Sweet crisp, eat like an apple, red onions are the harbingers of spring. Day length sensitive their expanding bulbs push out to form the onion revered in this county for over hundred years. The story goes that Ernie Vogliotti’s father acquired seed in the late 1800’s and over the next one hundred years they grew this onion on their ranch, selling first to the miners and then to the town folk. We acquired the seed by luck from Josephine (Ernie’s sister) in her 90’s. She was proud of the onion as an enduring accompaniment to her life of eating the foods they grew. It was around 1996 that we stepped down into her cellar with instructions to look for the “jar on the top shelf”. Less than 30% germinated and the first year we grew a small stand of onions and instead of eating them we replanted them in the fall, nursed them all winter and harvested thousands of seeds from their pompom flower heads in the spring. Today we only grow this variety, knowing how proud Josephine would be to know that we continued the legacy of the onion.
Eric and I have been doing the final clean-up and the first of the spring tilling. Admittedly, and this is coming from a hard-working Kiwi, the work is tough on the body. Eric in the boxing ring with a 300 lb alligator, his arms and body dragged along as the rototiller bounces on the root matted winter grasses, he’s then flung into some fluffy realty to only be dragged off again hanging on for dear life. And then there’s the task of rounding up the last of the 300 tomato cages; a walking marathon, carrying 6 at a time, back and forward. Every rock and stone marked, I am zenned out to the feel and sounds surrounding the human created ecosystem. Beyond the fence, trees glowing new leaf shoots of greenery in every possible hue. A backdrop so alive that the farm with it’s formidable plastic deer fencing reflects out in a promising hope of greenery itself.
If you’ve ever grown a garden, and I hope that you do, you’ll know too well that you can’t start without finishing up. And that the curvature of the environment is no straight line but that it weaves about in a cyclical spiral. The seasonal rhythm is a timing that is governed not by our clocks or our lineal minds, but by the seasonal shifts and more closely by the weather. If ever you need to experience a different kind of realty, one that is shaped by these terrific forces, then gardening would be the task to pick. As one engages in these seasonal rhythms, then one can get in touch with deep time that goes beyond our everyday scheduled lifestyle and approaches something closer to what humans practicing agriculture 10,000 years ago experienced. The work of breaking down and building up, finishing and starting is cyclical to our intuition, and every year of working in this way we get a little better at getting the timing just right; our sense of observation is keener. The garden gives us a portal from which we can glimpse into a world that is wholly governed by nature as it strives to connect us to the process, putting seeds in our hands, giving us knowledge of plant, soil health and treating us to a reflection of ourselves glowing back at us.
To find ourselves again on this threshold of ending and beginning, coinciding with Spring and it’s greenness, is to grasp at what it means to be alive, to have hope and renewed joy in the world. The gift we are showing the world is the unfolding of the story of the garden from the hummus to the humans, from the earthworms to the hummingbirds, from the ancient seed to the table. A gift that is a co-creation of the forces of nature, the human intention and our dedication to being in deep time with our surroundings in such a way that we are harnessed to the task by our own impulse to be part of the great spiral of life.
This makes for a good mini salad in a multi-course meal, or try it over crostini for an appetizer you can make ahead and keep in the fridge waiting for the moment to strike. It also just has a lot of yummy tips for how to best bring out the flavor in peppers, and the dressing is a fantastic addition to your repertoire. This recipe is from one of my favorite books: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (by Deborah Madison, which my family lovingly refers to as the family potluck bible. If you’re interested in canning those peppers from the market and save Summer for the coming Winter, check out this old time method.
Grill and peel a selection of different-colored bell peppers (directions below), allowing 1/2 pepper per person. Be sure to reserve any juices that collect in the bowl while they’re steaming. Slice the peppers into halves or quarters, scrape out the seeds, and layer the peppers on a platter. Make Saffron Vinaigrette with Basil (see recipe below), adding any reserved pepper juices. Toss the peppers with vinaigrette to moisten and serve garnished with sprigs of basil and Nicoise olives.
How to grill and peel peppers:
Place whole peppers directly on a gas burner (on your stovetop) or on the grill. Roast the peppers until the skin becomes wrinkled and loose, turning them frequently with a pair of tongs. If you want the peppers to be soft and slightly smoky, roast them until the skins are completely charred. Set the peppers in a bowl, put a plate on top, and let them steam at least 15 minutes to loosen the skins.
If you wish to grill bell peppers without peeling them, slice off the top of the tip of the pepper, open it up, and remove the veins and seeds. Brush with olive oil and grill, skin side facing the fire, until the skins are puckery and lightly marked but not charred. Turn the grill on the second side for a few minutes, then remove and season with salt and pepper. Leave the peppers in large pieces or cut them into strips as desired. Skinny peppers and chiles can be brushed with oil, grilled whole until just blistered, then sprinkled with salt.
Saffron Vinaigrette with Basil
For a saffron lover, this dressing will become a favorite. Use it with summer vegetables- roasted peppers and potatoes, grilled zucchini, tomato salads, grilled fennel. Or add finely diced tomatoes to the dressing and spoon it over grilled or roasted eggplants.
In a bowl, combine 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons snipped chives, 1/2 teaspoon grated or minced orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Warm 2 tablespoons of oil right over the heat in a small measuring cup, crumble in a pinch of saffron threads and let stand for a few minutes. Add this oil to the dressing and whisk in 6 more tablespoons of olive oil, Add 2 tablespoons of snipped or torn basil leaves just before using. Makes about 1/2 cup of dressing.
Here’s a great recipe for the changing of seasons, borrowed from Iowa Girl Eats.
- 2-1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- salt & pepper
- 3/4 cup arborio rice
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used pinot grigio)
- 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded & chopped (or equivalent amount of Roma or Compari tomatoes)
- 2 cups baby spinach
- handful torn basil
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Bring chicken broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep hot.
- In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat then add shallot, season with salt & pepper, and then saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic then saute for 30 more seconds.
- Add rice then stir to coat in butter. Add wine then stir until nearly absorbed by rice. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth then stir continuously until broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until nearly absorbed before adding more.
- When there’s 1/4 of the broth remaining, add tomatoes then continue stirring. Add baby spinach and basil with the last broth addition then continue stirring. Stir in parmesan cheese then add more salt & pepper to taste.
Looking through our recipe archives, I don’t think that we have nearly enough bacon recipes. Not only that, but with the discount on bell peppers, I wanted to give you one more recipe to use them up while they’re in season. (Check out our other bell pepper recipe here), and don’t forget the shishito peppers, also in season and on sale (recipe here). The following recipe is from celebrity chef Guy Fieri and serves 4
- 8 ounces slab bacon, diced
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- Kosher salt
- 1 bunch curly kale, stemmed and cut into pieces
- Pinch red pepper flakes (or more if you like it hot)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
Render the bacon until crispy in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate. Add the onions and bell pepper to the pot and sprinkle with salt. Stir to combine and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the kale and red pepper flakes and toss to combine. Allow the kale to wilt, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and toss in the apple cider vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Play outside the melon with these three recipes for salsa, sorbet, and salad that expands the can-do in cantaloupe:
Ingredients for Melon Salsa:
- 2 cups diced Cantaloupe (1/4- to 1/2-in. cubes)
- 1 cup diced cucumber (1/4- to 1/2-in. cubes)
- 1/2 cup very finely chopped red onion. To take the sting out, after dicing up, sit in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes, then take out, pat dry with a paper towel, and continue)
- 1 serrano chile, stemmed, halved, and sliced
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Instructions (that’s it!)
- Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
- Make ahead: Up to 1 day, covered and chilled.
Shaved Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Salad
Ingredients for the Cantaloupe Salad
- 4 slices (1 oz.) thinly sliced prosciutto
- 1 recently ripened cantaloupe, halved, seeded, and rind cut off (the less ripe, the easier and cleaner the shave for the salad, but the riper, the sweeter. Find your sweet spot 😉
- 8 to 10 large mint leaves, sliced thinly
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Heat oven to 350°. Set a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Lay prosciutto on rack and bake until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully. Let cool, then break into shards and chips.
- Shave off ribbons of cantaloupe onto a large serving platter, using a vegetable peeler, mandoline, or very sharp knife (really! Sharpen your knives folks!). Sprinkle prosciutto and mint over melon shavings. Drizzle oil very lightly over salad.
- Note: Nutritional analysis is per 3/4-cup serving.
Ingredients for Cantaloupe Sorbet:
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 cups 1-inch pieces peeled seeded cantaloupe (about 1/2 cantaloupe)
Combine sugar and water in medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil. Transfer to 11x7x2-inch glass dish and chill until cold, about 2 hours.
Puree cantaloupe in blender until smooth. Add to sugar syrup in dish and stir until well blended. Freeze until almost firm, stirring occasionally, at least 3 hours or overnight.
Transfer cantaloupe mixture to large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until fluffy. Return to freezer and freeze until firm (do not stir), at least 3 hours or overnight. (Sorbet can be prepared 3 days ahead.) Cover and keep frozen.
I learned about the magic of frittatas from Yebuny Johnson, who you may know, is a fabulous cook, a heart-centered human being, and a brand new mom. Turns out, frittatas are easier than I ever thought, and is a great quick dish to pop into the oven and walk away from, and can include just about whatever you have left in your fridge and pantry. I’m a big fan of goat cheese, and that rainbow of peppers at the market are just too beautiful to pass up. I found this recipe from Eating Well:
- 8 eggs
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup sliced red bell pepper
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced
- 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
- Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.
- Whisk eggs, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Heat oil in a large, ovenproof, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper and scallions and cook, stirring constantly, until the scallions are just wilted, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook, lifting the edges of the frittata to allow the uncooked egg to flow underneath, until the bottom is light golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Dot the top of the frittata with cheese, transfer the pan to the oven and broil until puffy and lightly golden on top, 2 to 3 minutes. Let rest for about 3 minutes before serving. Serve hot or cold.
Perfectly cooked grilled corn by Bobby Flay
- Heat the grill to medium.
- Pull the outer husks down the ear to the base. Strip away the silk from each ear of corn by hand. Fold husks back into place, and place the ears of corn in a large bowl of cold water with 1 tablespoon of salt for 10 minutes.
- Remove corn from water and shake off excess. Place the corn on the grill, close the cover and grill for 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, or until kernels are tender when pierced with a paring knife. Remove the husks and eat on the cob or remove the kernels.
Chili Lime Honey Butter
Mix 6 tablespoons softened butter, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 2 teaspoons of honey, 1 teaspoon chili powder and a dash of cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Slather on hot corn on the cob, then sprinkle on some salt and give it an extra spritz of lime.
Blue Cheese Chive Butter
Mash together 4 tablespoons softened butter with 4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese. Stir in 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Spread on hot corn on the cob.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, a hefty pinch of salt and black pepper, 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme. Drizzle over the corn.
Cheesy Cilantro Chili Pepper
Slather cooked corn with 1 tablespoon of butter, then sprinkle each cob with chili powder, cotija cheese, fresh chopped cilantro and finish with a spritz of lime juice
Smoked Feta and Pepper
Finely crumble 1/2 cup smoked feta cheese. Mix in 2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers. Coat each hot ear of corn with butter, then roll in the cheese and pepper mixture.
Honey Ginger BBQ Sauce
Combine 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup mild honey, 1/2 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoons hot sauce, 4 large garlic cloves (minced), 2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt and briskly simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. (Stir frequently toward end of cooking to prevent sticking.) This is an excellent BBQ sauce, but keep going with the corn on the cob recipe by brushing the mixture onto the cobs just 1 or 2 minutes before they’re done on the grill. Oil the grill beforehand and it shouldn’t stick.
Whisk together 1 tablespoon water and 2 tablespoons molasses. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat 4 ears of corn with the molasses mixture. Sprinkle all over with purchased or homemade jerk seasoning. Grill over indirect heat on well-oiled grates until tender.
This recipe is inspired by a Better Home and Garden recipe, with extra extra flaky crust(s) and we think it works with heirloom toms or cherry toms! Try it and tell us what you think!
What you will need:
- 6 strips bacon
- 1 15 ounce package rolled refrigerated unbaked piecrust (2 crust) (or see recipe below for making your own crust)
- 2/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
- 4 cups cherry tomatoes or roasted heirloom tomatos
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
- 3/4 cup thinly sliced leaf lettuce
- Lemon wedges (optional)
Directions for making the crust (if not buying it right out)
Directions for making the crust:
1. Cut the butter into 1/2-in/12-mm cubes, and freeze them while you measure and mix the dry ingredients.
2. To make the dough in a food processor: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the processor and pulse three or four times to mix. Retrieve the butter cubes from the freezer, scatter them over the flour mixture, and pulse until the mixture forms pea-size clumps. Add the ice water, 1 tbsp at a time, and pulse to mix, adding just enough water for the dough to come together.
To make the dough by hand: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Retrieve the butter cubes from the freezer and distribute them evenly in the flour mixture, coating them with the flour mixture. Sink your fingers into the mixture and begin pinching the butter and flour together, making thin, floury disks of the butter. Continue working the mixture until the butter is broken down first into floury pea-sized beads and then into a loose mixture that resembles wet sand. Drizzle in 3 tbsp of the ice water and use your hand like a comb to mix in the liquid just until the dough holds together. If necessary, add additional water, 1 tbsp at a time, until the dough comes together in a crumbly mass.
3. Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured work surface or sheet of parchment paper. Gather the dough together in a mound, then knead it a few times to smooth it out. Divide it in half, and gently pat and press each half into a rough circle, about 1 in/2.5 cm thick. Lay wax or parchment paper in two pie pans and lay the dough in each. Wrap in plastic wrap or in the wax/parchment paper and put in freezer for 30 minutes.
Directions for making the Pie
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove the pie crusts from the freezer, and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. In a large skillet cook bacon until just done but not crisp. Transfer to paper towel. Reserve 1 Tbsp. bacon drippings in skillet; set aside. Make sure to save that leftover (if any) intoxicating fat for another time!
On a lightly floured surface, stack the two piecrusts. Roll from center to edges to form a 12-inch circle. Wrap pastry around a rolling pin; unroll pastry into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. (Sides should be 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep). Ease pastry into pie plate, allowing edges to form a loose ruffled or scalloped effect. Gently press pastry into the bottom of pie plate. Sides will not lay flat against pie plate.
Prick bottom of pastry. Line pastry with a double thickness of foil; bake 10 minutes.
Remove foil; bake 5 minutes more. Remove, and reduce heat to 375 degrees F.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese over the piecrust.
Place half the bacon slices around the edge of the crust. Set aside.
Cook onion in reserved bacon dripping over medium heat until tender. Drain drippings. Set aside.
Halve 2 cups of the cherry tomatoes, leaving the remaining 2 cups whole. Place the halved and whole tomatoes in a large mixing bowl. Alternatively roast heirloom tomatoes (see directions in step 2 of this recipe) and slice to 1/2 inch segments and put in a large mixing bowl.
Add olive oil, 2 Tbsp. of the basil, salt, and 1/4 tsp. of the pepper. Stir to combine.
In a separate bowl beat together cream cheese, mayonnaise, egg yolk, cooked onion, lemon peel, and remaining Parmesan, basil, and pepper. Spoon cream cheese mixture into piecrust.
Top with tomato mixture.
Nestle the remaining bacon slices among the tomatoes, weaving bacon between tomatoes. Gently press tomatoes and bacon into the cream cheese mixture. Bake pie until cherry tomatoes just begin to brown or the crust browns and becomes flakey when you touch it, about 35 minutes. (Loosely cover pie with foil if edges brown too quickly, say 15 minutes.) Let stand 60 minutes. Top with leaf lettuce and serve with lemon wedges for a little bit of zest.
This week and next at the farmers’ & artisans’ market we’re offering samples of the many different varieties of tomatoes! Pick your favorites, grab a box full, and try this mouth watering recipe that brings out their unique flavors! The two key steps in this recipe are to remove the water-filled seed pockets (which helps to deepen the flavor by removing water weight), and roasting (which further removes moisture). This recipe comes (slightly altered) from Chez Panisse in Berkeley.
- 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 medium leek
- 1 small carrot
- 1 head garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 small bunch basil (about 1/4 pound)
- Salt & pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
- Cut out a cone at the stem end of the tomatoes to remove the core, and cut the tomatoes into quarters. If you have a grapefruit spoon or a strawberry topper, use it to remove about 50% of the water seed pockets. Toss with half the olive oil. Put the tomatoes in a baking dish and roast them, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times to encourage even cooking. The tomatoes are cooked when the flesh is very soft and the skin separates easily from the flesh.
- Peel and slice the onion. Trim, wash, and dice the leek. Peel and dice the carrot. Cut the head of garlic in half horizontally.
- Heat the remaining olive oil in a stainless steel or other nonreactive pot (aluminum reacts with the acid in tomatoes and spoils the flavor). Add the vegetables and the garlic and cook the vegetables over medium heat until completely soft, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted tomatoes and the herbs. Simmer, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until the flavors come together, for 30 to 45 minutes. Pass the sauce through a food mill and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Makes about 1 quart.