Thanksgiving Broccoli Pie

Broccoli might not be on everyone’s Thanksgiving table but with our lovely broccoli harvest last week, I decided it could be front and center at our celebration this year…I just had to figure out how to make that happen.

Essentially, my goal was to feature the best of broccoli under the worst of conditions. Not to knock Thanksgiving feasts, but much of what is prepared for this meal is presented in a ‘standby’ condition where it can tolerate an hour or more (usually more) of wait time before it is consumed . This is exacerbated by the fact that we often gather in large family groups in one home where the oven/s and stovetop capacity can be limited. So all the lovely roasted broccoli recipes were not viable options.

The foods on our Thanksgiving plates often represent a grand sampling of warm spoonfuls of casserole like foods. Although there is nothing wrong with having multiple items on one plate, one must admit that the flavors all begin to muddle as there is no real star of the meal but instead, a lot of ‘B team’ players jumping onto the field at once and competing for your palate.  The fact that a river of gravy seems to be what ties all these flavors together is quite telling.

I didn’t want to subject our dear broccoli to this end so I thought long and hard as to how to make it more of a surprise, star player for the night. Forgive my assumption of success, but here is how I managed it!

After rummaging thru multitudes of recipes that feature broccoli, I found one that had all of the prerequisites I was looking for in the remarkable cookbook – Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. A friend of the farm, Carolyn Wolff, had given this book to us several years ago and we have cooked from it many times with success since it features ‘vibrant vegetable’ recipes. In it, I found a simple recipe for Broccoli and Gorgonzola pie which can be served hot or room temp and looked to be a perfect way to feature our broccoli.

I altered the recipe just a bit to suit my needs so I think I can share here what I did by giving credit to my inspiration and not feel as if I have violated the copyright. I started by cutting up and steaming our fresh broccoli. When the broccoli is really fresh, the stem pieces are just as tasty as the heads. This is about three pounds of blanched broccoli that was drained and cooled while I prepared the rest. IMG_9708

I needed to effectively double this recipe but I didn’t want two “pies” so I decided to make one really large one in a long, narrow, shallow dish that I happened to have in my cupboard. It is 20″ long and about 8″ at its widest so I adjusted the recipe as I went to suit these proportions. I used Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry since so many chefs seem to approve of this convenience. I joined two sheets to form the bottom crust by rolling them into one, making sure to secure the seam. I placed the crust carefully in the dish and then topped that with parchment paper and weights (dried beans in my case) to try to keep the pastry from ‘puffing’ too much. Yotam calls this “baking blind” which was a new term to me but I understand that the bottom of the crust needs taming while the sides can continue to puff out. Here is what my crust looked like after baking. I was a bit worried about the uneven edges but that didn’t seem to affect the end results at all.  IMG_9711 While this was cooking, I made the simplest of white sauces; I sauteed scallions from our fields (which I substituted for leeks that the recipe called for) in butter on the stove top until tender. I then added cream, water (yes, surprise, to me too!), Dijon mustard, and seasonings and stirred until thick, removing it quickly from the stove top so as not to compromise the cream. IMG_9710

After the bottom crust cooled, I poured the cream sauce into the bottom. IMG_9712

Then I added the broccoli and pressed it into the base sauce and generously sprinkled with Gorgonzola cheese. IMG_9713

The next part was a bit tricky…I rolled out two more sheets of puff pastry and joined them to span the top of the pie. The top crust is adhered to the bottom with beaten egg that is applied to the edges of the bottom crust before adding the top layer. Once the top crust was applied, I trimmed the edges, applied the remainder of the egg wash to the top crust and slashed it to allow for steam to escape. IMG_9714

Voila, my Broccoli Pie with Gorgonzola Cheese ala Seven Oaks Farm. It was a memorable Thanksgiving dish that received rave reviews. The unique presentation of broccoli held its ground in the tussle of flavors that normally vie for attention on the Thanksgiving table. We will consider bringing it to the feast again another year and encourage others to add broccoli to their Thanksgiving tables as well!


The Colors of Fall…and Alpacas!

November has been much like October…on the dry side until recently…with warmer than normal days but our nights have been cool enough to bring out the blazing colors of our Trident Maples. IMG_9669We are nearing the end of November and even the most delicate plants such as lettuces, have survived several light frosts due to Dave’s watchful eye and precautions. He has dedicated himself to putting expansive blankets of plastic sheeting over the fall gardens and it is quite a job, especially in windy weather. He wears Platex gloves with added liners (for warmth) for this chore since the plastic sheeting is invariably wet and also quite cold. He has to be careful with the timing of putting on the protection as well as taking it off so as not to let the veggies bake underneath from the daytime sunshine. So, he is out there both early and late on the days when night time frosts have been predicted.

The prediction last night was for the first hard frost (prediction was 21-23 degrees Fahrenheit but we actually awoke to 19!) so we scrambled yesterday to harvest the majority of what was still out in the fields. The day began with light snow ‘showers’ so we waited until after lunch to get started. The problem we faced was a rainfall the prior day of more than half an inch which came on top of nearly 4 inches earlier in the week. That amount of moisture would have normally kept us out of the fields but the time frame to harvest was short. The swampy condition was evidenced by the heavy mud on our boots! Luckily they are water proof but we found if we stood in one place too long, we could get a bit stuck in the mud which made it all the more difficult to move about!

IMG_9697 We started out by cutting the peas…with a lack of time to pick each one off the plant, we just cut the plant at the ground and brought it all in to pick the peas off indoors later. It was sad to see so many blooms still on the plants as they were trying to put out more peas! Dave is holding a giant IKEA bag full of broccoli which we also quickly cut and brought in for processing.

IMG_9693The broccoli looked perfect but we took only the central heads and left the newer side sprouts to see if they would get a little more growth. We are always optimistic about extending the season just a little longer!!!!

IMG_9691Here is what we brought in. Although not traditional Thanksgiving Day food, I plan to take it to my sister’s as part of the dinner celebration.

IMG_9700We continued on with lettuce and spinach harvesting. Here is what we brought in on that score.

IMG_9698Although it didn’t take too long to harvest this massive amount of leafy greens, (brrr) it did take a while to wash it all up for proper storage and I gladly volunteered for that inside job. I’m thankful for our large prep kitchen sinks. I do a two step clean up by starting out with the a sink full of water on the left side which has a garbage disposal and eats up all the dirt and debris. You can see one of three varieties of spinach taking a dip here. After a thorough dousing, I transfer it all to a clean water bath on the right side, leaving most of the dirt behind in the first sink.

IMG_9701After both rinses, they go through our spinners to dry off and then into very large plastic bags that have been marked with the product and the date and into the prep kitchen refrigerators.

We were satisfied with bringing in over 23 lbs of produce but left some of the hardier items such as kale and carrots out under the plastic cover to harvest another day. Dave is out there today as I write, bringing in more.

Outdoor chores will continue all winter and Dave has begun the list of things to do which includes fence repairs, equipment and tool maintenance, grinding tree leaves to add to the fields and trimming tree limbs. The list is actually endless as we always find things that must be done and winter is a great time for catching up on project work. I will use my extra time with some winter knitting which delights me no end.

I was most thrilled to get an e-mail from my cousin, Janice, recently informing me that her alpaca yarn was back from the mill in case I was interested in any. WOW! Janice and her husband Scott have a farm in Virginia where they raise alpacas. I can’t wait to get my hands on some of this very dear yarn! They are sending samples so that I can figure out what I want to buy and I hope to get knitting with it quickly. What great yarn it is…not only is alpaca one of the nicest of fibers for light weight and silky warmth…it will have such special meaning to be knitting yarn from Janice’s dear animals!!! She kindly sent pictures and detailed descriptions of each of the yarns which I know takes lots of time for a busy farmer. Thank you, Janice! A couple of other family members read the blog so hopefully all will enjoy what she shared. Here is a photo of the samples of her skeins. They make me swoon because I already know how soft they will feel!

IMG_0803From left to right: The Farm Blend, Cria, Stormy, Clark, Lewes, Pixie and Fiona. All are in their un-dyed, natural colors. But wait…here is the best of all…she sent pix of her alpacas on their farm so that I could easily see which animals produced which yarn as well as fall in love with all of their gorgeous faces!

Here is Stormy, the palest of all…


Here is Clark as a baby…IMG_1473And Lewes in the foreground just after his shearing…IMG_0492

Next is Pixie in the far background with the white underside and Fiona (the darkest of all) standing just behind her cria, (which is the word for a baby alpaca) named Max…


I promise to post pics of the projects I plan to knit from this very precious yarn.

While I await its arrival, I’m working on a Bohus style sweater from a famous designer, Kerstin Olsson, who created this design in 1958 for a knitwear company named Bohus Stickning. This pattern is aptly called “Vildapplet” or Wild Apple. It is knitted using an angora/lambswool blend of hand dyed yarn starting from the top down. Here is the colorful yoke. The fall colors have been so inspiring to knit. IMG_9510 2Coulter has been the lucky recipient of some of my knitting efforts this fall but he is outgrowing these almost as fast as I can get them finished!

‘Little’ Coulter is now on the move…his favorite activity is “walking” by holding onto the hands of his mom and dad…but sometimes he just likes to drive around!

IMG_9601He turned 7 months old today and we are rapidly baby-proofing as he is one active boy!

Halloween, Garlic Planting, Vampires, etc….

What a beautiful fall we have had here on the farm! For the most part, the days have been bright and sunny with just a few days of welcome rain interspersed here and there. Halloween came and went so quickly but not without lots of fun with Coulter as he posed as a “C-alligator” while Trick or Treating at the Artery and at Kathy B’s!

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Coulter also found my Halloween stash of goodies and says BOO!

IMG_9415My big push for a late fall planting is all about garlic since I ordered a couple of varieties from the Seed Savers’ Exchange.

Here is a bit of information about garlic directly from the label.  Who knew but “Garlic dates to Central Asia 4000 B.C. Fed to pyramid builders, used as currency, and found in King Tut’s tomb in Egypt. In Rome, consumed by Olympic athletes & game cocks for strength. In Israel, for aphrodisiac effect; conversely avoided by celibates in other cultures. Used as medicine in India, China and by Hippocrates. Currently, over 600 sub-varieties cultivated all over the world.”  What? No mention of vampires????

So, the old adage for planting Garlic is: plant at Halloween (duh, vampires, right!) in order to harvest on 4th of July. Don’t you love the holiday calendar for planting advice!?! The other advice is to plant after the first light frost in your area. In fact, when I ordered our garlic, Seed Savers Exchange had a specific ship date for our region (Sept. 28) so as not to send out too early. We eat a lot of garlic here so I ordered plenty of two varieties: 0919A German Red (5 bulbs) and 09922A German Extra Hardy (1 pound).  Here is how they came to us.

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Dave helped to prepare the area in advance by using the small Mantis tiller so I was able to follow the planting instructions with ease. Here are the German Red bulbs before I separated the cloves to plant them.

IMG_9331I separated the bulbs, trying to keep the individual skins in tact for planting as instructed. Funny, but when you go to use a garlic bulb for cooking it is sometimes a hassle to get the skin off. But, when you want to plant them with the skin on…it seems they want to shed their skins and bare their bulb! Arg!

IMG_9332Instructions were to plant each clove 6-8″ apart in loose soil which I did. It was amazing how many cloves I planted from this group of starts! I’m hoping for a large batch of garlic next year! I think I must have planted well over 50 individual cloves which will turn into as many bulbs (fingers crossed!) of garlic next year!

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We have weathered several light frosts without a lot of damage to our fields, in part due to the fact that we have covered much of the cool season crop area with plastic (when needed) with good success. Many of those plants can deal with weather as low as 28F degrees and are still thriving since we have not reached that juncture at this point.

So we continue to bring in (and process) lots of spinach, swiss chard, kale, lettuces, turnips, radishes and scallions and are are still hoping to harvest the broccoli, and Brussels sprouts before the temps get too far out of hand. The carrots, cabbages and leeks are still looking fabulous too and can take pretty cold weather!

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Our grandson, Coulter is keen on inspecting the crops on a daily basis. Here he is, in the midst of the broccoli and Brussels sprouts on his own “John Deere Tractor” recently!

IMG_9618Other fall chores continue. With 3-4 inches of rain predicted for the next couple of days we worked on gutter cleaning this weekend. It isn’t a very fun job but the blue sky and last of the ginko tree leaves made for a beautiful day to work at it. The Ginko will lose it’s leaves any day…they seem to drop all their leaves at once!

IMG_9642Harvest totals for 2015 are less than impressive compared with other years but the fall, cool season harvesting has helped to save the day. YTD we are at 775lbs of produce which is down significantly from last year but given our circumstances, we are glad to be harvesting still and we will try to extend the current season as long as possible.