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Posts from the ‘salads’ Category

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


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.

stas’ rainbow kimchi

I remember the very first time I saw Anastasia Van Wingerden. She was wearing a pale yellow dress and matching cardigan, both of which I instantly wanted. She had shoulder-length beach blond hair and a gap between her two front teeth, something I liked because I had a pronounced snaggle-tooth at the time. Best of all, she was smiling. It was my first day of fourth grade at a new school.

Thirteen years later she’s still my best friend and neighbor, and the one with whom I share many of my most vivid food memories. There was the time in junior high we tried improvising a smoothie in the blender, only to accidentally grind in the bottom half of a wooden spoon. There were the Amnesty International bake sales in high school, where she laughed at what I thought was superb donut salesmanship (“look at the sugar just oozing out of it!”). I’ll always remember her 19th birthday party, an event which featured a chocolate cake with an earthy  secret ingredient—beets. She was also the one who first got my family interested in keeping chickens, and I couldn’t help but think of the days of playing with “Stupy” and “Clinton Chick Chick” (he was quite the rooster) as I watched the turkeys her family breeds pecking about in their coop this weekend.

The Van Wingerden kitchen is one of those places I never want to leave, a haven of warm red tiles with handmade bowls of produce on every counter. I always make a beeline to “baked goods corner” (a spot my future kitchen will definitely have), then sneak bites of home-dried fruits or blistered almonds while munching my slice of chocolate chip cake or zucchini bread. I was, in fact, following that exact routine the other day when Stas showed me how to make kimchi, and in traditional Van Wingerden style there was a variety of veggies you generally only see on farms like the one I work on. Kale, carrots, zucchini, beets, green beans, onions, fennel… it all went into the pot, a cascade of color and texture that looked just as good a half hour later when it had been mixed by hand with salt and spices. I have a jar fermenting on my bureau, and when I taste it next week I know I’ll be back in that sunny kitchen with my friend, if only for a bite.

Stas’ Rainbow Kimchi

Kimchi may be an acquired taste, but if you like strong flavors it’s a delicious way to use and preserve vegetables. Not only do fermented foods aid digestion, but they are also full of probiotics that help build a strong immune system.

5 cups assorted vegetables

1/3 cup salt

spices (ginger, cumin, dill, juniper berries, celery seeds… the possibilities are endless!)

Chop your vegetables into small pieces and add them to a large pot or bowl (preferably ceramic, but not metal). Add the salt and use your hands to squeeze and press the veggies, gradually releasing their juices (the salt allows moisture to be more easily extracted). Add the spices and continue to work the vegetables by hand, squeezing until you have enough brine to cover them completely. This brine creates an anaerobic environment that prevents mold from entering, and you can add a little water if the juices from your veggies are not enough. Finish by using another, slightly smaller pot or bowl to press the veggie pieces down, keeping them submerged. Leave covered like this at room temperature to ferment for about a week, and put in the fridge only when you have achieved your desired flavor. (You can also put the kimchi into smaller containers like jars, turning and pressing down often to make sure the liquid continues to cover the pieces). If you like your kimchi less salty, give it a rinse before eating and enjoy!

shredded chard salad with hard boiled egg and walnuts

Summer has really hit its stride. It’s hot here now—so hot that the fog is gone by the time we start harvest at 7 a.m., hot enough that I have to drag the flimsy bags full of wilting supermarket produce into the shade to sort for composting (and if you know me, you know that any contact I have with rotting vegetables is kept to a minimum). The strange thing about realizing that summer is in full swing is that by the time you realize it, it’s invariably almost September. This time of year has always meant getting ready to go back to school, but now for the first time since I can remember the only significant change next month will bring will be closing up the chicken coop at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. Still, it’s been a very memorable past few months, and in the tradition of list-making, here are a few things that will always remind me of summer 2011.

  • Dahlias. Those dahlia catalogs your aunt has where the flowers look as though they can’t possibly be real? They are.
  • Sowing mustards with Prince blasting from the garden stereo. (I may have missed out on Prince my first 22 years of life, but boy am I catching up now…)
  • Blackadder. My childhood love for Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean (“Birdie num-nums!”) has been very much revived.
  • Mixtapes from Chromemusic.
  • Two-Buck Chuck. After tasting all the lovely $1.99 varieties alongside weeknight meals, I can safely say the Cab and Pinot Grigio are my favorites. Really, he should be paying me by now.
  • Camping.
  • Zucchini cake. Zucchini gratin. Zucchini lasagna. Zucchini fritters. Zucchini sauté. Zucchini cookies… you get the idea.
  • Watering. Three hours a day of watering. (See “mixtapes from Chromemusic”).
  • People sharing a homemade meal. Every so often (ok, almost every day) I glance through the WordPress stats that tell me how people come across my blog, and my favorite was someone finding a photo of us having dinner at the table outside the cottage after searching “people sharing a homemade meal.” It really doesn’t get better than that.


Shredded Chard Salad with Hard Boiled Egg and Walnuts

1 large bunch chard (10-12 leaves)

4 eggs


1/3 cup olive oil

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 Tbsp honey or jam

salt and pepper

Rinse the chard and remove the stalks by folding each leaf and slicing along the stem. Layer several leaves on top of each other and roll together, slicing the roll to create thin slivers. Toss the slivers together in a bowl.

To make perfect hard-boiled eggs, heat a saucepan of water to a gentle boil and slowly lower the eggs in. Cook for 11 minutes, then use a strainer to transfer the eggs from the boiling water into a bowl of ice water. Peel each egg under water, then set on a plate and mash with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

Make your dressing by combining the balsamic, mustard, and honey or jam. Whisk in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Combine chard, eggs, and walnuts, then toss with dressing and serve.

zucchini saute with corn and nopales

I’ve been on the farm for just shy of two months now, and I can probably count the times I’ve been off the property on two hands. (Maybe three, if we’re including runs to Trader Joe’s to replenish our compost toilet wine cellar).  I don’t have a car, but everyday life at Love Apple—working in the garden, swimming in the pool, eating groceries that magically appear at our apprentices’ cottage each Thursday—leaves little to desire. Another advantage to the self-contained lifestyle is that when you do get the chance to venture out, it’s a genuine thrill. Attending the roller derby bout in Santa Cruz last Saturday? I’ll admit it, I dressed up. And when, like yesterday, the field trip is spontaneous, it’s all the more exciting.

Especially when the destination is the Corralitos Gardens dahlia farm. Cynthia is a longtime lover of dahlias, and my first week on the farm we planted them along the main driveway with Milly, a feisty gardener in her 70s who has been saving tubers for decades. We have a few beautiful older specimens at Love Apple, but Corralitos Gardens was like stepping into one of Milly’s dahlia catalogs, where each flower seems to belong to a fantasy world. (With names like Carmen Bunky, Creekside Volcano, and Eden Barbarossa, how could they not?).

Of course all good field trips end with food, and ours was no exception. On our way back to the farm, dahlia blooms in hand, Cynthia took us by Mi Pueblo, an enormous Mexican market that featured chicken feet (in the cart of the woman in front of us), Mamey (a melon with bright orange, honey-sweet flesh), and Arroz con Leche paletas (my two favorite desserts—rice pudding and ice cream—combined to glorious effect). Back at the cottage we toasted with tamarind soda as Lisette made tortillas in our brand new tortilla press, and while we cooked our protein (mysteriously labeled “Al Pastor meat”) we still managed to throw in some love from the garden, with a sauté of zucchini, fresh corn, and nopales.

Zucchini Saute with Corn and Nopales

Nopales, the leaf-like pads of the prickly pear, add an element of the exotic to this veggie saute. Feel free to improvise with what you have–we have zucchini spilling out of every available large bowl in our kitchen, hence my recent slew of zucchini recipes.

3-4 nopales, peeled

1 large (or several smaller) zucchini, diced

2 ears of corn, shucked


Cholula hot sauce

salt and pepper

Boil the peeled nopales until tender, then set aside and cool before dicing into small pieces. Place the ears of corn in a 400 degree oven and grill, turning occasionally so all sides get nicely toasted. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, saute the diced zucchini in olive oil, then add the pieces of nopales. Take your grilled corn and cut the kernels off the cob, adding them to the saute as well. Season with salt, pepper, and Cholula, tasting for spiciness, and finish with a handful of chopped cilantro.

potato salad with blue cheese and lemon

I’ve loved magazines for as long as I can remember. Lately I’ve come to think of it more as a mild obsession—I’ve read them pressed against a stranger’s neck on the subway, crumpled in my tent at 11,000 ft., balanced precariously on the rim of the bathtub, and flat across my knees in crowded lecture halls. My choice of titles has been equally varied: when I went through every little girl’s requisite horse phase I acquired a series of pen pals through Young Rider, in middle school I made collages from my copies of National Geographic, and my dorm room in New York was filled with old stacks of Wired, Good Housekeeping, Vogue, The New Yorker, and Women’s Fitness.

My favorite magazines, though, were always the food ones. In high school I would get up half an hour early to sit at the kitchen table reading Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Food & Wine, perusing the feature spreads and dog-earing any recipes that looked promising. Ruth Reichl was my idol, and it was a secret dream of mine to work for Gourmet at the Conde Nast building in New York. In retrospect that dream was probably a large part of why I went to college in New York to begin with, and the fact that Gourmet folded my junior year is probably a large part of why I’m not still there.

The very first time I read a food magazine was a memorable occasion, if not for the circumstances then at least for the recipe I discovered. I was 11, on a trip with my family to spend the Fourth of July in Wisconsin, and my mother and I were wandering through an airport gift shop when the August issue of Bon Appetit caught our eye. The cover was commanded by close-up photo of blue cheese potato salad. I’d never had potato salad and I’d never read Bon Appetit, but it’s safe to say that two long and illustrious relationships began that day—one with the magazine and one with the potato salad I’ve since made countless times, twice in the past week. Today it’s safely bookmarked online in my recipe box, but when I’m home I still like to pull out our kitchen scrapbook, where pasted on a turquoise background is the same now faded page I read 11 years ago.

Potato Salad with Lemon and Blue Cheese

This version is adapted from the Bon Appetit recipe that can be found on, and as I discovered last week the quantities are easy to double (or triple, should you love cold potato salad as much as I do).

3 lbs small potatoes, quartered

2/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup red onions, chopped

2 Tbsp parsley

1/4 cup chives, chopped

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp lemon zest (plus juice from zested lemon)

3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

In a large pot, boil potatoes until tender but not quite falling apart. Whisk together the remaining ingredients (except for the blue cheese) to make a dressing that should look nice and thick, and pour over drained potatoes while they are still warm. Add crumbled blue cheese and toss gently (a little mashing of the potatoes is fine). Cover and refrigerate and serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.

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