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Posts tagged ‘greens’

spring salad with asparagus, feta, and soft-boiled eggs

There are days when, despite all your efforts, someone else just says it better. Today happens to be one of those, and so I give you… a poem and a recipe.

Black Oaks

Okay, not one can write a symphony, or a dictionary,
or even a letter to an old friend, full of remembrance
and comfort.

Not one can manage a single sound, though the blue jays
carp and whistle all day in the branches, without
the push of the wind.

But to tell the truth after a while I’m pale with longing
for their thick bodies ruckled with lichen

and you can’t keep me from the woods, from the tonnage
of their shoulders, and their shining green hair.

Today is a day like any other: twenty-four hours, a
little sunshine, a little rain.

Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight from
one boot to another—why don’t you get going?

For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees.

And to tell the truth I don’t want to let go of the wrists
of idleness, I don’t want to sell my life for money,
I don’t even want to come in out of the rain.

Mary Oliver

Spring Salad with Asparagus, Feta and Soft-Boiled Egg

I made this for myself as a satisfying spring lunch, but feel free to double the ingredients to serve as a colorful salad with dinner.

1 egg

1 small head of tender green lettuce

5 stalks of asparagus

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 squeeze lemon juice

1 Tbsp. honey

1 small handful fresh parsley or cilantro leaves, finely chopped

olive oil

1 2-inch cube of feta, crumbled

salt & pepper

To soft-boil the egg, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and gently lower in the egg. Simmer for 6-8 minutes (depending on whether your egg is smallish or rather large) then remove and place immediately in a small bowl of ice water. Peel underwater and carefully slice into quarters.

Arrange the leaves from your head of lettuce to make a nice nest on your plate. Cut your raw asparagus stalks into one-inch pieces and scatter over the lettuce. Whisk together the balsamic, lemon juice, honey and fresh herbs, then slowly add olive oil, whisking and adding until the dressing reaches your desired thickness. Sprinkle the dressing over the salad, then crumble feta on top and nestle in your egg quarters. Finish with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

lemony basil dressing with honey and pepper

The mustards are my babies.

I’m not one for baby talk, I assure you. (My sister might shake her head and remind me of an ill-fated high school relationship, but “babe” will never pass my lips again). I don’t refer to pets as babies—cuteness notwithstanding—and even babies themselves get little more than an indulgent smile, usually for the parent’s benefit. My nano-pet died as many times as it achieved virtual heaven, and the only thing I find irresistibly cute is the Squishable I have asked for the past three Christmases (with no results—I’m looking at you Rae).

The mustards aren’t cute in any sense of the word. By mustards I mean the mustard greens we grow for the restaurant—Mizuna, Purple Mizuna, Golden Frill, and Red Frizzle—and like babies, they require an enormous amount of attention: several flats of each variety must be sowed weekly, harvested bi-weekly, and watered daily. Since it takes roughly a month from sow-date to harvest-ready they span half the greenhouse, a quilt of green and red in various states of maturity.

There’s always so much to do in garden that with our ever-increasing task list and rotating schedules it’s rare for one person to see a process through in its entirety. I may pull zucchini from a bed that Christine amends and Ross shapes and Phillip plants out and Adam harvests from, a cycle that can take anywhere from several weeks to several months. With the mustards, though, it makes more sense for one person to oversee their care and cultivation, so as to gauge how much is needed of each variety and what quantities of sowing and harvesting are necessary to meet the restaurant’s needs. When Ellen left that job fell to me, and within a few weeks I was smitten. How could I not be, watching their little shoots pushing determinedly up from the growers mix or clipping mature, frilly bunches I imagine are my own personal contribution to the restaurant?

In sowing what I think the restaurant will need in four weeks’ time I do happen to miscalculate (just two bunches of Purple Mizuna this week? Impossible!) and a few weeks ago we had ourselves a mustard glut. While the restaurant uses them to make the Garden Beignets I wrote about a little while back, they are amazingly good as a simple salad with a great vinaigrette or a light and lemony dressing. I’d never been much good at making dressings (my family has come to expect a last-minute oil-and-balsamic splash on my salads) but I recently learned a trick that makes any dressing deliciously creamy. The key is to make your flavor profile first—the vinegar, mustard, honey, lemon, etc.—then slowly add your oil while whisking constantly. It works every time, and when we gathered for a low-key farm dinner in the gardening classroom one rainy night and I had to make do with what was there, I found that even the simplest ingredients—lemon, honey, pepper, basil and oil—can become something rich and wonderful.

Lemony Basil Dressing with Honey and Pepper

1 lemon, juiced

handful fresh basil, finely chopped


black pepper


canola oil

In a small bowl whisk lemon juice, basil, honey, pepper, and salt, tasting as you go and adding a bit more of whichever ingredient is needed to reach your desired balance of tart and sweet (dressing making is very much about personal taste and intuition, so it’s actually easier to taste rather than going with exact amounts). When you have the perfect balance, add the oil by pouring into the bowl very slowly with one hand while whisking constantly with the other. Keep up the slow pouring/whisking action until your dressing thickens and looks creamy in texture, then dress your salad and enjoy!

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.

garden beignets

It was 6:15 on a foggy Friday morning and there I was, crouched over an orange bucket with my hand plunged up to the elbow in icy water mixed with ground quartz. Next to me Zach and Ross knelt hand-stirring the mixture in their buckets, and eight other apprentices and farm staff stood silently around us waiting their turn, Cynthia holding the cow horn in which the quartz had been buried for six months. We were completing the final stage of biodynamic prep 501, a soil preparation used in the biodynamic system of farming that Love Apple is committed to following. The preparation is stirred and applied at dawn, when the light filtering through the morning clouds can illuminate the quartz mixture as it is sprayed above the plants in the garden.

Biodynamics is the agricultural practice developed by philosopher Rudolf Steiner, and while creating preparations for soil health out of stuffed cow horns and intestines may seem strange to some, when Cynthia told us the quartz prep had to be stirred clockwise and counter-clockwise for an hour to combine order and chaos, it made sense. In the past two months I’ve been on the farm I’ve acutely felt the balance of order and chaos in my life—the order of milking the goats each morning, eight-hour farm days, and sitting around the kitchen table each night, and the chaos of being thrown into a new place and life where you live, work, eat, and drink with an ever-shifting group of people. At 6:45 that morning as we stirred, Ellen—the baby of our group at 19, the greenhouse pro from Maine who’s been here seven months—quietly went round and said her goodbyes, and we were still stirring as she left the garden for the last time. That afternoon we saw off Tory, a two-week volunteer from Manresa who made us breakfast sandwiches and seemed to always have been here, and this week we say goodbye to Phillip, our constant source of new music (listen to this) and amazing grilled food. There’s order and chaos in all relationships, and in life, Cynthia said softly as we continued to stir, and it made me realize that letting go of people who’ve become such good friends—both on the farm and off it—is a chaos that’s never easy to be prepared for.

Part of spraying the soil prep is investing it with energy and positive thought, so as I misted our quartz mixture over the garden beds I decided I would do just that. I thought of the night before, when Tory made Manresa’s famous garden beignets for farm dinner while we laughed as everyone at the table had to put on their best foreign accent. I thought of Ellen and Tory and Phillip, the things they’ll go on to do  in college and culinary school and landscape architecture, and then I thought of all my other apprentice friends, the people they are now and the people they’ll be after they leave. I thought of people I love outside the farm, friendships I’ve let lapse as I’ve become more rooted here. Did I feel a little bit corny? You bet. But when I was done I felt as though a bit more order had been restored to the chaos that  always comes with saying goodbye.

Manresa’s Garden Beignets

The recipe for these delicious savory beignets was just added to the Bon Appetit website as a part of the story on Love Apple and Manresa in the August issue. They are absolutely amazing, and having made them every night at the restaurant for the past few months Tory was an expert. They may look tricky, but don’t worry–the process is actually not as intimidating as it may seem, and the results are well worth the effort. Enjoy!

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