• Ugly, But Tasty: Japanese Eggplant With Miso And Sesame

    eplantHmm, what to do with all that eggplant? Every summer we plant them in the garden, and then we get a ton of ‘em. Both the big globe eggplants and the slender Japanese variety. So now what? Well, we certainly grill them and occasionally make the effort to fry the eggplant, but after a while we look for new recipes to explore, particularly for our Japanese eggplant.

    eplant1eplant2eplant3So when we found this recipe from Nancy Singleton Hachisu, and her excellent cookbook Japanese Farm Food, we had to give it a try. And it is a simple and flavorful recipe with sweet eggplant, nutty sesame and umami-rich miso. Yum. But there is just one little issue. Um…it doesn’t look all that good.

    eplant5eplant6And when you have a photo-heavy food blog, one is loath to post stuff that looks a bit gross “meh”. But that said, this is a great way to serve eggplant and it is delicious. The sesame and miso paste also keeps in the fridge (it also works with thinly sliced cucumber) so you can get a few meals out of it.

    eplant7eplant9eplant10There are only a few tricks to this recipe. Firstly, you do need some sort of mortar and pestle to make the paste (but you really need one anyway). Secondly, you can steam the eggplant in a steamer, but a microwave works just a well and saves some time. We use the microwave (one of the rare times we actually “cook” with it) but if you prefer a steamer setup, have at it.

    eplant11eplant12eplant14Otherwise, we suggest you remind yourself that beauty is only skin deep and give this dish a try. Japanese eggplant is a real summer treat, and this recipes does it justice…well, it does the flavor justice. Continue reading

  • A Real Barbecue Burger

    bbq7Here at the farm, we don’t tend to get overly exercised about all the silliness in the world of food marketing. Trends come and go, health claims are made (and debunked) and everything ends up “super” or “mega” or “free” of something. And normally we just say “meh”, and go back to cooking.

    bbq1bbqBut recently I saw an ad for a “Big Barbecue Burger” that was just a big burger (cooked on a flat top) with onion rings and some barbecue sauce. And that got me thinking, “there is barely anything ‘barbecue’ about that burger except the sauce….that’s kinda lame”. And then I decided that we needed to make a real barbecue burger. Happily, we had an easy solution.

    bbq2bbq3To have a real “Barbecue Burger” you need to have some real barbecue. And since we just pulled pork for Memorial Day, we had leftovers. Normally we crisp up the leftovers for tacos (so good, and worth a future post), but why not put the pork on a grilled burger? And why not add some cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed onion, real barbecue sauce and serve it all on a buttered and toasted bun?

    bbq5Why not, indeed. Let us be the first to say that if you didn’t have enough motivation to make pulled pork already, serving it on a burger should get you moving. Smokey, salty, sweet, savory, tangy, soft, crunchy and crispy all in the same bite. Close to a perfection. And with such a strong foundation of flavors and textures, you can build on this burger all summer. We certainly will…

    bbq6Real Barbecue Burgers:

    Notes before you start:

    • You do need pulled pork for this dish, but you could also use the meat from barbecued ribs. Also, we haven’t tried adding barbecued brisket to the top of a burger, but it is an experiment we plan to try.

    What You Get: A perfect barbecue burger that actually lives up to its name.

    What you need: Some real barbecue. Go get started…

    How Long? Assuming you already have the barbecue, less than an hour. Time well spent.

    Ingredients:

    (Serves 4)

    • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds of freshly ground chuck
    • 1 pound pulled pork
    • 4-6 slices smoked bacon
    • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
    • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 4 hamburger buns
    • Butter
    • Barbecue sauce (use your favorite)

    Assemble:

    1. Prepare your outdoor grill (or grill pan) for high heat cooking.
    2. Form the burgers into four equal patties no more than 1/2 inch thick. Press the center of the burger slightly with your thumb (this keeps the burger flat when cooking). Butter the hamburger buns.
    3. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon until crisp and remove from the pan, but keep the fat in the pan. Add the onions to the pan, move the heat to medium-low and cook until browned and soft, about 15 minutes. Season to taste.
    4. Reheat your leftover barbecue in a skillet over medium heat or in the (gasp!) microwave.
    5. When your grill is ready, grill the burgers 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare, seasoning with salt and pepper while cooking. When you flip the burgers add the pulled pork and the grated cheese. When done, remove the burgers from the grill and let then rest for at least five minutes. Meanwhile, toast the buns while the burgers rest.
    6. To assemble the burgers, place the burger on the bottom bun, add the bacon, onions and barbecue sauce. Then top with the bun and serve.

     

  • Fennel al Forno: The Next Best Fennel You’ll Ever Eat

    fornoAh, fennel. We have a special relationship with this spring veggie here at the farm. Not only do we grow it, but our Caramelized Fennel recipe somehow ended up as one of the most popular on the web and brings us plenty of visitors. Why? Dunno…but we are certainly happy about it (again, thanks to Alice Waters, we really just riffed on her recipe).

    forno1It’s funny, but as far as Google is concerned Putney Farm is a place where people mostly eat fennel and mix drinks. And while that doesn’t sound all bad, we can assure you there are other things going on than cooking fennel…

    forno2forno3Regardless, we do love our fennel, and while caramelizing is our go-to cooking method, there are other ways to enjoy these funky anise-flavored bulbs. The key thing to remember about fennel is that it loses much of the anise flavor when cooked, and the same cooking will bring out some of the fennel’s natural sugars. In the end, you often get flavors and textures that will remind you of roasted or fried eggplant. And we think that is a good thing.

    forno4forno5So it shouldn’t be a surprise that along with caramelizing fennel, an approach like eggplant parmesan will yield very tasty results. And we found a recipe to adapt from “Vegetable Literacy” by Deborah Madison, that heads in just this direction, Fennel al Forno.

    forno6In this recipe you cook fennel and aromatics in a broth of fennel seeds, thyme, saffron, tomato paste and chicken (or vegetable) stock. Then you put the fennel in a gratin dish, add some mozzarella and parmesan cheese and bake the whole thing. Sounds good, huh?

    forno7And it is good. Very good. The rich tomato-saffron broth accents the sweet fennel, the cheese adds more richness and texture while the slight anise notes balance the flavors. This dish works very well as a side, but you can also serve it as a light lunch on toasted brown bread (this is now a household favorite).

    Continue reading

  • A Big Bowl Of Polenta

    pol2Well, winter never really made it here to Norcal, but there is nothing better on a foggy, rainy and/or chilly day than a bowl of polenta. And since we get plenty of fog, even in summer, polenta is a popular choice here at the farm. So popular, we didn’t think of it as something for the blog. But since Judy Rodgers passed, we think a lot about her and her polenta recipe. So we figured we would share.

    pol1pol4The key to making polenta (cornmeal mush) is that it just isn’t all that hard. You don’t need any special technique and you don’t need to stir every second. You just need to be mindful and take your time. You will hear all sorts of polenta making B.S. “advice” about stirring every second and how you drizzle the cornmeal, etc. Forget all that. Rodgers has you cook the polenta at low heat in a heavy-bottom pot, stir every few minutes to avoid scorching and hold in a double boiler to improve texture and allow quick service. And it works. We play frisbee and basketball with the kids while making this dish. We just duck in the kitchen every 5 minutes, give the pot a stir and then it is back to fun outside….nice.

    pol5pol6The only real “challenge” here is how to add flavor to the polenta. Just butter and seasoning makes for a way better dish than you might expect. Parmesan and/or mascarpone cheese are common additions, and how Rodgers served it at Zuni. But we like to go a bit further and make polenta into a 1-dish meal. We like stirring in the parmesan, adding a soft-boiled egg, crumbled bacon and then topping with a bright salad of parsley or celery greens. Other good additions are braised greens, prosciutto, sautéed mushrooms, tomato jam and braised short ribs (yum).

    pol7pol8 Continue reading

  • Frozen Butter Biscuits

    froze9Make. These. Biscuits. If you take anything from this post, make the biscuits. Trust us. The extra step is a bit of a fuss, but the biscuits you get are just sooo much better. And they are still biscuits. Easy to make, easy to enjoy and welcome by just about anyone who can take some gluten in their diet. If bacon is the one reason many people can’t go fully vegetarian, we bet that biscuits keep a few folks from going fully gluten-free or paleo.

    froze1Biscuits are something of an obsession here at the farm, we always enjoy playing with new recipes and techniques (biscuits are one of the few dishes Carolyn and I both bake- and yes, hers are better). You can play with the flour (AP or pastry / “00”), liquid (milk, buttermilk) or fat (butter, shortening), but the real issue comes down to temperature and technique. In the end you want the fat to stay cold so it layers through the dough and to mix the dough as little as possible to keep from activating gluten in the flour. If you do it right, you get a moist, light and flaky biscuit. Pure alchemy. Joy….and then maybe a nap.

    froze2froze3So how do you do it right? One recipe we like is to use includes pastry flour and then chills the dough before baking (see here). The only bummer with this method is the extra wait before you cook. The other proven method is to grate frozen butter directly into the dry ingredients as you make the dough. This keeps the butter cold as you make the dough- and then you can go right into the oven. The only fuss here is making sure to keep a big chunk of butter in the freezer (we do) and the actual grating, which takes a few minutes and a little elbow grease. It’s worth it.

    froze5froze6 Continue reading

  • Five-Spice Baby Back Ribs

    spice14So say you made some southern collard greens, what should you serve them with? Well, collards are a natural with barbecue, so how about some ribs? But what if it is cold outside (or, like me, you are just feeling lazy) and you don’t want to fire up the smoker? Easy, just make some Asian-inspired ribs in the oven. Takes about the same amount of time, doesn’t make much of a mess (until you eat them), and you get to play around with some interesting flavors.

    spicespice1And in this case the “interesting” flavor is Five-Spice, a Chinese spice mixture that usually has star anise, cloves, Sichuan pepper, cinnamon and fennel seeds. It may also contain just about any other Asian spice, but you get the idea. Five-Spice is a lovely mixture of spice, heat, bite and funk that works particularly well with rich ingredients, accenting flavors but cutting through the fat. Not surprisingly Five-Spice is often used with duck or pork. A perfect fit for rich, juicy ribs. Just don’t use too much spice…a little goes a long way.

    spice2spice4spice5 Continue reading