timberlake