EAT LIKE A FARMER: LA TAVOLA MARCHE

The end of August brings the start of school and the first glimpses of cooler fall weather... but Starbucks had better hold their freakin' horses on those Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, because 'tis still the season for TOMATOES... and corn! zucchini! melons! okra! and all the things! This is the most back-breaking part of the season for farmers - when days are mostly spent harvesting the heavy fruits of a spring + summer's worth of hard labor.  With such an abundance flooding the markets, it's more important than ever to support your local farmers, buy in bulk, and get into the kitchen to preserve these wild + wonderful late summer harvests!

Speaking of which... in a few weeks I'll be posting some tips + recipes for preserving the season's tomato harvest... but for those of you living in the Santa Barbara area, I'm excited to announce that I'm teaching a hands-on Tomato Preservation Class on Sunday, September 17th! This class is a fundraiser for Veggie Rescue, a local organization that collects excess produce from local farms, farmers markets + backyards and distributes it directly to schools and organizations serving those in need, at no cost to recipients. In this 2 hours hands-on class, we'll tackle several simple + delicious ways to preserve tomatoes - from freezing to slow roasting, quick pickling, and hot water-bath canning. You'll walk away from this class with tons of new skills, a recipe packet, a belly full of snacks, and a few jars of preserved tomatoes to take home! Here's the link to more info and tickets - seats are very limited.

Now that I've got you all dreaming about tomatoes, it's time to share a new Eat Like a Farmer interview featuring folks who are growing some gosh darn beautiful tomatoes (see exhibit A, and B, and C)! This interview is with Ashley and Jason Bartner, the founders of La Tavola Marche, which is an organic farm, inn, and cooking school based in the sun-kissed Italian countryside in Le Marche region. For over 10 years, this husband and wife team has been living the dream and sharing the delicious secrets of cucina povera (peasant cooking) with an immersive and hands-on farm to table experience for their guests. If any of you are planning a trip to Italy in the near future, I highly recommend checking out La Tavola Marche's incredible cooking classes - from homemade pasta and sauces, to wood-fired pizzas, antipasti and dessert, and many more. Even if you can't make it all the way to Italy, you can keep up with La Tavola Marche via their drool-worthy Instagram account, awesome videos, and super fun podcast. Big thanks to Ashley for taking the time to take part in this interview series - keep reading for the full interview!

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Where is your farm located and what to you grow? We have a farm, inn and cooking school deep in Le Marche in the Italian countryside. We grow a lot! Our main crops are hundreds of tomatoes (in 12 heirloom varieties), potatoes, onions (red, white & Tropea) as well as dozens of salads & beans, tons of peppers, pumpkins, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, melons...I'm sure I'm forgetting something!

Walk us through a typical day on your farm and in your kitchen (ie what do you eat on a typical day)? A typical day starts at 5:30am with a big cappuccino then Jason heads to the garden to water (all by hand) and picks crates of ripe veggies daily while I water the flowers, prepare breakfast for the guests and let the hens out of their coop. By 10am our morning chores are done and we either prepare for a lunch cooking class or plan the dinner menu. After lunch, usually during the summer it's a big salad of cucumbers, onions & tomatoes still warm from the sun we take a power nap and prep the kitchen for what's cooking that night! If we have an afternoon/dinner cooking class - we start by taking the guests straight to the garden to collect the ingredients for dinner and return to the kitchen with baskets overflowing! A typical summer menu - with all the produce coming from our garden, even the eggs for the pasta is from our hens (the only things not; lentils (which are locally grown), anchovies from Sicily and the meat from our neighbors farm): 

  • ANTIPASTI: Stuffed Eggplant, Peperonata, Lentil Salad, Slow Roasted Tomato with Anchovy, Baked Vegetables with Breadcrumbs
  • PRIMO: Homemade Tagliatelle (pasta) with Zucchini & Zucchini Flowers
  • SECONDO: Mixed Grill, Roasted Potatoes + Salad
  • DESSERT: Poached Peaches in Local Rose with Fresh Whipped Cream

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable grow, and what's your go-to method to cook it? The tomatoes of course are amazing but it's our onions! I can't get enough - especially the oblong Tropea onions that are sweet enough to eat like an apple. Besides thinly sliced in salads my favourite way to eat them is Verdure Gratinate - baked with breadcrumbs. I know it sounds ridiculously simple and it is - but it's my favorite!

What kitchen tools could you not live without? Hand scrubber - Jason's hands are always a mess after the garden and stained black from the tomatoes. But I'm not the cook - Jason is and his favorite kitchen tools are his Falk Cooper pots and pans.

Name the top three ingredients used most in your kitchen that don't come from your farm. Pork, pork, pork - I think we need to get pigs!

Favorite cookbook? For Italian food: The Silver Spoon. For old American comfort food: The Joy of Cooking.

Do you have go-to methods for preserving your harvests through the year (ie jamming, pickling, freezing)? We preserve/jar hundreds of kilos of tomatoes each summer as well as pickle our peppers, beans and onions. We jam our plums (when they grow) as well as apple sauces/preserves in the autumn.  We braid our garlic and onions and I have learned the old school Italian tradition of making liquors as well and will 'preserve' our cherries, walnuts and wild plums in homemade after dinner drinks! The only thing we freeze are cherry tomatoes and thick slices of peppers to use in stews over the winter.

What advice do you give folks for cooking with your produce, especially when using ingredients they may not be familiar with? If it grows together it goes together.

How has running a farm influenced your relationships with family, friends, and your local community? Yes! Having a garden has connected us to the land, culture and people of this area more than anything we have done. We are foreigners in a very foreign land and by honoring their traditions and way of living we have 

Please share a favorite recipe for a simple, straight from the farm dish that you are craving this summer. 

Quick Pickled Peppers, Carrots & Onions

A favorite way to keep veggies a bit longer into the season is a quick pickle - that great briny flavor with a crunch without the wait of a month or more for a proper pickle. A dish of these puckery peppers makes a perfect antipasti/appetizer through the fall, I love adding heaping spoonful to my plate with grilled sausages (or dunked into a Bloody Mary) while watching football!

INGREDIENTS

  • Any vegetables of your choice, sliced thin - carrots, green beans, peppers, onions, etc. 
  • Water
  • Vinegar (white wine, red wine or apple cider - just don’t use a soft vinegar like balsamic)
  • Salt
  • Fresh herbs/aromatics of your choice (thyme, rosemary, dill, peppercorn, cardamon, etc)
  • Chili/pepper of your desired strength
  • Honey or sugar
  • Whole head of chopped garlic

INSTRUCTIONS

  • This is a ratio recipe. In a pot on medium heat, combine 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Add a couple tablespoons of honey/sugar, a couple tablespoons of salt, aromatics, chili, etc. - everything BUT the vegetables.
  • Once the sugar and salt are dissolved give it a taste. Make sure its not too puckery or too bland - just nice and briny, slightly acidic with a nice taste. Adjust as necessary with more salt, water vinegar or sugar. Bring to boil.
  • Begin adding your vegetables based on hardness - for example:  carrots first, after 20-30 seconds add onions, afterabout 20-30 seconds add peppers. Bring to a rolling boil.
  • Once soft but still with a crunch, shut off the heat and strain out the vegetables and herbs (Do NOT throw out the liquid)! Place on a baking sheet in one flat layer and place in the fridge to cool. Keep the pickling liquid/brine in the pot to cool as well. 
  • Once both the veggies and liquid are cool, place the veggies along with all the garlic and herbs into a jar and cover with the liquid. Keep in the fridge and it will be good for up to 2 weeks, getting better as it sits.

EAT LIKE A FARMER: HEARTSTRONG FARM

July has arrived with a fiercely hot, dry and dusty force here in Santa Barbara, and I have a feeling that most of you are sweating right along with me. Alas! With the summer heat comes some gosh darn delicious abundance from the earth, and it's a season I look forward to all year long. Southern California's growing season tends to be ahead of schedule compared to the midwest/east coast, and our local farmers' markets are already bursting with vibrant colors and plump fruits... tomatoes! zucchini! corn! beans! peaches! zucchini! (..did I mention zucchini?!)

Though we're based on the West Coast, I love following the farm journeys (via the wonders of Instagram) of fellow farmer comrades from all over the States. There's one lady farmer in particular that has been an incredibly supportive and joyful farming friend from afar - and that's Eva Moss Green, owner + farmer of Heartstrong Farm in Staley, NC. Eva and her husband Patrick are in the first official growing season on their farm, where they grow a diverse bounty of vegetables, flowers, and herbs for their CSA and local farmers' markets. It's incredibly encouraging to see fellow young farmers like Eva and Patrick, who are clearly putting their whole hearts and bodies into cultivating beautiful, nourishing produce for their community.

Many thanks to Eva for taking the time (during the busiest season on the farm, no less!) to take part in the Farmbelly Eat Like a Farmer interview series. Keep reading to dig into the wonderful interview, and for more inspiration be sure to follow Eva and Patrick on instagram at @heartstrongfarmnc!

Where is your farm located and what to you grow? Our farm is located in the piedmont region of North Carolina, in the town of Staley. My husband Patrick and I began leasing a 16 acre historic farmland property in January that we found through NC Farm Link. We have about 1 acre of the land in cultivation, growing many different vegetables, cut flowers, and medicinal herbs. We also pasture raise chickens for personal consumption and recently acquired our first bee hive.

Walk us through a typical day on your farm and in your kitchen (ie what do you eat on a typical day)? We usually wake up shortly after sunrise, attending to our cat, new puppy, and chickens first thing after we rise. Once the animals are taken care of, we put on a pot of coffee which to us feels like a sacred ritual. We love everything about it – picking out a great roasted bean, the smell and sound of grinding the beans, and adding the grounds to our French press or our good old Mr. Coffee pot. Once coffee is in hand in our respective favorite mugs and we take time to savor its rich smell, feel the warmth in our hands, and take a few sips before we start working on breakfast. Breakfast is usually a plate of local eggs fried sunny side up, and slices of fresh bread toasted and topped with some butter and local fruit preserves (we love a good blueberry preserve). After breakfast, Patrick leaves for his off-farm job in the healthcare technology field and I head out into the fields to check on the state of things and make plans for the day ahead.

Come noon, I am ready to beat the heat and look forward to fixing lunch. I usually visit our cooler to pick out a few things. These days I’ve been savoring the last of the spring kale, which is rapidly on it’s way out of the field as the summer heat intensifies. I usually make up a quick salad, with greens, sliced beets, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper, and sometimes fry up an egg to go on top. Lately, I’ve been juicing beets and cucumbers, which is a refreshing pick-me-up come midday.

Once Patrick returns to the farm, we usually get another couple hours of field work in together before nightfall. Patrick often prepares dinner while I get other house chores and computer work done. He enjoys throwing a good cut of meat on the grill, cooking down greens, and roasting root vegetables. After dinner and a beer or glass of wine, it’s off to bed!

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable grow, and what's your go-to method to cook it? I have a love hate relationship with beets, but it has been my favorite vegetable to grow thus far. Once we got our greenhouse up and ready in February, the first crop I sowed was red beets – 18 trays of them. During the cold nights, we’d go in and check on them, making sure the heaters were on and keeping things above freezing. One week, temperatures in the greenhouse got up to 100F and some of the seedlings turned black. I totally thought I had killed them all, but this was thankfully not the case. Once they were in the ground, the wet spring and unseasonably hot early spring days led to the spread of cercopsora, also called leaf spot. It was on almost all of our beet greens, and I worried that I had somehow diseased my entire crop. Thankfully, this was not the case – leaf spot is a common fungal infection of the leaves, and is entirely aesthetic. The beet roots grew on, and have stayed good and sweet even in the hotter June days. My favorite way to prepare beets is by roasting. We dice them up, oftentimes mixing with potatoes and/or sweet potatoes, tossing with olive oil, salt, and pepper before popping into the oven. Super simple, flavorful, and very comforting.

What kitchen tools could you not live without? Definitely mason jars – you can drink out of them, put up just about anything that will fit in their various sizes, shake up quick dressings and sauces, and they make a beautifully simple vase for our blooms. I also couldn’t function without a good chef’s knife, a Japanese whetstone for sharpening, a big wooden cutting board, and our cast iron pans.

 Name the top three ingredients used most in your kitchen that don't come from your farm. Red pepper flakes, olive oil, and butter (though I once lobbied for us to get a dairy cow, ha!)

Favorite cookbook? My current favorite is Vivian Howard’s Deep Run Roots. As we become native to North Carolina, we have enjoyed exploring the foodways of our region. I really admire the personal, beautiful, and place-based exploration of NC food Vivian lays out in this cookbook. We reference it all the time for many of the crops we are growing, including collard greens, beets, potatoes, turnips, and squash. The recipes are simple, good, and really highlight the goodness of seasonal produce at its peak.

Do you have go-to methods for preserving your harvests through the year (ie jamming, pickling, freezing)? We love to ferment and pickle. It’s a meditative and joyful practice for us to process our harvests into interesting creations that become more complex and flavorful over time. We love a good batch of pickled cukes, and have recently been flavoring our komboucha with beets. For greens, we briefly blanche them and then pack them into bags and put them up in our freezer. It feels good to know that once we run out of something in the fields, that we have some stored. Food self-sufficieny is very important to us.

What advice do you give folks for cooking with your produce, especially when using ingredients they may not be familiar with? We usually share our personal favorite preparation methods with our customers and especially CSA members. For funkier vegetables like kohlrabi and patty pan squash, we experiment with basic cooking methods like steaming, sautéing, and roasting, and then share our favorites with others to try as a starting point (they can then add spices and other vegetables and herbs to the mix if they fancy).   

How has running a farm influenced your relationships with family, friends, and your local community? This question brings to mind a quote from Wendell Berry’s poem Damage:

“There is a sense in which I no longer “go to work.” If I live in my

place, which is my subject, then I am “at” my work even when I 

am not working.  It is “my” work because I cannot escape it.”

Being farmers and living on the land that we farm has led to the farm influencing all aspects of our life – what we eat, where we go, vacations, family time, when we can visit friends, when friends can visit us, and so on. With this being our first year, we have been on the ground running - working 10+ hours every day to get our markets and CSA established while cultivating healthy soil and happy plants, as well as trying to make time to properly care for ourselves. We are grateful for the support of our family and friends in our journey thus far, but our relationships with them has definitely been shifted a bit as our schedule and availability is dictated so much by the weather, our markets, and what’s going on with our crops. We aren’t always able to make it out to the city to meet up with friends; are usually rushing back home to water our crops and/or take care of our animals; often miss calls to catch up because we’re out working till it gets dark; and when we have visitors we have little time to entertain and when we do our minds are often still caught up on what’s going on outside. However, our relationship with our local community has become stronger and stronger each week through our CSA and weekly markets. Our CSA members often check in with us, stopping by to share new culinary creations (breads, pickles, fermented treats), inviting us to gatherings, and helping us out whenever we need a hand. We’ve developed great relationship with customers at our markets who have become regulars, visiting our stand each week to catch up on life events, check in to see how the farm is doing, and sharing book suggestions, recipes, and events we should check out. Our work-life balance is definitely something we will continue to work on, but we are learning more each day about works for us and I think that’s important, figuring out what works for you - mind, body, and soul.

Please share a favorite recipe for a simple, straight from the farm dish that you are craving this summer:

Summer Solstice Medley 

The transition from spring to summer is one of our favorite times of year. Roots are still tender and sweet and the first of the summer fruits have begun to arrive. This recipe mixes the sweetness of beets with the hardiness of turnips and the juicy goodness of squash with the richness of new potatoes, all topped with a fragrant boost of summer basil for a simple yet delicious veggie dish that goes great as a side or as part of a warm salad.

Ingredients:

  • 5 small purple top turnips trimmed but not peeled and diced (about 1/5 cups)
  • 3 medium red beets peeled and diced
  • 2 cups diced summer squash (we like using patty pan)
  • 2 cups diced new potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped basil
  • Salt

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat over to 450. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. In a big mixing bowl, toss the diced veggies with olive soil, basil, and 1 teaspoon of salt to thoroughly coat. Spread veggies in one layer on the sheet pan. Roast for 15 minutes, and then use a spatula to flip the veggies over for even browning. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes more, or until veggies are tender and nicely browned (in total about 30 to 35 minutes). 

EAT LIKE A FARMER: ANNEMARIE AHEARN at SALTWATER FARM

Take a moment to think about some of your most beloved teachers. What makes them stand out from a crowd? I don't think it's a coincidence that my most memorable teachers all seem to possess an insatiable sense of curiosity and love of learning. As the Farmbelly Cooking School continues to grow - and I find myself in the role of teacher more often than not - a big goal for 2017 has been to invest more time into my own education. Because if I've learned anything this year, it's that being a good teacher means being an even better student.

I'm happy to say that so far, I've made good on this promise to myself. I recently returned home from an adventure to Ireland, where I attended the 2017 Lit Fest hosted by Ballymaloe Cooking School - aka the (heavenly) place where my culinary education began. The weekend was teeming with inspiring chefs, farmers, artisans, authors, artists + teachers - and the schedule was action-packed with panels, demonstrations and book signings... not to mention lots of mingling, dancing, sipping Irish hard cider, and consuming oh so much CHEESE. I walked away from the weekend inspired to tackle new skills, read more books, and to be more engaged with food + social justice issues impacting my local community. 

Continuing on this quest to keep learning, growing & experimenting... I'm attending a Meat Butchery Workshop this June at Salt Water Farm, located on the coast of Maine. Salt Water Farm has long been an inspiration for me, and I'm thrilled to finally visit in person and learn from founder Annemarie Ahearn. After several years working in the food industry in New York City, Annemarie moved to her family's land in Maine and started her cooking school in 2009, with a mission to teach home cooks how to grow a kitchen garden, to cook instinctually with the seasons, and to emphasize resourcefulness + confidence in the kitchen. 

Not only does Annemarie run a bustling farm and cooking school, she also just released a stunning cookbook, Full Moon Suppers. Salt Water Farm is well known for their monthly "Full Moon Suppers" which brings together friends, family, and guests to Salt Water Farm for a thoughtful meal to celebrate Maine's seasonal bounty on the night of every full moon. Full Moon Suppers is organized by twelve monthly menus featuring Annemarie's favorite dishes curated from more than one hundred Full Moon Suppers, and each chapter shares helpful kitchen notes, seasonal inspirations, and tips on how to gracefully feed large groups. Annemarie's recipes are elegant, vibrant, and refreshingly honest - and the thoughtfully composed menus will inspire you to gather friends + family around your kitchen table to share simple, seasonal meals together all year long. 

In celebration of the release of Full Moon Suppers, today I'm honored to share a new Eat Like a Farmer Interview with Annemarie. Read on to learn more about Annemarie's daily routine on the farm, her favorite ingredients, as well as a recipe from her beautiful new cookbook!

From Full Moon Suppers by Annemarie Ahearn, © 2017 by Annemarie Ahearn. Photographs by Kristin Teig. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

From Full Moon Suppers by Annemarie Ahearn, © 2017 by Annemarie Ahearn. Photographs by Kristin Teig. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

From Full Moon Suppers by Annemarie Ahearn, © 2017 by Annemarie Ahearn. Photographs by Kristin Teig. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

From Full Moon Suppers by Annemarie Ahearn, © 2017 by Annemarie Ahearn. Photographs by Kristin Teig. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

From Full Moon Suppers by Annemarie Ahearn, © 2017 by Annemarie Ahearn. Photographs by Kristin Teig. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

From Full Moon Suppers by Annemarie Ahearn, © 2017 by Annemarie Ahearn. Photographs by Kristin Teig. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

From Full Moon Suppers by Annemarie Ahearn, © 2017 by Annemarie Ahearn. Photographs by Kristin Teig. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

From Full Moon Suppers by Annemarie Ahearn, © 2017 by Annemarie Ahearn. Photographs by Kristin Teig. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

Where is your farm located and what to you grow? Salt Water Farm is located on the coast in Lincolnville Maine, between the mountains and the Penobscot Bay. A salt water farm (by definition) is a farm located on the ocean that harvests food both from the land and the sea. At Salt Water Farm, we grow over 100 varieties of herbs, edible flowers and vegetables, several kinds of fruit trees and perennial berry bushes. We have a little chicken coop out back filled with laying hens and fresh eggs. We also collect mussels, periwinkles and urchin on the beach. There are a dozen lobster traps just a stone’s throw off shore.

Walk us through a typical day on your farm and in your kitchen (ie what do you eat on a typical day)? Depends on the season, so we’ll stick with early summer. I wake up early and turn on all the irrigation to water the crops. Then, I head down to the ocean with the dogs and if it’s high tide, they go for a swim. Then a bit of breakfast, typically a chive omelet, as chives are coming up everywhere. Then I spend some time in the greenhouse, seeding, potting and watering. If we have class at the cooking school, I teach from 10am-2pm with a lovely lunch my from food from our farm. If there is no class, I typically write and edit recipes. In the early evening, I make a stiff little cocktail and light up the grill. Usually, my husband takes over the cooking at that point and I play with the dogs. We eat the simplest things for dinner and often cooking school leftovers.

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable grow, and what's your go-to method to cook it? That’s a hard one. Asparagus. No, apples. We have the most beautiful Honey Crisp and Cortland apples. I mostly just love picking them from our adolescent trees and taking a crisp, bite out of them. And the asparagus, well, they simply need to get tossed on the grill. 

What kitchen tools could you not live without? Mortar and pestle, a few sharp knives, cast iron pans and Dutch ovens for baking bread.

 Name the top three ingredients used most in your kitchen that don't come from your farm. Sea salt, good olive oil, lemons

Favorite cookbook? Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries II

Do you have go-to methods for preserving your harvests through the year (ie jamming, pickling, freezing)? We use a steam extractor to pull the juice from aronia, elderberries and beach plums. We also make quite a bit of quince paste in the fall. I am a total sucker for tomatoes and love to cook down hotel pans brimming with mixed variety tomatoes, fresh garlic and bay. After 5 hours of reduction, the sauce goes into mason jars for Sunday Suppers in the wintertime.

What advice do you give folks for cooking with your produce, especially when using ingredients they may not be familiar with? Put it in your mouth and chew it and you will be able to answer most of the questions you are about to ask.

How has living on a farm in rural Maine influenced your relationships with family, friends, and your local community? Not sure you want me to answer this in full. It’s complicated. While running a business on my family’s property has been a blessing in so many ways, its posed many operational challenges. We’ve mostly figured it out after about 8 years of hiccups. But then I opened a restaurant in a town of less than 1,500 people. That was its own challenge. Everyone in town had a different idea of what they wanted from the restaurant, my restaurant. I’m a crowd pleaser with a thin skin when it comes to criticism, so it was a real challenge. As it turns out, I’m a much better teacher than restaurant owner. But sometimes, you’ve got to learn the hard way. There’s a great article in DownEast Magazine that tells that story.

Please share a favorite recipe for a simple, straight from the farm dish that you are craving this summer.  Below is a recipe from Annemarie's newly released cookbook, Full Moon Suppers. This recipe comes from her June Full Moon Supper Menu. 

Cast-Iron Halibut Steaks with Herbed Compound Butter, Radishes, Arugula, and Peas

INGREDIENTS

From Full Moon Suppers by Annemarie Ahearn, © 2017 by Annemarie Ahearn. Photographs by Kristin Teig. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

From Full Moon Suppers by Annemarie Ahearn, © 2017 by Annemarie Ahearn. Photographs by Kristin Teig. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

FOR THE COMPOUND BUTTER

  • ½ pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives
  • 1 tablespoon minced sorrel
  • 1 tablespoon minced thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • sea salt for sprinkling

FOR THE HALIBUT

  • 1 bunch radishes, tops removed
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups shelled English peas
  • 2 large (or 4 small) halibut steaks (2½ pounds total) on the bone
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 2 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 1 squeeze of lemon juice

 

PREPARATION

TO MAKE THE COMPOUND BUTTER: In a medium-size bowl, gently mix butter, herbs, and kosher salt until blended. Press the mixture into a small crock and sprinkle with sea salt. Store in the fridge for use within the week or freeze for up to 6 months.

TO MAKE THE HALIBUT: Slice radishes in half. In a medium pan, sauté them with 4 tablespoons of the butter and salt to taste over medium heat until they soften, about five minutes. Set aside.

Fill a medium saucepan with water, salt well, and bring to a boil. Pour peas into the water and cook at high heat until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. While they cook, prepare an ice bath. With a slotted spoon, transfer the peas to the ice bath to shock them. Drain the peas.

Season halibut steaks with salt and pepper to taste. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a large cast-iron frying pan to coat the bottom. (For smaller steaks, you will need two pans, each with 1½ tablespoons of butter.) Place the halibut steaks in the pan and cook over medium heat until they are golden brown on the bottom, about 8 minutes. Gently flip with a fish spatula and cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.

In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with a pinch of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. Arrange arugula on a platter. Take the halibut steaks and separate the meat from the bone, then divide each half steak into two portions. Each steak should yield four portions (or two portions from each small steak). Array the halibut steaks over the arugula and put pats of compound butter atop the hot fish. Pour the peas and radishes on top. Serve family style along with new potatoes with chive butter.

Place arugula in a bowl. Dress with a pinch of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. Arrange arugula on a platter and the halibut steaks on top. Place pats of compound butter atop the hot fish. Pour the peas and radishes on top of the halibut. Serve family style.


From Full Moon Suppers by Annemarie Ahearn, © 2017 by Annemarie Ahearn. Photographs by Kristin Teig. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

The 6 Kitchen Tools I Couldn't Live Without

I clock a lot of hours in my little California kitchen - and since there's no room for unnecessary fancy gadgets, I've started whittling my culinary arsenal down to just a few key items. I love sharing my favorite kitchen tools with students during my hands-on cooking classes, and today I'm sharing the 6 kitchen tools that this farmer girl couldn't live without... read on, get inspired, and get cookin' good lookin'!

I'll never forget the Christmas morning when I received my Le Creuset Dutch Oven. At the time, I was nervously counting down the days until I left for culinary school at Ballymaloe, and I had zero culinary skillz. For some reason, getting my first Le Creuset was a total confidence booster - maybe because it forced me to SHUT UP AND COOK ALREADY. Le Creuset cookware is certainly an investment, but every piece is built to last multiple lifetimes. I fully intend on feeding endless streams of friends, family, and strangers out of my Le Creuset Dutch Oven until I'm at least 100... and then it's getting passed down to one very lucky grandchild. Made from cast iron and a crazy durable enamel exterior, these pieces can go from stovetop, to oven, and straight to the table - not to mention they are ridiculously easy to clean (and trust me, I've put mine through the ringer). Dutch ovens come in a wide range of sizes, but I'd recommend starting with the Round 5-1/2 Quart sizeThere's a rainbow of different colors, so choose the hue that speaks to you! Personally, I'm a Marseilles Blue kinda girl. 

 

Every person has their own criteria when it comes to selecting a chef's knife - German or Japanese? 8 inch or 10 inch? Straight edge or curved? - so ultimately you gotta do your homework, visit your favorite kitchen store to try out some knives, and pick the best one for you. After much trial and error, I found my (cutlery) soul mate... the Victorinox's Fibrox Pro Chef's Knife. This knife is light in your hands (which comes in handy if you're chopping all. day. long.), it's durable, and stays super sharp - especially when you use tool #3 on my list. In fact, my entire knife set comes from Victorinox - a brand mostly known for their Swiss Army Knifes - though if I could only have ONE knife from my arsenal, this would be it. Did I mention this bad boy will only set you back $45? Oh heck yes. 

 

Of all the kitchen tools on my "must-have" list - this one costs the least, but may be the most important. Piggy-backing on #2. this little guy only costs about $8, but it has totally revolutionized the way that I care for my knives. Honing steels are the more traditional method for sharpening knives at home, but this tool is way easier and more enjoyable to use. Every time before using my chef's knife, I quickly run a few quick passes of the Accu-Sharp over the blade, and I'm ready to rock. It may seem counter-intuitive, but a sharp knife is a safe knife (because you won't be fighting tough roots or bulky winter squash with a dangerously dull blade) so RUN DON'T WALK and add this tool to your kit!

 

You know those giant, multi-purpose, fancy-schmancy 10+ cup food processors? Yeah, well they're useful and all, but holy freaking guacamole they are a TOTAL PAIN. I've never encountered an object with so many nooks and crannies that need to be cleaned (and somehow, despite all my scrubbing, never quiiiite get clean). So while I have my Big Bertha 10-cup Food Processor stashed (somewhere) in my back cabinet... the food processor that I actually use on a daily basis is a perfectly petite 4-cup "Mini" Food Processor from Cuisinart. This puppy may lack some bells and whistles, but it gets the job done and is juuust the right size for whipping up homemade sauces, pestos, and dips to spice up your weeknight meals. Not to mention this little guy clocks in at under $40! #WINNING

 

First things first, wooden cutting boards just LOOK freaking awesome. Beyond that fact, wooden boards are the best cutting board material for keeping your knives sharp, AND studies have shown that wooden boards are just as good at keeping dangerous bacteria at bay as their plastic counterparts. Like any cutting board, you'll want to thoroughly clean wooden boards (especially after working with raw meat), by simply scrubbing it in hot, soapy water - then rinse and dry thoroughly before storing. John Boos is a respected brand for wooden cutting boards, and they come in a wide range of sizes (I say the bigger the better) and wood types (Walnut, Cherry, and Maple). Averaging around $65, a solid wooden board is worthy investment that you'll be proud to showcase on your kitchen counter. 

 

6. Mason Jars

I promise, mason jars aren't just for hipsters! There's a reason (actually, many reasons) why these handy guys have been around for so long. Here are some ways that I use my ever-growing collection of pint and quart-sized mason jars on a daily basis: 

1) DIY salad dressing. I make every single salad dressing from scratch by throwing all the ingredients in a mason jar and shake, shake, shakin it up. I like to make a big batch on Sundays, which lasts me through the week and makes eating healthy that much easier.  

2) Quick pickles. Whenever I have an odd assortment of extra veggies on hand, I pack them into a mason jar with some herbs and spices, top them off with a brine (1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 2 tablespoons sugar) and voila! You've got quick pickles my friend. These babies will stay tasty in your fridge for up to one month (if they last that long)!

3) Pantry storage. Cooking is much more enjoyable when you can actually SEE the ingredients stuffed in your pantry. Which is why I store almost all of my dry goods (flours, rice, corn meal, nuts, dried beans, etc) in wide-mouth quart-sized mason jars. (Pro tip: once your ingredients are in the jars, be sure to LABEL them so you know what you're workin' with).  

4) Food gifts. If you're a close friend or a family member, you already know that just about every Christmas gift from me comes enclosed in a mason jar. YEAH, YOU'RE WELCOME. 

Well, that's a wrap friends! Hopefully these links are helpful - holler at me if you have any specific questions about anything on this list: michelle@farmbelly.com

EAT LIKE A FARMER: PROVIDER FARM

Late last night, when my unsuspecting husband came home from work, he found me outside our house in the pitch dark, covered in mud, head down and hustling hard to get multiple flats of vegetable seedlings in the ground before an impending rainstorm. I'm pretty sure that he (and all of our neighbors) thought I was crazy... but the farmer in me couldn't bear the thought of those vegetables stuck in their flats for several more days waiting for the ground to dry out - even if it meant planting well after dark with tired bones and a grumbling stomach.

For better or worse, most farmers I know would have done the same thing. We are driven by the (sometimes crazy) but satisfying rush that comes with doing truly tangible work that will feed you + so many others in a few weeks/months time. Today I'm thrilled to continue the Eat Like a Farmer series with an interview with two incredibly hardworking farmers that I greatly admire and respect, Kerry & Max Taylor of Provider Farm. On their 16 acre farm in Salem, CT, Kerry & Max grow a vast variety of vegetables primarily for their CSA customers and a few wholesale clients. In the interview below, we get to learn about their daily routine on the farm, the challenges to balance work and family, a deep love for growing (and eating!) onions, favorite kitchen tools and cookbooks and heaps and bushels more.

Big thanks and high fives to Kerry and Max for taking the time to take part in this interview series - be sure to check out on their beautiful and insightful instagram feed at @providerfarm!

Where is your farm located and what to you grow? We are located in Salem, CT. We grow pretty much every annual vegetable you can think of on 16 very stony acres. We grow our vegetables primarily for our winter and summer CSA, as well as a few wholesale accounts. We are passionate about our CSA because it allows us to nourish and connect with our community.

Walk us through a typical day on your farm and in your kitchen. Our days on the farm really vary depending on the time of year. In peak season, we start work with our crew at 7 and end at 5 with lunch at noon, Monday through Friday. We take care of animal chores and odds and ends before and after the work day and in peak season often have tractor work and irrigation to tend to after hours. Our winters are slower and we work 3 days a week with a smaller crew 9-4. Breakfast and lunch in the summer are whatever we can throw together. One of us cooks a dinner meal full of our vegetables every night, while the other puts our baby to bed. Our week night dinners are usually simpler and I try to cook something a little more elaborate on the weekends because I really enjoy cooking.  We have some basic go to recipes that work with whatever is in season like curries and stir fries. Our website has a lot of recipes I love to use. I try to fill it with easy and quick recipes that are accessible to even the most novice cooks as a resource for our shareholders. Things weren't always this sane on the farm. When we first started the farm, we worked 12 hour days 7 days a week and never ate the food we grew. We ate out all the time, both because we were exhausted and short on time and also as a stress outlet. By the third year of that, we knew things were going to have to change especially if we were going to have a family and we committed ourselves to not working on the weekend (at least with a crew...during peek season, we gotta do what we gotta do) and to home cooking every meal. We made it a priority to cook at home, and now in retrospect, I can't believe what we used to do. I can understand where people are coming from when they don't want to cook, it requires making it a priority.

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable grow, and what's your go-to method to prepare it in the kitchen? That is a hard one, almost every vegetable we grow is a favorite, its like picking your favorite child. But if I have to pick one, I would pick onions. They go into almost every dish we cook and they do very well here in our high calcium soils and between the varieties we grow, we have them almost all year. In the spring, we have young spring onions, with their greens still on. I just chop those up and use them as I would onions. By July, we have our fresh white onions, which are sweet and mild. They are so good raw or cooked, I love them roasted or grilled with our summer crops like zucchini, eggplant and peppers. By August, we bring in our yellow onions to cure. These onions are for storage and are also the type that have the right sugar profile for caramelizing. Cook them low and slow for 45 minutes until they are a deep brown and put them on anything. Delicious! My husband also makes a killer French onion soup with them. These onions can store until April or May, sometimes I'll chop a few up and freeze them to tide us through to the spring onions.

What kitchen tools could you not live without? Not exactly something I couldn't live with out, but I really love my Komo grain mill.  More of a luxury item, it is a beautiful, quality kitchen appliance in the age of poor quality goods. We bought it when we started getting a grain share out of the pioneer valley and started grinding our own flours. Polenta from fresh ground corn smells so fresh and "corny". I also never realized that you could make whole grain cookies that are just as delicious, maybe better, as white flour cookies. 

Name the top three ingredients used most in your kitchen that don't come from your farm. Oils and fats, basically every meal starts with some sautéed onions and garlic. Salt! We avoid processed foods that are so chock full of salt but use it in our cooking as needed. I feel like if you use it at home you are more apt to enjoy your fresh whole foods and not be tempted into eating less wholesome processed foods. So much peanut butter, an energy rich go to snack! We dip everything in it when we are hustling in our busy season to keep us going.

Favorite cookbook(s)? I still love "The Joy of Cooking" as an all around reference book for the old standards. I also love Madhur Jaffrey and Moosewood cookbooks. There are so many great cooking blogs nowadays too and folks I follow on Instagram like @thekitchn and @loveandleomns. I look at a lot of Paleo stuff, were not adherents, but I like that it uses whole foods and lots of vegetables.

Do you have go-to methods for preserving your harvests through the year (ie jamming, pickling, freezing)? I've really streamlined what I do these days since we have very little time during the peek of the season, and I really prefer to eat fresh in season food. I chop up tomatoes and freeze them in bags for the winter. I also freeze chopped red peppers, though that fell through the cracks this year. Sometimes I'll blanche some greens and freeze them. That is basically it. We are really fortunate because our CSA goes almost year round so we eat vegetables seasonally. We have tons coming out of our root cellar in the winter, all sorts of roots, cabbage, onions and garlic plus greens coming out of our greenhouse. We can eat off the farm almost year round. If we didn't have that, I'd probably do way more food preservation.

What advice do you give your CSA members for cooking through their weekly shares, especially with produce they may not be familiar with? Every meal should start with a pile of vegetables. Use them liberally and freely, don't be afraid of wasting a little, our shares are pretty generous. Get away from "American" type cooking of the starch, vegetable and meat and don't think of vegetables as individuals (don't look for kohlrabi recipes, just recipes that you can throw them in like a good stew or soup). Use vegetables interchangeably and add them to everything you cook. Find some quick go to recipes that everyone in the family likes that you can rely on when you really don't feel like cooking. Keep ingredients for them on hand. A stir fry takes a half hour max to prepare and can handle almost any vegetable.

How has running a farm influenced your relationships with family, friends, and your local community? In some ways, farming can be really isolating. It can take up all of your time and brain space and especially in the beginning we had very little time to connect with family and friends.  As we've tried to get our lives back a little bit from the farm, I have had tomake a conscientious effort to reconnect with people. I am lucky that my father works with us twice a week as our all around fixer guy, fixing all the things that break on the farm. I appreciate the CSA because it allows us to integrate with our community, especially because we are not from this area. Since we do a staffed on farm pick up, it serves as a nice social outlet to get to know our customers and neighbors. We also have made a lot of connections as we operate as a business in the community though wholesale accounts to coops and farmers markets. We made a lot of farmer friends through the market we used to do. We have a wonderful network of farmers through the farms, Brookfield Farm and Riverland Farm, that we used to work for in the MA Pioneer River valley. These farms taught us everything we know and the widespread network of farms around them have been wonderful information and support resources. We named ourselves Provider Farm because we wanted to be just that to our community. One of the most gratifying parts of running our farm is that we are able to donate around 8,000 lbs of produce a year to our local food banks. Produce is one of the harder foods to acquire so we are happy to help fill the gap and provide healthy foods to people who might not be able to acquire them otherwise.

Please share a favorite recipe for a simple, straight from the farm dish that you are craving this fall. I have just been loving roasting roots and brassicas this fall. Toss any combo of them together with a little oil, salt and pepper and put in the oven at 450F until cooked and slightly browned. So good. Sometimes I'll sprinkle a little Ume Plum Vinegar over them before serving.

EAT LIKE A FARMER: HAPPY ACRE FARM

If there's one thing that gives me hope for the future of this country, it's the growing number of rockstar farmers who are dedicating their lives to growing beautiful and nourishing food for their communities. Every morning, thousands of young farmers around the country are waking up before the sun to milk the cows, water the chickens, bring in the dew-wet morning harvest, tackle weeds, fix irrigation lines, start seeds in the greenhouse, spread compost, plant cover crops, pack CSA boxes, deliver to restaurants, respond to emails, take care of finances, crop plan for the next season... needless to say, this is not work for the faint of heart. Farming is exhausting, all consuming and unpredictable - but it's also ridiculously rewarding, community building, soul-nourishing, and (most of the time) really, really delicious. 

At a time when I think we could all use some positive inspiration, I'm stoked to continue the Eat like a Farmer series with this badass husband and wife farming team: Helena and Matthew Sylvester of Happy Acre Farm. Helena and Matthew are first generation farmers growing on 2.5 acres of land for their CSA program, farmers' markets, and local restaurants in sunny Sunol, California. Their signature tagline (#nopanicweorganic) pretty much says it all - Happy Acre Farm is certified organic, and they're committed to practicing good soil health and efficient small acreage production. Be sure to check out the full interview below - where you'll learn that these two work crazy hard, grow stunning produce, eat lots of delicious tacos, and have awesome insight on the best kitchen tools, cookbooks, and seasonal recipes straight from their farm kitchen. 

Thanks and high fives to Helena and Matthew for giving us a glimpse of their farm and sharing some of their kitchen wisdom. To learn more about Happy Acre Farm, be sure to check out www.happyacrefarm.com and follow on instagram @happyacrefarm !

Photo Credit: Happy Acre Farm

Photo Credit: Happy Acre Farm

Photo credit: Happy Acre Farm

Photo credit: Happy Acre Farm

Photo credit: Happy Acre Farm

Photo credit: Happy Acre Farm

Photo credit: Happy Acre Farm

Photo credit: Happy Acre Farm

Photo credit: Happy Acre Farm

Photo credit: Happy Acre Farm

Where is your farm located and what do you grow? Our farm is located in the beautiful, small town of Sunol. A true hidden gem in Northern California, about 40 minutes outside of Oakland. We grow over 80 varieties of fruits and vegetables and a few flowers on our 2.5 acres.

Walk us through a typical day on your farm and in your kitchen. A typical day on our farm starts before sun up with a cup of coffee for me, tea for Matthew and  the morning chores, dogs, chickens, etc. We have a second to whip up a green smoothie and grab some snacks before we head to the farm. Depending on the day of the week we’re either weeding, seeding, transplanting, working on irrigation, making deliveries, headed to market or harvesting - never a dull moment - and taking quick breaks to stuff our faces along the way. Food is very important to us and access good quality food is what got us into farming in the first place. When we’re at home toast and tortillas are the foundation for 75% of our meals, you really can’t go wrong with a taco - most recent taco was roasted butternut, sautéed poblanos and onions, topped with cabbage and our salsa; dinners always include a big ass salad. At the farm we are either eating pasta out of jars or have some kind of cracker and hummus/spread situation topped with whatever we have growing at the farm - think: crackers with hummus, parsley almond pesto and tokyo turnips; something that we can eat quickly or  on the go.

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable grow, and what's your go-to method to cook it? It really varies from season to season, and I find myself craving different vegetables seasonally. Right now my favorite crop is sweet potatoes; in winter I find myself craving greens, which is perfect because it’s when the greens are at their best, the cool weather making them all sweeter.

What kitchen tools could you not live without? Our Vitamix and knifes. Shoutout to farmers market vendor trades for keeping our knifes and farm tools sharp.

Name the top three ingredients used most in your kitchen that don't come from your farm. Salt, organic sunflower oil (high heat tolerant) and tortillas.  

Favorite cookbook? This is a toss up between Yotam Ottolenghi’s PLENTY and Jim Lahey’s MY BREAD.  

Do you have go-to methods for preserving your harvests through the year (ie jamming, pickling, freezing)? When I was working for another farm I was super into canning everything, I had a Portlandia-like obsession. Now that we are the farm owners and the labor and the marketers, etc., time is precious. We were serendipitously gifted a deep freezer and we have shifted to freezing things; our freezer is full of pestos, bbq sauces, veggie stocks, tomato sauces, stewed tomatoes, shucked corn, strawberries, sliced peppers and more . My favorite thing is slow roasted tomatoes - I slice the tomatoes like I would for a sandwich, place them on a baking sheet, smother them in olive oil and a little salt and them put them in the oven at 300 degrees for an hour or so while I’m doing computer work or making dinner. When I am cooking with them in late winter, and I smell that tomato smell again, I can’t help but smile.

What advice do you give your CSA members for cooking through their weekly shares, especially with vegetables they may not be familiar with? Along with the veggies our members get an e-newsletter every week. We use a lot of photos, and have a few different sections with information on crops in the box, farm news, whats on our table and we share some social media photos from CSA members using our produce. The on our table section is the recipe section, and there is a disclaimer below that reads, “Disclaimer: I’m one of those people who doesn't use a recipe, i just follow my intuition and my taste buds. Love, Farmer H”. The recipes are meant to be used more as inspiration rather than a step by step process with exact measurements. I also encourage our members to be creative, have fun and not be afraid to try substitutions. Just because a recipe calls for spinach doesn’t mean you can’t use chard, you can put sweet potatoes on pizza instead of regular potatoes.

How has running a farm influenced your relationships with family, friends, and your local community? We farm in the same county we both grew up in, about 35 minutes from our hometown (Matt and I grew up 10 minutes away from each other, but didn’t meet until we were in our twenties); and being able to provide produce to our families and friends is really rewarding.

Please share a favorite recipe for a simple, straight from the farm dish that you are craving this fall. We went to Indonesia on our honeymoon last year, and I fell in love with all the mi goreng (fried noodles) - we made this dish in a cooking class and I was surprised at how straightforward and simple it was. Start with some cooked and drained ramen noodles, some seasonal veggies and some tempeh. Current favorite combination is fried noodles with sweet potato, onions, turnips and tempeh.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 packets ramen noodles | cooked and drained
  • 1 sweet potato | cubed
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 bunch turnips | cut into quarters
  • 1 bunch green onions | minced
  • ½ block of tempeh | cubed
  • ⅛ -¼ cup kecap manis (indonesian sweet soy sauce)
  • High heat cooking oil (Coconut, Grapeseed, or Sunflower)

INSTRUCTIONS

In a wok or a large frying pan, heat a tablespoon of high heat cooking oil over medium heat. Add sliced onion, cook for 7-10 minutes, until translucent and fragrant. Add the cubed sweet potato, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the turnips and tempeh, cover and let cook for 5 more minutes. Once the turnips are tender and a few sides of the tempeh have a nice crust, add the kecap manis, stir to coat the vegetables. Turn off the stove, remove from heat and add cooked noodles. Toss to coat, cover the pan and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Taste before serving, adding more kecap manis if necessary. Top with green onions and enjoy.

Photo credit: Happy Acre Farm

Photo credit: Happy Acre Farm