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Cassoulet

I have been making cassoulet at potager for over 20 years every January.
Our regulars start talking about it with the first cold weather of the year. It is truly a labor of love and takes some serious time but I didn’t think I could write monthly recipes without including something we have become famous for.

CASSOULET
You need lots of delicious meat stock and bean stock from the cooked beans.
Garlic pork sausage in small links.
Lamb shoulder, cut into chunks, seasoned and roasted to medium.
Picked ham from the cooked ham hocks.
Duck confit: to make confit ahead of time: season duck legs with salt, pepper. Let rest for at least 8 hours. Then place in a pot of melted duck fat to cover. Cook very slowly, without boiling, until duck legs are fork tender BUT NOT FALLING APART.
White beans: soak 2 gallons of white beans overnight in 5 gallons of water. Drain. In a large pot with 1 onion studded with 2 cloves, fresh thyme, 5 ham hocks and meat stock. Cover the beans with stock and then add 2 gallons more stock to the pot. You will use this stock to assemble the cassoulets because you need the bean starch in the stock for making a crust on top of the cassoulet as it bakes. Season the beans now with salt and pepper. You must be very careful in the cooking to stir every once in awhile and make sure the bottom of the pot doesn’t have overcooked mushy beans. The beans need to be tender but NOT MUSHY!!!!!
Use the ham hocks from the beans: pick the meat to layer in cassoulet
Pork sausage: 30# ground pork, 6 t. black pepper, 6 t. chopped garlic, 1 ½ C dry milk powder, 4 C. ice water, 1 C. white wine, 2 T. ground coriander

Assemble the cassoulet in layers
Oil the bowls.
Beginning with beans, layer with ham, lamb, sausage, duck. Cover the top with a layer of beans. Season with salt, pepper and fresh nutmeg.
Cover with stock. Stock from the beans is best because the starch from the beans is what makes a delicious crust as they bake.
Bake at 300 degrees uncovered until cassoulet comes to a simmer and a crust begins to form.
As they bake, when the cassoulet appears dry, crack the top layer by pressing down with the back of a spoon, allowing a new layer of beans to rise to the surface. Add just enough bean liquid to moisten the beans. (this may need to be done 3-4 times during the cooking process)
The cassoulets may take up to 8 hours. It is important that they are cooked at a low temperature so that the caramelized crust forms, can be pushed down and forms again and again.

The cassoulets can be prepared and cooked a day or so in advance. To reheat, follow the same instructions as you did when you baked it the first time being very careful not to break the crust as you reheat them. If they seem dry, add more stock and let it bake.

Warm Cabbage Salad

Simplicity is complexity, resolved.
I have found that it takes a tremendous amount of information and lots of experience in order to convey what it takes to make simple foods succeed. Winter food is more concocted than other seasonal foods with deeper & more complex flavors, but I try to stay true to roasting the best meats, caramelizing winter vegetables and letting stews simmer on the back of the stove.
Cabbage gets sweeter after a frost and I love this warm salad on a chilly day. It’s perfect with a chicken roasted in the oven.

Warm Cabbage Salad

4 C. red cabbage, shaved on a mandoline
½ C. toasted pecans, chopped
½ C. bacon, small dice
½ C currants
½ C. fried breadcrumbs
Sherry vinegar

Breadcrumbs:
Sourdough boulle: cut the crust off and coarsely chop in a food processor.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot toss in the breadcrumbs and stir to coat the crumbs. Let them cook until nicely toasted and golden.
Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble:

Saute the bacon in a pan with a little olive oil. When it is cooked, remove from heat,
add 2 T. sherry vinegar. (be careful, it will splatter)
Wisk in and take a quick taste, then season with salt and pepper.
You are also tasting it to make sure there is enough oil or enough vinegar. Adjust as you like.

Put the cabbage and everything else into the warm pan, toss. Taste again for salt and pepper.
Eat up!

Green Garlic & Potato Soup with Chives and Lemon

Welcome to march! The month of great anticipation and frustration! This is the most challenging menu to write because while anticipating the flavors of spring with the warm days, it is still not time. It is quiet in the garden as we watch tulips poke their heads up. We want to cook peas and asparagus, but there are a few more weeks until the farms can provide us with the flavors of spring. This is a silky, delicious soup that whispers of spring and warms on those chilly nights.

Green Garlic & Potato Soup with chives and lemon

1 small red onion, chopped
5 heads green garlic, chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
4 russet potatoes, peel and chunk
1 C. heavy cream

Heat butter in a pot to melt
Add onion and cook until soft.
Add green garlic and lemon zest.
Deglaze with 1 C. white wine.
Reduce to almost dry.
Add potatoes and just cover with water, vegetable or chicken stock.
*Here, I strongly urge that if you’re going to use a stock, please make your own.
I have included recipes for both under stocks and stuff.

TIP 1:
It is better to add water or stock later when you’re blending to thin your soup if it is too thick than it is to have thin soup. Start with just enough liquid to cook. Too much liquid=watery soup.

When the potatoes are nice and soft and falling apart, put the soup into a blender.

TIP 2:
Take off the round insert on top of your blender and cover it with a towel so the steam can escape and the hot soup doesn’t explode all over you and your kitchen.

Blend until smooth, adding the cream as you go.
Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Finish with some chopped chives.

Marinated Spinach Toast with Ricotta, Lemon Confit and Roasted Mushrooms

The word april comes from the latin root aperi‘re, “to open”. This opening happens in the garden, in the woods and in ourselves. Buds and birds burst in song and color, the earth steadily fills and we emerge from our sleepy state. The tulips open, strawberry plants sprout little white flowers and the appearance of the first asparagus is just the beginning of a renaissance happening in my kitchen. Spinach is the first thing that appears at the market in April and it’s usually been “over wintered” . That means that they actually planted it in the fall so that it would come up first thing in the spring. Because it’s been outside in the crazy spring weather, it is often hardy, super sweet and sometimes not so beautiful but perfect for cooking.
This marinated spinach is simple, delicious and good as an antipasti, on pizza and sandwiches.
The lemon confit recipe is something you can actually make in January when California citrus is at it’s best. It will keep in the fridge for months.

Marinated Spinach Toast with ricotta, lemon confit and roasted mushrooms.

Marinated spinach
2 T. good sheeps milk ricotta (I recommend a trip to The Truffle Cheese Shop)
½ t. lemon confit
1 C. crimini mushrooms, quartered
Good bread, brushed with olive oil. Grilled to mark on both sides.

Lemon Confit
Wash 8 lemons.
Chop 2 cloves garlic very fine and mix with ¼ C sugar and ¼ C salt
Slice lemons and begin layering in the jar. Sprinkle and little of the salt/sugar mixture over each layer as you go.
Pour in extra virgin olive oil to go about halfway up the lemon stack. Now the tricky part….
You need to put something on top of the lemons to weight them down…a rock wrapped in plastic wrap perhaps.
Put on the lid and put in fridge for at least 4 days. It will last for weeks and weeks.

Marinated Spinach:
Blanch 1# spinach and chop. Drain.
In a small bowl, wisk together 1 clove garlic, chopped, zest 1 lemon, ¼ t. chile flakes, 4 T. good extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
Add your spinach. Toss and taste and you’re done with that.

Roasted Mushrooms
Heat a skillet and melt butter until is begins to turn brown.
Add your mushrooms. You want them all to be able to touch the bottom of the pan so they caramelize and not steam cook.
Shake the pan a bit or stir with a spoon so they all get some butter.
Then cook until they are brown and their juices are evaporating.
Once they are cooked, remove from heat and taste for salt and pepper.

Do not season mushrooms until they are finished cooking. Salt will cause the liquid to release and they will boil in their own water.

To assemble:
Spread ricotta on warm toast. Top with spinach and a little chopped confit, then the mushrooms and enjoy!

Spinach and Nettle Soup

We are taking the first steps into “the simple pleasures” time of year. Uncomplicated cooking that celebrates what we grown. Food and cooking become simple and bursting with flavor. There is nothing more perfect that a dish of warm peas tossed in butter and mint, sugarsnaps quickly blanched or grilled and dipped in crème fraiche, radishes, soft butter and sea salt. Grilled asparagus simply with lemon, lettuces drizzled with olive oil and sea salt. When I think of ways to cook and eat this time of year, it is with respect and a desire to honor this perfect food. For lunch, I often grab some peas, asparagus, fava beans, baby turnips, carrots tossed with butter and bacon and fresh tarragon.
Recipes start to become more like ideas, the most important piece being that the produce is just picked, in season, prepared simply.
Take advantage of the farmer’s market, slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

an herbalist named culpepper wrote in the 1800’s, eating young nettles in the spring will boost your
immune system for the whole year, warding off colds and flu.

Lemon and Spring Herb relish for Asparagus
1 C. chopped lemon confit
2 T. chopped chives
2 T. chopped tarragon
2 T. chopped parsley
2 T. chopped sorrel
¼ C. capers
¼ C. chopped kalamata olives
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Taste for seasoning and add more olive oil if necessary.
This is delicious spooned over grilled or roasted asparagus, pasta or even grilled chicken.

Spinach and Nettle Soup
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
4 russet potatoes, peel and chunk
2# spinach: blanch and squeeze dry
2 C. nettles
1 bu. Italian parsley
3 T. chopped chives

Saute onion in grapeseed oil until nice and soft. Add garlic and lemon zest, continuing to cook a few more minutes. Deglaze with ½ C. white wine. Reduce to almost dry.
Add potatoes and JUST cover with water or vegetable stock.
Cook until potatoes are very soft. Add spinach and nettles.
Puree in blender until smooth.
Season with sea salt and pepper.
Serve with a dollap of greek yogurt if you like.

Blanching the spinach ahead of time will keep your soup nice and green.

Grilled Sugarsnap Peas

This is the month that spring food really begins to fill the stands at the market and the nights are warm enough to dine outside. I start cooking everything on the grill. The recipes are ideas of things you can do with foods that you find. Mix it up, try other vegetables as they appear. Experiment with the cheese and cherries. I love this pairing when cherries show up from the western slope.

Grilled Sugarsnap Peas with mint and yogurt

Sugarsnap peas, picked so that the tip and thread are pulled.
Tossed with a little olive oil and place in a hot grill pan on your grill.
This will only take a few minutes, turning the peas so that they don’t burn but get nicely marked.
Remove from heat and place into a large bowl.
Add the zest of a lemon, a spoon of greek yogurt and a handful of chopped mint.
Taste and season with sea salt.
Shaved radishes are also a nice addition to this salad at the end.

Spring Vegetable Pesto

In a food processor:
½ C. blanched spinach
A few leaves sorrel
A little mint
A little tarragon
3 or 4 small radishes
3 stalks blanched asparagus
A handful of blanched peas or sugarsnap peas
Anything you feel like throwing in.
Extra virgin olive oil.
Blend until smooth. Taste for salt and pepper.
Add more herbs if you like, more oil or more parmesan cheese.

Grilled cherries and Robiola Cheese

Toss your cherries with a little olive oil and place in a hot grilled pan on the grill. Toss and turn to give them some color and warm.
Warm your cheese in the oven so it begins to melt slightly. Put on a platter, cover with the cherries.
Top with toasted almonds, cracked.
I love this with a yummy crusty bread and sea salt.

Grilled Steaks

July is a funny month. It is now too hot for spring crops and hasn’t been hot enough for summer ones. We close at the restaurant for 2 weeks this time of year to allow for this season change and for summer food to catch up with summer weather.
Peas, sugar snap peas and cherries are still plentiful. Spinach and arugula begin to bolt and radishes start to get spicier.
It’s a great time to grill some steaks, snap peas and put out a bowl of radishes with soft butter and sea salt. We will do this and then set out a bowl of cherries for dessert.
Peaches, zucchini, cucumbers all begin showing up the last week or two of the month.

Marinade for 2 of Frank Silva’s Steaks
3 cloves garlic
Zest of 2 lemons
½ C. fresh oregano, chopped
2 T. sea salt
Fresh pepper
¼ C. good olive oil
Mix it all up and rub it all over the steaks. Let marinate for a few hours at room temperature before grilling.

Zucchini Carpaccio
I’ve put this on the menu at the restaurant for years. It’s a winner, so simple and celebrates zucchini, which grows so prolifically!

3 small-medium size zucchini, grated
Place on dish towels, roll up, then wring and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.

Spread back out on a cookie sheet and let dry while you prepare everything else. You can also do this early in the day so that it’s as dry as possible when you assemble the salad.

3 T. chopped mint
3 T. lightly toasted, sliced almonds
3 T. grated parmesan cheese
Mix altogether with zucchini. Drizzle in extra virgin olive oil and taste for salt and pepper.

Eggplant Parmesan

This is the month we’ve been waiting for! The summer food is showing up at the market in all of it’s abundance and beauty. There really is nothing that needs to be done to it except a bit of sea salt, perhaps some grilling but keep it simple. The eggplant parmesan is a staff favorite and the only thing that requires a little preparation and a hot oven.

Tomato Salad can also be Peach Salad!
I like to slice up all colors and types of tomatoes, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, add a handful of chopped basil and toss in some fresh mozzarella cheese.
Sliced proscuitto is a delicious addition to the peaches.

Eggplant Parmesan
For the eggplant:
Peel, slice and salt eggplant. Let it rest for an hour.
The salt will draw out the bitterness that is naturally in eggplant.
Pat dry.
Dredge in beaten egg, then in seasoned breadcrumbs.
Fry in grape seed oil until brown and beginning to crisp. Taste the first one to make sure there is enough seasoning in the breadcrumbs. If there is not, add more. This can’t be off or your whole dish will be boring and tasteless.

Drain on towels.

Sliced ripe tomatoes
Sliced mozzarella cheese
Lots of chopped basil
Grated parmesan cheese

Use olive oil to grease a baking dish.
Begin by spreading the fried eggplant on the bottom. Next layer the tomatoes, salt/pepper, basil, mozzarella and parmesan. Start again and continue layering to the top of the dish. Finish with a layer of cheese.
Cover with plastic wrap, then cover that with foil.
Bake 350 degrees for an hour on a cookie sheet so that nothing bubbles into the bottom of your oven.
Check it. If it isn’t hot and bubbly, keep cooking it a bit longer until it is.

Melon or Peaches or Grilled Jimmy Nardello Peppers or Grilled Cucumbers

With the arrival of September, comes the arrival of pepper season. It’s big here in Colorado. We grow so many different types and colors of peppers you might want to take some time to buy one of every kind and taste them to see what you like, what is spicy and what is sweet. It’s also the height of corn season and the ears are big, sweet and juicy. Melons are in and bursting with flavor.
Everything we grow here is at the market and the abundance is overwhelming and magnificent!
It’s hard to know where to begin when coming up with recipes to celebrate the season.
As the nights begin to get cooler, I like to cook these summer foods in warmer ways.
September is summer’s final exhale.

Melon or Peaches or Grilled Jimmy Nardello Peppers or Grilled Cucumbers
all of them together with whipped feta.
I love this whipped feta and once you make it you’ll want to put everything with it!

Whipped Feta
In a food processor:
6 oz. feta
¼ C sour cream
Juice of 1 lemon
2 t. honey
Blend it all up until it’s smooth and creamy.

2 Smoked Pork Chops simmered in Summer Vegetable Stew
You can get smoked pork chops from both Frank Silva and Joder Farm at the Boulder Market.

1 sweet red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 Anaheim pepper
1 pablano pepper
1 sweet carmen pepper
1 jimmy nardello pepper
Slice all the pepper thin and remove the seeds.

4 ripe tomatoes: grill and place in a bowl to remove skins and squeeze out core.

1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small zucchini and 1 small yellow squash cut in half lengthwise, then slice ¼ inch thick
½ small bulb fennel
2 ears of corn, cut off the cobb
Zest of 1 lemon

2 T. good chili powder from savory spice shop
Fresh oregano, sage, rosemary, marjoram

Saute onion in olive oil until beginning to brown and caramelize. Add the garlic and let brown just slightly. Add peppers and continue to cook until peppers are very wilted and the pan is brown on the bottom but not burned. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, fennel corn and lemon zest.
Stir to begin caramelizing the zucchini.
Add chili powder.
Deglaze with 1 C. white wine. Reduce to almost dry.
Add the tomatoes and 3 C. good chicken or pork stock.
Cover and simmer for an hour.
Taste at this point for salt and pepper. Add a handful of chopped herbs.
Bring to a boil.
Add your pork chops. Completely submerge them in the stew and let simmer, covered for 10 minutes.
Remove chops and reduce stew until nice and thick.
When stew is finished, place the pork chops back in and serve immediately.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

My favorite way to start the day is by walking outside. It is a way for me to see what’s happening in nature and pay attention. I know how quickly time marches by and if you blink your eyes, run away or get too involved in your day to day business, the seaon will be gone without the honor that it deserves. It is that way with food. The challenge becomes in appreciating it while it’s here.
This weekend, a lot of the farms we buy food from saw their first frost. Summer food is gone and it’s time to move on until next year.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
1 onion, chopped
4 apples, peeled and chunked
1 butternut squash, peel, seed, chunk
Apple cider
Vegetable stock

Melt butter in a pot and let it begin to foam and brown. Add your onions and cook until nicely caramelized. Add apples and do the same.
Deglaze with 4 C. apple cider. Reduce to almost dry.
Add squash and JUST cover with water or vegetable stock.
Cook until squash is very soft.
Remove from heat. Blend with a hand blender or in the blender.
Taste for salt and pepper.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Chiles and Lime Yogurt

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into wedges. Toss in olive oil with sea salt and place on a baking sheet.
Bake 400 degrees until potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.
While they’re baking make the sauce in a blender or food processor:
3 roasted pablano or Anaheim chiles
1 clove garlic
Juice of 2 limes
½ C. greek yogurt
Salt and pepper
Blend and taste. Maybe you’ll want more yogurt or more lime. That is up to you.
When the potatoes are soft, place on a plate, drizzle with the yogurt dressing.
Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds and eat up.

Seafood Stew

It’s time…
I believe time is one of life’s greatest gifts and also a gift that is most taken for granted. As the snow falls, farmer’s markets come to a close, as we pass our own families running in and running out, as we hurry from a coffee date with friends to run errands, as we interrupt someone to answer a cell phone call, time continues to march on and the things and moments we’re enjoying right now will be over in the blink of an eye and later, we never ever have enough time.
Our greatest gift is the time we have right this minute.
Taking the time every morning to start my day with a list of things I am grateful for…whether it’s a strong, healthy body, the love of my family, the attention of a great love, a great job, a warm place to live or the ability to cook…keeps me in touch with how precious the time I have is and how blessed I am. It’s a reminder of all that I have to be grateful for and to give.
What a gift it is to sit and listen, to laugh with friends, to fix dinner for our families, to sit down together. As the holidays approach and the world churns out gift ideas and we all feel compelled to spend more money, I feel that the gift of time is the one gift that seems so insignificant. Yet.
Isn’t the greatest thing someone can do for you really listening, make you laugh, take time to help you with a chore or an errand or a project. What about when someone takes the time to make you something delicious when you’re exhausted. It’s a gift that you not only give someone else, it’s a gift that fills your soul with gratitude as you celebrate your connections and your friendships.

I love to make a big pot of soup or stew and have a holiday kitchen party. I’ll put out a board of cheeses and sliced meats, olives and crusty bread for people to snack on. Set the soup bowls on the counter next to the stove and let people help themselves. It’s the room that everyone gathers in so I open it up, set it up and we stand around talking and laughing and sharing our lives, stories and food.

A big pot of seafood stew for a holiday party
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
8 slices bacon, diced
5 stalks celery, diced
5 carrots, diced
Zest of 2 lemons
2 T. dried thyme leaves

3 heads celery root, peel and dice
4 potatoes, peel and dice

1# peeled shrimp
1# scallops
3# cleaned mussels
3# cleaned clams

1 qt. clam juice
1qt. whipping cream
1 bu. chopped parsley

Melt butter in a pot. Add the onion, garlic until soft. Add the celery, carrots and bacon, continue to cook until soft and the bacon is browning.
Add the lemon zest, thyme leaves and deglaze with 4 C. white wine.
Reduce to almost dry.
Add the celery root and potatoes
Cover with clam juice and cook until potatoes are tender.
Add the seafood and cook until the clams are open.
Finish with heavy cream.
Chopped parsley, fresh ground pepper and sea salt.

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