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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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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Hawaiian Poke on Fried Wontons

When I moved to the Bay Area from Boston I assumed the fish would be as wonderful as it always was on the East Coast. The Pacific ocean is right over the hill – there are fish in it – why wouldn’t it be? I can’t tell you how many times I have made the drive back to our well known branch of the “sparkling seafood” purveyor to return some smelly fish they had wrapped up for me, because it happens too frequently. It’s truly hit or miss. A “hit” being something decent – not great.  I have only recently found fish that is not only just as good as New England, but some of the best I have ever had. I found the vendor at our local farmers market one Sunday morning. I had been walking right past the Stagnaro Brothers “Santa Cruz Fish” table for years thinking, “Fish at the farmers market ? Nope…”, but one day I was desperate for some fish to grill so I took a look. The color, variety and fresh off the boat difference took me by surprise. I was hooked! Last Sunday they informed me they have opened their wholesale business to the retail public – woo hoo! So I drove to Santa Cruz.

When I asked for tuna this is what was dragged out of cold storage:

Whole Tuna

Whole Tuna

When I asked for a few steaks – the kind man sliced me two from the center of the slab…

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This was the most beautiful tuna I have ever seen. I am an ahi addict and have been worried about preparing raw fish at home – but if there ever was a time to try it – the time was now!

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Rinse the fish in cold water, dry and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Toss with a generous sprinkle of soy sauce, a splash of sesame oil, finely chopped scallions and a shake of sesame seeds. Refrigerate immediately while preparing the wontons.

Ingredients Ready for Poke

Ingredients Ready for Poke

I use packaged fresh wonton wrappers that can be found at most grocery stores in the refrigerator section. I cut them into triangles and fry them individually in peanut oil – careful they burn very quickly. Drain the wonton crisps on paper towel.

Wonton Appetizers

Wonton Appetizers

Top the crisps with the ahi poke and enjoy!

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Cherry Bomb!

If you could find me braiding “Mother Nature’s Hair” with a babysitter in the 1970’s, you can probably guess what I was doing in the early 1980’s. That’s right – rocking to Joan Jett at the college pub! When I saw these Cherry Bomb peppers at the farmer’s market this weekend I had to smile.

Cherry Bomb Peppers

Cherry Bomb Peppers

The woman selling them warned that they are “really hot”. The question now was what to do with twenty one “really hot” peppers. I decided to roast them, stuff them with a cooling cheese filling and store them in olive oil to use later as an appetizer.

Carefully remove the tops of the peppers with a sharp knife. Using the tip of the knife, scrape out all of the seeds and membrane. Be very careful not to touch your face while preparing these!

Carefully remove tops and seeds

Carefully remove tops and seeds

Place all of the cored peppers top down on a parchment covered cookie tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 400 F for ten minutes.

Roast at 400 F for 10 minutes

Roast at 400 F for 10 minutes

Meanwhile, roughly chop a handful of parsley and a small bunch of scallions. Add to a log of goat cheese and a half package of cream cheese. Using a fork blend together in a bowl until all ingredients are fully incorporated.

Ingredients for filling

Ingredients for filling

Once the peppers are cool start filling them with the cheese mixture. I use a less expensive brand of olive oil to gradually fill a Mason jar while layering the peppers. I sprinkled some dried oregano between the layers.

Gradually fill the jar while stuffing the peppers

Gradually fill the jar while stuffing the peppers

Store the final product in the refrigerator and use within a week. Serve the peppers cut in half, and drizzled with the oil, on sliced baguette.

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Cauliflower Appetizer

I have a few kitchen essentials that have made my cooking easier and more delicious. A Le Creuset blue dutch oven, olive oil, well-seasoned Lodge cast iron pans and salt and pepper. My newest discovery, and the one I use most, is parchment paper. I used to think that parchment paper was for fancy baking, but while at a friend’s house for dinner I noticed she used it to roast salmon on a cookie sheet. No messy cookie sheet to clean and an evenly roasted piece of fish. I immediately bought a huge roll and have been roasting everything on parchment ever since. It has transformed cauliflower for me.

Farmer's Market Cauliflower

Farmer’s Market Cauliflower

Cauliflower, steamed, sauteed or au gratin has always been a disappointment to me. It tends to get watery and bland so I avoided using it for years – then I decided to roast it. I cut it into small florets.

Small Florets

Small Florets

Then I toss the florets in a bowl with olive oil and cumin seeds. If you haven’t used cumin seeds before you should give them a try. I love them roasted with any fall vegetable or toasted in a cast iron pan and added to creme fraiche as a dressing or dip.

Toss Cumin, Florets and Olive Oil  in a Bowl

Toss Cumin, Florets and Olive Oil in a Bowl

Then spread the cauliflower out on a parchment covered cookie sheet, salt and pepper and roast in a 375 degree oven until golden and crispy – never soggy.

Spread Evenly on Parchment

Spread Evenly on Parchment

Serve immediately.

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower

 

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Roasted Peppers

You know you live in California when your husband comes home from a business meeting with a gift bag of freshly picked heirloom tomatoes and peppers. After washing the bounty, I arranged a tumble of colorful peppers in a bowl to display and enjoy as a centerpiece for a few days. Last night I decided to roast them and serve as an antipasto.

Colorful Peppers

Colorful Peppers

Simply grill the peppers until blistered and charred on all sides.

Peppers on the Grill

Peppers on the Grill

Once they are grilled – place them in a paper bag and roll closed. Letting them sit in the bag for about 10 minutes allows the steam to loosen the skin and make for easier peeling.

Peppers Ready to Peel

Peppers Ready to Peel

Peel the skin off of the peppers and remove tops and seeds. Slice into thick strips. Roughly chop a clove of garlic and some fresh basil. Toss the garlic, basil, peppers, and some olive oil in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. This can be served immediately or refrigerated and used within a week.

Roasted Peppers

Roasted Peppers

These are also delicious on sandwiches.

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Late Summer Salad

I returned from all my travels this summer to find my tomato plants the height of small trees. The amount of ripe fruit on them ensures that I, along with my friends and neighbors, will be eating these beautiful tomatoes for months to come.

Tomatoes in Every Size

Tomatoes in Every Size

Today at the market avocados were $1 each and perfectly ripe so I bought five. Tonight I am grilling some cumin rubbed steaks so I naturally thought of guacamole – but extra chunky and as a salad.

Beautiful Ingredients

Beautiful Ingredients

Tomatoes, avocado, minced garlic, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper – that’s it.

Chopped

Chopped

Mix together – season to taste – and watch it disappear!

Guacamole Salad

Guacamole Salad

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Spanish Tortilla

My good friend Martha is an excellent cook. She has traveled the world and always has a unique dish or healthy way to prepare common ingredients. One of my favorites is her Spanish tortilla. This is generally served as an appetizer – but my teenagers love it for breakfast. I start with some small yukon gold potatoes.

Sliced Yukon Golds

Sliced Yukon Golds

Slice them evenly and thinly – about 1/4 inch thick. Add a healthy amount of olive oil to a non-stick pan and heat until it sizzles when a potato is added – don’t let the oil get too hot and smoke. If you choose, you can also add chopped onion. Cook the potatoes on medium heat until they can be pierced with a fork. Strain the excess oil into a ramekin – I use it within a few days for other potato dishes. Season with salt and pepper and dried herbs of your choosing. This morning I used some of those Herbes de Provence I brought back from France a few weeks ago. Make sure to use enough salt or the dish can be bland.

Cooked Potatoes

Cooked Potatoes

Now, mix about five eggs with a splash of milk, more salt and pepper and herbs. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the cooked potatoes.

Eggs

Eggs

Cover and cook gently until the bottom and the top of the tortilla is quite set.  Slide the tortilla onto a plate – place the pan upside down over the plate and flip the tortilla over – cook an additional ten minutes.

I slice it up and serve with their favorite hot sauce!

Spanish Tortilla

Spanish Tortilla

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