• 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.
  • Our Garden, Growing Strong….

    grows….please forgive the obscure Game of Thrones reference (think House Tyrell). But our garden is growing strong, indeed. The hot and dry winter left us without cherries (not enough chill hours) and with withered greens. But our spring onions and potatoes were a delight and the blueberries and strawberries are simply amazing…and plentiful. No complaints.

    grows1grows8grows4It is our tomatoes that are truly growing strong, we practically have a tomato thicket. Frankly, we can’t wait. And along with tomatoes, our other warm weather plants like the eggplant, peppers and raspberries all look like they will have a very good summer. That means we will have a good summer.

    grows6grows11grows3Oh, and don’t even get us started on the apples, peaches and figs. They look good so far and we hope we can keep the varmints off them until late summer. It is a 50/50 shot at best…but hope springs eternal.grows10grows9 Continue reading

  • 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

  • Perfect Asparagus, Every Time

    asp10We don’t like to throw around terms like “best” or “perfect” much here at the farm. Firstly, when food is concerned, things can get very subjective. Secondly, most dishes can always be improved with the right recipe, special tools or techniques. But once in a while, we find a combination of ingredient, recipe, tools and technique that yields a seemingly perfect dish every time. And that is what we can say about this asparagus. It is perfect every time (at least when asparagus is in season).

    aspSo what’s the trick? Here is the cool thing, there is no trick. Nope, there is just a process. It takes a little more work and a few steps, but when the spring asparagus is so good, isn’t it worth some extra time? We think so.

    asp1The other cool thing here is that while you can go very high-tech and use a sous-vide cooker (we do), you can also hack a sous-vide or just steam the asparagus and it will still work. The key is in the other steps.

    asp3So here are the steps: break off the woody ends of the asparagus, peel the last inch or so of the stalk, cook the asparagus at about 190 degrees for 4-5 minutes (depending on thickness), immediately stop the cooking with an ice bath or running under very cold water, dry the asparagus and then sear for 30-60 seconds in a rocket hot pan. Season and serve with butter or a nice salsa verde. Perfect.

    asp4asp6The most important step here is to stop the first cook in the ice bath and then finish the asparagus in a hot pan (or even hot grill). Most other methods either cook asparagus too long (and it keeps cooking), or with uneven heat. You get mushy or tough asparagus (sometimes both at once). And just steaming the asparagus gets you close, but you get none of the sweet caramelized flavors of high heat cooking. By using a combined method you get the best of both worlds, and the asparagus stays green and crisp.

    asp6asp7 Continue reading

  • Happy Tax Day….Here Are Some Flowers

    taxflower3Ah, another tax day. Regardless of your political persuasion or tax bracket, tax day tends to sting a little. But at least we are still alive to see another one. And I guess it makes sense that tax day is in spring (can you imagine it in the dead of winter? Ugh.). The day may feel a bit black, but all you need to do is look outside and you can find a few flowers to bring some welcome color back to your life. And these flowers are free. So here is a little early “refund” from all of us here at the farm. Now go find, and enjoy, some flowers of your own…..taxflower1taxflower7taxflower2taxflowertaxflower4taxflower8taxflower6taxflower5