November 29, 2011

Calling for Comfort Food - Winter Greens & Polenta

Guest Post by Spring Warren, author of The Quarter-Acre Farm

Now that we are well into the chocolate season, a time of monumental overindulgence (fudge nudges all other food aside as the base of my personal food pyramid), I try to balance sweet excesses by eating healthy dinners.  However, the season is also a grey and rainy one and that chill requires a balance of its own – and that’s warm, comfort food.

Fortunately, this is not only the time of year for those chilly days, but also for the greens that grow in cool temperatures: chards, beet greens, collard greens and kale.  And nothing beats greens and polenta as comfort food.

Sauteed Greens and Polenta

I’ve bought pre-made polenta; just slice it up and stick it under the broiler.  I’d rather make my own, however, and add my own seasonings.  The recipe is simple – Four cups of liquid (water, broth, and/or milk) to one cup of (coarsely ground) cornmeal.

I cook the polenta on low, stirring every so often, adding a bit more water to the mix if seems too thick. I have found that 15 minutes of forgetfulness gets me a lumpy mess, but 30-45 minutes of intermittent spoon wrangling provides a soft, creamy polenta. I sometimes stir a knob of butter into the polenta at the finish, or shredded hard cheese, sautéed garlic greens, herbs or truffle oil. I spread the polenta into a pan so that it’s about an inch thick.

When it has cooled, I cut the set polenta into pieces then broil it until the top is brown and crispy.

The perfect counterpoint to sweet, creamy polenta is slightly bitter greens. Sadly, my kale is not yet harvest ready.  But while my beet roots are only about the size of ping pong balls, there’s lots of delicious beet greens to be had at the farm as well as lots of chard.

I wash my greens very carefully (I can tell you nothing ruins a good meal like garden grit, or the surprise meeting of a Quarter-Acre Farm snail on one’s fork), then cut out the ribs, chop them and set them aside.  I roll the rest of the chard, then coarsely chiffonade the leaves.

In a large fry pan (I use a big pan because the greens diminish in volume remarkably during the cooking process), I heat a couple of tablespoons olive oil, and sauté a teaspoon of pepper flakes, the chard ribs, and ¼ cup of sun dried tomato batons (I actually dried the tomatoes in a dehydrator, but dehydrator tomatoes don’t sound nearly as delicious).

When the rib sections are tender, I add the rest of the greens to the pan, turning and stirring until the greens are evenly wilted and tender.  I finish with a splash of balsamic vinegar...

...heap the greens on the plate with the polenta (hot from the broiler) and serve.  Enjoy! Spring Warren

From Farm Fresh To You A big thank you to award-winning author Spring Warren for sharing her wonderful Polenta and Greens dish with us!  We highly recommend filling your tummy with polenta and greens and then settling in with her equally satisfying book, The Quarter-Acre Farm, a book chocked full of stories, garden information, humor and delectable recipes.

Spring has generously offered two signed copies of The Quarter-Acre Farm to giveaway.  Enter to win here by Monday, December 5th!  Thank you Spring for sharing your wonderful recipe with us! Be sure to check out her book The Quarter Acre Farm!

November 9, 2011

In the Mushroom Mix

You may find a few new fungi favorites as specialty organic mushrooms arrive in your boxes. Here are a few mushrooms that go beyond the basic "button."

Alba Mushrooms

Pearly white with dime-to-quarter-size caps and three-inch stems, these beauties are richly flavorful and a great addition to seafood dishes, sauces and stir-fries.

Alba Mushrooms

Chefs recommend using the Alba with olive oil, garlic, tomato, red bell pepper, citrus juices and thyme. You may also blanch Albas in salted water for two minutes to soften the flavor. Drain and cool, then proceed with chosen recipe. Our mushroom source recommends a hot sauté to then elicit the full flavor of the Alba. Excellent in salads: cut or tear into strips.

Brown Clamshell Mushrooms

Similar in size to the Alba, the Brown Clamshell variety, has a medium brown cap. Like its Alba cousin, it also has a wonderfully rich flavor noted by a mild, appealing shellfish flavor.

Brown Clamshell Mushrooms

In addition to seafood, the Brown Clamshell works well in dishes with nuts and herbs. These mushrooms will be a bit firm even after sautéing. Similar in character to Alba Clamshell, some use a quick blanch to soften the flavor.  The Brown Clamshell is a bit more flexible and is easily able to pair with red wine sauces as well as Asian influenced stir fry. Roast to deepen flavors. Grilled veal, almond, cashew, garlic chive, thyme.


Sometimes called the “baby Portobello,” Criminis are the younger version of the Portobello. Portobello is the mushroom variety at later maturity.


In fact, if you let a Crimini grow only 5 more days, you will get a small Portobello cap. The Crimini has an earthy, meaty texture, and stands up well to baking, roasting and stewing. They’re a favorite in Italian dishes, especially those with tomato sauce and beef.

Trumpet Royale Mushrooms

With a sturdy, light brown cap, the Trumpet Royale has a nutty flavor and a great culinary range. It can be sautéed, grilled, braised, stewed, or broiled. Its stem can also be used, sliced into medallions.

Trumpet Royale Mushrooms

The Trumpet Royale's firm texture allows for grilling or cooking on high heat. Chefs recommend cooking them in dishes with cream, walnuts, sherry, parmesan, rosemary or balsamic vinegar.

The flavor of fresh, organic mushrooms add "something" to nearly any dish at any time of day.  In addition, mushrooms not only provide protein and fiber, but also vitamin B, vitamin D, vitamin K, copper and other minerals.

How are you enjoying these tasty morsels? 
Any recipe links to share?

Variety tasting notes provided by Gourmet Mushrooms Inc. with over 30 years experience growing exotic specialty mushrooms at our farm in Sonoma County, California.