Friday, June 26, 2009

This is Jenny Tutlis. She is Meadowlark Farm. Here she is presiding, as much as anyone can over this lively crew, over lunch. I think of Jenny as Queen Bee--all of us are worker bees doing what is necessary to keep her and the hive going. She is very queenly in the BEST sense of the word. She is self-confident, fair and balanced and kind-hearted--how could you not be with all that green growing stuff under your care? She is the one with the small white floppy hat, her ersatz crown, and the symbolic green tank top.

I want to be reborn as her child.

I once painted a portrait of Jenny as Kali with four or six arms. Jenny needs at least eight. Yet she always has time for everyone. Jenny's private, quiet, meditative space is the greenhouse. I love being allowed in her private domain in early spring: it's warm and moist with lots of new green life. The greenhouse fills you with a sort of quiet surrender to what is real, whole and abiding.

Jenny has taught me the power and pleasure of dirt. I don't like the word soil--it makes me think of underpants or diapers. Dirt is what helps to bring forth all this beautiful food--and Jenny and Jon's constant vigilance. What would we do without them? If you dig in dirt then you know what an absolutely miraculous thing we have happening every day at Meadowlark Farm.

Thich Nat Hahn (spelling) says that it isn't whether you can walk on water, it's whether you can walk on the earth--or dirt. To me Jenny and Jon walk on dirt.

Garlic scapes (see photo below of them growing in the field, shooting out from the buried garlic bulb) are my Next Big Thing. I'm loving them. They are sweet and slightly garlicky. Last year I trimmed them and tossed 'em with olive oil and salt and quickly grilled them. You have to watch them and turn constantly or they'll be toast. Burnt toast. Last week we made pesto: garlic scape and basil. I want to make garlic scape purée soup with them next. They were stacked four or five boxes high because the farm folks had trimmed them all down--to keep the nutrients and energy going to the garlic.

As you can see in the photo, this week we treated the scapes like green or Chinese-style long beans: stir-fried till charred in small batches, and then added a little water and covered them to steam for a couple minutes until tender. Ella did many batches and it took 45 minutes because the gas burner isn't super hot. She added Thai red curry paste and soy sauce and scallions. Very nice.

Lots of beautiful kohlrabi so I shredded those and seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil and vinegar to make a quick slaw. I had cilantro but I saved it for the white beans, which I seasoned with hoisin sauce and oil and vinegar. The crowd favorite was wholewheat spaghetti with peanut-tahini sauce and lots of scallions, though. Ella loves peanut noodles so here is the recipe, now named in honor of our beloved Ella.

Ella's Peanut Noodles
6 to 8 servings, 4 if you're hungry

Chengdu is in Szechwan province where some of the best and most flavorful of Chinese food reigns. The chile oil is typical of this region. For a heartier lunch dish you could add baked tofu or diced cooked chicken or shrimp to these noodles.

1 pound wholewheat spaghetti or fresh thin egg noodles
2 teaspoons each Asian toasted sesame oil and chile oil (or all one)
4 to 6 scallions, finely chopped, white and green kept separate
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
4 tablespoons minced gingerroot
2 tablespoons minced garlic or 1/2 cup finely chopped garlic scapes
2 tablespoons each peanut and sesame butters
5 to 6 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons sugar or maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar

Bring 4 to 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add noodles to boiling water and cook until tender but still resistant to the tooth. Drain well, toss with the sesame and chile oils and scallion greens in large serving bowl. Leave at room temperature or chill.

Heat oil in small saucepan and add ginger, garlic or scapes and white of scallion. Cook gently until vegetables are tender, about 3 to 5 minutes, and remove from heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients until well mixed. Taste and adjust with soy, vinegar and maple syrup or sugar. When you are ready to serve, toss dressing on noodles. Mound on a platter.

This is a really great place to add chopped greens like kale or collards--or any lightly cooked vegetable. Just chop into bite-size pieces and lower into boiling pasta cooking water until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and toss with noodles and dressing.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Jon Watts

This is Jon Watts. Jon is half owner and full workhorse of Meadowlark Farm. In this photo he is performing his Tuesday and Friday work: cleaning salad greens. It looks as if he is going fly fishing complete with net. Bet some days he'd like to.

With whiffs of the best 70's and 80's music dancing around them, the salad washing crew skim away dirt, yellowed leaves and bugs. If you're a CSA member, you must have noticed that your greens are filled with rhythm. All of it good stuff.

Now we're at bugs. Since Jon and Jenny run their farm organically (though they are not certified because they don't feel a need to hassle with the paperwork) bugs are a large part of their existence. As are the weather and larger pests. Jon, it turns out, is the Bug Man. He sprays soapy water on the kale for mites. Skimming through salad mix he finds a goodly array of bugs.

Whenever Jon finds some bug he hasn't seen before, he studies it. He missed his calling in entymology we think. The bugs on Meadowlark produce are honored bugs. They get Jon's full attention: he sketches their portraits.

They become immortal.

Third Friday

Today was the third Friday Lunch. Ella and Eli wanted to make pasta. I am thrilled with the greens, particularly the collards, that are rampant in Meadowlark Gardens. This place is like a fairy land to walk--this time of year I learn the location of each patch of produce. I found the fledgling artichokes today. They were so good last year...

I also found the strawberry patch. Robert gave me two quart boxes (instead of one) in case I got up to the patch and "went crazy". Robert knows me. He also knows the power of a fresh, juicy berry. I like them better than chocolate. So I drove home with two quarts of berries caressing my nose. Why do people wear perfume? It cancels out all the truly sacred smells of life like pine needles on a warm day or strawberries riding shotgun in a warm car. Back to the collards.

Jenny grows collards called "glazed" that are so beautiful. We blanched the leaves and stuffed them with a mixture of raw Amish sage pork sausage (you could use any kind of ground meat--I'm particular to lean ground turkey), caramelized shallots and cooked quinoa. We layered the rolls into a roasting pan and poured a quart of chicken broth over them. They went into a pre-heated 400F oven which I lowered to 350F for an hour to hour and a half. Very good served with salsa or thinned hommous.

We made pasta dough then a pesto.

Garlic Scape Basil Pesto
Enough for 1 1/2 to 2 pounds pasta

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups trimmed and sliced (1-inch long) garlic scapes
1 to 1 1/2 cups packed basil leaves
2 cups walnuts
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Optional shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and over medium heat, cook the scapes until they are tender, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a food processor, purée the basil leaves and walnuts, while drizzling in the olive oil. Add the garlic scapes to the basil-walnuts and purée till smooth-ish. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If the pesto is too thick, add a little water and purée.

Cook pasta and toss immediately with pesto. If the pesto is still too thick, thin with hot pasta cooking water and toss pesto with pasta. Taste and season with optional cheese and more salt and pepper as necessary.

Today wanted to rain. We need some rain. Overcast and mid-70's today. Really pleasant.

Here are some photos of Ella rolling the collard rolls and the kids rolling pasta, the garlic scapes cooking, my strawberries and garlic scapes in the field.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Introducing Robert, Meadowlark Farm Manager

This is Robert. He's a little like Jazz, Jon and Jenny's Border Collie. He makes sure everybody is taken care of...he kind of runs around checking everything out, is a little obsessive, and occasionally runs after balls, just kidding. However, late last summer, when working in prickly eggplant and probably loopy from too much sun, Robert challenged Berkley, Ella and Eli to a gross-out contest. Ella and Eli are Jon and Jenny's kids, both still school age.

I think Berkley ate a whole jalapeño off the plant, and of course thought he would die. The kids wisely declined the challenge. Robert, not to be outdone, picked up a rotten tomato--which it was later rumored that Jazz had used as one of her retriever-wanna-be "balls," drooled on and muddied--popped it into his mouth and ATE IT. Of course he won, but what a peewee victory it was: Everyone shied away from him for the rest of the day. Imagine his breath...eek. Rotten tomatoes are NO LAUGHING MATTER. They STINK.

Robert would do anything for you. We all love him despite his weird eating habits.

Second Friday Lunch

Last night I still didn't have a clue what I'd be cooking. I knew that there were storage potatoes, onions, shallots and carrots, and lots of new green things. When I walked by the produce prepping area the scent of cilantro hit me. When Jenny told me she'd soaked black beans I knew the cilantro would go into them somehow.

Often off the cuff farm cooking turns into juggling what combos of food to go where. Today I had the main elements: quinoa, black beans, potatoes and radishes. The adornments: mint, cilantro, a cacophony of Indian spices, maple syrup, pickled jalapeños, coconut and coconut milk and limes.

Here's what Ella, Eli and I made:

Carrot ginger purée soup with pickled jalapeños
Onions, ginger and carrots cooked in coconut fat then covered with water. Purée in blender till smooth with coconut milk and season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with lightly chopped pickled jalapeños and cilantro if you like.

Blackbeans with toasted coconut, peas, lime and cilantro
Tip for cooking tender beans with hard water. Soak overnight or in cold water or 1 hour in boiling water with a teaspoon or three of SEA SALT. Drain and add fresh water, bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, cover and cook 1 hour. The salt protects shell beans from absorbing the minerals and so they remain tender when cooked.
In a large sauté pan we toasted unsweetened dry coconut without fat, till golden and fragrant then tossed it with the beans, lime juice, chopped cilantro, peas and salt and pepper.

Quinoa with caramelized shallots and greens
Rinse 2 cups quinoa in fine mesh strainer and drain. Pour into heavy pot with 3 cups cold water and salt. Bring to boil, lower heat, cover and simmer quinoa 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow pot to sit undisturbed 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil or coconut oil and add finely sliced shallots. Cook until browned and add chopped greens. They will wilt quickly, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and toss/fold with quinoa.

Shaved radish salad with lime, mint and maple syrup

1 dozen French breakfast or red radishes, cleaned and trimmed
juice of 1 to 2 limes
2 tablespoons mint leaves
1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup

With a mandoline or very sharp knife, finely slice radishes. Toss radishes mixing bowl with lime juice, mint and salt. Add maple syrup to taste, enough to offset the acidity of the lime juice, but not so much that it actually tastes sweet.

Spiced potato-stuffed paratha

Ella made these pretty much start to finish. She's made them with me several times. The spiced potato filling started with cubed potatoes, boiled till tender and drained. Then in another pot, brown onions, and add brown mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and turmeric and cook for a minute. Stir in garam masala and a diced jalapeño. Season with salt and lime juice. Let this cool.

Paratha dough

3 cups chapati flour
2 tablespoons Nutiva coconut oil or ghee or clarified butter
1 teaspoon salt

Mix together ingredients in bowl till fat is evenly mixed. Add enough warm water to make a tender but not wet dough...ear lobe soft. Let it sit for half an hour in a baggie. Roll into a log (with extra flour if sticky) and slice log into 15 pieces. Dip one into flour on cut sides and roll out to 1/8 inch thick. Lay a couple spoonfuls spiced potatoes in center and bring up sides of dough, pleating the top and pressing it together. Roll out flat, using more flour if necessary. Cook these on a hot cast-iron griddle until they lose the raw dough look. Brush with ghee, butter or Nutiva coconut oil.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

More photos from the first Friday lunch.

First Friday Lunch June 5 2009

The menu turned out differently--that's the beauty of cooking off the farm. I use what's available. We haven't fully stocked the kitchen yet so I had to improvise--it turned out great though.

We had:

Lentil Dal with panch phora--five whole spices: fennel, coriander (or fenugreek), nigella, cumin and brown mustard seed. I browned a lot of shallots that Jenny (Meadowlark Farm "mother") had from last year. I used Nutiva coconut oil. Great flavor in place of ghee. I browned the spices and added ginger root, cooked (with garlic and turmeric) lentils and simmered them then added chopped greens at the end to just barely cooked through. I seasoned the dal with pickled jalapeños, salt and lime juice.

Brown basmati rice pilaf--cooked with whole spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and cardamom.

Spiced potatoes with caramelized onions and turmeric

This is the cooling part of an Indian meal. It is usually made with yogurt, but I like it with the nut sauce. I've made this with bananas, crystallized ginger and ground peanuts. It is especially good with cashews.
Greens Stem Raita (in photo with finely shaved carrots)

6 cups finely sliced bokchoy, chard or vitamin green stems
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup raw walnuts or cashews
1/4 cup chopped gingerroot
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/4 to 1/2 cup lightly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

Toss stems and salt together in large mixing bowl. Allow to sit for 20 minutes, until liquid exudes.

In blender, grind nuts, ginger, 1/4 cup lime juice and maple syrup. Grind until smoothish, but still thick. To facilitate grinding, add 1/2 cup liquid from stems and salt.

Mix stems, nut sauce and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and more lime juice, to taste.

Raw rhubarb-maple ginger chutney

For this I finely sliced rhubarb straight out of the garden and tossed it with finely minced fresh ginger, a pinch of salt and maple syrup. I did add a pinch of cardamom and cinnamon, but they aren't strictly necessary. After a couple hours the rhubarb softened and the maple syrup infused it nicely. This is called maceration--where there is an exchange of flavors--versus marination--where the food is infused with flavor.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

First Friday

Last Friday I was at the farm transferring baby cabbage plants into larger containers in Jenny's greenhouse. It was moist and warm. I will have over 100 green luscious cabbages!

I picked up my box, full of bok choy, baby scallions, salad greens and heads of lettuces. It helped me finally decide on the menu--some people want Indian food--we have so little of it up here so Friday, June 5, 2009 lunch will be:

Lentil Dal with Brown-Fried Onions
Potato and Onion Stuffed Paratha
Rice Pilaf with Pureed Baby Scallions and Spices
Chopped Kale and Swiss Chard Cashew Raita
Rhubarb Maple Ginger Chutney

Look for the recipes this weekend.