Friday, June 29, 2012

Brad Briske's grilled summer lettuces with peaches and cheese

I recently found out how delicious grilled lettuce is (where have I been?!). You must try it! Last month Joe and I went to an Outstanding in the Field dinner at Route One Farm. The chef for the evening was Brad Briske, a super talented chef who has worked at Gabriella's in Santa Cruz and Main Street Cafe in Soquel. He served cannellini beans topped with grilled romaine lettuce and grilled chicken. It was incredible. We will have lots of romaine and butter lettuce at the markets in the next few weeks so Brad kindly agreed to write up a grilled lettuce recipe for this cookbook. Include this in your Fourth of July grilling!


Grilled summer lettuces with peaches and cheese

For the lettuce marinade
4 heads lettuce
3 cloves minced garlic
2 sprigs rosemary chopped
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon organic sugar
salt and black pepper to taste

Whisk marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut your lettuces down the middle from root to shoot leaving the bottom stalk attached. Toss split lettuces in marinade bowl until evenly coated and marinate for no more than 20 minutes.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Melissa Perello's charred spring onion dip

Melissa Perello is chef and owner of Frances restaurant in San Fransisco. Frances' menu "reflects modern California sensibilities, and focuses on ingredients from local markets, farms and producers in a casual, neighborhood setting." Melissa earned a James Beard “Best New Restaurant” nomination in 2010 and a Michelin star -- AND she's a regular Saturday morning visitor to the Dirty Girl Produce stall at the Ferry Plaza market! She kindly agreed to share her charred spring onion dip recipe with us here. Thank you Melissa!

Charred Spring Onion Dip

2 bunches spring onions, white and or red (DGP's baby/green shallots could be interesting for this too)

Trim the bottoms, nip off any ugly parts from the green tops and peel off any super ‘papery’ skins. Wash and dry ‘em. Toss onions with a bit of olive oil and kosher salt. Grill until they start to take on a good amount of color. Then cut off the bulb bases and toss those in an oven (350F or so) wrapped with foil, for about 10-15 minutes or until they are just cooked through, but retain a bit of crunch. Take the cooked green tops and bulbs and cool until chilled, then mince or chop them up.

3/4 pint Sour Cream (we use Straus whole milk)

1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese (again, whole milk, no low-fat bull-sh*t)

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Mix everything up together and season with salt and black pepper to taste. If necessary, adjust consistency or ‘tartness’ with more sour cream.

Serve chilled with crackers or grilled bread. At Frances we serve this with our with nigella seed lavash cracker.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pim Techamuanvivit's strawberries in hibiscus and vanilla syrup

Pim Techamuanvivit, author of the food/travel blog Chez Pim and The Foodie Handbook: An (Almost) Definitive Guide to Gastronomy, is a great friend. She uses DGP strawberries for her famous jams and often hangs out with us at the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market on Wednesdays.  

Here is a post she wrote about making strawberries in hibiscus and vanilla syrup with Dirty Girl strawberries. From Chez Pim:

Here is a veritable three-star dish you can do at home.

We had a small dinner party a few nights ago to celebrate our return from Europe. One of the friends who came was Joe, aka the hunky Joe of Dirty Girl farm. He brought a few pints of gorgeous strawberries which he picked for us just an hour or two earlier. The bright red berries were a new hybrid called Albion. They were unbelievably fragrant and flavorful, and -in a momentary lapse of judgment- I decided to share them with everyone for dessert.

The berries would have been great on their own, but I wanted to do something fun with them anyway. I first thought of whipping up a quick batch of cream –that would be crème chantilly for us snobs. I might even flavor it with the wonderful vanilla beans from the Reunion Islands that Malik gave me a few months ago.

Then I recalled a lovely strawberry dessert that Alain Passard serves at his restaurant l’Arpège in Paris. With his usual brilliance and delicacy, he baths the flavorful strawberries in a nage of hibiscus and vanilla flavored syrup –which at once enhances the true flavor of the strawberry while adding to it a whole new dimension. It’s so simple, yet so extraordinary.

The recipe was printed in Alain’s only cookbook, the illustrated children’s cookbook he collaborated with Antoon Krings, Les Recettes des Drôles de Petites Bêtes -which, by the way, is so cutesy-cute it is indispensable for your French speaking children, be they real or imaginary.

I adapted the recipe a bit, and it worked perfectly well in my kitchen. Miranda, Joe’s beautiful fiancée (sorry girls), loved it so much she wants to give out the recipe to people who buy their berries at the farmers market. Perhaps we will leave a stack next to the berries this Saturday.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Putting the "straw" back in strawberry farming

For a video tour of the Dirty Girl Produce patch click below.

Dirty Girl Produce Strawberry Patch from miranda schirmer on Vimeo.

Santa Cruz County is blanketed in strawberry fields. While this may sound beautiful the reality of large scale conventional strawberry production is pretty grim. Conventional growers rely on methyl bromide as a soil sterilizing fumigant, toxic sprays and water soluble fertilizers that leach in to streams.

Another challenge in growing strawberries is the dependence on plastic mulch. Since I was already uncomfortable with the amount of plastic drip tape I was hauling off to the landfill every year, the idea of using more plastic on my farm was concerning.

The first year I planted just a few thousand plants and instead of using plastic mulch I used straw mulch which is what farmers used in the past and how “straw”-berries get their name. Strawberries without mulch get overtaken by weeds and with the long growing season that means a lot of hand weeding. Also strawberries need constant soil moisture and mulch holds the water in the soil by preventing evaporation from the sun. I quickly learned that there is a reason farmers don't use straw mulch anymore. We still had to hand weed many more times than we would if we were using plastic. Also, the straw didn't hold in the water meaning we needed to irrigate more often.

Make your own strawberry jam

Making strawberry jam is one of my favorite summer rituals. I love the warm strawberry smell that fills my house while I'm making it and the sweetness that this jam adds to our breakfasts and afternoon snacks throughout the year. If you are someone who "doesn't like jam" make this and you will feel differently.

When I first started out I decided to consult the experts and I asked for advice from two of my favorite jam-making pros: my aunt, Becky Courchesne of Frog Hollow Farm, and my friend, Pim Techamuanvivit of the food/travel blog Chez Pim. I also referred to Christine Ferber's book Mes Confitures. The recipe below was inspired by their advice.

This is a french-style jam that is looser than many commercial jam varieties. There is no added pectin. It has a wonderful fresh strawberry flavor with not too much - but not too little - sugar.

It is always best to make jam in small batches. If you by one flat of strawberries at the market eat a basket or two right away, clean and freeze a few baskets worth, and use the rest of the baskets (about 6) for jam making. This is a two-day process but there is very little actually cooking time. Cleaning the berries and washing the jam jars will likely be the most time consuming part.

5 lbs strawberries -- this is about 6 or 7 baskets of strawberries
3 lbs sugar*
1/4 cup lemon juice

*Pim explained to me that good rule of thumb is 60-65% sugar to the weight of whole fruits. While you might be tempted to use less sugar this is not a good idea because the fruit may not preserve properly. That said, homemade strawberry jam is very safe.

1) Rinse and dry strawberries in batches. I use a salad spinner. Remove green leaves and stem on top of berries (this is called hulling). Cut berries into large pieces. Place berries into a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add the sugar and lemon juice and mix to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight. This is called macerating. The sugar will cause the strawberries to release their liquid.

2) The next day get your jars and lids ready. I use the 2-piece lids (with lid insert and lid ring) so that I can reuse my jars, only replacing the inexpensive lid insert each time. Wash jars and lid rings in warm soapy water. Place on a baking sheet and put into a 250F oven for at least 20 minutes. Leave them in the oven until the jam is ready to be jarred. While your jars and lid rings are in the oven put your lid inserts in a pan of simmering water for about 10 minutes. Leave them in there until you are ready to fill your jars.

3) On the stove-top pour strawberry mixture into a large, heavy nonreactive pot. I use a Le Crueset soup pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Pour entire contents of pot back into your glass or ceramic bowl.

4) Place a colander in your cooking pot and pour in strawberry mixture. Remove colander with berries and and bring syrup to a boil. Cook the syrup on high heat, regularily scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon or spatula to make sure nothing is sticking, until the syrup reaches 221F. If you don't have a thermometer you can simply cook the syrup until it reduces by about half and looks dark and sticky.

5) Add the berries back into the pot and continue to cook over high heat for just a few minutes. You want to make sure the berries are cooked through and hot -- but you don't want a burned layer at the bottom of the pot. Once the jam has cooled just a bit skim off any foam from the top, if you like.

6) Remove the jars from the oven and fill the hot jars with your hot jam (leaving about 1/4 in. of headspace) and cover with hot lids. This ensures a tight seal. Place jars back on baking sheet and back into the oven at 250F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let jars cool completely. You will hear popping noises as jars seal. If any jars do not seal after a few hours simply store them in the fridge and use the jam in the next week or so. All sealed jars should be stored away from light and heat. They last for years unopened and a week or so once opened and stored in the fridge. Enjoy!

Welcome to Dirty Girl Cookbook

Get to know our farm and learn delicious new ways to cook the food we grow!

In the coming year, Joe will be writing about how he grows our produce and he'll give video tours of the farm. We'll post some simple recipes and preparation techniques for everyday home cooking and preserving, and a local chef will share how they cook DGP fruits and vegetables in their restaurant.

We would love if you'd send in your favorite recipes and photos of DGP food you've cooked at home. If you are a DGP farmers market customer or chef that would like to submit a recipe just email us (mirandaschirmer [at] gmail) or comment here.

Much more information to come! Be sure subscribe for regular updates.