Savoy Cabbage Slaw

This is the time of year when pickings are slim at most farmer’s markets. In February and March, even here in California, it is hard to find anything that inspires the home cook. On my most recent trip I came across a vendor that had some promising looking Savoy cabbages.

Savoy Cabbage

Savoy Cabbage

My first thought was cabbage soup – I have a great recipe for one that involves chicken stock and potatoes – but the weather has been warmer than usual so I decided to make a cabbage slaw for tacos.

First, wash the cabbages. Core them by slicing them in half and cutting out the thick middle stem.

Core the Cabbage

Core the Cabbage

Flip the cabbage halves over and slice them finely into shreds. I add finely sliced radishes and red onion to the mix.

Cabbage, Radishes and Red Onion

Cabbage, Radishes and Red Onion

Squeeze the juice of a few limes over the mixture and toss in a bowl. Generously salt and pepper the slaw.

Savoy Cabbage Slaw

Savoy Cabbage Slaw

This can be used as a topping for any kind of taco – my favorite is grilled fish. It can also be used as a salad for any rich meat dish. The fresh taste of cabbage and the snappy bite of radish is great to offset roasted pork, beef or duck.

Think of spring as you enjoy this!

Spaghetti alla Chitarra

Weekend dinners lend an opportunity to take an afternoon off from running around doing errands. When the weather gets cooler, I love to spend the day making home made pasta and sauce. I found these beautiful, dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes in boxes at the farmer’s market last Sunday.

Dry Farmed Early Girls

Dry Farmed Early Girls

They were super ripe and perfect for a slow cooked Sunday sauce. I wash them well and cut in quarters. Cutting into the center rib inside the tomato I remove most of the seeds. This sauce freezes well so I prepare a large batch. I add the tomatoes, a good amount of olive oil, a few smashed cloves of garlic, salt and freshly ground pepper to a stock pot. Cover and cook on medium/low stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Once the sauce is bubbling, I turn the heat down to the lowest setting and let cook down for an hour or two. When it has cooked down to a nice consistency, I add freshly torn basil leaves and another splash of good olive oil. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.

Tomato Sauce Cooking

Tomato Sauce Cooking

Meanwhile I prepare the fresh pasta. I use my food processor to make the dough. My general rule is 3 eggs to every 4 cups of flour, but it depends on the size of the eggs. This yields enough pasta for four people. Double the recipe for eight. Once the dough is formed I knead it until it is smooth, wrap it in plastic, and let it rest while I set up the equipment. I have an Atlas hand cranked pasta machine that flattens the pasta into sheets. Chitarra refers to the “guitar-like” strings on the tool I use to roll the spaghetti on. I got mine at Sur la Table.

Chitarra

Chitarra

Once all the spaghetti is pressed I toss it in flour and let dry out a little bit. It only needs about 3 minutes in boiling water to be beautifully al dente.

Spaghetti Drying

Spaghetti Drying

 

Toss the freshly cooked pasta in some sauce and top with chopped fresh basil and freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese. It is a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Buon appetito!

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Roasted Beet and Beet Green Salad

Farmer's Market Beets

Farmer’s Market Beets

I love it when a cool dense fog settles on the Santa Cruz Mountains this time of year. The Sunday morning farmer’s market is quieter with its offering of squash, root vegetables and dark hearty greens. This week I picked up a beautiful cluster of beets. I always use the greens, washing them carefully, and either quickly sauté with garlic and olive oil or blanch them and dress with a vinaigrette. Today I decided to use the beets and the greens together in a salad.

Wash the greens well and scrub the beets of all the dirt that still clings to them.

Washed Beets and Greens

Washed Beets and Greens

Wrap the beets in foil and roast at 400 F until a fork pierces them – about an hour depending on the size of the beets. Run the beets under cold water and peel the skin off with a pairing knife. Slice into rounds.

Blanch the greens in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Using tongs remove the greens and drop into ice water to stop the cooking. When they have cooled down remove from the water – squeeze dry and chop into bite sized pieces.

Blanched Beet Greens

Blanched Beet Greens

Make a vinaigrette: finely chop one clove of garlic, add to 3 tbsp of olive oil , 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, and a tsp of Dijon mustard. Mix well and pour over the arranged beets and greens. Salt and pepper generously.

Beet Salad

Beet Salad

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Rainbow Chard at the Farm Stand

When Highway #17 to Santa Cruz gets backed up with the summer beach traffic I jump off and take Summit Road to Soquel San Jose Road. It winds through the redwoods and drops down to a clearing of horse farms and planted fields. On one of these trips I discovered Everett Family Farm.

Everett Family Farm

Everett Family Farm

This tin shed is filled with the bounty of those sunny California fields. This week I walked in to find the largest tumble of tomatoes I have ever seen! As you know, I have plenty of tomatoes – but not this variety. The price was right so I bought a few pounds. I added some onions, scallions, and fresh eggs to my basket.

Tomatoes!

Tomatoes!

What really caught my eye was the beautiful collection of chard and kale.

Greens

Greens

I picked out a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard and squeezed it into my already full basket. I decided to quickly sauté the chard and scallions as a side dish to the fish I served that night. Begin by cleaning and drying each leaf carefully.

Washed Chard and Scallions

Washed Chard and Scallions

Then chop the greens into bite sized pieces.

Chopped Greens

Chopped Greens

Heat some olive oil in a pan add the scallions and the stems of the chard – sauté until they are softened. Now add the greens and toss until they are wilted. Season generously with salt and pepper – splash with some good quality olive oil before serving.

Cooked Greens

Cooked Greens

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Insalata Caprese

Sometimes the most simple dishes prepared with high quality ingredients are the best. I am not here to teach complicated techniques or use hard to find ingredients. My goal is to help inspire home cooks to enjoy fresh, beautiful and healthy food. It is easy to eat this way every day.

It is tomato season again. My garden is overflowing with ripe tomatoes and basil. There  is nothing more simple to prepare in this season than an insalata Caprese. If you don’t have a garden, don’t worry, most markets have beautiful heirloom tomatoes and bunches of fresh basil. You’ll need to go shopping anyway because you will need some nice mozzarella or burrata cheese, good quality olive oil and, even though it’s not traditional, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Here are my basil “trees” that have gone a little to seed. I pop off the tops of the basil plant and fill a vase with the fragrant buds. Then I carefully pick healthy looking leaves to wash and use.

Garden Basil

Garden Basil

I am growing several varieties of tomatoes this year. These are Sun Gold tomatoes and are delicious and sweet.

Sun Gold Tomatoes

Sun Gold Tomatoes

I also have Early Girl, Juliet and Pineapple tomatoes growing out of control.  I like to mix up the tomato variety in my salads. Slice the larger tomato into rounds, and quarter the smaller tomatoes – leave some whole too. Slice the mozzarella into rounds or tear it for more texture. If you are using burrata cheese place it in the center of the dish and cut into quarters to be shared. Distribute the basil evenly over the salad so each serving gets a little. Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil, squeeze lemon juice then generously salt and pepper.

Insalata Caprese

Insalata Caprese

Serve with a crusty loaf of bread.

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Summer Salad

Grapefruit Slices

Grapefruit Slices

I grill a lot of our meals in the warmer months of summer. I love to offset the charred meats and vegetables with a refreshing, crisp salad. One of my favorite salad ingredients is grapefruit. I take a whole grapefruit and slice off the rind – white pith and all – with a sharp knife. This is similar to removing the outside skin of a cantaloupe melon. Then, using the knife, slice out the grapefruit sections leaving the inner membrane behind. Squeeze all of the juice from the remaining membrane into a bowl to use as dressing.

Today I had some celery, radishes, cucumber, avocado and cilantro in my vegetable drawer. You can use lettuce, parsley, tomatoes, carrots – any fresh vegetable on hand that can be eaten raw.

Salad Ingredients

Salad Ingredients

I make the dressing by taking three tablespoons of the grapefruit juice, one tablespoon of red wine vinegar, and three tablespoons of olive oil. Shake these ingredients in a small jar or just whisk in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.

Fresh Summer Salad

Fresh Summer Salad

Arrange the ingredients on a plate or shallow bowl. Spoon the dressing over the salad making sure to evenly distribute. Enjoy!

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Kale Chips – Addictive and Easy

There is something intriguingly addictive about kale chips. It might be that they are salty and crunchy and good for you – but once I start munching on them I can not stop until the batch is gone. One large bunch of kale does not make much so you may want to make a few batches if you have a group to feed. This is the most simple preparation and takes about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Take a large bunch of green kale and remove the large stems from the center of the leaves.

Kale

Kale

Stems removed

Stems removed

Tear the leaves into rough bite size pieces. Put all of the leaves into a lettuce washer and clean in a few changes of cold water. Spin dry. Place the leaves into a bowl sprinkle with olive oil and salt – toss to coat the leaves. You do not need a lot of olive oil. Just enough to toss without any remaining in the bowl. Spread these out on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. If you don’t have parchment paper – make these right on the cookie sheet – I just like the easy clean-up that parchment provides. The next time you are at the grocery store getting plastic wrap or tin foil pick up some parchment. It is great.

Kale ready to roast

Kale ready to roast

You may want to sprinkle with more salt once it is on the tray. Roast this in the oven for about 15 minutes. Test a leaf to make sure it is crisp, but not burned. Don’t let them brown.

Remove from oven and enjoy!

Kale chips and snacks

Kale chips and snacks

Serve with roasted chick peas, hummus and crackers, cubed feta cheese and olives as a really healthy appetizer.

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Some Basics

Part of the fun and challenge of loving to cook is deciding each day what to prepare for dinner. Like most people I get stuck in a rut making the same five dishes over and over. My teenage daughters are great about reminding me that I should switch it up. Usually the look of disappointment and the deadpanned “(salmon – chicken – tacos) again?” works. I do, however, rely of some basics to create new dishes. Homemade pesto is one ingredient I never tire of.

As I have mentioned earlier I am allergic to tree nuts. That hasn’t stopped me from creating some wonderful pesto by either eliminating the pine nuts or using sunflower or sesame seeds in their place. I always have basil growing in my garden, but I have also used arugula, parsley and cilantro for the green ingredient. A good amount of olive oil, parmesan cheese and garlic bind it all together for a delicious boost to many dishes. As usual, I don’t use a recipe. I gather as much basil (washed) as can fit into my food processor and pour a generous amount of olive oil to get it started. Toss in a few peeled garlic cloves, a generous grinding of black pepper and sea salt. Then blend away! I add more olive oil until the consistency looks right. Add a handful of grated parmesan cheese, blend again, and you have pesto. Add this to scrambled eggs, meatloaf, risotto, beans and of course pasta.

Tonight I have grabbed the remains of some of that pesto and a hard boiled egg.

Pesto and Egg

Pesto and Egg

I have prepared some al dente spaghetti and have tossed it with the pesto. I have drained and rinsed a can of cannellini beans and quickly sautéed them in some olive oil and chopped garlic.

Cannellini Beans

Cannellini Beans

Place the pesto spaghetti in a bowl, top with the beans, garnish with a half hardboiled egg and a dollop of pesto.

Pesto Spaghetti with Beans and Egg

Pesto Spaghetti with Beans and Egg

Add grated cheese – simple and delicious!

 

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Slowcoast Strawberry Pie

Swanton's Berry Farm

Swanton’s Berry Farm

There is a beautiful stretch of Highway One between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz that has been named, “Slowcoast”. After an early morning foggy trip to San Francisco I decided to take the long way home. I had never traveled along that stretch of road. In addition to the gorgeous views at every turn, there was an artisanal slow food presence that caught me by surprise. After seeing a vintage bright yellow truck with a large strawberry perched in it I pulled into Swanton’s Berry Farm. An Airstream served as a gift shop and a long blue rustic building as the pie shop. What a treat for a wandering western hippie!

The Airstream

The Airstream

I am not sure that it gets any more west coast natural than this. The strawberries in the pie shop were absolutely beautiful and delicious – I bought a three pack. Behind the counter with an honor system till, stood fresh faced pie bakers and shortcake assemblers carefully creating some absolutely wonderful looking berry desserts. I was inspired to take those berries home and make a pie.

Beautiful Local Strawberries

Beautiful Local Strawberries

Because strawberries have so much liquid in them I decided against a crust on the bottom of the pie plate. It would never bake properly and would be mushy. I simply sliced the berries in quarters and grated some orange rind to add the bright taste and hue of citrus.

Strawberries Sliced with Grated Orange Rind

Strawberries Sliced with Grated Orange Rind

I then tossed the strawberries with about 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of “minute” tapioca. The minute tapioca helps to absorb the juice from the berries and gives the filling a thicker consistency.

Tossed with Sugar and "Minute" Tapioca

Tossed with Sugar and “Minute” Tapioca

Roll out one round of pie crust. You can make your own using your favorite recipe – or use the frozen stuff.

Pie Crust - Top Only

Pie Crust – Top Only

Crimp the edges by using your thumb and index finger on your left hand and your index finger on your right hand … like this <-

Crimped and Ready

Crimped and Ready

Preheat the oven to 375 F and bake until the crust is verging on golden. Remove the pie from the oven. Take a pastry brush and a ramekin of milk – brush the surface of the pie with the milk and dust generously with granulated sugar. Return the pie to the oven and bake until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden.

Slowcoast Strawberry Pie

Slowcoast Strawberry Pie

Enjoy with fresh whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or a dollop of vanilla yogurt.

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Roasted Vegetables and Farro

In an effort to eat healthy and be considerate of the environment, I cook at least four vegetarian meals a week. Generally I combine a seasonal vegetable with a grain or legume and call it dinner. Today I am roasting half of a butternut squash, a handful of brussel sprouts, and an apple. I am combining these with some sautéed mushrooms and onions, and stirring in some cooked farro. If you are not familiar with farro it is an Italian wheat product that is sold in the pasta section of most supermarkets. It looks similar to wheat berries and cooks up in 20 minutes in boiling water.

I cut the vegetables and apple into similar sized pieces.

Cut squash, apple and brussel sprouts

Cut squash, apple and brussel sprouts

I toss these with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet at 375 F. It is ready when the squash can be pierced by a fork – about 20-30 minutes.

Roasted Apple and Vegetables

Roasted Apple and Vegetables

While the vegetables are roasting I sauté some chopped onion and mushrooms.

Saute of Onion and Mushroom

Saute of Onion and Mushroom

I have boiled one cup of farro in water for 20 minutes and have drained it. I combine the roasted vegetables in the mushroom pan with the farro and cook over medium heat until heated through. This can be served as a main course or a side dish with grated parmesan cheese or hot sauce.

Vegetarian Dinner

Vegetarian Dinner

You can enjoy a few helpings without any guilt!

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