Month: May 2015

Recipe: Strawberry Rhubarb Spinach Side Salad

I’m going to conclude this spring salad series with a tart twist on the classic spinach strawberry salad by adding strawberry’s favorite foil: rhubarb.

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Growing up, my main experience with rhubarb involved eating my mom’s super-yummy, super-sweet strawberry-rhubarb jam.  In other words, my experience equaled an encounter with serious sugar, to the point where if I hadn’t seen my mom add rhubarb to the jam, I never would’ve known it was in there.

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Now, I’m not criticizing my mom’s methods.  Personally, I’m a big fan of incredibly sweetened rhubarb.  But I know that others are not.  My mother-in-law, for instance, is a purist, preferring her rhubarb in its sharp, natural form.  And the other day, Payten Sikma, the nine-year-old daughter of one of our customers, bit into a raw stalk of rhubarb with such relish that later I tried it myself.  I followed the same rule we have for our kids—three bites before you decide—and by the third bite, I have to say I still prefer my rhubarb tamed by the sugar bowl.

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Payten enjoying raw rhubarb

 

This salad is a bit of in between the two extremes.  The strawberry’s natural sweetness balances the rhubarb’s bite, the spinach provides a relatively neutral backdrop, and the dressing pulls everything together for a refreshing spring side salad.

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Begin by trimming and slicing the rhubarb, then placing it in a medium saucepan.  Add your sugar—not too much, just a quarter cup—and pour in just enough water to cover the rhubarb.  Stir the sugar in and bring the whole mixture to a gentle simmer.

The next part is very important—do not overcook the rhubarb!  The first time I tried this I ended up with rhubarb mush, perfect for an ice cream topping but not so much for a salad.  Simmer for about 1 minute, test it, and if you think it needs a little more time, give it a minute more.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the rhubarb and set it aside to cool.

Next, add white wine vinegar to the remaining rhubarb liquid and cook for about 20 minutes until the liquid’s been reduced to about 1 cup.  (Note: This dressing does require a bit more time than most, but it’s worth it!) Set the liquid aside to cool.

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While you’re waiting, place about a cup of baby spinach on each salad plate.  Top each bed of greens with sliced strawberries and the cooled rhubarb.

Return to your rhubarb liquid (aka dressing base).  Pour ¼ cup of the liquid into a jar, then add vegetable oil, a few tablespoons of finely diced onion, a few tablespoons chopped fresh mint, and a little bit of salt.  Shake vigorously, then drizzle a little bit on each salad.  You can leave this salad as is at this point, or garnish with fresh mint leaves.

I recommend pairing this salad with soup and a crusty bread for a complete meal, or serve it as a precursor to a late spring entrée straight from the grill: chicken, fish, pork chops, or burgers.  And you may as well add a few stalks of raw rhubarb to the mix–just in case someone at the table is a true culinary adventurer. 

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 What’s your favorite way to eat rhubarb?

Photographs and Food Styling: Anne Kingma

Strawberry Rhubarb Spinach Side Salad
Serves 4
A refreshing spring side salad.
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Ingredients
  1. 4 cups baby spinach or baby salad mix
  2. 2 cups fresh strawberries, de-stemmed and sliced
  3. 1 pound trimmed rhubarb stalks, cut diagonally into ½ slices
  4. 2 cups water
  5. ¼ cup sugar
  6. ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  7. ½ cup vegetable oil
  8. 3 Tbsp onion, finely diced
  9. 3 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  10. ¼ tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Place the rhubarb in a saucepan and cover with the water and sugar.
  2. Simmer gently for 1-2 minutes, stirring until sugar is dissolved and rhubarb is tender. Do not overcook, or your rhubarb will turn to mush.
  3. Use slotted spoon to remove rhubarb and place on a plate to cool.
  4. Stir the vinegar into the remaining liquid in the saucepan and cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes, until the liquid has been reduced to about 1 cup.
  5. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  6. Meanwhile, divide the spinach among 4 plates. Top greens with strawberries and rhubarb.
  7. Return to rhubarb liquid. Pour ¼ cup of this liquid into a jar, then add vegetable oil, onion, and salt. Drizzle dressing on each salad.
  8. Garnish with fresh mint if desired.
  9. Enjoy!
Adapted from Simply in Season
Adapted from Simply in Season
Perkins' Good Earth Farm http://perkinsgoodearthfarm.com/

Pancake Party Pics!

This past Saturday we had the privilege of hosting a celebratory Pancake Party here at the farm, our way of saying thank you to those who voted for us and helped us win the Dannon Everyday Chef Better With Yogurt Contest this past winter.

Despite a few electrical glitches, we got all the griddles going, our volunteer pancake flippers flipping, and hungry people eating pancakes (and bacon!).  While the plenitude of children tromped through the woods and played in the sandbox between bites, the adults chatted it up and learned a little more about operations during the farm tours. 

One friend said of the morning, “This reminds me of the old days–families just hanging out, spending time together.”  Yes, the old days made new with good people and good food.

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Recipe: Breakfast Salad with Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus and Spinach

Nothing says spring like asparagus, those tender tips somehow staying intact as they push themselves up and out of the soil, growing tall into supple purple or green spears, noble and strong, almost too beautiful to eat.

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And yet eat them we do.  Last year our oldest son (5 years old at the time) begged me to buy asparagus during the winter from the grocery store aisle, and I refused, saying he’d have to wait until spring.  When spring finally arrived, he ate asparagus for three meals a day, three days straight, until he was so sick of asparagus he wouldn’t eat another bite no matter how I prepared it. 

This year, he’s pacing himself.  We’re eating asparagus every other day, mostly for dinner.  However, when you wrap that asparagus in bacon and top it with over-easy eggs, you have yourself a pretty good breakfast dish.  And this next part should come as no surprise.  Here at the Perkins’ household, we serve our bacon-wrapped asparagus and eggs on what?  You guessed it.  A bed of greens.

Start by getting your hands on some good asparagus.  We have a small patch here at our farm, but not enough to sell.  I recommend purchasing your asparagus from local growers Butch and Carol Zandstra if you live in Northwest Indiana.  You can find their asparagus at Tysens or Kal-Bro in DeMotte.

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Next, choose how you want to cook your asparagus: oven, skillet, or grill, Since it’s spring and gorgeous outside, I’m choosing the grill for this time around, so I’m going to start by firing up my quaint little charcoal grill.

 

 

You’re going to want to thoroughly wash the asparagus to make sure all the grains of sand are removed from the tips.  Then trim the spears, both to remove the woody ends and to create a uniform length.  Separate the spears into groups two or three.

After that, mince some garlic and mix it into a little olive oil, then brush this onto the asparagus spears.

Now for the bacon—yum!  Grab a slice of bacon (I got mine from Yesteryears Meat Market in DeMotte) and wrap it around the asparagus spears, starting at the bottom of the spears and working your way to just below the tips.  If you want to make sure the bacon stays wrapped around the asparagus, you can secure it with toothpicks.

Assuming the grill’s ready to go, let’s get those bacon-wrapped spears cooking!  On my charcoal grill, this happens pretty quickly.  You may need place tinfoil over the grate to make sure the bacon has enough time to cook all the way through–it all depends on your grill–and you’ll need to flip the bacon-wrapped asparagus once during the grilling process.

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Meanwhile, get your greens ready by placing about 2 cups of trimmed baby spinach on each plate. 

Then, when the asparagus has about 5 minutes left on the grill, heat up your skillet or griddle.  (If you have an electric griddle, you can probably cook all the eggs at once, depending on how many people you’re serving.)  Cook the eggs over-easy—the runny yolks serves as the “dressing” for this salad.

Top each bed of greens with two bacon-wrapped asparagus bundles, and two over-easy eggs over the asparagus.  Sprinkle with freshly-ground black pepper, and eat immediately while it’s hot!

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Photos and Food Styling: Anne Kingma

Breakfast Salad with Spinach and Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus
Serves 4
A protein and nutrient-rich salad to start your day.
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Ingredients
  1. 8 slices bacon (about half a pound)
  2. 20-24 asparagus spears (about ¾-1 pound)
  3. 2 Tbsp olive oil
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 8 cups baby spinach, stems trimmed
  6. 8 eggs
  7. salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Wash asparagus. Trim asparagus spears to make uniform length.
  2. Combine olive oil and garlic. Brush asparagus spears with oil/garlic mixture.
  3. Sprinkle asparagus with freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Wrap one slice of bacon around 2-3 asparagus spears, starting at the bottom and working your way to just below the asparagus tips.
  5. Place bacon-wrapped asparagus spears on the grill, and cook until bacon is done, turning once.
  6. Meanwhile, place about 2 cups of trimmed baby spinach on each plate.
  7. When the bacon-wrapped asparagus has about 5 minutes cooking time remaining, preheat your skillet. Once hot, cook 8 eggs over-easy. Lightly salt the eggs.
  8. For each salad, place 2 bacon-wrapped asparagus on top of the greens, and 2 eggs on top of the asparagus. Sprinkle eggs with freshly ground black pepper.
  9. Enjoy!
Perkins' Good Earth Farm http://perkinsgoodearthfarm.com/

Recipe: Chopped Salad with Asian Greens

This spring we’re growing some new-to-us greens from the Asian Greens section of the seed catalog—Tat Soi, White-Stemmed Pac Choy, and Vitamin Green—along with a new-to-us mustard green, Garnet Giant Mustard.  Full-size, these greens are most often used in cooking, but now in early spring, in their tender baby size, the Asian Greens are perfect raw and fresh.

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I’ll admit these Asian and mustard greens take some getting used to.  I’ll also admit I haven’t had a great deal of success in getting my boys—ages 4 and 6—to fully embrace these flavorful greens, at least at the dinner table.  But the other day, I was working in the hoop house while discussing Bakugans with my 4-year-old Asher, and I nonchalantly offered him a few Vitamin Green leaves, which he popped in his mouth and ate without comment.  Okay, okay, he was distracted—I mean, we were talking about Bakugans!—but still he ate some and that’s a start.

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Our hope is that you too will give these a try.  So at this point in the season, instead of selling varieties individually, we’ve decided to toss them together into in Asian Greens Salad Mix and offer you what is essentially a nutrient powerhouse.  When eating all four of these greens together, you’ll get a great source of calcium, beta carotenes, vitamins A, C, and K, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.  Deborah Madison, cook and author of Vegetable Literacy, says of mustard greens’ health benefits—and this holds true for the Asian greens too—“These plants are such dynamos that we would do well to find ways to enjoy them.”

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One way I’ve enjoyed these greens this past week is in a chopped salad with a gingery, garlicky dressing.

For this recipe, you’re going to start the night before by making the dressing, which doubles as a chicken marinade.  Mix together rice vinegar, soy sauce, minced fresh ginger, minced garlic, peanut oil, and olive oil, and shake vigorously in your jar (or, if you’ve had a Grolsch since my first post this spring, use the bottle!).

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Thinly slice ½ pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts if you prefer white meat) into 1-inch pieces.  For local folks looking for semi-locally raised chicken, try Miller Amish Poultry from Tysens Grocery in DeMotte. Place the chicken in a bowl, pour about half the dressing over it, and marinate overnight, or at least 8 hours.

Fast forward to salad time.  First step, heat up that trusty skillet because it’s time to sauté the marinated chicken, cooking about 4 minutes on each side.  When it’s finished cooking, set the chicken aside to cool.

Meanwhile, gather up the rest of your ingredients in a large bowl, starting with about 8 cups of the Asian Green Salad Mix, then adding a half cup of each of these:

  • fresh pineapple chunks
  • fresh Clementine wedges
  • sliced radishes
  • sliced green onions
  • peanuts
  • chicken strips

Toss all this goodness together, then dump everything out on your cutting board and—hence the salad’s name—get chopping!  I like this chopping advice from First We Feast:

Arrange your greens in a rough rectangle, then use your largest, sharpest knife to cut all the way down to the board. Lift the knife, and cut again in a parallel line about an inch from the first. Repeat until you reach the end of the rectangle. Rotate the board 90 degrees, then do again. That might be enough chopping, but if you want a finer mince, toss the ingredients to redistribute, then chop in a grid once more. 

Once you have the consistency you’re looking for, return everything to your large bowl and add a couple tablespoons of that dressing you made the night before.  Gently toss the salad, then place the whole mix in a serving dish.  At this point, you can leave the salad as is, or decorate by lining up about ½ cup of each ingredient on top of the salad.

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One last note about this salad.  I’m a big fan of using local, seasonal ingredients whenever possible.  Obviously, pineapple and clementines don’t really fit the bill here, but considering the only “fruit” I have growing in my garden right now is rhubarb, I decided to branch out.  If that’s not your style, you’re welcome to try the rhubarb—just make sure to tell me how it tasted!

Photography and Food Styling: Anne Kingma

Chopped Salad with Asian Greens
A refreshing chopped salad with Asian Greens, marinated chicken, spring veggies, and fresh fruit.
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For the dressing
  1. 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  2. 2 T soy sauce
  3. 2 tsp brown sugar
  4. 1 T grated ginger
  5. 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  6. ¼ cup peanut oil
  7. ¼ cup olive oil
For the salad
  1. 8 cups Asian Greens Salad Mix
  2. 1 cup pineapple chunks
  3. 1 cup Clementine segments
  4. 1 cup peanuts
  5. 1 cup radishes, sliced
  6. 1 cup green onions, sliced
  7. 1 cup sliced, marinated and sautéed chicken thighs
For the dressing
  1. Mix together dressing ingredients in a jar: rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, minced ginger, minced garlic, peanut oil, and olive oil. Set aside.
For the salad
  1. Thinly slice ½ pound chicken thighs. Place in a shallow dish and pour about half of the dressing over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate over night or at least 8 hours.
  2. When the chicken is ready, sauté the strips for about 4 minutes on each side until the chicken is done. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, combine salad mix, and ½ cup of each: pineapple, Clementine segments, peanuts, radishes, green onions, and chicken. Toss together, then pour out on a large cutting board. Chop the ingredients into small pieces.
  4. Return the chopped salad to the large bowl.
  5. Drizzle about 2 Tbsp of the remaining dressing onto the salad. Gently toss.
  6. Place the salad into a serving dish. Line or sprinkle the remaining pineapple, Clementine, peanuts, radishes, green onions, and chicken on top of the salad, and serve.
Perkins' Good Earth Farm http://perkinsgoodearthfarm.com/

Back to Biochar: Application

This week, our friends from Purdue braved the storms and the rain to deliver the much-anticipated biochar.

 

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Back in January, I posted here on the farm blog introducing our involvement in the Biochar Student Mentoring and Participatory Learning project with an overview.  Now we’re getting into the specifics, beginning with application of the biochar.

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One of the primary goals of this project is to determine the efficacy of biochar on different types of soils and crops, keeping constant as many variables as possible.  Two of these variables are soil texture and nutrient levels.  Consequently, in April, Purdue’s Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Scientist Tamara Benjamin traveled to each of the involved farms to take soil tests for analysis.  The test results determined how much fertilizer—in this case, composted chicken manure—each farmer would need to apply to his or her fields.

So on Tuesday, when Tamara and her husband Allan came to our farm, they brought along both composted chicken manure and biochar.  Dan had already prepared the 16×80 foot research area for the randomized block design, so they were ready to get to work! (And just look at that smile on Dan’s face—yay for biochar!)

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Even though you can’t tell by looking at it, there are two different rates of biochar being applied on the plots: 10 tons/acre and 20 tons/acre. Why two rates?  Because we’re trying to find out the proper agronomic rate, or, in other words how much biochar is needed to increase crop yields.  To answer this question, we’re using a randomized block design with four plots, each containing three treatments: 1) no biochar; 2) 10 tons/acre of biochar in Year 1 and Year 2; and 3) 20 ton/acre in Year 1 only.  Throughout the growing season, our intern Sarah will record data about the potato plants, such as pest, disease and weed impacts on the plants.  Each of the other five interns will be doing the same thing at their respective farms, as will the future interns in years two and three of the project.  The goal is to acquire data that shows how the biochar affects plant growth and health.  

Now let’s get back to our field.  Didn’t they do a great job?

Before Tilling (resized)

But there’s one more stop.  After saying goodbye to Tamara and Allan, Dan applied the appropriate amount of composted chicken manure (0.9 pounds per plot, in our case), then broke out his BCS walk-behind tractor and tilled all that lovely biochar into the soil.  The biochar needs to be tilled into the primary root zone of the crop, since, in theory, that’s where it will provide the most benefits to the soil and crops.

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That’s the biochar update for now.  In a couple weeks, our intern Sarah will be joining us, and we’ll plant our Year 1 crop, Red Norland Potatoes.  More on that soon!

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