Tag Archives: savory

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

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

 

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

Love Me Tender, Chuck

Although we are vegetable farmers, there are few things we enjoy more than a tender succulent roast, slow cooked in the oven (or crock-pot) that yields multiple meals. We are so fortunate to have easy access to beautiful grass-fed beef and lamb, along with milk-fed pork at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market where we are seasonal vendors.  In fact, Karin Uebbing from Woodbridge Dairy Farm in Byron Center, Michigan and I have decided to collaborate on a cookbook.  Bits, Bones and Pieces  will highlight the many ways to enjoy beef and pork; even those unusual cuts that sometimes baffle us.  During this process, I am learning a great deal about dairy farming and raising healthy livestock, and Karin (not to mention her family) are expanding their culinary horizons.  It certainly seems like a win, win!

Karin, who is known for her straight forward assessments of how she sees things has said, “All farms are like humans; no two are exactly the same and one type vs. another type is not good or bad, simply different.” Woodbridge Dairy Farm is one of the many farms going the extra mile by making the decision to build a sustainable, well-run farm that uses traditional methods that include the elimination of chemicals and pesticides, and utilizing pasture rotation for an environment that produces healthy livestock.  As a customer, I enjoy knowing where my meat is coming from, as well as the satisfaction of supporting another farmer in their quest to produce a quality local product.

Farmers are often passionate people to love to share their commitment to their farm and the customers they serve. They patiently answer question from folks who don’t necessarily know what they do, or how they do it.  For them, big is not always better.  In fact for many, quality is far more important than quantity.

Love Me Tender Beef Chuck Roast:

  • 3-5 lb grass-fed chuck roast
  • 3 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 1/2 cups whole shallots
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and separated
  • 6-8 whole carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 3 cups whole small potatoes
  • 1 cup good red wine
  • 3 cups homemade beef stock (unsalted commercial in a pinch)
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Beautiful 4 lb grass-fed beef roast

Beautiful 4 lb grass-fed beef roast

Seared to perfection

Seared to perfection

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Dry roast with paper towels.  Generously salt and pepper.
  2. Heat ghee in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add  the whole shallots to the pot, browning them on all sides.  Remove the shallots to a plate.
  3. Throw the carrots into the same very hot pot and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so.  Reserve the carrots with the shallots.
  4. Turn the burner on high and add a bit more ghee to the very hot pot (make sure your fan is on!). Place the roast in the pot and sear it for about 2 minutes on each side until it is nice and brown all over.  Remove the roast to a plate.
  5. With the burner still on high, deglaze the pot with a red wine, scraping the bits from the bottom with a whisk.  Add the beef stock.  Place the roast back into the pot and top with the shallots, carrots, garlic, potatoes and herbs.
  6. Cover and place in oven for 3 hours.  The roast in tender when it’s fall-apart tender. This can take up to 4 hours total.  Serve with vegetables.  Pass sauce.

Serves 4-6

Ready for roasting

Ready for roasting

“Never eat more than you can lift.”  —Miss Piggy

Liquid Gold

It’s March 1st and winter still has us in her clutches, with no sign of letting go anytime soon.  I tell myself “no problem” and head into our basement to see what vegetables are still holding up.  I find both white and orange sweet potatoes and carrots still in good condition.  I dig around the freezer and find a quart of homemade chicken stock.  I grab some onions and garlic and head back upstairs.

Whenever I want to make soup using root vegetables, I find I like to roast them first.  It always gives the soup much more depth, not to mention those warming smells in the kitchen.  As I’ve mentioned both in my previous blog Basics With A Twist, and this one, I always lean toward the savory,  I enjoy herbs and spices and love what they do to food.  It’s really ethnic cooking at its finest.

With this soup I’ll roast the sweet potatoes and carrots to make a puree for the base.  While they’re in the oven I will toast cumin and coriander seeds.  Toasting whole seeds releases a flavor far superior to purchased ground spices; you’ll find the scents exotic and sensual.  Although you can grind them in a spice mill, I prefer to use a granite mortar and pestle. I also use shallots, rather than onion, and brown them slightly.  I like how the sweetness of the root vegetables pairs with the intensity of the spices.  Puree it altogether with a bit of apple cider vinegar and it really comes alive.  I enjoy topping it with toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and chopped cilantro.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup:

  • 6 cups sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups carrot, peeled and sliced into 2 inch sections
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 3/4 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 1/2  cups shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp ghee
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 14oz can full-fate coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Perfectly roasted veggies

Perfectly roasted veggies

Toasted cumin and coriander seeds

Toasted cumin and coriander seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and cut sweet potatoes and carrots; place in a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt.  Toss until well coated; place on large sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Place in oven for 40 minutes or until soft; turning vegetables halfway through. Cool.
  2. While vegetables are roasting, place cumin and coriander seeds in small dry skillet over medium heat and toast until lightly brown.  Grind in mortar and pestle or in spice grinder.  Set aside.
  3. After vegetables are cool, place half of them in a blender with some of the chicken stock and puree until smooth;  pour into large bowl and set aside; repeat with remaining vegetables and stock.
  4. Melt ghee and olive oil in large pot.  Add sliced shallots and pressed garlic.  Saute on medium until soft.  Add ground cumin, coriander, salt and ginger.  Stir for 1 minute.  Add cinnamon and cayenne.
  5. Pour half of vegetable puree into pot with shallots and blend with stick blender until smooth.  Add remaining puree and coconut milk.  Heat on low until warmed through.  Add apple cider vinegar and mix well.
  6. Ladle into bowls, topping with a few pepitas and chopped cilantro.

Serves: 6-8

Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold

“Soup is a lot like a family.  Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor.”  —-Marge Kennedy

 

Little Things Mean A Lot

Initially, when we went grain-free, we thought it might be a difficult transition.  Being foodies, we were anxious to understand the perimeters of this life-style approach and how we might use our creativity to still make food that excited us.  When looking for inspiration, I often go to my collection of ethnic cookbooks.  I was not disappointed; we love Middle Eastern, Indian and Mediterranean food.  I was soon mixing up a concoction of ground turkey, shredded zucchini, herbs and garlic into small meatballs that were first browned in a pan, then finished in the oven.  Topped with a soothing sauce of homemade yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice and sumac, they are perfect as an appetizer or served on top of a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, feta and sunflower sprouts.

Moral of the story:  change doesn’t have to be difficult, and little things mean a lot.

Zucchini and herbs at the ready

Zucchini and herbs at the ready

Turkey-Zucchini Meatballs With Lemon Sumac Sauce:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large organic egg
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ghee

Lemon Sumac Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup homemade or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp sumac (found in Middle-Eastern grocery stores)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Browning in ghee

Browning in ghee

  1. First make the lemon-sumac sauce by placing all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir well and chill until needed.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the ghee.  Mix with your hands (you will really get a better result) then shape into small meatballs about the size of golf ball.
  3. Melt the ghee in a 12 inch skillet on medium-high heat.  Add meatballs, making sure to leave room between them.  Saute on each side until browned, about 4 minutes per side.
  4. Place browned meatballs on a cookie-sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place in oven and bake for 7-10 minutes.
  5. Place on platter and pass sauce; or place on top of salad.
Delicious and savory

Delicious and savory

“THE SECRET OF
CHANGE lS TO FOCUS
ALL OF YOUR ENERGY
NOT ON FIGHTING THE
OLD BUT ON BUILDING
THE NEW.”