Wednesday, March 31, 2010

baked potatoes for dinner?

can a baked potato be dinner...just a potato? absolutely!

so i think it was fate to blog about baked potatoes this week. i read a story about the potato industry and thought about how long it had been since i made baked potatoes...i usually roast or "smash" them. then...out of the blue...my husband said.."you know, i have been craving baked potatoes...will you make some?" the next day, a friend told me about her lunch at a local restaurant...she said "i ordered french fries...but i really wanted the baked potato...it was just too big". like i said... signs were pointing to a post with a baked potato technique and recipe...

my eating habits have changed a bit the past few years....twice baked potatoes loaded with butter and cream have become a rarely eaten treat...they taste good, but i just don't feel well after eating...same with the steakhouse standby of butter, sour cream, bacon & chives (cheese sauce anyone?) on massive potatoes...again...once in a while? maybe... frequently? not so much...

so i decided to make a baked potato dinner...with the potato as the main course...and load them up with a delicious roasted vegetable mixture of roasted broccoli, garlic, leeks and cremini mushrooms...how good does that sound? paired with a salad....dinner is served!



now...i must share that my favorite part of a baked potato is the skin. so my technique is designed to maximize the flavor of the skin...and make it a bit crispy with lots of texture. feel free to bake your potatoes however you like.... but just try my way one time...you may find that your friends and family devour every bite...skin and all...maximizing the nutrition, fiber and..to me at least...the taste!!

farmhouse baked potatoes~serves 2
2 large organic baking potatoes
extra virgin olive oil
coarse grey salt
1 head organic broccoli
1/2 head organic garlic
1 organic leek
8 oz organic cremini mushrooms(or portabellos, chopped)
extra virgin olive oil
napa farmhouse italian seasoning (or red pepper flakes sea salt, dried organic parsley)
grey salt
freshly cracked black pepper

3 green onions, chopped...white and green parts
preheat oven to 400 degrees. place a cooking rack on a rimmed baking sheet. prick potatoes 5-6 times with a sharp knife. this allows steam to escape while the potatoes are cooking and you get baked potatoes...not steamed potatoes (completely different texture). using your hands, rub olive oil all over a potato and then place on the prepared rack. repeat with second potato. sprinkle both potatoes with the coarse grey salt. roast in oven 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the potatoes give slightly when squeezed.

meanwhile, chop all remaining vegetables into bite sized pieces except for the garlic which should be peeled and minced. place vegetables on a second rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil...4-5 passes of the bottle. use your hands to toss the vegetables with the oil until each piece is evenly coated. sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the italian seasoning (or dried herbs) over the vegetables and place sheet in oven when the potatoes have approximately 45 minutes of cooking time remaining. the vegetables are finished when the broccoli is just beginning to caramelize.

when ready, remove both trays from oven. to serve, slice a potato down the center lengthwise. gently squeeze to loosen the flesh being careful not to tear the skin. use a fork to fluff up the flesh and drizzle a bit more olive oil over the top. sprinkle with grey salt and black pepper. repeat with second potato. top a potato with half the vegetable mixture. repeat with second potato. sprinkle chopped green onions over top and serve immediately.

what are your favorite toppings for baked potatoes?

hope all is well...

best,
diane

diane padoven
founder/president
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "
follow me on twitter
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Friday, March 26, 2010

have you seen yellow chard? maybe a recipe for yellow chard bruschetta?

so...today it is sunny, warm and beautiful in napa...yesterday it poured. it was 38 degrees last night...probably will get to 70 today...going to rain all next week. welcome to spring in the napa valley. cooking is tricky right now...i am longing for spring produce....but still welcome roasted vegetables...stews...chili...the perfect dishes to warm you up when it is cold...what to do?

my solution...as always...is to cook seasonly. i try to use only locally grown, in- season produce. my exceptions are the items impossible to grow in the napa valley. (example, bananas.) this way i can follow my favorite way of menu creation. go to the market (farmer's market when it is open)...select items purely based on what looks good that day...and then create the meal. i can't tell you how often i wander around the aisles making up dishes along the way.


the napa farmer's market is open may 1st through end of october....i keep hoping this will become a year-round market...maybe one day? in the interim, i am a whole foods junkie. i have told you before that...for me...fresh produce is like a work of art...the look, feel, smell...and taste... makes me very happy...and i love discovering an unfamiliar, heirloom variety of a common ingredient. today i found yellow chard....oh my!

i love greens...all kinds. they are delicious, healthy, extremely versatile and look beautiful on the plate. soups, stews, bean pots, sautés...all are enhanced by greens. but...back to the yellow chard...it was gorgeous! bright yellow stalks and veins...and lovely green leaves. i snapped up a bunch...and now the fun began. spring garlic is in season...yeah!...so i grabbed a few stalks. fresh leaks were next to the garlic so...in the cart. i thought the chard, garlic and leaks would be fantastic sautéed together and decided to make an easy-breezy bruschetta supper perfect for the winter-into-spring weather. the chard mixture served over thick slices of sourdough or french bread topped with parmigiano-reggiano cheese shavings...how great does that sound? for me...the perfect meal...just add a glass of wine...but i knew peter would want a little bit more...so i added sea scallops poached in infused lemon grapeseed oil to his plate....really, really good!

i encourage everyone to seek out unfamiliar produce items...especially the heirloom varieties...you never know what you will find. and if we all support the farmer's who grow the unusual ingredients, we can ensure the fruit/vegetables do not become extinct. there is something about the heirloom varieties...they just taste better...and...trust me...find the yellow chard!!

yellow chard bruschetta
(use organic vegetables if you can)
1 large leek sliced into thin disks...white and tender green parts
1 large or 2 small spring garlic stalks sliced into thin disks
1 bunch chard...yellow if possible...if not any kind you like. cut chard stalks from leaves. slice stalks into thin disks the same thickness as the garlic and leeks. chop chard leaves into bite sized pieces.
extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp napa farmhouse 1885 aglio olio peperoncini (or 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes)
grey salt
freshly cracked pepper
grilled or toasted sourdough or french bread, thickly sliced

parmigiano-reggiano, shaved...as much as you like

heat 2 tbsp e.v.o.o. in a large skillet. add leeks and yellow chard stalks and cook,
stirring often, 6 to 8 minutes until soft. add spring garlic and sauté 2 minutes until garlic is soft and fragrant and just beginning to brown. add the chard leaves, 2 tbsp e.v.o.o., aglio olio peperoncini and salt/pepper to taste to the pan, stir well, and cover. cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

meanwhile, grill, broil or toast the bread in the oven. i use 2 pieces per serving. drizzle each piece with extra virgin olive oil. mound the chard mixture over the bruschetta and top with cheese. drizzle additional e.v.o.o over top if desired...serve immediately.
let's see...it is nearing the end of march. what local produce is in season in your area?....what are you cooking these days?? and...before i forget...there is a new csa based in napa starting up in april...i am joining and can't wait to share the recipes created from whatever is in my box each week....so much fun!

best,
diane

diane padoven
founder/president
napa farmhouse 1885™ "live a green life of style™ "
follow me on twitter
to receive special offers only available to our preferred customers, please sign up for the mailing list on the right hand side of this post...

Friday, March 12, 2010

have you heard of foodzie? and a recipe for persimmon jam vinaigrette

"diane, where have you been!!??" i have been receiving a number of emails from regular readers asking why it has been so long since i last posted a story...i know, i know...but life has been crazy...crazy good...but crazy nonetheless. i am so thrilled to announce that my "farmhouse foods" assortment is now available on foodzie. do you know them? if not...you must. foodzie is the ultimate online shopping experience for foodies. their website describes the company this way:

"On Foodzie you'll find fabulous food and beverages made by small food companies. Many are foods you can't find anywhere else. They're all special in some way, whether handmade, following old family recipes, incorporating unique ingredients, etc. We work closely with the companies you see on Foodzie, to make sure what you buy here is food that we ourselves would enjoy, crave, and want to give as gifts."

ok...by now you are probably wondering why i have not yet added the link to foodzie...i will...but later in this post. otherwise you will click over...get caught up in the site...and never finish this story. really...if you are into amazing food...you will love foodzie.



so, being accepted by foodzie is no mean feat...you have to meet their requirements via an application, then send them samples of all your products which go through their "tasting panel" and their "packaging/branding" approval. throughout the process, i worked with susie, their "Food Artisan Relations Manager" (talk about a cool title!)....who was so amazingly supportive and helpful...and welcomed by emily olson, co-founder of foodzie. emily told me about their newest concept...the foodie test kitchen...where they take a product which is a bit unusual...experiment with different recipes...and share on their blog(and readers get a discount on the product for a limited time)...she told me they had selected one of my products...our persimmon jam...to be the first featured item...how cool is that?


emily then introduced me to steven gdula a fellow food producer who is also a food writer and published author. steven told me he fell in love with the jam...he made me laugh out loud when he said he ate half the jar on rice crackers!!...but then told me about the salad vinaigrette he created using the persimmon jam. i immediately tried it and...well...let me put it this way...lately we have been having salad with persimmon jam vinaigrette almost nightly...it is so, so good.

i loved the recipe...and loved the story....and loved foodzie's story...and loved steven's story (i know...a whole lotta love going around) so much that i asked steven and emily for permission to post the story on my blog....they immediately agreed ...so...without further blathering on from me...let me introduce you to foodzie...steven...and a delicious salad....(and...to respond to why i have not blogged in a while...thanks to foodzie, i have been filling orders non-stop for persimmon jam...thanks everyone who purchased! enjoy...)

(photo courtesy foodzie)
"Introducing the Test Kitchen: Playing with Persimmon Jam
Posted March 11, 2010 by emily

What’s the Test Kitchen?


There are some products on Foodzie that need little introduction or explanation. You see an artisan chocolate bar, insert in mouth, and enjoy – easy! There are many other interesting finds that should work their way into your pantry and into your weekly meals, but maybe need some inspiration. The Test Kitchen is our place to experiment with these products and come up with fun creative ways to use every last drop. So here’s your quick introduction to Steven, a Foodzie producer, food writer, and passionate food enthusiast who gets to have the fun in the kitchen. Step into the Foodzie Kitchen with Steven!


Playing with Persimmon Jam, by Steven Gdula

I am not afraid of food. But I will admit to being cautious when it comes to the matter of food prices. Especially in the last year or so. But with food being a source of joy in my life, as well as sustenance, I needed to find a way to cut costs without severing all ties to my passion. My solution? To make the most out of every food item I brought into my kitchen. I needed to be more than adventurous; I needed to be frugal. This new approach turned my pantry into a new world of opportunity, and it also allowed me to get even more enjoyment, not to mention satisfaction, from the foods I loved. I’ll be sharing my discoveries, and recipes, here.

Sometimes I know I’m going to love something even before I taste it. That was definitely the case with the Persimmon Jam I recently opened from Napa Farmhouse’s 1885. There was something whimsical, yet earnest about the jar’s packaging and I knew the flavor inside wouldn’t disappoint. I snapped off the lid, dipped in my spoon – and then immediately had to restrain myself from reaching for a larger spoon. Made with hachiya persimmons, the jam had a rich, pudding-like texture that instantly made me want more. I had slathered it on, oh, about half a stack of brown rice cakes before I realized my spoon would soon be clanking the jar’s glass bottom if I didn’t exercise some control. So I put the lid back on the jam and distracted myself from devouring the rest by focusing on the product itself.

I have to tell you, if you can assign maturity of execution to a plant? This tree had its fruit-bearing virtuosity down! (Technically, the persimmon falls into the berry family. Just saying. Besides, “berry-bearing” just doesn’t have the same ring.)

“The trees are really, really old. They were here when we purchased the home,” Diane Padoven, founder and president of Napa Farmhouse 1885 told me.
Well, no wonder this jam was so good: Not only had these trees perfected their craft, their produce was now “sustainably grown” in the loving and capable hands of Diane.
I thought about the Persimmon Jam for the rest of the day and was practically giddy when I realized I could have it again with dinner, this time in the form of a flavorful vinaigrette drizzled over my salad.

The recipe follows. I also highly recommend this as a dipping sauce for grilled chicken. The richness of the persimmon is a perfect foil to the charred smokiness of the meat.

Persimmon Vinaigrette
Prep Time: 10 minutes.
Difficulty: Goof Proof.
Serving size: About a cup and a half.

•2/3 cup Napa Farmhouse 1885 Persimmon Jam
•¼ cup good white wine vinegar, preferably organic
•¼ light salad oil, preferably grape seed oil
•1 TBS fresh squeezed lemon juice plus more to taste
•2 tsp Dijon mustard
•Salt and pepper to taste

Place the persimmon jam, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard in a bowl or a small food processor and whisk (or whir) to combine. Slowly add the oil, whisking constantly until blended.

Serve over a salad that has some bitter leaves in it such as radicchio or endive. Toss in some hazelnuts and, as Diane’s suggests, crumble some feta overtop. Drizzle the dressing over the mixed greens, toss, and enjoy! Store in a cruet with a stopper or an airtight container for up to two weeks. Shake well before each use.

Food writer, published author and Foodzie producer, Steven Gdula, will be helping us to create a Foodzie Test Kitchen in the coming months. Steven’s double duties as a vendor with a product as well as a food writer gives him a unique perspective on the roles of producer, product and consumer. Steven will chronicle his adventures in and out of the kitchen here on the blog. You can read his work at thewarmestroominthehouse.blogspot.com – the companion blog for his book,The Warmest Room in the House – and also at http://gobbagobbahey.com/ – the home page for Steven’s gobs etc. (a whoopie pie-like confection popular in Pennsylvania.) "
(photo courtesy foodzie)
ok...the recipe was worth the wait...right?...now...go visit the foodzie site...and let me know what you think...while you are there...check out my foodzie shop to learn a bit more about our "farmhouse food" collection. and, if you have created a recipe using products from napa farmhouse 1885...please let me know...send me the info...and maybe we will use in an upcoming blog post....

best,
diane

diane padoven
founder/president
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "
follow me on twitter

to receive special offers only available to our preferred customers, please sign up for the mailing list on the right hand side of this post...