• 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

  • Watermelon And Feta Salad With Mint and Radish

    feta7And back to blogging! It has been a nice few weeks off here at the farm. Not that we haven’t been busy cooking, but one of the few “downsides” of food writing (there aren’t really any downsides) is that we are often in search of the next new thing. Meanwhile, there are dozens of great recipes we want to revisit. So we spent a few weeks making some of our favorites. Lots of Caprese salads, barbecue, fish and rice bowls, summer corn salads and many a few Caipirinhas for the World Cup. All good.

    fetafeta1But we did try a few new things, including this salad of fresh watermelon with feta cheese and some mint and radishes. Now, watermelon and feta salads are nothing new, and they are very tasty. But we found this recipe to be an improvement on the original. Not that there is anything wrong with the surprisingly good combination of sweet melon and salty feta, but this is a recipe that you can certainly tune and tweak to your tastes.

    feta3feta4In this case we adapted a recipe in the Lobster Roll cookbook (from the Hampton’s fish shack of the same name) that adds some mint, radish and a balsamic vinaigrette. You get some herbal notes from the mint, heat and crunch from the radishes and the balsamic adds a welcome tang to the sweet and salty notes. More flavor, more texture…good stuff. And still a very easy salad to put together.

    feta5feta6The only issues with this recipe are in the details. Use only the best / sweetest watermelon, taste your feta for salt and adjust the seasoning, and definitely taste your radishes for heat and tune for your taste. A little kick from the radishes is a good thing, too much….not so good.

    feta8Otherwise, this is a perfect salad to serve with big, rich summer dishes like steaks, burgers and/or barbecue. The bright flavors cut through the fat and clean the palate for your next bite. Perfect for outdoor dining.

    feta9Watermelon and Feta Salad with Mint and Radish:

    Notes Before You Start:

    • No notes, once you have a watermelon you need recipes. This is a good one.

    What You Get: A light, flavorful and refreshing summer salad. Something to do with the watermelon you bought at the farmers market.

    What You Need: No special equipment required.

    How Long? About 15 minutes, mostly cubing watermelon.

    Ingredients:

    • 4 cups (3-4 pounds) of watermelon, cut in about 1 inch cubes
    • 8 red radishes, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
    • 12 mint leaves, finely chopped
    • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • Kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper

    Assemble:

    1. In a small bowl, mix the oil and vinegar.
    2. Add the watermelon, radishes, mint and feta to a large salad bowl. Add half the dressing, toss well and taste. Add more dressing and seasoning as needed. Serve.
  • Shelling Peas, Spring Onions And Bacon

    peasPart of the fun of blogging about food, booze and gardening (and editing a food magazine) is that we get to see the world of food from many different angles. There are plenty of different opinions on food and cooking out there, and with such ready access to media these days, those opinions are easily shared. Perhaps sometimes too easily shared.

    peas2peas3A few years back, David Chang of Momofuku fame, made the claim that “fuckin’ every restaurant in San Francisco is just serving figs on a plate. Do something with your food”. This comment (and many other flames) along with some very fine cooking led to Chang’s fame and his current overexposure (Food and Wine Magazine? David? Really? Why not join Bayless and make a Burger King ad? At least someone will see it). And needless to say, some cooks agree with Chang and many (particularly out here in Norcal) clearly don’t. 

    peas4But it is a good question- when is it better to let the core ingredient lead and when do you need to “do something to it”? Also, when is all that “cheffy” technique just showing off? When is it burying the true flavors of the dish?

    peas6peas7Since we grow a lot of our own food, but are happy to use a sous-vide cooker and kitchen torches, we see both side of the argument. But we will share one insight, the more recently the fruit or veggie is picked or pulled from the ground, the less you need to “do something” to it. Just bring out the best of the ingredient. If that means some cooking, great. But if that means just putting it on a plate, that’s fine, too.

    peas5And this recipe for fresh shelling peas with spring onions and bacon is a good example. Fresh peas are earthy and sweet on their own. Spring onions (right from the garden if you can get them) are sweet and delicate (and soooo good) and bacon is salty, rich and crunchy. All good on their own, but when you combine the flavors and textures (plus a dash of wine for acidity), you get a perfect dish.

    peas8Is this rocket science? Hell no. But this does require a few steps and we are certainly “doing something” to our food. Could we sous-vide the peas, make a spring onion foam and drizzle on some freeze dried bacon crumble? Sure. But why? We do just enough to make the dish sing….any by the way, if the figs are ripe and sweet, just put them on the plate and pass them to us…. Continue reading

  • 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

  • Southern Collard Greens: Good All Year

    Southern Collard Greens

    Southern Collard Greens

    It’s traditional in the south to serve slow-cooked, smoky collard greens to celebrate the New Year, and we are all for it. But frankly, collards are so good, we enjoy them any time we can get them. Here in California, that usually means winter after a frost. And while we have had almost no winter rains so far, it has gotten cold enough that we saw some collards at the farmers market. We bought a big batch, cooked them up for the New Years and are still enjoying them. We never seem to get enough greens.

    collards2colards3collards4Unfamiliar with collard greens? Basically a forerunner of kale (and in the same family) collards are big leafy greens with larger, rounder leaves than kale and with a bigger, earthier flavor. The main differences (that we know of) is that collards need to cook longer than most types of kale and loses its color a bit more during cooking. But the flavor is so rich, and so deep, that we prefer collards to kale for long slow cooking, particularly if pork is involved.

    collards5collards6 Continue reading

  • Holiday Leftover Hash: Something Good For Black Friday

    hashhash4We thought about doing a Thanksgiving turkey recipe for the blog, but truth be told, we aren’t big turkey people. We will be making J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Sous Vide “Turchetta” (turkey breast made like Porchetta) and a beef roast for the Thanksgivukkah holiday. But we will give you an awesome, and easy, recipe to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers- hash. We suggest you forgo the shopping and serve hash for Black Friday Brunch.

    hash5hash6hash7We like turkey or ham sandwiches just fine, but when you can take the leftover turkey/pork/beef, potatoes and veggies, add some seasoning and crisp them up in some bacon fat…well now you are onto something. And that is the beauty of hash. A good hash elevates your leftovers into an entirely new dish, and since most of the ingredients are cooked, it doesn’t take that long or require many pot and pans. Nice. And if you just “happen” to top off the hash with a fried egg or a zippy horseradish sauce…well then you really will have something to be thankful for.

    hash8hash9The key with making hash is to use what you already have and balance flavors and textures. Think about a mix of savory, sweet, vegetal and spicy flavors and soft, creamy and crispy textures (the browning will crisp up the dish). Pretty much any leftover you have may be worth adding, so be creative. And pre-cooked food is better in hash, as you don’t have to worry about even cooking of various raw ingredients. The only “fresh” ingredients we use are bacon, (to get its fat) onions and minced garlic we soften in the grease before adding the other ingredients. We top the hash with either a fried egg or a quick horseradish sauce (prepared horseradish, sour cream, mayonnaise, a touch of mustard, salt/pepper) but steak sauce or simple ketchup are just fine as well.

    hash10hash12hash14For this hash we used leftover beef, roasted butternut squash and boiled Yukon Gold potatoes seasoned with a bit of thyme, cumin and chili powder. It was great. But if we had leftover turkey, sweet potatoes, mashers or even creamed spinach or roasted brussels sprouts, we could use them (most stuffings will also work). Hard to go wrong here, as long as you liked the dish on Thursday, it probably work in hash on Friday….except for the cranberry sauce, best to keep that out of the hash.

    hash15hash13So we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! We hope you cook your turkey in pieces (trust us!), have a few fun cocktails and enjoy time with family and friends. We also hope you stay home on Friday, maybe build a fire, and cook this hash for brunch. Enjoy the day…the “holidaze” are coming.

    hash2

    Holiday Leftover Hash:

    Notes Before You Start:

    • The best way to make hash is to mostly use cooked leftovers. Raw ingredients have different cooking times and can mess up your hash. We suggest just a few softened aromatics and then whatever leftovers you have.
    • Cooking in a cast iron pan or steel skillet will get you the best browning and a crispy, delicious hash.

    What You Get: An easy, delicious and warm dish using up those Thanksgiving leftovers.

    What You Need: No special equipment required.

    How Long? About 25-30 minutes. A few minutes of chopping, otherwise this is as easy as it gets. Anytime dish.

    Continue reading