August 25, 2014

FARMERS OF TASTE!



BLUE VISA FARM!



Blue Heaven

There's a soft plunk when the first blueberries hit the cardboard basket that Matt, Blue Vista's manager, Matt, hands me before I headed off into that lush wild blue yonder. The fields vary by berry -- some tall as my shoulders heavy with fat, dusty colored berries that are mellow and perfumy, then there are the lower bushes with tiny, purply intensely sweet tart gems. And who knows how long it takes me to fill the box to its brim for, always, I'm lost in time, amid buzzing bees, clouds lolling over the sun. One berry leads to the next and the next with endless bounty.

This farm's handsome weathered barn overlooks exquisite gardens of old fashioned favorites (gorgeous foxglove), butterflies feast and humming birds hover. You can see a corner of the lake over the old-growth trees.

Once we've weighed in and checked out, it's not hard for my sons and I to polish off several pints as we drive away, but pretty soon, hate to admit it, we grow a bit weary of these berry treasures. So we jam. blueberry jam, any jam, really, is perhaps the easiest preserve to put up. There's enough liquid in the berries that I just let them cook away until they're a lovely thick mash of their rich, summery selves. A splash of lemon or lime juice, a little ginger, a dash of vanilla or black pepper. That's it.

Simply Blueberry Jam
Makes 4 pints

6 pounds blueberries
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 tablespoon shredded fresh ginger, optional
1 cup sugar, or more to taste

Put the berries, lemon or lime juice, and ginger (if using) into a large pot. Crush the berries slightly with the back of a spoon and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and stir as the berries release their juices. Stir in the sugar to taste and simmer until the jam has reduced to your liking, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Spoon into clean jars. Allow to cool, then cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or freeze.


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
Dressing:
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

RHUBARB REUNION!

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

SHOOTS & EATS


PEA SHOOTS!

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

Salad
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.