Never before had I tasted food that was so 'alive', harvested just hours before. Feeding a group of 300 on any given day is no small feat and overall the food was very simple but amazingly fresh. Most of the food is grown on the roughly 6.5 acres of organic farm located on the property. Working in that garden was magic. Growing food on a 'large' scale from seed to table was transformative. It definitely has inspired me in every way since and very directly set the tone for my two careers. First, in working with plants and now, in working with food.
I love these Chard Cakes, of course because of my memories surrounding them, but also because they're delicious. This is the kind of food I could eat every day... simple, seasonal, satisfying. You can of course make these with spinach, kale, or any number of greens depending on what you have on hand. I've adjusted this recipe from the original as printed in the Esalen Cookbook as I prefer the cakes with a bit more body. At Esalen these are usually served with a goat cheese and horseradish sauce. My goat cheese, dijon, dill sauce is below.
I hope you'll make this meal often.
Chard Cakes (aka: Esalen Garden Cakes)
Yields 8-9 cakes
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 bunch chard, stems sliced into 1" pieces and leaves sliced into thin ribbons
olive oil for frying
1) Combine the flour, salt & pepper in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk and eggs and whisk until a smooth batter is formed. Stir in the chard leaves and stems.
2) Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Using a 1/2 cup measure, scoop up some of the chard and batter mixture and add it to the hot skillet. Cook until the eggs are set and bottom of the cakes are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip over and finish cooking on the opposite side. Serve warm with goat cheese sauce, below.
Goat Cheese, Dill & Dijon Sauce:
3 oz plain soft goat cheese (ie: chevre, at room temp)
1/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
2 TB Dijon mustard
1 TB fresh dill, finely minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper
1) Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir together until well combined.