March 30, 2012

READ THIS.... and eat!

& Eat!

Atina Diffley's memoir is fresh off the press. But, be warned, while the reviews thus far are glowing there have been troubling stories reported by readers. One person turned the kettle on high, started reading and forgot until  hours later when smoke was pouring out of the kitchen, another forgot to pick his kids up from daycare, another laughed so long and so hard, she couldn't get in the car and was late for work. Deborah Madison (James Beard award winning chef and cookbook author) said, "I read it in the bath til the water turned cold and I didn't even notice.

Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works is a story of relationships -- with the land, plants and animals, families and communities, ourselves and our deepest desires. A master class in organic farming, a lesson in entrepreneurship, a love story, a legal thriller, it's a book I will pick up again and again and agin. Its a story of resilience and hope; it's a must read for anyone who understands food matters.

March 14, 2012

Grain Refrain

Grain Refrain

It's spring. Time to get going, shrug off the down coats, for now anyway. If, as the poet claims, April is the cruelest month, he didn't live here in March, when our temperatures are tumultuous, tempting us sleeveless one day and forcing us to be fleece-wrapped the next. To straddle the season, just go with the grain. Farro that is. It's the stuff of Tuscan soups, stews and salads that has inspired Italian arias and frescos for centuries. It grows well in our region and our growers are rotating it in to their fields. You'll now find it in the bulk sections of our co-ops. It tastes a little like wheat berries a little like barley but it cooks up as quickly as pasta. Loaded with nutrients, high in protein and low in fat, it  is great as a side dish and shines center plate. 

1 cup = 6 to 8 servings

Simply rinse the grain, put it in a pot and cover with 2 inches cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. (Do not salt the water before cooking, it will make the grain toughen up; salt after.)

Farro Salad with Oranges & Roasted Cauliflower
Serves 6 to 8 side dish; 4 to 6 as an entree

3 cups mixed salad greens
2 cups cooked farro (see instructions above)
2 oranges, peeled and cut into pinwheels
1/2 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
1 head cauliflower, roasted (see instructions below) or any roasted vegetables
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch red pepper flakes, to taste

Arrange the greens, farro, oranges, chickpeas and cauliflower on a plate. 
Put the ingredients for the dressing into a small jar with a lid. Cover and shake vigorously. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Drizzle over the composed salad and season again before serving.

Roasted Cauliflower
Serves 4 to 6

Especially this time of year, when the cauliflower is coming in from California and is (like us) a little weary, roasting is one way to enrich it's warm nutty quality. It's easy and quick and will keep for several days. I like to serve if first night as a side dish, then use the leftovers tossed into pasta or hot farro with sauteed onions, chopped parsley and a little cheese. It's also wonderful in salads of farro or other grains.

1 head cauliflower, cored and broken into florets 
1 to 2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, toss the florets with the oil to coat. Sprinkle with the salt. Spread the cauliflower out on a baking sheet so none of the florets touch. Roast until golden and tender, about 15 to 25 minutes, shaking the pan and turning the florets about half way through. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

March 7, 2012


Big Roast

Creativity craves constraint. That's why when my friend Julie's brother, a pig farmer, offered up family packs of pork cuts, I happily stuffed the freezer with a month's worth of dinners. Given the scarcity of our local larder (potatoes, carrots, celeriac, turnips and parsnips), good cuts of great meat were what I needed to get dinners going again. There's nothing better in these dreary March days than a good butt roast with plenty of roots and some herbs, it's easy and satisfying. The rep is a snap and the long slow cooking turns the roast tender and silky. Make dinner for tonight and then make pulled pork sandwiches or carnitas in the days to come.

Roast Pork with Garlic, Rosemary and Roots
Serves 6 to 8

6 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 picnic shoulder or butt roast pork (about 5 pounds)
3 slices bacon, cut into pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup beer
1/2 cup chicken stock
5 sprigs rosemary
3 large carrots, cut into chunks
2 parsnips, cut into chunks

Cut the garlic cloves into slivers. Cut deep slits into the pork and push the slivers of garlic into the pork and season it with the pepper.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a large deep Dutch oven or flame-proof roasting pan, cook the bacon until it's crisp. Remove the bacon and set aside, leaving the grease in the pan. Saute the roast in the bacon fat until it is browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Lift out the roast, add the onions to the pan and cook until they're wilted, about 5 minutes. Set the roast on top of the onions and add the beer and stock, then cover the roast with the rosemary sprigs. Cover the pan and place it in the oven. Roast until the pork reaches 160 degrees on a meat thermometer, about 2-1/2 to 3 hours. About 2 hours into the roasting, add the carrots and parsnips to the pan and turn to coat with the pan juices. Remove the meat to a platter and let stand for about 20 minutes before carving. Serve the pork topped with the onions and vegetables and the pan juices.