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.

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!

Charcutepalooza: Lamb Sausages With Garlic Scapes and Mint

This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was to make sausages in casings. I give you:

Lamb Sausages Seasoned with Garlic Scapes, Mint and Lemon acommpanied by a salad of Baby Greens, Roasted Plums and Chevre

I still can’t really believe that I made real sausages completely from scratch.  It was a battle.  I manifested something terrible by watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre right before I went into the kitchen to start grinding the meat and stuffing the sausage.  Blood and bits of gristle ended up everywhere, and the project nearly fell apart into chaos and disaster several times. This is also the first month that I’ve been doing a charcuterie project in the hot summer temperatures, so I had to fight to keep the equipment and meat as cold as it is supposed to be when you are making sausage.   I felt complete panic, standing in the kitchen with a gristle-clogged sausage grinder, feeling the meat beginning to warm up, and, to my total horror, noticing the flies starting to buzz around me and the pool of blood. My dogs were in a meat frenzy, feverishly staring at me with wide eyes and drooling open mouths.

I shouldn’t be writing this on the internet to share with the whole universe. It was too awful.

I persevered.  Like any horror movie heroine that lives to see the end of the film, I tried to ignore the blistering summer heat, the blood on my hands and bits of fat and gristle on my clothes and in my hair (!).  You must continue on, since giving up is simply not an option. (Not when the meat cost as much as it did.)

Here I am, though, feeling slightly violated by the whole project but enjoying my sausage nonetheless.

I used a lamb shoulder that I got from the Owen Family Farm. They have wonderful free-range, high quality meat that fit the bill for a charcutepalooza project.

 

My original plan- which I still intend to make- was to grill these sausages and wrap them in warm pita bread with a yogurt-cucumber dressing (like schwarma, but in a sausage). I spiced the lamb accordingly, with garlic scapes, mint, lemon, allspice, cayenne, and coriander. I was cooking for one last night, though, so I just made up a simple little salad for myself and I’m going to do a big dinner some other night. 

the graceful curve of a garlic scape is one of my favorite shapes in the garden right now

I used fresh garlic and grated shallots from the garden, and ground together a selection of dried whole spices. I used J.’s coffee grinder for spices, which I haven’t told him yet, and drives him crazy. The coffee will taste like allspice for the next five batches, but I don’t care. I need to buy a mortar and pestle, it’s true.

Mix the spices with the ice cold meat and it’s ready to go through the grinder.I put all the metal pieces of the meat grinder into the freezer for an hour before hand, hoping to fight off the heat as best I could.

In between these two pictures, everything completely went to shit. When I made pork sausage for last month’s challenge, I just chopped the meat into pieces like you’d use for stew and it ground up just fine. I did the same thing again, but somehow this time the sinew and fat immediately got tangled up inside the grinder. If anything like this happens to you, make sure to put the rest of the meat back in the freezer while you’re doing damage control. I ended up having to cut everything down into much smaller pieces and remove some of the sinew, and after a lot of swearing, I finally ended up where I was supposed to, with a nice bowl of ground meat nestled in a bigger bowl of ice.

After I mixed in some lemon juice and cold white wine to create the primary bind, it was into the casings, which had been soaking in the fridge for a few hours.  I purchased casings from Avedano’s Holly Park Market in San Francisco, a fantastic little butcher shop in Bernal Heights.

hog casings... there's nothing quite like playing around with intestines

I stuffed the casings by hand, which was messy and disgusting. I have a stuffer attachment for the meat grinder but I was so annoyed by the whole machine that I gave up on using it anymore.  At last though…  Sausage!

sausage in a pool of blood and pureed meat... delicious

The biggest things I learned from the issues that arose during this project?

  • If you need to stop grinding for a few minutes, make sure to put your meat back into the freezer to make sure it doesn’t warm up.
  • Michael Ruhlman mentions this in Charcuterie, but I can’t stress it enough: work clean. I kept making a huge mess but I kept putting the meat back into the freezer to clean it up. This is especially important if it turns out you have flies in your kitchen that also want to take part in the charcutepalooza.
  • Be patient and keep going. It will be worth it in the end.

Lamb Sausages with Garlic Scapes and Mint

Makes: about 6 sausages

Cooking Time: um….  allow plenty

Ingredients:

  •  2.25 lb. pork shoulder
  • 1/2 c. ice cold white wine
  • juice from one large lemon
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. shallot, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbs. garlic scape, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbs. fresh mint leaves, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp whole allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. whole coriander
  • 1 tsp. dried whole cayenne pepper (a small piece of the pepper)
  • 1/2 dried bay leaf
  • pinch of mace
  • 5 feet of hog casings

1. Soak the hog casings in some cold water for atleast 30 minutes, changing the water atleast twice. Hold one opening up to the tap and run water through it to rinse it out. Set aside (in the fridge) in some cold water until ready to use.

2. Cut the pork into small cubes and put it into the freezer until it’s stiff but not frozen, about 30 minutes.  Combine whole spices (allspice, coriander, bay leaf, cayenne) in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the wine and lemon juice. 

2. Run seasoned meat through a meat grinder using the plate with small openings. Make sure to grind the meat into a bowl set in ice so that the meat stays cold.

3.  Slip the end of the casings onto a sausage funnel and slowly push the ground meat through the funnel and into the casing until all of the meat is inside the casing. Tie off the far end and twist the meat to form individual sausages. Once the sausages are formed, tie off the other end.  If there are any air bubbles you can pierce them with a pin.

Roasted Sausage with Baby Greens and Plums

Serves: 1

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lamb sausage
  • a small bowl of assorted baby lettuces
  • a few pea shoots
  • 3 plums, sliced in half
  • 3 tbs. crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. champagne vinegar
  • fresh cracked black pepper and sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Go pick some lettuce and pea shoots, and give them a quick rinse.

2. Toss sausage and plums in 1 tsp. olive oil and roast on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes or until the sausage is cooked through.

3. Drizzle greens with oil and vinegar. Top with sliced roasted plums, sausage and goat cheese. Season with some salt and pepper and maybe one last drizzle of olive oil.

Stay bloody, all you charcutepaloozers!


 

 

Foraged Greens

The Miner’s Lettuce is going crazy right now!

This is what it looks like at the farm in Redwood Valley, growing wild:

Harvesting is simple, just like lettuce. Clip some leaves at the base of the stem, wash them, and toss with your favorite dressing.  The texture is delicious, similar to butter lettuce, and the flavor is very mild and delicate, even when the plants begin to flower.

miners lettuce and nasturtiums

Miner’s Lettuce is fairly common on the west coast during late winter and spring, something even city folks might be able to find.  As with any foraged plant, be sure to identify it correctly and make sure it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides.  Or, if you see it at the dog park, like I have, make sure dogs haven’t been peeing on it for a month straight, because that’s really gross.  Maybe try to find it somewhere else.

Johnny’s Seeds actually carried seeds for Miner’s Lettuce, also called Claytonia, so if it doesn’t grow wild where you live, you can grow it in the garden.