A Sweet Gift: Cranberry Almond Biscotti

cranberry almond biscotti stackIt’s that time of year when you hear bakers and non-bakers alike mutter that famous line: I gotta make my Christmas cookies!

I am not one of those people.

I make a truckload of cookies the week before Thanksgiving for our annual Open House at the Farm and once that weekend is over, I’m so sugared-out that I cannot even think about cookie baking OR cookie eating.

However, for a cause such as Cookies for Kids Cancer, I’ll suffer just a little and bake up a batch.  Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen have teamed up to host The 3rd Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  I participated last year and had a blast baking, packaging, and shipping my molasses-spice cookies.  It was even more fun receiving packages of cookies from three other bloggers!  There are so many awesome recipes and fabulous bloggers out there on the web.

I received some terrific cookies already – Melissa sent a soft, chewy oatmeal cookie and the Chat Chow team sent a cute tub of chocolate oat coffee cookies.  Ali’s white chocolate salted caramel cookies are on their way here and I’m expecting deliciousness.

This year, it’s all about biscotti.  I made two different flavors for the Open House and both the anisette and the vanilla-almond flew off the tables like nobody’s business.  This made me very happy as my previous attempts at biscotti-making were less than stellar.

I took a leap and jazzed up the recipe I started with but altered, as I usually do, to include the pretty little cranberries that I had on hand.  A bit of orange extract helped push these babies over the top, and if I’d had an orange in the fridge, I would have also included some zest.

I’m hoping my biscotti arrived at their destinations and that Cari Amanda, and Jenn are enjoying them with a steaming cup of coffee or tea.

cran almond biscotti
Cranberry-Almond Biscotti
2 cups AP flour, plus more for work surface
3/4 cup sugar plus 2 teaspoons for sprinkling
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
3/4 c whole unblanched almonds
3/4 c dried cranberries
grated orange zest, optional
3 large eggs
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t orange extract

Preheat oven to 350° and have ready a baking sheet lined with parchment.

In a large bowl, combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, almonds and cranberries.  Stir together well.  In a small bowl, beat eggs and extracts together with a fork.

Stir the wet ingredients into dry using a rubber scraper – it’s easier to mush it together.  It will look like a shaggy mess that won’t ever come together, but trust me…. it will.

Turn the dough out onto a surface lightly dusted with flour.  Knead it a bit (a plastic bench scraper helps tremendously), bringing all the ingredients together.  Add some flour if you must, but be careful not to add too much.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each into a log shape about 2-inches in diameter and about 8-inches long.  Carefully transfer logs to the baking sheet and flatten to a height of 1-inch.  Sprinkle each log evenly with a teaspoon of sugar.

biscotti logscranberry almond biscotti

Bake the logs for 20-25 minutes or until tops are puffy, slightly cracked and golden brown.  Transfer logs, parchment and all, to a wire rack to cool for about an hour.  Move logs to a cutting board, and, using a serrated knife, cut each log crosswise into 1/4-inch slices.  Lay slices cut side down onto two parchment lined baking sheets and return to preheated oven for another 10-15 minutes or until barely golden and crisp.

Cool cookies on a wire rack then store in an airtight container for a week or so (if you can keep your hands out of them).

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Cookie Edition.

Christmas 2013 family

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Baking Up a Storm – The Cookie Review

Wow. What a week!

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We celebrated the holiday a little early, as we have each year for the past eight, and hosted our Annual Open House at the Farm last Sunday.  It was a madhouse from the very start and what a fabulous day!  We had plenty of locally grown veggies on hand to sell to all who wished to create a gorgeous Thanksgiving meal in the true spirit of eating seasonal and local.  There were 10 other vendors inside our barn selling their homemade and homegrown goodies as well.

Overall, I’d say it was an amazing turn-out and our customers were truly thrilled to have the chance to visit the farm and chat (kudos to Doris and Sonny), shop for veggies (many thanks to both sellers and veggie preppers: Alice, Irene, Justine, Kathleen, Melissa, Paul, and Sanford), snack on homegrown popcorn  (Haleigh and Bev – high fives!), and devour homemade cookies (*pat pat pat on The FarmGirl’s back).

We started the tradition of hosting an Open House way back in 2004 as a way of thanking our customers for their loyalty and support throughout the year.  It’s now become the biggest annual party at the farm and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our friends and family come out to help us sell our veggies, we’ve got terrific vendors that spend the day with us and kids and adults alike have made our Open House a yearly tradition.  Despite the bone-chilling cold and wind, hundreds of people came by to give us big hugs and thank yous and sincere holiday wishes.

It was pretty damned awesome.  Boy, are we lucky!

In return, we set up a cookie table in the middle of the barn.  The cookie table is stocked (and restocked many times over) with homemade cookies from my very own kitchen.  Yes, yes, I slave away and bake night and day until I’ve exhausted my resources and I can absolutely, positively not tolerate sampling yet another cookie.

Yep.  I seriously got to that point.  I took tiny bites and threw the rest of my samples away.  At this point, I don’t even want to see another cookie, but I’ve got to get my surprises in the mail this Monday for The 2013 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!fbcookieswap2013_white

Julie and Lindsay are at it again this year and, with the help of over 600 bloggers and 4 awesome sponsors, have contributed nearly $14,000 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.  This event is a fantastic way to support this very worthy cause, and it’s also a terrific way for all of us to snag hundreds of cookie recipes!  The Little Kitchen and Love and Olive Oil will be posting a Recipe Roundup of all the cookie posts that we bloggers post on our blogs on December 11th, so check back soon!

In the meantime,  I’m linking up to recipes I’ve previously posted for anyone who needs a fix (dear GOD, not me….) or wants to recreate the sugary yumminess they sampled at the farm on November 24th.

Thanks for joining us this year, everyone, and we hope to see you at the next Market at the Farm!  Visit BialasFarms.com for information.

P.S. Have you noticed the cool icon at the bottom of each post?  There is a Print & PDF button… click it and you will get a customizable print-friendly version of a post.  You can keep the text you like, eliminate excess photos that you don’t need, and print up a concise recipe to post on the fridge while you create a masterpiece.   Check it out!

Jam crumble bars
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cinnamon-sugar cookies
cinn sugar cookies

salted cashew-toffee-chocolate chip cookies
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molasses-spice cookies
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peanut butter cookies
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Lemon-Cornmeal Gluten Free Cookies
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Cherry-Pistachio Shortbread Cookies (+GF version)
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And for those with the urge to roll, cut, bake and decorate…
Royally Cool Cookie Decorating Ideas Part 1
Royally Cool Cookie Decorating Ideas Part 2
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Field to Feast: Sunday Morning Homefries with Poblanos and Bacon… plus, A Toast

harvester

Fletch and I took a ride around the farm several weeks ago.  Not only was it a fabulous photo day, it was also a day of memories, and memories are made for sharing.

What’s the point of keeping them all bottled up inside of you when those memories can bring joy to others?  Those memories can help others to understand you better and can even draw you closer together.

When I finally hear the harvester engine start up in August (or this year, September) I know that it’s onion harvesting time.  That sound and the events that follow haven’t changed since 1972.  In fact, Thomas and I were just watching some home movies from the early 70s and we saw the harvester being pulled by a bulldozer (which we still have).  My father was driving and he had my brother and me on his lap.

Nothing has changed, essentially, except the tractor pulling the machine (purchased around 1975) and the passenger (born in 2004).

Oh, and my father’s hair isn’t quite as dark.

harvesting w passenger 2010

An acre covers a square just over 200 feet by 200 feet so you can imagine that 50 acres of anything really adds up in terms of sheer enormity and workload.  Compared to farms out west, I suppose that’s nothing.  But I was forced lucky enough to weed acre upon acre of onion fields way back when I was a young girl.  I know up close and personal just how big 50 acres can be.

After 1972, Bialas Farms switched from growing celery to growing onions, a trend that was growing in Orange County.  I was 2 years old so I cannot comment on how lucrative that turnover was, but I do know I had the best flannel-lined corduroy pants that one could buy at Playtogs.

I do, however, remember with great fondness the celebration and overall jubilant spirit that surrounded the end of harvesting.   When the last round was completed (one round was up and down the field, making a complete circle) , the whole family, even barefoot kids on bikes or in bathing suits, would race to The Shop and hand out the paper cups.  We would toast the occasion with whatever happened to be on hand – in those days it was grape Malt Duck.

We all had to work back then, kids and adults alike.  There was a stretch of time where we four kids (cousins, 2 sets of siblings living next door to each other) would go out to work 6  or 7 hours a day picking weeds.  We got our pay envelope at the end of the week, or the end of the summer, and we would use that to buy school clothes for the coming year.  At harvest time, our job was to pick up any onions that had fallen from the big pallet boxes when they came off the machine.  We made it a game – a race to see who could run to the next  box and snag all the onions that fell in its shadow.

That feeling came back when I saw Dad pulling the harvester out of the field to be cleaned and put back into the barn for next year.  He drove past me with a huge grin on his dusty face, two thumbs up in the air.  I waved, grinned back, and got a warm feeling in the pit of my stomach – a feeling of relief that the onions were finally out of the ground.

Thomas asked me, as only a nine-year-old can, why it was such a big deal and I explained that until the crop was safely out of the fields and hauled off to the barn, there was always the chance that weather would ruin whatever was out there and we’d be left with nothing to show for 7 months’ work.  Sometimes even when the crop is safely tucked away in the barn you can have a devastating fire that destroys not only the crop but the entire barn and all its contents.

But that’s a story for another time.

Now is a time for celebration because the onions are out of the ground and the boxes have been hauled off the field 6 at a time on the bed of an old 1960s army truck.  So please, if you’re so inclined, raise a glass and help us toast the end of harvesting and the crop we were blessed to bring  home with Mother Nature’s help.

onions

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There are some veggies we grow that I don’t eat.

Strange, right?  I know.

I won’t touch a rutabaga.  Tastes like spicy cabbage – and I love cabbage, mind you – but to me, rutabagas taste like cabbage after it’s been eaten, if you get my drift.  *Shudder*

I even have trouble with Brussels sprouts.  We just started selling sprouts on the stalk at markets this week and when I hear people squeal with delight and say, “Oh I just HAVE TO HAVE my sprouts!” I think they’re insane.

But that’s the way I feel about my poblano chiles!

Homefries with Poblanos and Bacon

I wouldn’t be so gung ho looney bird over poblanos if it wasn’t for Ms. Amy Roth.  She appeared at my stand in Ringwood in 2012 with a cloth bag full of poblanos.  “I’m so glad you still have these!  They’re my new favorite thing.”

You know that caught my attention.  What does Amy do with poblanos?  She makes rajas con crema.  I had to try this and pronto, so that weekend I did.  This spicy, creamy, salty full-of-flavor mix was piled lightly onto grilled corn tortillas and promptly and completely devoured alongside a spicy hot pepper-infused paloma.

Poblano chiles are like a green bell pepper but with a depth of flavor unlike other capsicums.  They have a bit of heat, sometimes more than a bit, sometimes less… it all depends on weather and growing conditions.  When the plants are under stress, they do what they can to deter pests from devouring their fruit and ending its life cycle.  A killer-hot pepper is quite a deterrent!

If you can imagine, we see a lot of veggies around here every day.  Some veggies?  I can take ’em or leave ’em.  Others, like our Polish Plum tomatoes  or these poblano peppers, deserve reverence and I will give up most everything else in my life for an afternoon just to make sure I have these babies on hand for winter cooking.

It all starts with charring.

You can do as I do and char each pepper  until blackened over the gas burners of my stove – be sure to open the windows and turn on the exhaust fan.  You can also line them all up on a sheet pan and broil them, turning frequently, until charred all over.  You could certainly grill them outside if you like.

roasted poblanos 02 - Copy

Once the peppers are blackened, place them in a container with a lid or a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let them steam until they are cool enough to handle.  Take one out and wipe off the charred skin with a paper towel or your fingers.  It comes off very easily.

roasted poblano removing skin

Slice around the stem end with a knife and remove the seeds, including any of the white pithy stuff that you can.  That’s where much of the heat is, by the way, so if you want to fool someone into tasting a hot chile pepper, eat the flesh and let them bite into it, white pith and all.  It works every time.

At this point, you can simply stack up a few roasted poblanos, place them in freezer bags and freeze for winter.  I say a stack a few because I typically use 3-5 every time I cook with them.  You should package them however you think you will use them in the future.  When you are ready for them, simply thaw them in the fridge, slice or dice and eat!  They are fabulous.

poblano seeds

roasted poblanos - Copy

Also fabulous?

Sunday Morning Homefries with Poblanos and Bacon
2-3 slices bacon, diced
8 oz waxy potatoes, such as Carola or Red or Austrian Crescent fingerling, cubed no larger than 1/2″
2 poblano chiles, roasted, seeded and diced
Eggs, as many as you need plus oil or butter to fry them in
Salt, Pepper, Crema (optional) as desired

Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat for a few minutes then add bacon.  Stir bacon occasionally until it releases some of its grease and the white becomes translucent.  Add the potato cubes, stir, season with salt, and allow to cook for around 15-20 minutes or until beautifully golden and crispy.  Yes, it takes a while when you are starting with raw potatoes, but I have issues with leftover refrigerated potatoes.  [I have so many issues.]

Stir in the diced poblanos and heat through, then serve alongside fried, poached or scrambled eggs.  Drizzle some crema over everything if you’re feeling ridiculously decadent and warm up some corn tortillas to sop up all that runny yolk.

potatoes and bacon - Copy

poblano home fries 02

poblano home fries

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Field to Feast Link-Up: Poblano Chile Peppers

I had to share this Minimally Invasive Field to Feast post with you all because Rajas (roasted poblanos) con Crema is one of my absolute favorite dishes.

Plus, Amy’s photographs are stunning and I just love looking at them.

This is what I eat when The Boy isn’t home for dinner.

It pairs nicely with margaritas and spicy palomas.

Poblanos-with-Crema-Minimally-Invasive

What doesn’t?

FYI: Get the poblano chiles before a hard freeze wipes out the plants… or better yet, char and freeze the poblanos so you can enjoy this spicy, creamy delight all winter long 😀

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Could Little Ol’ Me Possibly Learn to Live Like Julia?

lotus flower painting 092213If you’ve read more than a few of my posts you know that I have lots of ‘things’ – things that irk me, things that make me cringe, things that I love, things that I cannot live without.

Some of those things are substantial, essential tasks and duties.  Some of those things are pretty much inconsequential and arbitrary and are only problems IN MY MIND BECAUSE I LET THEM BECOME SUCH.

Scary, isn’t it, just how much anxiety our minds can create over such unimportant nonsense?  Of course, we only think it’s nonsense AFTER we’ve dealt with it and jumped the hurdles and smothered the demons.

Author Karen Karbo has penned the soon-to-be-released (like, tomorrow) book Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life.  Since I’m a huge Julia Child fan (and who isn’t?), I figured I would join in this challenge when my friend and author Elizabeth Hilts suggested it.

LiveLikeJulia

I chose to Live Like Julia by following Rule #7 : solving the problem right in front of you.

I took to task and started thinking about the problems I had to tackle first in reaching my ultimate goal of hosting cooking workshops/demo classes at The Farm.  Believe me, I have a huge list… I always have a huge list, and this list is usually what stops me dead in my tracks.

Then I got to thinking.  What if the problem isn’t right in front of you, but, instead, is INSIDE you?  What if YOU are the problem?  It was then that I decided that I am my own worst enemy.

It’s been said before, by professionals and amateurs alike, that I over-think, over-analyze, and over-manage myself into a tizzy and render myself paralyzed by anxiety.  Yeah, no kidding.  They say knowing is half the battle?  They’re full of crap.  Just like I know I shouldn’t have ice cream for dinner, I know I shouldn’t let one little detail derail me from achieving success.

And yet it happens.

I was fortunate enough to read the Live Like Julia chapter pertaining to Rule #7 prior to the book’s release.  Karen Karbo captured the essence of Julia Child and reminded me just how long it took Mrs. Child to achieve her goal of publishing Mastering the Art of French Cooking and how many obstacles were in her path.
hard working hand
I’ve got plenty of obstacles in my way, including farm work that makes my hands look like this from April through the end of October.

However, because of this challenge, I’ve decided it’s time to get out of my own freaking way and let things happen.  Sometimes it’s not so much what we DO that accomplishes things, it’s what we DON’T do (in this case, I’m NOT letting small, stupid details mess things up) and thanks to Karen Karbo and Julia Child, I’m forging ahead and doing the opposite of what I’ve done up until this point (a la George Costanza?).

Sometimes I think the universe smacks us in the head with ideas or opportunities.  One such smack for me was several Facebook postings advertising a Hawk Painting Workshop.  It seemed as though every time I logged on I saw yet another post and every time I did my darnedest to ignore the obvious.  I’ve always had a keen eye at spotting these beautiful birds of prey, and spiritually I believe they are a symbol of intuition, focus and clear vision.  I’ve always had basic artistic talents, so why not attend?

Why NOT?  I had a full page list why not….

One day in August I said “eff it” and I signed up.  The experience was scary since I was heading to an unfamiliar place 45 minutes away (I did get lost and had to turn around to find the address, being one of the few who live life without GPS).  Actually, the experience itself was wonderful – it was the anxiety and the unknown leading up to the experience that scared me.

hawk painting 081113

{Look what I did!  Who knew?!?!}

But it was so good and I enjoyed myself so much that I attended the September workshop as well.  The floodgates had opened and there I was with an opportunity to create an experience for others that I would love for myself.  With the help of Jen Ferdinandsen, artist and healer, it’s Game On!

Without much thought as to the details, and with a few back-and-forth Facebook messages, the Painting on the Farm workshop was born.  I have a deadline now  – no more procrastinating and letting stupid little things sideline me.  The workshop will be held on Saturday November 2nd and I’ve got a menu to prepare since I’m making lunch for our guests.  It may be the only workshop that Jen and I have here on the farm, or it may be the start of a series of workshops.  Who knows?  I do know that it’s HUGE to have simply taken a step forward.

It’s taken a long time to get here, just like it took Julia Child nearly 2 decades from start to finish to have both volumes of her classic cookbook published.  But I’m getting there nonetheless.  Thank you, Karen Karbo for giving me the little push I needed and thank you Julia Child for always being an inspiration both in the kitchen and in life.

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it.  The time will pass anyway.”  – Earl Nightingale

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Field to Feast: Pan-seared Feta with Marinated Red Peppers

rainbow peppersFriday, September 6th was the first day of school for my brand new fourth grader!  Both of us were very excited.  Thomas sat on the couch watching Spongebob Squarepants the morning before and said, “it feels like summer vacation just started!”

“Yeah?  Ya think?  My vacation starts tomorrow.”

I gave him my best Mr. Roper look (you know, where Norman Fell cracked a joke and looked right into the camera and grinned?  Love that.)  but he must not have realized there was a joke hidden in there.  All he said was, “LUCKKKYYY!”

He’ll get the joke someday, but for today I let it slide.  I’m looking forward to Thomas learning a ton of great stuff in fourth grade.  He’s changing so much and that’s thrilling and humorous and makes me feel a bit melancholy for the days when all we had on the agenda was having breakfast and going to Target for diapers.

Now, we’ve got a list a mile long of things that we’ll never accomplish in the few hours we have together after school and before bedtime (because at nine, he still has a bedtime).

Parents complain endlessly, and quite justifiably, about how demanding babies and toddlers are, what with the diapers and bottles breast-feeding, the car-seat battles and constant snack requests.  But in retrospect, those troubles are small and those years go by so quickly.

I’m looking forward to spending more time with my darling boy since WE HAD A FROST THIS WEEK!

Did that sound overly-enthusiastic?  Probably.  But I can’t help it!  It’s a very long season on a vegetable farm and although we haven’t lost more than a few crops because of the 2-night frost event, this signals that there will be a slow-down to the non-stop activity.

Customers repeatedly ask when the <insert summer veggie> season will be over and I tell them, “when we have a frost or shortly thereafter.”

“Oh, it’s too early for a frost!”

Not really.  We typically have a damaging frost by September 15th (this year it was the night of 9/16) followed by a few weeks of beautiful, sunny weather.  This weekend’s forecast is showing sun with temps in the upper 70s.

It happens every year.row cover on peppers pre frost

We make preparations for frost, however, but you can’t cover up everything with row cover like we did with the peppers and zucchini.  We’ve got nearly 60 acres and that would be a lot of blankets and sheets.

We hope that the plants have enough leaf-cover to protect the veggies from harm until we can get them off the plants.  This year, the tomatoes and basil were shot long before frost, but the peppers and eggplant are still gorgeous.  We’re hoping to get a few more weeks of harvesting summer crops before we head into fall full-steam-ahead.

Right now, colorful peppers are in abundance at markets and if you see them, they will probably be cheaper than Holland peppers in February.  You should buy many and freeze them.  How do you freeze them?  Well, you slice them up (no seeds, please) and freeze them raw in bags or you cook them and freeze them.  Quite simple, actually!

I like to make up what I call “chili mix”:  Dice several peppers, including poblanos and jalapenos, onions and garlic and saute briefly in olive oil.   You don’t want them fully cooked.  Let them cool, then portion into freezer containers and label each one with a name and date.  Inside you have all the veggies you need to start a pot of chili, either on the stove or in the crock pot!  You can add some spices and herbs to it if you like, but I usually like to leave it plain in case I need to defrost a container to jazz up a frittata for a quick work-night dinner.

The recipe here today is a terrific, simple way to highlight the wonderful sweet red peppers that you find this time of year.   I created it for a feature in Goshen Quarterly Magazine – a free publication that you can find at various Goshen businesses.  The online version isn’t up just yet, but please check it out when you find one.  The article highlights several Goshen Farmers Market vendors. 

feta w red peppers

Pan-Seared Lemon Feta with Marinated Roasted Red Peppers
Betcha didn’t know you could pan-sear feta halloumi-style!  It is fabulous!
Serves 4

3 large red peppers
2 fresh ‘green’ garlic stalks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced or 2 cloves garlic
1T fresh oregano leaves, minced or 1t dried
zest of 1 lemon plus extra wedges for garnish
scant 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
4oz (+/-) block feta cheese, sliced into 1/4” thick slabs
baguette or Italian bread, sliced and toasted or grilled

Roast red peppers over the open flame of a gas stove until charred. Place in a bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and allow to steam until cool enough to handle. While peppers are steaming, prepare marinade: in medium bowl, combine garlic, oregano, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper and set aside.

Peel skin off peppers (basically wipe it with your hand – skin will come off easily) and remove stem and seeds. Slice peppers into 1/2” strips and place in marinade. Toss to coat and set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes but as long as overnight. You should refrigerate the peppers if storing for longer than an hour, just be sure to bring peppers to room temperature before plating.

To plate: divide peppers equally amongst each of 4 plates and drizzle them with a bit of the marinade. Arrange a few slices of bread and a lemon wedge on each plate. Have these ready while you sear the feta.

Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add a tiny bit of oil to just skim-coat the pan then add no more than 4 slices of feta – it cooks quickly. The cheese should sizzle as soon as it hits the pan. Allow it to cook for about 20 – 30 seconds, then carefully flip it over with a small offset spatula and let it barely brown on the other side. Carefully remove from pan and set on prepared plates (again, dividing equally) then continue searing remaining feta slices.

Garnish the cheese with a bit of minced oregano and lemon zest & wedges and serve while it’s hot. To eat this plate of simple summer deliciousness, stack the cheese and peppers on a slice of bread, squeeze a bit of lemon over top and dive in!

** Core and seed peppers and roast them in a 375° oven for about 40 minutes or until skin darkens and peppers are soft OR grill them on a gas or charcoal grill.** Almost everything you need can be found at both the Goshen and Ringwood Farmers Markets: Peppers, Garlic, Oregano (Bialas Farms), Feta cheese (Edgwick Farm), Baguette (Janet’s Quality Baked Goods), Olive oil (The Gourmet Exchange – Goshen only). No one grows lemons locally.

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Field to Feast: The Busy Girl’s Guide to Canning Tomato Sauce

Thomas went with us to market this weekend, as he does nearly every Saturday beginning in May and ending at Halloween.

I was standing at my scale helping customers when a little hand, attached to a still-little-but-getting-bigger-quickly arm, reaches around me and starts fingering quarters in my coin tray.

“Mom, can I have a dollar?”

“Why do you need a dollar?  <returning focus to customer> That’s $8.25, please.”

“I want a pickle on a stick.”

<picking up small hand and squeezing gently until fingers release coins>

“Well, if you want a dollar, go ask Grandma what you can do to EARN a dollar.”

He must have found some job to do because he was walking around with a pickle-on-a-stick 10 minutes later.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The tomatoes have been outstanding this year.  I don’t know what it is, but the flavors are deep and rich.  I’m thinking it was the crazy-hot temperatures in July when the plants were starting to flower and produce fruit.

I am eating so many tomatoes every week that I’m embarrassed to say it aloud.  Like the number on the scale, the number of tomatoes I consume shall forever remain a secret (including the pint – yes PINT – of sungold cherry tomatoes that I had for lunch).

georgia streak

But, like all good things, even tomato season must come to an end and, sadly, the end is near.  It’s September already and considering the summer we had weather-wise, we’re lucky to have had the crop that we did.  I hope everyone who shopped with us this summer enjoyed them as well.

pink brandywine and basil

As sometimes happens, most of the time actually, we have tomatoes left over from the farmers market.  Knowing what I know about the impending doom (it’s heartbreaking to some people when local tomatoes are no longer available), and knowing how much better our homegrown Polish Plum heirloom tomatoes are, I set aside last Sunday as a canning day.

Sweet Irene takes boxes of ‘seconds’ (tomatoes no longer fit for sale) home with her each week and makes and freezes her sauce.  Irene works more than anyone I know, on par with Farmer Sonny, so if Irene has time to do this…. so do you.

Thanks to my dear Sweet Irene, I no longer fret over scorching a pot of tomatoes on the stove.  Thanks to my dear Sweet Irene, I no longer panic over spending the day tied to the kitchen.  Why?  Because I slow-roast my tomatoes in the oven!  

Yes, in the oven.

Makes sense, actually, because the oven heats evenly and is a very dry environment (think Arizona dry…) so it will concentrate the flavors faster.  It still takes some time to do this project, but thankfully, much of it is unattended.

Busy Girl’s Canned Tomato Sauce

** The great thing about this non-water bath method of canning sauce is that I can do as many or as few tomatoes as I have access to.  The way I figure it, though, if I’m ‘doing tomatoes’, I may as well do a ton of ’em.  The flavor of home-grown and heirloom tomatoes eaten in the dead of winter is incomparable.

This adventure took me about 4 hours of active peeling, washing,  and packing time.  Granted, I was watching all my DVRed shows and taking snack breaks whenever I felt like it, so it didn’t feel like a ton of time.

I used a boatload of tomatoes (About 35 lbs will give you 7 quarts or 14 pints of tomato puree.  I used around 80-90 lbs.) plus three-part canning jars in whatever size you want.  Jars and rings may be reused but the lids/seals must be new to ensure safe preserving.

1) Rinse tomatoes and, using a sharp paring knife, score bottoms with an x.

2) Carefully submerge tomatoes, about 8 – 12 at a time, in a pot of boiling water.  Allow to blanch for about 30 – 45 seconds, then, using a slotted spoon, remove them to a bowl of ice water.

3) Remove the tomatoes to a colander while you continue with the rest of your tomato inventory.

4) Slip off the tomato peels, core them and cut them in half, squeezing out and discarding the bulk of the seeds.raw tomatoes for sauce

5) Pile the tomato halves in a large oven-safe stock pot or dutch oven.  Place the pot(s) in a 200° oven and walk away.  Seriously… walk away and let them do their thing.

6) Allow the tomatoes to cook for 12 – 18 hours.  I actually let the tomatoes cook all night long then blitzed them with the blender in the morning and continued the process.  See what I mean about  unattended?

They’ll look like this when you take them out:16 hour oven roasted tomato sauce
7) Remove the pot(s) from oven and do a quick whirrrr with an immersion blender.  Return the pot(s) to the oven and allow to cook for another 1-3 hours.

blitz it
8) Meanwhile, fill a canning pot (like this one) with water.  Place your clean jars – either pints or quarts – into the pot and allow the water to boil for several minutes.  You need to sterilize the jars and kill  any bacteria before you pack them full of hot tomato puree.

9) Heat a small saucepan of water and drop in the lids/seals, making sure they are not stuck together.  Keep the pan of water just barely below a simmer until you need the lids.

10) Remove the tomato puree/sauce from the oven.  Remove the jars from the simmering water 2 at a time.  Drain them well.

11) Using a canning funnel and a ladle, fill the hot, hot jars with the hot, hot tomato sauce leaving 1/2-inch of headspace.  If you are playing by the food safety rules, you will want to add lemon juice or citric acid to each jar of sauce in accordance with the Ball® canning instructions.

12) Wipe the top rim of the jars with a damp rag or paper towel to ensure a clean seal.  Remove a lid from the simmering water (this comes in handy) and place atop the jar.  Place a ring on the jar and spin it on “fingertip-tight”.

13) Here’s where you make a choice to either live life on the edge or play it safe.  Like generations of lady-farmers before me,  I just take my chances and allow the hot jars of sauce to cool slowly on their own, causing the jars to seal properly.  I’ve never had a jar not seal when canning tomato sauce this way, but there’s always the possibility that one won’t.  Should a jar not seal within a few hours of filling (it will make a “pop” when the vacuum is formed), you can either process it in a water bath or just put in the fridge and use it within a few days.

However… and this is a big however… If you discover a jar that hasn’t sealed long after you put them away for storage, DO NOT USE IT.  It is most likely contaminated with bacteria that could potentially make you and your dinner guests quite sick.  You don’t want that to happen.

You can eliminate the uncertainty almost 100% by canning the sauce in a water bath according to Ball Fresh Preserving website.  Actually, it’s a great resource so read away…  It’s always a good idea to keep oneself informed 😉

jars of sauce

**You may certainly freeze the finished puree if you have freezer space.  Be sure the sauce is completely cooled before filling your freezer bags or containers.  Remember, liquids expand as they cool so don’t overfill the containers or you will have raised lids and open bags plus the residual mess in your freezer.

If you’d like to print out this quick guide to canning sauce, simply click the PRINT & PDF button below.  You can choose just what you want to print and even eliminate all the photos in order to save ink.

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Field to Feast: Cherry Tomato and Brie Galette

Easy make, easy eat.

That’s how I like it.

tomato brie galette 2

I don’t have time for much else these days and I found myself  buying Velveeta mac ‘n’ cheese cups and PopTarts (formerly known as Flood Food) to keep The Boy’s belly full.

After three microwaveable macaroni meals in as many days, Thomas has declared he won’t be eating them again for a looooong time.  He’s so used to my homemade soups, meals, and snacks that it really ISN’T a treat to get store-bought, but sometimes my 9-year-old needs to experience what a lot of other kids think is normal food to appreciate what he’s got at home.  There go the endless requests for crap meals in cardboard cups.

My plan worked!

As for me, well, I’m making a meal and living off of it for a few days.  Don’t even ask about the paprika chicken thighs I put on the grill last week.  But please do remind me to get a small fire extinguisher to have on hand.

cherry plum tomatoesGalettes are free-form tarts or tartlettes (little tarts!).  The crust can be topped with whatever filling is blowing your skirt up at any given time.   On this particular Sunday, my larder contained a wheel of Edgwick Farm’s Idlewild cheese.

Cornmeal Galette Dough
From Baking with Julia/Dorie Greenspan/Flo Braker
3 T sour cream or yogurt or buttermilk
1/3 cup (approximately) ice water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 t sugar
1/2 t salt
7 T cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

Stir the sour cream and 1/3 cup water together in a small glass measuring cup and set aside.  Put flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a large bowl and toss to combine.  I use my hands, but you can use a fork or pastry blender if you prefer.

Drop the butter pieces into the flour and start to smoosh and squeeze the butter bits and flour together.  You want to form little flakes of butter within the flour.  It’s actually quite fun and fast doing it this way, but by all means, use a pastry blender if you don’t want to get your hands dirty.

Once the flour and butter have combined to form pieces that range in size from fine crumbs to small peas, sprinkle the cold water/sour cream mixture evenly over the dough 1 tablespoon at a time.  Toss the dough around with a fork.  By the time you’ve added all the liquid, the dough should be moist enough to stick together.  If you need a teaspoon or two of additional water, sprinkle it over and try again.  Gather pieces together with your hands to form a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk (or two or four) and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate dough for at least two hours.

cherry tomatoes halved
While the dough is chilling, assemble your fillings and toppings.  For this large galette (one batch of dough rolled into one circle about 12-inches in diameter) I used a 4-ounce wheel of Idlewild (brie can be used) cut into slices, rind removed, and almost one pint of assorted cherry tomatoes. I ate some so they didn’t make it to the tart.  I had garlic-infused oil on hand, but I think roasted garlic would be terrific spread over the dough before topping with the cheese.

On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough to a large circle about 12-inches in diameter.  Carefully place the dough round on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.  Done?  Ok…
tomato brie galette uncooked
Brush the dough with a bit of garlic oil or spread with roasted garlic.  Arrange brie slices around entire circle, leaving a 2-inch border around the edge.  Top with halved cherry tomatoes.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, a small handful of panko crumbs and drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil.  Carefully fold up the edges onto the tomatoes and cheese, pleating them nicely and evenly.

cherry tomato galette
Brush the edges with a bit of egg wash (beaten egg and a splash of cream) and sprinkle with coarse cornmeal.  Bake in a preheated 400° oven for about 35 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.  Let the galette rest on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before attempting to slice.  The cheese is molten and will run all over the place.

You can refrigerate leftovers, if there happen to be any, and reheat them in a hot oven for a few minutes for a late night snack.

tomato brie galette

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you have no clue what Field to Feast is, click back here to read a recap of the recipes in our summer cooking series.

In another state, Amy’s been very busy these days whipping up beautiful dishes and taking even more beautiful photos.

Now git in the kitchen and whip up some tomato-y goodness before the season is over!

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Field to Feast: Recipe Recap

new potatoesAugust is when the farm season heads into top gear at breakneck speed.   Summer is in full swing, and with it a multitude of veggies are ready for harvest.  By the end of the month, we’ll have melons and early squashes ready, and customers will start asking for parsnips and Brussels sprouts.

I realized that it was “that time of year” when Amy caught me at market last Saturday and asked, “when do things start to slow down?”

“Thanksgiving.”

It dawned on me just what a long stretch of time that is, from July to mid-November, and it made me tired to think about it.

You probably think we’re busy harvesting all the crops that were planted in the spring.  ‘Tis true, but Dad will continue to plant certain crops through much of September because, with any luck, a frost will hold off until October and we’ll have fresh radishes and herbs and greens into November.  One year, a long time ago, I remember picking fresh lettuce from the fields (and wearing short sleeves!) on December first.  So, it could happen!

This year, in addition to the usual CSA, farmers markets and wholesale orders, we have had to deal with weather extremes that are difficult to rebound from.  We can irrigate – set up long lines of sprinklers and move them every 4-6 hours all over our 55 acres – but when there is too MUCH rain?

Neither Bounty nor Brawny have enough paper towels to mop up the mud and puddles and save our plants.

sprinkler run 2

We deal with it.  We still get angry about it, though, when we don’t have any cilantro or basil to go with the mountains of vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes on our tables.  We grumble when our pretty little kirby cucumbers are the perfect size for pickling and our dill is nothing but rain-yellowed stems.  We feel completely defeated when the 20 acres of onions that looked so healthy and strong in June got ‘tip burn’ during 2 July heatwaves and will no longer produce big onions.   In this case, size really does matter.

sprinkler run

But with the bad comes the good, and with drought comes a sprinkler run.  Thomas had to show me the sprinklers, how they work, how you can run through the mud and water and cool off when it’s still hot even after dinner.

I reminded him that I was born here on the farm (in a hospital, but I was living here on Celery Ave on Day 4 of my life) and have seen my share of irrigation pipeline.  But I let him go on (and on and on, because he is his grandfather’s boy) and then I followed him through the mist and sprays as Papa watered the leeks and Brussels sprouts.

It was much easier running through mud when I was 10.

Field to Feast arc

No doubt you’ve heard me talk about Amy and her food-photography blog, Minimally Invasive.  We’re collaborating on a project called Field to Feast.  We post recipes and pics based on a particular seasonal, farm-market fresh veggie or fruit.

How do we decide what’s going to be our next post?  Well, typically Amy arrives at the Ringwood Farmers Market just after opening on any given Saturday and I’m racing around doing a million and one things that no one else can do (properly, IMHO).

I have a thing… in fact, I have many ‘things’, but one big ‘thing’ is I like my handwriting and I prefer my price cards and chalkboards to be written BY ME.  Hence, my pride has added yet another huge task to my daily to-do list.

I swear, I will never, ever learn.

For those who may have missed a post or two, I’m providing a recap of the recipes that Amy and I have posted thus far under our Field to Feast umbrella – which really is a timely comparison since our Friday market last week was flooded for hours.  A mere 3 1/2 inches of rain fell at the farm (of course we have a rain gauge!), but up to 6 inches fell in nearby towns.`

Green Garlic Confit – Minimally Invasive – We all love roasted garlic, and this green garlic version is just as versatile and deeply-flavored but with a green, vegetal quality.  I love this confit (simmered or baked in oil) on baked potatoes, grilled meats, summer veggies, artisan bread – basically, everywhere!

Brown Butter and Miso-Glazed Radishes  – MI – Radishes are ubiquitous salad toppers, but did you know you can cook them too?  Oh, they are heavenly!  And when glazed with this salty, rich miso brown butter… you better buy two bunches!

Green Garlic Risotto with Asparagus & Shiitakes – The FarmGirl Cooks –
Spinach Turnovers (GF) – MI – Spanakopita hand pies!  Perfect for picnics or brown-bag lunches.

Spinach & Brie Grilled Cheese Agrodolce – TFGC – Crazy as it sounds, raisins, pine nuts and balsamic make a tasty relish for this fresh spinach and brie grilled cheese.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Almond Crisp (GF) – MI – Almond flour, oats and chopped almonds make a lovely crunchy topping for this early summer crisp.  Baking it in individual dishes would be perfect portion control, too.  Try topping any of your favorite summer fruits with the ‘crisp topping’ before baking – I’m thinking peaches and strawberries!

Coconut – Rhubarb Swirl Popsicles – MI – A coconutty-rich base with tart rhubarb swirled throughout?  YUM!

Stawberry Galette (GF) – MI – Ground almonds make a liquid-absorbing base under intense balsamic-roasted strawberries in this gluten free, free-form tart.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce – TFGC – This sauce, a true taste of summer if ever there was one, can be made in under 20 minutes with the added benefit of storing perfectly well when water-bath canned or frozen!  No excuses… you need this in your pantry for mid-winter.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Ice Cream Shortcake – TFGC – The FarmGirl’s go-to recipe for sponge shortcake and an ice cream dessert that will make you weak in the knees.  Or will get you marriage proposals!

Homemade Gravlax – MI – Salt, sugar, fresh dill are all you need to cure salmon in your very own home.

Fresh Dill and Garlic Scape Dip – TFGC – Easy to shake up in a jar, this buttermilk-based dip/dressing is excellent for dipping but also terrific poured over fish or chicken or salads!

Dry-fried Garlic Scapes – MI – Spicy, blackened Szechuan-style garlic scapes are reminiscent of green beans in texture.  Great idea, Amy!

Red Komatsuna Salad – MI – Red komatsuna is a Japanese mustard-spinach that we’ve been growing for several years.  Its colors are amazingly vibrant, much like the flavor it imparts when paired with other greens.   Komatsuna can be cooked or eaten raw, as in this salad that Amy made and topped with a Buttermilk-Avocado Dressing.

Grilled Corn with Compound Butters – MI – Amy takes simple grilled corn on the cob to new heights with a roasted garlic-miso butter and gochujang compound butter (Korean hot pepper paste).  Bonus links to several corn-y recipes included!

Two-Minute Microwave Corn on the Cob – TFGC – Yes, seriously.  No fuss, no mess, just corn on the cob steamed to perfection within the husks.

Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes with Buttery Basil Pesto – MI – The whir of the blender and the aroma of sweet basil signal summer to me.  Pesto is standard fare, but Amy jazzed up this one with miso butter and roasted garlic.  Plus, she posted some pics from our farm tour.  EEK! Seeing the farm through others’ eyes is always an experience for me.  LOL

Basil- Goat Cheese Pesto – TFGC – Simple nut-free pesto made with creamy fresh chevre.  It’s great on grilled shrimp or chicken as well as pasta and veggies!

Carrot Gazpacho with Spicy Harissa Oil – MI – A traditional gazpacho contains tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and onions.  Amy’s version is fortified with sweet carrots as well!  Make this chilled carrot soup as spicy as you like it with an oil infused with dried spices.

Please enjoy these seasonal recipes that Amy and I are putting together for you and by all means, put your own spin on things!  Creativity is king….

… and this is my prince 😉

thomas 072413

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Field to Feast: Genovese Basil

fresh corn pasta with pesto
It always amazes me how much produce we grow here on our 55 acres of Black Dirt.  The sheer quantity is astounding and the veggies are all sold (we hope) at farmers markets or through our CSA (community supported agriculture) programs or to wholesale accounts.

I realized the other day – when I was simply and utterly exhausted and barely had the energy to make my kid dinner – that I sort and/or stack about 85% of what leaves this farm.  No WONDER I’m tired in the summer!

It probably comes as no surprise to any of you that I’m ridiculously OCD about my cooler.  It’s a 20′ x 30′ refrigerator that I can drive into with a forklift, but I usually use a pallet jack to maneuver around with my skids (40″x48″ wood pallets) of produce.  Whatever we are working on during the day is sorted onto pallets and divvied up for each order or market and those pallets are set up so that the skids in the front are the ones we will be shipping out first.washing basil

I hate to have to touch things more than necessary.  If it’s going into the cooler, it’s going to go in its proper place the first time — no jockeying of skids over and over to dig out what you need.  If you’ve been to my house in the summer you will see that much more care and consideration are put into keeping my cooler clean and organized.

So, during the workday prior to this night when I had absolutely no energy, we were harvesting and bunching basil for the markets.  I couldn’t get over the sweet, licorice aroma and my mind was racing trying to think of something to make for dinner using the leftover leaves that I’d trimmed off.

I kept coming back to pesto, but the last thing I wanted to do was stand in my hot kitchen over a steaming pot of pasta water and grate parmesan cheese.   It wasn’t going to happen….  No way, no how, not a chance.
goat cheese pestoI grabbed a few ears of corn and my bag of basil scraps and headed home, put on water for pasta, then hopped in the shower to send a few pounds of dirt back from whence it came.

Following the cleansing of the chef, the corn was promptly microwaved and I set about searching the fridge for my secret ingredient.  In all honesty, I had no idea what that secret ingredient was, but I knew I had to be able to find something in there… something that would make this pesto stand out.basil goat cheese pesto

At this point I’d like to send a warm smile and heartfelt thank you to Talitha of Edgwick Farm.  Talitha and Dan, your fresh chevre (Canterbury) is the no-longer-secret ingredient to the Easiest Ever Basil and Goat Cheese Pesto.

Basil and Goat Cheese Pesto
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed to measure
2 ounces fresh chevre soft goat’s milk cheese
1/2 – 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Turn on the food processor or blender and carefully drop the garlic clove through the chute into the blade(s).  The blade(s) will chop up the garlic quite nicely.  Turn off the machine and add the basil, chevre, and begin to pulse, adding the olive oil in a nice stream until you have a creamy paste.  You decide how fluid you want the pesto and add oil accordingly.   Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

To store the pesto, place into a small container and pour a layer of olive oil completely over the top.  This will eliminate any browning as the surface is sealed off from air.  Freeze for future use or refrigerate for up to a week.
corn off the cob

I needed more than just pasta with pesto, however awesome it may be, so I carefully cut the kernels off a few ears of corn and tossed them with the hot pesto-sauced gemelli pasta.

It was outrageous.  OutRAGEous!  

The sweet corn paired incredibly well with the pungent basil and the hot, spicy garlic and I loved how creamy the pesto was with the addition of the fresh goat cheese.  I couldn’t get enough of this on day one so I warmed it up for lunch the next two days and topped it with some leftover grilled chicken.

Now THAT is something that can keep a busy farmgirl moving!
basil

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