Tag Archives: entre

Cabbage Rolls Revisited

Once in a while I like to re-post a blog that seems particularly timely.  This originated back in 2011.  We currently have in our possession a large head of cabbage that was begging to be used in something tasty.  This is it.

I love cabbage rolls.  My mother-in-law Elsa made them for me the first time in the early 80’s.  she mixed beef and pork together with onions and rice, placed them in cabbage leaves and tied them with thread.  She called this peasant-food.  Her son John and I called it heaven.  The first time I tried making cabbage rolls I was surprise just how bad I was at getting the leaves separated from the head in one piece.  I kept saying, “It can’t be that hard!”  I decided to get out of the box and approach it differently.  Why not turn it into a casserole I thought?  It would be less time-consuming and we could enjoy it more often.  While I was getting out of the box, I decided to use ground lamb, different spices and feta for a different take on it completely.

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Assembling the ingredients

Doing the cabbage ‘rolls’ as a casserole allowed me to follow my own whimsy.  I could shake it up a bit with non-traditional spices and be able to enjoy more cabbage in the process.

Lots more cabbage!

Lots more cabbage!

Cabbage and Lamb Casserole:

  • 1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 lbs), core removed, halved and sliced into 1/2 inch sections
  • 1 lb grass-fed ground lamb
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large farm-fresh egg
  • 8 oz (1 cup) crumbled local feta
  • 1/2 cup short-grain rice, such as Arborio
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped (11/2 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (I use our own canned tomatoes)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (I also used homemade)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 13×9 inch casserole dish with ghee.
  2. Cut cabbage in half, core, then slice in 1/2 inch wedges.  Place the wedges in casserole dish so they overlap each other in two rows.
  3. In a large bowl, use your hand to combine the lamb, onion, egg, rice, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, feta, cumin, fennel, salt and pepper.  Place mixture on top of cabbage, leaving a 1 inch space round the sides of the casserole so that the cabbage shows through.
  4. Combine the tomatoes and chicken broth in a medium bowl, then pour the mixture over the meat.  Cover with foil (shiny side down).
  5. Bake covered for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes.

Serves 6

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

New Traditions!

New Traditions!

“A smiling face is half the meal.”  —Latvian quote

Morocca-Tori

I’m always looking for inspiration in the kitchen.  When it comes to regional cuisine, a classic dish can often inspire me to bend the rules.  For example, I love Italian Chicken Cacciatore, with its tomatoes, garlic, onions and capers.  The challenge for me was, its traditional breading always sat a little heavy.  Why not lighten it up, leave the breading off, use Moroccan spices, chickpeas and feta?  The result?  Something similar, yet completely different in tone.  Vegetarian?  Leave out the chicken completely and replace it with roasted butternut squash or zucchini.  The real focus is what the regional seasoning does in relation to everything else.  The Moroccan or North African seasoning called  Ras El Hanout (which means: “top of the shop”) can contain anywhere from 10-100 different spices. I’ve included my version of this savory spice combination.  I highly recommend making it yourself, as you can easily control the heat. I’m hooked on it and keep finding different ways to use it.  You can also find it manufactured by several companies like McCormick or the Teeny Tiny Spice Company. Served over rice, couscous or quinoa, with a simple side salad of mixed greens tossed with vinaigrette and you have a dinner that’s comes together quickly and is sure to please.

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Moroccan Chicken Thighs:

  • 6 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced vertically into thin strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Ras El Hanout*
  • 1 28 oz. can Muir Glen Organic Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 cup organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 cups of cooked rice, couscous or quinoa

*Kim’s Ras El Hanout:

  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add a bit more if you want more heat)
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all the spices together and store in airtight container.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Melt butter and olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Saute garlic and onion until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add Ras El Hanout and simmer an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.  Take off heat.  Spoon about a 1/2 cup of the sauce into a 8 x 8 casserole dish.  Place chicken thighs on top of sauce.
  4. Sprinkle chickpeas around chicken.  Spoon the rest of the sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle feta over sauce.
  5. Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes, or until bubbly and chicken thighs are done.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with minced parsley.
  7. Serve over rice, couscous or quinoa.

Serves: 3-4

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“The forest not only hides your enemies, but its full of your medicine, healing power and food.”  —African Proverb

Beyond Lettuce

I’m a huge fan of salads.  I could eat one everyday, particularly since we grow so many ingredients for them during the farm season.  When I was on a restricted diet following my recent surgery (the first 10 days were liquids) what I missed the most was a variety of texture.  God, just give me some crunch, something to chew!

Often times, when purchases from the farmer’s market are limited and the choice of lettuces from the grocery store are packed in plastic containers, picked over a week ago, you simply have to get out of the box.  If you want texture you have to get beyond the Honeymoon Salad (lettuce a lone!) and look for more seasonal fare.

There are many veggies that work beautifully in the winter for salads.  Try combining both fruit and vegetables like pear and butternut squash or kale, chickpeas and pomegranate seeds.  Nuts such as almonds, pine nuts or pepitas, hard-boiled eggs and hard or soft cheeses also work.  Try all kinds of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or one of my favorites: Brussels sprouts.

Any type of cabbage pairs well with the smokey taste of bacon or pancetta. This gives you the option of making a warm dressing with some of the fat by adding something acidic like lemon juice or vinegar.  Get creative! Seasonal winter salads can be warm or cold.  They can be the center or side of a meal. You are only limited by your own imagination!

Brussels Sprout Salad With Warm Bacon Vinaigrette:

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  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 generous tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved and sliced thin using a mandolin or knife
  • 3 ounces shredded Pecorino cheese
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  1. Whisk together vinegar, mustard, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in small Pyrex measuring cup.  Add shallot, cover and heat in microwave for 30-60 seconds or until steaming.  Stir, then cover and let come to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
  2. Cook bacon in deep 12-inch skillet over medium-heat until crisp, stirring frequently.  Drain bacon on paper towels.  Add shallot mixture off-heat, stir until combined.  Add shredded Brussels sprouts and toss with tongs until dressing is evenly distributed and sprouts are slightly wilted, about 3 minutes.
  3. Transfer to serving bowl.  Add Pecorino, dried cranberries and almonds and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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Serves 4-6

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“What a wild winter sound,— wild and weird, up among the ghostly hills…. I get up in the middle of the night to hear it. It is refreshing to the ear, and one delights to know that such wild creatures are among us. At this season Nature makes the most of every throb of life that can withstand her severity. ”  –John Burroughs, “The Snow-Walkers,” 1866

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.”

Spicy Chicken Little

Spring in Michigan is often a practice in patience.  Just when you think she’s here for good, you wake up to a hard frost or an inch of snow.  Our tomato starts in the greenhouse struggled against stiff north winds and low temperatures.  Yet hope for spring returns when you step inside that greenhouse and are greeted by a bright green hum.  You plant seeds with the hope that each one produces the miracle called a plant.  It’s an exercise in faith.  I could never live in an area of the country where the seasons never change.  Seasons remind me to pay attention to the earth’s rhythms. As farmers, we are hyper-sensitive the many signs that nature provides; our livelihood depends on it.

Today, after helping our neighbor Lynne start rehabbing her pontoon, I wanted something simple and fast for dinner.  I love recipes that use ethnic flavors with common ingredients. Inspired by a recipe from the NY Times, I made some slight alterations and came up with a dish that balances warm spices with cool yogurt.  The arugula sprouts and baby potatoes, reminded me of the newness of spring.  You can adjust it to feed a few or a crowd.

Roasted Chicken With Baby Potatoes and Spicy  Yogurt:

  • 2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1-2 lbs. baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2  tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. sriracha or thick hot sauce of your choice
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest, plus 6 lemon wedges
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1-2 cups arugula sprouts
Spring fresh, arugula sprouts

Spring fresh, arugula sprouts

  1. Combine chicken and potatoes in a large bowl.  Season with 1 tsp. of the salt and all of the pepper.  In a small bowl, whisk together the sriracha, cumin and 3 Tbsp. of olive oil.  Pour over chicken and potatoes and toss to combine.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
  2. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Arrange chicken thighs and potatoes on sheet pan in a single layer.  Roast for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until everything is golden and slightly crisped.
  3. While the chicken cooks, whisk together the yogurt, chives, garlic and lemon zest.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To serve, spoon yogurt sauce over chicken and potatoes.  Scatter arugula sprouts over mixture.  Drizzle remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil and squeeze a few lemon wedges over the whole thing.  Pass extra yogurt sauce.

Serves: 4

Contrasts in flavor

Contrasts in flavor

“Each experience leaves an imprint, its transformation into something useful is a choice.”

Low and Slow

It’s official, all the ice is off our lake.  The yellow finches are turning color; the sand-hill cranes and Canadian geese have returned to nest along the reeds.  Spring is raising her head in triumph!  Although it might seem early, we have already planted 4000 hard neck garlic, and 6000 onions (only 20,000 to go)! Granted, there are many different varieties in that total, but call us crazy!

Once our growing season starts, our slow-cooker is a godsend.  You can take a shoulder roast, or some other muscular cut and turn it into something so tender, you can cut it with a fork.  We come in with aching muscles and are greeted with the smell of something luscious.  Hot shower, before dinner cocktail and dinner is ready…

Slow-Cooked Brisket and Onions:

Caramelizing onions in Val's grandma's cast iron skillet

Caramelizing onions in Val’s grandma’s cast iron skillet

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large yellow or red onions, sliced into half moons
  • 3-4 lb grass-fed beef brisket
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups homemade beef stock (you can use organic in a carton also)
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tamari
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  1. Heat a saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat with the olive oil.  Add the onions and cook on medium-low, stirring frequently, for about 20-30 minutes or until the onions are starting to turn golden and caramelize.
  2. While the onions are cooking, pat the brisket dry with paper-towels and season generously with salt and pepper.  When the onions are done, place them in a bowl and set aside.  Turn the heat up to medium-high (along with your vent or fan).  Sear the each side of the brisket until a golden crust has formed, about 7-10 minutes.  Remove from skillet and place in the slow-cooker.
  3. Sprinkle the garlic over the meat.  Mix together the stock, Worcestershire sauce and tamari and pour into the slow-cooker insert.  Top with the reserved onions, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Beautiful golden crust

Beautiful golden crust

Garlic and brisket, ready for onions

Garlic and brisket, ready for onions

4.  When the brisket is very tender, turn your slow-cooker to the warm setting for 30 minutes.  If you do not have a warm  setting, remove the brisket from the cooker, place in a baking dish and cover with foil for the same amount of time.

5.  After you have let the brisket rest for 30 minutes, it should be tender enough to take a piece of it, and place in on a platter.  Take two forks and pull or shred the brisket, pulling in opposite directions.  Continue with the rest of the brisket until it is all shredded.  Top with onions and several ladles of au jus from the insert. Garnish with fresh parsley.  Serve of mashed potatoes or rice, with extra au jus on the side.

Succulent, tender, perfection!

Succulent, tender, perfection!

Serves 6-8

Note:  Don’t have a slow cooker?  Cook in a Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid on 325 degrees F for 3-4 hours or until very tender.

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt,”  —Margaret Atwood

Slow Dance Perfection

The snow is melting.  The deck was warm enough for morning coffee.  Bleu chased his Frisbee with abandon.  The slow dance of spring has started.  I’m a turtle personality by nature.  I’ve always preferred slow to fast (except in cars!) and like the length and depth of things in general.  This applies to the transition of the seasons, as well as the time it takes to produce a meat that is tender and succulent.  Although I prefer slow-roasting in the oven during winter; you cannot beat the convenience of a slow-cooker. We even use it during the summer since it doesn’t heat up the kitchen.

There is something about pork shoulder that makes me salivate.  First of all, it’s versatile; change up the spices and you can pair it up with several cuisines.  My favorites are Cuban and Mexican.  The cut is affordable and you can locate quality milk-fed pork locally.  Karin Uebbing from Woodbridge Dairy Farm has pork shoulders that are a perfect size, running approximately 3 pounds each.  This assures me that the pigs aren’t ancient, and overly fatty. They fit perfectly into a average size slow-cooker and turn into something luscious after 8-10 hours on low.  Bring on the Margaritas!

Brickyard Farms Pork Carnitas With Avocado Lime Dressing:

Healthy milk-fed local pork

Healthy milk-fed local pork

  • 3-4 lbs milk-fed pork shoulder
  • 2 Tbsp bacon grease
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp green Tabasco sauce
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  1. Smear the bacon grease on the bottom of the slow-cooker.  Pour orange juice over pork. Combine sea salt, cumin, ancho chile powder and oregano and sprinkle on top of pork shoulder.  Sprinkle onion, garlic and green Tabasco over the pork.
  2. Turn on the slow cooker on:  Low for 8-10 hours or High for 4-6 hours.  Once the pork is fork-tender, use two forks to shred the meat into the juices.  Pull out pork with a slotted spoon and place on platter.  Top with chopped fresh cilantro.
  3. Serve over rice, turn into a salad with chopped avocado, tomatoes and black olives; or make it Paleo friendly and place it on romaine leaves with the toppings of your choice.
Beautiful, tender carnitas

Beautiful, tender carnitas

Avocado Lime Dressing:

  • 2 ripe fresh avocado, put removed
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup soy-free or homemade mayo
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp green Tabasco

Blend in a blender on low until thoroughly blended.

Flavorful carnita salad with avocado lime dressing

Flavorful carnita salad with avocado lime dressing

Carnita shell-less tacos

Carnita shell-less tacos

Perfect Margarita:

  • 1 1/2 oz blanco tequila of your choice
  • 3/4 oz Cointreu or triple sec
  • 3/4 oz fresh lime juice

Rim chilled cocktail glass with lime and salt.  Shake remaining ingredients with ice and strain into glass.

“Life without Mexican food is like no life at all!”  —unknown