Steps to preparing a perfect Free-Range Turkey

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The secret to enjoying a Free-Range Turkey is to prepare it in a way that enhances the natural flavor of the bird and encourages moist cooking to insure tenderness. This recipe combines the technique of brining with roasting under a parchment “tent” to insure a moist cooking environment with optimal flavor preservation. Enjoy! (The following recipes should accommodate a turkey of approximately 15 pounds.)

Brine Recipe for Free-Range Turkeys

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup pureed persimmon pulp (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs of Thyme
  • 1 sprig of Sage
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 15 Black Pepper Corns
  • 1/2 tsp crushed juniper berries

Place all ingredients in a large, deep stock pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Chill and then place chilled turkey in brine in refrigerator for 24 hours prior to cooking. Both turkey and brine should be chilled before combining to insure no food-borne pathogens are encouraged!

Mepkin Abbey Oyster Mushroom Stuffing

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Add to tradition with a traditional Posole…

A traditional Posole is a wonderful meal to enjoy during the holidays.  With so much already expected from the kitchen during this wonderful feast of thanks giving, an unexpected one-dish meal, such as a posole, may be the perfect break from tradition for the football games, or as an accompaniment to the oyster roast over the weekend.  Guests sometimes linger, neighborhood friends like to gather, and a warm bowl of this substitute for chili may be just the thing.

 

This posole began when I had the chance to spend the morning alone wandering around the beautiful Ferry Plaza Market on the waterfront in San Francisco.  It’s a foodie paradise, really, with beautiful displays of everything from cheese to bread to charcuterie to beautiful vegetables and much more!  As I made my way through the first store, I began with a basket full of goodies that I knew at the time would become the basis for this lovely authentic south of the border stew. I found traditional dried white hominy, beautiful dried red chilis, and the outcome of my shopping basket became clear.

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The clocks fell back so we must have meatloaf!

While I was away (on a beautiful fall road trip across the northern US with my parents), the season changed again, the clocks rolled back, and I have heard the word Christmas a few times (way too early)! I believe we have begun the season of comfort food. Tradition starts to seep into our psyche almost without notice, and this is most obviously rooted in food in my home.

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Have you ever heard of a Meatloaf Pan?  OMG I hadn’t either, but I found this beautiful thing when browsing recently, and it is the best!  It’s designed to drain away the fat from your meatloaf as it cooks, and I find this very, well, comforting (no pun intended!).  Using high quality proteins, like grassfed and pasture raised ground beef and pork, combined with the benefit of this meatloaf pan insures you can relax and enjoy this satisfying comfort food.

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I am pretty sure this is a brilliant addition to the kitchen cabinet. A great meatloaf starts with good ingredients.  It has veggies in it, and just the right amount of seasoning.

When you are ready to put it in the pan and bake, take a moment to put a small dollop on the griddle to cook it, then taste for seasoning.  It’s a step that is worth it, because too little or too much of anything can make a big difference in the outcome.

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Meatloaf needs a glaze, and our moms used ketchup.  I like to make my own – call it ketchup – using tomato paste (the other half can from that added to the meatloaf), honey and go ahead and add some hot sauce if you want to.

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Into the oven goes this beautiful, comforting, country pate of sorts.  A poor man’s pate?  I don’t think so, especially if you are using quality ingredients.  Just don’t tell your friends you are making your own ketchup. They may judge you. Let them judge you on this meatloaf.  Whether you place it on the table with a pureed butternut squash or mashed potatoes and a lovely sauteed kale or brussel sprouts, or, leftover fried meatloaf sandwich with some good coarse mustard and homemade pickles, you will win the ribbon every time.

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I chose the butternut squash and kale this time…

A note about butternut squash – the long neck shape produces more meat and a smaller seed cavity, as you can see.  The squash puree is combined with a small amount of whole milk and a pat of butter, a dash of freshly grated nutmeg, salt and white pepper.

My idea of the perfect comfort meal as we settle in to these shorter days that, hopefully, offer us time to enjoy the comforts of home.

 

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Maria’s Meatloaf

This meatloaf is a traditional recipe with the addition of milk to create a smooth and uniform texture.

Ingredients

  • 1lb Grass Fed Ground Beef
  • 1lb Ground Pork
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 cup celery (finely diced)
  • 1/2 cup onion (finely diced)
  • 1/2 cup carrot (finely diced or shredded)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cups whole milk (may substitute low-fat)
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Directions

Combine all ingredients for the meatloaf. Check a small bit on the skillet for seasonings and adjust if necessary. Form loaf in the meatloaf pan.
Combine the ingredients for the glaze and spread or pipe onto the loaf.
Place in a 350 oven for 50 minutes to cook.

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Breakfast on Sunday – Apple Potato Kale Frittata plus BACON

It started with this lovely Pippin.  The idea for breakfast on Sunday had been revolving around in my head ever since I visited the beautiful Prevedelli Farms in Watsonville, CA.  The selection of apples that day was fabulous, but I zeroed in on the tart, white fleshed heirloom Pippin and planned my frittata on the way home.

Pippin Heirloom Apple

I had some delicious farm thick cut bacon in the freezer that I wanted to judiciously enjoy with my breakfast on Sunday. In my mind I poked around the produce drawer of my refrigerator and oh, yes, there was kale from the farmer’s market. So the frittata took shape with seasonal ease.

I know this breakfast seems to be tipping toward the autumn, but when you have seasonal heirloom apples in your hands, there is only one thing to do.

A frittata is such a nice complete breakfast item – sans the word casserole! Assembling the mise en place, or list of ingredients, prepared and ready to go into the pan in their predetermined order, is the first step, and once that is done, the whole breakfast is cooked and ready to eat in less than 15 minutes.

There is a frittata for every season, of course, but the joy in preparing it is in choosing what the featured ingredients will be. If you have access to farm-fresh eggs, your frittata will shine above any omelette you’ve ever had. At least, that is my opinion.

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Don’t forget your nutmeg! When preparing dishes with egg as the base of the recipe, like custards, quiches, and the like, freshly grated nutmeg is a very important ingredient, as is white pepper. I learned this from the first chef under which I apprenticed. The dash of white pepper (not black) and the freshly grated nutmeg enhance in a very subtle but complex way the flavor of the egg dish. Sea salt, white pepper and fresh nutmeg. Don’t forget!

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Cooking potatoes properly is a tricky thing. The potato does not break down and become uniformly soft like other vegetables do. The potato, maybe because of the starch, wants to hang on to it’s integrity longer than is good for most recipes when it is being combined with other ingredients. I almost always steam my potatoes for 10 minutes prior to adding them to the saute pan. This insures they cook evenly without excess heat and carbon build up in the pan. You will cook everything from start to finish for the frittata in the same pan, and so this is important.

Place the steamed potatoes, diced apples and diced yellow onion in the saute pan with a little olive oil on medium heat to slightly caramelize the ingredients. This should only take about 5-10 minutes.

After the ingredients have begun to cook, add the chopped fresh kale and stir to expose it to the heat at the bottom of the pan and wilt it into the other ingredients.

Last, add the chopped cooked bacon and a dusting of grated parmegianno-reggiano cheese .

While the pan is hot and the ingredients are hot, pour the custard mixture over the veggies. Allow the eggs to “set’ for a couple of minutes (it will not take long if the pan is hot when you pour them in. The heat of the veggies and the pan will cause the egg custard to begin to set up immediately.

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The frittata goes into the oen for about 10 minutes (MAX) at 400 degrees.

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When the egg custard is just set, pull it out of the oven and be ready to serve it while it is tender and inflated.

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I think this simple “Breakfast on Sunday” menu will be perfect for a weeknight meal, too! My kids always loved “breakfast for dinner” as a special treat. Don’t tell them it’s healthy!!

 

 

 

 

 

Tasting Red – An Inspired Salad

My trip to the Farmer’s Market this week made me SEE RED!  It really was completely unintentional.  I didn’t walk around and look for RED FOOD.  I didn’t scorn the beautiful yellow plums or the plump purple concord grapes.  I just found myself subliminally attracted to the variety of beautiful vermillion selections that popped out everywhere I looked.

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It started when I spotted the lovely red butter lettuce SKYPHOS.  We have grown this lettuce on the farm for many seasons, and it has been a favorite of the chefs consistently.  It has a very mild flavor, but also it has some “tooth”. It holds up to the bite and doesn’t collapse under the dressing.  It is better than ANY RED LEAF LETTUCE you will ever find at the grocery.  I promise.

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This head of lettuce invited me to mentally celebrate the salad I was going to make as I made my way from farmer to farmer at the market.  I took note of a small, heirloom watermelon and had to ask – what type of melon is this?  “A pink heirloom variety” was the answer, and as quick as you can say seed spitting contest, it became a part of the salad in my head.

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Is this a summer salad or a winter salad?  It’s and END OF SUMMER salad, and so there aren’t any rules that say you cannot mix beets and watermelon.  After all, they are both in season, as crazy as that sounds!

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The beets were steamed to soften and then a rough uneven cut made perfect salad toppings of this root specimen seasonal crossover.

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Shaved so thinly you can see through the porous cells of the red onion, a very nice flavor boost is provided by this addition to the salad.  The familiarity and subtle bite of sweet red onion is a great compliment to the sweetness of the berries and the earthiness of the steamed red beets.

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The “dressing” for my RED SALAD is a simple drizzle of fresh squeezed blood orange juice and walnut oil (or olive oil is great, too). I used some chopped shallot and a bit of dijon mustard to add some complexity to it, and seasoned with fresh ground pepper and sea salt.

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Our Scarlet Salad from the Farmer’s Market this week was a real celebration of simplicity and seasonal satisfaction.  It was the perfect compliment to our grilled fresh fish – Wahoo Filets from the fish monger.  A perfect Saturday evening meal.

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Hello END-OF-SUMMER….hello BOUNTY!

I have decided to deem a new season… it’s the 5th season actually.  I’m going to call it END-OF-SUMMER! As a farmer, you can’t imagine what it’s like!  You are in the halcyon days of the spring and added to that, it’s fall veggie season, too!  It’s called End of Summer. Put it on your calendar!

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These beautiful summer garden specimens, like padron peppers, green zebra tomatoes and other heirloom varieties, became a lovely weeknight supper in a hurry by simply roasting in the hot oven with a little olive oil and salt, then adding to this beautiful fall champion….

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DRUM ROLL…..SPAGHETTI SQUASH!!

Please, someone tell me why, these seemingly WINTER VEGETABLES, like spaghetti squash, for example, worked SO WELL with the true summer heavy hitters like peppers and tomatoes?  It surprises me every time I put them together.  I know, however, that at the END-OF-SUMMER, our tastebuds are ready to teeter totter on the edge of the chasm, knowing that falling either way will be a fabulous fall, and that falling both ways is even better.

so, I am ready for the future, but not quite willing to let go of the past, and therefore have decided to wallow in the present.  I LOVE END-OF-SUMMER!

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And so, in a bit of a hurry for a weeknight meal, I decided to throw all my ideas in the oven at once while I threw down a few yoga poses in the living room, adding fresh sage to the mix to push myself a little bit more into the END-OF-SUMMER mode.

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After about 45 minutes, the sage leaves became crisp and smoky, the summer vegetables sultry and forbidden, and the roast chicken, well since it’s a farm chicken, it’s texture and flavor were perfectly satisfying with the crispy, sage infused skin.  It is such pleasure to see the parts of this meal come out of their cooking cloak and onto the plate.  Such ease.

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Simply cutting in half the roasted spaghetti squash, removing the seeds, and then scraping the stringy flesh out of the skin with a fork, with just two more simple steps you have a complete, albeit simple, dinner .  Number 1 – add the roasted vegetables and sage to the spaghetti squash and 2) stir in a few turns of the cheese grater of parmigianno reggiano cheese!  Season with s & p, of course.

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 VOILA!  END-OF-SUMMER supper in no time!  All seasonal, all farm fresh, all delicious.

And…there’s more!

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Breakfast the next morning!  Economize, right?

I hope you will try this and any other combination of things on either side of the season that you can think of! Share your ideas with us, too, please!

 

Check out what I mean about this END-OF-SUMMER bountiful season! Here are a few actual photos from my past week at farm and farm markets! It’s really abundant and really a blessing to have this season – End-of- Summer – to appreciate and enjoy.