Category Archives: salads

Pea Shoots, Blue Skies & Crispy Potatoes

DSC_0105Just to add some levity to this already hilarious February (More snow tomorrow! Then rain! Then ice! Then a deep freeze again! Hurrah!), I am currently developing recipes for asparagus and crookneck summer squash. Yes, ‘tis the season for out-of-season recipe development. On the bright side, at least it isn’t fresh basil or beefsteak tomatoes.

I have total sympathy for magazine editors, having nearly pulled all of my hair out trying to get the magazine I edited to produce its stories a year in advance so that recipes could be developed in season. Sometimes, it just isn’t possible. So when I am asked to work on recipes out of season, I oblige.

When duty calls, I saddle up my cheery red Honda and head out for the round-the-Island grocery-store crawl, hoping by hitting every store we have out here, I’ll manage to scare up what I need. Booking a ferry passage to drive to a Whole Foods or some other bigger grocery store is not in the budget.

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Yesterday, Farmer and I were pretty happy to get out of the house and go for a drive. Farmer loves a car ride, because usually it involves a trip to either the bank, the dump, or the gas station, all of which hand out biscuits to doggies. None of that yesterday, but plenty of opportunities to sniff the sea air as we made a point to take the route past both State Beach and Vineyard Haven harbor to see the frozen sea water. The sky was a joyous deep blue, and a reminder that summer will come eventually.

I found just about everything I needed, plus I stumbled upon something beautiful—something truly fresh, grown right here on the Island, in the month of February, no less! Fresh pea shoots.

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HoM_Poster_Pea-Shoots_February_2015_WEB-291x450When I saw them, I remembered that Island Grown Schools, which highlights a different vegetable or crop every month in its “harvest of the month” series, had chosen pea shoots for February. The “harvest of the month” series is a great way to introduce kids to different fresh foods and to bring attention to how they are grown and the best ways to cook them.

DSC_0022This month, the spotlight was on farmer Lloyd Hart, who has created a successful micro-green business on the Island called Martha’s Vineyard Organics. In addition to pea shoots, he grows all kinds of micro-greens (from arugula and kale to sunflower and spicy mixes) year-round in his greenhouse.

I snapped up the pea shoots, thinking it would be fun to develop a recipe with them in honor of  “harvest of the month”—even though tomorrow is March 1, and we’ll be on to a new crop! When Farmer and I got home, I eagerly tasted the shoots, and they were delicious, with that familiar nutty, sweet flavor of the peas I’m hoping to get planted myself in less than a month (yikes).

I didn’t have to think long about how I wanted to use the shoots. Thinking lofty and lovely, I envisioned a pile of them on top of something crispy, yet sturdy—something that would act as a kind of edible platform for the shoots and that would also offer textural contrast. My Crispy Smashed Potatoes (always a hit) jumped to mind and I thought of avocado as a bridge between the potato and pea flavors. My avocadoes turned out to be under-ripe, though, so I used a little guacamole instead—and added a dollop of my simple limey dipping sauce.

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Farmer sighed audibly with approval when he began to smell the potatoes roasting.

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Once we had all our components together, we plated up our lunch, and an extra platter for Roy to have when he got home.

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I decided to finish the whole thing off with a sprinkling of my favorite Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt—another uber-local product from my hard-working friends Heidi Feldman and Curtis Friedman.

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Being on a frozen island in the winter does have its limitations. But it never ceases to amaze me how hard everyone works to make the most of it all, and to keep the good stuff coming year ‘round out here. It almost makes February bearable. Almost.

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In the Winter Kitchen: Grains, Greens, Citrus & Sunlight

cit 4My pal Barney and I have been in the Laboratory all morning, mad-sciencing up creations to satisfy my winter cravings. For some reason, I am fixated on dark green vegetables, grains of all kinds, and citrus in every color. Plus, crunchy stuff. (My new love is roasted chickpeas). And then, I am putting them altogether for lunches and dinner. (My other new fixation is cooking grains ahead.)

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So first Barney and I had a nice cup of coffee.

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Then we snacked on the roasted chickpeas I made yesterday. Honestly, these are better fresh out of the oven, but they do keep okay for a day or two.

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Here’s how you make them: Rinse, drain, and thoroughly dry a can of chickpeas. Toss with enough of a neutral oil  (I like grapeseed) to coat well and season with about ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast at 400°F until browned and shrunken, 30 to 35 minutes.

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Then Barney and I par-boiled some broccoli raab. If you’re not familiar with raab (aka rapini) it’s actually a turnip relative and has a distinct bitterness which is highly satisfying, especially when paired with lemon or anything spicy. (Goat cheese is another good companion for raab, as are garlic and ginger.)

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You all know how much I love to roast most vegetables, and that I’m not much for boiling them, but broccoli raab is an exception. I almost always cook it in boiling salted water for about 4 minutes—even before finishing it in a sauté pan with garlic, as I did today. I also cut the thickest parts of the stems off and then split the stems down the middle so that the pieces are all about the same thickness.

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Meanwhile, on the back of the stove, a big pot of boiling water was going. I plunked a cup of black rice in it, stirred, lowered the heat just a tad (still boiling) and let the rice cook in the boiling water until tender. (About 28 minutes for me today.) Then I drained it and spread the rice on a sheet pan to cool.

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I refilled the pot, brought it to a boil, and cooked a cup of farro the same way. I overcooked the farro today because I forgot to look back at one of my own recipes and thought I remembered the cooking time was about 40 minutes. In reality, it’s only 30. (There is also such a thing as par-cooked farro that cooks in 10 minutes.)

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That mistake aside, this boiling water method (as opposed to the pilaf method with a measured amount of water) is really a great way to cook grains in big amounts that you want to store and eat throughout the week. You don’t have the frustration of finding all your liquid simmered out and your grain undercooked; simply use a spoon to fish out a few grains every so often to see if they’re done. They should still be just a tiny bit toothy when you bite into them, and with some grains, just beginning to split open a bit.

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You can store them (after thoroughly cooling them) in plastic containers in the fridge. (You can also freeze cooked grains.) One note on salt: I don’t salt the water at first but tend to add some halfway through cooking. That said, the grains will still need to be generously seasoned when prepared for eating.

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Next Barney and I pulled out all the various citrus fruits I’ve been stockpiling—a Meyer lemon, a blood orange, a Minneola orange, a clementine, a navel orange, a regular lemon, and a lime. Mostly I just wanted to cut them open, take pictures of them, and then eat some…but I also wanted to dress my grains with some juice and zest.

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I am a citrus zest freak and put it in everything.

Lastly, I put everything together to make lunch (which wound up being dinner, too, though I did make pork chops for Roy, since he does not appreciate the meatless meal the way I do!). I put a cup of cooked black rice and a cup of cooked farro into a microwavable bowl and reheated them for a minute and a half. (Remember this, as it is easy to do on a weeknight if you’ve got grains already made and stashed in the fridge.)

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I juiced ½ of the blood orange and ½ of the Meyer lemon and added about a tablespoon of each to my grains. I seasoned with plenty of salt, too. In a little skillet, I heated up a bit of oil and a tiny bit of butter and softened ½ teaspoon or so of minced garlic in it. I tossed most of the softened garlic in with the grains and added 4 ounces of the broccoli raab to the skillet, tossing to warm it through in the garlic-scented oil. I stirred up the grains, tasted, and piled in a serving dish, arranging the raab and a smattering of roasted chickpeas alongside. I squeezed the other Meyer lemon half over the raab, and at the last minute, decided to cut the blood orange segments out of the unused half and toss them in, too. Often I used dried fruit and toasted nuts with grains, but it was a nice switch to have the crunchy chickpeas and the fresh citrus segments.

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There are lots of ways to turn grains into filling meals (think beans, roasted veggies, sautéed mushrooms), so I encourage you to do your own mad-scientist experimenting. Just be sure to season with plenty of bright ingredients (vinegars, fresh herbs, Asian condiments, as well as citrus).

But don’t be surprised when your trusty assistant loses interest in the experiment—especially if there are birds outside the window to keep an eye on.

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Keep Warm and Cook Something Delicious

DSC_0048Wherever you are, I’m sure you’re cold. If you’re in Minnesota, God bless you. Roy spent his elementary school years in Duluth and he has vivid memories of walking to school through snow banks much taller than he was. Martha’s Vineyard is downright tropical compared to that.

DSC_0011DSC_0027Thought you might like to see our thermometers here. It was 0° when Roy first went out, but by the time Farmer and I got our gear on, it was  8° on the farm stand (right) and 24° in the hoop house (left). The hoop house was warming up pretty rapidly in the sun, too. Inside, the greens are covered by both a layer of fabric row cover and a layer of plastic, so they should be okay. Lettuce actually withstands very cold temps (due to a sort of anti-freeze effect) as long as it doesn’t get direct frost or cold wind. We have kale, broccoli, and arugula under cover, too. I’m hopeful.

In the garden, the parsley seems to miraculously radiate a green glow, despite everything.

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Heading back Inside, I rifled through the freezer and pulled out some of our own tomatoes—roasted and frozen in September—and our own pesto, made with the last of the basil in October, I think. Making baked pasta tonight, a memory of warmth on a cold night. A few days ago I made split pea soup (a Roy favorite) and pulled out my old Joy of Cooking to see the notes I made years ago on how I like to make this classic. I noticed (maybe for the first time), that Irma Rombauer suggests to serve the soup with “croutons, or sour black bread and Jellied Pig’s Feet (p. 511).” How interesting!

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I also made creamy polenta (for myself, not a Roy favorite) last week, poured it into a baking dish, and cut pieces out several nights running. I pan-fried them and served them with sautéed broccoli greens and kale from the hoop house. By the way, last year when I blogged about broccoli greens, I had no idea they’d be making their way into grocery stores this year. The current edition of Fine Cooking magazine has an article about how Foxy Organics is now growing and selling broccoli leaves (under the name Broccoleaf) to grocery stores. (I wrote about this and other new veggies on The Huffington Post yesterday). You can check out Fine’s Cooking’s info on broccoli leaves here and a great recipe for Broccoli Leaf Tortellini Soup here. Oh, and I almost forgot—that new issue of Fine Cooking also has a feature by yours truly on roasted winter vegetable salads. To get the full effect of the gorgeous photos and layout (and flexibility of the master recipe), you’ll want to pick up the magazine. But many of the recipes are online, too. Click here for the Roasted Winter Vegetable and Pear Salad with Cheddar and Almonds recipe. (Photo of salad below is by Scott Phillips, courtesy of FineCooking.com.)

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Undoubtedly, you are concocting something delicious in your own kitchen to keep warm. Regardless, I hope you’re staying inside, unlike our chickens and ducks, who have the option of huddling in their coops, but prefer to roam around and eat bits of snow on a day like this—crazy!

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Even crazier is that I am on egg-collecting duty today (I just remembered—yikes!) and now I have to layer-up (two of everything) and go down to the (7) coops and collect (hundreds of) eggs. Can’t wait.

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Two Favorite Potato Salad Recipes for Fourth of July

DSC_6147Our potatoes aren’t quite ready to harvest yet (usually some are by the Fourth of July), but that hasn’t stopped me from making potato salad. Yesterday I made one of our favorite recipes from Fresh From the Farm. Well, definitely one of Roy’s favorites and I think it is pretty darn swell, too. It’s called Roy’s Almost-Classic Potato Salad with Farm Eggs, Celery & Crème Frâiche (photo above, recipe below). I like it because I’ve never really been a fan of mayonnaise-based potato salads, though I am well aware of how popular they are. Creating one of my own gave me a chance to freshen up the classic.

I start with Yukon Gold potatoes, and for the dressing, I cut the mayo with crème fraiche (sour cream is a fine sub), add plenty of lemon juice and lemon zest (plus the cider vinegar), a touch of ground coriander, and fresh parsley and chives. The hard-boiled eggs, celery, and onions are non-negotiable. The salad has a nice, light feel and a bright flavor.

 

IMG_8127_1photo-68But in case you’re not in the mood for the classic, I offer up another potato salad that I created for Fast, Fresh & Green. It’s called New Potato Salad with Fresh Peas, Lime, and Yogurt (photo directly above). It also has some mayonnaise in the dressing, but cut with Greek-style yogurt. I’ve been thinking of that salad while harvesting peas in the near-dark (yes, there are so darn many of them this year that we can hardly keep up with them). Once we eat all of Roy’s Classic, I think we’ll make this one, too, as I just love it. We’ll still have peas, and maybe our Red Gold taters will be ready to pull.

Hope you all have a wonderful Fourth of July holiday!

 

Roy’s Almost-Classic Potato Salad with Farm Eggs, Celery & Crème Frâiche  

DSC_6149Recipe copyright Susie Middleton, 2014, Fresh From the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories

Roy gives this salad two thumbs up. He said he’d give it three if he had an extra hand. He also says he likes it even better the second day, so make this ahead if you like. Feel free to substitute sour cream for the crème fraiche. You can loosen the sour cream a bit with just a touch of half ‘n half.

Serves 4 to 6

 

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

Kosher salt

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup crème frâiche or sour cream

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

3/4 teaspoon ground coriander

3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced

2 long or 3 short stalks celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (3/4 cup)

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (a scant 1/2 cup)

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons sliced fresh chives

Put the potatoes and 2 teaspoons of salt in a large saucepan and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until just tender, or about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain carefully in a colander, rinse briefly with cool water, and spread on a clean dishtowel to cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, crème frâiche, cider vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, ground coriander, a pinch of salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper. Add the cooled potatoes, eggs, celery, onion, most of the parsley, and most of the chives. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt over all. With a silicone spatula, mix everything together until well combined, breaking the eggs apart as you mix. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with remaining parsley and chives. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Baby Kale, Avocado & Radish Salad—Susie’s Pink & Green #9

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photo-40Lately I have been obsessing about this Red Russian kale we are growing in the hoop house. I feel kind of silly, as it isn’t exactly a new thing—other farmers on the Island have been growing this variety and harvesting it young for a few years now. But I finally got around to planting a thick carpet of it (in order to harvest it as baby greens), and my, oh, my, is it tickling my fancy. It’s beautiful, yes. But tender, too. And almost sweet. (Even Roy likes it!) Which means now I have no business being cranky about kale salads. (I have come around on this, and even have a kale salad in Fresh from the Farm, but I am still not big on thick chewy mature kale leaves in salads—massaged, or not.)

I do think the hoop house kale is particularly tender, because it grows fast in those lovely conditions and doesn’t have to toughen up to the elements outside. But Red Russian kale is so delicious young, that I’d say, hoop house or not, rush out and buy yourself a packet of seeds and dump some in a pot of soil right now. In 28 days you’ll have a tender kale salad.

(If you live in Texas, maybe wait until fall’s cooler weather at this point.)

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DSC_4738Also, as most of you know, I am obsessed with the color pink. And this year we’re growing French Breakfast and Cherry Belle radishes in the hoop house, and they are nearly big enough to pull. Nearly big enough, yes. But since I am the boss, I get to pull them up whenever I want to.

In fact, since I realized I was heading towards yet another variation on a “pink and green” salad for my lunch today, I thought, “I’m going to put whatever I want in this salad!” So in went avocado, a few toasted pecans, a little blue cheese, and a drizzle of Perky’s Vinaigrette. Honestly, for your own variation, you could put just about anything you like in with that baby kale and it would be lovely.

DSC_4789If I sound like I am being obstinate, it’s because I have to go traveling again this week and am wishing I could just stay home and keep working outside until dark like Roy and I have been doing every night this week. (I’m not kidding, it really is satisfying.) But off I go so I’m having one last pink and green salad for the week.

 

DSC_4669And speaking of pink, we snuck off to get a quick peek at some trees in bloom at Polly Hill Arboretum Sunday afternoon (a stone’s throw from us).

I’d never seen this unusual magnolia, but fell in love with the pink blooms.

Of course.

 

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Winter Garden Salad: A Template Recipe for Greens + Roots

If we didn’t have 150 pounds of pork in the freezer, I could eat a warm salad of winter greens and roasted veggies every night. (Roy, not so much.) This is one of those recipe/techniques that I unapologetically come back to again and again—Warm Winter Salad of Roasted Root Fries (The Fresh and Green Table), Warm Bistro Salad with Tiny Roasted Root Vegetables and Bacon Dressing (Fast, Fresh & Green), and Quick-Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Salad with Ginger Lime Vinaigrette (coming in Fresh from the Farm), to name a few. (Hmmm, it appears I’m not averse to sneaking pork into these things, so you could certainly have your salad, and your bacon, too.)

The appeal of a warm salad with crispy, yummy roasted veggies served atop deep, dark greens with a bracing vinaigrette is the interplay between fresh and comforting. I also like the textural contrast, and to be honest, the visual appeal. These days, I don’t compose the salads so much as scatter-and-platter them. It’s a looser, more rustic look, and served family-style, more casual. But you can always arrange the salads on individual serving plates if you like.

It occurred to me this week that I should back up, look at the architecture of these salads, and come up with a template you could use, depending on whatever greens and winter veggies you’ve got hanging around.

Plus, I needed an excuse to show off my greens that are still alive in the market garden. (Ahem, again, unapologetic…) So this morning after my chicken chores (no frozen water—yay!), I took a bowl and scissors and collected a nice combo of mizuna, Ruby Streaks mustard, Russian kale, arugula, tat soi, parsley, a few baby bok choy leaves, and even a few carrot tops. It’s amazing what lives through freezing temperatures and unfortunate ice formations; the arugula is particularly hearty, and one of my lettuces, Winter Marvel, acts like it doesn’t even know its December. (Alas, soon enough, nothing will be growing, even if it stays alive, since we’re now down below the critical mark of 10 hours of daylight. I’ve got lots of lettuce and greens down in the hoop house which I am just hoping to keep alive and harvest sparingly until early February, when 10+hours returns and they’ll start growing again.)

Realistically, most of us will be harvesting greens for our winter salads from the grocery store, so here’s your chance to buy baby kale, escarole and frisee, sturdy spinach, and anything that’s got some backbone or body. Make your own custom mix, and try to steer away from bagged mixes of salad greens, which tend to be less fresh than heads or bunches and also contain filler lettuces which don’t hold up to warm vinaigrettes too well.

For your veggie mix, choose from sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, beets, or butternut squash. Dice them quite small so that they’ll roast quickly; most won’t need peeling—but for the butternut. (For a pretty all squash-salad, you could use thinly sliced acorn and/or Delicata rings, which don’t need peeling and will also cook quickly.) Add diced pears or apples to the veggie mix if you want, and customize your salad with whatever toasted nuts and good quality cheeses you like. Use your favorite vinegar in the warm vinaigrette, and don’t be shy with a squeeze of lemon or lime to juice it up.

Here’s my template—I hope it will make a nice starting point for you. If you come up with a really delicious combo, I’d love to hear about it!

Warm Salad of Roasted Root Veggies and Winter Greens

Be sure to cut your veggies into evenly small pieces so they’ll all cook at the same rate. Don’t be tempted to crowd them on one pan, either—a little room around them will brown them up better. (Unless, of course, you want to cut this recipe in half, which is perfectly doable.) If you decide to include beets in your veggie mix, toss them with a little oil and salt separately from the rest or they’ll tend to color everything else.

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For the salad:

1½ to 1¾ pounds combination sweet potatoes (unpeeled), potatoes (unpeeled), carrots (peeled), parsnips (peeled), turnips (unpeeled), beets (unpeeled), butternut squash (peeled), firm-ripe pears (peeled), or Golden Delicious apples (unpeeled), cut into small dice (about 3/8-inch in diameter) (about 5 to 6 cups)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

6 to 7 cups combination sturdy mixed winter greens (such as baby kale, escarole, frisee, arugula, mustard, or tat soi)

¼ cup chopped toasted pecans, walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts

½ to 2/3 cup crumbled good quality blue cheese, feta cheese, goat cheese or 1/3 cup coarsely grated aged gouda or Parmigianno

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped dried cherries, cranberries, raisins, figs, pitted dates, or other dried fruit (optional)

For the vinaigrette:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, or cider vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice (more to taste)

½ teaspoons lemon or lime zest

1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves (or other herb of choice)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

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Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line two large rimmed heavy-duty baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large, wide mixing bowl, combine the veggies, the 4 tablespoons olive oil, and a scant teaspoon kosher salt. Toss well and spread in one layer on the two baking sheets. Roast, rotating the sheet pans once (and flipping the veg with a spatula if you like), until the veggies are nicely browned and tender, about 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes on the sheet pans and then combine in a mixing bowl.

While the vegetables are roasting, put the greens in a wide heat-proof mixing bowl. Set out a serving platter or four serving plates.

Make the warm vinaigrette: Heat the 1/3 cup olive oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced shallots and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are browned and crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Take the skillet off the heat and remove the shallot rings with a fork, transferring them to a paper-towel lined plate. Let the oil cool for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, the maple syrup, the Dijon, the juice, the zest, the herbs, ¼ teaspoon salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper. Whisk vigorously until the dressing is mostly emulsified. (Alternatively, first transfer the shallot-infused oil to a heat-proof Pyrex liquid measure, add the other ingredients and whisk well. This is a slightly less awkward way of making the dressing). Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon or lime juice, salt or pepper as needed.

Season the greens with a sprinkling of kosher salt and drizzle over them a few tablespoons of the warm vinaigrette. (Be sparing at this point). Toss well, taste, and add a little more dressing if necessary. Arrange most of the greens on your platter or serving plates. Sprinkle with half of the nuts, cheese, and fruit.

Season the roasted veggies with a pinch more salt, and dress them lightly with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Toss well and scatter over the greens. Garnish with remaining nuts, cheese, fruit, greens, and reserved shallots. Serve right away, passing the remaining dressing if desired.

Serves 4

P.S. Farmer enjoyed harvesting greens this morning, too!

 

White-Out Weary, Cruciferous Cravings, Limey Green Slaw

At this point I am willing to admit that living in a drafty, un-insulated old farmhouse loses a bit of its appeal in early February. While I have been busy telling my friends out in the rest of the world that winters on Martha’s Vineyard are relatively mild and that we don’t get much snow, it seems that the tables have turned. Most days now it’s more like Duluth, where Roy spent some time as a toddler—swaddled in a snowsuit, 24-7. Here, we are swaddled in a succession of all-weather boots, a smorgasbord of hats and eternally wet gloves, and two heavy, fleece-lined canvas farm jackets. With Roy wielding the axe to crack the ice on the chicken water every morning, we are pretty scary looking. And that’s just when we’re outside! Inside the cold (yes, cold) house, our triple-fleece, double-thermal lounging attire makes us look like rejects from a bad L.L. Bean catalogue photo shoot.

The snow is beautiful. And I longed for it in December. But now that I hear we are going to get a bazillion inches of it (not to mention scary wind) on Friday, I’m thinking, enough, already. This will require even more creative thinking on how to keep the chickens supplied with unfrozen water. And about how to keep our frequent farm stand customers supplied with eggs without making them shovel a path to the back door. Perhaps we could put the wild bunnies to work. Every morning after fresh snow, there’s a virtual Etch-a-Sketch of rabbit tracks all around the yard, from coop to garden to barn to woods to fields and back. Drives Farmer crazy.

Also, we have to brush the snow off of the hoop house, lest it get too heavy, and, well, you can imagine what might happen. And that hoop house is my winter savior, so I’m very protective of it. I am so darned excited about what we’ve already got going in there, that I can barely stand it. My little baby bok choy and lettuce transplants are just cruising along. On sunny days, when the temperature inside the hoop house can get up to between 70 and 80, I can practically see the little green plants doing jumping jacks. On grey, drizzly, snowy, ice days, it takes most of the daylight hours just for the plants to unshrivel from the night’s cold. They’re under two layers of plastic, but still, cold is cold.

I’m longing to snatch some of those greens but I’ve held off to let them mature.  Fortunately there is still something green growing in the garden, under no cover at all. That would be miracle plant (and wonder food) kale, of course. A ridiculous plant, this kale. But a convenient one. Convenient because I’ve been messing around with kale salads lately. (I’ll let you know when I really and truly warm up to raw kale salads—I’m not quite there yet, but I’m working on it.) And also because this wicked February cold seems to be giving me strange cruciferous cravings. I only to want to eat Brussels sprouts or cabbage or kale every night. And even for lunch.

In fact, today I knew exactly what I wanted to do with a beautiful head of Savoy cabbage I saw at the grocery: Make one of my crunchy, limey slaws—and add a few of those sweet baby kale leaves from the garden to it. I happened to have a ripe avocado on deck, too, so a new variation on my original recipe was born. Green, green, green. Really green. Strangely refreshing on a cold day. I think it’s the antioxidants. Or maybe just the hopeful color. Or maybe it just tastes good. Whatever it was, I think I’d better go eat some more of it (and hope that it has magical powers) now that I’ve heard the latest forecast: Blizzard. Not just snow, but lots of it and lots of wind. Just what we love to hear on a farm. Stay tuned, and make some limey savoy and avocado slaw!

Savoy Slaw with Lime, Cilantro, Avocado & Toasted Pecans

Some groceries are now carrying baby kale leaves—snatch them up if you see them. If not, you can pluck tiny leaves from bigger bunches (even right off the stems of bigger curly kale) or very finely chop bigger leaves to add to this salady slaw. Or leave the kale out all together—or add more. Your choice!

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8 ounces very thinly sliced cored Savoy cabbage or regular green cabbage

1 ounce (about 1 cup) baby kale leaves or finely chopped or sliced large kale leaves (deribbed)

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon maple syrup, more to taste

1 teaspoon fresh lime zest

Kosher salt

1 firm-ripe avocado (2 if you like)

3 to 4 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro

3 to 4 tablespoons plain nonfat Greek yogurt

3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pecans

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In a mixing bowl, toss together the cabbage, the kale leaves, the 3 tablespoons lime juice, the 1 tablespoon maple syrup, the lime zest and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Let sit, tossing well with tongs every 5 to 10 minutes, for about 30 minutes.

Peel and slice the avocado. Then cut the slices into smaller pieces. In a small bowl, toss the avocado gently with the remaining teaspoon of lime juice and a pinch of salt.

To the cabbage mixture, add 3 tablespoons of the cilantro, 3 tablespoons of the yogurt, and 3 tablespoons of the pecans. Toss well and taste. Add a teaspoon or two more of maple syrup to balance the tang a bit, if you like. Add up to a tablespoon more yogurt for a slightly creamier slaw, and add a pinch more salt, if needed. Mix well and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with more cilantro and pecans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Greens And A Lovely Salad Recipe to Use Them

In the early morning, when I open the garden gate to get Cocoa Bunny a leafy snack (if I don’t she attacks me when I refill her food bowl), the lettuce and kale and chard and mustard and arugula all have an eerie luminescence to them. They look frozen, but really there’s some kind of antifreeze science going on—a higher sugar content in the cells that keeps the leaves from truly freezing. By mid-morning, they look well, normal, again. Normal if it were September, I’d say.

But it’s December and it amazes me how many green leafy things are still thriving in the garden (see photos below). I only have a few things covered—spinach and some lettuce—but the rest are just hanging out in the elements and surviving. And not because of any magical horticultural genius on my part. So what if understanding the science is not my strong point? I’m happy to be able to make lovely winter-green salads for as long as the garden will let me. And when everything dies, I’m going to have to resort to buying something for Cocoa—unless Plan B works, and I wind up having a supply of greens in January.

I have four flats of gorgeous lettuce and bok choy seedlings growing in the cold frame. I’ve never had better looking seedlings, probably because we always have everything awkwardly crammed under indoor lights. The plan was to get these transplanted into the hoop house—under a double cover system that would effectively raise the temperature a few degrees. (The film on the hoop house being the first layer, another smaller hoop of film directly over the bed being another.) I’ve prepared the bed, but the problem is that the first layer of film is no longer on the hoop house. It got damaged in the Nor ‘Easter (after surviving the hurricane) and repairing it is now on a mounting list of things for Roy to do.

Certainly not worth spending more than a nanosecond worrying about that dilemma. Instead I want to offer you a fabulous winter salad recipe that you can use no matter where your greens come from. It’s a recipe from The Fresh & Green Table that I reluctantly cut from the “favorites” list last week because it’s a side salad, not a main event. But it is lovely nonetheless so I pass it along to you now. Refreshing, crisp, and bright, it pairs well with hearty dishes like gratins or ragouts, or it can star as a first or last course before or after the Christmas roast beef.

The salad features a trio of greens that I particularly like for their contrasting color and texture—endive, arugula, and frisee (or inner escarole leaves). For special salads like this, I prefer to make a custom mix of greens, rather than relying on store-bought mixes that often are past their prime or don’t hold up well when dressed. A sherry maple vinaigrette, blue cheese, and toasted hazelnuts offer all the right sweet and salty notes to bring this salad together. Be sure to use a nice blue cheese like Roquefort or Stilton, and don’t buy pre-crumbled blue cheese.

Winter Green and White Side Salad with Blue Cheese and Hazelnuts

Recipe copyright Susie Middleton. Photo at top by Annabelle Breakey. From The Fresh & Green Table (Chronicle Books, 2012.)

Any night you want to serve this salad, you can prepare the greens ahead; put them in a salad bowl, cover with a damp towel, and refrigerate. (Use leftover outer escarole leaves in soup.) And since the vinaigrette keeps for at least a week in the fridge, that’s a make-ahead too; just be sure to bring it to room temp before dressing. You can also easily double the salad ingredients to serve a crowd, since there’s plenty of extra vinaigrette here.

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For the vinaigrette

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon orange juice

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

For the salad

3 ounces baby arugula leaves (about 6 cups, loosely packed)

3 ounces inner escarole leaves (white, yellow and palest green parts), torn into small pieces (about 4 cups), washed and very well dried

2 small endive (4 to 5 ounces each), cut crosswise into 3/4-inch wide pieces, core discarded (about 2 1/2 cups)

3 ounces Roquefort, Stilton, or other good-quality blue cheese, crumbled while still cold (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup very coarsely chopped hazelnuts, toasted

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For the vinaigrette

Combine the olive oil, sherry vinegar, orange juice, maple syrup, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, about 1/8 teaspoon salt, and several grounds of fresh pepper in a glass jar or Pyrex liquid measuring cup. Whisk or shake well and taste.

For the salad

Put the arugula, escarole, and endive in a wide shallow bowl and toss with your hands to combine. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette over leaves and toss well. Taste and add just a bit more dressing if needed. Add the blue cheese to the salad and gently mix it with the greens (again using your hands) breaking the blue cheese up further to spread it throughout the greens. (A creamy blue will smear slightly—which is a good thing.) Mound the salad evenly onto four plates, and sprinkle the toasted hazelnuts over each portion. Serve right away.

Serves 4

Winter Whites and Something Bright—Roasted Cauliflower with Double-Lemon Ginger Dressing

Guess I am a little late to the party. Here I have been thinking I have some extra-special arugula-growing talent, because mine is still alive in the garden in late January. (Yes, and I’ve reminded everyone of this in nearly every recent blog.) And never mind that it’s been incredibly mild this year—we  had 8 inches of snow on Saturday, so now we can officially call it winter. (Though it’s already back up to 45 degrees!) I got a huge kick out of digging under the snow (and the row cover) on Sunday to find the arugula still percolating  away underneath.

But it turns out that I don’t have a special talent—apparently arugula is about the heartiest green you can grow. And with just a little protection, you can keep it going through the coldest months around here if you give it a good head start in the fall. It will do most of its growing before December, but if you’ve planted enough, you can just keep harvesting it all winter. This is a very exciting concept for me—having salad greens all year ‘round. The arugula was more or less an accident this winter, but come this fall, I’ll deliberately plant mâche (also called lamb’s lettuce—mild, nutty, and delicious) and spinach, too, for winter harvesting.

Right now, though, I am eating arugula with everything that will stand still long enough. Today that meant roasted cauliflower, which I’ve been craving something bad. I’m not sure why, though I do have a thing about winter whites. I love the color white (I collect Ironstone dishes) and when the snow started falling, cauliflower and endive and baby turnips and pearl onions began floating through my mind. I finally bought a head of cauliflower today, and decided to pair it with something bright and zingy. I love citrus with veggies this time of year, and I remembered a great dressing I put together for a carrot salad (of all things!) in Fast, Fresh & Green. It stars one of my favorite ingredients—crystallized ginger—along with lemon zest, lemon juice, and orange juice. Just the combo to counter the intensely sweet, nutty flavors of roasted cauliflower. So I gave it a go. Turns out the dressing is terrific with cauliflower—but even better with arugula. (I used the greens as a bed for the roasted veggies). So I will use the dressing again with hearty winter green salads. But the cauliflower combo was just right today—a bright spot on a cool (not exactly cold) winter day.

Roasted Cauliflower with Double-Lemon Ginger Dressing and a Spritz of Arugula

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

For another way to dress up roasted cauliflower, see the compound butter idea in this post. You will probably not use all of the ginger dressing—save any extra for a green salad. In summertime, the dressing would also be a great marinade for shrimp before they hit the grill.  A few toasted chopped almonds would make a nice addition to this dish. You could also pair the whole thing with some cooked whole grains, such as wheatberries, farro, or brown rice, to make a delicious vegetarian main dish salad.

1 pound cauliflower florets (from about 1 small head), each cut into pieces about 1 ½  inches long with one flat side (see photos)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Double-Lemon Ginger Dresssing

2 cups (more or less) arugula leaves, washed and dried

Heat the oven to 475 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, toss the florets gently but thoroughly with the olive oil and salt. Spread the florets out on the sheet pan in one layer, flat side down. (Scrape any remaining salt and oil out of the bowl onto the florets). Roast until the bottom of the florets are well-browned and the tops are starting to brown, 20 to 24 minutes. (You can turn them once with tongs about ¾ way through cooking, but do leave the flat side in contact with the sheet pan for about the first 12 to15 minutes so that it will get nicely caramelized.)

Gently transfer the warm florets to a mixing bowl and drizzle with as much dressing as you like (start with about half; you will not use it all). Toss the arugula leaves with a teaspoon or two of the dressing and arrange the leaves on a platter or plates. Top with the dressed, roasted cauliflower and serve right away (the cauliflower cools quickly.)

Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish.

Double-Lemon Ginger Dressing

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon finely minced crystallized ginger

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons orange juice

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

pinch of kosher salt

Combine the olive oil, the ginger, the lemon juice, the orange juice, the lemon zest and the salt in a small bowl and whisk well. Re-whisk before dressing. Store any leftover dressing covered in the fridge.

Tiny Roasted Beets, A Winter Garden Salad, And A Dog that Likes Both

You would think that at some point I’d reach my limit with this whole veggie thing. But it seems I can never get enough. On Saturday I threw Libby and Farmer in the car (this was not hard, as where one goes, so goes the other) and headed off to Whippoorwill Farm. I’d heard a rumor that they were offering their last winter harvest for the CSA to the general public–$20 a share. Oh boy! I remember from belonging to the CSA a few years back that the cabbages and root veggies they provided at the end of the season lasted a good long time in the fridge. And since the only real winter-keepers we’ve got from our garden are onions and rutabagas, the idea of eating those carrots and beets and leeks (my favorite!) in January and February was too enticing for me to ignore.

When we got to the farm, Libby took over at the scales, weighing out each pound of carrots, turnips, and beets (we bought a double share, so it was a lot). Then she picked out our bags of lettuce and kale tops while I grabbed the cabbages and leeks. We hadn’t even made it back to the car before we were snacking on the incredibly sweet and crisp carrots. Of course Libby wanted to offer Farmer a carrot, so we broke one into pieces. He had a sniff from his back-seat perch, then proceded to crunch and swallow and lick his lips. Delicious. We ate three more on the way home.

After I sorted and rinsed the veggies and stored them in the new (old) mudroom fridge, I began to think about new ideas for using them. I also have exploding lettuces in the cold frame; the mix of seedlings we planted includes an unusual frilly purple mustard and a deeply handsome red Tat Soi, both of which are thriving. I also am nursing along a couple young heads of radicchio in the cold frame, so all the pretty reds and purples inspired me to make a Christmas-y deep red and green winter salad. (The arugula is also still thriving—outside of the cold frame, no less.)

I wanted to try a slightly different take on my favorite quick-roasting method for beets, too. While I love roasting them as thin slices, I decided to try tiny dice this time. (The recipe for quick-roasted beet slices is both here and in Fast, Fresh & Green. And while I also included a recipe for tiny roasted roots in Fast, Fresh & Green, I had left beets off the list in that recipe for two reasons—they bleed, and I figured they would take longer than most roots to cook.)

But I was so pleased to discover yesterday that the little diced beets did indeed get tender in 20 minutes at 475 degrees. (So the great news is the same here as it is with the quick-roasted slices: You do not need to invest hours of time to enjoy roasted beets.) With caramelized edges, these sweet little gems made a great addition to the salad—which I rounded out with a creamy blue cheese and a bit of salty pancetta. I forgot the nuts this time around, but would have been happy with chopped toasted pecans or hazelnuts. I used a simple white balsamic vinaigrette with a little maple, but you could improvise your own winter salad with your own dressing and any combination of arugula, endive, radicchio, escarole, mustard, tat soi, or other hearty salad green. Figure about two cups loosely packed greens for each serving, and plate the salads for the nicest presentation, especially if you’re including a creamy cheese (which tends to get messy when tossed). Certainly opt out of the pancetta if you like. Follow the simple recipe below to roast the beets. I think using them on the day they’re roasted is nicest (you can leave them at room temp for a couple hours), but they certainly hold in the fridge, too, and can even be marinated in a citrusy vinaigrette to become more of a condiment or relish.

I discovered one other thing yesterday—Farmer likes roasted beets and arugula (in addition to Snickerdoodles). I won’t go into the details on how I learned this, but it has something to do with distracting him from the Christmas tree ornaments.

Tiny Diced Roasted Beets

Toss these in salads, marinate them to make a condiment or relish, or just plain eat them as a side dish or a snack.

1/2 pound trimmed small red beets (unpeeled)

1 generous tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat the oven to 475°F. Line a small heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet (also called a quarter sheet pan) with parchment. Cut the beets into dice that are between 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch big. (It’s easiest to slice the beets across first—after discarding the ends—and then lay the slices down to cut into dice.)

Toss the diced beets thoroughly with the olive oil and salt in a small mixing bowl and spread in one layer on the sheet pan. Roast for 20 to 22 minutes, until caramelized and tender when pierced with a knife (they do not have to be soft, just cooked through. Don’t overcook or they will begin to burn.) Let cool a bit on the sheet pan and eat right away—or later!

Makes enough to garnish three or four small salads or two large ones.