SOJ Chef Demo 11.24.12

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Chef Sam sporting his No Shave November look.

At this week’s South of the James farmers’ market cooking demo, Chef Sam Baker transformed local, seasonal ingredients into a delicious dish for market shoppers. It was a cold and windy morning, so I was grateful that we had an abundance of fall vegetables at our disposal. Fall and winter veggies have a way of warming you to your core, don’t they?

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Chef Sam gathered collard greens, butternut squash, and apples to incorporate into a pasta dish featuring Cavanna Pasta pumpkin ravioli.

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Chef Sam knew he needed an additional ingredient to tie together the dish, and he found the answer in two types of goat cheese.

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For the first time this season, Goats R Us brought some aged goat cheese to market. The Chef counted on the sharp tangy-ness of this hard goat cheese to elevate the flavors in his dish.

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The second type of goat cheese used was Night Sky Farm’s semi-soft chevre, from which Chef Sam made a creamy sauce for the pumpkin ravioli.

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The Chef demonstrated how to chop the greens into ribbons by first stacking and rolling the leaves into a log, then chopping thin strips from end to end. Chef Sam also showed market shoppers how to quickly peel and seed a butternut squash. In important lesson for safety and efficiency was to make cuts that allow you to lay the squash flat, so that it does not roll around while you are chopping it. After cutting the squash into cubes, the Chef steamed the butternut squash for several minutes.

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After steaming the butternut squash, Chef Sam added the apples and greens to the sauté pan. Meanwhile, the Chef cooked the pumpkin ravioli in a large pot of boiling water, and heated the chevre with a bit of the pasta water to create a goat cheese sauce. Chef Sam then seasoned the vegetables and sauce with salt, pepper, and an herb and spice blend from The Village Garden.

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Chef Sam then layered the squash, apples and greens over the ravioli, and topped them with the goat cheese sauce. Then he grated the aged goat cheese over top of the dish. Everyone agreed that the cheese sauce tied all of the ingredients together. The Chef recommended that this dish be made with pears instead for a different flavor. I thought the apples worked really well. Upon tasting the pasta dish from the sample boat, one bystander commented, “finally we can build a positive association with those paper hot dog boats!”

We have just one week left for the South of the James farmers’ market in Forest Hill Park. Stop by to see us next Saturday, December 1st, between 8:00 AM and noon, for our final demo of the season. On the following Saturday, the market moves to the Patrick Henry charter school for the winter.

Thank you to Cavanna Pasta, Drumheller Orchard, Goats R Us, Night Sky Farm, The Village Garden, Walnut Hill Farm, and all of our featured vendors for producing this week’s fresh and delicious ingredients!

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(Almost) Free Greens

If you love greens as much as I do, you probably pick them up weekly at the grocery store or farmers’ market. I usually get at least one or two bunches a week of kale, spinach, chard, or other greens. Today I want to let you in on a little secret that you may not have discovered for yourself yet. When you buy root vegetables with the greens on, do you discard the greens?

Did you realize that every time you buy beets or turnips at the farmers’ market, you essentially get two vegetables in one? I almost always cook the greens in addition to the root, which reduces waste and saves me money. I have found that while some greens work better with certain flavors than others, I can usually swap the greens called for in a recipe for whatever I have on hand.

Turnip greens are surprisingly delicious, and beet greens are both tasty and attractive on the plate. As with all leafy greens, these taste great simply sauteed in oil with fresh garlic, salt and pepper. A little vinegar added to the pan toward the end of cooking helps cut the bitterness of most greens.

Next time you are at the market, select produce with bright, crisp greens and you will enjoy two vegetable side dishes for the price of one. If you need ideas for preparation, here are a few of my favorite greens recipes. It is okay to substitute root vegetable greens for all of these recipes, and they should still turn out fantastic.

Vegetarian Collard Greens

Mediterranean Braised Chard (sub capers for anchovies)

Beer-Braised Turnip Greens

Swiss Chard with Garbanzo Beans & Tomatoes

What is your favorite way to prepare greens?

Vegetarian Tomato Gravy

Has your market or garden been overflowing with greens lately? Mine has, and I have really enjoyed trying out all the varieties that are fresh and locally available this time of year.

Check out this beautiful red Swiss chard.

This bunch was begging to be sauteed and served with some comfort food.

I immediately thought of the delicious rice bowls we had at Rosetta’s Kitchen in Asheville, NC.

Then I thought of the tomato gravy I had on the same trip at Early Girl Eatery.

And the first of many Asheville-inspired dinners was born. Balsamic baked tofu with sauteed chard and tomato gravy is short on prep time and long on flavor. The dish is comprised of four separate components that you throw together at the end.

  • Brown rice, which requires a very hands-off preparation
  • Baked tofu, which also takes care of itself
  • Swiss chard, which just calls for a stir every minute after it hits the pan
  • Tomato gravy, which is the most hands-on component, but really very easy

When I finished cooking and tasted the tomato gravy, I was surprised at how awesome it was, considering the minimal effort it took to prepare. I immediately wanted to put tomato gravy on everything. I can’t say that I feel the same about a lot of the things I cook, like honey wheat sandwich bread (really not that quick and easy).

Doesn’t that look like a whole plate of comfort? Yum.

Part 1: Brown Rice

Get your rice cooking first because it takes 45 minutes to an hour. Cook according to package instructions and then keep warm without drying out.

Part 2: Balsamic Baked Tofu

Drain and press a block of extra firm tofu (I used the fine herb variety from Twin Oaks). Cut the tofu into 1/2″ to 1″ cubes and toss in a bowl with enough balsamic vinaigrette to coat. Marinate for 20 minutes. Lightly oil a baking sheet and preheat your broiler. Drain the tofu cubes and reserve the leftover marinade for the greens. Spread out the tofu cubes in a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle the tops with olive oil. Place under broiler for 4-5 minutes, then turn the to onto the other side and broil for 4-5 minutes more until the edges are crisp and brown. Keep warm.

Part 3: Sauteed Swiss Chard

Wash and dry the greens in a salad spinner. Stack the leaves and cut them crosswise into strips, chopping perpendicular to the stems. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan and add the greens to the pan, along with 2 cloves of chopped fresh garlic. Saute until wilted, and then toss with the leftover marinade from the tofu. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Part 4: Vegetarian Tomato Gravy

I adapted this recipe from the original from the Vegan Food blog. Feel free to make your own substitutions as you see fit.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp raw granulated cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • pinch ground cayenne
  • 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice

Preparation

  1. Heat the butter over medium heat in a medium pan. Stir in the flour with a whisk until no lumps remain. Let simmer for half a minute to toast the flourand then remove from heat.
  2. Slowly stir in the milk while whisking the mixture.
  3. Return pan to heat, stir and bring to a boil. The mixture will thicken over a few minutes. Turn heat down to low.
  4. Add the sugar, salt, and pepper. While stirring, add the juice from the tomatoes. Return to a simmer.
  5. In a shallow bowl, mash the tomatoes with a fork or potato masher until they are choppy or shredded, in juice. Make sure you keep some tomato lumps and do not over-mash the tomatoes.
  6. When the gravy has returned to a simmer, add the tomatoes. Turn the heat up to medium-low and stir while cooking for 3-5 minutes or until the gravy thickens.

Combine parts 1-4 on one plate, and you get this.

A taste of the Southeast in your own kitchen.

Now go buy some greens before they’re all gone!