Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad

The cashier withdrew the receipt he had been pushing towards me. He skimmed it with a puzzled look on his face, searching for an error. “I guess it’s right. I just didn’t expect your order to cost that much money.”

“Consider it my super power,” I responded, grinning through the sinking feeling.

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

As I pulled into the driveway, the neighbor boy dangled from a tree, his summer tan nearly camouflaged by the bark of the shady branches. “Where did you go?” he pried.

“To the grocery store,” I responded in the general direction of the tree.

“That’s all you got?” he asked in disbelief.

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Debby Downer from the adjacent house probably judged me silently behind a curtain, as I schlepped my “meager” quantity of groceries to my third floor abode. Fortunately, the dog was eager to encounter beef cubes and minty sticks, so she put up little protest to my apparent failure.

I get it! I spend a lot of money on food.

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

However, with hormones, GMOs, pesticides and God knows what else being injected in our food, it’s hard not to spend excess money on what should be the simple act of eating and feeding those we love. Thus, I justify these expenses as health insurance or better yet, preventative care.

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fortunately, this summer’s ingredients have been boosted by the Urban Farmer’s efforts. Contrary to popular belief, we haven’t been swimming in vegetables, with the majority of the harvest making its way to the CSA members. However, late July and August have been kind to us, especially on the juicy tomato front!

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com
Flowering okra attracted a bee.

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer and I recently hosted friends on the farm, and that Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm was the first time I had to do very little shopping to prepare a meal for a gathering. Not only was it refreshing to celebrate the farm as a beautiful piece of land with a spectacular view of the downtown skyline, but it was refreshing to celebrate all the farm has produced recently like these exquisite beets…

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Each slice into the beets revealed a different fuchsia intensity and pattern worth painterly strokes, but most importantly, roasting revealed a tender, flavorful bite, complemented by smoky sea salt and subtly sweet coconut oil.

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Beets, cucumbers, tomatoes and mint- all from the farm- became one colorful, healthy, flavorful, juicy salad to celebrate the farmers, the fruits of their labors and the height of summer. There were very few groceries, and there was no one critiquing my food-buying habits. It was a win-win scenario. Harvest or hop to the farmers’ market, and snag these beauties while the season allows.

Single-Grain

-Quelcy

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Farm Fresh Mint Pesto (Vegan & Gluten Free)

I’m not one of those foodies who spends hours in front of The Food Network. My only bond with cooking shows was during my nannying stint in Paris, when I watched to learn more French and inspire my menus. The tv personalities solidified my understanding of the words butter, cream, more butter and more cream. Yet, like a foreigner attempting to swear in a second language, I pretend I have enough understanding to reference the Iron Chef in social settings.

Farm Fresh Mint Pesto (Vegan & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

What [I think] I know is there is a secret ingredient, and several talented chefs must scramble to highlight that ingredient in an out-of-this-world way. My understanding of the rules and personalities stops there, but I do mentally play my own version of this challenge from time to time. In Iron Quelcy (if you will)I select an ingredient to feature in a menu, incorporating that ingredient into each element of the meal, from the cocktails, to the main course, to the dessert. The challenge is for the ingredient to be a common thread through the meal, not an overwhelming, blanketing flavor that in the end feels like eating one big bowl of mush.

Farm Fresh Mint Pesto (Vegan & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

For our most recent dinner on the farm, the star ingredient was mint, which grows rampantly in these parts. Most often associated with sweet leanings, the true brainstorm was using mint in savory ways. First up: Mint Pesto! Akin to a traditional basil pesto, this minty version has kicks of lemon and garlic contrasted by the sweet, cooling mint associations. It pairs well with grilled vegetables (we used eggplant, onions & zucchini), as a crostini spread, or wherever you would typically apply pesto. Give it a whirl, and stay tuned for more results of my self-imposed mint challenge.

Single-Grain

-Quelcy

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Roasted & Raw Summer Salsa with Farm Fresh Ingredients

There’s a lot of time to think when watering an acre of organic heirloom vegetables. I took a few turns with the hose while the farmer was busy with bees and helping other green thumbs and good hearts. I tried to embrace the effects of the sunshine, forming some sort of mental reserve for the gray winter months ahead, but mostly, my mind just wandered wildly… until I reached the tomatoes. The tomatoes transfixed me.

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

If the color green had a smell, it would be the smell of water hitting tomatoes on the vine. As the water arched from the hose and rainbows formed in the mist, that aroma conjured a nostalgic mix of the purest, happiest moments of summers past. BLT’s eaten on the porch swing, my parents in the garden and dinners featuring simple plates of tomato slices were all alive in that scent. That moment was the tip of the tomato iceberg. They were still growing, still sweetening, still changing colors, but shortly thereafter, the tomatoes poured into our kitchen!

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

In the height of tomato season, I feel wrong bringing heat to a tomato (or rather, the juicy, sweet, fresh tomatoes never make it to heat, since I eat them like candy). Those reservations, however, change abruptly when staring at wooden crate after wooden crate of tomatoes- 75 lbs of tomatoes to be exact!

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

This salsa is a perfect marriage of raw and roasted, where nutrients and flavors mix in each symbiotic scoop of the tortilla chip. The skillet of farm-fresh vegetables intensifies in flavor after roasting, then adds thick, flavorful chunks to a raw tomato puree. If only the American political system could find the unity this salsa achieves!

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

Like my mind while watering, this recipe is fluid, and it’s easily changed based on the seasonal offerings. If your garden or farmer’s market is brimming with scallions and red peppers, throw those in the skillet. Peppers are the next flavorful flood, with the Urban Farmer’s rainbow growing richer by the day, so perhaps your version will feature even more chunks of blistered peppers.

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

Much like trying to soak up a reserve of sunshine, I thought this salsa might bring us bites of summer when the skies turn gray and cold, but both acts of preservation are proving to be impossible. The combination of corn chips and salsa creates a disappearing act like no other, but perhaps the vines will bestow enough bounty for a second batch.

Single-Grain

¡Buen Provecho!
-Quelcy

Roasted & Raw Garden Fresh Summer Salsa

About this Recipe: Use the images above as a guide for quantities, but feel free to make substitutions for the roasted ingredient choices. Use whatever summer vegetables are in season and abundant. Try green onions instead of yellow, or different hot peppers instead of jalapeño. 

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CSA Recipe: Roasted Crookneck Squash with Lamb, Yogurt & Dill

There’s so much to learn about these foods we eat: what they look like as seeds, how they first sprout through the ground, how their leaves change during their infancy, how they put so much energy into a beautiful bloom and then attempt to spread their seeds. Carrot seeds are tiny and iridescent. Okra leaves boast dark, burgundy veins and patterns. Rainbow chard just keeps on giving. Cilantro flowers could fill a bouquet subtly, much like baby’s breath, while squash blossoms would sing dramatically but for a fleeting moment.

Hazelwood Urban Farms in July

I’ve only just begun to understand the connections between flowers and the foods we eat, how we often have to sacrifice the alluring blooms in order to arrive at the food on our plates. The Urban Farmer plucked the first crepe-paper-like squash blossoms to conserve the plant’s energy for food production. As the broad, leafy greens emerged like a tropical forest cover, the female blooms grew again and gave way to the crookneck squashes. Those first signs of yellow and green meant the flood gates had been released. Summer squashes are in full swing, and there’s no looking back!

Sunset at Hazelwood Urban Farms

The Urban Farmer’s CSA recipients have received three weeks of crookneck squashes. If you frequent your local farmer’s market, you too have probably begun to see squashes and zucchinis, growing larger by the week. Once these gourds start, they don’t seem to stop, so it’s time to be creative, lest we be bored by the bounty.

Crookneck Squash Recipe by With The Grains 01

I like to imagine eating these squash boats by the glassy blue Mediterranean Sea, where the adjacent cliffs are speckled with the white, building-block homes, where old grandmas prepare traditional meals for hours. These squash boats are merely an interpretation of that distant cuisine, a way to savor the fragrant dill, its flowers and dollops of thick, tangy Greek yogurt.

Crookneck Squash Recipe by With The Grains 02

For this dish to taste its best, be sure to find local celery, local dill and local squashes (or zucchinis). Once you take a bite of crisp, locally grown celery, the store-bought version seems like eating a rice cake when you could be feasting on a pastry! The celery greens not only make a fanciful garnish, but they add a lot of flavor too. Chop them up and mix them into each bite. Take advantage of the here and now of squashes, herbs and stalky greens. Let your mind wander to the seaside, to summer breezes, to the bluest blues above the mountains and to the glassy waves washing onto your toes.

Single-Grain

Bon voyage & Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

Roasted Crookneck Squash with Quinoa, Lamb & Greek Yogurt

About This Recipe: Spelled out, this recipe looks complicated, but let the above images be your guide. Now is the time when squash flows, so take advantage and tweak this recipe several different ways. Use a zucchini instead of squash, or brown rice instead of quinoa. The idea is flexible. I used lamb because I was dreaming of Greek food, but you could use ground beef or chicken or even a seafood option.

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Kohlrabi Greens for a Farm Fresh Juice

The commercial, food photographers, with whom I work as a food stylist, will look at the photos in this post and think I’ve lost my marbles. Combined, we are a grocery store’s pain in the ass. We nitpick and fondle every, single apple, or we unearth the only perfectly spherical orange from the bottom of the citrus pyramid. We fluff and sort through every, single leaf of arugula or cobble together our own spring mix with pops of color.

Kohlrabi Greens Juice // www.WithTheGrains.com

When we arrive at the checkout, we reluctantly pass the food items, from our gloved hands, to the cashier and plead with the bagger to cushion every item as if it were a premature newborn. The whole experience is ridiculous, to the say the least, but like a model sequestered in hair & makeup for hours, our grocery store process fulfills society’s accepted notions of beauty. The leafy greens pictured here, however, are more like the beauty you observe when your grandmother’s aged hands knead bread, or when a toddler hands you a bouquet of dandelions. They are not perfect, but they are beautiful.

Kohlrabi Greens Juice by With The Grains

They are beautiful because they represent the Urban Farmer’s constant care, his planning, his ideals, his dedication to the land and community. The greens surround the kohlrabi as it emerges from the ground like a purple spacecraft. Subjected to the hungry, tiny, menacing mouths of cabbage loopers and aphids, these leaves weren’t headed toward the cover of Bon Appétit by any means, but they were headed to the juicer, and fresh, nourishing juice first thing in the morning is a beautiful thing!

Single-Grain

Happy Sipping!
-Quelcy

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Turnip Chips & Turnip Greens Dip

Imagine going to the grocery store, fending off the oblivious shoppers and crying children to stake your claim at the dairy cooler, agonizing over food labels, arriving at the purest choice, and investing a small fortune in a gallon of the most earth-friendly, wholesome milk on the shelf. Then imagine returning home, unloading your groceries and promptly pouring half of that milk-of-the-gods down the drain. You wouldn’t do that with your milk, and yet, we as consumers probably discard a lot of valuable ingredients without a second thought.

Turnip Chips and Dip // www. WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer lives and breathes the word “permaculture,” and the principles have begun to permeate our kitchen too. As the movement’s co-founder Bill Mollison described, “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation, rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.” (Check out this short video of Bill Mollison to learn a little more). In simpler terms, learn more, and waste less.

Turnip Chips and Dip // www. WithTheGrains.com

If we go back to that grocery store analogy, dumping a half-gallon of milk down the drain seems preposterous, but most of us, myself included, have tossed valuable greens into the compost, at best, or worse yet, straight to the garbage pail. These leafy greens offer a world of flavor beyond the pre-packaged produce aisle varieties, as well as many nutritional benefits. Inspired by the Urban Farmer’s permaculture interests and the latest CSA shares, I channeled a classic savory snack as a way to take full advantage of the seasonal turnips- chips and dip!

Turnip Chips and Dip // www. WithTheGrains.com

Turnip Chips and Dip // www. WithTheGrains.com

If you have a mandolin slicer, you’ll be able to mimic the thin crispness of store-bought chips, but being a rustic, knife-slicing type of gal, my “chip” consistency landed somewhere between a roasted potato and a potato chip. However, the extra depth soaks up the spices and delivers waves of flavor, especially when paired with a thick dollop of dip!

Turnip Chips and Dip // www. WithTheGrains.com

Accented with fresh, fragrant dill, this Turnip Greens Dip is reminiscent of the party spreads we all know, but this blend of raw turnip greens, garlic and thick and creamy Greek yogurt replaces guilty snacking with a clear conscious. This is wholesome, conscious eating that works to waste less and enjoy more.

Turnip Chips & Dip // www.WithTheGrains.com

Turnip Chips and Dip // www. WithTheGrains.com

We all affect the environment with our choices, but what I find inspiring about permaculture is seeking how my individual influence can be a positive force for the world, how I can add and contribute, rather than resisting and combating. You attract more flies with honey, as they say, so whether you’re a gardener, an old hippy, an “earth cruncher,” or just a plain old salty-snack lover, take advantage of the whole turnip, and share this savory snack with someone who might not understand your fixation with soil and seeds.

Single-Grain

Happy Snacking
Quelcy

Baked Turnip Chips and Turnip Greens Dip

About This Recipe:
If you’re a gardener or CSA member in planting zones 5 or 6, you’re probably seeing lots of turnips, radishes and herbs in your produce shares or at the farmers’ markets. These two recipes work together to use all of the turnips. The dip is also delicious on pasta or sandwiches, or any place you might use a pesto. The thickness of the turnip slices will alter baking time, so watch the turnips carefully when in the oven.

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Hazelwood Urban Farms CSA Recipe: Radish, Chard & Leafy Greens Pesto (Vegan)

Like a dancer rehearsing tirelessly for a performance, the Urban Farmer has worked and worked for this day. Excitement, jitters, second guesses, strokes of confidence and last minute preparations culminate in today’s performance. Today the Urban Farmer delivers his very first CSA!

Radish-Pesto-by-With-The-Grains

A CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) is the consumer’s way to invest in a farm. It’s a way to support principled farming practices with dollars and cents. It’s a way to share in the highs and lows, the bounties and the dry spells. It’s a means to understanding the seasons, the gambles and if all goes well, it’s a way to understand one of the best gifts of locally grown food: fresh, intense flavor!

Radish Pesto // www.WithTheGrains.com

Much like an Iron Chef challenge, a CSA arrives weekly with surprise ingredients. If your glass is half empty, the lack of choice and control will be a burden. What am I going to do with kohlrabi?! If your glass is half full, the array is a creative challenge and just the motivation you need to break with culinary monotony. Hopefully, you’re the latter.

Radish Pesto // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer could eat radishes (and just about anything from the ground) like grapes, but for many of us, the spicy, bitter and crisp radish is more perplexing. These bright red beauties emerge with a bouquet of greens, which we often overlook, tossing them into compost piles without a second thought. With so many radishes emerging from the field, my creative challenge was to harness more potential from these French Breakfast varieties: enter pesto!

Radish Pesto // www.WithTheGrains.com

In true S.A.T style, when I say “pesto,” your immediate association is probably basil, and the word nerd in me wondered, why is this? Is it a rule? Are pesto and basil inextricably linked?

Radish Pesto // www.WithTheGrains.com

In an intense research effort, I consulted Wikipedia, and I found my excuse to break with basil traditions:

The name [pesto] is the contracted past participle of the Genoese word pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means to pound, to crush, in reference to the original method of preparation, with marble mortar and wooden pestle. The ingredients in a traditionally made pesto are ground with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar. This same Latin root through Old French also gave rise to the English word pestle.

Radish Pesto // www.WithTheGrains.com

I respect European traditions enough not to assign names sacrilegiously, but Wikipedia permitted me to extend the idea of “pesto” to the ingredients of the very first CSA and fulfill my radish challenge. Whether you’re receiving the Urban Farmer’s very first CSA or a fresh bunch from another farmer, here’s to new ways of using the freshest, local offerings.

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

Radish, Chard & Leafy Greens Pesto

About this Recipe: Crunchy and garlicky, use this farm-fresh pesto wherever you would use the traditional basil version. The chard and large, leafy greens yield far more than their basil equivalents. Whether I used broccoli or cauliflower greens will be determined soon, when more of the vegetable protrudes from the ground. You can use turnip greens, kale or more chard as a substitute if need be. The main objective is just to use as much of the vegetables as possible. I left the texture of my pesto rather coarse, preferring to add more oil based on the application. The thicker consistency works well for these chèvre, back pepper and radish crostini. I skipped the cheese, preferring to add cheese with the application as well. The result is a vegan-friendly pesto with lots of healthy raw nutrients!

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