Never Too Much!!

We’ve all heard by now the growing importance and benefits of fermentation.  During the growing season when cucumbers, zucchini and other vegetables are so abundant you might be tempted to drop them anonymously on your neighbors doorsteps; it’s a great time to think about the winter larder.  I enjoy putting up food.  There’s nothing better than opening a jar of summer in the middle of winter.  It helps me to appreciate the life we’ve chosen and the obvious health benefits.

I enjoy both the color and flavor of pickled squash.  This recipe is flexible enough to use any squash that seems to be coming out of your ears.  Summer squash, zucchini (any variety) or my favorite, patty-pan.  I select small or medium sized squash as you don’t want the seed cavity to become to large, otherwise your pickles become mushy.  I also don’t use the amount of sugar typically recommended in many recipes; I find the brine way too sweet for my taste.  I typically triple this recipe if I’m hauling out all the canning stuff anyway. These little gems have become family favorites.

Fresh and abundant

Fresh and abundant

Patty-Pan Squash Pickles:

  • 4-6 patty-pan squash, washed, halved vertically and sliced 1/4 inch thick (approximately 12 cups)
  • 2 medium sweet onions, halved vertically and sliced in 1/4 inch thick half moons
  • 2 red, orange, yellow or combination, seeded and sliced in 1/4 inch pieces equally 4 cups
  • 1/3 cup pickling salt
  • Ice cubes
  • 2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1 cup can sugar
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
Ready for the pint jars

Ready for the pint jars

 

Toss squash, onion and bell pepper strips with pickling salt in very large bowl.  Cover vegetables with ice cubes.  Cover and let stand for 3 hours.Sterilize pint jars, and prepare lids.  While jars are boiling, drain vegetables, but do not rinse, discarding brine and any unmelted ice.  Combine vinegar, sugar and spices in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Pack squash into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Cover with hot brine leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Seal and process jars for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from water and let stand for 24 hours.  Make sure each jars seals by pushing in the middle of each lid.  They should not pop.  Refrigerate after openings.  Makes 4, 1 pint jars.

Healthy & delicious patty-pan pickles.

Healthy & delicious patty-pan pickles.

 

“There may be many metaphors for living…. but we have to do the living.”

 

Abundance 101

Often times, during the growing season fatigue sets in at the end of the day and preparing a meal takes a back seat.  For the past two farm seasons, I’ve been in the process of healing from a major intestinal bleed-out and have not be able to actively weed or harvest vegetables along side Val and our farm hand Zac.  After two days at market, it literally takes the next four or five to rest and recover.  Val my ever-ready bunny continues to be the mover and shaker at Brickyard Farms.  She deals with the additional workload without complaint, always upbeat and positive.  My “job” is to keep up with the bookkeeping, marketing and prepare a decent meal.

I’m embarrassed to admit in the past I have typically approached meal planning with what do I feel like cooking?  Rather than, what do we have and how can I use it creatively?  It has taken time to really grow into a sense of place on our farm.  That left over feeling of entitlement from my previous life sometimes blocks recognizing the incredible abundance we have here.  With 5.5 acres of chemical-free vegetables and easy access to local cheese and meat; why would I choose to cook anything else?  So my current mission is to create meals using only the vegetables  that we grow before anything else is considered.  I allow myself a wide array of condiments and spices, but the foundation comes from the farm.

This week there are carrots, potatoes and tomatoes for starters, so I opted for a roasted concoction inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi.  It was the first time I had added a dressing to warm veggies.  The result made me weep with the realization that there is no lack of anything, only an overflowing abundance.

Warm out of the oven ready to be tossed with the dressing.

Warm out of the oven ready to be tossed with the dressing.

Roasted Vegetables With Caper Vinaigrette:

  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut in 3 inches lengths (for larger carrots, halve lengthwise and quarter)
  • 4 medium red onions, cleaned, peeled and quartered vertically
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium red skinned potatoes, skin on and chunked or quartered depending on size
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, halved

For the dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp capers, drained
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.  Place the onions and carrots in a large bowl and add the olive oil, thyme, rosemary, garlic, 1 tsp salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.  Toss well and spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Roast for 20 minutes.

While the onions and carrots are roasting, prepare the potatoes.  Add the potatoes to the pan and toss to coat.  Return to the oven and roast for an additional 40-50 minutes.  When the vegetables are cooked through and have taken on a golden color, stir in the halved tomatoes.  Roast for an additional 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, capers, maple syrup, mustard and 2 Tbsp of olive oil.  Adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour the dressing over the vegetables as soon as you take them out of the oven.  Remove head of garlic. Place roasted vegetables in decorative bowl and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Place garlic head on top.  When serving break up head and squeeze garlic paste on each serving.  Pass the Kleenex.

Unexpected lusciousness!

Unexpected lusciousness!

Don't plan on leftovers.

Don’t plan on leftovers.

“The key to abundance is meeting limited circumstances with unlimited thoughts.”

                                                                          —Marianne Williamson

 

Romancing The Garlic

Hard-neck garlic drying

Hard-neck garlic drying

July is garlic time here at our farm,. We’re busy harvesting, cleaning, hanging and selling heady, beautiful hard-neck garlic. It’s an intense time for a small farm such as ours.  Each step of the process is by hand so although time consuming, it’s definitely a labor of love.  There’s nothing quite like fresh garlic and many of our customers buy large quantities. When stored properly garlic can last well into the following year, while adding that welcome punch to so many recipes.  One way to preserve garlic is to make a “confit”.  The French verb confit means “to preserve.” The term confit in our country has come to mean to poach something in fat at a low temperature for a long time.

Peeled garlic ready to poach

Peeled garlic ready to poach

During the growing season I am always looking for ways to preserve and extend each crop.  Many times while harvesting garlic we have ‘dingers’; heads that we accidentally sink a shovel into or rip the roots off by pulling a little too hard.  We collect these and rather than resign them to the compost pile, we turn them into a delicious garlic confit. These make wonderful hostess or Christmas gifts and can be used in a variety of ways. Try them as a dipping oil for crusty artisan bread, add them to bean soups, to pasta, mashed potatoes or even roasted red peppers for a great bruchetta.  The possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination.  Who wouldn’t love a jar of this liquid gold?

Garlic Confit:

  • 4 cups whole garlic cloves, separated and peeled
  • Small handful of fresh woody herbs (approximately 8-10) such as thyme or rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf, 8 peppercorns, or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (try different combinations, as these are entirely optional)
  • 3 cups extra virgin olive oil

Place garlic, herbs, oil and any additional ingredients you have chosen in a medium heavy saucepan.  Cover a cook over very low heat for about 30 minutes.  Don’t allow the oil to rise above 200 degrees F.  You may see small bubbles rise to the top.  To check for doneness, take a paring knife and test a clove.  It should be very soft; if not, poach for an additional 10 more minutes.

Remove pan from heat, keep covered and allow to cool to room temperature.  Using a clean spoon, divide garlic, herbs and oil among resealable jars. (I use 1/2 pint jelly jars)  Can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

Garlic ready to slowly poach

Garlic ready to slowly poach

Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold

“The combination of olive oil, garlic and lemon juice can lift the spirits in winter.”

—Yotam Ottolenghi

Bad To The Bone(less)

Yesterday was hot and humid at market; today our windows are closed after 2.5 inches of rain, with a high of 58 degrees.  Welcome to Michigan!  We have been very busy this week on the farm with planting lettuce, spinach, squash and potatoes.  Today is indeed a day of rest.  I think I have been overdosing on asparagus, so when planning dinner I decided on something fairly easy, yet piquant.  The result:  Chicken Piccata.

Because cutlets are lean and cook in just a few minutes, they produce very little drippings to use in a sauce.  A light coating of flour will act as an emulsifier and thickener, while a simple addition of fresh lemon slices, dry vermouth and capers create the classic piccata flavors.  Because I am gluten-free, I used a 1 to 1 All-Purpose flour from Bob’s Red Mill. Quick, easy, delicious.  Add a simple salad with a homemade vinaigrette and you have a meal that’s healthy and flavorful.

Chicken Piccata:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half and pounded into cutlets about 1/4 of an inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. drained capers
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 6 fresh lemon slices
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

Season both sides of cutlets with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour.  Heat a skillet over medium-high, add olive oil until very warm.  Saute cutlets until golden on one side, about 3-4 minutes.  Turn over cutlets and saute the other side, covered for 1-2 minutes.  Transfer to platter.

Deglaze pan with vermouth and add minced garlic.  Cook until liquid is nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add broth, lemon juice and capers to pan.  Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side for about 1 minute. Transfer cutlets to warm plates.  Finish sauce with butter and lemon slices.  Once butter melts, pour sauce over cutlets.  Garnish with fresh parsley.

Melting butter with lemon slices

Melting butter with lemon slices

Bad to the Bone(less)!

Bad to the Bone(less)!

“It’s funny that day by day nothing changes.  Yet when you look back everything is different.”

Many Shades of Green

After working in the heat and humidity today, we decided it was high time to remove the storm windows in our screened-in porch.  It’s really our “family room” during the summer.  Our dining room table is temporarily retired and we open the french doors.  It is here that we have our morning coffee, our evening cocktail, eat our meals and play endless games of domino’s. Overlooking the lake, surrounded by trees and our flower gardens, it is our sanctuary at the end of a hectic farm day.

After a shower and Bloody Mary, I wanted to make something in contrast to the heavy humidity of the past several days.  Remembering I had purchased beautiful English cucumbers from Real Food at the farmer’s market on Saturday; it was time to turn them into a refreshing chilled soup.  This is super easy and just right for those night’s when your tired but want something quick and healthy.  The olive oil gives this soup a creamy texture.

Tangy Cucumber Soup:

  • 3 Persian or English cucumbers, ends trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh dill or cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (omit if you choose to drink this as a smoothie)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients except the olive oil in a blender.  Puree until smooth.  With the blender still running, gradually add the olive oil until incorporated.  Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least an hour.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with additional dill or cilantro.

Serves 4

Chilled soup or smoothie, you be the judge

Chilled soup or smoothie, you be the judge

 

“Live within your harvest.”  —Persian Proverb

Cream Of The Crop

Spring seems to be dragging its feet around here.  One day it’s warm, the next day it’s cool, while the night’s plunge into the low 40’s and occasionally the 30’s.  It looks like our tomato planting is put off another week. Those 2600 little darlings will just have to wait it out in the hoop house until the night temperatures warm up.

The good news is that the rain and warm daytime temperatures are wonderful for glorious spring asparagus!  Do I see a pattern here?  Wasn’t I just making a pronouncement last week that it’s one of the few vegetables I will only use fresh?  Well, that was last week.  We bought 10 pounds to put up, taking full advantage of fresh Michigan asparagus while it’s plentiful now; and boy is it ever!  Nearly every stall at the farmer’s market is overflowing with the stuff.  I know that we will be reminded of our favorite veggie in this wonderful cream soup long after the season is over.

There are many approaches to asparagus soup, but typically the essentials involve asparagus, onions or leeks and chicken stock.  With spring leeks available, that choice was a no-brainer.  However the addition of garlic, fresh spring tarragon and vermouth kick it up a notch.  And of course there’s the cream.  Honestly, it’s decadence is worth the calories!

Cream of Asparagus Soup:

  • 2 lbs. fresh asparagus
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 small leeks, using white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Snap off the tough stem ends from the asparagus spears.  Cut the tips off a dozen or so and set aside for garnish. Chop the remaining asparagus into 1 inch pieces.

In a small saucepan, blanch the asparagus tips for 2 minutes, then plunge into ice water.  Let drain on paper towels.  Reserve for later.

In a heavy soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the leeks and garlic and saute until tender and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

Fragrant leeks and garlic

Fragrant leeks and garlic

Getting better all the time

Getting better all the time

Add the asparagus and 4 cups of chicken stock.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add the chopped tarragon.  Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth, about 2 minutes. Alternately, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender, then return to the pot.  Add lemon juice and heavy cream.  Reheat the soup to serving temperature.  Ladle in shallow bowls and garnish with reserved asparagus tips.

Tip:  This soup is also great cold, so pack it for your next lunch if you’re luck enough to have leftovers.

Serves: 4

Spring never tasted so decadent.

Spring never tasted so decadent.

“Worries go down better with soup.”

Crazy Love

Certain foods simply go together; peas and mint, tomatoes and basil, apples and pork, mac and cheese, fries and ketchup.  Ooops, I digress.  For me the first spring asparagus inspire endless combinations for salads, soups, omelettes and tarts.  Asparagus have always been my favorite veggie; one of the few that I will only use fresh.  In asparagus, texture is everything!  I have found the combination of asparagus, leeks and pancetta to be down right decadent; I mean who needs chocolate?  Ok…maybe for dessert!

I was taught at a young age, that you “eat with your eyes”, meaning all the visual elements in a recipe matter.  The tender-crisp asparagus, smokey pancetta, the buttery leeks;  the dish is greater than the sum of its parts.  The citrus adds a counter-balance to the richness.  Bingo…seasonal, local and delicious.

Perfect asparagus from our neighbors at Fulton Street Farmer's Market

Perfect asparagus from our neighbors at Fulton Street Farmer’s Market

Crazy Love Asparagus:

  • 4 oz pancetta, cut in 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces on the bias
  • 1 1/4 cup leeks, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 3 Tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. In a large non-stick skillet, saute pancetta, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until crisp and lightly golden.  Drain on paper towels.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to pan.  Add asparagus and leeks to pan and saute until asparagus is crisp tender, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add in the drained pancetta, garlic, lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley and saute for about 1 minute, until fragrant.  Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and salt.  Serve immediately.  Swoon.
I just can't stop making this!

I just can’t stop making this!

“It is spring again.  The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”

—-Rainer Maria Rilke

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