Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tomato-braised lamb steaks, kale, and garlic bread

What month is it?... September, seriously?

The summer was an absolute blast. An absolute blur, to be sure, but man did we have some fun. Met scores of cool people, made great connections, and started allowing ourselves to dream a little bigger. Like a good li'l group of STEM professionals, we had designed the summer as a feasibility experiment: can we grow food, and will people want to buy it? After a long, hot summer of backbreaking research, the data have been interpreted thusly: Hell. Yeah. I'll cop to minor cherry-picking, but you know you can take the girl outta the lab, can't take the lab outta the girl. Overwhelmingly, our successes outweighed our failures, Farmer Pop's cholesterol went down 30 points, and I never want to see another zucchini again.

We established a Saturday morning home base at Saint Michael's Farmers Market, where they really treated us wonderfully and we got to know the names of our "regulars" pretty quickly. Our produce could have been on your place at NonnaRestaurant AVA, or Bolsa, not to mention amazing Patina Green Home and Market, our neighbors in McKinney (who recently won Food Network's best sandwich in Texas). You may have had our veggies delivered to you by Greenling, too. And I've already got a couple new places already lined up for fall, like the Green House food truck and a very cool new all-organic shop opening up in Lower Greenville, Green Grocer. [This paragraph has been brought to you by the word Green.] 

Make a friend. Share your kale.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Summer bounty... my fave.

I haven't been around much, so first of all, I must apologize. But I promise it has been for good cause; the farm is absolutely kicking ass. We've got more zucchini than you can shake a stick at (and I've shaken a lot of sticks at them let me tell you), basil bushes the size of pre-teens, pole beans just begging for another foot of trellis so they can plow further skyward. It is an absolutely wondrous thing of beauty, and we spend an embarrassing amount of time just strolling through the rows, winding vines on stakes and peeking under leaves, giggling while shouting what we've found to each other across the fields. I love how the cars on the road slow as they pass, how the passengers faces break into smiles as they point at all our hard work.

This is not to say everything has gone perfectly. Apparently the entire Collin County blister beetle population had never experienced the culinary foodgasm that is our potato plant foliage, so they dropped in and called aaaaaall their friends. Farmer Dad and I bravely fought the bastards for weeks before conceding yesterday... about four weeks shy of full growth. There ought to be some new potatoes under there, so all is not lost, but you won't be seeing Pure Land Organic potatoes next year, that's fo sho. Win some, lose some.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Yellow tomato gazpacho

This time of year, one of my favorite things to do is count the tomatoes on my countertop. 

From the garden this morning I collected six Husky Red Cherries, two nice Celebrities, and two orangey Old Germans. Living with them on the counter is also one big red guy from the "Texas Tomatoes" bin at Central Market (I suspect it's a Celebrity or Carnival). Even though I know I have a virtually limitless supply of tomatoes this year, I can't walk past the bin without buying a couple. Because, what if the five plants in my garden and the thousand plants at the farm die?? I should secure alternative tomatoes, just in case. And from the farm, five beautiful Yellow Perfections and fourteen little Golden Nuggets. I stow them in an assortment of cute bowls on the counter and visit multiple times a day to smile down at them and count again. I don't know why... it just makes me happy.

Farmer Pop and I have been busting our sweaty humps out at the farm (exactly one year old today - happy birthday, little farm) and yes, we really do have about a thousand beautiful tomato plants. Eight varieties in all, from little bitty red Sweeties to gnarly giant Beefsteaks. I spent the better part of yesterday morning scooting along the tomato rows in the sunshine, gently encouraging the plants up into the twine support lines, basking in the perfume of their leaves and grinning like a filthy, sweaty idiot. Every once in a while I'd stumble upon a ripe one and snag it for Quality Control. Yes... sweet, delicious Quality Control.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Paccheri and cheese with peas and mint

After many weeks of threatening without delivering, it is actually raining in the Metroplex. This is farmerspeak for "Yay, day off!!"

I made this so long ago, I had wanted to recommend it to you guys for Easter. Obviously, I'm still trying to work out my farm/blog/life balance... bear with me. Anyway, this is a great little pasta, perfect for a gathering as part of a buffet since it's not the kind of thing you want to make an entire meal of; it's yet another glorified mac and cheese, really. Fresh in-shell peas are still in big glorious piles at Central Market, and they just scream "eeeee spring!" to me. (And as of this morning, they finally have ramps too! Eeeeeee SUPER SPRING!) Peas and mint are a classic combination, of course, made all the more interesting with a few Italian cheeses: Parmesan, Fontina, and ricotta (although ricotta is not technically a cheese). 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Another day, another frittata

Last week, at the tender age of 29 and 15 months, I officially retired from the rat race. Pure Land Organic FTE: 2. 

It was weirdly unsettling at first. We got in late Sunday night after a fun weekend with family in Louisiana. Monday morning, I was completely adrift. It felt like I had called in sick to work but wasn't actually sick, which I've never been able to do without a thick, sticky coating of guilt and shame (oh, my character!) even when I actually was sick. After a few hours of hemhorraging money to have my brakes replaced, I took myself to Central Market to rectify our empty fridge, then made étouffée for dinner with the leftover tails we shucked from the crawfish boil my cute husband made on Saturday. 

Tuesday morning, Farmer Pop came over. We had White Rock Coffee, omelets, and a nice long meeting, generating a three page to-do list (single spaced, y'all). I mentioned the weird feeling hovering over me as if  I was playing hooky, and having just been through it himself a few years ago, he replied, "... it'll go away." The dogs were pleasantly confused by my presence at home and duly delighted at Grandpa's until he headed up to help our neighbor dig holes for fence posts (a PTO driven auger will make you friends). We had lots of family in town, so later on we had everyone over for dinner. I served grilled lemon and oregano chicken with spring asparagus, freshly procured green onion Savoie's sausage and spicy boudin from Louisiana, rosemary balsamic roasted beets and carrots, and a green garlic and Swiss chard risotto. The oregano, rosemary, beets, carrots, green garlic, and chard came from my garden. My Mama brought her world-famous (literally) Kahlua chocolate cake for dessert. 

Wednesday, I packed a little two-person lunch of chicken salad sandwiches from the previous night's leftovers, and headed for the farm. Farmer Pop and I rolled out a shit ton of irrigation tape (one "shit ton" is metric for 900 feet) and got rained on. We learned that the pump we have generates enough water pressure at the end of 900 plus feet to make it function as a fire hose. That was fun. Then we plowed the top terrace (I place my current tractor skills at about a 2, but practice makes hopefully mediocre, one day) and marveled at all the wonderful roots that had been laid down by the cover crops. I learned I definitely need to invest in some work boots, got quite filthy, and made Cajun salmon soft tacos in like 5 seconds for dinner. 

Thursday the forecast called for rain, so I hunkered down at home and started to crack our crop rotation plan. One of the most critical techniques in organic farming is crop rotation; you should never put crops of the same family in the same place in direct succession. The longer you can go without replanting the same family in the same spot, the better (it has to do primarily with the soil nutrition but also all kinds of things like the insects and microbes left behind from certain crops affecting detrimentally or beneficially certain following crops). This is not tremendously difficult per se; it's more like a logic puzzle, so it just takes a bit of thought. The dogs were tickled pink that Mama was home. Of course, it didn't rain, so the non-sissy employee had another productive day on the tractor. For dinner, I made lime shrimp with coconut rice and roasted acorn squash

Friday morning, Farmer Pop and I did some collective head-scratching at the little index card village making up my rough crop rotation, but ultimately came up with a solid plan... it seems, thus far. Then he went out to buy a tiller and wrecked shop on the top flat and terrace, which we ought to have completely filled within the next couple of weeks. I spent an ungodly amount of time flipping back and forth through Howard Garrett's Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening and compiled planting and harvesting dates for each of our major crop groups to start a Project file. Later, I did a little meal planning and grocery shopping, at which point the dogs became hysterical because Mama lives at home now Mama can't leave, EVER. Then I quickly whipped up this frittata using my master recipe with Brussels sprout leaves from the garden, a couple slices of ham, and the leftover acorn squash. 

And the weird feeling? It's still there, but I feel it starting to fade. I give it another couple days tops, because I'm about to have so much work to do, I'm not even going to remember what it felt like to play hooky. I'm hoping to schedule some "blogging time" at least weekly, but I just have no idea how crazy it's going to get, so please bear with me (and "like" our Facebook page, I put a lot of pictures up there and plan to even more frequently as things get interesting).

Happy spring!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sweet potato and red pepper quinoa

I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe yet. I've long since lost the original so I can't cite the source of inspiration, but this is how I make it. The combination of cumin, cayenne, and maple syrup is divine. Yams and red pepper provide earthiness and sweetness, and quinoa, as we all know by now, is one of the healthiest things you can possibly consume. The dish scales up easily for a crowd, is best eaten around room temperature, and would certainly travel well. It's absolutely delicious and goes with just about anything; I've served it with everything from steak to salmon to chicken, salmon being our favorite. Sold? Yay! Let's make it!

I've used all manner of sweet potato in this recipe, garnet yams being my favorite, but any will do. Just don't use a regular potato here, it won't be nearly as interesting.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Carrot Mac and Cheese

The objective of this dish is not to sneak vegetables into fussy, unsuspecting children. Nay, you will taste the carrot. You will also taste zingy orange and lovely distinctive tarragon. These are not bad things; you should taste them, or you're doing it wrong. So while the caption of the original recipe touts the benefits of adding carrots for vitamin A and reducing the overall fat of the dish, I say the actual benefit is that carrots are delicious and go fabulously with the sharp cheddar and citrus.

This is mac and cheese elevated; not meant to replace the original, but a sophisticated dish to stand on its own. I don't want to mislead that it's complicated, because it isn't at all; in fact, there are only five ingredients. It's just mac and cheese all growns up.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Red flannel hash

Over brunch in San Francisco the other month, a dear old friend asked me what was currently in my garden. When I mentioned beets, she exclaimed that I had to make this recipe from one of her favorite breakfast spots in Berkeley, emailing the link to me from her phone on the spot. I quickly skimmed the ingredients and could hardly wait for my beets to mature.

And mature they finally did! I pulled the first few beautiful red globes from the garden last weekend and this breakfast hash from Rick and Ann's was first in the (long) beet recipe queue. I realize there are people out there who dislike beets, and if I had only eaten them from a can, I would probably be among them... but there is absolutely nothing like a fresh beet. They smell like clean soil after a rain, the embodiment of earth and nature itself. Used raw in salads (like this one I am making later this week with the cutest freakin' little pink and purple Easter Egg radishes I found), they are refreshingly crunchy and go well with all kinds of vinegar and citrus. Roasted (in my favorite beet dish ever), they become soft, buttery, and musky. What's not to love?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gemelli with cauliflower, crispy prosciutto and sage

As we all know, smothering things in cheese (at absolute minimum, not the orange goo that came in the box) is delicious, but cauliflower is a much more versatile vegetable than most people realize. Back in the days of the Atkins craze my sister would steam and puree it in place of mashed potatoes, which was good, but decidedly not going to fool anyone. In my opinion, the optimal cauliflower preparation method is roasting, thanks to the magic of caramelization. One of my favorite sides of all time is roasted cauliflower and green olive pasta, with all its salty olive loveliness, dotted with crunchy pine nuts and a smattering of Parmesan. I serve it under broiled salmon with a squeeze of lemon on a near-weekly basis.

But I was ready to branch out from ole faithful, and found this whilst thumbing through the latest Everyday Food. This recipe calls for browning the cauliflower in a pan instead of oven, but the effect is the same: caramelized tasty goodness.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pasta with fennel, tomatoes, olives and shrimp

Many Americans are only familiar with fennel as the seeds in their sweet Italian sausage, but raw fennel has become really easy to find and there are all kinds of things you can do with it. Fennel has this great fresh anise flavor that's crisp and sharp when raw, but sweet and mellow when cooked.

This recipe is from a new cookbook (gifted by a certain lovely Auntie!) called Weeknight Fresh & Fast. It's full of wonderful quick recipes all organized by season, which I love. I flipped straight to "Winter" and quickly selected this as the inaugural dish. It came together in under half and hour and was comfortingly delicious.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Smothered pork chops over rice with garden salads

Last week, I bid a fond farewell to my twenties. I knew something big was coming (my husband had been asking "Can I give you your present yet?" multiple times a day), and as there had been all kinds of bugs going around, I became paranoid about getting sick. It happens very rarely as it is; I'd say we each only get colds about every two or three years, but Allan had a terrible cold the first week of this year and was petrified of giving it to me. I took appropriate distance-keeping measures and cultivated the perfect immunity-boosting regimen: a tangerine Emergen-C and a B-vitamin complex in the morning, and a mega sweat-inducing hot yoga class every other day. I developed not even the weensiest sniffle. I was bulletproof.

Test Carrot reveals it is not time to yank them yet.

My birthday finally arrived, and my incomparable husband surprised me with a weekend trip to Napa, culminating in a reservation at the French Laundry. Upon hearing the plans, I wept with joy, gratitude, and love. It was a perfect weekend! First a night at a gorgeous hotel in San Francisco, then breakfast with one of my dearest old friends on Saturday, and a lovely drive to Napa under clear California skies when the forecast had predicted steady rain. The French Laundry was everything I imagined; impeccable service, stunningly beautiful presentations, and of course, maximum deliciousness. Although there were cameras going off at almost every table, I chose not to photograph and blog each dish. I wanted to just be completely present to enjoy it. Needless to say, should you find yourself in a position to dine at the French Laundry, run there, don't walk. As I read in a review about it somewhere, "Once in a lifetime? Not if I can help it."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chicken pot pie

The other day, I made our favorite ridiculously crazy delicious Zuni cafe roast chicken. We only ate about half, so I stripped the rest and pondered its future. A quick scan of foodgawker for inspiration reminded me of the existence of chicken pot pie. I looove chicken pot pie (who doesn't?), but it's usually so weighed down with butter and cream my wee ladybrain has a hard time justifying the calorie bomb. So, I read a few dozen recipes to get a gist of the canonical ingredients and method, then pared it all down and came up with this.

I wanted to keep it simple: leftover chicken, carrots and peas for vegetation, and thyme for herbage. I went out on a limb by halving the butter in my regular pie crust recipe and honestly, it's perfect this way. It's absolutely still tender and buttery, but the interior is so rich and creamy, you would never guess there's only about a tablespoon of butter in each personal pie and absolutely no cream at all. I jacked up the veggie quantities as well. I don't make "diet" food; I just don't see a reason to eat more not-so-healthy stuff than actually makes food taste good. Fat-free and austere is not delicious at all, but I don't find a quarter cup of butter per serving particularly appealing either. There is a sweet spot, and this pot pie hits it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Red curry salmon with steamed rice and garlicky bok choy

I'm always looking for new things to do with salmon, because it's so wonderfully healthy (and delicious), and Dog knows I love a curry. This is an easy little weeknight recipe I came up with from a few different sources of inspiration, including this one (and all the comments) from an old Bon Appetit. The curry takes a different form from how I usually prepare it; instead a making big pot of curry and cooking other stuff in it, it's simmered down into a thick sauce and drizzled over the other stuff.

Bok choy is flourishing in my garden right now, along with spinach, lettuces, and about a million beets and carrots I can't wait to pull up. Are they ready? I don't know. It's so excitingly mysterious. Anyway, my bok choy is doing fabulously, and I hope you have some in your garden too.