Monday, May 26, 2008

Southern Greens

Southern Greens
Originally uploaded by TagDragon

I liked greens when I was a kid growing up in the South. They were always part of the summer garden and dinner table; and always served with hot pepper sauce. My mother planted turnip, mustard, and kale and would occasional pick polk salad from fields around the farm. Greens are a very traditionally southern dish and not seen in the midwest or north.

I was at a birthday dinner party at Terrene and the side vegetable was a mixture of greens. They were very, very good and it took me back to my childhood. The trainer at the gym has also told me I need to eat more green, leafy vegetables. Although I’m not sure he meant with bacon. The picture is of a mixer of kale and swiss chard about a third of the way through the cooking process.

2 to 4 tablespoons Olive Oil
3 to 4 slices Bacon - diced
½ Onion - diced
4 large bunches of Greens – Kale, Mustard, Turnip, Collard, or Swiss Chard
2 cups Water or Chicken Broth
½ to 1 teaspoon Salt
½ to 1 teaspoon freshly ground Pepper
½ to 1 teaspoon Sugar

Wash greens thoroughly, remove stems and ribs, and roughly chop. In a larger stock pot or dutch oven add olive oil and fry diced bacon until fully cooked. Add onion to bacon renderings and sauté until soft and translucent. On mid-high heat add greens to oil and bacon and allow to wilt slightly. Add water or chicken broth, salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 1 to 2 hours until tender.

Sever with hot pepper vinegar. Servers 6 to 8.

I like to mix and match the different types of greens, usually kale with one of the others. Use ½ of one type and ½ of another. If you are really adventurous and can find it, try with Polk Salad. Tougher greens like swiss chard will take longer to cook. Also, if you are using greens from your garden they will be much more tender then those purchased at the market. They will cook faster and you may not have to remover the stems and center ribs.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Fresh Radish Sandwiches with Sunflower Sprouts and Goat Cheese

Early summer radishes are just now starting to make their appearance in our St. Louis farmers' markets. I was never a fan of radishes growing up, but as my palette has matured I've discovered that I really, really like the peppery little guys.

Radishes have a lot to offer - they're visually striking (especially when you mix and match colors), they have a unique flavor, and they add a pleasing crunch to every dish they're in. Roasted radishes are also amazing, but I'll leave that for another post.

My grandfather, a farmer, had fresh radish sandwiches with butter whenever they were in season. Big, hearty, crunchy sandwiches - a far distant relative to those fussy little radish sandwiches served at teas.

I thought of making this sandwich because 1) the radishes looked lovely at Soulard this morning, and 2) Veronica Baetje of Baetje Farms introduced me to her latest goat's cheese offering. The "Sainte Genevieve" is, from the label, a:

"...delicate round of cheese [that] was inspired by the French cheese 'Chaource". Chaource has been made in France since the 14th century and is traditionally made with cow's milk. We have given this old cheese a new twist making it with our own Saanen Goat milk. "

When I sampled it, I immediately thought "Butter, but better." The cheese is creamy like softened butter, but has a nice tangy flavor you'd expect from a goat's milk cheese. It's very mild, and would work well paired with fruit.

But since I had radishes on the brain, and a new buttery, tangy cheese to sample, I put them together with Black Bear Bakery's Pumpernickel bread and Claverach's Sunflower Shoots - sunflower sprouts are another new revelation - both of which I purchased at Local Harvest.

The last instruction on the label said to "Enjoy!" And I did! And so should you! This cheese was just introduced to the market today, and it's a real treat to be able to use it in a recipe that's so seasonal and fresh. If you're a fan of goat cheese, rush down to the Baetje Farms stall at Soulard Market and pick up the Sainte Genevieve, or another of their delicious varieties. You'll love them!

Fresh pumpernickel bread, lightly toasted
Baetje Farms' "Sainte Genevieve" cheese, softened to room temperature
-substitute with a mix of 4 parts chevre to 1 part butter
Red Radishes
White Radishes
Sunflower sprouts
Salt and pepper

Slice the radishes very thinly with a mandoline or slicer. Lightly toast the bread and spread liberally with the cheese. Place the radish slices in a single, overlapping layer on the bread, alternating colors. Top with sunflower sprouts, and a dash of salt and pepper to taste. Be sure to wipe the summer off your chin.

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Locashopavore: Viviano's on the Hill

St. Louis has dozens, if not hundreds, of specialty food stores thanks to its diverse international population. I thought it would be fun to choose one store and improvise a recipe from its shelves (and my pantry) - going in without a preconceived notion of what to make for dinner that night, just playing with whatever they have that's fresh or interesting.

I'm going to call this my 'Locashopavore' experiment - when you can't get something locally produced, get its replacement from a local store - and I'm starting it off with Viviano & Sons, Inc., on the Hill.

View Larger Map

"The Hill" neighborhood in St. Louis is a haven for the serious gastro-shopper. It's always been (and continues to be) a predominantly Italian-American neighborhood, and as such the specialty stores and restaurants are famed for their pastas, meats, and breads. One of the most popular and best known shops is Viviano & Sons, Inc., more commonly known as just "Viviano's".

The store has a nice selection of all things Italian - sauces, pastas, deli meats, wine. It was early morning when I went in, and the store was relatively empty, so I asked for some assistance from the very helpful woman behind the counter. After explaining my quest, she gave me a quick tour of some of the highlights & recommendations. I chose the following:


To start I got a pot of water boiling for the tortellini, defrosted the frozen white sauce, and washed the arugula.

Then, I chopped a slab of pancetta into thick pieces and fried them in a tiny bit of olive oil. Once browned, I drained the pieces on a paper towel and poured off all but 1 Tsp of the drippings.

I added 2 handfuls of arugula to the sauce pan, covered, and removed from heat for 1 minute to wilt the arugula. I stirred the arugula into the drippings (yum!) and covered for another minute, until the arugula was soft but not limp.

I returned the sauce pan + arugula to the burner and stirred in the white sauce. While I got that simmering, I added the frozen spinach tortellini to the boiling water and cooked it for 7 minutes. I drained the tortellini and let it rest for a minute. I stirred the pasta into the sauce, then served in a big bowl with the locatelli, which is a nice salty cheese.

I must say that Viviano's cream sauce is heaven, and certainly kicks the garlic off any I've ever made. I am sure I will use it again, and will keep a couple of containers on hand in the freezer. All said, this was a really simple meal to pull off, and it tasted fantastic! You could omit the pancetta & arugula and make an even easier & faster dish...but why would you??!

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Baetje Farms' "Coeur de la Creme" Tart with Kimker Hill Farm flour crust

I recently finished The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and though I do tend towards hyperbole, I have to admit this book has changed my life...or at least my views towards food, specifically the food I prepare to feed myself and others.

I've been shopping at two of St. Louis' interesting seasonal farmers' markets, the Tower Grove Farmers' Market and Soulard Market, for years without really understanding *why* I enjoyed the food I prepared from ingredients purchased seasonally and grown locally. The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I highly recommend you read, helped crystallize my thoughts around being responsible for the meals I cook, and one of the conceits of the book centers on meals prepared from locally hunted, gathered, or farmed ingredients. I wondered if I could do the same thing in St. Louis. I decided to start with a single dish, a goat cheese tart, inspired by my favorite new ingredient.

Baetje Farm's "Coeur de la Creme" chevre-style goat's milk cheese is, in a word, sublime. It is the most satisfying cheese I've had in a long time, for both gustatorial and ethical reasons. Steve & Veronica Baetje live and work on their goat farm in Bloomsdale, Missouri, about 55 miles south of St. Louis. Their cheeses and production were recently featured in Sauce magazine [will link once available] and also in a local business journal, which provided a glimpse into the life of what appear to be the happiest goats in the world, frolicking in green pastures and producing some of the best goat cheese I've ever had. The cheese is molded into a heart (hence the "Coeur"), and can be rolled in a variety of organic herbs - for the purpose of my dish I wanted just the plain, which is such a misnomer because the flavor is tangy and the texture is just right for the tart I was envisioning.

I like to make my own pie crusts, having learned from my Grandma Ellen how to make a flaky, buttery crust for both savory and sweet pies. At the Tower Grove Farmers' Market I found locally milled flour from Kimker Hill Farm in St. Clair, Missouri. After talking with owners Denise & Dan Wissman, and explaining the kind of dish I was preparing, I was guided to purchase their 10 Grain Flour and Oat Flour for the tart's crust. Following the classic recipe for Pâte brisée from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I mashed the two flours together with butter, shortening, salt, and water and turned out a really flaky crust.

I also wanted to use farm-fresh eggs, and I was lucky enough to find Sheri's Poultry at Soulard Market. They had organic eggs that were laid that morning, so I bought a dozen of the slightly speckled, slightly smallish eggs.

Finally, I used another local ingredient from Greenwood Farms - BACON!! I love bacon, and this from the Atkinson family in Newburg, Missouri, had a great smoky flavor.

The rest of my ingredients were purchased at Soulard Market, with the exception of the cream and butter, which I purchased from a local supermarket. Next time I'll try to get some fresh cream and churn my own butter. No, really, I'm going to try!

Here's a map of the farms and markets that helped in the preparation of this dish:

View Larger Map


For Crust
1/4 cup Oat Flour from Kimker Hill Farm
1 3/4 cup 10 Grain Flour from Kimker Hill Farm
-or 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks chilled butter, cut in 1/2" pieces
4 T shortening
1/2 cup iced water, plus more as needed

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Place in a 2qt. or larger food processor with the slicing blade on. Pulse once or twice to smooth out the dry ingredients. Add the butter and shortening and pulse 4-5 times, until the flour mixture starts to pull together into small pearls. Turn the blade on and add the water in one fell swoop, stopping the blade just after and pulsing another 5-10 times until the dough just starts to come together around the blade. Do not overmix!

Pull the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and quickly form into a ball, working fast to stop the butter from melting due to heat from your hands. Wrap tightly in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours and up to a day in the refrigerator. The dough will freeze for quite some time if carefully wrapped.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface to just larger than 9". Carefully transfer the dough to an 8" tart pan rubbed with butter. Gently press the dough into the edge of the pan, forming the bottom and sides of the tart. Place a piece of aluminum foil on the tart and fill with beans to keep the tart from puffing during baking. Bake on a sheet at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven and carefully remove the aluminum foil and beans. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the crust in several spots, then return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes. Remove when center is firm and edges are just starting to brown.

For Filling
1/2 lb. bacon lardons - I used Greenwood Farms' smoked bacon
1/2 cup sliced fresh green onions, green and white parts
4 cloves minced garlic
4 cups fresh spinach, washed and dried
9oz. Baetje Farm's "Coeur de la Creme" cheese (1 1/2 hearts)
-substitute with your favorite chevre
2 T softened butter
3 T heavy cream
2 large eggs
pinch of Penzey's French Four Spice
-substitute with fresh ground nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste

Heat a dash of olive oil in a large skillet and add the bacon. Stir over med-high heat until the bacon pieces are browned and crispy. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon. Pour off all but 1 T drippings. Stirring quickly, add the green onions and the garlic. Heat for 30 seconds until the onions start to open up, then add the spinach. Cover and remove from heat. Let the spinach wilt for 1 minute, then stir to begin mixing in the onions, garlic, and oil. Cover again and wilt for 4 minutes. Stir again and let cool (preferably to room temperature but it can be a little warmer if you're rushed for time).

Mix the softened goat cheese, butter, and cream with a fork until lightly blended. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then add to the cheese and mix well until smooth. Season with a pinch of Penzey's French Four Spice and salt and pepper to taste.

Fold the wilted spinach into the cream mixture. Scatter bacon pieces on the bottom of the cooled tart crust, then gently spoon in the cream mixture, smoothing with a spatula. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until center is light and puffy and the top is just starting to brown. A knife to the middle should come out clean.

Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then gently remove the sides of the tart pan. Cool to room temperature, then slide the tart off the bottom of the tart pan. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Flank Steak & Chorizo Mixed Grill

The following is an unofficial rule of country parties: Someone will bring a layered taco dip - you can just count on it. I understand the allure of taking a taco dip to a party because 1) it's tasty, 2) it's easy, 3) it can be made ahead. I, myself, have taken many a taco dip to parties, especially our neighborhood Cinco de Mayo party.

But this year I wanted to make something a little more interesting for our neighborhood "Cinco de Tres." And yes, I know it should have been "Tres de Mayo" but I didn't plan the party... Anyway, I think of this as an "unlayered taco dip" or an "open face taco". You could just as easily serve with warmed tortillas for a real taco.

One note: there's a somewhat special ingredient in here called crema mexicana, a sweet and creamy cultured milk product that is similar to crème fraîche. It really does add a certain zing to the dish, but you can just as easily substitute sour cream if you're not close to a Mexican grocery store (in St. Louis we are lucky to have several).


Marinade for flank steak
1 lime, zest and juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped green onions
4 cloves garlic, minced
3T oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp cumin

Marinade for vegetables while grilling
2 T butter
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cumin

4 lbs chorizo
2 lbs flank steak
3 ears corn
2 Vidalia onions, thick sliced
2 red bell peppers, thick sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped green onions
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup crema mexicana

Combine ingredients for steak marinade in a bowl. Muddle slightly using the back of a wood spoon to open up the onions and cilantro. Spread 1/2 cup of the marinade in the bottom of a 9x13 glass dish. Place flank steak on top and spread remaining marinade on steak. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 12.

Bring grill to medium high heat. Microwave ingredients for grilling marinade to melt butter, or warm on the grill in a ramekin or inexpensive pie plate. Place vegetables on grill in single layer and brush with butter marinade. Turn once veggies start to char and brush with remaining marinade, about 5-10 minutes total depending on grill heat. Remove veggies to pan. Grill chorizo until cooked through, turning during cooking, about 7-10 minutes. Grill flank steak for 5-7 minutes on each side, until center reaches desired temperature (I like it a little on the medium rare side).

Cut flank steak and chorizo into bite-sized pieces, cutting on the diagonal. Cut corn from cob into a large bowl. Chop grilled onions and red peppers and place in bowl with corn. Chop remaining cilantro, green onions, and garlic and place in bowl. Stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place meat in bottom of a large dish. Top with dollops of crema mexicana. Cover that with large spoonfuls of the roasted vegetable salsa. Top again with dollops of crema mexicana.

Check out the finished product in my Flickr photos.

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Rosemary & Orange Mint Julep

That's (Rosemary) + ((Orange) Mint) = Julep.

Here's a great way to jazz up a traditional mint julep for a Kentucky Derby party. I really like the idea of combining savory herbs in simple syrups to cut the sweetness of the syrup itself and to provide a deeper base for the drink. Rosemary tastes great with citrus, and citrus tastes great with bourbon, so this seems to be a win-win from all perspectives!

Serves 8
2 cups bourbon
3 cups rosemary and orange mint syrup

Chill bourbon and syrup. Place about 1" of orange peel plus 4-6 orange mint leaves in each glass. Muddle, with syrup. Ice glasses with shaved ice and pour in bourbon and syrup mixture. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Rosemary and orange mint syrup
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1 sprig rosemary
1 orange, peeled
10-12 mint leaves

Bring sugar and water to a low boil in a saucepan. Sitr in rosemary, orange peel and mint leaves, and boil for 3 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Cool to room temperature. Strain syrup using a sieve or colander to remove the herbs and orange peel (run it through cheesecloth again if there's any small sediment). Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to allow flavors develop. Keeps for 2 weeks refrigerated.

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)