Driving through America’s salad bowl in Northern California, I happened upon an incredible little farmstand selling organic produce, literally straight from the field. High Ground Organics sits on a little plot adjacent to the historical Redman House, which, in its current, dilapidated state would surely qualify to be pictured alongside any encyclopedic listing of “haunted house”. The grounds of the old mansion, less than a mile from the seashore, are teeming with neatly-tended rows of produce, fruit trees and flowers. Once harvested, the freshly picked bounty travels but a few steps to the tiny stand. Red and green cabbage, green onions, a rainbow of chards, red and golden beets, white turnips, radishes, romaine and leafy lettuces and fingerling potatoes abound. A selection of avocados, fresh eggs and a few other items from select nearby fields and farms are often available, as well.
On this day, along with some other organic items procured from the farmers’ market in the Santa Cruz Mountains town of Felton, I was inspired to make a French-style potato salad of white and red fingerlings with a Dijon-based vinaigrette of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, finely diced sweet white onion, basil, parsley, kosher salt and ground pepper. Some thinly-sliced organic red onion and a brief chill in the fridge completed the flavors. Golden beets, drizzled with olive oil and roasted in the oven at 375 degrees for an hour, then peeled and dressed with more olive oil, kosher salt and pepper were an earthy accompaniment to grilled chicken. Tangy sourdough bread, spread with sweet butter and rubbed with a cut garlic clove was grilled to slightly charred. A green salad of organic romaine and red leaf lettuces, Japanese and lemon cucumbers, small Roma tomatoes and thinly sliced French breakfast radishes completed the meal with a bottle of Zinfandel to top it all off with flair. Sugar-sweet Blenheim apricots were the perfect dessert. This delicious meal was prepared while salty ocean breezes wafted through our beachfront kitchen.
Summer produce inspires. Local, organic ingredients can make the difference when simple techniques are applied for spectacular results.