Have you ever eaten a Squash blossom? Did you know that only the male blossom is eaten, while the female is left to produce the fruit? I didn't either!! But, you can find the latest about this delicate dish on my blog!!Read More
Looking for a substitute for a meaty burger? Chef Nancy Allen's Black Bean Burgers for Everyone hits all the right notes. And best yet, it's not too complicated. Want to check it out?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...
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...