In Season: What we’re doing with Kale

KaleSalad3

We’ve been growing and loving kale for years. My first love was kale chips. And, I still adore them. Fresh from the oven, the first pan is all mine. No sharing. I can’t help it. They are that delicious. I don’t fuss around too much. Tear the kale into large pieces, massage with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt, roast in a 350 degree oven for 7 minutes and check on them, adding time if necessary. You want the chips just cooked. Too much and they are not lovely. Just perfect and your teeth will be filled with green kale goodness because you can’t stop eating them.

Matt and I also like to saute kale with a little olive oil and garlic. Finished with a squeeze of lemon and generous shaving of Parmesan. Or, stirred into soups and stews, kale is awesome as well. It holds its texture amazingly well.

Then I heard about kale salads and how tasty they were. So, I found a recipe that included avocado, which I love. And…I made it. And…we hated it! It was just terrible. So, I was pretty much done with kale salads. That is, until, my mom fell in love with kale salad. And I will tell you, she makes a kick ass kale salad. Now, I’m on the kale salad train and there’s no turning back. This recipe will make you love it as well!

Debby’s Kick Ass Kale Salad
* serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Dressing:
  • 3/4 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 large clove, minced
  • 5 Tbsp olive oil
  • season with salt & pepper
  • Salad:
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves torn
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Tbsp dried cherries
  • 2 Tbsp pepitas
  • 1 carrot, julienne or spiralized
  • 2 Tbsp diced red onion
  • homemade croutons (recipe here), two generous handfuls

KaleSalad

Directions:

  1. Whisk together dressing ingredients. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  2. Massage dressing into kale. You don’t need to be gentle. Be sure all surface area of the kale is covered. This helps tenderize the kale. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Toss in remaining ingredients and serve.

KaleSalad2

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In Season: What we’re doing with Pea Shoots

Many of our market customers are now familiar with pea shoots. If not, please stop by our Saturday market and try some. We offer samples every week. Anyway, these little morsels taste just like peas and we are able to grow them year round. So, in the height of winter we had a taste of spring. And, when you have a long, cold winter like this year, a taste of spring is a welcome treat.

Pea shoots are really versatile. My absolute favorite is on a tuna salad sandwich. I know, so simple. True, but also so delicious. But, don’t stop there. Try adding them to salad, topping your grilled salmon, sprinkling over your morning omelette, stuffing into a wrap with hummus and other veggies, tossing on top of your stir fry, or piling on top of a steaming bowl of miso soup.

If you don’t have tortillas for a wrap, just make a jumbo veggie sandwich. Spread hummus or cream cheese on your bread and top with whatever you have. In this case, we spread avocado on one side and the other side is filled with a mix of carrot, pea shoots, cilantro, and red onion tossed with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil. It was so filling and super delightful.

Probably my second favorite way to enjoy pea shoots is the recipe below. When I’m eating this, though, it moves right up to number one. We had a similar dish at The Corn Exchange in Rapid City. Sadly, this restaurant has closed, but this recipe is spot on to what they served.

Corn Cakes with Smoked Salmon

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sweet corn
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • pinch Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 2 Tbsp AP flour
  • Sour cream
  • Smoked Salmon (gravlox or smoked trout is also amazing)
  • Pea Shoots, rough chopped
  • Radish, thinly sliced
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Cucumber, diced

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, blend 1 cup corn, butter, sugar, and salt.
  2. Move to a bowl and stir in remaining corn, corn flour, and AP flour until combined.
  3. Swirl olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Scoop a 1/4 cup of mixture into pan and press down slightly to flatten. Cook until brown (3-4 minutes) and then flip to finish other side.
  4. Place corn cakes on a plate. Top with a dollop of sour cream and smoked salmon. Then generously sprinkle with pea shoots, radish, red onion, and cucumber. Enjoy!

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Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Our farm eggs are always super fresh. We gather daily and sell out every weekend, so you know your eggs are less than a week old. Store bought eggs, probably not.

But, have you tried hard boiling super fresh eggs? They don’t tend to peel very well. It’s frustrating, really. Store eggs usually peel easily. Did you know the older the egg, the easier to peel?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hold onto my eggs until they get old and then cook them. No thanks. This recipe for hard boiled eggs has worked wonders for our fresh eggs.

Matt and I like our eggs just like this picture shows. If you prefer your eggs cooked a bit more, try adding a minute or two to the cooking time.

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  • Add your eggs and boil for 10 minutes.
  • Immediately remove eggs and place in an ice bath until cool to the touch. I usually leave them 10-15 minutes.
  • Move to a container in your fridge and let set for 45 minutes before peeling.
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In Season: What we’re doing with Escarole & Curly Endive

You’ve probably heard of Belgian endive, but what about curly endive? Both curly endive and escarole enjoy and thrive in chilly weather, so they have been doing exceptionally well this year. Both are members of the chicory family and have a slightly bitter taste.

We enjoy them as a lettuce replacement on chicken salad sandwiches or mixed with other greens for a dinner salad with pizzazz.

I made this salad with curly endive simply because it was gorgeous on the plate. Escarole would work just as well here.

Curly Endive Salad
*serves 2-4, depending on portion size

Ingredients:

  • 1 head curly endive (or escarole)
  • Bacon, 2 slices per salad
  • Thick slice rustic bread (I used roasted garlic sun-dried tomato)
  • Egg, 1 per salad
  • Olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Trim end off endive and wash leaves. Spin dry.
  3. Cook bacon in oven until crisp, about 20-25 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Slice bread into chunks, approximately 1×1 inch. Toss with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Bake until just crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  5. Poach the eggs (https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/videos/techniques/how-poach-egg)
  6. Assemble salad as seen above. Drizzle with olive oil and top with cracked black pepper.

These greens also lend themselves to a quick pan saute and, surprisingly, are delicious in soup. I made this soup the other night and loved it. You can have dinner on the table in 20 minutes, easily. It was just as good about 12 hours later, but didn’t hold up as well beyond that. Eat it when it’s fresh. Next time I may replace the beans with brown rice for a variation or I might add sliced wonton wrappers and maybe add a swirl of egg.

Curly Endive & Escarole Bean Soup
*serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sliced white and pale green part of scallion and walking onions (reserve tops to garnish soup)
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks lovage, thinly sliced (save leaves for another use – you can use celery if you can’t find lovage, but I highly recommend lovage)
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • olive oil
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 15oz can white beans with juice
  • 1/2 curly endive, rough chopped
  • 1/2 escarole, rough chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat a stock pot over medium high heat. Add 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil and swirl to coat.
  2. Add onion and saute until soft, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add carrot and lovage. Saute for a couple minutes.
  4. Add garlic and thyme. Saute for 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in stock and bring to a simmer.
  6. Add beans with juice, endive, and escarole. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.
  7. Serve topped with chopped scallions.

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Breaking News: Size Doesn’t Matter

Size doesn’t matter, at least not when you’re talking about asparagus. Some people believe thin asparagus yields more tender, less woody asparagus. I used to believe that, too. That is until the asparagus we grow started thickening as the crowns aged and I was forced to try thick asparagus. Thin or thick…it doesn’t matter.

Thinner asparagus generally comes from young crowns or crowded crowns. Thicker asparagus comes from more mature crowns. Take this monster below. (!!!!!) We harvested this beauty near the end of the asparagus season last year from an asparagus plant that is probably 6-8 years old and has plenty of growing space.

The big question. Was it tender. Oh my goodness, it was unbelievably tender, including the outer purple skin. It was delicious!

Now, size is really your preference. When we roast asparagus, I prefer the thin ones because part of the stalk get almost crispy and they are like salty green french fries. However, if we are blanching and dousing them with Hollandaise, I prefer thicker asparagus.

Whatever you do, don’t discard the thick stalks of asparagus. Give them a try. You might be surprised.

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The Price of Perfection

Late May 2016, Matt and I flew to San Diego for a long weekend vacation with the Geraets clan. We rented an AirBnB in Pacific Beach just a couple minutes walk from the ocean, so close I could hear the waves from our bedroom. If you’ve never slept with the ocean as your sound machine, you should.

Some of you know I used to live in San Diego. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but it has been over 12 years since I moved back to Pierre.                  Sorry, I fell off my chair, but I’m back. My goodness, 12 years since I lived on the West Coast. It is everything you think it might be. Beachy, sunny most of the year, filled with surfers and beautiful people, and a lot of delicious Mexican food. It also has the obligatory big city raging traffic and expensive living costs. I don’t miss those aspects of living in SoCal.

Friday evenings, in my suburb of La Mesa, was our city’s farmers’ market. I went every week, gathering fresh flowers, clamshells of basil, bags of small avocados, and warm tamales. My love of farmers’ markets originated there, on that side street as the sun began to set over the Pacific.

When I moved back to Pierre, I yearned for that market. That market was a major factor in our helping start the Capital City Farmers’ Market 9 seasons ago. I miss being a customer, but I love being a vendor.

Back to San Diego. On Sunday, Matt and I went to the Hillcrest Farmers’ Market, which was started in 1997. We happened upon Sage Mountain Farm, an all organic farm, located in Anza, CA. One of the owners, Phil, was a friendly talkative guy. We thoroughly enjoyed sharing various stories about our vegetables and markets. More about Phil and the Hillcrest market in another post.

While at Phil’s stand, I spied several pints of strawberries. These were not the perfectly sized, strangely same red colored, huge strawberries we’re used to seeing in the grocery store. No, these strawberries reminded me of the berries I used to pick in my Grandma Bouchie’s garden. The strawberries that we used to hunt for and relish as their juices dripped down our chins. We bought a pint. In retrospect, we should have bought four.

strawberries

Left: Sage Mountain Farm organic strawberries (photo credit: Sage Mountain Farm)
Right: Conventional strawberries

These were some of the BEST strawberries I have ever eaten. I mean the best. Being organic, they were a little more than the store-bought variety, but you cannot put a price tag on flavor.

We sat them on the counter at our AirBnB. Matt’s dad made a comment that they looked a little emaciated. “Try them”, I said. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on his face when he bit into that first berry. He couldn’t believe the true strawberry flavor. Our nephew had a similar experience, eyeing the suspiciously. “Try them”, I said. After his first bite, he smiled so big and dove in again.

There’s an evil back and forth which has somehow taken over the conventional produce world. We are shopping for “perfection” and grocery stores are asking growers for “uniformity.” This back and forth of looking for perfectly uniform vegetables has left out something very important. Flavor.

It doesn’t matter how gorgeous that strawberry looks. If you bite into it and it doesn’t evoke a visceral reaction, it’s just a bite of food. There is a reason people don’t get excited about the food they eat. How depressing to look at something so beautiful, but not have it taste as beautiful as it looks.

What is beauty really? I look at the two photos above and I immediately think the strawberries from Sage Mountain are more beautiful than the conventional type, because I’ve tasted them. Their inner beauty is so amazingly beautiful I’m still thinking about them 9 months after I tasted them!

This is true not just with strawberries. Have you ever tasted a home grown new potato and compared it to a conventional potato. I have and you should. It’s amazing. Truly amazing. Simply boil and sprinkle with salt. That. Is. All.

The other issue with this idea of perfection in produce comes in the form of “waste”. My sweet little eggplant in the photo below wouldn’t have made it out of a conventional field and to the grocery store, because he doesn’t meet the “norm”. He would have gone in the trash or compost. One of our lucky CSA members snagged him up quickly last year.

eggplantcompare

Left: Our special little guy Right: The “norm”

This is the same for almost all the produce we grow. Carrots, corn, cabbage, broccoli, peppers. You name it. Take the green bell peppers below, for example. In the grocery store, they are always the same size, right? That is not how they grow. It’s just not. They vary in shape and size, at least a little bit. And, of course, growing different varieties means various sizes. There are always some fun oddballs out of the bunch and we love those the best. They make it interesting.

peppers_compare

Left: B&G Produce bell peppers Right: Conventional bell peppers

I like seeing this trend on the East and West coasts about chefs taking “garbage” vegetables and using them. Essentially, they are taking what we consider the “cool kids” and making delicious food out of them. I think it’s disheartening, though, that we’ve come to this as a society. Next time you walk through your local grocery store, check out the produce. It’s all the same (although more are starting to carry local produce). Not at our farm.

This is one of the elements I love most about being a produce vendor. We get to grow these awesome, unique, and tasty vegetables for you to take home and enjoy. I harvest a carrot with two “legs” and am excited because someone gets to take this one-of-a-kind carrot home and savor her.

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Knowing My Food

For the last two years, a local friend of ours has raised pigs. Last year, we bought and Matt butchered Big Brown. He was a delicious specimen. This year, we bought two. Matt butchered them in our garage which means I avoided our garage for a good couple weeks.

Here’s the thing. I can’t “know” my food. I just can’t. As an example, a few years ago we bought a bunch of baby black ducks to raise and butcher. As soon as those adorable little devils were let out of the cage, I knew there was no way I could eat them. Matt, with a deep sigh, also knew.  When we have discussed the possibility of raising chickens, or a cow, pig, or lamb to butcher and eat…it’s the same thing. I just can’t “know” them.

As a kid, I helped every spring when we butchered chickens. I would grab their legs and swiftly chop off their heads, allowing us to actually see the phrase “running around like a chicken with its head cut off.”

But now, I can’t even fathom the thought.

I fully appreciate our friends who are able to mentally separate pets from animals for food consumption. I’m very thankful for them because I want to eat local food and although we eat a heavy non-meat diet, we both enjoy meat. I just can’t be a part of it. It’s ridiculous, I know. And, I am gradually trying. BUT, I’m not there yet.

I met our pigs a couple times, when we dropped off buckets of apricots and apples. Man, they are messy creatures. I know these pigs lived happy and healthy lives up until the very end. They were loved during their lives and dispatched quickly. Yet, I avoided the carcasses suspended from our garage rafters.

I need to get there, though, because eating local is a target goal for us. Just like the vegetables we grow, we know what these pigs ate and we know they weren’t pumped full of antibiotics and who knows what else. They weren’t kept in tiny pens. They played in their water hole and soaked in the summer sun.

We don’t eat a large quantity of meat, but what we do eat has extraordinary flavor…a result of being raised locally on good food and love. These two furry beasts have filled our freezer as well as my parents’ freezer with so much food. We have pork chops, ribs, roasts, tenderloins, pork cheeks, bacon, ham, ground pork, brats, various sausages, and breakfast sausage.

This year, in an attempt to respect the life they gave and use as much of each animal as possible, we made lard. My Grandma Bouchie always used lard. Sometimes, maybe she shouldn’t have. When she fried up apple fritters, for example. That little background piggy flavor sort of detracted from the yummy fritters, made using apples from their orchard just down the road.

It was fun to render lard, though. And, it turned out so nicely. We’ve been using it for everything from frying eggs to sauteing vegetables. No apple fritters, though. I know better.

The process is really easy. Add a little water, 1/4 cup should work, to a crock pot. Fill with cold, ground pig fat. Turn on low, cover, and cook for an hour. Stir and then cook for another hour or so. At this point, the lard will have separated from the remaining pork bits. Strain through cheesecloth into clean jars and refrigerate. Don’t toss the leftover porky bits. Those tasty bits fried until crisp are excellent in tacos, on top of salads, or scrambled with eggs. Enjoy.

lard_start

Top: cold pig fat Bottom: after 1 hour on low

lard_03

Remaining pork bits after straining through cheesecloth.

Left: warm lard Right: cooled lard

Left: warm lard
Right: cooled lard

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