• 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.

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  • Frisee Aux Lardons (Frisee Salad With Bacon)

    frisee2frisee3frisee4friseeBefore anyone even asks the question- no, we don’t grow our own frisee. And, frankly, we aren’t sure why. We could. Probably should. And Norcal has the climate to grow chicories like endive and frisee. A very minor mystery, to be sure. But we do have pretty consistent supply from some local farmers, and we make a lot of home-cured bacon, so it figures that we make Frisee Aux Lardon pretty often around here. Or, if you prefer English American, we make frisee salad with bacon pieces (lardon), poached eggs and a vinaigrette. (We cheat and fry our eggs, but there is a reason for that- see below).

    frisee7frisee8Simple stuff, and very good stuff, at that. But like many classic French recipes (and many of the great salads) the devil is in the details. The real key here is good ingredients; local greens just out of the ground, good bacon and very fresh eggs (the yolks are less likely to break). With so few ingredients there is really nowhere to hide. But there are some easy ways to improve your salads, regardless of the recipe.

    frisee6frisee10With any salad there are two things you can do to make the most of the greens. Firstly, greens start to wilt the minute they leave the ground, so a quick soak in cold water for at least 15, preferably 30, minutes will do wonders (even with firmer greens like frisee). Secondly, after washing / soaking you must thoroughly dry those greens! You want to know why that good restaurant salad is so much better than yours? They really dry their greens. Multiple spins, laid out on paper towels or cloth, etc. Why bother? Dressing sticks to dry greens, spreads evenly and isn’t diluted by extra water (wet greens make for soggy salads…yuk).

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  • Golden Beet Sliders

    Golden Beet Sliders.

    Golden Beet Sliders.

    Or as a simple salad. If you don't want the bread.

    Or as a simple salad. If you don’t want the bread.

    Best to get this out upfront. This recipe is inspired by some beet sliders we saw on a rerun of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Yes, we love our cookbooks and yes most of our inspiration for cooking comes from the garden (and other blogs). But we still like a good burger joint or seaside clam shack, and we do occasionally indulge and watch Guy Fieri do his thing. And in this case, he visited a place called Gatsby’s in Sacramento and they featured beet sliders. We do love beets and sliders, so at some point we had to make this. And we just got some beautiful baby golden beets at the farmers market, so Carolyn made the call. Golden beet sliders for dinner.

    bslide2bslide3bslide4While we were inspired by the Gatsby’s dish, we changed the recipe substantially. We use golden and not red beets, roast rather than boil the beets and use an orange vinaigrette for the sauce instead of green goddess dressing. We also add goat cheese for tang (and some bacon and pecorino as an extra option, yum). And, of course, we use King Hawaiian rolls for the bread, simply because everyone likes them. But while we changed a lot of the dish, the fundamental idea stays the same: sweet beets are a very good substitute for beef in a burger. These sliders are good, really good. Not just a good “vegetarian dish”, but a “good dish”, period.

    bslide8bslide5bslide6The only downside of this dish is that it takes time to cook beets. There is no way around it (even if you microwave them you are looking at 25-30 minutes). Our only suggestion is that when you roast beets, roast a lot of them and put them in salads over the next 2-3 days. Otherwise, just roast the beets for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on their size. Wrapping in foil will speed things up a bit and makes for easier cleanup. When you can easily pierce the beets with a knife and the skins peel off easily, they are done.

    bslide7bslide9bslide10Once you roast and skin the beets, making the rest of the dish is easy. Make a quick vinaigrette with some orange juice and zest (oranges and beets are a great mix) and dress some bitter greens like arugula. Then season and sear the beets for a minute or two on each side. Then lightly grill or toast the buns. You assemble the sliders with a bed of the dressed greens, then add the beets, a little goat cheese, more greens and the top of the bun. Most people can easily eat 2 or 3 of these. And if you want to add even more flavor, a little bacon and some grated pecorino add some umami and salt flavors to the sweetness of the beets. Either way, it is hard to go wrong.bslide11

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  • Roasted Halibut With Tarragon and Hazelnut Brown Butter

    tarra14As we noted a week or so ago, herbs are the first plants in our garden that really “pop” with the coming of spring. And while we get plenty of fresh goodies from the farmers market, there is nothing quite like getting the first taste of produce from our own garden. It sort of “hardens” the idea that spring is really here (for us, at least). Right now we have plenty of mint (cocktails on the way), marjoram and oregano, but this spring our tarragon (finally) took off. We couldn’t wait to use it.

    tarratarra1And we knew exactly how we wanted to use the tarragon, as a flavoring for roasted fish. Here in Norcal, that usually means local halibut, rock cod/rockfish or salmon. In this case we use halibut, but any firm white fish will do. As for the cooking method, you can go sous-vide (and it would be great), but we also have a relatively foolproof roasting method for fish. We simply create a bed of citrus and herbs for the fish, add the fish and then layer on a bunch of butter, salt, pepper, more herbs and more citrus. This method also works with other herbs (thyme is one of our favorites), just make sure to bruise the herbs before you layer them in, this releases the oils and gets the flavor into the dish. Then roast the fish at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (depending on thickness) and serve.

    tarra3tarra5So now that we had the herbs and the fish dialed, the big question was the sauce. A little internet search brought us to a tarragon and halibut recipe with a hazelnut and brown butter sauce from Bon Appetit. Nice. We adapted the recipe, particularly how we cook the fish, but also played a bit with the brown butter recipe. But the addition of the hazelnuts to the brown butter was all Bon Appetit’s, and we will certainly give credit to them for a good idea. This is a good extra touch and takes the sauce over the top.

    tarra8tarra4Not that you can go wrong with brown butter sauce. If you have butter in your fridge and 10 minutes, you have a perfect sauce waiting to happen. Brown butter is easy to make and works beautifully with pasta, fish or earthy veggies. A sauce you need in your toolkit. The key is to cook the butter at medium heat until the milk solids get brown (not black, if you get close to dark brown, stop cooking the sauce) and develop a nutty flavor and aroma. You then just add seasoning and some herbs, sage is a natural fit but tarragon also works very well.

    tarra9tarra11tarra12The last piece of the puzzle for this sauce was to add the chopped hazelnuts and a dash of lemon juice. The hazelnuts add more nutty flavor, but also some needed crunch to the dish. The lemon adds some acid and sourness to match the rich butter and fish. Overall you get sweet fish, savory brown butter and hazelnuts, earthy and herbal notes from the tarragon and acidity from the lemons that cleans the palate for the next bite. The extra bonus is that the brown butter sauce works beautifully with roasted asparagus (another spring crop), so we just roasted some asparagus spears and served them with the fish and the brown butter. Excellent, and all in less than 45 minutes. Like we said, we couldn’t wait to use our herbs…

    tarra13Roasted Halibut With Tarragon and Hazelnut Brown Butter:

    (Adapted from Bon Appetit)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • The best way to check for doneness on fish is to use a digital thermometer. We think it is the most important kitchen tool after a sharp chef’s knife. If you don’t have one, the best way to check is to cut into the fish and look. Otherwise, pull the fish from the heat just before it’s done, it will keep cooking in residual heat.
    • Many resources will say halibut needs to be cooked to 145 degrees to be “safe”, we prefer it less cooked, closer to 130-135 degrees.

    What You Get: A rich, flavorful and easy fish dinner in about 45 minutes.

    What You Need: No special equipment required, but a digital thermometer would be nice.

    How Long? About 45 minutes with 20 minutes of active time. Anytime dish.

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  • Caldo Verde

    caldo5

    Caldo Verde.

    caldoIt seems to be kale and cocktail week here at the farm. (And we are OK with that, things could be worse.) Kale is in season, and after making a massaged kale salad, we decided to make a kale-based main dish, and we quickly settled on cooking up a pot of Caldo Verde. If you are going to have a kale recipe that will please a crowd, we suggest you take a look at making Caldo Verde. Caldo Verde, one of Portugal’s most popular dishes, is a soup of kale, potatoes and onions that often includes extra herbs, garlic, sausage and pork. This is a hearty soup that is easy to make and uses readily available ingredients. And if its cold outside, there are few things better than a big bowl of this soup.

    calso12caldo10Caldo Verde is also a versatile dish, you can start with a basic version of kale, potato, onion and linguica sausage (or spanish chorizo) and be ready in about an hour. But, if you want to add depth you can make a quick pork stock from ham hocks and add garlic, other herbs, etc. The only issue is time. But since we had some time, our recipe is based on making a ham hock-based stock, using the meat from the ham hocks and building the Caldo from the ham stock. We also add extra herbs to brighten the flavor. But if you don’t have the time, stick to the basic recipe and use salted water or low-sodium chicken stock as the base of your soup.

    caldo11caldo9As for making the dish, if you can boil water and rough chop some ingredients, you can cook a fine batch of Caldo Verde. The only real trick in this recipe is that you use half of the potatoes as a thickener for the stock and add half later to have pieces of potato in the soup. You can mash the potatoes with an immersion blender, potato masher or even with the back of a wooden spoon, but don’t skip this step, the potatoes give extra flavor and silky texture to the soup. Otherwise this recipe is as simple, and as good, as it gets.

    caldo7caldo9So how does Caldo Verde taste? It depends somewhat on the base you use for the soup, but you will get bright kale, rich potato, sweet onions and some spice from the linguica sausage. If you use a ham hock or shank for the soup base, it will be richer and smokier, while water or chicken stock will be a bit brighter flavored and lets the kale lead the dish. But there is one more thing, regardless of how you make your Caldo, it will be good the first day, but even better the second day. So make a big batch and enjoy this soup over a couple of days. You will be glad you did.

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  • Massaged Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

    kale

    Massaged Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad.

    Of all the vegetables we grow and eat here at the farm, brussels sprouts are one of the most challenging. Our attempts to grow them fail (and they attract a massive amount of aphids) and the only brussels sprouts recipes we like usually have tons of bacon and bacon fat to enhance the flavor. While we do love our bacon, we would like brussels sprouts to taste good on their own. After multiple failures, we usually avoid brussels sprouts, but every once in a while we try a new brussels sprouts dish in a restaurant or see a recipe that sounds promising. Usually, we are disappointed. But not this time. Carolyn tried this salad at a restaurant (Bar Bocce in Sausalito) and we adapted it for home cooking, and it’s very good- we didn’t even have to add any bacon.

    kale10kale7And, oddly enough, what we needed to enjoy the brussels sprouts was some different technique and the addition of another veggie. For the technique, we use finely shaved raw brussels sprouts, and for the extra veggie we added kale. One might not expect two earthly vegetables to compliment each other, but the sweeter sprouts play well with the “briny” notes of the kale. Add some roasted almonds for crunch and nutty flavor, shave on some romano cheese for salt and umami and finish with a bright, acidic dressing and you have a delightful salad.

    kale8kale11Simple enough, but there is one extra step that makes this salad really sing, the “massage”. And no, there is nothing creepy about massaging your kale. What’s really going on is that you add some of the lemon juice from the dressing to the kale and sprouts, mix or “massage” the juice with the greens and then let them sit for 5 to 20 minutes. The acid will actually start to “cook” or soften the kale and sprouts. It makes a big difference in texture of the salad. Usually dressing a salad too early makes it wilt, but for a tough green like kale, this is a good thing. (This approach will work for most kale-based salads).

    kale6kale5A few other notes about this salad. Firstly, the kale and sprouts are very hearty, so you can store the salad, dressed, in the fridge for a few days- so go ahead and make a big batch, if you like. Secondly, if you want to make a vegan version of the salad simply substitute the cheese with caramelized shallots. It won’t be exactly the same, but it will still be very good. And finally, it is best to shave the brussels sprouts with a small hand slicer or mandolin, but if you don’t have these tools use a very, very sharp knife and take your time. Brussels sprouts can be slippery little suckers, be careful…and then enjoy a very healthy and tasty salad.

    Massaged Kale and Brussels Sprouts salad

    Massaged Kale And Brussels Sprouts Salad:

    (Adapted from Bar Bocce)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • We use lacinato kale for this dish but most types of kale will work in this recipe. Just be sure to remove the tough ribs from the middle of the kale.

    What You Get: A good recipe for brussels sprouts that doesn’t hide them behind bacon or fat.

    What You Need: No special equipment required. But a small hand slicer or mandolin would be a big help.

    How Long? About 30 minutes with 10 minutes of active time. Anytime dish.

    Ingredients:

    • 4 cups kale (we use lacinato), washed and roughly chopped
    • 8 large raw brussels sprouts, washed and thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup almonds
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • Pecorino romano cheese (sub parmesan, if you like)
    • Kosher salt
    • Freshly ground pepper

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