A feed at Heirloom Acres
GRANVILLE – What’s old is new again, especially when Leonard and LaVonne Blok host a farm-to-table vintage dinner celebrating local foods and heirloom vegetables.
“Be prepared for the wow factor,” said Leonard Blok, as he described the flavors of his favorite heirloom tomatoes and heirloom vegetables. “This is why grandma’s cooking tasted so good.”
The Bloks are keeping these traditions alive at Heirloom Acres south of Granville, where they welcomed more than 40 guests on Sept. 17 to their farm-to-table vintage dinner.
Before dinner, guests were encouraged to tour the gardens filled with heirloom vegetables of all types.
They could also pick apples from the orchard on the farm, which had previously been owned by the Ricke family for decades.
“I’m a big fan of agriculture and gardening, so an experience like this is really fun,” said Danielle Zuidema, who works at Iowa State University Extension’s Sioux County office.
Connecting with fellow Iowans and returning to their rural roots has been important to the Bloks, who grew up in northwest Iowa, but spent many years living in California.
It was there while visiting a farmers’ market that LaVonne Blok tasted her way through several varieties of heirloom tomatoes.
“I was delighted by the differences in their flavor, as well as by all the fun sizes, shapes and colors,” she said.
The couple preferred the Pink Brandywine heirloom tomato until they discovered a new favorite-Cherokee purple.
“It’s hard to beat its sweet flavor,” said Leonard Blok, a self-described recovering attorney who moved back to northwest Iowa with his wife in 2004.
The Bloks’ sense of humor and love of gardening inspire their passion to grow fresh food on their acreage, which they purchased a decade ago.
They’ve planted nearly 90 heirloom tomato plants (totaling 31 different varieties) in recent years in their spacious “Garden of Eatin.”
The Bloks sell their produce at the Orange City farmers’ market and the Granville Farmstand.
This summer they partnered with local friends, neighbors and ISU Extension to offer a taste of northwest Iowa during their farm-to-table dinner, which included wine tasting and live music at Heirloom Acres.
“The Bloks did a great job of entertaining and offering unique, fresh flavors,” said Fran Peelen, whose family farms in the Sanborn area. “This farm-to-fork experience was wonderful.”
Molly’s cabbage salad
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
Sesame seeds, optional
1 head cabbage, shredded
1 onion, chopped
Combine vegetable oil, cider vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and sesame seeds for the dressing. Blend well. Mix dressing with shredded cabbage and chopped onion, to taste.
Kale and beet salad
4 beets, approximately 2.5 inches in size
1 bunch of curly-type kale
1/4 medium red onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown mustard
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup cashews
Feta cheese crumbles
Place washed beets in a 3-quart sauce pot. Leave root tip and 3 inches of stem on beets to prevent bleeding.
Cover with water. Bring to a full boil. Cover pot with lid. Turn off heat. Go to bed.
In the morning, drain off water, slip skins and shred, chuck or slice the beets.
Wash kale. Cover with boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain.
Rinse in cold water; drain again. Tear into bite-sized pieces.
Whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar, brown mustard, honey and orange juice together.
Toss dressing with kale, beets and onion.
Sprinkle salad with cashews and Feta cheese.
4 cups peeled, chopped heirloom tomatoes (use a variety of tomatoes)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup diced green peppers and salsa peppers
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Fresh or dried cilantro, salt and habanero-lime olive oil, to taste
Cook on low heat for 3 or more hours until salsa is nice and thick.
Cukes in cream
Heirloom Armenian Burpless cucumbers work well in this recipe.
1 cucumber, approximately 14 inches long, sliced
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Pepper, to taste
Salt, if necessary
1/2 teaspoon powdered ranch dressing, optional
Combine sour cream, onion, sugar, cider vinegar, pepper, salt and powdered ranch dressing. Pour over cucumber slices; chill.
(Note:Only add salt right before serving, since it makes the sauce watery).
Mom’s five-bean salad
This works well with heirloom bean varieties like “Blue Lake Pole,” “Yellow Wax,” “Romano,” and “Henderson Bush.”
2 quarts fresh heirloom beans, cut into bite-sized lengths
1 chopped pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
1 can pimentos
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup salad oil
2/3 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
Pepper, to taste
Cook beans until just tender. Cool.
Add pepper, onion and pimentos.
In a separate bowl mix sugar, salad oil, vinegar, salt, celery seed and pepper to make the dressing.
Combine dressing with vegetable mixture.
Refrigerate salad overnight.
Roasted garlic Alfredo vegetable lasagna
12 9-inch strips of lasagna pasta (cooked according to directions and then cooled; set aside)
4 heads of garlic, roasted
Extra-virgin olive oil, up to 1 / 4 cup
1 medium zucchini, sliced into half-inch slices
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and sliced into one-fourth-inch slices
1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 green bell pepper, chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons butter
2 cups heavy cream
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons chicken or vegetable bouillon
Salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon white pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
Dash of nutmeg, or to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded (add up to 1 / 4 cup more grated parmesan, if desired)
16 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
To roast garlic heads in olive oil, preheat oven to 420 degrees.
Pour extra virgin olive oil into a small roasting pan until the oil is one-fourth of an inch deep. Slice off the bottoms of garlic heads so they will fit flat into roasting pan with olive oil. Leave skins on garlic, and place in pan.
Roast until soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Pay special attention to garlic to ensure it does not burn.
Once garlic is soft, remove from oven and place aside to cool. Once cooled, squeeze roasted garlic out of skins and put into a small bowl. Set aside.
To roast the vegetables, heat oven to 420 degrees. In a single layer, roast zucchini, butternut squash, bell peppers, mushrooms and onions on a sheet pan drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Roast until lightly tender, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
Drain any liquid, and set aside to cool.
To make the Alfredo sauce, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add flour, and whisk over heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add cream and milk slowly while whisking. Simmer on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until sauce starts thickening.
Remove 1 1/2 cups sauce and mix in a food processor or blender with reserved roasted garlic until smooth.
Add mixture back to original saucepan.
Add bouillon, salt, white pepper, black pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Slowly whisk in Parmesan cheese.
Bring sauce up to a simmer. Turn down heat, and continue to cook on low until desired thickness. (Sauce will thicken when cooled.)
To assemble lasagna, preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a greased 9-by-13-inch pan, lightly cover the bottom of the pan with Alfredo sauce.
Add a layer of lasagna noodles. Then layer roasted vegetables and fresh mozzarella cheese, reserving some cheese for the top layer.
Add another layer of lasagna noodles and Alfredo sauce. Then repeat until pan is full.
Cook lasagna for 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes or until completely cooked through.
Finish by broiling top until cheese is browned. Remove from oven and cool.
Top with basil and serve.
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