Saag Paneer-Inspired Greens and Feta

Saag Paneer-Inspired Greens and Feta 

This first appeared in the CAFE newsletter, published in May 2021
Words and photos by Amanda Callahan of Callywood Farms, edited by Ellie Sharp

Back when I was in graduate school at the University of Denver, my apartment was just around the corner from this little Indian place. As a born and bred Southern girl, I had never experienced Indian food but after one dinner there I was hooked. I spent a lot of money at that little Indian place, and I vowed to learn how to make my favorites at home. Armed with the Internet and books, I started ordering spices online and referring back to my remembered tastes of the restaurant to re-create dishes.

Once we moved to South Carolina, I had to adapt recipes to our garden and native species: I make a mean masala with crowder peas in place of the usual chickpeas, and my family enjoys many delicious vegetables in curry sauces with okra and beets being some of our favorites. But when “Sweet Tea” at Saint Basil Farm (now Growing Green Farms) asked if I’d ever made “saag” from wild spinach or lamb’s quarter I answered, “You know, I haven’t!”, and I knew that was a challenge I needed to meet as saag paneer is a personal favorite. Saag paneer is a classic Indian dish. It starts with puree of greens in a spiced sauce to which fried cubes of fresh paneer cheese, which is a mild farmer’s cheese, are added at the end of cooking. The greens and the creamy cheese are reminiscent of creamed spinach in American cuisine, but complex and vibrant with the Indian spice profile.

One of the more recent, approachable Indian cookbooks is “Indian-ish” by Priya Krishna and it is a fabulous cookbook if you’re looking for easy, adaptable Indian-ish recipes. Paneer is very hard to come by in the rural US. I often make it from scratch or buy it in bulk from one of my favorite restaurants up in Greenville, SWAD. However, Priya suggests using feta cheese thus making this dish easy to recreate with a local ingredient list!

And so I set out to adapt Priya’s already adapted version of the dish to include local greens. Priya uses only spinach in her recipe, but traditionally saag is often cooked with bitter greens, usually mustard greens with spinach and I have even seen some old-school Indian recipes that use kale, radish and turnip greens. I suspect saag would do excellent with a handful of dandelion greens from your yard too.It also makes a truly excellent dish with the lamb’s quarter offered on CAFÉ. 

I invite you to step outside the box with this local take on a classic Indian dish! 

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter) or oil of choice (such as vegetable, avocado, coconut, etc), divided 
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 green cardamom pods or ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom 
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lb braising greens mix (kale, turnip greens, Brussel sprout greens, etc.)
  • 2 packages lamb’s quarter, spinach or radish greens
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 small hot pepper, chopped, or ground cayenne to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup of feta cheese, drained from brine to dry out a bit, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida (optional, but is a great Indian pantry spice if you plan to cook Indian food!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Directions:

  1. Over medium heat, warm the ghee (or oil) in a large pan. Once warm, add the coriander and cardamom and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes or until the seeds start to brown. Add the onion and cook until it is translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute more. 

2. Add the greens in batches, wilting down and adding more as you make room. Once all is added, cook for 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lime juice, green chile, and salt. Let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and blend into a chunky paste. Return the spinach mixture to the same pan and set it over low heat. (If you have an immersion blender, blend in the pan.) Stir in 1/2 cup water, then gently fold in the feta, being careful not to break up the cubes. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes more to soften the feta slightly and allow it to soak up some of the spinach sauce.

4. While the feta cooks work on the ghee-spice mixture. In a small pan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee (or oil) for 1 minute. Add the cumin seeds. As soon as the cumin seeds start to sputter and brown, about 1 minute max, remove the pan from the heat (cumin seeds will burn quickly, so keep your eye on it!). Immediately add the asafetida (if using) and chili powder.

5. Pour all of the ghee (or oil) mixture into the spinach and feta once that is done cooking and mix.   

Thai Pork Larb

Thai Pork Larb
Recipe and photos by Amanda Callahan of Callywood Farms, words co-written and edited by Ellie Sharp, first appeared in the CAFE newsletter
Inspired by: NYTimes and here

If you’ve been to a Thai restaurant, chances are you’ve seen this iconic dish on the menu — and for good reason! It combines the best of sweet and savory elements with textures that run the gamut from soft to crunchy. At its core, larb is a Laos-based meat salad that is then spiked with all sorts of ingredients making it a cinch to prepare — and to customize to your preferences. I used pork, but you can also incorporate beef, chicken, turkey, tofu, or even mushrooms. Add-ins are flexible too, such as lime juice, cilantro, peanuts, chile peppers, fish sauce and other condiments. The more variety you add, the more the resulting flavors will mingle and meld into a truly palate-pleasing experience.

For me, the distinguishing characteristics of larb are the combination of lime juice, fish sauce, and ground toasted rice. The toasted, ground rice can be difficult to make without the right tools – a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder will do. If not, skip the step! It won’t be as authentic of an experience, but will still produce a tasty dish! 

Ingredients

  • 1 large red onion or 3 shallots, divided per instructions below
  • Hot water – between ½ cup – 1 cup
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons jasmine, basmati or long grain white rice 
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 pound of local ground pork, chicken, beef (you could even try tofu or mushrooms for my plant based peeps!)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup lime juice (2-3 limes, juiced)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Crushed red pepper or fresh chilis, sliced, quantity to taste
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped

For serving

  • Butterhead lettuce, outer/large leaves removed for cups
  • Radishes, chopped
  • Pickled jalapeños/peppers and the onions 

Instructions
1. With the onion/shallots – you want half of it sliced for pickles and the other half finely minced to cook with the meat. Prep as so.  

2. For the pickles: put the sliced half of the onion in a large bowl. Add the red wine vinegar and salt, and cover with hot water. Set aside. 

3. For the larb: place a large cast iron skillet over medium heat and add the rice, swirling to coat it with oil and allow to toast. It should only take a few minutes for the rice to take on a golden, almost brown hue. Remove and grind using a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder. You’re aiming for a textured powder-like consistency. Be careful not to over do it with the coffee grinder. Set aside.

4. In the same pan, add the oil. Once it is heated, add the remaining diced onion. Sauté for a few minutes to soften, add the garlic, sauté another minute until fragrant, and season with salt and pepper. Add the meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook until the meat is no longer pink and cooked through, about 7-8 minutes. Add additional heat, if desired, with crushed red pepper or fresh chilis. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

5. To a small bowl, add the lime juice, fish sauce, and honey. Stir to combine. 

6. Set up with lettuce cups and toppings.

7. When the meat has cooled a bit, pour the reserved lime juice/fish sauce on top, combine with chopped cilantro and taste to adjust seasonings. Add more salt, pepper, or heat as needed!

8. Scoop large spoonfuls of larb into lettuce cups, top with pickled onions, radish or other toppings you desire. Serve with steamed rice if you’d like.

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup with Guanciale and Celery Salad Topping

First featured on Clemson Area Food Exchange newsletter
Recipe and photos by Amanda Callahan of Callywood Farms, Edited and words by Ellie Sharp

Ready for another super easy, super versatile and super delicious recipe? Keep on reading! I love roasted turnips: the cooking process brings out the sweetness of this misunderstood root veggie and makes them approachable for those who shy away. That said, turnips do tend to have a “love ‘em or hate ‘em” reputation, so I wanted to make something that would be appealing to fans and could-be fans alike. Soup seemed a natural place to start with its cozy vibe well-suited for our current cold temperatures.

But, how could I make unconvinced turnip eaters more interested? Enter the ever-popular garden darlings: potatoes and carrots. By pureeing and blending the turnips with these beloved add-ins, you get the best of both worlds: full, rich flavor without the pronounced turnip twang. Win!

If you’re still unsure, let me give you a little firm-but-polite nudge. Put your support-the-farmers-money-where-your-mouth-is, step outside your comfort zone and bring a variety of vegetables and meat cuts into your home. Buy the turnips, grab and cure the pork jowl and let’s get these overlooked items onto your plate! 

Pro tip: Save all your resulting veggie peelings to make stock. Keep a freezer bag in your freezer and add onion, carrot and celery peelings/ends until it’s full. Mushroom stems, some potato peelings and herbs stems are other great additions, but steer clear of brassica items (cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc.). Once the bag is full, add to a large pot or stock pot with leftover bones, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer on low for three to four hours (or longer if you wish). Add water as needed to keep ingredients covered while they cook. Strain and enjoy!

INGREDIENTS
2 turnips, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 pounds carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large onion or several small, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, leaves removed and saved, cut into large chunks
2 heads of garlic
1 handful of roasting blend of fresh herbs, chopped (or more to taste)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 slices guanciale or thick-cut bacon, sliced into lardons (small strips or cubes)
6 cups stock
½ lemon, juiced

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. On a large rimmed sheet pan, layer all the vegetables in a single layer, using two pans if you must (you won’t get the charred edges with an overcrowded pan). Drizzle with oil, season aggressively with salt, pepper, and herbs. Toss to coat. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until charred in spots, flipping and rotating pan halfway through cooking time.
  3. While the vegetables cook, mince the celery leaves and place in a small bowl. Add lemon juice and cracked black pepper. Mix thoroughly, set aside.
  4. In a large soup pot set over medium heat, crisp the jowl or bacon pieces. Remove from heat, set aside. Remove all but 1-2 tablespoons of the fat from the pot. 
  5. When the vegetables are done, place in a high-power blender with 2 cups of stock and puree until smooth. Alternatively, put vegetables and stock into the soup pot and use an immersion blender to puree.
  6. Pour the puree into the soup pot and set to low heat. Add the rest of the stock and simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Adjust seasoning to your liking.

To serve: ladle soup into bowls. Top each with crispy guanciale or bacon pieces and a scoop of the celery leaf salad. I also was thinking a chili oil would perk it up nicely as well. Enjoy!

Substitutions: The vegetables are pretty interchangeable here. Try rutabaga, squash — whatever you’ve got in the fridge that needs to be used. If you’re vegetarian/vegan, replace the pork with chickpeas roasted in a hot oven until crispy and browned.

Pork Belly Tacos!

I get a lot of requests for what to do with fresh pork belly. Because so many of the local processing facilities do not offer curing and smoking belly for bacon, we offer pork belly in slabs. Many customers choose to cure their own bacon, SO delicious! But there are so many other easy options to add to your cooking repertoire! I have recently seen pork belly tacos popping up on many menus, so I thought I’d show y’all how I make them at home.

It starts with a good ole rub down of spices. I went with more sweet/savory for a warming combination with cinnamon, and coriander. But you can go with traditional taco seasonings and more of a blend of cumin and chili powder, if you wish! Make sure you rub into every little crevice and coat it well. Not pictured: rub the belly down with some olive oil after the dry rub to create a wet surface area.

After slow roasting in the oven for a few hours, you’ll have a toasty spice coated belly. Super important: let the belly rest! If you try to cut into now, you’ll lose all the flavorful juices, while burning your hands! So you can do the initial bake the day before (and cool and refrigerate) or make sure you plan in resting time before proceeding! Thinly slice the pork belly and place on a sheet pan. I drizzled it with the juices from the first bake. And they went back in the oven to get crispy!

We served ours on Siete Grain Free Tortillas, pineapple salsa, citrusy red cabbage slaw, and pickled onions and jalapeños. Delicious!

If you want to make a quick, healthy slaw: thinly slice 1/2 head of red cabbage. Add juice of a lime, half the juice of an orange, 1/4 tsp salt, small splash of oil and mix.

Pork Belly Tacos

Ingredients:

~2lb fresh pork belly slab without skin

1 heaping teaspoon of cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, cinnamon, and salt and pepper.

1 TB oil

Tortillas and toppings of choice, pictured here is pineapple salsa, red cabbage slaw, pickled onions and jalapeños, and salsa verde

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Rub the belly with all the spices. Taking careful consideration to coat all the little crevices and cuts. Rub a bit of oil over everything. Place in a rimmed baking sheet, cover tightly with foil. Roast in the oven for 2 hours. Remove and let cool completely. You can put it in the fridge after cooled or proceed.
  3. Raise or preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Thinly slice the belly. Arrange slices on a sheet pan, drizzle with any remaining juices and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, flipping around 10-15 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and serve on tacos!

Persimmon Upside Down Cake

Persimmon-Honey Upside Down Cake

Honey Persimmon Cake

This is by far my favorite persimmon recipe to make every year! We have a couple of trees and I love finding ways to incorporate them into our daily eating while reserving some for preserving. I slice up the crunchy ones to adorn a salad, like apples. I cook some down into a compote with fresh ginger. Sometimes, I make a quickbread or muffins. And I always dry a good bit of them, too! Dried persimmons are a chewy, sweet treat — my kids love them! 

Back to cake. This is a seasonal take on the classic pineapple upside down cake. I altered it some more to highlight local honey and stone ground grains. The cake batter is a mix of cornmeal, whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour; this combination creates a textured, nutty batter that compliments persimmons perfectly. You can play with the flours, if you wish, but just make sure you use 1 ½ cups total. I have also made this cake with maple syrup, but the honey is exquisite! I did find that with the honey, the cake batter needs some extra spicing up so I added more cinnamon and some ginger, which is reflected below. 

One last tip for making the perfect thin slices of persimmon: cut a small chuck off one end (especially if there’s a small bad spot) and stand the persimmon up on the cut edge to make slicing easier. You can hide the cut edge once you start overlapping slices!

Give this easy and beautiful recipe a try this weekend or tuck it away from when guests visit, but make it soon before these beautiful fruits are done producing! 

Persimmon Upside Down Cake

Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 
  • 1 cup local honey, divided 
  • 1/2 cup locally stone ground cornmeal
  • ½ cup locally stone ground whole wheat flour (I used spelt) 
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour   
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine table salt 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
  • 1 large egg at room temperature 
  • 2/3 cup local buttermilk  
  • 3 local persimmons, peeled and cut into slices about 1/4-inch thick 

 

 

Directions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Over low heat on the stovetop, gently melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of honey in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Remove from heat, set aside. 
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside. 
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining six tablespoons of butter and remaining honey over medium-low until they are thoroughly combined, a few minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add in the egg, and beat for another minute.
  5. Add in half of the flour mixture and combine. Add in the buttermilk and beat for a few seconds. Add in the rest of the flour, mix, scrape down the bowl, and beat until just combined. 
  6. Take the cast iron pan and swirl the butter and honey mixture to make sure the sides and bottom of the pan are thoroughly coated. Set the prettiest slice of persimmon in the middle of the pan, then layer the persimmons in a circle pattern around the center, overlapping them to provide the top layer. 
  7. Pour the batter over the fruit, and smooth out the surface. 
  8. Bake on the center rack for 45 minutes, rotating halfway through. The cake will brown slightly and is done when it tests clean with a toothpick inserted in the middle. 
  9. Remove the pan from the oven. Allow it to cool until it can be handled safely. Using a thin butter knife or an icing spatula, loosen the sides of the cake. Place a large serving plate inverted on top of the pan. Flip the cake over and out of the pan and onto the plate. 

winter potato salad – Sweet potato and broccoli

Wintry Mix – Potato Salad with a Twist

First appeared in the CAFE newsletter and edited by Ellie Sharp

In the middle of the Winter, sometimes you dream of Summer:  the grill, fresh corn, sliced tomatoes, potato salad…the Southern fixin’s of a Summer BBQ meal. But then you remember it’s February. And there’s buckets of rain outside. So you make do with seasonal ingredients and make a Winter BBQ meal happen. White spring potatoes are replaced with sweet potatoes in storage and broccoli from the garden. You can add all sorts of things to this base – apples, pecans, but I implore you to use balsamic vinegar in the dressing – a must!

Ingredients:

3-4 sweet potatoes, diced into ½ inch pieces

Oil for roasting vegetables

Salt & pepper

1 head broccoli, 3-4 cups broken into bite sized pieces 

2-3 slices of bacon

¼ cup mayonnaise 

¼ cup balsamic vinegar 

½ small red onion, minced

1 garlic clove

1 apple, chopped (Fuji, pink lady, honeycrisp preferred, but Granny Smith would work!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven 425.
  2. On a half sheet pan, combine sweet potatoes, oil, salt and pepper. Mix and spread into one layer. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
  3. Pull out potatoes and flip. Layer broccoli pieces right on top and season those with a bit more oil and salt. Roast for another 10-15 minutes until broccoli is crisped and potatoes are tender. Remove from the oven and cool.
  4. Chop bacon and cook until crispy. Drain oil, set aside. 
  5. In your serving bowl, make the dressing. Combine mayo, vinegar, onion. Grate or add minced clove of garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk ingredients together. 
  6. Assemble. Place sweet potato and broccoli mixture on top of dressing. Add apple. Gently toss to combine being careful not to mash potatoes. Top with crispy bacon!