Tag Archives: herbs

Stocking Up!

During the fall and winter there is nothing I enjoy more than a steaming bowl of soup. Commercial stocks are inexpensive, plentiful and convenient, but they will never replace homemade. I typically make 36 quarts of chicken, and 24 quarts of vegetable stock each season, and freeze it for future use. Not only does the house smell terrific while it simmers, it is the foundation for all sorts of delicious meals that include soups, stews and risotto. I find that vegetable stock in particular, benefits from a little love and attention to the ingredients.

If you roast or brown the vegetables before you assemble the stock, the caramelization improves the flavor profile. Adding dried porcini mushrooms and tomato paste will impart a savory or umami element that deepens the end result. Unlike chicken stock which is simmered up to 24 hours, vegetable stock is simmered no longer than 90 minutes. The addition of herbs and onion skins add flavor and color to the stock.

VEGETABLE STOCK

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion (save the skins)
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 3 cups chopped carrot
  • 2 cups chopped parsnip
  • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (can leave skins on)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 large handfuls spinach

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Rehydrate dried mushrooms. Place the dried mushrooms in a 4 cup glass Pyrex measuring cup and pour 4 cups boiling water over them. Set aside.
  2. Brown the onions, celery, carrots, parsnips and fennel. Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped vegetables and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring only occasionally. Be patient with the browning of the vegetables, as they have a high moisture content. It may take 10-15 minutes or longer to brown them.
  3. Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color.
  4. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to low. After 45 minutes add spinach. Continue to simmer for a total of 90 minutes.
  5. Strain the stock with a basket skimmer or slotted spoon, removing all the big pieces of vegetables and mushroom. Discard or compost. Set up a large bowl with a wire mesh strainer in it. Line strainer with a layer of cheesecloth. Using a ladle or 2 cup measuring cup, pour stock through strainer. When the liquid slows down, you may have to change the cheesecloth.
  6. Pour into jars, or 1 quart plastic deli containers and chill or freeze. Make sure you leave 1 1/2 inches of headspace if freezing.

Yields: 4-5 quarts

“The secret to change, is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” –Socrates

Mi Casa es Su Casa

Needing to shed a few pounds, I’ve been busy creating dishes that although leaner are still interesting. Lately I’m finding many ways to use cauliflower rice. It’s so easy to make and so incredibly versatile. If you really want to cut corners, many grocery stores sell it prebagged for convenience in the produce section.

As I have pointed out in my recent cookbook, Twisted Basics: Laugh, Cook, Eat! vegetables do not have to be boring! There is no substitute for fresh veggies, when it comes to feeling healthy. When I make cauliflower rice, I like to use a large head so I will have additional meals at the ready. I simply vacuum seal it in 4 cup increments. One large head can produce enough for 3 meals! When I made this Mexican Cauliflower Rice dish today, my wife could not tell the difference between real rice and its faux counterpart.

MEXICAN CAULIFLOWER RICE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, riced (approx. 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups red or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup bell pepper (any color), chopped
  • 1 paste tomato, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 3 teaspoons green tabasco

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. To make cauliflower rice, separate head into flowerettes and slice stalks into 1 inch pieces. Place in food processor and pulse 7-8 times or until course and resembles rice. Measure out 4 cups and set aside.
  2. Chop your veggies and prep ingredients. Combine spices in a small bowl and mix.
  3. Whisk together Greek yogurt and green tabasco. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Heat a 12 inch non-stick skillet on medium-high. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil
  5. Add onion, peppers, tomato, and garlic. Sauté for 5-8 minutes or until soft.
  6. Add the spice blend, stock, and tomato paste. Mix well and cook for 2 additional minutes.
  7. Add cauliflower rice and cook until desire texture is reached, folding ingredients until thoroughly incorporated, about 5-6 more minutes.
  8. Add minced jalapeño and mix.
  9. Plate and drizzle dressing over the top. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Serves 4

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.” —George Bernard Shaq

Sweet and Spicy!

There are times when we just have to shake it up a bit! We all have our go-to rotations for meal planning, but it is interesting how a different condiment or sauce can really take a side to the next level (thank you Yotam Ottelenghi). I also appreciate a sauce that can go with many different things, from vegetables, to chicken, lamb or fish. This sauce has it all. Even the color contrast of this dish is striking. As I mentioned last week, using the addition of a flavored olive oil is really wonderful, in this case Persian Lime. It pairs nicely with the fresh lime juice. Skip it if you don’t have it. If you have people in your family that don’t like too much heat, the Greek yogurt that accompanies this side will easily tamp it down.

Sweet potatoes are a terrific vegetable for people watching their weight. They are high in vitamin A, they support digestive and heart health, and they are rich in dietary fiber, keeping you full longer. They also stabilize your blood-sugar, fuel your brain, and since they are loaded with beta-carotene they are terrific for your eyes. So what’s not to like?

SWEET POTATOES WITH YOGURT & CILANTRO-CHILI SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil divided (Persian Lime if available)
  • 1/2 tablespoon local honey
  • Juice of 2 limes, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 2 green chilies, seeded and chopped (I use jalapenos)
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or grated
  • 1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, honey, juice from 1 lime, salt and pepper to taste, and potato wedges. Toss to coat. Spread in a even layer on baking sheet, bake until tender and lightly browned in spots, about 45-55- minutes. Sprinkle with additional salt to taste.
  3. Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse to combine 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, the cilantro, chilies, garlic, almonds, juice from remaining lime, vinegar and a large pinch of salt, until it forms a chunky puree. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  4. Arrange sweet potatoes on a platter; spoon sauce in dollops over the potatoes, dollop with yogurt, drizzle with some olive oil, and serve with additional sauce and yogurt on the side.

Serve 4-6

“Our very survival depends on us staying awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant, and to face the challenge of change.” –Martin Luther King

A Pantry Darling

It is blustery and cold today at the farm. It has been a challenging year. A year marked by the pandemic, angry politics, frustration and despair for so many. It has caused us to rethink our lives going forward, and adjust our priorities. As 2020 starts to wind down, I am grateful for the love in my life, shelter from the howling wind outside, and our loving animals. But the one thing that has kept me going day after day is being in my kitchen to create something that not only feeds our bodies, but our souls. Nourishment. We require it as much as the air we breathe. I find this nourishment in the act of feeding others. It is an act of love.

When it comes to what we create in our kitchens, I find there are some ingredients that I return to again and again. I put up dozens and dozens of jars of tomatoes in all their various forms. They are truly a pantry staple. When I reflected on other ingredients, I had to acknowledge an item that has just as much versatility; the humble chickpea. Whether canned or dried this protein warrior is far more than your simple hummus. Everything from spreads, to soups, to salads and entries, the garbanzo bean has it all. Although I appreciate having canned chickpeas on hand, I can’t recommend enough cooking them from their dried state. Quite frankly, they are dirt cheap! But they are also surprisingly delicious made from scratch. When soaked overnight, they cook in about 40 minutes. I usually make a large batch and freeze some of them with their cooking liquid for additional options. Remember to add 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda to every 2 cups of dried chickpeas, in your soaking water. After draining them before cooking add the same amount to your cooking water. This helps soften them. Also, never add salt to your cooking water, as your beans will never get soft.

INDIAN BUTTER CHICKPEAS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (I use a quart of homemade)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can whole coconut milk, stirred with whisk in separate bowl before adding
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained OR equivalent of 4 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne (optional)
  • 2 cups packed fresh baby spinach
  • Cooked white rice, for serving
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, for serving
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, for serving (optional)
  • 1 lime cut in wedges, for serving

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until golden and browned around the edges, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat (you don’t want to burn the butter).
  2. Stir in the garlic and ginger, and cook another minute. Stir in cumin, paprika, garam masala and cinnamon stick, and cook another 30 seconds.
  3. Add tomatoes with their juices. Using a large spoon, break up and smash the tomatoes in the pot. Stir in whisked coconut milk and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and continuing to break up the tomatoes if necessary.
  4. Stir in chickpeas and cayenne if using, simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes. Add 2 cups packed baby spinach of heat. It will wilt as you stir in in. Serve in bowls over rice, garnishing with cilantro and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Serves 4-6

“What the new year brings to you, will depend on what you bring to the new year.”

Scandinavian Dauphinoise

Every morning during coffee, Val asks me the same question, “What’s for dinner today?” We go over the fresh vegetables we still have in our larder. When we created our larder for self-sheltering this winter, we chose vegetables with a long shelf-life such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, onions, carrots, cabbage, winter squash and celeriac or celery root. I try to combine fresh with anything that was ‘put up’ during our farm year. Some items are frozen, some canned, others dried, so you can find all sorts of creative ways to make dishes that are unique and delicious. Simple ingredients combined together can yield unexpected results.

Whenever I am looking for inspiration, I will flip through cookbooks, take a look at what we have on hand, and try to create something that often crosses different cultures. The term dauphinoise (do-fin-WAHZ) is French for scalloped potatoes. Smoked salmon is found throughout Scandinavia. I find that certain combinations repeat themselves regardless of where they originated. In this case, cream with potatoes, onion, and dill with smoked salmon. This gratin, rather than being a side dish for a protein, is totally appropriate as a complete meal. Although you can make this with either cold or hot cured smoked salmon, I like using the cold cured so I can layer it between the potatoes and celeriac. If you choose hot cured, you will have to crumble it. But no worries they both taste delicious. If you have never tried celeriac before, you are in for a treat. It blends beautifully with the other ingredients, with its mild taste of celery, along with providing a nice texture difference. The finished product was surprisingly rich, and flavorful.

SCANDINAVIAN DAUPHINOISE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lemon, juiced, mixed with 1/4 cup water
  • 1 medium celeriac, peeled and quartered vertically
  • 3 medium baking potatoes, peeled (I use Yukon Golds or Russets)
  • 2 x 125g packs of cold cured smoked salmon
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 onion, halved and finely sliced vertically
  • 2 cups heavy cream (1 pint)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the lemon juice and water in a large bowl. On a mandolin, slice each quarter of celeriac 1/4 inch thick. Place in bowl and toss with lemon water. This will prevent it from browning.
  2. Do the same with the potatoes; slicing them 1/4 inch thick horizontally, placing them in the lemon water as well. Toss. In a 9×9 square ceramic baking dish, place slices of potatoes overlapping across the bottom; then layer with slices of celeriac on top of potatoes. Place slices of smoked salmon over celeriac; then slices of onion, followed by dill. Spoon 1/2 cup of heavy cream over the layers, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Repeat. You should be able to have 3 layers, ending with a layer of potatoes, cream and dill.
  3. Cover the dish with foil and place on a tray. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until bubbling and the top is crispy and golden. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Don’t forget a glass of crisp white wine.

Serves 4-6

“Food, like a loving touch, or a glimpse of divine power, has the ability to comfort.” –Norman Kolpas

Little Orbs of Joy

I often find that if I’m making something that freezes well, why not double or triple the recipe? I often do this with sauces, condiments, caramelized onions and especially this recipe , Lamb & Feta Meatballs. If I make a single recipe I get approximately 16-18 meatballs. Two weeks ago I quadrupled the recipe using 4 pounds of ground lamb and made 60 (enough for 5-6 meals)!!

These little orbs are versatile and full of flavor. Plate them with last weeks recipe for Roasted Sweet Pepper and Tomato Sauce, place them in a pita with tomato and tahini sauce, use them in spaghetti and meatballs, serve them with tzatziki sauce. You can serve them as an appetizer by stabbing them with bamboo skewers with a sauce on the side. You get the idea. They freeze beautifully, so with a little effort, you are ready for a quick delicious option at a moments notice. If you have a food saver you are golden, if not, place frozen meatballs in a quart freezer bag and remove as much air as possible.

LAMB AND FETA MEATBALLS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound grass-fed ground lamb
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated on micro-planer
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, without crusts, pulsed in a food processor
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Lamb meatballs ready to freeze
Frozen meatballs vacuumed sealed

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. If making a single batch, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (you will use two of these to freeze the meatballs prior to vacuum sealing them if doubling or tripling your recipe).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, place the ground lamb, feta, thyme leaves, garlic, breadcrumbs, ground cinnamon, olive oil, along with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly with your hands. Using a meatball scoop or your hands, shape into golf ball size balls. You should end up with about 18 meatballs, placing them uniformly on baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.
  3. If freezing extra, place sheet in freezer overnight. Once frozen place 10-12 meatballs in a vacuum seal bag or freezer bag and seal. To defrost place bag in sink of cool water for about an hour. If making a single batch place in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until browned. Serve hot.
Ready for future eating!
Delicious!

“Preserving food is an excellent bank account.”

Sweet and Sour

There’s a reason fall is called a transitional season. The wind is howling here today with 50 mph gusts, sending our bird feeders crashing against our deck. It’s in the 30’s with periods of snow, mixing in with the falling leaves, sending everything on a Twister ride. No worries, the forecast for next Sunday is 70 degrees!

We are fortunate that our larder is full. Comfort food means different things to each of us. I love it when we turn the corner from summer vegetables to fall. I enjoy pairing vegetables with whole roasted chickens or roasting them for sheet-pan dinners. I’m a visual person, after all, we eat with our eyes, and I love to have bright colors and contrasts in food. This dish is perfect when red cabbage and apples are at Market. It combines the best of color and contrast; as it’s both sweet and sour. It comes together in under an hour and pairs well with chicken, pork or duck.

Sautéing the onions and cabbage

SWEET AND SOUR RED CABBAGE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (about 6-8 cups)
  • 3/4 cups apple cider or fresh apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped, plus more to garnish
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 3-4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon local honey

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large pot sauté the onions in butter until lightly browned. Add the cabbage and sauté for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The cabbage will reduce in volume quite a bit.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except the honey. Cover, cook on low heat for about 25-30 minutes.
  3. Add honey and adjust with more vinegar or honey if needed.

Serves 4

Colorful and delicious!

“Vegetables to me are….I don’t want to say the most exciting part of cooking, but certainly a very exciting part of cooking, because they continue to change. They come into season and they go through different phases.”

–Thomas Keller

Sounds Of Silence

As we move closer to the presidential election, I find myself feeling overwhelmed by both the pandemic and our turbulent political discourse. I traverse between a feeling of calm to a nameless agitation that grabs me the moment I leave the safety of our home. It seems that the world is becoming more and more dangerous. My heart grieves for the victims of Covid, the poisoning of our planet for profit, the inequality and injustice displayed by people in power. Our problems seem overwhelming. I often wonder what impact one person could possibly have to change the tone of the conversation, much less the world? As an individual how do I live a life that nurture others, the planet and myself? How do I stay authentic to my beliefs in a world that wants to label me?

In the small microcosm of my life, I look for signs of hope. How have I made a difference? Since I moved to the country, my greatest teachers have been nature, the seasons, and the land. If we care for the land, the land offers up the food that both feeds us and provides our livelihood. That clean, wholesome food is taken to the farmers market and sold to people that care about what they feed themselves and their families. It’s a life that is simple, focused and real. We place a seed in the ground and have faith that it will grow. I believe that we often receive what we put into the world; a sort of what goes around, comes around. When I am kind to people, it follows that people are generally kind to me. But what happens when people are unkind, disrespectful, and angry? What happens when there is drought or deluge or crop failure? When a pandemic strikes or unemployment, or changes we didn’t expect or ask for? I believe this is when our faith is really tested, when our priorities and attitudes matter.

It seems to me that faith, the belief in things unseen, is about the things in life that cause us to question, to change, to grow. I don’t believe that the challenges in life are judgements, but opportunities to understand the world and ourselves more fully. How do we cultivate our better selves when we are up against our fears and the rapid pace of change? We are all flawed human beings; there are no saints among us. How do we nurture our inter-connectedness? How do we come to realize what happens to one of us, happens to us all? My greatest challenge is to keep my heart open, to feel pain when someone is hurting, to look at the glass as half full.

As the fall prepares us for winter, may we take the time to reflect and adopt a slower pace. The land rests, and in the same sense so do I. Dormancy is a gift. I can’t assimilate life without periods of quiet. There is time for long morning coffee and deep listening. Clocks tick, fires burn and hearts beat. It is a season where less is more. This resting period is a time to replenish both our physical and emotional beings. In this quiet stillness I hear a small voice say, “Your faith is measured by the wideness of your heart.” One of my favorite poets, Stanley Kunitz said it in a different way: “Live in the layers, not on the litter.” In these layers of life, the peace I sought is found.

Although food is my passion, there are days when I’m involved in other interests or projects. This is when the simplicity of a sheet pan dinner is exactly what I turn to for a meal that is virtually hands off, yet delicious. They are basically designed around a protein and a vegetable. This one uses everything that I have either in freezer or pantry. Although I have used pumpkin as the vegetable, you could just as easily use sweet potatoes or butternut squash. Don’t forget to save your pumpkin seeds to roast, for an added treat.

A delicious sugar pumpkin, loaded with seeds.
Pumpkin wedges, ready to be tossed with olive oil and maple syrup.

DIJON-ROSEMARY CHICKEN THIGHS WITH MAPLE GLAZED PUMPKIN

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 5 shallots, halved lengthwise
  • 1 small sugar pie pumpkin (about 2 lbs.)
  • 2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Ready for the oven
Seasoned perfectly

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, 3 tablespoons of the oil, the vinegar, garlic, and rosemary. Add the chicken, garlic and shallots and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature while you prepare the pumpkin.
  3. Cut off the top and bottom of the pumpkin, then cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut each half into 1-inch wedges. In another large bowl, stir together the maple syrup and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the pumpkin and toss to combine. Place the pumpkin wedges in a single layer on one end of the prepared pan. Remove the chicken, garlic and shallots from the marinade and place on the other side of the pan. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast until the chicken is opaque (160 degrees F) throughout and the pumpkin is golden brown and soft, about 45-50 minutes. Serve right away. Sprinkle fresh rosemary leaves as a garnish.

Serves 4-6

Beautifully golden and aromatic
ENJOY!!

“Silence isn’t empty, it’s full of answers.”

Kneading Each Other

It’s the little things. Small gestures given freely. Each evening my wife Val makes sure that my coffee is programed for the next morning (she drinks tea). She understands the daily ritual that our coffee hour is our bonding time. She understands how much cream I like in that coffee, and that I only drink two cups. I know how she likes her Manhattan’s, how much vermouth to rye whiskey, with two drops of bitters.

These small things nurture our marriage. I bring this attentiveness into the world when I leave the farm. If farming is the what, then the farmers market is the why. Our relationships there add to the richness in our life. The Covid pandemic has completely changed our experience at the market. Val’s compromised immune system requires that she self isolate on the farm during this pandemic, to stay as safe as possible. When I go to the market on Wednesday’s I am in my own section on a slower day. Customers are not allowed to touch the produce or soap products that we sell. Everyone is required to wear masks. There is hand-sanitizer in multiple locations at our stall. You learn to read the eyes above the masks for clues about each other. Are those eyes playful, warm or anxious? There is an overall feeling of being AWOL from the usual fullness of our exchange. We give virtual “hugs”, which only underscores their absence; somehow elbow bumping just doesn’t do it.

Then Shalini appears at our stall. She comes bearing gifts of garam marsala, black salt, amchoor powder (dry mango) and Tamarind-Date Chutney. She gives me tips about how to make Indian greens and Channa (chickpea salad). She also brings the warmth of her smile. I consider Shalini my spiritual mentor of sorts. She loves Jesus, I’m not religious, yet her sense of humanity, compassion and grace comes through in our conversations. She leads by example. She shares that there are times in order to find common ground with others, she must keep her heart open and simply speak human to human. “We are all human after all. We are all suffering in our own ways. I’ve made a personal decision that if someone needs a hug, they will receive one from me. regardless of the situation we find ourselves in.”

I immediately stop what I am doing and walk purposefully around the stalls to where she is standing. We embrace, and I am awash in the sweet necessity of human contact. Something intangible is exchanged; the unseen, enters and we are nourished. We simply need each other as human beings. On the other side of this pandemic, I’m looking forward to breaking bread together once again.

I first made this bread recipe over 30 years ago. It floated up in my consciousness after Val and I had harvested and dried dill seed from the farm. It is a no-knead bread with terrific flavor. I used our own dehydrated onions as well, but the real treat is when you toast it. The scent of dill and onions will fill your home. Don’t spare the butter!

NO-KNEAD DILL ONION BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup cottage cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon dill seed
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 farm fresh egg
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of Maldon or other flake salt
Mixed dill/onion dough, ready for the oven
Dill/Onion Bread straight from the oven, coated with butter and salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Soften yeast in warm water; let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Mix cottage cheese, sugar, butter, salt and baking soda together in a large mixing bowl. I use my Kitchen-Aid mixer with paddle attachment. You can mix this at this stage with a wooden spoon or whisk. Add dill seed, dried onion, eggs and yeast mixture. Mix well.
  3. Gradually add flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, on medium speed. If you are doing this manually, you can also mix this with your hands. The dough will be sticky. It dough seems too sticky, add another tablespoon or two of flour.
  4. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 2 quart round baking dish. Gently spoon dough into prepared dish. Bake in center rack in preheated oven until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven; brush with butter and sprinkle with flake salt. Let bread cool 5 minutes before transferring from the baking dish to a cooling rack.

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” –Leo Tolstoy

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