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salad of mustard greens, soft feta, tomato and nasturtium

Most days I don’t tend to think of farm life as remote, and it’s certainly no harkening back to Little House on the Prairie. Half of us apprentices have smart phones, our weekly schedule is accessible via Google Docs, and with the newly installed Playstation at the cottage the shrieks of animated zombies can be heard every so often while I’m making dinner in the kitchen. Yes, we make cheese and engage in various other homesteading activities (shooting squirrels, anyone?) but all in all the farm is a thoroughly modern operation, complete with facebook page and twitter account.

This week, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways the farm is a return to earlier times, at least for those of us who live here. There’s something about living and working in the same place that makes the happenings of the wider world grow slightly hazy—I wake up early, work a full day in the garden, do evening chores and then sit around talking and eating with the same people I’ve spent the day working with. It’s a community so rooted in place that it can feel a bit strange picking up a cellphone or answering an email, and sometimes I wonder if this is how it used to be: your whole life bound up in a single communal place and purpose.

Added to that is the fact that visitors often appear with little explanation, like travelers from afar. The guy with nice shoes from Taipei who rolled up his dress slacks to help us amend beds and stayed three days in the garden? As it turned out, he was a chef from a two-Michelin star restaurant in LA who had cooked for Chinese dignitaries and had a case of knives worth $5000. Day one I was  giving him a tour, wondering why he knew so much about litchi tomatoes and oyster lettuce, day two he joined us for fried green tomatoes and bobotie, and day three he had commanded our apprentices’ kitchen, searing salmon belly and roasting a chicken in my cast iron. Watching him chop an onion in 5 seconds flat as we all sat wide-eyed in the kitchen, I had to wonder—would this happen anywhere else? Living as a small farm community we welcome people, allow them to surprise us, and watch them go, and along the way I learn just what it means to belong to a place in the oldest sense of the word.

Salad of Mustard Greens, Soft Feta, Tomato and Nasturtium

Everything in this salad came from the farm–the mustard greens I sow weekly for the restaurant, tomatoes and nasturtium flowers from the recent harvest, and feta that we used before it had been aged. Any soft, fresh cheese like burrata will do just as well, and if you can’t find nasturtium flowers in your neighborhood (they grow like a weed!) planting them is a snap.

selection of small greens like mustards, baby spinach, and little bok choy

fresh, soft cheese

several ripe tomatoes

nasturtium flowers

1/2 onion, finely chopped

dijon mustard

honey

balsamic vinegar

olive oil

salt and pepper

In a small bowl, mix chopped onion, honey, and dijon mustard, then combine with balsamic and salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, pour in olive oil and mix until vinaigrette is thick and creamy.

Arrange your greens in a mound in a bowl or platter, and set tomatoes in a ring around the edge. Crumble cheese over the top, and garnish with nasturtium blossoms. Sprinkle vinaigrette on top or serve on the side.

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