Fresh From the Farm- Katie Malich

Cooking 0001Some holiday traditions are fixed in stone. At my college friend’s holiday table I will always find Grandma Eddie’s German-inspired green beans, simmered with bits of bacon and onions. Another friend’s Central American heritage is reflected in the poultry stuffing made of minced potatoes, ground meat, onions, carrots and spices. In many Southland homes you’ll find pots of slowly simmering chiles, piles of corn husks, and fresh ground masa as family members of all ages gather together to make tamales for the holidays.

One friend’s English mother always took pride in her festive meals featuring roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. Too bad she’s not able to be at the Culver City Farmers Market on alternate Tuesdays when J & R Grassfed Beef comes to town with its selection of choice cuts. I’m sure their beef is just as flavorful as any from her country childhood. I’m also confident that it leaves less of a carbon footprint because of J & R’s non-industrial farm cattle-raising techniques. The stand will be at the market today (Tuesday, December 22), so stock up now. It’s your last chance for this exceptional beef before the New Year.

Having vegetarians at your holiday table? It Think of it as a way to break in a new tradition. There are a number of tasty vegetarian options which will enhance any holiday feast. You can find nearly all of the ingredients for red, green and white broccoli lasagna at the Farmers’ Market, including some spectacular ricotta cheese. Broccoli is at its best during cooler months, and is an excellent source of vitamins C, K, A, fiber and multiple nutrients with anti-cancer fighting properties.

Thanks to our great Southern California weather, there are still plenty of fresh tomatoes, red peppers, parsley and mint to mix for the winter wheat berry Christmas salad. You’ll find feta cheese and shelled pecans, too, which add protein to this versitile dish. I’ve purchased some superb imported olive oil from the Aliki’s Greek Taverna stand at the Tuesday market, which I save for special occasions. Used here, it brings out the best in the fresh ingredients and marries well with the ever-so-slight nuttiness of the wheat berries.

From the Farmer’s Table

Broccoli Lasagna
(6 to 8 servings)

Tomato Sauce:
2 T olive oil
1 yellow or white onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 c. tomatoes, peeled and chopped (reserve liquid)
1 t. red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Broccoli Filling:
1 lb. broccoli
salt to taste
15 oz. Package ricotta cheese
1 lb. Goat cheese
1 T fresh grated parmesan or romano cheese

Optional garnish:
1 T minced parsley

Package Lasagna noodles

Heat oil in medium saucepan. Add onion and garlic; cook over medium-low heat until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes and cook until tomatoes begin to fall apart. When tomatoes are mushy, place in food mill or blender to puree. Add reserved liquid, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary to get sauce to consistency. Cook sauce again over medium heat until all ingredients are combined, about 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and additional red pepper flakes to taste.

Separate broccoli stems from florets. Peel stems, trim ends, and cut into small cubes. In a large sauce pan, boil enough water to thoroughly cover the broccoli. Add cubed stems and boil 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from water and drain. Add florets to boiling water and cook until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and drain. Chop into pieces. Combine broccoli stems, florets, ricotta, goat cheese and grated cheese in bowl. Mix well and salt to taste.

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Spread a little of the tomato sauce over the bottom , about 2/3 cup. Place layer of lasagna noodles over tomato sauce. Top with broccoli mixture. Repeat, alternating layers and making sure that filling is evenly spread. End with layer of noodles on top. Spread remaining tomato sauce over top. Bake until thoroughly heated through, about 20-30 minutes. If desired, sprinkle with minced parsley before serving.

There is a spicier and more adventurous version of this recipe, featuring broccoli rabe, generous amounts of red pepper flakes and homemade noodles. Interested? Let us know at Culver City

Flagstaff Community Agriculture has provided the inspiration for another red and green holiday recipe. There’s something about colder weather that calls for whole grains rather than the lighter tabouli-style cracked wheat. This wheat berry salad is substantial enough to serve as a main dish for vegetarians, and a healthy whole grain side dish for omnivores. I’ve added some chopped pecans, and suggested increasing the amount of parsley and tomatoes. The original recipe called for the smaller amount. I like parsley and tomatoes, so I’d prefer a little more of each. But let your own taste be your guide.

If there are a mix of vegans and non-vegans at your holiday table, you can serve the salad accompanied by a small dish of feta cheese and another small dish of chopped pecans.

Christmas Wheat Berry Salad
(serves 20 as a side dish, 8-10 as a main dish)

6 c. cooked wheat berries
1/4 c. finely chopped green onions, green parts only (reserve white ends for another use)
1/4 c. finely chopped mint
1/2 – 1 c. finely chopped Italian parsley
1- 1 1/2 c. chopped red tomatoes, chopped into small chunks (or cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 small or 1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped into small chunks
1/2 c. feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Drizzle over the top, and stir to mix well:

1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice

Salt to taste.

The Culver City Farmers Market is held each Tuesday between 3 ad 7 p.m. on Main Street between Culver and Venice Boulevards.

Katie Malich can’t resist serving food which is color-coordinated to match the holiday.

The Actors' Gang

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