I think it was Julia Child that said that "people that love to eat are often the best people" - and this summer, i would have to modify that a bit and include that "people that love to grow our food are often the best people"!
Well, either way- I love fresh healthy wholesome food, I love the smell of rain on dirt and I love to watch things grow. The folks that share that world view with me and then even up the ante by actually living among the growing things and caring for the earth in this most tender manner- oh gosh, I can't wait to spend some quality time with them.
But really, I'm here for the food and an up close look at Nancy Krcek-Allen prepare healthy and nutritious dishes from the freshly harvested produce. That's the reason that I was invited to the farm in the first place. And, the produce that Chef Nancy will be working with will be the same food that I find every week in my CSA box. This week it was colorful chard and curly-q garlic scapes, and sweet white and red radishes and Napa cabbage- herbs, broccoli, lettuces and other things too.
So, in my own nerdy way, I'm geeked about hanging out at the farm on Fridays. There's a lot of wonderful stuff happening at the farm and I'm glad to be a small part of it. Not to mention that I get to be behind the camera, creating photographs for Chef Nancy to use in her next cookbook.
So, onto our lunch.
I'm almost always at a loss for chard. It's beautiful and I know it's really good for you, but I have a hard time with the earthy flavor that chard has.
Nancy prepared a really beautiful savory chard and garlic scape cake, that had sauteed chard running through the center of the cake and dotted with feta cheese on top. It looked like a wonderful way to incorporate some chard.
Farm Flexible Savory Cake
Yields a 9-inch springform pan, 6 to 8 servings
This savory cake has a yeast-risen batter; the addition of butter, eggs and baking powder gives it the texture of a light, luscious brioche. The cooked filling could be 2-1/2 to 3 cups of stir-fry or vegetable and meat or bean leftovers. The cheese may be changed, increased or omitted.
By Chef-Educator Nancy Krcek Allen, from the upcoming
Meadowlark Farm Cookbook
2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1-1/2 cups warm water, divided
4 tablespoons very soft or melted unsalted butter, more for greasing pan
1 large egg
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, more for flouring pan
1 teaspoon salt
For Later Addition: 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups sliced leeks or diced onions
Optional: 1/2 cup sliced garlic scapes or 1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped or raisins
1-1/2 tablespoons capers
6 cups packed, trimmed and diced, mixed tender greens (spinach, arugula and/or chard)
1 cup chopped loosely packed fresh dill
1 cup chopped loosely packed Italian parsley
Optional: 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
Optional: 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1. Prep batter: Combine yeast, sugar and 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl and leave in a warm place until frothy, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in butter and beat in egg. Stir in dry ingredients and beat until smooth and sticky. Add remaining warm water and beat again until batter is light and frothy, the consistency of pancake dough. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place to rise 1-3/4 to 2 hours. Meanwhile, fit a 9-inch springform pan with parchment on the bottom. Butter and flour the parchment and pan. Tap out excess flour. Set pan aside.
2. Prep filling: Melt butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks or onions, and cook soft, 3 to 5 minutes; add optional scapes or garlic and cook until soft. Stir in olives or raisins and capers. Deglaze pan with 2 tablespoons water. Add greens and stir-cook until wilted and tender, still bright and pan is dry. Stir in optional oregano and balsamic vinegar and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Stir baking powder into batter. Pour a bit more than half the batter into prepared pan. Batter has a loose, rubbery consistency, so gently and evenly smooth it to the edges of the pan. Spoon vegetable filling into the center of the batter; leave a border of one inch around the edge. Top with cheese (or you may wait to put cheese on top of last layer of batter). Spoon remaining batter over, and smooth it to the edges; cover holes that form.
4. Bake cake until it's golden brown and firm to the touch, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly, slice into wedges, and serve with tomato sauce.
Yields about 8 servings
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups lightly seeded and diced plum tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/3 cup white wine
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1. Melt butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until soft, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and smoked paprika and until tomatoes soften.
2. Add wine, and cook until tomatoes are reduced and syrupy. Add enough water to make tomatoes saucy again, and cook until tomatoes are falling-apart soft, about 10 minutes. Break them up as you stir.
3. Stir in balsamic vinegar and season well with salt and pepper. Serve on the side to be spooned over the cake.
Everybody loved the chard cake! It was moist and the earthiness of the chard was balanced by the vinegars and the feta.
Lunch was more than cake ... and we also had a quinoa pilaf with sauteed scallions, Napa Cabbage coleslaw, Bean salad with fresh herbs, fermented shallots and a very green and veggie broccoli and garlic scape soup.
Everything was delicious. Here are some more photos that might be included in the cookbook. What do you think?
One of the stars of lunch was the broccoli and fresh veggie soup. It was made with a chicken stock base, flavored with garlic scapes and sweet white radish. Nancy included some fresh goat cheese for an optional garnish.
Farmers are indeed lovely people. They work hard outside bending and digging in the dirt. Their toes and fingers sink into the tilled soil in every kind of weather. Lunch is a welcome break. A chance to replenish lost reserves. And for these farmers, a obvious joy to be savoring the very food that they harvested earlier in the day.