My food photography workshop in Croatia was exciting and I loved every minute of it! I would say that this workshop was a recipe for a great adventure!!Read More
I love living in Northern Michigan and the summer fields yield so much earthy sweetness that I can hardly contain myself. August and September are months that contain day after day of food pleasure for a foodie like me! I depend on my local organic farmers to provide the fresh food bounty and I can't tell you how wonderful it is, when i can rely on the talents of fabulous chefs to put it all together in a sumptuous way!
I met Nancy Allen at Meadowlark Farms on a Friday morning. One day a week, she cooks a spectacular farm to table lunch for all of the workers that toil in the fields and barns and prepare YOUR csa boxes. Her lunches utilize freshly picked produce- what can be better than a tomato picked just minutes before preparing a recipe?
Nancy loves fresh vegetables. She says that they have so much flavor and so much more moisture than anything you could buy in the grocery store.
Getting down to business happens quickly with Nancy at the helm along with a couple of assistants. Pots and pans clang out from their bins, rolling pins get dusted with flour, cutting boards and knives stand at the ready- it's a small but coordinated production. First the slicing and dicing, then the pastry dough for the tarts... then, tomato placement- wow! all the while, i'm learning while photographing... press the dough out gently from the middle, dust the tomatos and zucchini with salt, prebake the tart crust...
The glorious tarts are becoming a reality and my stomach is starting to speak. The aroma of cooked pastry and warm tomatoes is floating through the air. Lunch is coming together and I am snapping away at almost a frenzied pace right now... the colors are beautiful and finishing touches are gracing the table. This is heaven to me and I am so happy to be here.
Tomato Tart from Nancy Allen adapted from Susan Moulton
3 large tomatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Kosher salt for sprinkling
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup coarsely grated Smoked Gouda cheese
2 tablespoonschopped basil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Additional kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Make this pie during the high tomato season and you just can’t lose; those big ripe local tomatoes will do all the work for you. After you slice and salt the tomatoes and roll out the dough, the rest is simple. (If you want to cheat, use a store bought pie shell instead of homemade dough. Just let it soften enough so you can ease it into the tart tin. By the way, feel free to substitute other fresh herbs for the ones I list here. Mint, cilantro, dill, oregano, marjoram, chives, chervil, parsley and tarragon all pair nicely with tomatoes.
Serves 6 to 8
Roll the dough into an 1/8-inch-thick round on a lightly floured work surface. Transfer to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, cut off any excess dough from the edge, and prick the bottom lightly with a fork. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line the pastry shell with foil and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the weights and foil. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes more or until light golden. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.
Turn up the oven to 400ºF. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and drain in a colander for 10 to 15 minutes. Spread the mustard over the bottom of the shell and sprinkle the cheese over it. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese in one overlapping layer. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the tomatoes are very soft, 35 to 40 minutes.
In a small bowl, stir together the parsley, thyme, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste to blend. Sprinkle the pie with this mixture while hot and spread out gently with the back of a spoon. Serve the pie hot or at room temperature.
Lunch is served. The hungry farmhands are so pleased to see such a delicious table of farm fresh food lovingly prepared by Nancy Allen. Thanks Nancy and Meadowlark for a delicious experience- perfect for a late summer Friday afternoon...
Now, where was I? Gosh, it's been almost a month, and I promised myself that I would not let the time get away from me... but, here I am and it has happened. I could write an entire blogpost about committing yourself to a project, about sticking to it no matter what, about distractions and as my husband always says; "You need to practice mindfulness"... that's when i laugh hysterically andget back to work.
I brought my little bags of 4 different varieties of garlic home to decide how to approach this assignment. I had Meadowlarks special variety, I had German White garlic, a cold climate Siberian garlic and also a variety called Georgian Fire.
Flowers are always an inspiration to me, and this weeks bouquet from Meadowlark Farms blew my mind and put me in such a summery good mood, I wanted to share my garlic bounty with my friends. So, I settled on a Garlic Tasting Party with good friends and lots of wine and vodka.
See what i mean?
Now back to the garlic.
The first thing that I did when looking at the garlic, was to put them side by side and compare them. I compared the size of the bulb, the size of the cloves, the paper thinness of the exterior.
Meadowlark's beautiful white bulb of hardneck garlic ( all of these varieties were classified as "hardneck" ). Softneck garlic is the kind of garlic you most often find in a grocery store. The necks are soft and they can be braided easily. The flavor is mild and the cloves tend to be close knit and small in size. Hardnecks are much closer to the wild garlic, and have complex flavors. These are the garlics that experienced farmers prefer. Some aficionados compare them to wines with sublime subtle differences that reflect the regions soil and weather; a garlic terroir, if you will.
Meadowlark's cultiver has been developed for over 20 years and started with some cloves from an Idaho farm that had grown garlic for over 100 years. The Meadowlarks have saved cloves from each harvest and replant this variety each year. The bulb is large and perfectly shaped and certainly produced the largest bulbs on average of the 4 varieties that we chose. The skin was papery and the cloved peeled nicely. Of all of the garlic, this was the most porcelain in color; white and creamy.
The Siberian Garlic has a reputation of living up to its name when it is grown in cold weather. It is a good producer in cold weather, andthis is why Jenny and John picked this variety to test. The bulb itself was smaller in size on average from the other garlic. The skin peeled away nicely, and the cloves were well formed.
This garlic really lives up to its name when it comes to thriving in cold weather. A top-notch producer in cold climates, Siberian deserves consideration from all northern gardeners. The cloves are protected by an attractive light pink skin that becomes even redder when grown in high-iron soils. This clean, medium-to-strong flavored garlic will warm your soul on the coldest winter evening. Best of all, it is purported to have high allicin content, possibly the highest of any garlic. Allicin is the major biological active ingredient of garlic. It supports normal cholesterol levels, boosts the immune system, and enhances circulation. Garlic has long been used as a medicinal plant and this is the main component.
The German White garlic looked to have just 4 cloves in the bulb and were smaller, with lots of long root hair. The Georgian fire garlic was rosy red on the outside, and nice thin papery skin that peeled easily. This too, is a large porcelain garlic that resists most diseases and was developed in the Republic of Georgia.
The Meadowlark garlic was so beautiful and evenly shaped with the cloves resting near the Hardneck stalk of the garlic. yum. Comparing the recently picked garlic bulbs, I would want more of the Meadowlark garlic. It was nicely shaped, large, had a faint sweet and earthy scent. The splotches of red were faint and rosy. The white was porcelain and creamy. I just couldn't wait to roast the garlic and compare the flavors.
I served the garlic with a wonderful baguette from Pleasanton Bakery and I made some carrot top pesto with carrot tops, basil, walnuts, lemon juice, parmesan cheese and salt. It was heavenly too, and complimented the garlic beautifully.
The cocktails liberated our thinking about describing the flavors of garlic. Sylvia, a poet, helped us along nicely. She's exactly the kind of thinker that you need in these situations. She described the Meadowlark garlic as a "buttery brie" and the Gergian Fire as "horseradish meets salt". The German White was described by someone else as on the sweet side, while the Siberian garlic had a strong aftertaste and a mild zing!
It was all great fun. To talk, make comparisons and describe the nuances of this lovely heady bulb.
We toasted our good fortune for the time that we spend nurturing our friendships with good food and plenty of drinks... Bon Appetit! And thank you Susan, for hosting this bountiful meal.
I've never paid too much attention to garlic. Sure, I love it in my spaghetti and on pizzas and I have heard that one can chase the vampires away, but I learned so much more about garlic by helping on the farm; harvesting, the varieties grown and in Part 2, you can read about my garlic tasting party. All of these experiences have directed my attention to this delightful, tangy and sometimes spicey bulb that adds flavor and body to our plates.
Jenny and John, every year at their Meadowlark farm, offer their CSA members a chance to commune with the farm and help with the garlic harvest. Carl, a loyal CSA member for over 20 years, has been a regular for the harvest for 17 years, but who's counting? I had the wonderful opportunity to get to know Carl, a fellow foodie just a little bit better by sharing a ride with him out to the farm. So, it was on a beautiful July day that we made the trek out to the farm. Garlic harvesting is a little like playing in the dirt combined with pulling weeds, combined with community- long hours in the fields talking about the weather, children, food- anything that crosses our minds. It's quite zen like. And it's fun (when it's not hard work- well, even when it is hard work, i suppose). Our reward is that the Meadowlarks always offer up a cool and refreshing lunch break for all of the helpers.
We assemble at the field and every available body helps during the harvest. Even John and Jenny's dog; Bowser-whose name has been changed to protect the innocent- actually, I've forgotten it. John pulls the tractor shovel blade under the garlic to loosen the soil, while the "garlic pullers" pull the garlic from the ground and shake the dirt free from the bulb.
After all of the garlic is pulled free from the ground and piled into neat little piles, then we head back into the garden to clean the bulbs, cut off the stalk, and neatly pile them into labeled crates.
Meadowlark planted four varieties of garlic this year totaling over 27,000 bulbs in almost an acre of land. Their garlic, cultivated for over 20 years is their specialty. And, I can say that after pulling garlic out of the ground for 3 hours, that the Meadowlark garlic is the largest most beautiful garlic I have ever seen. It really is!
(And if you want to read about my garlic tasting adventure- I'll write about that in Part 2 Chasing the Vampire; Garlic Tasting in Lake Ann in Northern Michigan.)
In this acre field, four varieties of garlic were planted. There was German White, Siberian, Georgian Fire and of course the house favorite Meadowlark.
The lunch picnic capped off a warm morning of work. It's always something that I look forward to; fresh Meadowlark veggies, shade, conversation. Lemonade, can't forget the lemonade.
I took 3 bulbs of each variety home. I wanted to compare them, cook them, taste them and see what I thought of the different varieties. I'll post my garlic tasting in the next post. Stay tuned...
giving away some secrets...Read More
French peasant beets for and american patriot on the beginning of the 4th of July holiday! Yummy.Read More
While I was vacationing on Mackinaw Island, I came across a beautiful bottle of colorful liquid- "Sipping Vinegar" the label described. I was intrigued. What was this, from McClary's in Michigan? I have always been a proponent of the health benefits of naturally fermented apple cider vinegar, and have been known to sip a tsp. of Bragg's with a cup of water, but flavored vinegar sounded delicious. Plus, it looked like it was a wonderful addition to a cocktail. Well, I love cocktails! And, vinegar mixed with water is a bit off- putting.
I figured that i could make my own! So, off to the internet to do some research and into my kitchen to experiment.
Well, I love rhubarb- the color of rhubarb makes me want to suck on the stalk! The magenta hued celery is captivatingly inviting. (Why don't more artists paint this plant?) The taste is another thing, and not many people like the sourpuss tartness. Much too pretty to pass up or to bake into pies and tarts, I knew a "shrub" was the right approach!
Thankyou Carey from Reclaiming Provincial for posting some delicious recipes, and becoming the inspiration of my experimentation. A shrub is a fruit vinegar syrup made from fresh fruit, sugar and vinegar. The ratio can be played with, but basically a 1:1:1 ratio of fruit, sugar and vinegar is the place to start. The variations on this are enormous; a variety of sugars are available (brown , white, turbinado, honey) for different layers of sweetness, different vinegars and there are just so many different fruits to choose from here in Northern Michigan. Add dried herbs and spices to the mix for even more flavor layers.
I wanted to incorporate apple cider vinegar into my shrub for it's extensive health benefits. Apple cider vinegar is great for digestion, is an antimicrobial, can lower blood sugar levels, and may even have some heart health benefits. Don't trust me, just read about apple cider vinegar here.
If you use apple cider vinegar though, please don't heat it up. Why destroy the wonderful live fermented organisms in your vinegar?
I'm always in a hurry though- and cooking the rhubarb with sugar and a little white distilled vinegar gets the juices flowing. I cook my shrub vinegar- and not everybody does. You can easily take the slow approach and toss your fruit with sugar and let it sit out for a day. On day two add the vinegar and continue letting your vinegar sit out to steep slowly. For me, cooking the fruit with the sugar and some distilled white vinegar gets everything moving more quickly. And i use a 3:2:3 ratio, a little less sugar than what is traditional. The distilled vinegar doesn't affect the taste either.
Once you have the shrub, you can add this vinegar to your sparkling water, or into a cocktail. I love this simple Rhubarb Shrub! The color is amazing and so wonderfully appealing. The color is perfect for a summer picnic cocktail. The tartness of the rhubarb just shines against a vodka or a light rum. It's not too sweet either, suprisingly. Just the right balance.
Did you know that Johnny Jump Ups, Nasturtiums, Marigolds, and Pansies are edible? Use them to dress up your cocktail! Add some summertime bling!
- 2 cups Rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 10 peppercorns mashed
- 1 1/3 cups white sugar
- 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer
- 2 8 ounce canning jars or one large 16 ounce canning jar , sterilized
Toss the diced rhubarb and peppercorns with sugar. Let sit for one hour. Put sugared rhubarb and white distilled vinegar into a saucepan over medium heat. Stir and cook until boiling. Turn down heat and boil slowly for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sugar should be completely dissolved. Take off of heat, macerate the mixture and let sit overnight. The fruit should be very loose and mashed. The next day add apple cider vinegar and let it sit for at least a couple of hours. Strain the fruit pieces out through a colander. Strain again through a fine mesh strainer and bottle. Makes about 2 cups of syrup.
Ginger Simple Syrup
- 2 inch piece of fresh ginger
- 1 cup Turbinado Sugar
- 3/4 cup Water
- 1 8 ounce canning jar
Chop the ginger into little pieces. Put the sugar, ginger and water into a saucepan over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. Let the mixture sit for one hour on the stove. Cool and strain. Bottle in sterlized canning jar. Refrigerate.
Ruby Red Rhubarb Slipper
- 2 ounces Rhubarb Shrub
- 2 ounce Vodka ( I like Tito's)
- 1 Tablespoon Ginger simple syrup
- 6 ounces sparkling soda
- lots of ice cubes!
If you like it tangier (more vinegar), add more shrub and less sparkling soda. Yum.
Sign up for my blog and I will send you a pretty little label for your Rhubarb Shrub!
I'm studying how to shoot pies; slices, whole pies, the richness of the crumb crust, the creaminess of the whip topping, the juicy fruit- heck, simple things too, like the overall angle on the slice. I want to show the top of the pie but also, the inside. The center is the "meat" ok- i should probably say "fruit" of the pie and it just has to look appealing and irresistible. What should I put the pie on? Plates can be very reflective and I'd rather not see be distracted by that. Maybe a doily would cut the reflections down. Burlap was suggested as a possible surface, and i just love how it disappears at the top of the frame on a well lit white table. So, then i thought about napkins. Could a napkin be a surface? And I love the lightness, but what could work about a rich dark wood surface?
I love pies. They are so all american! To me they say "HOME" and warm and comfort. I love that they are made with real fruit- grown here, in our warm sunshine and cool lake breezes.
They feel like richness to me and nourishment and comfort and mom all rolled into one!
I hadn't really considered all of the variations possible- and now that i've taken it on, well, i do see that there are lots of possibilities for pie.
Do you have any suggestions for me? I'd love to hear what you think?
Every winter in Northern Michigan, when the snow is falling, the chill is in the air and it seems all too easy to hole up in your warm home, along comes a fabulous dining event called : Restaurant Week in Traverse City. During Restaurant Week, diners have the opportunity to try out new dining establishments for a set price of $25.00 for a three course dinner. Want to go to the Boathouse Restaurant, but find it a bit pricey? Go during restaurant week. That's what I did... here's a few pictures from this fabulous establishement on the Mission Penninsula.
Fine table linens and antique sparkling silver serving ware are part of the charm of being in Sylvia's home. Her attention to detail invites even the grumpiest of friends to laugh and enjoy the warmth inside, while the outside is chilly and white with snow. On this particular Sunday, we drank Vodka martini's and dined on fresh crab cakes and pineapple upside down cake, and shared a few poems, a few jokes. All of this, takes the chill out of the air. Our hearts and minds are ready for spring- so, goodness Mother Nature, will you cooperate?
Do you think that wine pairs nicely with cheese and pizza pairs nicely with beer and sweets just top it all off? Have you ever thought of pairing food with bourbon? The Grand Traverse Resort recently held a Bourbon Dinner that paired a four course dinner with bourbon from Buffalo Trace Distillery. As the sun set over the bay, Aerie restaurant was alive with the potential of an exciting, specially prepared dinner by the Grand Traverse Resort.
Executive Chef Bill Matthews created a first class gastronomic experience. The first course paired Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon with a vanilla bean gastrique over baked focaccia bread crostini with maytag blue cheese and warm spiced pecans. Yum! But, that my dear friends, was just the beginning. Next up was a lovely peppery arugula tossed with honey crisp apples, toasted almonds, camembert cheese with smoked shallot orange zest Eagle Rare vinaigrette salad of sorts paired with an Eagle Rare 10 year Single Barrel Bourbon. I mean, who comes up with these dishes? Chef Bill of course!
The next course was an intermezzo, a break from the richness of the dinner. I heard the chef talk about the trial and error it took to find just the right marrying of flavors for the sorbet; ginger with bourbon. The bourbon served with the sorbet was a Buffalo Trace Small Batch Bourbon. And the diners loved every minute of it!
The main course was an espresso rubbed slow roasted tenderloin with saskatoon berry ridgemont demi glace, served with apple wood bacon wrapped potato terrine and butter poached brussel sprouts. There were three different potatoes under this tender mouth watering piece of meat. Paired with 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon. I believe the Chef received a standing ovation for this course!
The last and final course, paired with a velvety creamy bourbon from Buffalo Trace was a bourbon brioche bread pudding souffle, with sugar bourbon candied pecans drizzled with salted caramel, and served with vanilla bean frozen yogurt. Oh gosh, what a delight! Bourbon, bourbon, bourbon... all night long.
What a dinner! What an experience! Bravo Chef Matthews! Bravo Grand Traverse Resort for such an amazing dinner!!! And thankyou Buffalo Trace for providing the distinctively special bourbons!
CSA's are such an amazing way to get our produce. There are about 30 active farms in our region and so many varieties available. Want a vegetable CSA? check out MLUI's list online. Want a milk CSA? or cheese? those are available too. Everything grows abudantly in our lovely region, grapes, hops, tomatoes, kale, carrots, squash, pumpkins, flowers- the list goes on and on. In Grand Traverse Area there are veg CSA's, milk, cheese, flower csa's, wineries, breweries...It's enough to make your stomach growl.
One of my favorite events, one that i look forward to every year is the annual Harvest Dinner at our CSA from Meadowlark Farms in Leelanau Penninsula. John and Jenny always have fresh pressed cider and the members of their CSA and friends, bring dishes to pass and share. Since we all love fresh food, our dishes are usually comprised of the wonderful food that we get every week from Meadowlark.