Friday, December 30, 2011

First Demo at the Farm - Swiss Chard Caprese Wraps

So, as I mentioned previously, I occasionally perform demos at the farm, themed by a particular ingredient.  Dave and Cathy approached me the first time a few weeks ago to demo ways to serve Swiss chard to the members as they came to pick up their weekly produce.

I was pretty excited about the demo and spent the night before researching Swiss chard, its nutritional values, and ways to eat it.  Swiss chard's a pretty versatile leaf that people don't always think about, and I hoped to change people's minds.  I decided on a simple caprese wrap.  I'd heard a few member mention on occasion that they knew to saute and cook down leafy greens like chard and spinach, and I felt a wrap would make chard the 'showpiece' of the dish.  You don't have to just cook it down into a pile of greens.  Also, the red, white and green of the wrap would make this colorful dish very attractive on the plate for the demo.

I woke up anxious and excited the morning of the demo.  I couldn't wait to get to the farm!  What would the turnout be?  Would the farm members be excited?  Would they think it's a big deal? I needed to stop off at the grocery store on the way in to pick up a few extras for the demo and my farm chores still needed to be done.  I was a bit nervous about the demo space and how it would be designed - it needed to look good for the spectators!  All of these thoughts swirled in the back of mind while I attempted my farm chores.  I needed to make this demo a success... make it taste right.  I kept thinking that I shouldn't cook things in front of people that I hadn't tried before.  I felt confident in my process and the flavors I was shooting for, but you never know what can happen.

Unfortunately I don't have a picture to accompany this first demo - I was way too amped up about my performance  and demo itself to stop and take pictures!  In the middle of it all, I remember looking up  and there was a man buying produce across the way at the market.  I could tell he was listening, but uncertain uncertain about what was going on.  I made it a point to call him over to include him in the demo.  I recognized a few of the members standing around and really loved being able to interact and joke around with everyone!  When the wraps were ready to be plated I looked around and realized I completely forgot to bring presentation plates!  I ended up using the top of a plastic container I brought with me - maybe that's the real reason I forgot to take pictures!

All in all, everything worked out great for the demo!  The members left full of new knowledge about Swiss chard and excited to cook in their own kitchens.  The best part of all - when everyone left the farm, all those wraps made a perfect lunch for Dave, Cathy and myself!

Swiss Chard Caprese Wraps
by Chef John N Carminati

Makes 4 wraps

4-5 leaves Urban Oasis Swiss chard
1 large Urban Oasis Heirloom tomato, cut into petals
1 sliced fresh large mozzarella ball
Urban Oasis lemon basil to taste, roughly chopped
White Balsamic Vinaigrette (see below)

  1. Lightly blanch and shock Swiss chard. Pat dry.
  2. Remove chard spine from each piece. Lay pieces of each leaf flat, overlapping.
  3. Drizzle vinaigrette over chard leaves, spreading evenly.
  4. Place sliced mozzarella, basil, and 1 tomato petal on each chard leaf pair, near the bottom.
  5. If desired, add more vinaigrette. Otherwise season with salt & (optional) pepper.
  6. Delicately roll chard wrap in from the bottom, being careful not to tear.

Slice wraps on a bias in the center. Arrange on the plate by leaning one half on the other, displaying the open sides. Drizzle vinaigrette over and around the wraps and plate.

White Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 tsp finely diced shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
¾ cup sunflower oil (or any other light oil)
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
salt to taste
pepper, optional

Whisk together all ingredients.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Demo Day - Turnips!

Turnips have been the talk around the farm lately, we've been waiting and watching, then waiting some more for them to be ready.  Now, the wait is over! The beautiful greens rise from their pots, the colorful bulbs reaching from the soil. Much to our excitement, they are ready.  Every member has been getting a few turnips in their goodie bags over the past couple weekends, and the question on everyone's lips has been, "What can I do with turnip greens?" Sounds like a job for the Chef on the Farm! (dat ta da da!) 

A demo for you.

Some time ago, as I was doing my nightly research, I came upon a delightful dish I wanted to try - Wilted Swiss Chard Quesadilla with Cheddar Cheese. Yum! ... if I do say so myself. Keep in mind, unless you are working in a professional kitchen with the Chef peering over your shoulder, recipes tend to change with whomever stands behind the knife. Not every ingredient will be the same, and seasons provide a different flavor.

I put my own spin on it - turnip greens and Spanish onions with avocado pico de gallo, made with radishes and nasturtium. Although, it may be a bit more time consuming than just using the same old stuff - pre shredded cheese blend, dry chicken breast and pre-made salsa in a jar - I promise you will enjoy the end result so much more when you've spent that extra time!

Wilted Turnip Green Goat Cheese Quesadilla with Avocado Pico de Gallo
inspired by DigginFood
Par 4-5 medium quesadillas

Make the pico first so there will be time for the flavors to marry together.

Pico de Gallo

2 medium tomatoes, flesh-only, small dice (Roma tomatoes are best, but use what's on hand.)
3 scallions, bottoms sliced
3 tbsp cilantro, fine rough chopped
3-4 Nasturtium petals with steams, finely chop stems and chiffonade petals
7-8 small radishes quartered,  blanched until tender
1 avocado, peeled large diced
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

In a medium bowl add all ingredients together, and set aside until ready to serve.


4 turnip tops washed dried, rough chop leaves, remove most stems reserve the bulbs
2 small Spanish onions thick julienne
2 garlic cloves sliced
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 scallion tops chopped
Olive Oil 

Salt to taste
Whole wheat tortillas (or any kind on hand)
2 tbsp goat cheese per tortilla

Make Turnip Greens Filling
  1. In a sauté pan, lightly caramelize onions.  
  2. Add in garlic and deglaze the pan with lemon juice.   
  3. Add turnip greens and cover.  Let them wilt for about 10-15 minutes, stirring a few times so as not to char the pan.
  4. Add scallions and cover for 2 minutes
Assemble the Quesadillas
  1. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a flat skillet.  One tortilla at a time, place on the pan.
  2. Add filling to one side of the tortilla, then crumble goat cheese over top of filling. 
  3. Fold tortilla over top (Take care when folding it over so as not burn yourself). When both sides are crisp and golden brown, remove it from the pan and set aside.
  4. Check the heat on the pan and continue making the rest. 
You can keep assembled quesadillas in a warm oven until they're all finished.

When you're ready to serve, cut each quesadilla into thirds, and place one tip on the other for plating. Top with pico de gallo and chiffonade nasturtium.

As the demo progressed and the quesadillas were coming together, I learned some guests I had in front of me were vegan and some were gluten-free.  I told them a little story about the makings of a chef, and how important it is to be able to adjust the menu according to factors like these.  After some quick thinking, I came up with a little something different, using the bulbs of the turnips. 

Using the same wilted greens for the base of this dish, I added to it orange citrus glazed turnips.  We are lucky to sell the fruits of a local citrus grove here at the farm, which I am a big fan of.  More on that at a later time.

Orange Citrus Glazed Turnips
by Chef John N Carminati 

Turnip greens filling from above
Avocado Pico de Gallo from above
4 turnip bulbs, peeled, halved and quartered. 
2 fresh squeezed oranges


  1. Blanche turnips until just before tender.
  2. Over high heat, in a oiled pan, sear each side of the turnips.
  3. Turn the heat down and deglaze with orange juice.  Reduce until nappe (until it coats the back of a spoon). Season to taste. 
For presentation, place greens then turnips in the center of the plate. Spoon the avocado pico de gallo over the top, letting it fall as it will.

An idea on the fly.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Today at the Farm

I arrive at the farm this morning with a chill in the air, the sun-kissed green blinding my way.  It's the start of a beautiful day.  My chores are calling me, and I've got the rest of the day to soak it up. I take a small moment to say hello, and I'm off.

 Today's a big prep day for market tomorrow.  I must pluck kale and snip Swiss chard.  The collard greens are ready, and Dave's got a few things for me to do in the yard.

Late afternoon, we ready the Visitor Center for a new addition to the market - a double-door cooler for fresh cut vegetable to be stored.  There's a lot of heavy lifting and much to reorganize... a small talent I have tucked in my pocket for just the occasion.  I try my best to help move the cooler off the truck, but the men who brought it in have it all under control. 

As the business part is being taking care of, I go tomato hunting - one of my favorite things to do. Slim pickings still, but so close!  Not too long now until the crops are ready!

Cathy has been in the way back pulling up the first of the turnips, oh yeah!  As she finishes getting them ready for the members tomorrow, I quickly snap a few shots so I can show you all the bounty.  

Gorgeous, no?
I hope you have the same big smile on your face as I did! We're keeping the greens on the tops and I'm hopeful I'll have many new ideas for everyone to use this week.  If you have any good recipes please share with us!

Finally, the market is put back together with the new look, and it's time to hang the holiday lights.  Now it's done, and time to go home; I take a small moment to say goodbye.

The day was a beautiful one.  I have much to be thankful for.  Happiness is easy to come by on days like this!

Eat well!