This is my farewell-to-summer salad recipe. I made it about a month ago, thinking I would save it to post next summer, but summer is extending waaaay beyond its normal Canadian boundaries, so I couldn’t resist sharing it now. Besides salad is good for you anytime, even if it’s a summer salad teetering on the cusp of Fall. We have all winter to feature beets, apples and pumpkins.
It all began very innocently: I was planning to make Grilled Peppers with Feta for our retail girls because we had such beautiful peppers at the store, and they are amazing marinated, grilled and stuffed with feta. I was telling them about our family’s introduction years ago to the cute, but hot cherry bomb peppers by one of our employees at market. He’s from Laos and told us how to cut off the top, hollow out the inside, sprinkle salt on the edges, then turn them upside down on a paper towel-lined pan to drain. This cuts down the heat factor. Then you stuff them with feta cheese and seasonings. I’ll tell you, our horizons have really broadened with our ethnic friends’ influence! We didn’t grow up eating hot stuff, but we love heat now. I make these cute, flaming delights once a year for our family.
One busy day this fall when I was assisting the girls at the store, I promised to make some for them. They agreed with reserved enthusiasm. I decide that to save time, I would employ the marinated pepper recipe that I love, using both sweet and hot peppers, and cut them smaller. It was a bit anti-climactic because the peppers aren’t very hot this year, due to all the rain they got during their growing season. But the girls loved them, and didn’t need to chase them down with milk.
Then I started thinking about all this delicious marinade, and the leftover peppers that I didn’t use. It hurts me to throw away perfectly good marinade that simply had peppers sitting in them for a few hours. It was a beautiful warm day, the grill was hot, I had other vegetables and chicken breasts thawing in my fridge. I marinated the vegetables in one bag and the chicken in another, and that is the backstory to the End-of-Summer Salad.
Note: You can use whatever vegetables you like that are grillable. That’s the beauty of salads!
As stated above, peppers are hotter in a dry year. It makes sense that a pepper with a higher water content would be milder, right? Keep them in the fridge in a bag. I have discovered that a grapefruit spoon works wonderfully to scoop out the seeds in a hot pepper.
For the Grilled Stuffed Peppers, simply marinate them, sear them, and melt a spoonful of the herbed feta mixture in the cavity. So simple; so good.
Marinade: Whisk or shake together the marinade ingredients. Place chicken in one zippered plastic bag and vegetables in another. Pour half of the marinade into each bag, turning a few times to distribute it. Refrigerate and marinate for at least an hour, turning several times. Remove from the marinade and grill the vegetables quickly on medium high heat. Don’t overcook them; you just want to sear them. Brush with remaining marinade. Remove the chicken from marinade and grill on medium until no longer pink inside. Again, brush with remaining marinade. I make a small slit in the fattest part of the breast to check doneness. Remove from the grill. To serve, slice the vegetables and meat and arrange on a bed of mixed greens. Add herbed feta cheese, drizzle with your favourite dressing, and say farewell to summer.
End-of-Summer Grilled Salad
DirectionsCut peppers into halves, thirds or quarters, depending on their size. Cut zucchini in half crosswise, then again in half lengthwise. Leave the green onions whole.
Whisk or shake together the marinade ingredients. Place chicken in one zippered plastic bag and vegetables in another. Pour half of the marinade into each bag, turning a few times to distribute it. Refrigerate and marinate for at least an hour, turning several times. Remove from the marinade and grill the vegetables quickly on medium high heat. Don’t overcook them; you just want to sear them. Brush with remaining marinade. Remove the chicken from marinade and grill on medium until no longer pink inside. Again, brush with remaining marinade. I make a small slit in the fattest part of the breast to check doneness. Remove from the grill.
To serve, slice the vegetables and meat and arrange on a bed of mixed greens. Add herbed feta cheese, drizzle with your favourite dressing, and say farewell to summer.
A few weeks ago, I was asked by our head marketing guy, Peter, if I could develop a recipe that would feature our Martin’s Apple Chips. That sounded like an enticing proposition, so I started researching recipes. For weeks, images of apple chips danced in my head, spinning and twirling, accompanying granola (somebody beat me to that one), on top of pork loin (I’m definitely going to play with that idea. I love pork loin, and it’s so easy to dress it up. Don’t you agree that our chips would be great with pork loin?), and with cheese (cheese, yes, of course!)
Since our Canadian Thanksgiving is just around the corner and our US friends are looking forward to celebrating it next month, my thoughts kept veering towards a party food. Plus, Christmas is coming! We had just toured Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh a month ago, we grow apples here, and we sell Bright’s Cheese. That’s a pretty good local trio right there. And so this Fresh Cranberry Apple Dip came into being.
It’s a sweet and savoury, slightly spicy dip with two options for serving it; over cream cheese, or as a salsa with feta cheese stirred in. The day I made it, I took both versions in to our offices and the retail store staff to get a consensus on the favourite. Well. The favourite split cleanly down the middle, with nearly all of the samplers saying they like both. And wow, did the apple chips ever bring it to life! We tried both the original and cinnamon chips, and the simplicity of the original definitely showcased the dip best.
So…I’m happy to feature both variations. I used fresh cranberries, but frozen would work just as well. I buy a big bag from Martin’s and keep them in my freezer all year because I never know when a craving for cranberries will strike. I used four types of peppers to add a bit of heat and spicy flavour, and you’ll never believe this, cilantro. Yeah, you heard me. What can I say? I had a weak moment; I actually felt it would enhance the flavour. I was right, too.
One more, because it’s so pretty and our photographer, Sary, took such beautiful photos…
Cranberries are grown on very low bushes in northern climates. The fields they grow in are called bogs or marshes. In order to harvest them more easily, the bogs are flooded so that the plants and berries lift. Then they are raked off and sorted. I learned that a properly ripe cranberry will bounce; if it doesn’t it will be rejected. They can be stored in the fridge for about 2 weeks, then they should be frozen.
We begin harvesting early apples at the end of August, and continue until the end of October. We are in the ‘eye’ of the apple harvest storm from the middle of September until the end of October. For a fun little infomercial on our apple harvest, watch this. To see the apple chip process and our own personal bee, click here, then click the arrow in the centre of the page.
Variation: Instead of using cream cheese, stir ½ cup of crumbled feta cheese into the drained topping and serve as a salsa. Or do one of each, cutting back to one brick of cream cheese and ¼ cup of feta.
Fresh Cranberry Apple Dip
DirectionsCoarsely chop fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to thaw the frozen berries). Finely dice washed and cored apple, green onions, and jalapenos. If you like lots of heat, leave seeds and membranes in the jalapeno; if not, remove them. Combine all of these fresh ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients except the cheese and stir together lightly. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, and up to twelve hours. Drain thoroughly, place two bricks of cream cheese on plates and top with the drained topping. Serve with assorted dippers, including our very own Martin’s Apple Chips!
Variation: Instead of using cream cheese, stir ½ cup of crumbled feta cheese into the drained topping and serve as a salsa. Or do one of each, cutting back to one brick of cream cheese and ¼ cup of feta.
When I think of corn, I remember rows and rows of it in our Shop Garden. When I remember the rows in the Shop Garden, I recall picking the corn, and hearing the satisfying crack as the cob snapped off the stem. I remember emerging from the patch with corn tassels in my hair and arms itchy from the hairy, bristly leaves. Then came the next family project, shucking bushels and bushels of the stuff, with Dad helping us and telling us stories while Mom expertly cut the kernels off the cobs. As our hands grew and steadied, we were allowed to help cut it off. It was like a rite of passage; once you were able to cut off corn to Mom’s specifications, you were an adult. There was a knack to it, you see. It had to be cut close enough to the cob that you weren’t wasting any of that precious commodity, but not so close that you were shearing off the hard gristle from the centre of the cob. And finally, it was quickly blanched, cooled and bagged for the freezer, to be hauled out and served later in the season.
I’m lucky, though, I just tell Steve how many dozen cobs I want Martin’s to set aside for me, and presto, we have beautiful sweet corn appearing at our back door with no itchy arms or corn tassels in our hair. We had a family Corn Day recently and I, as the matriarch of the clan, was telling the cutters not to cut it too close to the cob, but still close enough. Since it was a cloudy, drizzly day we did it inside, but the stories flowed freely as the cobs were denuded of their kernels.
In the evening, the sun came out and we had a campfire, roasting the corn on the grill while the salmon fillets cooked over the fire. We ate the corn with a Mexican Street Corn sauce which made it taste delicious. Since the Mexican cotija cheese is hard to find here, I substituted feta. The texture is similar and it still tasted great. I made sure to grill extra corn because I wanted some for this Chicken, Corn and Black Bean Salad, which is also amazing. To grill it, I simply remove a few of the outermost husks, then place the corn on the BBQ and grill it covered for about 20 minutes, turning it a few times to cook each side evenly. If you don’t have time to grill it, or can’t for some other reason, you can achieve a similar flavour by thawing and draining frozen corn, then sautéing it in a dry skillet until it begins to brown.
I have served this salad times without number and it is always received with gusto. It is especially good served with foccacia, naan or some other flatbread. Grill some fresh peach or apple halves or pineapple wedges for dessert, drizzle with a fancy balsamic, honey or maple syrup, add some cinnamon and some ice cream, and you have a delightful summertime meal.
We used to grow acres of sweet corn here at Martin’s and I learned from that time that quickly cooling down the cobs after picking is critical to maintaining flavour and crispness, especially if you aren’t able to use it all immediately. We had a big vat of cold water that the bins of freshly picked corn would be dunked into before hastening them into the coolers. This way, the corn can easily stay fresh for days without losing flavour or crispness. I am wary of wagons of sweet corn for sale beside the road that have been sitting in full sun for hours.
Chicken, Corn and Black Bean Salad
- 1/3 cup olive oil (you can use whatever oil you like best)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh
cilantro(parsley for me, thank you), finely chopped
- 1-3 teaspoons honey (it’s your call on the sweetness level here)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or chili pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
- 1 1/2 cups grilled chopped chicken (cooked is okay too, just not as flavourful)
- 19 oz. (540 ml) tin black beans, rinsed and drained (I use half of this amount)
- 1 cup of cooked (or grilled) corn kernels
- 1/2 cup of thinly sliced red or green onions
- 1 medium bell pepper, sliced or diced
- Bed of torn lettuce (I like a mixture of leaf and romaine)
- Chopped tomatoes or grape tomatoes
- Shredded cheese
DirectionsCombine the first eight ingredients to make the dressing. This can easily be made ahead, in fact it should sit for at least thirty minutes for the flavours to blend. Place the torn lettuce on a large plate or flat-sided bowl; top with the remaining ingredients in whatever order you wish. Sometimes I create rows, sometimes wedges, circles, random sprinkles; it’s your choice. Drizzle with the dressing just before serving and stir lightly to distribute the ingredients.
One of my favourite things to plant in the spring is my herb pot. In my opinion, herbs add life to any blah, drooping, weary dish. This summer has been especially friendly to my pot, and, I might add, to me, with regular rains to keep it looking lush. I can shear off a big bunch of them one day, and voila! By the next week there’s another armful of them waiting
I love pretty much any herb, with the exception of cilantro. Cilantro and I have agreed to co-exist, if not warmly, at least peacefully. Parsley is an old friend that goes way back and is useful in many ways. Curly parsley is the prettiest; flat-leaf Italian parsley delivers more punch. One of my favourite ways to consume parsley is in melted butter over new potatoes.
I was planning to grill chicken breasts and sweet corn one night, but it rained, so my plans changed. I browsed recipes and came across one that looked promising, except…cilantro. Parsley, especially flat-leaf parsley, is an agreeable substitute, though, so without much pause, I continued on. It was a success, unlike the rum/vanilla substitution in my Rhubarb Pancakes. So you see, sometimes it does work! Thyme also works well with chicken, but if you insist on using cilantro, go ahead.
I have gotten into the whole liquid-reduction thing in sauces like this; it eliminates the need for thickeners like flour, which is a good thing if you’re cooking gluten-free. You simply add broth, wine and/or cream to the skillet and cook it down until it’s the thickness you want, usually about a third or half. I browned the chicken, made the sauce, then baked the chicken in the sauce for 40 minutes.
I still served it with sweet corn, and spooned some of the sauce over fresh broccoli. We have beautiful herbs, corn, broccoli and cauliflower at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm right now. And so much other good stuff, I can hardly cook it fast enough, let alone blog about it all.
Herbs are a key to adding culinary bling (eye appeal) to your food, as well as flavour. Check how much they spread before planting them. Some of them, such as parsley, basil, and mint, will happily take over the whole pot or bed!
They can be dried or frozen to use in the winter. I have frozen stems of herbs and chopped off pieces to use in soups, etc.
Parsley Lime Chicken in Cream
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about half a Persian lime)
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 1 – 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
- Chopped parsley, thyme (optional), lime wedges for garnish
- Seasonal side vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, corn, beans, asparagus, carrots; you name it!
DirectionsTurn oven on to 375° F. Heat olive oil on medium-high in a large skillet. Place chicken breasts in hot oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Quickly brown them on each side until they are a deep gold colour. They don’t have to be done; browning adds ever so much more flavour. Transfer them to a 7″ x 11″ baking dish. Squeeze the lime (or drizzle juice) over the chicken. In the same pan, sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant and soft, then add the whipping cream and red pepper flakes. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about a third. Pour over the chicken in the pan. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Meanwhile, you can be steaming the broccoli and boiling or roasting the corn, or prepping your salad.
Spoon some of the liquid over the broccoli and sprinkle everything with chopped parsley to serve. Garnish with a lime wedge.
This is the time of year when new things seem to literally spring out of the ground and off trees, and with a snap of our fingers, a bit of toil or money, can be conjured into our kitchens.
Two of those things are on our menu frequently here, in various forms. Fresh green beans and fresh garlic: who can resist such a tastebud-tingling combination? They accompany everything beautifully; they add colour to any dish, and they’re quick to put together.
When I say fresh garlic, I’m talking wet, sticky, pungent garlic; the real deal. When we were visiting England in 2011, the land of cutsie, corny names like Bangers ‘n’ Mash, Stinking Bishop Cheese, The Wibbly, Wobbly Bridge (seriously! believe it; it’s true), Duttons for Buttons, and Fat Rascals, we saw a sign above a basket of fresh garlic that read “Wet Garlic”. Immediately Steve and I looked at each other and exclaimed, “Of course! That’s exactly what it’s like!” Ever since, I think of the freshly harvested undried garlic as “wet garlic”. Forget that anemic Chinese stuff that you need to use three of to get any sort of flavour. This is for serious garlic-lovers.
So last night I took three handfuls of fresh Ontario green beans, one for each of us; washed them, cut off the stem end, and threw them into my medium sized frying pan with a wee dram of water, and a teaspoon or two of olive oil. I pried out one clove of garlic, finely chopped it and sprinkled it in with the beans, along with a tablespoon of chopped onions. I covered it, but kept the lid ajar (this keeps the beans green), and cooked them until they were starting to turn bright green. Then I removed the lid, and finished cooking them as the liquid reduced and the beans started frying a bit. Grate salt and coarse pepper over the lot, and you have a scrumptious side dish. Sometimes I add crumbled bacon or quartered cremini mushrooms. This time I served them with chicken schnitzel, new potatoes with fresh parsley butter, and a slice of a lovely ripe heirloom tomato. It was a meal fit for the Queen! Next time I should invite her.
By the way, I do love England; it’s a mystical, magical country full of Charles Dickens, Beatrix Potter, William Shakespeare, Beefeaters, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen, the Bronte’ sisters, and The Phantom of the Opera. It made me remember books from my childhood and youth, and lots of history lessons coming to life. It’s a country of contrasts and paradoxes. Also, sheep. Lots and lots of sheep.
Garlic is planted in the fall and left out over winter. It is harvested at the beginning of July, then dried for several weeks on racks. The dried stuff is brought out for sale after the “wet garlic” is sold.
Typically dried Ontario garlic is twice as pungent as the Chinese stuff; “wet” up to thrice as garlicky. Keep dry garlic at room temperature; wet in the fridge in a bag.
Garlicky Green Beans
- 1 quart (4 cups) fresh green beans, washed and stem end removed
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped onions
- 1-2 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, butter, or bacon drippings
- 2-3 Tablespoons water
- Salt and pepper to taste
Optional toppings: crumbled bacon, shredded cheese or fried mushrooms
DirectionsToss beans, garlic, onions and water into a medium to large frying pan. Cover partially, leaving lid ajar for steam to escape. This will help to keep the beans green. Cook quickly until liquid evaporates, then remove lid and stirfry the beans until they are just beginning to brown slightly. Top with desired optional toppings, then grind salt and pepper coarsely over all.
This is the time of year that you first begin to see action in this orchard of ours. It begins in a state of ugliness that leads to an abundance of beauty in another month or so. The action happening these days is that of pruning the trees of their surplus branches so that the warm sun can hit every single bud and turn it first into a blossom, then into an apple. Here’s an interesting tidbit: the fruit buds actually form in June of the previous year. The pruning typically begins while there is still snow on the ground, as there was a few weeks ago when I took this picture. The snow is gone now; honestly, it is!
People are often surprised at how heavily the trees are pruned, but it is critical to have each part of the branch exposed to the sun for optimum ripening and healthy growth of the apple. You see here our team of pruners, two experienced ones and two new apprentices. They come from Trinidad and Jamaica to help us from March to October, and we are very grateful for their help! It delights my heart to hear their happy chatter in the orchard as they work.
After harvest in the fall, the apples are stored all year in special controlled atmosphere storage that you will learn about as we go along. I will give you snippets of information because A) it’s easier for you to digest, and B) I plan to write for quite a while, so I can’t tell you everything at once, can I?
My recipe today is a simple one to go with that egg cheese that I’m sure you’ve all made by now. Right? Of course; right. It is one I watched my Grandma make, who lived beside us all the years I lived at home. She was a tiny little lady who loved children and we loved her. She was an adventurous gardener and cook who liked to try new dishes. She knew every bird, tree, and flower in the woods behind us, and I learned from her which mushrooms were edible, and which ones were poisonous.
You simply cut a firm yellow or green apple like Golden Delicious or Crispin (also know as Mutsu) into thick wedges. This is what is known as “schnitz” in Pennsylvania Deutsch. I use one of those handy-dandy apple slicers that cores the apple and cuts it into wedges in one fell swoop. We carry nice sturdy ones at our store at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. You melt butter in a pan, add brown sugar, the apple wedges, a generous dash or two of cinnamon and fry on medium low heat until the apples are all gooey and carmelly and starting to soften. They taste wonderful on egg cheese, pancakes, ice cream, or just on their own. Do try them!
Always, ALWAYS store apples in the fridge or somewhere equally cold. They will keep six to ten times longer than at room temperature.
Grandma's Fried Apple Schnitz
DirectionsMelt butter in a large electric or stovetop frying pan on medium heat. Wash apples, but do not peel them. Add brown sugar to the pan and stir into the melted butter. Remove the core and cut apples into thick wedges (about 6 per apple). I like to use my apple corer and wedger for this. Toss them into the pan with the butter/brown sugar mixture, sprinkle them with cinnamon, and stir them gently so that they are coated with the mixture. Fry on medium heat, turning them periodically until they are gooey and golden; soft but not mushy. This takes 5-10 minutes, depending on the firmness of the apples. Serve over egg cheese, ice cream, pancakes, or all on their own.
Today I’m donning the ruffled bonnet of Little Miss Muffet. Because the Easter season is just around the corner, I must introduce you to the delicacy that every Waterloo County Mennonite worthy of the name eagerly looks forward to. In actual fact, it’s one of those foods that people either love or hate; but I, and most of my household, are in the love camp. Notice I said MOST. This delicacy that I present to you most reverently is an offering from our German heritage; Egg Cheese, aka Easter Cheese, or in Pennsylvania Deutsch, Oya Kase.
This humble cheese is made largely with milk and; you guessed it; eggs. The texture is like a firm, curdy cottage cheese. It is made only for the month surrounding Easter. It’s not that it couldn’t be made any other time, but there’s something really cool about eating something only once a year. I mean, how special would it be if you could eat chocolate bunnies all year long? Right. Exactly. Now get this; you eat it with maple syrup, REAL maple syrup, poured over it. That’s the clincher, right there, folks. For some people it’s simply an excuse to eat maple syrup by the spoonful. You can eat it any time. I’ve had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and at break time too. It is beautifully versatile! As a matter of fact, it’s so versatile that I’m never sure how to categorize it. Maybe I should slot a Heritage Recipes Category and stick it in there. What a great idea. Thank you for mentioning it.
There is a lot of maple syrup produced in our area. If you drive around these Waterloo County roads on a clear, sunny, just-above-freezing day, you will see clouds of smoke billowing through the trees in woodlots. That, my friends, is someone cooking sap in their sugar shanty. Don’t you just love that term? Sugar shanty. It rolls off the tongue so wonderfully. Much more elegant than sugar shack.
Anyhow, in cold climates, maple trees store starch in their trunks and roots before and during winter. In early spring, as temperatures begin rising during the day, the starch converts to sugar, which rises in the sap. The sap is collected from the trees as it starts rising through taps that have been drilled in to the trunk. A question often asked is, does this hurt the trees? Nope; it doesn’t. Our neighbours have a slab they cut from a tree that was several centuries old, and in the rings you could see the vertical lines through the rings where it had been tapped at many different points in its lifetime. The wood grew back together completely each time. It’s pretty neat to see. Oh, what stories that tree could tell! Then this sap is boiled until the liquid condenses to a thick, delicious amber syrup. Our son-in-law has a sideline maple syrup business, and I kid you not, he produces some of the area’s finest stuff. We sell a pile of it at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. He says it has to do with the soil components in the New Hamburg region. I think he’s being modest.
By the way, locals, would you like a pretty little drive? Ian and his partner, James, are hosting an open house today and next Saturday, March 25, so check them out at Ian Roth’s Maple Syrup. He can tell you a whole lot more about the process.
Maple syrup should be stored in a cool place, and refrigerated once opened.
FUN FACT: When Ian and our daughter Tamara became engaged four years ago, the New Hamburg Independent announced that the “Maple Syrup Man is marrying the Produce Princess”. I love small towns.
Now let’s make the egg cheese. It’s easy to do; there are just three main things to watch for.
- Don’t let the milk burn! This is kind of critical.
- Let the curds separate until they look like big globs of scrambled eggs
- Let the cheese drain thoroughly, or you will have a floating island on your plate (not the good kind, like the fancy dessert by that name).
*You can use 2% milk, but whole milk produces a smoother, creamier egg cheese.
WATERLOO COUNTY EGG CHEESE
DirectionsHeat milk on medium-high in a very large stockpot, stirring frequently to avoid scorching, until it begins steaming and swelling. Try not to let it come to a full boil, although it’s not the end of the world if you do. While it heats, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and salt. Pour the egg mixture slowly into the hot milk, stirring all the while. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover with a lid, stirring every so often. When the milk separates and curds rise to the top, remove the lid and stir frequently until the curds look like large chunky scrambled eggs, and the liquid (whey) is a nearly clear pale gold. Remove from heat. Place a large piece of cheesecloth into a sturdy colander over another large pot and carefully pour or scoop the entire mixture into it, allowing the whey to drain through. Smooth the top with a spatula. Let it sit and drain for about an hour, pressing the top periodically to squeeze out excess whey. When it stops dripping from the bottom, tip the cheese onto a large plate. Cover and chill. Slice and serve with maple syrup. In recent years, we’ve discovered that adding fresh berries or fried apples to our servings elevates this traditional treat to new dimensions of delight!
*You can use 2% milk, but whole milk produces a smoother, creamier egg cheese.