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Posts about Farmers and foraging

Lenny Russo in Slovenia #6: Of olive oil, truffles and fish (oh my!)

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: April 9, 2013 - 7:56 PM

 

Photos by Christopher Wurst

Photos by Christopher Wurst

 

The first day out began with truffle hunting in Belvedur. It is spring black truffle season here. Gina, the amazing truffle hunting dog, led us to an oak tree where I able to dig out the truffles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next we headed to Franc Morgan's olive groves. Franc (below) is a gold medal winner in an international olive oil competition held in Italy every year. His awards are too numerous to mention, but, sadly, his production so small that it is consumed exclusively here in Slovenia. It might be the best olive oil I have ever tasted, and it is ubiquitous in the finest restaurants across Slovenia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We tasted several varieties including orange-infused oil that is pressed with whole oranges. It was poured over vanilla gelato and a lemon-infused variety made in the same way I later used at a dinner prepared the next evening. We also tasted an olive based digestif.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we headed to Klenart vineyard situated on a hill overlookin Trieste on one side and the Bay of Piran on the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 We tasted all of his wines including a pinot noir rose that I served at the same dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day began with securing a fish from a fisher named Momo in the port side town of Piran. He brought a rare catch. The folks there were declaring it salmon, but it looked a steelhead trout to me. Once I cut into it, it turned out I was right. Nonetheless, catching a fish of the species in the Bay of Piran is extremely unusual. It must have traveled down a river on it's way to open water and made a wrong turn.


The we headed to the famous Istrian salt flats where there is now a nature preserve and salt has been produced since medieval times when it was the primary source of revenue for the region and a major source of revenue for the Venetian city state. There I picked up some amazing fleur de sel that has an almost sweet finish to it.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After that, we headed into the uplands of Istria where I prepared a meal from that morning's trout cooked over an open fire along with potatoes mashed with the black truffles and a garnish of variegated radicchio with fresh fennel tossed in lemon juice and Franc's lemon-infused olive oil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finished the dish with the fleur de sel. It was served en brodo with a broth made from the trout bones and aromatic vegetables with some Klenart Ribula white wine. We started with some Klenart sparkling wine made from chardonnay and pinot noir (They call the pinot noir modri pinot ). I served Klenart rose with the meal and we finished with the olive-oil digestif from Morgan.

Today I have several interviews. Then I am preparing a meal of heirloom beans with klobasa and duck eggs in a "black kitchen."  More later.-- Lenny Russo
 

Who is Master of the Market? Sameh Wadi wins the competition

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: August 22, 2012 - 3:22 PM


 

 

It was a tough choice to make, to determine the best entry: a beautifully designed beer-cheese BLT soup by Jack Riebel of Butcher & the Boar, or a fragrant three-course meal of an heirloom tomato salad with charred-tomato vinaigrette, a trout and vegetable tagine, and a chilled melon soup for dessert from Sameh Wadi of Saffron. That was the decision the judges had to make Saturday during the Chef Challenge at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, an event held in multiple cities, sponsored by Country Financial and, here, the Minneapolis Farmers Market.

The chefs had 20 minutes to find their foods of choice at the market, and $50 to spend, followed with 30 minutes to prepare their dish. Jack and Sameh raced through the aisles of the very crowded market (or at least they tried to; it was tough to get customers to move out of the way), grabbing the tomatoes, cantaloupe, trout, bacon, bread and more to be used in the prep. 

Jack, at right, relied on what he called "the three killer 'Bs' for his dish: beer, bacon and bread.  Each chef was allowed to bring two ingredients to the event. Jack brought vinegar and beer; Sameh also turned to vinegar, as well as his own spice blend.

"This is more stressful than Iron Chef. It's Jack Riebel," said Sameh at the start of the competition. By 11 minutes from deadline, Jack noted, "Stress, stress, stress."

But neither seemed too stressed; they were calmly -- though hastily -- at work, focused on the end results.

 

I was one of the four judges, who included food blogger Stephanie Meyer and WCCO-TV weekend anchors Matt Brickman and Jamie Yuccas.

Take a look for yourself at the completed dishes. Jack cooked and plated a stunning soup in the very formal, elegant method of first presenting the soup ingredients without the broth, then at the table slowly pouring in the liquid. No matter how many times I've had soup presented this way, it makes me swoon. See the tomatoes, maple-glazed bacon and green onion? That's a slice of gouda atop the bacon and the mild beer-cheese broth also uses the cheese. It was a real stunner. Here's how the dish was initially served before the liquid was added, followed by a photo after the addition of the beer-cheese broth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deconstructed BLT Soup
Serves 4.
From Jack Riebel of Butcher & the Boar.
Beer Cheese Soup:
• 2 tbsp. chopped garlic
• 1½ c. chopped onion
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 tsp. salt
• 48 oz.. (6 c.) beer
• 3 c. Gouda cheese, grated
• 3 c. Havarti, grated
Tomato and bacon garnish:
• 8 slices bacon (Riebel used Thielens)
• 1 c. diced bread
• 1 lb. heirloom tomatoes, blanched and cut into large pieces
• 2 tbsp. maple syrup, divided
• 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar, divided
• Salt and pepper
• 1 tbsp. olive oil, or to taste
• 1 sprig fresh basil
• 1 green onion, sliced thin
• 1 jalapeno sliced thin
Directions
Sweat garlic, onion, olive oil and salt over low heat just until sizzling. Add beer and simmer 10 minutes.
Pour into blender and blend until smooth. Add cheese and blend until smooth. Pass through strainer; set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan set over medium high heat, brown bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to paper towel and drain.
Reserving the fat in the pan, return pan to heat and add diced bread and cook until crisp but not burned. Add oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, and reserve.
Place tomatoes into a bowl ; stir in 1 tablespoon each of maple syrup and vinegar. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. Tear basil leaves and stir into tomatoes.
Place the remaining vinegar and maple syrup into the sauté pan. Return to heat. Add cooked bacon and stir, reducing liquid to a syrup. Season liberally with pepper and reserve.
To assemble: Divide tomatoes among 4 bowls. Garnish with bacon, croutons, green onions and sliced jalapenos. Pour beer-cheese soup around edges, and serve.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sameh presented a three-course meal, starting with a salad of heirloom tomatoes with a charred-tomato vinaigrette. The fragrance was wonderful. The dressing was drizzled on the salad at the table. (Again, a swooning moment.)

Heirloom Tomato Salad With Tomato Vinaigrette
Serves 4.

• 5 heirloom tomatoes, (3 sliced thinly, plus 2 whole for vinaigrette), divided
• 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
• 3 tbsp. olive oil
• 1/4 jalapeno (no seeds)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1/2 pint (2 cups) raspberries
• A few fresh basil leaves
 

Directions

To make vinaigrette: Char 2 tomatoes over flame until mostly black. Do not rinse off the charred bits. In a blender, combine tomatoes with vinegar, olive oil, jalapeno, salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Pour over sliced tomatoes. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, raspberries, salt and pepper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second course from Sameh was a seafood tagine made with rainbow trout and vegetables (zucchini, patty-pan squash and corn in the mix), mixed with North African spices, a blend called ras el hanout. The dish was originally presented in a cobalt blue tagine, then dished up individually for the judges.

 

 

Trout Tagine with Ras El Hanout and Corn Broth
Serves 3.

Note: Tagine is a type of dish found in the North African cuisines of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, which is named after the special pot in which it is cooked. They are slow-cooked stews braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. If you don’t have a tagine pot, this recipe could also be prepared in a covered baking dish. This is one of the winning recipes in the Chef Challenge from Sameh Wadi of Saffron restaurant. The recipe calls for a Moroccan spice blend called ras el hanout, which varies considerably depending on who makes it. Wadi uses his own blend of 29 spices that he sells at Saffron and online at saffronMPLS.com/spicetrail.html. Other blends can be used and would be available at Middle Eastern stores, as well as at Kitchen Window (3001 Hennepin Av., Minneapolis, 612-824-4417). The blend typically includes cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and turmeric. If not using Wadi’s spice mix, adjust the amount to your taste.


 

• 2 c. corn stock (see  directions below)
• 3 ( 5-oz.) pieces rainbow trout or similar fish
• 2 tbsp. ras el hanout (a Moroccan spice blend, see Note), divided
• 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
• 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
• 1 large onion, sliced thin
• 3 c. fresh corn kernels
• 6 baby zucchini, halved
• 12 baby patty-pan squash, whole
• 1 c. yellow wax beans, blanched and cut into 1-in. pieces
• Salt to taste
• 1/4  c. fresh cilantro, chopped
• 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions
 

To make 2 cups corn stock: Simmer several corn cobs (from the fresh kernels you will use in this dish) with water, onions, garlic and salt for 30 to 45 minutes on medium. Strain and season with a pinch of salt.
To prepare fish: Marinate fish with a pinch of ras el hanout spice and a drizzle of olive oil for 15 minutes and reserve in the refridgerator.
Heat remaining oil in tagine or large pot. Add garlic, onion and corn; cook on low heat. Add zucchini, patty-pan squash and beans. Then season with salt and remaining ras el hanout spice. Add corn stock and reduce liquid by a quarter, with pot uncovered.
Season the fish with salt and place in the tagine with the fresh cilantro. Cook for 3 minutes on high with the cover on. Add the lemon juice and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third course from Sameh was a frothy muskmelon soup, that will definitely find a place on my summer menus.
 

Melon Soup
Serves 4.

Note:

• 1 muskmelon, peeled and cut in chunks
• 1/4  c. ice
• 1/4  c. water
•  Juice from about 1 1/2 limes
• Honey, to taste
• 1/2  pint (2 c.)  raspberries
• Freshly cracked black pepper
• Few sprigs of mint

Directions

Combine muskmelon, ice, water, lime juice and a bit of honey (amount will depend on how sweet the melon is) in blender. Purée on high; add more water for desired consistency, then taste (adjusting honey, if needed) and strain.
To serve, place soup in bowls and garnish with raspberries, a sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper and mint leaves. Serve cold.

 

Stephanie Meyer, Lee Svitak Dean, Jamie Yuccas and Matt Brickman, hard at work judging the contest.

Stephanie Meyer, Lee Svitak Dean, Jamie Yuccas and Matt Brickman, hard at work judging the contest.

 


 

 

 

Blueberry overload

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: July 5, 2012 - 9:32 AM

 

"It's a tsunami of blue out there."

That's the first thing John Cuddy said to us when we got out of the car last weekend at his Rush River Produce in Maiden Rock, Wis. Cuddy doesn't seem to be a man prone to exaggeration, so he's not kidding when he says that this year's blueberry crop appears to be one for the record books.

I've been visiting this nothing-else-like-it U-pick destination for more than a decade, and I've never witnessed anything that comes close to the abundance of this summer's output. To say that the farm's 10,000-plus plants are heavy with fruit is an understatement.

This summer is also unusual in that the crop is maturing on a stepped-up schedule.

"In 25 years, I've never seen so many berries, so early," said Terry Cuddy, John's spouse and fellow blueberry enthusiast. Again, she's not overselling. She directed me down to the rows of Nelson berries (a variety after my own heart), which usually mature in early August. Last weekend, many Nelson berries were already starting to turn blue. 

Yes, the picking has never been easier at the Cuddys' strikingly picturesque farm, where colorful, well-tended flower gardens give way to neat rows of bushes ("We've got nine miles of blueberries," is the farm's party line) cascading down rolling hills and melding into spectacular Rush River valley views. The abundance means that pickers don't have to go to too much effort to get their fill; with very little effort, three of us filled two boxes (one of them is pictured, top) in less than an hour, roughly seven pounds of summer treasure.

The Cuddys cultivate more than a dozen northern blueberry varieties, which translates into berries of varying sizes and flavors. They also have a small side business in currants (red, black and white) and gooseberries. 

The farm is roughly 70 miles southeast of the Twin Cities, and is open Thursday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Although the place is brimming over with berries, it's still best to call ahead and check on availability: 715-594-3648. Cost is $4.50 per pound (or $9 per pound for pre-picked berries), cash or check.

Pack a picnic lunch, or, if it's Friday, Saturday or Sunday, stop into Maiden Rock and enjoy inexpensive sandwiches or quiche on the front porch at the Smiling Pelican Bakeshop (one note: cash only). Don't miss a slice of one of baker Sandra Thielman's extraordinary pies. We made quick work of a fantastic buttermilk-lemon pie topped with blackberries and some of the farm's blueberries (pictured, below); my only regret of an otherwise perfect day is that we didn't buy a second slice. 

 

Once we got all those blueberries home (the gentle scent that filled the car was semi-intoxicating), I wondered if we'd gone a little overboard. But after handing out a few stashes to friends, I picked up a box of quart-sized freezer bags and jumped into the freezing process. 

It's easy. The first step is filling a small baking tray with a single layer of berries -- and taking a few moments to weed out the duds -- and freezing them for at least an hour, enough time to transform them into cold marbles.

 

 

It's a time-consuming and slightly awkward process -- fortunately, I've got a jelly roll pan that just squeezes within the confines of our side-by-side freezer. But in the end, it's better to take the extra step than simply freezing fresh berries by the bag; the berries won't be stuck together. I choose quart bags vs. gallon bags for a reason; it's more convenient to thaw only what's needed, and who ever needs an entire gallon of blueberries?

The fruits of our labors yielded 14 quart-sized bags, minus all the snacking (and baking, see below) that we did prior to filling the freezer. Not bad for 45 minutes work. 

 

 

I did manage to set aside a few fresh berries for some weekend baking. This coffee cake went fast. 

 

 
 

Judging from its popularity, I'll be making this recipe for months. It's a good thing I've got all those berries in the freezer. 

 

EASY BLUEBERRY-PECAN COFFEE CAKE

Serves 12 to 16.

For cake:

3 c. flour, plus extra for pan

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. baking soda

Freshly grated zest from 1 lemon

12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pan

1 1/2 c. sugar

3 eggs

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. sour cream

1 1/2 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen

For topping:

1/2 c. chopped pecans

3 tbsp. ground cinnamon

3 tbsp. sugar

4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) melted butter

Directions

To prepare cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour bottom and sides of a 9- x 13-inch pan. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and lemon zest and reserve. In bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour in thirds, alternating with sour cream and mixing until just combined; do not overmix. Gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.

To prepare topping: Sprinkle pecans evenly over top of batter. In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle mixture over top of pecans. Evenly pour melted butter over top of cake, then run a knife through batter to allow butter to run down into cake. Bake until top is lightly browned and springs back from a light touch, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pick-your-own raspberries and blueberries

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: June 20, 2012 - 11:29 AM

 

 
First strawberries, and now it's raspberry and blueberry U-pick season. Get your fill of berries at these Minnesota and western Wisconsin pick-your-own farms. Call ahead -- or consult the farm's website -- before you head out.
 
RASPBERRIES

Aitkin: Great River Gardens Farm, 43507 Hwy. 169, 877-286-3408

Anoka: Berry Hill Farm, 6510 185th Av. NW., 763-753-5891

Belle Plaine: Cherith Farms, 27450 Raven Rd., 507-665-5055

Clear Lake: Grayson’s Berryland, 6705 Cty. Rd. 8 SE., 320-743-3384

Cold Spring: Produce Acres, 25704 Cty. Rd. 50, 320-685-3257

Duluth: Lakewood Berry Farm, 3417 Riley Rd., 218-525-5710

Emily: Hilltop Ventures, 20335 Cty. Rd. 1, 218-763-2547

Elko: Thompson’s Hillcrest Orchard, 6271 250th St. E., 952-461-2055

Eyota: Ron’s Berry Farm, 9546 10th St. SE., 507-261-7742

Faribault: Straight River Farm, 3733 220th St. E., 507-334-2226

Forest Lake: The Berry Patch, 19221 Keystone Av. N., 651-433-3448

Greenfield: Knapton’s Raspberries, Pumpkins & Orchard, 5775 Hwy. 55, 763-479-1184

Hinckley: Ben’s Berry Farm, 34921 Two Rivers Rd., 320-384-7232

Hinckley: High Hopes Acres Berry Farm, 35032 Cloverdale Rd., 320-384-6278

Long Lake: Wahlfors Raspberry Farm, 1525 Deer Hill Rd., 763-473-7770

Mabel: Wold Strawberries, 22988 Berry Dr., 507-493-5897

Marine on St. Croix: Natura Farms, 19060 Manning Trail N., 651-433-5850

Monticello: Strawberry Basket, 2591 Aetna Av. NE., 763-878-2875

Nisswa: Wallin Berry Farm, 8214 Cty. Rd. 18, 218-963-7456

Northfield: Lorences Berry Farm, 28625 Foliage Av., 507-645-2528

Northfield: Silkey Gardens, 5561 115th St. E., 507-645-4158

Princeton: J.Q. Fruit Farm & Orchard, 8082 33rd St., 763-389-2567

Raymond: Brower Berries, 12951 105th St SW., 320-967-4718

Redwood Falls: Hilltop Harvest, 33343 Hunter Av., 507-641-6655

Wadena: Carman Berry Farm, 19168 145th Av., 218-631-4613

Watkins: Leafblad Produce, 67784 330 St., 320-693-2486

Westboro, Wis.: Nelson's Berry Farm, W4929 Gunnar Rd., 715-427-3440

 

 

 

BLUEBERRIES

Aitkin: Great River Gardens Farm, 43507 Hwy. 169, 877-286-3408

Anoka: Berry Hill Farm, 6510 185th Av. NW., 763-753-5891

Brunswick, Wis.: Appledore Woods, W3865 Cty. Rd. HH, 715-834-5697

Champlin: Bauer Berry Farm, 10830 French Lake Rd., 763-421-4384

Clear Lake: Grayson’s Berryland, 6705 Cty. Rd. 8 SE., 320-743-3384

Eleva, Wis.: Blueberry Ridge, E2795 Hageness Rd., 715-287-3366

Forest Lake: The Berry Patch, 19221 Keystone Av. N., 651-433-3448

Forest Lake: Covered Bridge Farm, 18655 Forest Blvd., 651-464-0735

Glenwood City, Wis.: Knox Green Hill Farm, 3234 140th Av., 715-265-4004

Maiden Rock, Wis.: Rush River Produce, W4098 200th Av., 715-594-3648

Menomonie, Wis.: Blueberry Hills Farm, N7900 County Rd. J, 651-303-3372

Monticello: Strawberry Basket, 2591 Aetna Av. NE., 763-878-2875

Nisswa: Wallin Berry Farm, 8214 Cty. Rd. 18, 218-963-7456

Princeton: J.Q. Fruit Farm & Orchard, 8082 33rd St., 763-389-2567

River Falls, Wis.: Blue Ridge Growers, 246 Carlson Lane, 715-425-8289

St. Francis: Roselawn Heritage Farms, 24069 Rum River Blvd., 763-753-5517

Stanchfield: Dew Fresh Produce, 404 375th Av. NE., 763-689-2282

Stillwater: Blueberry Fields of Stillwater, 9450 Mendel Rd. N., 651-351-0492

Wadena: Carman Berry Farm, 19168 145th Av., 218-631-4613

Watkins: Leafblad Produce, 67784 330 St., 320-693-2486

Westboro, Wis.: Nelson's Berry Farm, W4929 Gunnar Rd., 715-427-3440

Strawberry U-pick season

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: June 4, 2012 - 9:03 AM

 

Shoppers who arrived early at Twin Cities farmers markets this past weekend were fortunate enough to snap up the very first locally raised strawberries of the season. Ambrosia, right?

Their appearance was also a harbinger of more warm-weather news, in the form of the 2012 U-pick season, which kicks off this week at a number of Minnesota and western Wisconsin farms.

Here's a list of 25 close-to-the-metro-area venues for strawberry self-starters. Call ahead -- or consult the farm's website -- before heading out. 

MINNESOTA

Anoka: Berry Hill Farm, 6510 185th Av. N.W., 763-753-5891

Champlin: Bauer Berry Farm, 10830 French Lake Rd., 763-421-4384

Clear Lake: Grayson's Berryland, 6705 Country Rd. 8 SE., 1-320-743-3384

Delano: Apple Jack Orchards, 4875 37th St. SE., 763-972-6673

Elk River: Becks Elk River Greenhouse & Vegetable Farm, 15362 190th Av., 763-263-2631

Faribault: Straight River Farm, 3733 220th St. E., 1-507-334-2226

Forest Lake: The Berry Patch, 19221 Keystone Av. N., 651-433-3448

Hastings: Afton Apple Orchard, 14421 S. 90th St., 651-436-8385

Hastings: Sam Kedem Nursery Garden, 12414 191st St. E., 651-437-7516

Hastings: Wyatt's Strawberries, 10370 180 St. E., 651- 437-8479

Hinckley: Ben's Berry Farm, 34921 Two Rivers Rd., 1-320-384-7232

Above: A previous year's opening day draws a crowd to Sam's Produce in Arkansaw, Wis

Lakeville: Applewood Orchard, 22702 Hamburg Av., 952-985-5425

Marine on St. Croix: Natura Farms, 19060 Manning Trail N., 651-433-5850

Monticello: The Strawberry Basket, 12591 Aetna Ave NE., 763-878-2875

Northfield: Lorences Berry Farm, 28625 Foliage Av., 1-507-645-9749

Northfield: Silkey Gardens, E. 115th St., 1-507-645-4158

Rochester: Firefly Berries, 5542 23rd St. NE., 1-507-252-1309

St. Joseph: A&G Produce, 10448 345 St., 1-320-290-0907

Shafer: Pleasant Valley Orchard, 17325 Pleasant Valley Rd., 651-257-9159

South Haven: Fairhaven Farm, 13835 51st Av., 1-320-236-7685

White Bear Lake: Pine Tree Apple Orchard, 450 Apple Orchard Rd., 651-429-8026

Above: The fruits of a few hours of picking. 

WESTERN WISCONSIN

Arkansaw: Sam's Produce, 7272 Cty. Rd. P, 1-715-285-5351

Eau Claire: Appledore Woods, W3865 Cty. Rd. HH, 1-715-834-5697

Glenwood City: Green Hill Farm, 3234 140th Av., 1-715-265-4004

Osceola: Demulling Farms, 466 240th St., 1-715-294-3742

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