Monday, October 20, 2014

Carrot & Goat Cheese Soup

Carrot & Goat Cheese Soup
Is there anything better than a big, warm bowl of soup on a cold Fall day?  Not in my book, especially if the soup calls for just 7 easy ingredients and can be made in about 20 minutes.  And that's if you chop it.  For the absolute fastest cooking time, grate the ingredients before adding them to the pot and they'll cook in a flash.  If you'd rather chop them to a rough dice, that's fine too; the cooking time will be slightly longer.   Use soft goat cheese for this recipe.  It'll melt into the carrot and potato and make for a really smooth, creamy texture.  The potato thickens the soup and adds substance.

Go on, get outside!
I love that this meal comes together so quickly.  Even on the busiest, craziest of days, you can still get this one going as soon as you get in the front door, and let it simmer while you get a few other things done, and then sit down for a satisfying, warm, flavorful meal.  Or, pack it into a thermos, grab a few slices of bread, and bring it on one last hike in the beautiful Autumn woods.

Carrot & Goat Cheese Soup

3 tablespoons oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4-5 large carrots, peeled & grated
1 medium potato, peeled & grated
4 cups / 1 liter water (to make this faster, add hot or boiling water; otherwise cold is fine)
1 teaspoon salt; more to taste if needed
1 - 200 g container of soft goat cheese
chives, optional

In a medium-sized heavy bottom pot, heat the oil and then add the diced onion.  Cook until the onion is soft and translucent; about 5 minutes.  While the onion cooks, bring 4 cups/1 liter of water to a boil.

Add the carrots, potato and water to the pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and allow to cook until the vegetables are soft: 10 - 15 minutes depending on how you cut them.  Turn off the heat and, using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth (alternatively you can pour the hot soup into a blender or food processor and blend it there).  Add the goat cheese and salt and stir until the goat cheese has melted and is fully incorporated into the soup.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Garnish with chives, if desired.  Serve with bread and maybe a small side salad.

Serves 4.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sweet Pepper & Goat Cheese Tart

Sweet Pepper & Goat Cheese Tart
Here's a savory tart that matches the colors of a beautiful Fall day.  Like this one.  The sun is shining in through my window this morning and I love the feel of the heat on my face, even though I know it's close to freezing outside.

This is my favorite season, and I plan to relish it, outside whenever possible, until every last leaf is gone and snow covers everything.  But you gotta eat.  And if you plan to get out into the great wild wonder that surrounds us, you'll need some serious sustenance.  This tart really delivers in flavor and nutritional value, with a crispy crust that shatters slightly underneath the tines of your fork, and the creamy goat cheese melting into the pepper combined with the mouthwatering flavors from the herbs.

Try this making this with oat milk, even if you aren't lactose intolerant.   The oat milk works so well here, adding to the creaminess and creating a lightness in the custard that holds the whole tart together.

It will leave you smiling for hours afterward.  Especially if for some reason there are leftovers and you can have another slice later.

Sweet Pepper & Goat Cheese Tart
Sweet Pepper & Goat Cheese Tart

Heat oven to  200°C/425°F

1.  Make the crust

1 cup / 2.5 dl oatmeal
1/3 cup / 1 dl flour; preferably whole grain (I like barley flour in this; gluten-free flour also works well)
1 large carrot, grated
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir to thoroughly combine.  Make sure the carrot strands are mostly separated and covered in flour.  Pour the olive oil over and stir well to combine. Press the crust into the bottom of a tart pan and up the sides.  Bake for 10 minutes until crust is golden brown.

2.  While the crust bakes, make the filling

2 tablespoons rapeseed or other cooking oil
3 sweet peppers (I like to use one each of orange, yellow and red)
1 small onion, diced
1.5 teaspoons salt
1.5 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or 1/2 teaspoon each rosemary, oregano and thyme)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 - 200g log of goat cheese, sliced, each sliced halved, and each halved cut into thirds
3 eggs
1.5 cups / 4 dl of oat milk or cow's milk

Place a heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat and pour in the oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until they are tender and translucent.  Add the peppers and cook until the begin to soften a bit; 5-6 minutes.  Add the salt, herbs and pepper, stir to combine, and remove from heat.

Beat the eggs in the bowl you use for the crust, add the milk, and beat again to combine thoroughly.

3.  Assembly

Remove the crust from the oven and turn the temperature down to 190°C/375°F.  Spread the goat cheese across the crust in a single layer, then spread the pepper-onion mixture over the top.  Pour the egg mixture evenly over the vegetables and cheese.  Place the tart into the hot oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the tart is set.  Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.  Serve with a side salad.

Serves 4-6.
Nearly ready to bake

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pear, Purple Cauliflower, Walnut & Savoy Cabbage Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Pear, Purple Cauliflower, Walnut & Savoy Cabbage Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette 

As I look out my kitchen window this morning as I sit writing this blog and enjoying the lingering scent of sourdough pancakes and the energy in my legs after my morning run, I'm forced to accept the fact that Winter is coming.  It's snowing out there.

Sure, the flakes are light and few and scattered; they won't stick.  And the trees I see both near my apartment and across the sea are still full of their glorious Fall colors:  mostly yellows, some oranges, and a smattering of red among the steady green of the pine and fir trees.  But the ground is now covered with leaves carrying those same bright colors, meaning that the beauty is fleeting and this colorful season is slowly decaying under the steady onset of the much colder one.

There is never a year when I embrace Winter.  It's gotten easier for me as I've come to mostly understand what is waiting around the corner as the darkness descends and the temperatures drop, but I never really love it.  It's not the darkness that bothers me; it's the cold.  The seemingly endless days of subzero temperatures sometimes combined with howling winds make me want to duck my head down, head back indoors, and snuggle in under a warm down blanket until the whole thing blows over.

But when you live in a place where long, cold, dark winters are inevitable, hunkering down for the duration of it is not really an option.  So I am learning to take a deep breath, make some satisfying food, connect with friends, by a warmer hat, coat, gloves, boots.  Learn to cross country ski!   Ah…but thankfully, not yet.  It's just a little snow, and it won't stick.  There are still at least a few days ahead for hikes and runs through the woods, leaves crunching underfoot, and mushrooms to be found.  There are still days where the wind blowing through my hair doesn't have a bitter freezing chill.  And then there are the dense, satisfying foods of late Fall and Winter that pull us through.

When I bought a giant head of Savoy Cabbage from the Slow Food Farmer's Market in Fiskars, I had  no idea how much mileage I was going to get out of it.  Cabbage has a long shelf life if refrigerated properly, so mine is as crisp and sweet now as it was the day I bought it.  As I get closer and closer to the center of the cabbage, the color of the leaves gets lighter and (maybe I'm imagining this) even sweeter.

So after putting cabbage into a fall salad with apple, and into a casserole with curry and chicken, I am still left with a sizable piece.  The first salad was so delicious that I decided to make another one, using the theme of winter produce, but pairing it with a  sweet-tangy raspberry vinaigrette, and rounding it out with toasted walnuts.

This is a simple to make and a delight to eat - crunchy, flavorful, and satisfying.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Pear, Purple Cauliflower, Walnut & Savoy Cabbage Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Pear, Purple Cauliflower, Walnut & Savoy Cabbage Salad 
            with Raspberry Vinaigrette

1.  Make the Raspberry Vinaigrette

In a small glass jar with a lid, combine and shake well:
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
4 tablespoons quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or you could use liquid honey instead)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Set the mixture aside to allow the ingredients to meld while you make the salad.

2.  Assemble the salad

In a bowl combine:
1.5 cups of thinly sliced Savoy Cabbage
1 cup purple cauliflower (or you could use green or white cauliflower too)
1 large pear, peeled, cored and diced; reserve a few slices for garnish
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted; reserve a tablespoon for garnish*

Pour the Raspberry Vinaigrette over the salad and toss with clean hands to combine thoroughly.  Top with a few slices of pear and a sprinkling of walnuts.

Serves 4 as a side salad or 2 as a main course.

*I find the easiest way to toast walnuts is in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, preferably cast-iron.  Heat the pan over medium high heat.  Chop or crush the walnuts and pour them into the hot pan.  Shake the pan or stir the walnuts frequently so they don't burn, and toast them until they are lightly browned an fragrant.  Pour them out of the pan and onto a plate, and proceed with the recipe above.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chicken Coconut Curry Casserole with Savoy Cabbage & Carrots

Chicken Coconut Curry Casserole with Savoy Cabbage and Carrots

Fresh from the oven
After the previous (long) discussion on the virtues of and reasons for making your own coconut milk, I wanted to also give you the recipe for which I needed the lovely coconut milk in the first place.

This is the perfect recipe to enjoy after a day spent outside when you are feeling really hungry, or to eat on a day when you need some nice, warm comfort food.  I created a twist on coconut curry by cooking the coconut milk into a curry béchamel, and combined it with the beautiful busiata sicilian pasta I'd picked up in Sicily over the summer.  If you can find busiata, I've listed other pastas that will stand in well - basically anything that can stand its own among thick vegetables and sauce.

Ready to assemble
I also threw in Savoy cabbage and carrots, because they are in season right now and taste really amazing in this dish.  You get a little bite of carrot; the cabbage goes nice and soft, the chicken and pasta add a nice bite and the creamy, spicy coconut curry hums in and around pulling the whole thing together nicely.


Chicken Coconut Curry Casserole with Savoy Cabbage & Carrots

Preheat oven to 375°F/ 190°C

1. Gather your ingredients:

250 g pasta (busiata siciliana, fusilli, farfalle or casarecce - something with twists and turns and heft but no tubes - you want the rest of the ingredients to stick to and around it)
2 cups cooked chicken (see step 2)
3 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
2 cups coconut milk (500 ml can, or make your own)
1 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon of salt
1.5 cups of pasta water
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons mild curry powder
2 tablespoons of cooking oil (I used rapeseed)
1 onion, minced
3 cups shredded Savoy cabbage
4 carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup coconut flakes

2.  Cook the pasta:

Bring water to a boil.  Add two teaspoons of salt.  Pour in the pasta and boil for two minutes fewer than the package suggests.  Remove from heat.  Reserve 1.5 cups / 3 dl of the pasta water.

3.  Prepare the chicken:

You will need 2 cups of cooked chicken for this recipe.  You can either cut up a previously cooked chicken into a dice, or cook 2 raw chicken breasts.  To do this, dice the chicken breasts into 1/2" / 1.25 cm chunks.  Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, place the chicken into the pan, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook and stir until done.  Pour the chicken onto a plate to cool slightly.

4.  Make the coconut curry béchamel

In a heavy stockpot over medium-heat, melt the butter or coconut oil.  Once fully melted and simmering, add the flour and whisk until completely combined.  Pour in 1/2 cup of coconut oil and whisk vigorously to combine.  Pour in another 1/2 cup and whisk vigorously again until smooth.  Pour in the remaining cup of coconut milk and the pasta water and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the garlic and curry until fully combined. Set aside.

5.  Cook the vegetables

Pour the oil nto a heavy frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until the onion is tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the cabbage and carrot and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper over the vegetables.  Stir; then cover the pan with a lid and allow the mixture to cook for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.

6.  Assembly

Spread 1 cup of the béchamel over the bottom of a large baking dish.  Sprinkle half of the pasta over the béchamel.  Spread half of the vegetable mixture over the pasta, followed by the chicken.  Repeat by pouring béchamel, pasta, vegetables, chicken.  Pour the remaining béchamel evenly over the entire dish.  Sprinkle with coconut flakes.  Place into the hot oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow the casserole to rest for 10 minutes.  Serve hot

Serves 6.

Make it Yourself: Coconut Milk

DIY Coconut Milk
First I have to warn you that this post gets serious and it ain't all pretty, but there is a really handy recipe at the end, if you want to skip straight to that.

I've been thinking about non-dairy milk a lot lately.  I've been on a simple detox program where I've cut out caffeine and dairy products.  Surprisingly, the coffee was a lot easier to let go of than the dairy products; good thing I save the grain detox for next week because there is a lot adjust to around here.

You may be wondering if I have allergies, or why else would I be denying myself my beloved morning cup of java and bowl of yogurt & muesli?  There are several reasons, but among them are these:  I find if I don't have coffee right away in the morning, I suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, grogginess and fuzziness.  I don't like that.  So I'm taking control back by going on a detox.  A little over a week in, I'm happily enjoying cups of herbal tea and no symptoms, though I definitely miss the ritual and flavor of coffee. I don't plan to give up coffee because I really love a good cup of java, but will reduce it once I start drinking it again. So there's that.

The reason I'm eliminating dairy and grains for a while is because I want to experiment how it is that a person with lactose, gluten or grain allergies can make good, healthy food at home without relying on store-bought products which are poorly labeled and may or may not be as healthy as they appear to be.  Furthermore, there have been days where my stomach has not been happy with something I've eaten, but it's been difficult to pinpoint.  So I'd like to know more about what I'm eating and what is in everything, if possible.

Take milk and milk-subsitutes:  Mostly I've been making almond milk and oat milk and using them as substitutes for dairy, which has worked really well.  In the meantime, I also started reading about how healthy these products are (or are not in some cases) and came across multiple references to a natural additive that exists in many "health" products, carrageenen.

First, it's important to know what it is and why carrageenan exists in so many products.  According to Wikipedia, "Carrageenan is an extract from red edible seaweeds, and is used widely in the food industry for it's gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties."  Basically what this means is that it makes the food feel smoother and thicker in your mouth, so when you buy almond milk, oat milk, soy milk or yes, even coconut milk, it helps to stabilize the product and give it the smooth, silky texture we associate with dairy milk drinks and instinctively hope for in dairy milk substitutes. Incidentally, carrageenan is also used in dairy and meat products too, because it binds really well with proteins.  That means it has a good chance of being in your ice cream, cottage cheese, deli meats, canned soups, or in your non-fat yogurt, too.

So what's the problem?  A natural product that improves the texture without adding off flavors should be good, right?  Well, according to research, this may not be true.  Joanne K Tobacman, MD has studied carrageenen for two decades and believes it should be banned from food in the U.S. "Tobacman says that carrageenan, whether food grade or degraded, predictably causes inflammation because of its chemical structure and says thousands of studies over several decades have demonstrated this effect.  She adds that acidic conditions in the human digestive system likely will cause food-grade carrageenans to degrade in the body."(source:

What does this inflammation actually do to you?  One thing we know, according to Dr. Andrew Weil,  is that chronic inflammation is the root cause of heart disease, cancer, Parkinsons and Alzheimers, to name a few.  At this point, the studies have only been done on animals and on in vitro cell tissues or cultural models in labs, for the reason that, given the strong indication of negative impact, Dr. Tobacman believes it wrong to run the tests using humans.  As we already know, "natural" doesn't necessarily mean "safe".  In 2008, Tobacman presented her findings to the FDA along with a citizen petition requesting that the substance be banned from foods.

The FDA disagrees with Tobacman's findings, while other scientists and doctors support it.  Still others are cautious, advising patients with gut problems to avoid carrageenan, but don't necessarily encourage that carrageenan be banned.  There are watch groups such as Cornucopia Institute raising the red flag and warning consumers to steer clear.  The discussion continues, with the US and European officials differing on the safety of carrageenan; the US allows its use in baby formula while the EU does not.

So what should you do?  That's entirely up to you, of course.  Take a look at articles like this one for clear coverage on carrageenan and both sides of the story.  Read your labels so you know what is in your food.  As for me, I try to keep my diet as healthy as possible.  I believe that our best bet is to eat real, whole foods that are made using ingredients that are as natural as possible.  While I have the occasional indulgence in really great dessert, I want it made with real butter or a healthy oil (hello chocolate cake!). I try to steer clear of ingredients that are known to have harmful effects.  This holds true for industrial trans fats (no thanks, margarine & shortening), artificial sweeteners (saccharine, aspartame and the like), and go for products that contain ingredients I recognize and which I could feasibly make at home.

Which is what lead me to blogging about carrageenan in the first place.

I needed coconut milk, and learned that this was another place where carrageenen lurks.  Not to mention the fact that most coconut milks are full of the E-codes I'd rather not consume (if you have an iPhone, here's a link to a handy app to help you figure out what's good and what's bad with E-codes).

You may be delighted to know that coconut milk is simple and quick to make and requires only two ingredients, one of which you already have on hand and the other readily obtainable: Water and unsweetened coconut flakes.

Coconut Milk

1.5 cups / 3 dl unsweetened coconut flakes
4 cups hot water, just under the boil point.

Pour the coconut into a heatproof glass or stainless steel container.  Pour the hot water over the top and let the coconut steep for 20 minutes.  If you have a hand-held immersion blender (Bamix in Finland) you can use this; otherwise pour the mixture into your upright blender.  Blend for about 1 minute.  Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass jar.  Squeeze the coconut pulp to extract all of that lovely milk.

Note 1:  Don't throw away the leftover coconut pulp!  Save it to add to your homemade granola, smoothies, muffins, or other baked goods, or to sprinkle over the top of a coconut curry.

Note 2:  You can refrigerate for 3-4 days or freeze for up to three months.  Once cold, the coconut fat will float to the top of the mixture and solidify.  Don't worry - this is completely normal.  If you are using the milk in soup, you can simply break through the layer and pour the coconut fat and liquid in together and heat it up.  If using it in bakery or smoothies, you may want to bring the coconut milk to room temperature first, and then shake to redistribute the mixture before using.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus snack plate

The rain was really coming down outside, beating and splatting against the windows, with a gust of wind every now and again causing a whistling howl against the window pane.  Even though only mid-afternoon, it was clear that this was going to be a day to stay In.  The type of day when it's tempting to light all the candles in the house, curl up on the couch with a warm blanket over your lap, a good book in your hand, and a comfort snack by your side.

When days like these come my way, I always find my way to the kitchen at some point, and I usually end up making something sweet and something savory.  This time sweet came in the form of Teddie's Apple Cake, found on Food52, created by an unknown author a long time ago, and loved by nearly all of the people who commented there.  It seemed the perfect recipe to use up a few more of my apples and to attempt a gluten-free conversion, something I've been playing with lately.

So as the Autumn rain pounded the windows, I stirred sugar, olive oil and eggs, vanilla & cinnamon; gluten-free flour mix and crisp, sweet-tart apples and poured them all into a bundt pan mold.  It wasn't long before the cozy scent of baking cinnamon and apple filled the kitchen and wound its way around the corner into the living room by the chair where J, who was enjoying an afternoon read, perked up and realized that there were good things coming his way. (Side note: the cake was excellent, even made without the raisins, of which I am not a fan.  However, I would substitute applesauce for part of the oil and reduce the sugar by 1/3 next time).

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with Life-Changing Loaf of Bread
As the cake baked, I moved onto Snack B, a Roasted Red Pepper Hummus that I created using the Preserved Red Peppers I found on Hank Shaw's blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and chickpeas I soaked overnight and had boiled that morning.  On the counter sat the remaining half of a loaf of Sarah B's Life-Changing Loaf of Bread, waiting to be slathered with something delectable. (If you haven't made your own preserved red peppers, no problem: they are readily available in jars at your local grocery store).

As I chopped and stirred and baked, I thought about an interview I'd watched via Facebook of comedian Aziz Ansari talking about his chef girlfriend:  "Anyone who's single, date a chef.  They'll say amazing things like, 'Oh, I don't know if you're hungry but I just made this delicious snack', which is the greatest sentence I've ever heard."

And I thought: that is a good sentence.  And I also thought: that's Love.  Food is love.  Making food is a way of showing that you care.  After all, you gotta feed everybody.  I'm no chef; but for me, creating food is my absolute favorite pastime, especially if I have someone around to feed it to.  Especially if it's pouring rain outside and nobody's going anywhere.

Do you want a snack?

Try this one.
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

If you are starting with dry chickpeas, soak 1/2 cup / 1 dl chickpeas overnight in 1.5 cups/3 dl of water. Drain the remaining water and put them in a pot with enough water to cover by 1 inch/2.5cm.  Bring to a boil, and the reduce heat to medium.  Allow to simmer, uncovered, for 55 min.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt and boil for another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, allow the chickpeas to cool, and then drain, saving the cooking water.

In a food processor or blender, combine:

Chickpeas from recipe above; or 1 can chickpeas, drained, juices reserved
3/4 cup roasted red pepper, drained 
1.5 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of olive oil1 tablespoon Tahini
1 garlic clove, peeled and root end removed
1 teaspoon of salt, plus more to taste

Blend until completely smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add some of the reserved liquid until it reaches your desired consistency. Taste; add more lemon juice and salt as needed.

Makes 1.5 cups / 3 dl.

Serve on crackers, toast or with sliced vegetables for a delicious snack.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Apple, Golden Beet and Savoy Cabbage Salad to celebrate the Harvest

Apple, Golden Beet and Savoy Cabbage Salad
Have you ever wanted to pick an apple from your own apple tree?  Me too.  I dream about it all the time. There remains just that one small problem of living in an apartment with no back yard.  Or maybe you have a back yard but no apple tree in it.  Or the apples on the tree you have are not fit for eating.  Or, or.  In Finland, there is now at least one solution to that problem.

Last week was a celebration of the Harvest season.  It started off with a trip to Råbäckin maatila, a small organic apple farm in Espoo run by an entrepreneurial farmer Rikard Korkman who sells his apples in a different sort of way.  Instead of waiting for his apples to ripen, to see what kind of yield he'll get, and then going down to the local bulk buyers to see what kind of price they'll offer him, he's made the apple season much more fun and personal for those of us who don't own apple trees.  You can buy annual "shares" of the apple farm.  Yep, that's right:  you can "own" an apple tree on his farm  Or two.

Since this year was the first year of yield, each share, costing €40 annually, was comprised of 10 trees per share owner, and each owner received whatever yield those trees delivered.


The estimation is that you'll get about 15 kilos (33 lbs) per share; this year the summer crops delivered in abundance with each share owner getting roughly 50 kilos (110 pounds!) of apples.  The winter apples didn't fare quite as well due to an unusual cold spell during all of June which reduced the rate of pollination, so the average yield came in at 8-12 kilos, which the Rikard supplemented with other apple varieties to reach the 15 kilo mark.   Look at these beauties:

My apples:  Punainen Åkerö (substitute apples, left) and from my trees, Amarosa (right)
It's an excellent deal all around:  Rikard knows he'll sell all of his apples; in fact, they are sold before the first apple bloom blossoms on his farm each Spring.  He knows to whom he is selling his apples, so the relationship feels much more personal, for both Rikard and for consumers like me.  I love feeling like I am helping to support a local producer, and so do 131 other people/families/shareholders.  The waiting list is long too, with 90 people/families in line waiting for Rikard's apple trees to grow in size so that they too can join in on the apple harvest.  Next year and each consecutive year afterward, as the apple trees provide a larger yield, one share will be comprised of fewer trees, with the intention of keeping the target yield per share the same.

We went down to the orchard to take a look at "our" trees (of which I sadly have no picture), and it is clear how much love and care is put into the place.  I loved seeing my name hanging on the trees, and picking a few of the apples hanging from the branches.  Walking into the barn felt like a step back in time:  as the sweet, sharp, cozy scent of apples met my nose, I was drawn back to my childhood, when Mr Block the apple farmer from Eastern Washington would show up with a huge delivery of apples for our friends, neighbors, and quite a pile for us kids to munch too.  I am already looking forward to going back to Råbäck Farms next year.  Thank you, Rikard!

I haven't found olives better than this in Finland.
On Saturday and Sunday, 4-5 October, Slow Food Vastnyland held the Slow Food Farmer's festival in Fiskars, a lovely artisan village about 1.5 hours outside of Helsinki.  This was the second year I had visited this market, so I knew what I was looking for:  fresh, crisp, sweet Savoy cabbages; red and golden beets, dark malted rye bread from Backer's Bakery, Butternut Squash and Uchiki Kuri Squash (I saved the seeds from both for my own garden next year); huge, red Rosamunda potatoes for making baked potatoes (though I didn't find the Blue Congo I was hoping for), and cauliflower in purple, neon green and white.  Not to mention big jars of gorgeous, green, garlic scented olives from Ruukkikylän Herkut - my oh my, those olives are worth the trip all by themselves.

So there I was with my 15 kilos of apples and my huge bag of produce so I had to get cooking.  All week, the kitchen has smelled of apple crisp and apple cake, and the hum of the food dryer full of apple slices has been filling this house with music.  We've had roasted butternut squash with sautéed Savoy cabbage, flavored with Asian spices and served over soba noodles; butternut squash pancakes flavored with chili and Rosemary thanks to Jamie Oliver's Jamie magazine and the delicious recipes found within…

…and then we've had salad.  Like this one.

I needed a salad fit to put the full flavors of that beautiful fall produce on display.  So I roasted a golden beet, shredded and apple, chopped some cabbage, and alongside of a small stack of butternut squash pancakes, served a salad fit for the Harvest season.

Apple, Golden Beet & Savoy Cabbage Salad served with Butternut Squash Pancakes - delish!
Apple, Golden Beet and Savoy Cabbage Salad

2 large leaves of Savoy Cabbage
1 golden beet, roasted until tender
1 large winter apple, grated on a box grater
1/2 onion, diced, rinsed under running cold water and drained
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

If you don't already happen to have roasted beets on hand from another project, roast them first.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.  Wash the beet to remove all dirt and cut off the long root tip.  Prick holes in a few places with a knife tip, and wrap the beet in aluminum foil.  I usually cook several beets at once as they take a long time to roast, but keep well in the fridge for a few days.  Place the foil-wrapped beets on a pan in the oven and bake until they are tender when a knife is poked through:  45 - 90 minutes (seriously!) depending on the size of your beets. Remove from the oven, cool completely, and remove skin.

Now that you have your beet ready to go, slice it into thin rounds, then stack the rounds and slice the beet again to form matchsticks.

Remove the rib from the center of each cabbage leaf, cut each leaf into quarters, stack the quarters, and cut the cabbage quarters into thin slices.

Combine the beet, cabbage, apple and onion in a small mixing bowl.  Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix to coat the vegetables with the dressing.  Taste; and add salt and pepper as needed to your liking.

Serves 2-4.  Easily doubled or tripled to serve more hungry people.