Friday, April 30, 2010

Lamb Loin Chops with Sauteed Spinach and Shallots!

The answer is yes....I really can't get enough local lamb. Variety is indeed the spice of life, I have not forgotten, yet some sort of magnetic force drives me toward East Fork Farm's meat stand often and with considerable authority. Their lamb is just so fresh and melodious, resisting would seem like some sort of crime against my duel pursuit for health and pleasure.
Meanwhile, our cold frame has gone about its noble duty, cranking out vibrant lettuces and the most perfect spinach I believe I have ever laid eyes on.
So here we have garlic rubbed local lamb chops with shallots and the freshest spinach on earth.

Lamb Loin Chops with Sauteed Spinach and Shallots:
*2-4 pastured lamb loin chops (these are small cuts, each about 2/3 the size of your palm)
*3 cloves garlic, minced very fine
*4-5 cups fresh spinach, rinsed
*3 medium shallots, sliced thin
*salt and pepper
*2 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking dish with parchment.
Rinse and dry chops. Rub the minced garlic, sea salt and pepper into each side of chops. Set a heavy skillet over medium heat. Sear chops, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to lined baking dish and bake until your preferred doneness (I highly recommend med/rare).
Remove from oven and allow to rest.

Saute the shallots in 1 Tbsp butter with sea salt and pepper until translucent and beginning to brown. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Using the same pan, saute the spinach briefly in the other Tbsp butter. Add the shallots and remove from heat. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.
Serve chops over a bed of the spinach and shallots.

*"Fancy" additions could easily include: a sprinkle of goat cheese or balsamic vinegar reduction. For reduction, simply simmer about 1 cup of balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan, stirring often, until it becomes thick and sweet. Spoon small amount over lamb.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Warm Walnut Bread!

Another brisk evening. Not quite cold enough to fire up the wood stove, but enough so to warrant slippers. I decided to crank up the oven to take off the chill. Turned out to be delicious idea!

Warm Walnut Bread:
*4 cups organic all purpose flour
*3 cups organic whole wheat flour
*1 cup walnuts, chopped
*1 pkg active yeast
*2 cups lukewarm water
*1 Tbsp honey or molasses
*1 Tbsp sea salt

Mix water, yeast and honey in a large mixing bowl. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Begin mixing in the flour one cup at a time. Add salt and walnuts at 3 cups. Add remaining flour. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Begin kneading dough adding four as you go until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form into a ball.
Coat a large bowl with olive oil. Turn dough around in bowl to coat the surface. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft free place until about doubled in bulk (aprox 1-1/2 hours).

Punch down dough. Return to work surface. Divide in half with a sharp knife. Form into two "logs" and place in 2 greased loaf pans. Sprinkle with flour and slash surface with a sharp knife.
Cover again and allow to rise until doubled (45 min or so).
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425. Bake for 15 minutes on middle rack, then reduce heat to 375.
Bake until golden and hollow sounding when tapped.
Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving warm with good organic butter!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Farmer's Omelette!

There was this hole in the wall spot where I used to grab breakfast in high school called "The Shack". It was the kind of place located way off the beaten path where you could get a greasy breakfast, diner style coffee and maybe some bait and tackle on the way out. Just the thing after a late night of "socializing".
I remember distinctly what I would go there for. Their "country mini-mess"; a scrambled plate of eggs, onions, potato, and cheese. If you were really hungry, the "country mess" would do the trick. A cup or two of black coffee and all was right in the world.

I was very happy to see Carol (the mushroom lady), back at market on Saturday, and her table of little brown bags filled with homegrown mushrooms. And Ann from Gaining Ground farm with a basket of squeaky clean, perfectly bundled leeks, and farm fresh eggs.

This recipe is an ode to the old days. Had I opted to scramble, I would have called it "farmer's market mini-mess". But alas, an omelette is just a little more photogenic.

Farmer's Omelette: (serves 2-3)
*5 fresh eggs, beaten
*handful oyster mushrooms, sliced
*1 large leek, or 3 small leeks
*1 clove garlic, minced
*sea salt and pepper
*a bit of parmesan

Chop the leeks using the white and light green portion only. Saute with oyster mushrooms and garlic in butter over med/low heat. Salt and pepper. Meanwhile, set a large cast iron pan
over medium-low heat. Coat with butter or refined coconut oil. Pour in the beaten eggs, turning the pan to evenly distribute the egg. Allow to set up.

When the top is beginning to firm, add the sauteed leeks and mushrooms to one side of the omelette. Sprinkle with parmesan. Carefully fold the plain egg side of the omelette over the loaded side. Allow any remaining egg liquid to cook before removing from pan, slicing and serving with shredded greens and any remaining sauteed leek/mushrooms. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beautiful Vegetable Broth!

It's common for me to toss little snippets of veggies straight into the compost bowl as I cook, but when the bowl gets full (and for some reason it always seems full), sometimes I remember to save these pieces for broth. Carrot peels, celery tops, onion skins, leek greens, leftover bits of garlic from the garlic press, and parsley stems, can be transformed into absolutely luxurious, mineral rich base for soup and sauces.
The first thing is to grab a produce bag, and designate it for vegetable odds and ends while you cook. You can store it in the bottom bin of your fridge until you have a pretty good amount. The rest is so easy you'll laugh!

Beautiful Vegetable Broth: (anything works, this is just an example)
*4 carrots (that you forgot you had and are a bit past their 4 limp carrots that is).
*some onion peels
*whole garlic or garlic pulp from press
*celery hearts, tops and ends
*a little bundle of parsley, (also a bit past prime)
*leek tops
*any other veggie scrap or herb that you like the taste of (including thyme, rosemary, or bay leaf)
*sea salt
*ground pepper
*splash of white vinegar

Add all the veggies to a large pot. Add about 5-7 cups of water depending on how much scrap you have and the splash of vinegar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 3 hours. After an hour or two, begin to break up the veggies a bit with a wooden spoon, especially any carrot or celery pieces. Salt and pepper. Continue to simmer. Once broth begins to deepen in color, add about 2-3 Tbsp high quality butter. Simmer until broth tastes good and rich. Remove from heat.
Place a strainer over a large bowl. Strain, separating vegetable matter from liquid. Press any excess liquid from the vegetable matter. Cool liquid and store in freezer safe containers or return to the pot for soup.

*Serves as a gentle, soothing meal for upset bellies or when feeling a little under the weather. Also great reduced further for sauces or as a base for almost any kind of soup. You can also use this broth when cooking rice or grain dishes in place of water for more flavor. Enjoy!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pastured Pork Chops with Compound Butter and Apples

Pastured pigs are a completely different animal than those raised under industrialized factory operations. When animals are given an opportunity to live, eat and graze under the sun on healthy pasture, their meat and fat will symbolize the type of food us humans used to eat thousands of years ago.
Skip ahead to recent times, and you will find that most people in the field of nutrition will not look at pork as a health food. I agree if we are talking about confinement animal production, but there is good news. If animals are raised under the natural rhythms and cycles of pasturing and daylight, we will inherently be doing the same when we eat them.
By ignoring the weird nitrate added, bakery-waste fed, vacuum packaged stuff, and seeking out trustworthy local farms, we are supporting practices that offer us the most when we sit down to eat. Thanks to Hickory Nut Gap farm for providing us with the experience!

Compound Butter
*1 Tbsp. unsalted high quality butter, room temp
*1/2 tsp cumin
*1/4 tsp ground ginger
*1/4 tsp ground mustard
*1 heaping tsp. dark brown sugar, maple syrup or honey
*1 garlic clove, pressed
*salt and pepper

Mix butter with all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pastured Pork Chops with Apples:
*2 fresh pastured chops
*compound butter
*1 organic gala, pink lady or favorite apple, cored and sliced

Rinse and dry chops. Place a heavy cast iron skillet over med heat. Smear chops with compound butter, reserving a bit for serving. Sear chops in skillet until each side is golden, time will vary depending on thickness of chop. Reduce heat to med/low. Cook though, making sure not to overcook. Remove from heat and allow to rest.
Toss apple slices in the same skillet, and cook until tender. Spread remaining compound butter over chops, before slicing and serving with the cooked apples. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if you have some.

*Enjoy getting your vitamin D from such a delicious source!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fresh Mixed Greens....

Eating straight from the garden is more satisfying than most things. Peasants and Royalty used to share this common pleasure, though today it is more of a rarity. One thing still remains the same, fresh food is appropriate food for everyone!
Greens in particular, are easy to grow and common at local farmer's markets for relatively little cost. They offer so much in the way of satisfaction, flavor and nutrient density.
Greens have an ability to take up essential minerals from the soil and offer them to us with ease, such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron. They also provide support to lungs, liver and kidneys; purify the blood, strengthen the immune and circulatory system, prevent cancer, promote healthy intestinal flora, and improve the skin, mood and gull bladder.

This is why recently harvesting the season's first salad greens brought a royal smile to this peasant's face!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Roast Local Chicken with Cress Pesto!

A very tasty little hen was purchased at farmer's market last Saturday, lending flavor and joy to recent kitchen creations. It first appeared at the table roasted with herbs and potatoes, our garden's first salad greens, and watercress pesto.

Tonight it will make a second showing as a rich broth for soup. I am yet again grateful to East Fork Farm for raising animals with so much integrity here in the lush North Carolina mountains. You can taste the love!

Watercress Pesto:
*3-4 cups fresh watercress
*handful of walnuts
*2-3 garlic cloves
*zest of 1 small lemon
*sea salt
*black pepper
*olive oil
*grated parmesan...optional

Blend watercress, nuts, sea salt, lemon zest, garlic and black pepper in a food processor. (Make a note to go light on the black pepper due to the cress's naturally peppery bite). With blade running, slowly add olive oil until paste forms. Smear over warm roasted chicken.

*For chicken roasting instructions, refer to January's "Lovely Roast Chicken" post.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Berry Tarts!

The leftover whole wheat pasty dough from our nettles quiche, briefly housed some of last year's garden berries before meeting a quick and sudden death. Berry tart's, I have discovered, do not have a very long life expectancy. At least they teach us how to live fully. . . .

Berry Tarts:
*whole wheat pastry dough (see 2 post's prior for recipe)
*1 cup frozen high quality raspberries and blueberries
*1-2 Tbsp local honey

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Roll out dough to about 1/4'' thick. Using a large biscuit cutter or rim of a glass cup, cut out as many circles from the dough as possible. Roll out each circle additionally with rolling pin.

Place about 1 Tbsp of the berries in the center of each dough circle. Lightly drizzle with honey. Place another dough circle on top, and crimp edges to form a seal. Score the tops with a sharp knife to allow steam to exit.
Transfer to baking sheet and bake until golden, and berries ooze from steam slits, about 20 minutes.

Cool on a baking rack before serving.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Farmer's Market and Watercress!

Gladly, our local farmer's market started back up today. Among the vendors and trio of fiddlers awaited rows of fresh eggs, pastured meats, vibrant greens, jams, sourdough breads, cheeses and little seedlings for the garden. It was a sight for sore eyes! I enjoyed seeing familiar faces back at it again for another year of hard work in the fields, and weekly trips to market offering the fruits of their labors.
Here is a simple bite, thanks to one of this morning's purchases. With only a drizzle of good olive oil, shaved parmesan and cracked pepper, you can savor the crisp taste of watercress with minimal effort.

Watercress Salad:
*3 cups watercress, rinsed and dried
*shaved parmesan
*high quality olive oil
*sea salt
*fresh cracked pepper

Pile watercress onto salad plates. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, shaved parmesan, sea salt and cracked pepper. Enjoy!

P.S. Watercress provides helpful amounts of vitamins A and C. You can also enjoy it's cancer suppressing properties, digestive aid, thyroid support, lung support (is a expectorant and protects against cancer of the lungs), antioxidants and stimulating effects. Watercress is additionally a significant source of iron, folic acid and calcium.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nettles Quiche!

With garden season in full swing, my time in the kitchen is facing a little competition. Potatoes, carrots, and onions are in the ground, salad greens are almost ready to start eating.
So after a full day of work, and gardening until 7pm last evening, we decided to eat out. Tonight I pledged to get back into the swing, and do some much needed home cooking. The nettles quiche hit the spot. I even stuffed some of last year's frozen berries into the leftover whole wheat pastry dough for a flaky, gooey dessert. It was just what we needed... a filling, fresh meal to soothe already overly sun kissed skin, and aching muscles. Eating well, I find, is fine medicine for most any aliment!

Nettles Quiche:
*3 cups freshly wilted nettles (or spinach)
*3 fresh eggs (4 eggs if using a deep pie dish)
*1 1/3 cup whole high quality milk
*pinch sea salt
*fresh ground pepper
*1/3 cup sliced sweet onion
*1/4 cup grated parmesan

Wilt nettles in a pan with butter and a bit of water. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

For Whole Wheat Crust:
*1 cup high quality whole wheat flour
*1/4 cup high quality all purpose unbleached flour
*1/4 tsp sea salt
*8 Tbsp cold unsalted organic butter, cut into small cubes
*4 Tbsp ice water

Blend flour, salt and butter in a food processor. With blade running, slowly add ice water until dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface.
Divide dough into about 6 pieces. Using the palm of your hand, smear one piece of dough in a forward motion to incorporate the butter evenly. Repeat with remaining pieces. Gently form the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk.
Wrap in parchment and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375. Butter a pie dish.
Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Place in pie dish and crimp edges. Place a sheet of parchment in the bottom of the dish and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove parchment and beans.

Evenly spread the wilted nettles over crust. Pour whisked egg over nettles. Top with the onion slices and parmesan.
Bake until center puffs and top is golden (time will vary depending on depth of pan and such). Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Local Lamb Barbecue!

When I lifted the lid from the simmering pot of lamb and BBQ sauce, clouds parted and a ray of sunlight beamed into the kitchen. I think I may have even heard singing. Special thanks to East Fork Farm for lovingly raising such wonderful meat! Balsamic BBQ sauce and slow cooking made this a dish to remember!

Local Lamb Barbecue:
*1 pastured lamb foreshank
*1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
*1 Tbsp. mustard
*2 tsp. honey
*1 garlic clove, minced
*1 Tbsp. organic ketchup
*1/8 cup water
*pinch fresh grated ginger

Rinse foreshank and towel dry. Place a heavy skillet over medium heat with a small amount of olive oil or butter. Salt and pepper the lamb. Sear all sides briefly. Remove from heat. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, garlic, mustard, honey, ketchup, water and ginger over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low. Add the lamb. Turn shank to coat in the sauce, cover and simmer for 2 hours (approximate depending on thickness of shank), turning occasionally. Juices from lamb will add volume to the sauce.

Using 2 forks, separate the meat from the bone and cook an additional 30 minutes in sauce. Remove from heat and continue to pull the meat apart with forks, discarding any connective tissue. Meat should soak up all sauce at this stage.
Serve with slaw or whatever your heart desires.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Coconut Mango Ice Cream!

Another spell of unseasonably warm weather has inspired companionship in the form of something cool and creamy. Coconut milk, canned mango, and cold churning offer sublime balance!

Coconut Mango Ice Cream:
*1 can coconut milk
*1 can organic mango chunks in unsweetened mango juice
*1/4 cup shredded coconut
*1/2 cup raw cane sugar or sweetener of your choosing

Whisk all ingredients together, including juice from mango, in a large mixing bowl. Add to prepared ice cream maker (I am a fan of Cuisinart's model, about $45). Allow to churn until desired consistency. Scoop into bowls and savor!

*If you do not have a ice cream maker, you can freeze mixture overnight in a flexible container, and thaw slightly to soften before scooping into bowls.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Linguine with Garden Asparagus and Marinated Artichoke Hearts!

I have been waiting three years for our asparagus, (about how long it takes to colonize the plants for a substantial harvest), and after gathering our first bunch last evening, I remembered what I was waiting for. This tender spring veggie is without a doubt the most vivid taste of spring thus far. It is so fresh and flavorful during this brief moment in the season, to eat it any other time of the year would be less than memorable in comparison. Gently sauteed with onion and garlic, and tossed with linguine and marinated artichoke hearts, I am pleased to say, the long, cold winter is but a far distant memory!

Linguine with Garden Asparagus and Marinated Artichoke Hearts:

*1 pkg favorite linguine (I used Ezekiel brand, sprouted grain..very good)

*1 cup marinated artichoke hearts

*1/4 cup marinated red bell pepper, sliced

*1 Tbsp olive oil

*1 fresh bunch asparagus, rinsed and chopped into 2 inch pieces

*2 garlic cloves, minced

*1/2 sweet onion, sliced

*1 cup fresh arugula

*sea salt and pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to rolling boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until tender. Add the asparagus and saute for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the marinated artichokes and bell pepper including the liquid.

Drain pasta and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the sauteed veggies, and arugula. Salt and pepper to taste. Plate and sprinkle with fresh parmesan.

Asparagus is LOADED with essential nutritional properties. Here is the list:



B1 (thiamine)

B2 (riboflavin)

B3 (niacin)


B9 (folic acid)

C, E, and K

Minerals and Other Beneficial Elements:










dietary fiber

rutin (beneficial flavonoid)

asparagine (amino acid)

Research this combination of listed properties, and you will find that eating asparagus does your body a tremendous favor....and of course the taste alone is a favor unto itself. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Herbal Highball!

The highball part was just to grab your attention, and now that you're here I will tell you... this is really herbal iced tea. I suppose you could add something a little stronger if it's that sort of "teatime" but this particular recipe is just good old clean fun. A blend of 10 herbs, fresh water and sun will provide you with the most refreshing afternoon brew.

Herbal Highball:
*2 Tbsp local "Blessed Botanicals" tea blend (crafted here in Mars Hill, NC) of:
-organic red rooibos,
-green rooibos,
-buchu leaf,
-lemon balm,
-oat straw,
-cinnamon bark,
-orange peel,
-pink peppercorns,
-and hibiscus.
*1/3 cup dried lemon verbena

Place herbs in a quart ball jar. Fill with pure water. Cover with a lid and set in the sun for about 2 hours. Shake occasionally. Strain and serve over ice, maybe with a sprig of fresh mint if you have one.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Local Grass-Fed Steak Tacos

Yesterday we experienced one of those warm spring evenings that made it difficult to come inside. With temperatures in the 70's and that classic Carolina blue sky above, it was time to get out the grill. Here we have local grass-fed skirt steak rubbed with spices and lime, avocado, slaw, slow cooked adzuki beans, roasted sweet potato, arugula, and a chili lime coconut sauce...oh and sprouted whole grain tortillas to carry it to your mouth. Ahhh, spring!

Skirt Steak Rub:
*1 Tbsp. paprika
*1 tsp. oregano
*1/2 tsp. cumin
*1/2 tsp. sea salt
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1 Tbsp. olive oil
*zest from 1 lime
*1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Rinse skirt steak and pat dry. Massage rub onto all surfaces of the steak. Sear on a hot grill to medium rare. Allow to rest before slicing into strips for tacos.

Coconut Chili Lime Sauce:
*1/2 cup coconut milk
*squeeze of fresh lime
*1 clove garlic, pressed
*pinch of cumin
*chili powder
*sea salt

This proportions of the ingredients depends entirely on preference. Play around and taste as you go. You can add red pepper flakes or cayenne for more heat. Mix all ingredients together and spoon over tacos.

*small sprouted grain tortillas (Ezekiel brand is very good)
*avocado slices
*lime wedges
*cooked beans of your choice
*baked sweet potato sticks
*shredded greens or baby arugula
*grilled skirt steak, cut into thin strips
*coconut chili lime sauce
*slaw *optional
*anything else you like on a taco

Preheat oven to warm. Wrap tortillas in a damp kitchen towel. Place in oven for a few minutes. Assemble tacos and bring some chairs outside.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Violet Salad

Eating flowers may be one of the most sensual means to experience the plant world, minus wearing perfume, or drinking essences.
There is something about edible blooms that brings the mood of gastronomy to a whole different level. To prove my point, just try and have a cloudy thought while eating a violet salad? It's virtually impossible.
Violets also happen to contain high levels of vitamin A and C. Look out in your yard right about now, and it could save you a trip to the market for salad greens. The blooms and heart shaped leaves are so tender you can harvest them with nothing more than your fingertips.

Violet Salad:
*1-2 cups violet flowers and leaves
*1/4 cup high quality olive oil
*1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
*1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp mustard
*1 garlic clove
*sea salt and pepper
*small lemon wedge
*2 Tbsp sunflower seeds

Submerge violets in a bowl with cold water. Gently agitate. Lift greens and blooms from water with your hands into a salad spinner. Spin until dry.
For dressing, combine olive oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic (pressed through a garlic press), sea salt and pepper to taste, and juice from lemon wedge in a small jar with a lid. Shake well. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Drizzle over violets in a small mixing bowl, being careful not to over dress. Plate and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Roasted Melody

Remember the chickweed pesto from a few posts back? Here it reappears on roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower. Delicious warm or cold!

Roasted Melody:
*2-3 sweet potatoes
*1 cauliflower crown, chopped into bite sized pieces
*1/3 cup chickweed pesto or other herb pesto
*salt and pepper
*olive oil

Preheat oven to 375. Rinse sweet potatoes and cauliflower. Cut into bite sized pieces and arrange on a lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss using your hands. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until slightly browned and cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Place in a bowl. Add pesto and gently toss to coat with some chopped parsly. That's it, you're done.

*You can add any root veggie to this melody, such as parsnips, carrots or sweet onion. Try serving over wilted or fresh greens in the morning with a fresh poached egg. Enjoy!