Monday, February 27, 2012

Cream of Broccoli Soup



Green soup may not be everybody's idea of a good time, but this one may surprise even the most wary.

Cream of Broccoli Soup:
*2 tablespoons unsalted butter
*1 medium onion, chopped or 2 large leeks (white and light green parts only, rinsed and chopped)
*2 celery ribs, rinsed and chopped
*2-3 medium gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*sea salt and pepper
*2-3 large broccoli crowns, rinsed and chopped
*4 cups chicken stock
*1 cup whole milk
*1/2 cup cream

In a heavy soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion or leeks, celery, and potato. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until soft. Add garlic and broccoli. Cook for about 4 minutes before adding the chicken stock. Cover and simmer until all ingredients are very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour in milk and cream. Working in batches, puree in a food processor or blend until smooth with an immersion blender.
Return to pot and heat. Serve with a sprinkle of hard cheese.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pastured Leg of Lamb with French Lentils

Is it just me, or is chicken getting a little boring? The only way I really like it these days is roasted whole, in a very hot oven so the skin gets crispy and locks in its relatively meager juices. To be fair, I truly enjoy pulling a whole bird from the oven and sneaking the oysters when no one is looking and I rely heavily on the bones for good stock, but most all other applications are beginning to summon yawns from this direction. Chicken is good if you like to get your protein quota but would possibly like to ignore the fact that you are eating meat. Let's be honest here- it's the blank-slate white meat, cloaking itself in whatever flavor you pair it with. Lamb on the other hand, couldn't be more opposite. It's flavor demands attention. Never would you eat a dish containing lamb and overlook it. Lamb makes its presence known, and this I like. It has a way of making an ordinary day of cooking seem exotic; its earthy aromatics transporting me to a far off place. The Mediterranean perhaps?
Lamb is special, maybe because it is not yet over played, or maybe because it is for real carnivores. What's wrong with a little exclusivity? I enjoy thinking I am not just like 90% of all other American households when dinner time rolls around.
Another plus? Lamb meat is very good for you. Other than its benefits as a protein source, pastured lamb is high in iron, omega 3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and zinc, as well as a whole host of other important trace minerals.
Unhurriedly surrendering itself to fall-off-the-bone tenderness, this slow cooked leg of lamb served with french lentils was easily the highlight of my week. I must take a moment to thank the folks at East Fork Farm for yet another memorable meal. Yes, yes, it is good to be alive!

Pastured Leg of Lamb with French Lentils: (serves 4)
*1 pastured leg of lamb
*1 large onion, chopped
*2 cups french lentils (soaked in water with a splash of vinegar overnight)
*2 tablespoons butter
*2 carrots, chopped
*2 celery ribs, chopped
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*sea salt
*fresh ground black pepper

Rinse leg of lamb and place in a crock pot or cookware fitted with a lid. Cover lamb with water. Add half of the chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper. Bring liquid to a boil then reduce setting to a simmer (if slow cooking on the stovetop in alternative cookware, reduce heat to lowest setting). Slow cook all day (at least 6 hours or longer). Extinguish heat and start on the lentils.

Drain lentils from soaking liquid and rinse. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until onions are translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
Skim fat from the top of the lamb cooking liquid. Ladle aproxametly 5 cups of the cooking liquid into the saucepan. Add the lentils. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Serve with lamb.
Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Colorado: Where the Wild Things Are


Another trip to my home state provided a reminder of my love for wild game. My father and brother Ben are enthusiastic sportsmen, and take great pride in stocking the family freezer. My sister-in-law tamed our rowdy crowd with her notorious elk meatloaf served with garden carrots (she blanches and freezes them whole) tossed with pineapple (I will be copying this idea) and buttered wild rice.
Ben is still enjoying the art of jerky, (read about it here) and has sharpened his technique beyond further improvement. The goose jerky he pulled warm from the dehydrator was so tender it barely put up a fight before melting directly onto my tongue, revealing a perfect sweet and spicy marinade.
Before returning to the east coast, we were bid farewell with grilled antelope steaks. Ben noted that the sweet flavor is due to the absence of sage in the antelope diet, it's meat leavened by prairie grass only.
I was raised eating this way, and earnestly appreciate the nostalgia. Breaking bread with family is special. Breaking bread with family whom still take to the mountains to put meals on the table is even more so. I have never been so fully fed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Gingered Creamed Carrots

Mid February. I am guessing a fair share of butternuts, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes have already graced your table. Maybe you are starting to get creative, tucking winter squash into every nook and cranny of your culinary genius; roasted, boiled, baked and souped. In all the fuss, you may have overlooked the humble carrot, holding it down like a quiet anchor in the shadows of your produce drawer. The bright sweetness of these whipped roots is a welcome retreat from the usual suspects. And, since we could all use a little extra vitamin C to get us through the final stretch of cold weather, this dish is right on time. Fresh ginger rises above butter and cream to bring all the flavors tenderly together.
Spring is just around the corner.

Gingered Creamed Carrots:
*10 organic carrots, peeled and chopped
*2 tablespoons high quality butter
*whole milk, half and half or cream for whipping (raw if possible)
*1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
*sea salt

Place chopped carrots in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover carrots. Bring to a boil over high heat. Slightly reduce heat, and gently boil until carrots are tender. Strain.
Place carrots in a food processor fitted with a blade.* Add butter and blend. With blade running, slowly add cream until carrots become smooth. Add ginger and sea salt to taste.
Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Recipe for Valentine's: Heart Beets


At a farm party years ago, my friend Susie stood over a plate of roasted beets cutting out heart shaped bites with a paring knife. Her fingers were deeply stained and hauntingly beautiful. She called them heart beets.
This is my favorite Valentine's day side dish, sprinkled with flaky sea salt and served with herbed chevre. Since early Roman times, the juice of beets has been considered an aphrodisiac, so ditch the libido-suppressing cupcakes and go savory.

Heart Beets:
*4-5 red beets, un-peeled
*olive oil for roasting
*sea salt
*herbed chevre

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Wash beets. Cut each beet in half and place on baking sheet. Toss with olive oil to coat.
Roast until a fork can easily pierce through beet flesh. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Peel off skins.
Slice beets 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Using a paring knife, cut beet slices into heart shapes. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with chevre.
Enjoy!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Weekend on East Fork Farm








To celebrate my husband's birthday, we decided it was time to get out of town. We have been wanting to explore the guest cottages on one of our favorite farms since they were built a few years ago, but hadn't pulled it together until now. It was by far the best mini-vacation in ages. The cedar hot tub was a true highlight, overlooking the gorgeous Blue Ridge mountains and pastures. Each sunrise and sunset was taken in while soaking and sipping local coffee or the evening's nightcap.
Though January may seem like a strange time to vacation in the mountains, we were lucky enough to be on the farm while the ewes were lambing, giving us a chance to visit with the fresh little babes. They are the most endearing creatures on earth.

(visiting with a runt in need of some warmth by the Robertson's wood stove)

We have been enjoying meats and eggs from East Fork Farm for years, and relished this opportunity to see the grounds. Stephen and Dawn Robertson set a new standard for sustainable agriculture, inspiring guests like us to overachieve with grace. Their hospitable nature was in every detail of our stay.
Last evening we enjoyed one of their chickens with new insight. Animal husbandry is no dream-boat livelihood; full of sweat and tears, and hardly affords a true break, but is it something some are driven to do by an unspoken force. We are proud to know such lovely folks, fortunate to partake in the fruits of their labors, and have such fond memories from our stay.


*For you locals, check out East Fork Farm guest cottages by visiting www.eastforkfarm.net.
Read the full article on our stay in the Mountain Xpress.