Sometimes I’m just not up for the Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning – either it’s too hot (I start to wilt when it’s over 82 degrees without a breeze), I don’t feel like being in a crowd, or I was incredibly lazy and didn’t get going until early afternoon. But never fear – there are lots of farm stands around the area where you can stock up on a variety of vegetables for the week. Many farm stands are open seven days a week, from morning to early evening, so you can stop by on the way home from work, or head out on the weekend.

Peaches, Peppers, Potatoes, Eggplant and Green Beans at Munson Farms

Overall, I think my favorite farm stand is the one at Munson Farms. Located at 75th and Valmont, there is ample parking, a great selection of produce, reasonable prices, and always friendly service. I had the opportunity to talk to Mike Munson the last time I was there, and got the chance to ask a few questions about the farm. It really does make you feel connected to the area when you meet the people who grow your food.

Tomatoes Galore! – Munson Farms

Munson Farms specializes in sweet corn in the summer, and squash in the fall. But you can also pick up some tomatoes and basil for a caprese salad, bell peppers, onions, potatoes, and lots of other items.

A small preview of Munson Farms’ fall squash supply

I had to include the following picture, since it’s one of my favorites. I took this last fall at Munson Farms – it’s a great display of each type of winter squash they grew last year. If you’re in the market for pumpkins or winter squash, Munson Farms is THE place to go.

Squash Display at Munson Farms

Squash Display at Munson Farms

One of my favorite farms at the Boulder Farmers’ Market is Red Wagon Organic Farm. They have quite a large farm stand at 95th & Arapahoe in Lafayette, with a pretty vast selection of produce.

Onions, Apples and Pears at the Red Wagon Organic Farm Stand

As we found out at a farm dinner at Red Wagon a couple of years ago, they like to try different varieties to explore which ones taste best and grow well locally. This makes checking them out at either the Farmers’ Market or their farm stand a rewarding endeavor.

Summer Squash and Onions at the Red Wagon Farm Stand

The Red Wagon Farm Stand also has produce from other growers in Colorado, which reinforces the cooperation and respect among local farmers I’ve noticed when I’ve heard them talk about their businesses.

Beets, Peppers, and More Peppers at the Red Wagon Farm Stand

The are lots of other farm stands to check out in the area in addition to Munson’s and Red Wagon:

I don’t really have anything to write in this post, but I wanted to share the pictures I took of the awesome winter squash cultivars at Munson Farms (75th and Valmont in Boulder) this past weekend. They have a very large assortment of unusual and exotic looking pumpkins, a huge number of your more standard pumpkins (which you can pick yourself out of the field if you like), as well as many decorative gourds. They also offer specials where you can fill up a wagon with squash of all types for quite a discounted price.

Winter Squash at Munson Farms

Winter Squash Cultivars at Munson Farms

Winter Squash at Munson Farms

More Winter Squash Cultivars at Munson Farms

Pumpkins and Decorative Gourds

Pumpkins and Decorative Gourds

Winter Squash at Munson Farms

I loved this display!

The Peaches and Cream sweet corn from Munson Farms has been so extraordinarily tasty over the past few weeks that my husband specifically requested more corn this week. And I happened upon a blog entry from Vert Kitchen for Saffron Corn Chowder, so I definitely had my corn plan for the week.

We met the chef and owner of Vert Kitchen, Noah Stephens, at a HUSH dinner a couple of years ago. He had recently opened Vert, and mentioned it, so when we were down in the Washington Park area sometime later, we stopped by for lunch. We weren’t disappointed. The food was phenomenal, and Noah even remembered us from the dinner, and stopped by to say hi. (Stop in and get the Curry Chicken Salad – I can still remember how it tasted and it’s been at least a year).

Saffron Corn Chowder

I made two modifications to the recipe to make it more lowfat. I used evaporated milk instead of cream, and turkey bacon instead of regular bacon.  And I made one other substitution out of laziness – chicken broth instead of chicken stock.  I felt like it was a bit irreverent to make so many substitutions, but I knew I wouldn’t equal the original, and I like to keep my big dietary splurges for the weekends, so substitute I did. With my evaporated milk usage, the consistency was definitely more soup-like, but the taste was still spectacular. Sweet from the corn, but savory from the broth and bacon. Definitely worth a repeat!

Corn Chowder (Soup) Mid-way

This week kind of wore me out, so this post is quite a bit shorter than I usually like to write. I’ve concluded that the ideal amount of new recipes for me to make in a week is 3, and no more. Work just zaps my energy too much to do one every night, but three a week is a good compromise. That way I’ll have time to really concentrate on what I’m making – and have more time to do a good write-up.

Corn Chowder (Soup) (And yeah, the bacon looks a little fake, but it tasted pretty good!)

I love quinoa. My first exposure to it was at Turley’s, where it’s offered as a choice to complement their Scrambled Tofu. Most people consider quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’ in English) a grain, but it’s actually the seeds of the quinoa plant. Native to the Andes region of South America, it’s very high in protein for a non-meat food. And it’s got a nice, slightly nutty flavor. I buy quinoa that has been pre-rinsed to remove the saponins (apparently a soapy compound that you want to remove to avoid digestive issues). But you still want to rinse it a couple of times, even if it has been pre-rinsed.

Most of the quinoa that I’ve seen is of the white variety, but somewhat recently I discovered red quinoa, and found that the flavor is a bit stronger than the white quinoa, so that became my new favorite. Then as I was shopping at Whole Foods this past week, I came upon a bag of black quinoa. Well, given my strange obsession with the color of foods, I HAD to try it! The bag suggested mixing it with red and white for a multi-color dish, so I did half black and half red. It was so pretty in the colander that I paused, mesmerized, to stare at it for a while before continuing.

Black and Red Quinoa oooohhh...pretty

I decided to use a variation of the dressing on the southwestern potato salad I make using a great recipe from Cooking Light. It’s got a great smoky/lime juicy flavor. For the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, I use La Costeña, which they have at most of the grocery stores around Boulder. You just take a couple of the peppers out of the can and mince them with the adobo sauce still on them.

The quinoa seemed like it would be a great vehicle for a couple of ears of Munson Farms’ awesome sweet corn. I added a bell pepper and a couple of spring onions as well.

Black and Red Quinoa, Sweet Corn, Bell Pepper, and Spring Onions

Southwestern Quinoa
serves 4-6 as a side

1/2 cup black quinoa, well rinsed
1/2 cup red quinoa, well rinsed
2 ears sweet corn
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
3 tsp olive oil, divided (smoked if you have it)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
3/4 cup water
liquid smoke
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1 Tbsp lime juice
salt
pepper

Grill or boil the corn, and then cut the kernels off of the cobs once they are cooled.  Put the vegetable broth and water into a pot and bring to a boil.  Add the quinoa, bring back to a boil, then turn heat down to low.  Simmer, covered for about 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed.  (Check it at about 10 minutes to see if you need to add more water.) After 15 minutes, check to make sure it’s tender, and then remove from heat, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a skillet.  Saute the peppers and onions until the peppers start to get tender (some crsipness is ok). Set aside.

In a small bowl or mug, combine the chipotle peppers, lime juice, remaining 2 tsp of olive oil and several shakes of Liquid Smoke. Stir well with a fork, and add salt and pepper to taste.

When the quinoa is done, add all of the other ingredients, and stir well to combine.  Feel free to double the amount of ‘dressing’ that you use if you want a stronger taste. You can eat the quinoa warm, but it is also great refrigerated and eaten cold.

Southwestern Quinoa

Herbs and Spices

June 24, 2011

I used to think that I wasn’t missing that much by using dried herbs and pre-ground spices.  The extra effort to wash and chop fresh herbs and grinding whole spices just didn’t seem worth it.  But I have found out that it is definitely worth a few extra minutes.  My first hint that maybe I was missing something was when I decided I’d try chopping fresh garlic cloves instead of using pre-crushed jarlic (our term for, what else – garlic in a jar) in a dish I made fairly regularly.  The difference was pretty obvious.   Fine, fine, garlic is neither an herb nor a spice, but you get my point.  Then I started using ‘fresh’ herbs from the store once in a while.  But how fresh can something packaged in a little plastic box transported from who knows where really be?  Definitely an improvement over dried, but not as good as either buying a whole bunch of cilantro or parsley at the store, or even better, at the Farmers’ Market.  In many cases, to me the dried herb doesn’t even seem like it came from the same plant as the fresh stuff.

Some of my favorite, yet simplest dishes showcase fresh herbs.  Last summer, I frequently stopped at Munson Farms’ produce stand on my way home from work, bought several ripe tomatoes and a bag of basil, and used them for insalata caprese (tomato mozzarella salad).  With just picked, non-refrigerated, only locally transported tomatoes, this salad is phenomenal.  And few things could be as easy and quick to make.  For the mozzarella, we like to use the little balls packed in water, which you can find in the deli cheese section in local supermarkets, because you don’t even have to do any slicing with those.  We use a fairly sparse amount of mozzarella compared to what you get in restaurants, because we find that the tomatoes are really the star in this salad.  Heirloom tomatoes are best, but any good, fresh ripe tomatoes will do.


Insalata Caprese

2-3 thinly sliced ripe tomatoes
1-2 handfuls of fresh basil, chopped
desired amount of mozzarella (we use about 2 oz.)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
dried red pepper flakes
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Layer the tomatoes in a large shallow bowl, add the mozzarella and basil. Toss with the olive oil to coat the tomatoes.  Add vinegar, shake or two (or eight – however hot you want it) of red pepper flakes, and a bit of salt and pepper.  Toss again, and adjust spices as desired.

Isalata Caprese with two types of tomatoes, before tossing


Spices are another magical ingredient when you put a little more effort.  Even after I started using fresh herbs, I still didn’t grind my own spices.  But then I bought a cookbook by Top Chef Masters winner, Marcus Samuelsson.  I was drawn to his recipe for berbere, a spice blend native to Ethiopia and Eritrea.  Even better, it called for fenugreek seeds, which I had bought for one recipe and now had an ample supply of, and no idea what to do with them. After reading about how Chef Samuelsson encourages grinding fresh spices rather than using pre-ground, I decided I’d give it a try.  If you don’t have a spice grinder, an old coffee grinder will work .  Holding the lid closed securely, and giving the grinder a few shakes while pushing the on button will ensure that you get everything fairly evenly ground.   I like to use a bit less cardamom than the recipe calls for, and given the amount of chili powder and paprika in the recipe, I do use pre-ground spice for those two ingredients.  I usually use ancho chili with some chipotle, or whatever other kind of dried chili powder I’m in the mood for.  I haven’t done full serrano, because while I like a lot of spice, I haven’t been quite brave enough to use that much.  I suggest starting with something slightly milder and putting in half the amount, and then going hotter if it doesn’t smell too hot for you.  For paprika, I usually both standard paprika, and a wonderful smoked paprika that I found at Savory Spice Shop in Boulder.  I can’t even begin to describe the warm, rich, complex smell of the berbere after it is mixed together.  And it’s a gorgeous color as well.

Berbere

Our favorite thing to do with the berbere is to coat boneless, skinless chicken thighs with it, and grill the chicken.  Just the extra bit of fat in thighs versus breasts combines with the richness of the spices for a result that nearly brought me to tears the first time I tried it.  And, you can make the spice up ahead of time, and keep it in the refrigerator for up to three months.  Just take the amount you need out and then coat the chicken in a separate bowl so that you don’t risk salmonella contamination in the remainder of the berbere.

Grilled berbere chicken with Israeli couscous and sauteed rainbow chard with turkey bacon

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