Nourished Kitchen E-course – Commit to REAL FOOD TODAY!

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(photos courtesy of Nourished Kitchen)

There is still a few more days to sign up for the Nourished Kitchen e-course! If you ever wanted to learn how to make your own cheese, yogurt or soft drinks at home, this is the course for you! If you want to learn how to shop farmers markets and make awesome seasonal, organic and local foods using the freshest and most nutrient-dense foods for you and your family, without breaking the bank – this course is for you! If you read my blog and wonder how the heck I have time to make all this stuff, and wish you could, this is the course for you! If you care about the foods you put into your body and want to make a commitment to REAL FOOD today –     Please sign up today and start your own Food Revolution!

Foodie Tour of Burlington, Vermont, Part 1

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photo courtesy of CrankyCakes

So we have been here officially on the homestead for less than a month, and already I have had the great opportunity to meet some awesome people, as well as reacquaint myself with some that we have met on previous trips to the area. I have certainly learned that people in Vermont love good food, and care about where their food comes from, they also care about their fellow Vermonters.

Vermont has just come off Restaurant Week . It is a big deal here – participating restaurants offer special, prix-fixe menus showcasing their chefs’ greatest dishes. Those menus will feature discounted, three-course “tasting-style” dinners (e.g. appetizer, entreé and dessert) priced at $15, $25 or $35 per person. 10% of the proceeds from event admissions, sponsorships and restaurant participation fees will be donated to Vermont Foodbank.

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(Inside Sugar Snap, checking out the produce at City Market, with Cheryl outside of Sugar Snap and City Market!)

To celebrate Restaurant Week and all the fine food that Vermont has to offer, Burlington resident, fellow food blogger, Vermont Fresh Networker and all around Vermont local food expert Cheryl from Cranky Cakes offered to take Roberto and I to all her favorite foodie spots in and around Burlington, ending with dinner at Bistro Sauce in Shelburne, a participant in Restaurant Week, which I will talk about in an upcoming post . We were in for quite a day!

We started the tour off at Cheryl’s Residence, Burlington Co-Housing. It is such an interesting place, the grounds are full of acres and acres perfect for wildcrafting and gardening. She took us on a tour of the grounds where plants, berry bushes, and everything in between are growing, all over the place. Her partner Greg told us that at the height of summer, it likens to a real life Hobbiton with everyone outside working the grounds. All they need are some livestock running around, and I can totally see it!

But the tour must go on, so we headed out in Cheryl’s car. Car conversations revolved around food in the front seat, while in the backseat between Roberto and Greg, major comic drawing and illustrator geekness abounded. It was the perfect arrangement! Geeks unite!

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photo courtest of CrankyCakes

Our first stop on the tour was Sugar Snap – an awesome little takeout joint, serving lunch and dinner. Situated right at the beginning of Burlington’s REAL Food Hub, The Intervale . Before hitting the ‘Vale, we needed to fortify ourselves. We hadn’t had lunch yet, so I went with half of their secret recipe chicken salad sandwich on sourdough. Roberto had the Dark and Stormy – ham, mustard sauteed portabellos, on a delicious roll. Cheryl and Greg shared goat cheese quiche. It was a very good start to the tour.

We took a drive through the Intervale, home to many of Burlington’s small farms and community gardens. It was once full of cows, then became more of an industrial center, but is now finding it’s roots again in the natural world. This is where Cheryl and Greg’s CSA, Intervale Community Farm (the second largest CSA in Vermont) is located. The Intervale has a lot of interesting events throughout the year, including Slow Food tastings on Thursdays…sounds like another reason to go to Burlington.

After that we drove through the Old North End, home to many ethnic restaurants and groceries – everything from Middle Eastern and African to Himalayan. This part of town is also home to the Sustainability Academy , in partnership with Shelburne Farms , is the nation’s first K-5 magnet school with a sustainability theme. From their website: “The goal of the Academy is to prepare students to be responsible citizens and agents for change, in their community and beyond. The Academy is an international model for using sustainability as a lens for place-based education and service learning. We maintain the highest expectations for academic and personal growth for all of our students and embrace the rich economic and cultural diversity of our community”. WOW. If I could only go back in time to be a student there!!!

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(Roberto and Greg chatting it up in Bulk Foods – but likely not ABOUT bulk foods….Photo courtesy of CrankyCakes)

From the North End we headed to City Market a fabulous co-op full of local, organic and fair trade foods. Kind of like a Whole Foods, but owned by the community – even better in my book! I got some lovely and tasty souvenirs, including cheese from Doe’s Leap. Doe’s Leap, who recently broke my heart. It is a sad tale, indeed.  They advertised a most incredible internship opportunty on their website-  teaching interns about raising goats, goat healthcare, artisan cheesemaking and training herd dogs – all the things I want to learn. But unfortunately they are not offering the program anymore. BOOHOO!!! So I drowned my sorrows in goat cheese from their farm, instead.

I was also able to get some lovely local non-GMO cornmeal from Butterworks Farms, and some black turtle beans from another local farm, both in City Market’s extensive Bulk Food section! After all the shopping efforts, we needed a pick me up, so we left with some amazing Serchan’s Potato salad – a Nepali potato salad, made by one of Cheryl’s neighbors…of course! I swear she knows everyone who has anything to do with good food in Burlington!

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(Lambs at Shelburne Farms, a delicious pit stop at August First, Red Wagon Plants, and Sicilian donkeys at Shelburne Farms)

We drove into downtown Burlington for a stop at August First, one of Cheryl’s favorite bakeries. We had been hearing about how wonderful their breads are, from Cheryl and Greg all day, so we were lucky enough to get the LAST baguette of the day to taste. We were lucky enough that they were already out of iced coffee, since the owner Phil then had to improvise by giving us a shot of delicious espresso, that we filled halfway with filtered water and then topped off with cream. YUM. I told him he should always do iced coffee this way. I put a drizzle of honey in mine and it was so good. We decided to catch our breath on their beautiful outdoor patio with the iced coffees and a chocolate, apricot and hazelnut scone, which was out of this world. The name August First comes from the traditional date for the early European harvest festival called Lammas, which celebrates the annual wheat harvest. Way cool.

At this point Greg had to leave the tour to go back home and draw…ah, the life of an artist…so the three of us dropped him off and continued on our way. First stop, plant heaven – Red Wagon Plants , purveyors of heirloom and specialty plants. It was perfect, since Roberto, this family’s resident gardener, had been wanting to go there anyway! We met the fabulous owner, Julie, and then took a tour of their greenhouses looking at all the beautiful flowers, and smelling the best chocolate mint ever! Going back there this weekend to get some for our garden, because we can’t stop talking about it!!!

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(photo courtesy of CrankyCakes)

Then we walked over to the neighbors, Family Cow Farmstand , a raw milk farm. They sell their milk to the community and also have home dairy making courses. They had two sweet calves in the barn that after a bit of coaxing came up to sniff and lick us. Their tongues were a bit like a cat’s tongue – a little rough. But their fur was soft and thick. We spent a few minutes checking out their beautiful views and breathing in the fresh farm air.

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(The Intervale, view driving through Shelburne Farms, The “Barn” at Shelburne Farms, The Inn at Shelburne Farms)

Our last stop before dinner was Shelburne Farms . This is truly an incredible place, and if you come to visit, a definite stop on our tour of Northern Vermont. I think at this point Cheryl was realizing what a lover of farm animals I am, so she knew that no matter how tight our time was, we had to make this stop.

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(photo courtesy of CrankyCakes)

Shelburne Farms is an amazing place that we literally just touched the surface of. Our main focus on this trip was the animals – cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens and donkeys. We met some really cute friends along the way . So cute that if we had brought our truck, I might have had to smuggle! :) Shelburne Farms offers cheese tours, wagon rides, snowshoeing in the winter, hiking trails in the summer, a sugar shack, a farm store, a farm eats stand and even an Inn – where you can stay or enjoy a rather swanky meal. I will certainly enjoy going there time and again.

I hope you enjoyed the first leg of the tour with me. Join me next time for dinner at Bistro Sauce in Shelburne. If you still want more, and believe me, you so do, you can check out Cheryl’s take on the day here, at Cranky Cakes. She has a great blog!

How To Cook Real Food : Online Cooking Course!

As a blogger, aspiring to bring my readers better food, more interesting stories, and drool-worthy photos of my creations, I look to other bloggers who do what I want to do, but do it better. They are like virtual mentors whose posts I pour over, and get excited about when I see them in my inbox. They are the bloggers whose nearly every recipe ends up in my “to make” box.

One of these bloggers is Jenny from Nourished Kitchen.  To me, she is a marvel – she makes delicious, nutrient dense foods, using practices our great grandparents did – making fermented vegetables, cultured dairy products, and using real butter, full fat raw milk and real bacon! While raising a family AND managing her local farmers market! I have been working to eat more and more this way over the past months, and I always look to Jenny’s delicious blog for inspiration. She is a wealth of information and really one of the most gracious bloggers I have been in contact with.

So it is with excitement that I am announcing her awesome e-course! After hearing over and over again from her readers a need for a simple, but thorough way to better incorporate local foods and back-to-basics, traditional cooking into their kitchens, she began work on this e-course. Through this interactive 12-week program Jenny will show you the ropes to making delicious , good for you food that won’t break your back, or your budget, that is usually local, organic and in season. This is the time to start your own Food Revolution, faithful readers! If you aren’t convinced, take a look at these amazing dishes:

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Are you drooling yet? If so, here are the details on the e-course! Don’t forget Class begins June 1, 2010, and registration closes on May 31st!!! So you need to act fast!

What You’ll Get

  • 12 Comprehensive, Multi-media Online Classes
  • Video Tutorials Teaching You How to Cook Real Food
  • Digital Workbook to Take Notes & Develop Your Own Recipes
  • Charts Outlining Seasonally Available Foods
  • Fact Sheets and Handy Tips Analyzing the Value of Real Food
  • Online Discussion Forum for Members Only
  • Menu Planning Tips & Sample Meal Plans
  • Sample Shopping Lists and Equipment Recommendations
  • SPECIAL BONUS: Discouts & Coupons from Companies I Trust

Get in now!

You’ll Learn How to:

  • Shop for whole, unrefined local foods in season.
  • Maximize nutrition and minimize cost.
  • Plan meals that will help you stick to your food budget.
  • Bake organic whole grain bread for a fraction of the cost of store-bought.
  • Save a mint making homemade yogurt, cheese and pickles.
  • Make use of cheaper cuts of meat with slow cooking.
  • Make healthy homemade soda for just pennies a gallon.

The Lesson Overview

Lesson #1: What is Real Food & Where to Find It
Lesson #2: Eat Whole Grain
Lesson #3: Homemade Sourdough Bread
Lesson #4: Homemade Salad Dressings
Lesson #5: Prepare Seasonal Vegetables
Lesson #6: Make Real Pickles
Lesson #7: Roasted & Slow-cooked Meats
Lesson #8: Stocks, Broths & Soups
Lesson #9: Easy Homemade Yogurt & Cheese
Lesson #10: Soda & Soft Drink Alternatives
Lesson #11: Naturally Sweet Desserts
Lesson #12: Menus & Meal Planning

Check out Jenny’s eCourse here, watch a promo video, and find out how to register.  Class begins June 1, 2010, and registration closes May 31st!!! Every weekly course is at your leisure, at your own computer screen, and they’re all supported by a forum where you can ask Jenny and other participants questions.  There are limited spaces available.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Nourished Kitchen’s online eCourse, so I will be earning a commission from any sales made after clicking a link in this post.  This e-course it taking the blogosphere by storm, with many affiliates, so if you’re going to sign up for Jenny’s course (and you’re not one of her faithful readers), it would be appreciated to start here with my link.

Cultures, Fiddleheads, and Poutine

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HELLO COMPOST!

Life has been extremely busy here on the homestead. If you are following my facebook updates, you know I have been up to my ears (almost) in dirt. I have learned in these few short weeks, that spring is the busiest time of the year in the country. If you are in the North Country, you are trying to get your gardens, fruit/nut tree groves and berry patches started for the summer, while dodging rain storms, and on occasion even snow storms! Here at Thistlemoon Meadows, it is no exception. All of this while trying to settle into a new place. We have been spending as many sunny days as we can outdoors, and if there isn’t enough of those to do what we need to accomplish, we go out in the rain – and if you can believe it, the snow storm is actually a blessing from Mother Nature, as it allows us time to go indoors and take care of household needs. It has been several years since I have really enjoyed the dichotomies that make up spring and it has been amazing – when you are working with things that grow, it kind of all makes sense. Nature is amazing that way.

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(The Culture Club (this is not how I normally have my “lab” set up. If you are culturing more than one kind of culture they need to sit a few feet apart from each other, but I asked them all to gather together for  photo).

Our house is not a home unless I have set up my cultures, lovingly termed my “science lab” in the kitchen. On any given day I have sourdough starter, kefir, some kind of sour milk either viili or buttermilk, yogurt and sometimes cheese culturing. Plus I usually have various kinds of grains and legumes soaking and fermenting. It is this life sustaining and nourishing foods that get our bodies through all the hard work that comes with setting up and maintaining a homestead. And our chickens haven’t even arrived yet! :)

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FIDDLEHEADS!

So to celebrate spring in all her glory, on one warm and beautiful day, we decided to have our first barbecue of the season. We had been to the local market earlier in the day and picked up a prized local wildfood – fiddlehead ferns. These ferns can only be harvested for about 2 weeks in the early spring, in Northern climes, like New England, and Canada. Fiddleheads are harvested early in the season before the frond has opened and reached its full height – they are named fiddleheads as they bear resemblance to the curled ornamentation on the end of a stringed instrument, such as a fiddle. Since I am a fiddlehead, it seemed like a food I should try. It is not suggested that you eat fiddleheads raw, as they have a bitterness to them before cooked, that can lead to stomach upset. I was told they taste a bit like asparagus, so I decided to just toss them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and cook them on the grill, on top of foil – kind of like broiled asparagus, which is my favorite way to prepare it. Although truth be told, if asparagus ceased to exist, I wouldn’t miss it.

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For this meal I wanted to cook everything on the grill. Steak is best when grilled, and we had also gotten a beautiful skirt steak from a local farm. I lightly drizzled olive oil on it, and then dressed it up with fresh herbs – cilantro, thyme and basil.

To accompany this meal, I decided to make poutine on the grill, sans gravy, which I guess really makes this potatoes and cheese curds – but it was light and perfect with this menu. I cooked both white potatoes and sweet potatoes on the grill in foil packets for about 40 minutes. For the last 15 minutes,I opened the packets so the potatoes could brown, and then put the cheese curds on top, turned off the grill and closed the grill lid for about 5 minutes.

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(Spring Foods Dinner)

It was a wonderful evening outside listening to the night sounds – frogs, birds and eventually even a guitar and…you guessed it, a fiddle.

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Chicken Mole, My Way…

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I love Dark Mole – it is one of those sauces that captures the imagination and has an almost mystical quality to it– chock full of colorful, luxurious and delicious spices, chilies and chocolate. Whenever I see it on a menu, I can’t resist ordering it. I have never made it before, and it has been on my kitchen “to do” list for a long while. A series of events happened that made this the perfect time to make Mole, my way. This is not a traditional Mole, made by a Mexican Matriarch, but I do feel it encompasses the flavors and spirit of the dish.

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As I said, this dish was inspired by several things – a recent shipment of samples from my foodie friend Justin, at Marx Foods (these guys are awesome!) of various dried chilies that we will be giving away on The Foodie Blogroll soon. I used two mild varieties – Mulato and Pasilla Negro. The Mulato is described as having a chocolate and licorice flavor, which I thought would go well in the Mole. The Pasilla Negro said it was “good in moles” on the package, so I trusted the Marx Foodies on that one.

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This dish was also inspired by a chocolate bar I bought for the trip from Florida to Vermont. On road trips, we always like to treat ourselves to some dark chocolate. This time I chose Dagoba’s Xocolatl bar – dark chocolate with cocoa nibs, chilies and cinnamon. It was wonderful on its own, a perfect pick me up during a long day of driving. As I was eating the chocolate, I knew it was destined to be cooked with – as it was not very sweet (which is the way I like my chocolate) and full of the flavors described on the package.

I also wanted to use some Calabrian pepper powder, I received as a recent sample from Scott at The Sausage Debauchery for a giveaway on The Foodie Blogroll last month, that I hadn’t had a chance to cook with yet. This hot pepper powder is very reminiscent of hot smoked paprika. It is a gorgeous bright deep orange, and smells wonderful. A little goes a long way though, and I didn’t need much to add a kick to the dish. I also used some Mexican Mole Seasoning that I got at the Saint Augustine Spice and Tea Exchange. A store I frequented in Saint Augustine when we lived there, and that I am very thankful has a website, so I can continue to order their amazing, top quality spices.

I was very pleased with the result of my first attempt at Mole. The sauce had a lot of depth, and all the flavors really complemented each other in a cohesive unit. Not bad for the first time!

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The leftovers make amazing quesadillas with some cheddar cheese and plain yogurt on top, or you could put some of the sauce over your morning eggs (fried or poached) for some Mole Eggs.

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This is definitely a diverse sauce that can be used to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. I love that this recipe makes enough for either 4 people, or several meals for 2, making this not only tasty, but cost effective, which is always a bonus. Especially because sauces like this taste doubly better the next day and your efforts in the kitchen can be extended to several meals.

INGREDIENTS:

4 chicken drumsticks
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 1/2 TBS Mexican mole seasoning – fresh pepper, chocolate, cumin, coriander, chili pepper, garlic, onion, salt, etc. From The Spice and Tea Exchange
½ tsp Calabrian Hot pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
6 sticks Dagoba Xocolatl bar, melted
1 dried mulato chili (chocolate/licorice, mild)– reconstituted and scraped – reserve about 1 cup of water used to reconstitute.
1 dried pasilla negro chili (Good in moles) – reconstituted and scraped
juice of one lemon
1 cup strained tomatoes
5 carrots, chopped
4 small onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced

METHOD:

Wash the drumsticks while the chilies are reconstituting in hot water (this takes about 10-15 minutes for them to soften). In a bowl drizzle olive oil over the chicken and sprinkle spices over top. Add the chili flesh and massage everything into the chicken. Then add the lemon juice and stir all together. Let marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 300F. In a dutch oven, drizzle olive oil and brown chicken on all sides. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, and pour over chicken. Add the reserved chili water, and strained tomatoes to the bowl the chicken was marinading in. Whisk together and pour over the chicken, de-glazing the pan. Add the potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic, then stir the whole pot. Place the lid on the pot, and cook in the oven for 3 hours. After the 2nd hour, reduce heat to 200 F. Check for liquid every 45 minutes, and add water if necessary.

Serve on top of sprouted tortillas, if desired. Serves 2 – with leftovers for 4 small sprouted corn tortilla Quesadillas and 2 servings of Mole Eggs.

Simple Smoked Mackerel Salad and The Pleasures of Eating Local

Smoked Mackerel Salad

We are still without internet, here at the homestead, so my absence in the blogosphere continues…but I have been amassing so many great recipes since we got here, I just have to keep sharing, as I can. I am just so inspired to shop for food and cook here!

This is a local, or at least regional salad with products coming from Northern New England (or grown by me – in the case of the lemons). This salad features the beautiful and delicious bounty of spring and is packed full of nutrients and major brain food.

I am excited to be featuring some delicious products from several awesome local producers here in beautiful Northern Vermont. This just goes to show how easy and pleasurable it is to eat locally, when you are in a community that really supports local agriculture and food producers. Especially when these products are readily available and easy accessible to the community.

That really is the crux of the local food movement– even though our growing season is much shorter here, there is always an abundance of local products available. Having local products available year round is an important goal of this community, and because it is a community effort, you really can find local products year round. This includes produce, meats and dairy in addition to local coffee roasters, bread bakers, beer and wine makers, peanut butter producers, as well as salsas, sauces and condiments. Not to mention the maple syrup and raw honey! The produce variety may not be as extensive as if you were going to the regular grocery store, but that is part of the joy and challenge of seasonal eating. Plus, learning simple techniques like canning and preserving can really prolong the bounty of a shorter growing season, adding color, flavor and nutrients to the winter months. So if you plan ahead, you can actually eat quite well during harsher months. Thinking that weather is the key factor in the availability of local foods in a community, is a terrible misnomer. I found it much harder to find true local staple products in Florida, which is one of the reasons we left. I lived there for over 3 years. I have lived here less than 2 weeks.

This focus on local and sustainable food is just one of the many major reasons we have decided to make this part of the world our permanent home. We really are so lucky to have found a community that shares our strong core values, which is important on so many levels. Living in a place where your ideals are supported and just a “normal” part of life is a welcomed relief. People are adaptable and can make do anywhere, finding hidden treasures, but being able to live according to your values with ease is a true blessing. I am looking forward to sharing many other finds with you over the coming months and years.

Local Products

* Bar Harbor Mackerel, Bar Harbor, Maine -all natural, wild caught, naturally hardwood smoked Atlantic mackerel. Sustainably harvested from the clear cold waters of the Gulf of Maine. I consider Maine as well as the rest of Northern New England and the Quebec province of Canada (25 miles as the crow flies) to be local to us. This mackerel as well as wild herring fillets are available from a local market, Apple Tree.

* Pete’s Greens – Four Season Organic Vegetable Farm, Craftsbury, Vermont – Salad mix featuring: red rib dandelion, endive, fennel tops, wrinkled cress, red leaf amaranth, tatsoi, ruby red chard, bright lights chard, arugula, upland cress, spinach, orach and purslane. These were some of the most delicious and aesthetically beautiful greens I have had. We first had them at the Bee’s Knees an amazing local restaurant. I asked the server where they got their mixed greens, and then we were able to procure some from another local market, The Green Top Market.

* Elmore Mountain Bread Elmore, Vermont– Wood fired micro bakery. They use a long fermentation process in their bread making. Each loaf takes a total of 16 hours. Sometimes it is hard to resist bread like this, and so I was indulging on it when we first got here and I wasn’t having any ill effects from it. Now I know why…just another blessing, considering many of the restaurants in the area, as well as local groceries, and markets sell Elmore Mountain Bread. Being able to eat a sandwich or burger at a restaurant is a true luxury for me. Thank you, Elmore Mountain Bread!

* Farmer Sue’s  Peperoncini Peppers Bakersfield, VT – Do you know how hard it is to find peperoncini peppers without corn syrup? I love these little pickled peppers, and now I have an alternative to making my own . Farmer Sue makes all kinds of delicious pickled vegetables and sells at the year round Lamoille Valley Artisan Farmers Market .

RECIPE:

Smoked Mackerel Salad

INGREDIENTS:

6-8 oz. smoked mackerel fillets
juice of ½ lemon
salt&pepper to taste
hefty sprinkle of herbs de provence
1 TBS fresh chives, chopped
1 TBS mayonnaise
2 peperoncini peppers chopped
drizzle of olive oil
2 cups salad greens

METHOD:

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, reserving a little lemon juice for the greens. Dress your greens with olive oil and lemon juice and toss. Place a mound of the mackerel salad on top. Serve with slices of sourdough baguette, if desired.

Be sure to share the mackerel juice with any feline or canine friends you might have at home. They will love you! :)

Serves 2