Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Carolina Bison Empanadas

Versions of empanadas can be found across the globe, from Brazil to Ghana, ranging in size, shape, and seasoned fillings. Empanadas are fine finger food for socialites and working class alike in how easily they lend themselves to rushed blue collar schedules or cafe style lounging accompanied by wine or coffee.
Italy knows them as impanatas, stuffing the pastry with ingredients of the region such as mozzarella, eggplant and olives. Bolivia enjoys their version of the dish (saltenas), filled with potato, peas, hard boiled egg, or raisins. In Nigeria, empanadas are commonly filled with greens, carrots, beef or chicken.
During my stay, years ago, in Australia, I recall a version of empanadas, referred to locally as meat pies, stuffed with (you guessed it), various kinds of meats.
The World Cup has put me in a global state of mind, and I love how this dish, like futbol, unites so many regions.
Although it would be a challenge to classify empanadas as health food, if made with high quality ingredients and baked rather than thrown in the deep fryer, they really are lovely fare.
This local Carolina Bison version turned out brilliantly. Garden carrots, spinach, onion and a bit of blue cheese, really bring it all home.
If you have a party to attend, or just want to treat yourself, give this recipe a whirl. People have been doing such things, all over the world with much enjoyment for centuries.

Carolina Bison Empanadas: (makes about 12)
*1 cup organic AP flour
*1/4 cup organic whole wheat flour
*1/2 tsp. sea salt
*8 Tbsp cold, high quality unsalted butter, cubed
*3-4 Tbsp ice water

Blend dry ingredients in a food processor, or in a large mixing bowl. Add butter. Pulse. With blade running, slowly add the water, one Tbsp at a time, until dough forms. Turn out onto a floured work surface. Shape into a disk, wrap in parchment and place in freezer for approximately 15-20 minutes while preparing filling.

Filling: (amounts are approximate, play around)
*1 sweet onion, chopped
*1 carrot, diced
*1 celery stalk, diced
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*1/2-3/4 lbs. ground local bison
*1 small garden tomato, diced
*1 Tbsp dried oregano
*1/2 tsp mustard seeds
*1/8 cup dry red wine
*1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
*sea salt and pepper
*1 tsp. cumin
*3 cups fresh spinach leaves
*1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
*2-3 Tbsp blue cheese
*1 egg yolk
*splash of water

Saute onion, carrot and celery in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, until onions are translucent. Add garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add bison. Brown to medium rare before adding the tomato, oregano, mustard seed, red wine, balsamic vinegar, and cumin. Simmer briefly. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add spinach leaves. Allow to wilt and remove pan from heat. Stir in cilantro. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Preheat oven to 375.

Roll dough out on a floured work surface, to about 1/4''. Using a round biscuit cutter or the rim of a water glass, cut out as many circles as dough allows. Gently roll out each circle additionally to create a large enough surface for stuffing.
Working in batches, place about 2 Tbsp of filling to one side of each dough circle. Sprinkle with a small amount of blue cheese.

Fold dough over filling to create a pocket. Crimp rim of empanada with the back of a fork to seal sides together. Trim away excess dough to make a nice looking seal. Transfer to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Slash each empanada with a sharp knife to create small steam slits.
Whisk the egg yolk in a small bowl with a splash of water. Coat empanadas with egg wash using pastry brush.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until pastry is golden and beautiful. Allow to cool before sprinkling with additional chopped cilantro and serving.

Bon Appetit!
Guten Appetit!
Afiyet olsun!
Buon appetito!
Bon profit!
Bon pro'!
Dober tek!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gifts of Memory

Out of all the church services I attended in my youth, and the countless sermons delivered, I struggle to recall specific messages, (not to say they are not still with me in some shape or form). This strikes me as odd, because I can remember every single ingredient layered inside the soft breakfast burritos purchased at the local Mexican joint, Anita's, after church. Sitting quietly in a pew seemed to summon the deepest of hunger pangs. Whenever the last prayer was said, my mouth would begin to water in anticipation.
Anita's had a narrow breezeway entrance, with a pick-up window and a heat lamp beaming over a pyramid of wrapped burritos, for patrons looking to grab-and-go. One of us kids would run in and purchase a stack, sporting our Sunday best, making sure to remember little side cups of homemade salsa and sour cream. Those burritos completed church for me.

When guests come to visit, my favorite time to catch up is over shared meals. Two friends from Washington state graced me with their presence this past weekend, and we took time out to casually break bread together throughout their stay.
Before leaving, Sarah came through the door bearing her homemade zucchini pickles and hand packed albacore tuna, as a farewell token. The tuna was caught by a fisherman friend, which she carefully canned in olive oil with carrot sticks, to add a pleasing color. It was incredible, as were the unbelievable pickles! Gifts such as these bring me back to the phenomenon of memory. The details we remember, and those we let go of, are perhaps retained best by the flavors in which they ride in on.

Monday, June 28, 2010


With sugar snaps and snow peas all too soon fleeting, do yourself a favor and invite them in for one last dance, accompanied by gorgonzola and maybe a bit of candlelight.

Harvest peas. Remove tops. (If they are too far along to eat the whole thing, shell out the plump peas and continue). Heat a cast iron pan with a bit of butter. Saute peas for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add a generous sprinkling of blue cheese and chopped fresh basil. Serve as you bid your final farewells.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sea Salt Reflections

For the longest time, we were told to substitute butter for margarine, and restrict salt. Now butter is back, but salt still remains taboo in the typical American diet, and for good reason. The industry uses far too much of it, in a highly refined form, with dangerous additives, to make products taste good. This excess has resulted in wide-spread high blood pressure, potassium deficiency, and liver, kidney and heart disease. This is again a prime case for quality. Salt is actually a necessity in its natural form, a different food entirely form its commercial cousins.
It's fun looking to the science behind traditional foods, and rediscovering what our senses already know. Salt is irresistible for a reason.

Watching the BBC's Planet Earth series, I am always amazed by the footage of elephants voyaging into salt caves during the darkest hours of the night, to source the life giving mineral in droves. They have literally shaped the caves over generations of salt mining, with their powerful tusks. It's striking to see one of the world's most prehistoric animals making such a precise journey for salt, guided by nothing more than centuries of genetic code.

Our taste for salt is just as fierce. As discussed in the book Nourishing Traditions, and to quote author Sally Fallon; "Salt is essential to life, that is why we have salt taste buds. Without salt, we die. We need salt for protein digestion, carbohydrate digestion, adrenal function, cellular metabolism and brain development. Unrefined salt provides us with many trace minerals."

My very close friend Kelly, worked for years with the local company- Grain and Salt Society, introducing me to her favorite product, "Flower of the Ocean." This salt is without a doubt the most luxurious staple. Whisked into scrambled eggs, added to stocks, or even sprinkled over dark chocolate truffles, once you try this stuff you will never go back to regular table salt. And no, the company is not paying me to say this. Kelly recently gave me the sweetest salt box, (pictured above), which inspired today's reflections on this precious mineral. Thanks Kelly!

My former salt jar, which I purchased years and years ago, from an antique dealer's yard sale.

Another collection in the making. . .

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lavender Scones

I was gifted three large lavender plants earlier this spring, which had outgrown their former place in the garden. I was thrilled to be the recipient of the statuesque trio. Their prior home happens to be one of my favorite gardens in town, owned by two of my favorite people, whom I have been blessed to garden for. Bursting with aromatic, purple blooms, the bees at my place are happy about the transplant too.

These scones are in honor of June, a woman with enough generosity to pass along a piece of her garden to me, in addition to her consequential lesson of unwavering grace, in, and out of the garden. Thank you dear friend!

June's Lavender Scones:
*1 cup organic whole wheat flour
*1 cup organic AP flour
*2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
*pinch sea salt
*4 Tbsp cold unsalted high quality butter, cut into cubes
*2 fresh eggs
*1/2 cup fresh jersey milk
*7-10 lavender sprigs in full bloom

Preheat oven to 425.
Remove blooms from lavender sprigs. Pour milk in a small saucepan, and place over med/low heat. Stir in the lavender blooms. Heat gently, stirring often for about 10 minuets. Remove from heat. Pour milk through a strainer, pressing down firmly on blooms with the back of a spoon to gain every last drop. Allow milk to cool while completing remaining steps.

Mix the flours, baking powder and sea salt in a medium mixing bowl. Blend in the butter using fingertips. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in with a fork between each addition. Slowly pour in the cooled milk, adding just enough to form dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Gently, and briefly knead. Form into a disk and roll out to about one inch thickness.
Using a sharp floured knife, cut into triangles and transfer to a baking sheet. Top each scone with a few lavender flowers.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes until scones are golden. Cool slightly before serving with local honey and tea.

Monday, June 21, 2010


A visiting gem of a sister, with a love for the color purple, inspired this harvest. Rather than dig up the Yukon golds, I went for the purples and reds in her honor. Taken by the color while rinsing each tuber, Becky decided to put a little of her love into the mashed dish which followed. Simply whipped with Seven Stars yogurt, the blended array of colors reminded us of childhood's pastels.

Becky's Whipped Garden Potatoes:
*A bunch of early potatoes, rinsed
*plain whole yogurt and butter for whipping
*sea salt and pepper to taste
*1 clove of pressed garlic, optional.

Boil whole potatoes, with skins, in a large pot of salted water until tender. (Boiling potatoes whole keeps them from absorbing water and becoming water logged, for a creamier outcome).
Strain and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Using a potato masher or electric mixer, whip potatoes with butter, yogurt, salt, pepper and garlic, adjusting portions to your liking. Share with a special sibling/friend.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rye Berry Salad

Give me a second to explain. I am not one of these people obsessed with health to the point of eating bird food in hopes of achieving some sort of constitutional zen. I realize I am a human, with outstanding daily needs, unsatisfied by a rice cake, (far from health food in actuality). That said, there are times when a well prepared whole grain or two, really hits the spot. Roasted local chicken, toasted cashews, fresh basil, market mushrooms, snap peas and perfectly cooked rye berries, make a hearty meal for health nuts and old school eaters alike. I promise.

Rye Berry Salad:
*2 cups organic dry rye berries (or favorite whole grain)
*1 medium sweet onion, chopped
*1 1/2 cups market mushrooms of your choosing, rinsed and chopped
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*2 cups freshly harvested snow peas or sugar snaps
*4 Tbsp butter
*10 basil leaves, chopped
*1 cup leftover roasted chicken (optional)
*1/8 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
*sea salt and pepper
*1/4 cup toasted cashews for garnish
*chopped chives for garnish

*Rinse rye berries. Place in a large bowl with enough lukewarm water to cover grains, and add 1 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice. Cover with a kitchen towel and soak overnight. In the morning, strain grains, rinse and repeat. This process is very important for digestibility, and only takes a few active minutes of prep. Rye should be slightly sprouted after about 24 hours of soaking.*
Rinse soaked rye berries well. Place in a large pot and cover with ample water, adding a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rye berries are tender and plump, about 1 hour.
Strain off excess water and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Place 1 Tbsp butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion. Saute until clear and aromatic. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and peas. Saute until tender, adding salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add to rye.

Toss in the basil, chicken *optional, and lemon juice. Melt the additional 3 Tbsp butter, and toss thoroughly into grain mixture. Adjust seasonings. Serve in pretty bowls and garnish with cashews and chives.

*Rye does contain gluten. If seeking a gluten free version, try brown rice or quinoa, using 2 parts water to 1 part grain.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beet Stacks

Lately, I have been on a bit of a local chevre streak, (as you may have noticed). I consider local, hand crafted cheese a true treat, and goat cheese is special in how easily it pairs with just about everything. It is also easy to digest in comparison to other pasteurized cheeses, due to the lack of homogenization (most often applied to milk from cows to distribute fat). Additionally, goat milk is made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCT's), rather than long chain triglycerides, requiring fewer steps and enzymes during the process of digestion.
So, maybe I have gotten a little heavy handed, (and long winded to boot), but keep this recipe in mind when you have a summer party to attend. It makes for the greatest little nibble.

Beet Stacks:
*As many beets as you like, in various sizes and colors
*enough chevre for layering
*small beet leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut away beet greens (save for another application), and rinse roots. Place beets on the lined baking sheet and roast until tender, time will vary depending on size. Pierce thickest portion of beet with a fork to check for tenderness. When it goes in without the slightest protest, remove beets from oven.

Cool completely before peeling away skins. Slice with a very sharp knife into 1/4 inch rounds. Place a small amount of goat cheese between beet slices to make little stacks. Press down on the top of each stack to encourage the cheese to emerge slightly from between the layers. Garnish each stack with a little beet green.
Try and assemble shortly before serving, as the color from the beets will bleed into cheese. If you don't mind this colorful merger, stacks can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

*Serve with a napkin

This post is linked to Kelly The Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday Blog Carnival. Check it out. It's a great place to find real food recipes!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Baked Whole Trout with Lemon and Rosemary

A nice creek flows near my house, but the biggest fish I have spotted are minnows. If I had to catch my meals from its waters, I would need to work in steady shifts to net enough for dinner. Plus, I haven't really developed a taste for minnows. Trout on the other hand, is about as good as eating gets.
Harvested from the clean mountain waters of East Fork Farm the day before market, and baked with lemon, butter and rosemary, this fish was able to exit the stage with a graceful bow. The audience applauded.

Baked Whole Trout with Lemon and Rosemary: (Serves 2)
*1 whole fresh trout, cleaned and rinsed
*2 sprigs fresh rosemary
*1/2 lemon, sliced
*1 clove garlic, minced
*2 Tbsp butter
*sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking dish with parchment. Place fish in dish. Arrange 3 lemon slices, 1 sprig rosemary, 1 Tbsp butter and half of the minced garlic inside fish.

Divide the second tablespoon of butter and place on top of the trout, with additional rosemary, garlic, sea salt and pepper. Scatter a few leftover slices of lemon in dish. Bake for about 15-20 minutes (time will vary depending on thickness of fish), or until all the way cooked through but not over done. Serve on a platter with fresh sauteed veggies or a large salad.

Remove bones before eating. You can reserve these (and head) for stock.

*Omega 3 fatty acids are not manufactured by the body, but are essential to human health. Taking in omega 3 rich foods, such as trout, has been proven to protect against a number of ailments, including:
*Heart disease
*High LDL cholesterol levels
*Bowel and colon cancer
*Inflammation/inflammatory diseases
*Blood clots
Trout is also a wonderful source of vitamin A, B3 (niacin), B6, B9 (folate), B12, selenium, iron, protein, and phosphorus.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Miniature Delights

I don't even know his last name, but I've been acquainted with Frank for years, (Let It Grow Organic Gardens). My first job upon moving to town was with Laurey's Catering. Across from the shop on Wednesday afternoons, farmer's market was held. Frank would skip across the street with a box full of impressive little squashes for the walk-in cooler. A collective peek into the box would prompt plenty of oohing and ahhing from us shop gals. What is it about little versions of regular sized things?
I have since moved on from Laurey's, but Frank is still master of the mini squash trade, (and much, much more), offering his fragile harvest at the nearby neighborhood market. I still geek out on the tiny, early squash. They are so sweet displayed in a beautiful shallow basket with their little blooms attached. An absolute treat to eat and first tender preview to summer's unfolding abundance. Thanks Frank, for years of such precious, miniature delights.

Sauteed Young Squash with Goat Cheese Stuffed Blossoms:
*A pile of young assorted squashes, some with blossoms attached
*1/2 cup goat cheese
*1 vidalia onion, sliced
*2-3 Tbsp butter
*sea salt and pepper

Gently rinse squashes. Slice off the blossoms. Heat butter in a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add onion. Reduce heat to med/low. Saute until soft. Add the squashes, stirring often. Salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, place goat cheese in the corner of a ziplock bag. Cut off the corner tip of bag with scissors. Pipe a small amount into each blossom, twisting blossom top to close. Transfer onion and squash to a serving dish with a slotted spoon. Set aside. Place stuffed blossoms in pan, turning gently to briefly brown each side. Remove from pan and place on top of sauteed squash. Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Natural Wonders

Glitches happen all the time. Little shifts in natural systems. Hiccups of normalcy, usually to small to take notice. Some however, are blatant, and impossible to ignore.

When I opened the hen house door to collect the daily offering, I witnessed a natural wonder. One of our hens laid an unusually gigantic egg. I had to dedicate a whole post to it, simply due to it's size.
Behold. . . .


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Swiss Chard Strata

Strata, born from the word stratum, defines "a horizontal layer of material, especially one of several parallel layers arranged one on top of another." Commonly used to reference the many layers of the earth's crust, strata is occasionally borrowed to describe a special dish made with eggs and various fillings. Egg strata's are unique in how easily they lend themselves to a wide range of ingredients. Swiss chard from the garden, sweet onion, raw milk colby, and leftover locally made challah layer beautifully with whisked egg.
Although I have great respect for the sharp minds excited by geology, the strata I am most fascinated by is the one emitting savory perfume from just beyond the oven door.

Swiss Chard Strata: (feeds a crowd)
*10 fresh eggs
*1 1/2 cups fresh (raw if possible) milk
*1 bunch swiss chard (about 10 leaves with stalks), chopped
*1 medium sweet onion, chopped
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*2 Tbsp buttter
*3 thick slices of chullah, or other bread, cubed
*1/2 cup shaved parmesan or raw milk colby
*10 basil leaves, chopped
*sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9x13 inch cassarole dish.
Place 1 Tbsp butter in skillet over medium heat. Saute onions until clear and translucent. Add garlic and bread cubes. Lightly salt and pepper. Saute several minutes. Place in the buttered casserole dish.

Return the pan to heat adding the additional Tbsp of butter. Stir in the chard. Saute for about 2 minutes before adding to the bread and onion mixture in casserole dish. Toss with hands, adding the chopped basil. Sprinkle with parmesan or colby.

Whisk together the eggs and milk. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Pour egg mixture over contents of dish. Place on the middle rack of oven and bake until golden, about 30-40 minutes.

Cool slightly before slicing and serving with fresh garden greens.

*Makes great leftovers!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Soft Shell Crab

My friend Megan introduced me to a few life changing things. First and foremost, my husband Jason. Secondly, the method of barbecuing a whole chicken while camping in the pouring rain, and finally, the unyielding pleasure of soft shell crab.

After vacationing together (years ago) with some friends at her family's place on Cumberland Island, we stepped off the ferry sun kissed and rested to begin the long journey home. As we finished packing the car, Megan was no where to be found. I scanned the parking lot. We waited. Minutes later she emerged from the nearby seafood shack, with a brown paper bag in her hand and a smile fit for a queen.

Once home, Megan wasted zero time tending to the brown bag. Within it awaited a pile of fresh soft shell crabs nestled in ice. She prepared them so swiftly I barely saw her move. When she motioned me over to the plate of cooked crabs and held one out, I hesitated; "You just eat the whole thing?" She nodded, still smiling. Noticing my timidness, she wisely persuaded, "Just close your eyes and eat it!" I did. And I will never be the same person. In the blind moment between plate and mouth, soft shell crabs instantly soared to the top of my "favorite foods" list. They remain there to this day. No other flavor compares. I shudder to imagine a life without soft shell crabs, and wise friends with a knack for introductions.

Sauteed Soft Shell Crab:
*As many (live) soft shell crabs as you have
*equal parts high quality cornmeal and flour (or just cornmeal) for dredging
*1-2 eggs, beaten
*ample butter for the pan

Whisk egg in a small bowl. Clean crabs (for photo instructions on cleaning, follow this link). Mix the flour and cornmeal in a shallow dish or large bowl. Dunk the crabs in the beaten egg. Dredge in flour/cornmeal mixture, coating every surface. Place crabs in a preheated cast iron pan over medium/low heat, with plenty of butter. Cover for about 1 minute. Remove cover. Cook for another minute before flipping and browning opposite side using same method. Do not over cook.
Eat straight away without hesitation. . . .with or without eyes open!

*Annemarie Colbin PH.D, founder of the Natural Gourmet Institute, reminds us in her recent book: The Whole Food Guide to Strong Bones, about the importance of calcium rich foods. Included in her list of animal sources rich in bioavailable calcium and other abundant bone building minerals, are soft shell crabs! Good news for those of us who can't get enough of this seasonal delicacy.