Tag Archives: herbs

Not On My Radar

Today I am grateful. Grateful for living in the country on our vegetable farm. It provides a much needed counterbalance to the daily stress and anxiety of watching our world unravel by the seams. So many things are out of our control; so I focus on the things I can do to live a meaningful life. These include keeping in touch with those I love, planning for an uncertain future, reading, playing games with Val, and above all cooking with as much creativity that I can muster.

If I am an obsessive cook, Val is an obsessive farmer. She loves growing vegetables that are unfamiliar to us. These include some vegetables that don’t necessarily excite me, like turnips. Turnips have never been on my radar. When there are so many vegetables that I love, why grow turnips? When I expressed this to Val she simply said, “Then learn to like them.” She was obviously not detoured. So grow them she did, while I did my part and explored recipes for ideas on how to use them.

I found myself gravitating to recipes that featured them roasted. I figured most vegetables that are roasted are usually sweeter. Really, I didn’t know what to expect, so I tried a simple side dish that roasted them, then tossed them with a vinaigrette while warm; I imagined similar to a French potato salad. It was certainly worth a try. I made a vinaigrette using scallions, tarragon vinegar, whole-grain mustard, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh parsley. I reasoned if I liked everything else in the recipe, I would have a good chance of enjoying them. I butterflied a whole chicken for the grill and we were in business.

I roasted and tossed the turnips with the vinaigrette and the sharpness of the mustard with the vinegar and olive oil smelled wonderful. I went out to finish up the chicken, when Val appeared shortly after with a piece of turnip between her fingers. “It’s time.” she said and popped it in my mouth. Frankly, I was stunned! This was a turnip? This was what I had been avoiding? It was absolutely delicious! Wow. Val stood there with a smirk on her face. “I assume we should grow these again?”

It’s safe to say, I am now a convert. I was so impressed with them I decided that I could use a similar strategy to roast them with chicken. This time I pan-seared chicken thighs, then pan-roasted turnips with fresh tarragon, course mustard, garlic, lemon zest, white wine and chicken stock. I then finished the whole thing covered in the oven for 25 minutes. I have found that turnips love roasting, tarragon and mustard for sure.

ROASTED TURNIPS IN MUSTARD-VINAIGRETTE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon tarragon or white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 24 small or 10 larger turnips, cut in half or wedges depending on size

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a bowl, whisk the vinegar with the mustard, scallion, parsley and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cut the turnips in half through the stems if small, quarter or cut in sixths if larger. In a large bowl toss the turnips with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the turnips on the baking sheet and roast for about 18 minutes.
  3. After 5 minutes or so, transfer to a decorative bowl and toss with vinaigrette. Serve.

Serves 4-6

ROASTED CHICKEN WITH TURNIPS, TARRAGON AND LEMON

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3-4 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 medium to large turnips
  • 6-8 sprigs of fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a heavy oven-proof Dutch oven on a stove top over high heat. Pat the chicken thighs with paper towels, then rub with the olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Add to pot and sear 6-8 minutes per side, or until well browned. Remove from pot and set aside.
  2. Turn heat down to medium. Pan roast the turnips, adding a bit more olive oil if needed, until lightly golden. Add the tarragon, mustard, garlic, vinegar, wine and stock. Bring to a simmer. Return chicken thighs to pot.
  3. Transfer to oven and roast for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. Remove from oven and take out chicken thighs; cover them with tented foil.
  4. Place pot back on stove over medium-high heat. Reduce liquid by a little less than half. Stir in heavy cream. Cook an additional 5 minutes or until sauce starts to thicken.
  5. With a slotted spoon, remove turnips and place on each plate. Top with a chicken thigh; then spoon sauce over both. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Serves 4

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“This is about trying new things, and getting out of your rut.” — Teri Gault

Mediterranean Dreaming

After 3 inches of rain last night, it is a steamy, warm day here in Michigan.  Although the farm really needed the rain, humidity generally puts me into salad mode; and there is no better time for salads than summer. I enjoy leafy salads, I like to get outside the box and create salads that use other ingredients.  Anything Mediterranean comes to mind, so a layered salad of hummus, ground lamb, and veggies hits just the right cord.

This layered salad makes a particularly nice presentation at a gathering on a large platter. You can also make individual plates if you rather. The hummus can be made a few days ahead to save time on the day of assembly. Macerating the cherry tomatoes in red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil adds even more flavor. You can also top it with crumbled feta cheese. Garnish it with parsley, cilantro or mint. It makes a good appetizer for a crowd along with other Mediterranean sides or can be used as a main coarse. I find that I typically have leftovers after I construct the salad, which are just as good the following day. Serve with pita or naan.

MEDITERRANEAN LAYERED SALAD

FOR HUMMUS (from my first cookbook Basics with a Twist:In

  • 2 15 ounce cans of chickpeas, drained but reserving their liquid; save 1/4 cup chickpeas for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

METHOD:

  1. Place drained chickpeas in a four cup glass measuring cup and heat in your microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Heating your chickpeas allows them to break down in the food processor much easier.
  2. Feed your garlic through the tube of your food processor.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except liquid from chickpeas. This liquid will be used to thin the hummus if needed.
  4. Process for at least 3 minutes. Your hummus should be very smooth and creamy. If you feel you need to thin it slightly, add chickpea liquid 1 tablespoon at a time.
  5. Taste for salt and/or additional lemon juice. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

FOR LAMB:

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout

METHOD:

  1. Brown the ground lamb in a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add garlic, onion, pine nuts and Ras el Hanout. Saute until onion is soft and translucent. Depending on the age of the lamb, you may need to take a few paper towels held with tongs and absorb any unwanted fat. This can sit until you are ready to assemble your salad.

FOR VEGETABLES AND GARNISH:

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups sliced cucumbers, quartered
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt, such as Maldon
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs, such as parsley, cilantro or mint
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, (optional)

METHOD:

  1. Place cherry tomatoes in a small bowl; sprinkle with red wine vinegar, olive oil and a little coarse salt. Mix and let macerate for 30 minutes. Keep tomatoes and cucumber separate.
  2. Chop herbs.

ASSEMBLY:

On large decorative platter, spoon hummus over bottom leaving a little space near the edges.  Next top with lamb leaving an edge to show the hummus. Sprinkle reserved chickpeas around the edges.

Sprinkle cucumber over lamb. With a slotted spoon drain cherry tomatoes, then sprinkle them on top of cucumbers. Garnish with herbs. Sprinkle with crumbled feta if using.

Serves 4

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“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” —Alan D. Wolfelt

Walk on the Wild Side

Wow, it’s been quite a week. My sadness for our country is overwhelming. I bow to my black and brown brothers and sisters who in spite of the pandemic have peacefully protested for justice for George Floyd and for themselves. We have not been listening. Historically, it has always been the youth that have demanded change. Although the timing of such things is not in our hands, the call for justice is asking us to lend our voices to promote it. I am proud of our country’s youth and have confidence they will help to lead us out of this quagmire.

Here, we still farm. This week we have planted, caged and wired 400 tomato plants. When they become ripe, we will savor their sweetness, dust off our canners and prepare for cooler months. We will sell some, process for our future and take what we have remaining to local food banks. Our land is sacred to us. It has fed many families for 2 decades. As we age we are confident this land will find its future in the hands of like minded people of service.

This week we needed a sturdy salad that we could enjoy when we were too tired to cook. This amazing salad will hold for 5 days in the frig and only gets better as the dressing macerates the veggies in the salad. It has crunch, texture, and an appealing nuttiness that compliments the lemony dressing. It’s great for a picnic or potluck, since it’s completely stable with no dairy. I think you will agree it’s a keeper.

WILD RICE SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups good quality long grain wild rice
  • 6 cups filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup green onions (white and green parts), sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, halved and sliced thin
  • 8 slices bacon, chopped, fried, drained (optional)
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a heavy medium pot bring the rice, water and salt to a boil. Adjust heat to medium and simmer until tender, 45-55 minutes. Drain, and place in a large bowl.
  2. To toast pecans, heat oven to 350 degrees F and place on rimmed baking sheet. Toast for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  3. Add celery, green onions. parsley, and mushrooms to bowl. Mix gently.
  4. In a pint mason jar, measure avocado oil and fresh lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Shake vigorously.
  5. Add pecans and dressing to bowl and mix thoroughly. Place in decorative bowl or platter. Crumble bacon on top. Serve.

Serves 6-8

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“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” —Mahatma Gandhi

 

Spring Green

During these times of perceived scarcity, it’s always good to recognize that nature offers up gifts to those who’s eyes are willing to see them.  Our land during Civil War times was a brickyard.  The clay was ideal for profits from this product and bricks were shipped by rail between Detroit and Chicago.  In World War II, the land was turned into an onion farm to help feed the troops.  This is where our story begins today, as the land is covered with wild chives by the thousands waiting for someone to notice them.  I dry them in our food dehydrator to use in the winter, but the real treat is when they are turned into pesto.  Now there are as many pesto recipes as there are cooks, but isn’t it wonderful when you have something randomly growing that can be used?  I think so.

This morning I put a teaspoon in my scrambled eggs; whipped it into the eggs with a little half and half and it was delicious.  The options for using wild chive pesto are only as limited as our imaginations.  Try using it as a base for a vinaigrette, or thinning it with additional olive oil, vinegar and mustard then tossing it with hot red-skinned potatoes for a French take on warm potato salad.  Don’t be afraid to add other herbs to it like dill or parsley; it makes a good dip when mixed with sour cream or Greek yogurt.  Swirl it into a brothy soup for a touch of spring.  I think you’re getting the idea.

WILD CHIVE PESTO

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups cleaned, lightly packed wild chives, cut into manageable lengths with scissors
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (or walnuts or pistachios)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup olive oil

 

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. You will need 3-4 4 ounce canning jars ready, as these are perfect size for freezing this pesto.  Then with your food processor running, drop your garlic cloves in one at a time until they are minced and clinging to the sides of the bowl.
  2. Open up your food processor and place your 4 cups of lightly packed wild chives in the bowl.  Add to this your pine nuts, and salt.
  3. Pulse your ingredients for about 5 times, so they are blended together; then with you processor running, slowly pour in a 1/4 cup of your olive oil.  Stop your processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  4. Turn your processor back on and pour an additional 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Open your processor and check to see if it’s at the consistency you want (I usually look for a loose paste).  Taste to see if the salt component is to your liking.
  5. Spoon into 4 ounce canning jars and top with additional olive oil.  This will easily keep in the freezer for up to a year.

Yield: 3-4 4 ounces jars

“The real voyage of discovery is not seeking new landscapes, but seeing with new eyes.”

—Marcel Proust

 

Made To Order

Well, we’ve been self-sheltering for a month now and we are entering that phase of searching through the freezer, pantry and reduced items in the refrigerator.  As vegetable farmers we are fortunate that we do a lot of canning and freezing during the optimal summer months; and for that we are grateful.  With a little thought and creativity, it’s amazing just what you can come up with that is not only inventive, but delicious!

We don’t eat many sweet things in our household.  We lean more to the savory spectrum.  I can enjoy a quick bread like zucchini or pumpkin as well as the next person; but this….this savory quick bread has multiple options galore.  Remember that piece of ham you froze during the holiday’s?  Perfect.  That hunk on cheese in your refrigerator?  Yes!  Don’t like Gruyere ?  Ok…use cheddar.  Those herbs in your crisper that need to be used or composted soon? Yup.  Vegetarian?  Leave out the ham and toss in some olives, or sun-dried tomatoes.  You can make two loaves and freeze one.  I love it toasted the next day with butter and a fresh slice of tomato and sprouts.  You are only limited by your imagination.  Enjoy.

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SAVORY QUICK BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons), melted and cooled
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup ham, chopped in small cubes
  • 1/4 cup scallions, using both green and white parts, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or dill, chives or tarragon)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) Gruyere, Swiss or cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk *

Note:  If you find yourself without buttermilk on hand, use 1 cup whole milk and add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar.

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a metal 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and set it aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking power, salt and baking soda.  Stir in chopped ham (or olives and sun-dried tomatoes), scallions, herb of choice, and all but 1/4 cup of your selected cheese (you will use the rest for topping).
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs and buttermilk.  Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine.  The batter will be thick.
  4. Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf pan.  Spread batter out evenly with a spatula.  Top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.  Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed, about 45-55 minutes.
  5. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from loaf pan and let completely cool on wire rack.

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Yield: 1 loaf

“Give us this day our daily bread.”