August 5, 2014

Taste of the Apostles!

Blue Vista Farm
Bayfield Wisconsin!

Summer Sampler!

Taste of the Apostles is a kayaking, camping, and local food trip in the Apostle Islands based out of Wilderness Inquiry's camp at Little Sand Bay.  Nestles between the tiny port towns of Cornucopia and Bayfield, it's an ideal location for kayaking and touring farms. We wake to the scent of coffee and bacon sizzling, kayak to wide sandy beaches through ancient sea caves and picnic on local artisan cheese and farm cherries. Come evening we cook fresh lake fish over an open fire on the beach as the sun sinks in to the lake, next night, we grill at Blue Vista Farm overlooking Lake Superior and pick fresh berries for dessert. (Last trip, Matt, the orchard manager treated us all to a hard cider tasting.)

The experience is an immersion into this magical, legendary place through outdoor engagement and food. What's more, we dine with many of the local farmers who provide the vegetables, berries, meats, cheeses (sheep, goat and cow), whitefish and trout. 

Here are a few of the recipes:

Wild Rice Salad
Serves 6 to 8

            Real wild rice, “manomin” is a sacred staple for the Ojibwe people, harvested by hand using canoes. It is nothing like the commercial paddy rice often sold at roadside convenience stores along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Though it’s two or sometimes three times the price of paddy rice, the flavor is far superior and it cooks in just about 20 minutes.

2 cups cooked wild rice*
½ cup dried cranberries
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped toasted nuts
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup walnut or hazelnut oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

            Turn the cooked wild rice into a large bowl. Toss in the dried cranberries, onion, parsley and nuts.
            Put the vinegar, mustard and oil into a jar with a lid, close and shake until the vinaigrette is emulsified.
            Toss the dressing over the rice and coat thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

* 1/2 cup real wild rice = 2 cups cooked rice
**To prepare real wild rice, rinse it well under cold running water until the water runs clear. Put it in a pot and cover with 2-inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the kernels open up. Drain and serve hot or cool and use in a salad.

Power Bars!
Makes about 24 bars

            These make power packed bars that are great for breakfast or as a fast snack. Feel free to add dried coconut, different nuts, and other dried fruit.

1 tablespoon sunflower or coconut oil
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup granola (I use leftover)
1 cup toasted walnuts or pecans or cashews or a mixture of all
¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup honey or maple syrup or combination of both
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with the oil.  In a large bowl, mix together the oats, granola, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and cranberries.
In a small saucepan set over medium heat, mix together the maple syrup or honey, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until it thickens to generously coat the back of a spoon, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Pour over the dry mixture and stir to combine. Dump into the prepared baking pan and spread out evenly with a spatula. Allow to cool and cut into bars.

Kicking Kale Salad
Serves 4 to 6

            There are all kinds variations on kale salad, but this one kicks the flavors up a notch of two. Add more ginger or substitute jalapeno peppers instead. It will keep several days in the refrigerator.

2 bunches kale, rinsed and chopped
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons dried cherries (or any dried fruit)
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds (or any toasted nuts)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

            Put the kale into a bowl and add the sesame oil working it in with your fingers.
            Toss in the remaining ingredients and season to taste.

Rye Berry and Bean Salad
Serves 4 to 6

1 cup rye berries
1 cup dried beans (navy beans are great)
2 bunches green onions, white part and 2/3 of the greens chopped
1 carrot, chopped
¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil
3 tablespoons maple vinegar or cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

            Put the rye berries and the beans into separate bowls and cover with water by 2 inches and allow to sit over night. Drain, rinse with cold water and turn into separate pots. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring both pots to a boil, reduce the heat, cover. Cook the rye berries for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until soft. Cook the beans for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender. Drain both.
            Turn the cooked grain and beans into a large bowl. Toss in the onions, carrot, and sunflower seeds. Toss in the pumpkin seed oil and the vinegar to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or cold.

May 26, 2014

Asparagus! Now!

Photo by Mette Nielsen

There is a moment, just before the lilacs open, that the early asparagus appear at the farmers market. Tied in bundles these first mauve tipped spears are a delicate confirmation that the spring is finally here. There may still be a crust of snow in the shadiest part of the garden, but there is really no turning back.

Asparagus!. Soon as I get home with my bundles, the first batch is boiled quickly until bright green, then served, per my grandmother's instructions, with plenty of melted butter for dipping. She insisted the spears be presented on a white linen napkin, but I'm always too eager for such niceties. I try to resist devouring them standing at the counter, and at least sit down, attentive to their decidedly grassy flavor. As the season progresses, the spears will be fatter, more succulent, to grace every dinner -- grilled and served with lemon and grated Parmesan, sauteed with shallots for a light creamy pasta, or tossed into a faro salad. By mid-June, there will be but a few spears left, some woody and tough. But by then we will have moved along to early tomatoes, raspberries and summer things.

When you bring your asparagus home, if you're not going to cook them right away, trim the bottoms of the stalks to stand up in a cup or vase, as you would flowers, and store in the refrigerator. Then, just before cooking, snap the ends off where they are no longer pliable.

To blanch, drop the spears into rapidly boiling water and cook until they turn bright green, then drain right away.

To sautee, toss them raw into a pan with a little butter, roll, cover and "butter steam" until tender.

To grill, place them over indirect heat and roll until just tender and nicely charred.

Season asparagus with:
Lemon juice and shaved Parmesan
Melted butter and chopped tarragon
Chopped cooked bacon
Orange zest and freshly chopped mint
Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Dark sesame oil and a splash of rice wine vinegar

May 5, 2014

Stalks and Eats

photo by Mette Nielsen


My grandmother grew rhubarb in her lush New Jersey garden, those sturdy shoots were the first to appear with the delicate chives. Her rhubarb cobbler wore a dense, butter-rich crumb crust and she stewed it into tangy sauce for plain vanilla ice cream. What's more, she made a terrific rhubarb lemonade and a wonderful glaze for chicken. I learned there's more to rhubarb than dessert. As those valiant stalks appear in my garden and are piled on farmers market stalls, I become that happy kid, joyfully snipping fat stalks to turn into something deliciously pink.

Tangy Ginger Rhubarb Sauce
Makes 2 cups
Great on chicken or pork

3 cups chopped rhubarb, about 1 pound
1/4 cup fresh orange juice or dry white wine
3 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
About 1/4 cup sugar, more or less to taste

Put all of the ingredients into a medium pot and simmer until the rhubarb is just soft. Add a little of the sugar and then add more to taste. It shouldn't be too sweet!

Rhubarb Lemonade
Makes 1 quart
This is great with a few sprigs of mint and even better with a couple of shots of vodka

3 cups chopped rhubarb, about 1 pound
1 quart cold water
1/2 or more sugar or honey, to taste
Fresh mint for garnish

Put the rhubarb into a glass pitcher and cover with about 1 quart of water. Allow to steep overnight. Strain off the rhubarb. Sweeten with the sugar or honey to taste. Serve over ice with fresh mint for garnish and a splash of vodka (if you like).

March 5, 2014



Last weekend, giddiness was palatable at the Kingfield Winter Market where, on the coldest day of the year, the Wild Acres booth sprouted all manner of greens - lettuce, pea shoots, spinach -- harvested FRESH just that morning. You have to be pretty desperate to fuss over spinach.  I was. With my basket piled full of the vibrant green I sped home before it froze in the back of my car. 

Ravenous, I tossed up a quick salad with blood oranges, avocado and almonds. Grapefruit, navel oranges, or tangerines would have been good, too. The acid and vitamin C in the citrus helps unlock vitamins and iron in the greens and makes these nutrients easier to absorb. What's more, this salad is light and sweet, crisp and satisfying. With few shreds of ricotta salata and chopped almonds, it makes a delicious lunch (if you eat the whole thing, which I did).

Winter Salad of Blood Oranges, Spinach, Pea Shoots, Avocado, and Almonds
Serves 1 to 6

Blood Orange Cinnamon Vinaigrette
1/2 cup blood orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon grated blood orange zest
2 teaspoons honey
2/3 cup olive or vegetable oil

3 to 4 blood oranges
1 large avocado, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced
6 handfulls spinach, washed, spun dry and torn
2 large handfulls pea shoots
1/2 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

In a small bowl, whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients. 
Section the oranges. In a large bowl, toss together the greens and drizzle in enough dressing to lightly coat. Turn into a serving bowl onto a platter and arrange the avocado slices and orange sections on top. Drizzle with a little more dressing and then scatter the chopped nuts over all.

February 4, 2014

Tico Cuisine
Don't Believe the Bad Rap 

Classic Costa Rican Dinner

Let's be clear. Costa Ricans don't care much for haute cuisine. Why should they?  Between all the hiking, surfing, snorkeling, bird-watching, and beer sipping, who has time to cook? The weather is perfect, the water is warm, beaches stretch for miles along the coast. Inland, the cloud forest rises far above the rainforest canopy. Who needs TV in this playground of monkeys, scarlet macaw, parrots, whales and dolphins? On an adventure with Wilderness Inquiry, along beaches, hiking through the jungle and trekking up Mt. Chirripo, I found the food to be straightforward, easy and fresh.  

Unlike their Central American neighbors, Ticos (nickname for these gracious people) don't care much for spice. Their flavors run more sour and sweet. No tamales, no jerk, no spicy chicharrones. The salsa is Chilero, thin as Worchestershire but with a little more kick. Ticos love mayonnaise, endearing their coleslaws to this Minnesota cook. Lime spiked Hellman's graces most grocery shelves.

The mainstay meal is "casado", meaning "man of the house." It's a big plate of rice, lime and chili seasoned black beans, fried plantains, and simple grilled or sauteed fish or chicken. The salad of mixed greens, diced peppers, tomatoes, hearts of palm is served with cruets of sesame oil and balsamic vinegar to dress yourself. salad with a side of vinegar and oil to dress yourself. (It sounds weird is actually pretty darned good.) 

Fruit -- pineapple, melon, papaya -- in generous portions, with slices of lime and a sprinkle of salt, often served with each meal, is so sweet and satisfying that on a 90-degree day, it's all I'd have for lunch. Call the food boring, I call it good.

Here's the recipe for a simple black-bean casada. Add grilled fish or chicken and a salad and wedges of lime. Though there's are no monkeys jabbering or parrots fluttering by, the scent of frying plantains carries with it a hint sea salt and tropical sun.

Spicy Black Beans
Serves 6 to 8

Serve these with white or brown rice and fresh tomato or pineapple salsa.

2 cups (about 1 pound) dried black beans, picked over and soaked overnight
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lime juice for seasoning
Lime wedges 

Drain the beans. In a large pot, heat the oil, add the onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic and bay leaf and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, cover with about 1-inch of water and simmer until tender, about 1-1/2 hours. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Taste the beans and season with salt and pepper and lime juice. Serve along side rice garnished with chopped cilantro and wedges of lime.