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.

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.






  • 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)


  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.






  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  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


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.


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.




  • 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




  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



“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.


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.



  • 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



  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


“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.



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


  • 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)




  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.



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



Eating With Our Eyes

Although it is technically June here in Michigan, it feels more like April.  It’s been unusually cool and wet and most crops are more than two weeks behind.  We are watching the garlic closely for signs of stress.  So far, so good but the deer, bunnies and woodchucks have had their way with all three varieties of beans we have planted.  I tilled once again and we have replanted, hoping for better results.  All things flowering have literally exploded in color which is a feast for the eyes.  The dogwood, lilacs, honeysuckle and any wild flower imaginable are in full flower, and my Korean lilac outside our kitchen door would bowl you over with its fragrance.  It challenges one’s perspective; is the glass half empty or half full?

I read last week that normally 73% of Michigan crops would be planted by this time; and the records have shown that this year farmers have only planted 33%.  This is stressful both financially and emotionally.  The mood at our farmers market is not as upbeat as it normally is at the beginning of the season.  The jury is out; we will have to stay patient and see what unfolds.  Farming is an act of faith, and we are being tested; we do not control the weather.  Tomorrow we will be planting potatoes if the weather prediction holds true.

Meanwhile, during our quieter moments, we revel in the beauty that surrounds us and feel gratitude for each day.  When creating meals we often combine both color and texture as much as possible.  The visual appeal of food is hard-wired into our brain.  The sight, aroma, taste and even the sound of food all factor in one’s decision in choosing what we eat.  The expression “you eat with your eyes” is certainly true since when a dish is visually appealing, it’s more appetizing.  Healthy food is not only beautiful, but for me its creation is an act of love.

For example what seems more appealing to you; an Egg McMuffin or a Red Pepper, Onion and Duck Egg Gallette?  I certainly know which one I would choose!



  • 2 large sweet bell peppers, (I use one red and one yellow), cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 2 small red onions, halved and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves removed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 farm fresh egg, beaten, for brushing the pastry
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 4 farm fresh duck eggs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste




  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Mix together the pepper, onions, thyme leaves and spices in a medium bowl.  Add the olive oil and toss well so that everything is coated with the oil and spices.
  3. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring and rearranging the vegetables a few times so that they don’t burn.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with half of the fresh herbs; set aside.
  4. Turn the oven up to 425 degrees F.  Roll out the pastry sheet on a floured surface until it reaches a 12 x 12 inch square.  Cut into four 6 inch squares.  Transfer to two parchment or silpat lined baking sheets.
  5. With a butter knife, score a 1/2 inch frame around each square (don’t cut all the way through).  Prick the inside of the square all over with the tines of a fork.  Put back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the pastry from the fridge and brush all over with a beaten egg.  Spread the inside of each square with 3 teaspoons of sour cream.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes, until rising and starting to brown.  Remove and carefully crack an egg into the center of each galette.
  8. Put back into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the egg is set.
  9. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and remaining herbs.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and serve immediately.

Serves 4



             “In the spring I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.”                       —Mark Twain


Frittering Our Time Away

Time.  It’s slippery isn’t it?  It never seems as though we have enough, while our lists keep getting longer.  Time has been on my mind in a big way these days; particularly when thinking about the family and friends no longer with us.  We are coming up on the one year anniversary of the passing of our dear friend and neighbor Lynner.  Not a day goes by that we don’t miss her.  We have dozens, upon dozens of photos with her, usually eating, drinking and generally being merry.  She had one of the biggest hearts I have ever known, not to mention being an excellent sous chef and Small Engine Goddess.


When you loose someone unexpectedly, I feel that there is a responsibility for the living to celebrate and remember that person.  I ask myself what would Lynner expect from us?  How would she want us to live?  Perhaps the answer is in the question itself; to stay strong and continue living.  Lynner will always be a part of our lives.  I feel her when I appreciate all things in nature.  I feel her when her dog Willow licks my face, when we sit down with our evening cocktail, or when we prepare a meal.  Our cherished memories are salve for our hearts, as we understand that we are only promised today.  We must learn to be grateful and use each day wisely.

Lynner was often at our house, or we her’s for dinner and drinks.  She loved all things vegetable, as do we.  These zucchini fritters would be right down her alley.  I can hear the laughter in the kitchen now….




  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 2 large), grated
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan or pecorino, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 large farm fresh egg, light beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sour cream and chopped chives for garnish




  1. Place grated zucchini in a colander over the sink.  Add salt and gently toss with your hands to combine; let sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the salt to extract the water in the zucchini.  Using a clean kitchen towel, drain zucchini by gently squeezing the liquid out completely.
  2. In a large bowl, combine zucchini, flour, cheese, garlic and egg; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Using a 1/4 measuring cup, scoop up a scant amount for each fritter; and then flatten with a spatula.  Cook until the underside is golden-brown, about 2-3 minutes.  Flip and cook on the other side, about 1-2 minutes longer.  Work in batches, placing the cooked fritters on a plate lined with paper towel.
  4. Serve immediately with sour cream and chives.



“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.”  —Eleanor Roosevelt.

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