Winter Salad with Butternut Squash, Greens, Chicken and Candied Pecans

This salad!

winter saladI should have taken more pictures of it. This isn’t even really the finished salad, just the almost-finished salad. The finished version disappeared too fast to take pictures.  (The finished salad has chopped nuts and dressing on it).

This is the perfect winter salad, and the perfect antidote the cookies, cakes, cocktails, and candy that apparently we’re supposed to all be making and eating because it’s the holiday season.  Cookies are good and all but this salad is actually real food that’s delicious and you can eat for dinner and not feel like death afterwards.  butternut squash cubesThe salad components are simple: roasted butternut squash and red onions, a bag of salad mix from the farmers market, leftover roasted chicken, and some chopped candied pecans.   Oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, then it’s ready to eat. candied pecansThe candied pecans are a whole separate story…  My next door neighbors gave me a bag of pecans from their trees, and I guess I drank a ton of coffee the other day and actually sat down and shelled them all and made this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts.  It took forever to shell all of them, but jars of the finished nuts are nice Christmas presents that took time instead of money, which was very of important to me this year.   You could certainly substitute any kind of toasted nuts if you don’t feel like making this recipe, although I highly recommend it.  There’s a pinch of cayenne pepper in the spice mix that coats the nuts that really makes it taste amazing.

Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year! I hope you all are warm and happy, with good food on your table and friends and family close by.

WINTER SALAD with Butternut Squash, Roast Chicken and Candied Pecans

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • a few sprigs of fresh herbs: thyme, oregano, rosemary, whatever you have is fine
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • vinegar: apple cider vinegar or whatever you have
  • 1/2 lb. of mixed salad greens: use a spicy mix with some arugula and mustard greens in it
  • 1/2 c. candied pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 c. or so of leftover roast chicken, cut into cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the butternut squash and onions onto a cookie sheet with the fresh herbs. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

Put the salad greens in a bowl.  Top with roasted vegetables, chopped chicken and pecans.  Dress with oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Quick Beef Stroganoff

Earlier this week, the San Francisco chronicle posted an article that claimed that it’s hard to find fresh, affordable food in Mendocino County. It was a ridiculous article, written by someone who ignored all of the local farmers markets which are filled with … um….. fresh, affordable food.  The girls at Eat Mendocino have already written an excellent response to the article, explaining why the Chronicle was completely wrong, so I won’t rehash what they’ve already written.  Their whole conversation made me want to share this beef stroganoff recipe with you.

This whole blog is about cooking with fresh, local, affordable foods, but a lot of the time I make the recipes affordable by making them vegetarian, since a lot of locally sourced meats can be prohibitively expensive. I love eating all this hippie crunchy food, but sometimes it’s nice to have something a little bit more… meat and potatoes.  Maybe you’re cooking for picky eaters, maybe it’s cold out an you want some comfort food, maybe you’ve been slaving away all day in the garden and you’re craving something with protein and carbs. Whatever the occasion, this beef stroganoff is delicious.  Since this recipe makes a flavorful sauce to serve over mashed potatoes or noodles, you really only need a pound of meat to make a big pot of food.  Also, it cooks up in a flash. Also it’s cheap. It’s easily adaptable to different ingredients.  The leftovers (if there are any) make a great lunch the next day. beef stroganoffOh, and I realized after I started writing about this…. it’s basically just a homemade version of hamburger helper in the stroganoff flavor.  Because we like eating classy stuff like that.  beef stroganoff 2There are several ways you can adapt this recipe.  First, the meat: the cut doesn’t really matter. You can use ground beef, which is almost always one of the cheapest meats at the farmers market.  If you use a steak that’s more on the tender side (sirloin, ribeye, strip) keep the cooking time to 30 minutes.  If you want to use stew meat, an add extra cup of stock to the recipe and cook it for an extra hour or more. You can substitute mushrooms for the beef if you want something vegetarian. You can add all kinds of vegetables while you’re browning the beef: shallots, leeks, onions, some chopped swiss chard, peas, mushrooms. Whatever looks good at the farmers market that week will be great.

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. sirloin steak, sliced into thin strips, or 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • salt and pepper
  • a big splash of cognac or brandy, if you have it on hand
  • 2 c. beef or vegetable stock
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • a few sprigs of fresh tarragon (or parsley is fine too)
  • optional add-ins: sliced mushrooms, sliced shallots, peas, chopped spinach, etc.
  • for serving: buttered mashed potatoes or egg noodles

Heat the butter in a large skillet.  Add the steak and garlic and cook for a few minutes on medium-high heat to brown the steak.  (If you want to add extra vegetables, now’s the time).  Season everything with salt and pepper.  Once the steak is browned, add the whole wheat flour and saute everything for another minute or two. Deglaze the pan with a splash of cognac, if you have it.  (If you don’t, it will taste good without it.  Just deglaze the pan with the stock instead). Add the beef stock, sour cream, paprika and tarragon and stir everything together. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.  Serve over buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes.  We like having this dish with a big green salad or sauteed green beans.

Jam Vinaigrette from the Redwood Valley Farmers Market Chef Demo

I’m pretty excited about this.

So, a couple weeks ago at the Redwood Valley Farmers Market, my friend Amanda from Fairall’s Farm Fresh Eggs & Produce did a chef demo using some of the wonderful items available at the farmers market that morning.  She set up a delicious taco bar with chipotle sausage hash, a zesty salmon taco filling, and a big veggie and egg scramble, which you can find the recipes for here. She also made a huge farmers market salad with a jam vinaigrette that was so damn good I knew I had to write about it here and try to convince everyone on the internet to make too.

I’d never actually bothered making salad dressing with jam before, and it was so tasty that I went home and promptly made huge batch.  I guess  that when I thought about jam for salads, it sounded like it would be too sweet and overpowering.  I still think if you were having a really delicate salad of baby lettuces and sliced radishes, it would be a questionable idea at best.  Amanda’s salad was killer, though, and it’s because she didn’t just use lettuce, but also incorporated sliced cabbage, raw kale and chard leaves, summer squash and salad turnips.   These big, hearty vegetables stood up so well to the flavor of the jam.

Floodgate Farms grew the salad mix used as a base for everything, which in itself was outstanding.  It has more fresh produce than I’ve ever seen in any salad mix, ever, with fresh mint leaves, onion blossoms, sprigs of dill, nasturtium blossoms, purslane leaves, and more.  I’m not always much of a salad girl- I usually would rather have a big bowl of vegetable stew, like a ratatouille or the braised kale and white beans, but this salad mix is so beautiful and full of flavors that…. well, it makes me want to go buy more from them, even though I have a huge garden with plenty of my own vegetables.

Jam Vinaigrette

Cook Time: lightning fast

Ingredients:

  • jam:  I really like the flavor of dark berry or plum jams with the kale and cabbage, especially if they happen to be tart or low-sugar jams, but really, anything you want to use up will be good.
  • oil: I used hazelnut oil when I made it at home,  but anything you have will work.
  • vinegar: apple cider, champagne, sherry– again, whatever ya got.

In a half pint jar, combine two parts jam with two parts oil and one part vinegar. Shake it up. Pour over your salad. Eat.

Amanda’s Farmers Market Salad

In a big bowl, combine as many good salad things as you can find:

  • Salad Mix: different kinds of lettuce, diced onion blossoms, sprigs of fresh dill fronds and dill flowers, edible flowers, roughly chopped mint leaves, cilantro, parsley…. and any other things you can think of.Dark Leafy Greens: like shredded green cabbage, roughly chopped kale leaves and roughly chopped swiss chard leaves.  The more the merrier.  The key to growing really nice greens is to keep them well picked, so go out to the garden and pick any random leaves you can find.
  • Chopped Vegetables: summer squash, salad turnips, and cucumbers, etc.

Dress with jam vinaigrette, top with crumbled chevre or feta to make it even better, and serve.  My little brother ate a huge plate of it and said: “this salad is awesome, and I hate salad.”  So, it’s that kind of recipe, where you get to eat a really good meal, but then you get the added bonus of laughing when your family members who claim to hate kale end up eating a whole bunch of it — and liking it.

Amanda, thanks so much for sharing your wonderful cooking with everyone.  It was delicious!

Tomato Starts for the Ukiah Farmers Market Tomorrow 4/28

Tomorrow we’ll be loading up a bunch of tomato starts to bring to the Ukiah Farmers Market (so exciting, right?)…

Our tomatoes are all heirloom and specialty varieties that will grow well here in Northern California and look beautiful both on your dinner plate and in your garden.  The seeds that we use aren’t certified organic (many of these varieties aren’t available as organic seed) but we grow them completely organically from day 1.  We’ve grown almost all of these varieties here on the farm, so if you have any questions about them, feel free to ask.

This is the list of varieties we will be bringing tomorrow; the selection will change over the next few weeks. (The descriptions are taken exactly from the Baker Creek seed catalogue, none of them are my own writing- I thought it would be helpful for all of the market customers to see the full description written by the folks that are working hard to keep all of these great varieties around for generations to come).   Hope to see you at the market tomorrow!Ananas Noire: (Black Pineappple) A most exciting new tomato, it is wonderful in every way.  This unusual variety was developed by Pascal Moreau, a horticulturist from Belgium.  The multi-colored, smooth fruit (green, yellow and purple mix) weight about 1.5 lbs.  The flesh is bright green with deep red streaks.  Everyone loves their superb flavor that is outstanding, being both sweet and smoky with a hint of citrus.  The yield is one of the heaviest we have ever seen!

Big Zebra: “New! A stunning tomato that looks much like a giant version of our popular “Green Zebra,” this 8-10 oz. beauty has a vibrant green and deep gold striped skin, with delicious red-streaked, green flesh.  A superb home and market tomato, a must for all who love the beautiful and unique.  One of the most amazing tomatoes we have grown; so groovy and retro looking! 80-90 days.

Carbon: 90 days Winner of the 2005 ‘heirloom garden show’ best tasting tomato award.  These have won taste awards coast to coast in the last few years, so we were proud to locate a small supply of seed.  The fruit are smooth, large and beautiful, being one of the darkest and prettiest of the purple types that we have seen.  They seem to have an extra dose of the complex flavor that makes dark tomatoes famous.

Cherokee Purple: 80 days An old Cherokee Indian heirloom, pre-1890 variety; beautiful deep dusky purple-pink color, superb sweet flavor, and very large sized fruit.  Try this one for real old-time tomato flavor

Copia: 80-90 days  One of our most unique and beautiful large, striped tomatoes, these have lovely fine striped of glowing gold and neon red.  Inside the flavorful flesh is a mix of red and yellow that is swirled together in various combinations.  This new variety was developed by Jeff Dawson and named in honor of Copia, the American Center for Food, Wine and the Arts, of Napa, CA

Cuor di Bue: 70 days This oxheart type Italian heirloom has been a favorite in Italy for many years.  Beautiful 12 oz fruit have a delicious sweet taste; similar to the shape of a heart; great for fresh eating or cooking.  Large vigorous vines.  Hard to find.

Dr. Wyches Yellow: 80 days This heirloom was introduced to Seed Savers Exchange by the late Dr. John Wyche, who at one time owned the Cole Brothers Circus and used the manure of elephants to fertilize his heritage gardens.  The 1 lb. fruit is solid and smooth; their color is a glowing tangerine-orange that always stands out in the kitchen or off the vine.

Fox Cherry: Delicious large, red heirloom cherry tomatoes that seem to be one of the best-tasting large cherries around.  The vining plants are very reliable; even in years when the wilt kills about everything else, these seem to do great.  The fruit weigh about 1 oz. each and are perfect for salads.

Great White: 80-85 days Large, 1-lb giant, creamy white fruit, this tomato is superbly wonderful.  The flesh is so good and deliciously fruity, it reminds me of a mixture of fresh-cut pineapple, melon and guava.  One of our favorite fresh-eating tomatoes! Fruit are smoother than most large beefsteak types, and yields can be very high.  Introduced by Gleckler’s Seedsmen.

Hillbilly or Flame: 80-85 Days A huge, bi-color heirloom: brilliant yellow color with red marbling.  Very large with a rich, sweet flavor.  Beautiful when sliced.  An heirloom believed to be from West Virginia.

Lollipop: 70 days Delicious, light yellow translucent cherries.  The flavor of these is really good– both sweet and fruity.  Plants set good yields.  A real winner!

Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge: 80-90 days Stunning tomato is a vibrant, tangerine orange with shocking true purple splashed in various amounts over its upper half.  This is one of the few domestic tomatoes that have true purple pigment, although research is being done with wild purple tomatoes.  These have a mild taste that make them good for snacking.  Fruit weighing 4-10 ounces were produced in abundance and tended to turn more purple as the season progressed.  Some fruit may not be very purple, coloration varies.

Paul Robeson: 90 days This famous tomato has almost a cult following among seed collectors and tomato connoisseurs.  They simply cannot get enough of this variety’s amazing flavor that is so distinctive, sweet and smokey.  7-10 oz. fruit are a black-brick color.  Named in honor of the famous opera singer star of “King Solomon’s Mines,” 1937. This Russian heirloom was lovingly named in his honor.

Placero: A flavorful, small tomato from our friend Herb Culver.  He colected this tomato in Cuba from a man named Orlando at Mission Mundial.  This tomato also is said to have a very high beta-carotene content.  Tasty, red fruit grow on very productive plants.

Pink Brandywine: The most popular heirloom vegetable! A favorite of many gardeners; large fruit with superb flavor.  A great potato-leafed variety from 1885! Beautiful pink fruit up to 1 1/2 lbs. each!

Plum Lemon: 80 days Bright canary-yellow 3” fruit looks just like a fresh lemon.  … This variety was collected by Kent Whealy, of Seed Savers Exchange, from an elderly seedsman at the Bird Market in Moscow.  Delicious, sweet taste.

Purple Calabash: 85 days.  May be the most purple of all the “purple” tomatoes; a deep purple/burgundy and very colorful! The shape is also exciting, with the 3” fruit being very flat, ribbed and ruffled.  Flavor is intense, sweet and tart, with a lime or citrus taste.  A most uniquely flavored tomato! The plants give huge yields.  This tomato resembles tomatoes pictured in 16th century herbal diaries.

Riesentraube: 76-85 days This old German heirloom was offered in Philadephia by the mid-1800s.  The sweet red 1 oz. fruit grow in large clusters, and the name means “Giant Bunch of Grapes” in German.  It is probably the most popular small tomato with seed collectors, as many enjoy the rich, full tomato flavor that is missing in today’s cherry types.  Large plants produce massive yields.

Violet Jasper: When these little Oriental jewels ripen, your eyes will be stunned with color.  They have pretty violet-purple fruit with iridescent green streaks! Fruit weigh 1-3 oz., are smooth and have good tasting, dark purplish-red flesh.  This variety will also amaze you with its yield: It’s not only high, but incredibly high, being one of the most productive tomatoes we have grown.

Yellow Brandywine: 90 days Superbly rich and delicious tasting large fruit, the golden variety gives good yields and, in our opinion, the fruit are better tasting than pink brandywine.  Large potato-leaf plants are very sturdy and deep green.  This heirloom is delicious any way you eat it!

Yellow Pear: 78 days Very sweet, 1 1/2” yellow, pear-shaped fruit have a mild flavor, and are great for fresh eating or making tomato preserves.  Very productive plants are easy to grow.

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For some tomato growing tips from serious experts, I recommend reading this great article from Love Apple Farm. 

Market Flowers, July 2011

July is here, which means I am sleep-deprived, sweaty, dirty and sore, but that the garden is looking pretty lovely and the produce is rolling in at the farmers market. I take mental snapshots of these busy summer days to look back on during the winter…  Farmers markets and weeding and planting and oysters on the BBQ and elderflower cocktails.

Until I get time to write down a full recipe (my mom’s blackberry pie is up next, I think), I wanted to share a bouquet from our market table this morning with any gardeners that have their eyes peeled for new plants to grow. Bells of Ireland, flowering marjoram and my most favorite of favorite zinnias: Queen Red Lime, from Johnny’s Seeds.  These zinnias are wonderful cut flowers that last ages in a vase, and the maroon to lime green petals are truly stunning. Grow it!