A Study In Grains: Maple Glazed Carrots with Farro, Bacon and Cabbage

I am not a fan of grains. There, I said it! Sigh.
Never in my life have I been able to cook wild rice in less than two hours without using at least two liters of water. I’m lucky if I don’t have to scrape blackened, burnt white jasmine rice from the bottom of a pan! I’m often confused by the texture of some grains, are they supposed to be crunchy, fluffy, mushy? I’ve also been a little weary of soaking grains {and beans for that matter} overnight, it just seems like an added, extraneous step.

I also do not like trendy, celebrity grains like quinoa that seem to be on every food magazine cover, boasting their beautifying nutritional benefits and glamorous cooking ease. Just like every other celebrity, they don’t dare disclose all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make that beautiful cover shot. Fully aware of all of the nutritional benefits and “blank canvas” opportunities grains have to offer me, I have essentially eliminated them from my repertoire simply because I cannot cook them. {Sad face}

Enter Farro, the game changer.
Farro is an Italian grain, a berry from Emmer wheat. It had been featured on the heirloom tomato seasonal menu at work with patty pan squash and smoked tomato vinaigrette. It was prepared beautifully al dente, tender and fluffy and absorbed the flavors of its counterparts wonderfully. Fearfully, my interest in grains had been piqued once more. Wanting so badly to replicate the delicious taste and texture of the farro made by skilled chefs, I bought some farro from the bulk section at the local natural food store.
After all of my past failed attempts at cooking grains blindly, I did some research this time. {Trumpets, please} Often times, grains are available at different stages of readiness for purchase. Some producers will pre-cook the grains to speed cooking time and save consumers a step or two. This is the case with farro!

FarroCup

-Whole-grain farro is the healthiest and contains the most fiber, but it takes longer to cook than semi-pearled or pearled farro and can be rougher on sensitive digestive systems. It also has an earthier, nuttier flavor. {soaking whole grains overnight will speed up cooking time}
-Semi-pearled farro cooks in about half the time as whole-grain farro because the bran has been scored, allowing heat to reach the center more quickly. It has less nutrition than whole-grain farro, however.
-Pearled farro has had its bran completely removed. It is the quickest yet least nutritious form to consume. (Source: http://www.wikihow.com/Cook-Farro)

Not to let the grains steal the show in this recipe, it does feature beautiful tri-color carrots from Rare Earth. These carrots are amazing! At the farm, Steve and Debra Jo grow the carrots in a perfect mix of sand and soil, right by the pine trees.  I’m convinced the location and soil is a big reason why they taste so amazing and grow so abundantly well.
TIP: Store carrots in sand to keep them fresh for months. That’s right, months.

CarrotsBacon

Ingredients:
For the Carrots
{Adapted from Martha Stewart}
1 LB carrots, greens trimmed but not removed
4 slices of bacon
¼ maple syrup
1tsp thyme leaves or 4-5 of thyme sprigs
salt and pepper to taste
¼ evoo

For the Farro
1 cup Farro {your choice}
1 cup amber ale*
3 cups water*
1 small head of savoy cabbage, sliced
1 leek, white parts sliced
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 small apples, diced
1 tbs butter
evoo
*the ratio of water to beer should be 3:1

Preheat oven to 450º with racks in the lower third of the oven. Line a sheet tray with foil. Cut the carrots into halves, and place onto sheet tray. Lay 4 slices of bacon in between carrots in quarters. Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper over carrots and bacon. Drizzle ¼ maple syrup and evoo over carrots, toss to combine. Pop sheet tray into oven and bake for 20 min, remove and shake carrots to mix. Place into oven for 20 minutes more, until carrots are tender. Discard bacon and thyme sprigs. Set aside.

Render bacon in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Remove bacon once crispy and set onto paper towel, chop. Add 1 TBS butter and leeks to bacon fat and scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan, stir for about 2 minutes. Add farro to pan, stir and toast until light brown, about 6 minutes. Add beer, water and cabbage to pan and bring to light boil. Once boiling, turn down heat to a simmer, cover and let simmer for appropriate time, depending on which type of farro you’re using. About 5 minutes before cooking time is up, add apples and a bit more salt and pepper to the pan, cover and finish cooking. Before plating the dish, add reserved, chopped bacon to farro mixture. Plate the farro on a large serving  dish, and drizzle with olive oil. Place the carrots right on top of the farro mixture and give them a little evoo love too. Dig in!

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PICKLES!!

Whelp, I finally took Ol’ Blue down from the top of my cupboards. Holding 15 gallons of water, Ol’Blue is an aquarium for glass jars and takes 45 minutes to get to a rolling boil. She’s full to the brim for each batch during canning session, and it was a busy week between pickling patty pan squash and cucumbers, to making small batches of blueberry ginger jam. Blueberry and ginger together are my newest flavor combinations favorite, more to come on that topic later.

OlBlueinbath

One of my all time favorite food blogs and one heck of a valuable resource is FoodInJars.com.  I visit this website probably 10 times a day {no joke} during canning season, not only for reference, but also to read the delectable new recipes Marisa posts. Her blog is proof that you can can anything, and it’s also a great source of inspiration and motivation for me in creating my own blog. Cheers Marisa!

Anywhoo, it’s cucumber season, and squash season and it’s all coming all at once. What do you do with all the squash and cucumbers? PICKLE THEM. Pickling is the gateway drug into canning, once your first batch comes out and you hear the ping of the jars sealing, you’re hooked. You can even pickle without water baths and just make refrigerator pickles {they usually last a whole lot longer than the suggested week}.

Marisa has a really simple pickling blend that is a great base for pickling just about anything.  I tweaked it a little bit and added some coriander and subtracted a little chili flake. Dilly beans, asparagus, cucumbers, patty pan squash, carrots, radishes, mushrooms, beets all come to mind {oh man, I need more jars}.

inthejarBLEND

What do you do with all the picked goodness? Host a Bloody Mary party of course! Or make a mighty fine relish tray, supper club style, to bring to a summer BBQ. I’ve been known to take out a whole jar of dilly beans just as a snack in the middle of winter. Who can resist the snap of a pickle any time of year? It’s that easy, and that good. Pickle onward my friends!

Pickling Blend
{adapted from FoodInJars.com by Marisa McClellan}
4 TBS dill seed,
2 TBS black peppercorns
1 TBS red pepper flakes
1 TBS mustard seeds
1TBS coriander seeds

What to Pickle
Cucumbers are the best and safest place to start. If you’re feeling adventurous, try pickling beans or patty pan squash. How much you want to can depends on how many vegetables and jars you have. I cut one medium sized cucumber into slices and filled about one and a half pint jars. It varies for each vegetable. Just make sure to remove the ends of cucumbers and beans before slicing and cut out any soft spots or blemishes on any vegetable before adding the brine. Most vegetables will retain more of their fresh flavor better if you blanch* them first.

How to Pickle
There are two different ways to preserve your pickles. The easy way is to make the brine and pour it right on top of your veg in the jars, seal the jars and pop them into the fridge after they have cooled. This will preserve them for about a few weeks technically, but sometimes they last longer. The hardcore way is to give the brined veg in jars a quick dip in the water bath, which ensures they are safe to store for about one year.

A standard brine is equal parts (1 cup) vinegar and water, and one tablespoon of pickling salt {it’s okay to use kosher or sea salt, but don’t use iodized table salt}. I use regular old apple cider vinegar that is diluted to 5% acidity. You can use white vinegar or red wine vinegar too, depending on your personal preference.

First you want to prep your jars. Sterilizing the jars, lids and rings in a boiling hot water bath for about ten minutes is very important. Don’t skip this step, you don’t want to mess with botulism. Be careful taking the hot jars out of the bath. Set them onto a clean kitchen towel.

Next, prep your veg. Depending on your preference, cut the cucumbers into slices or spears. If you have varying sizes of patty pan squash, cut the larger ones into halves or quarters so they are all uniform in size.  Trimming off the stems and any dead flower parts will prevent a bitter flavor.

pattypancucs

For a pint jar of pickles, I used a tsp of pickling blend, and also added one clove of garlic and a few sprigs of fresh dill flowers for extra flare. If you use a quart jar, double all of the ingredients. Add the vegetables on top of the garlic, pickling blend, and whatever else you want to flavor your pickles with in the jar. Leave a quarter inch of space on top of the jar for head space.

PATTYPANJARPICKLEDCUCS

To make the brine, heat the water, vinegar and salt in a pan on the stove and stir until the salt has dissolved. Pour the brine right over the top of the vegetables and pickling spices in the jars, careful to leave one quarter inch of head space on top. Fill all the jars, then wipe the tops and edges with a clean kitchen towel. Place the sterilized lids on top and then screw the rings over the jars, not too tightly but just nice and snug.
At this point you can decide if you want to pop the jars in the fridge or the water bath. If you’re going to put them into the fridge, let them cool and be still for about 24 hours before doing so. If you’re going to water bath the pickles, gently lower them into the water and let them boil for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars and let them sit to cool without disturbing them over night.
Before putting your pickles into storage, check the seals on the jars. Unscrew the rings and hold the jar by the lip of the lid just an inch or two above the counter. If it sticks, you’re good – you’ll know if the lid didn’t seal right.
RESOURCES
Canning for the first time can be scary! Here are a few websites I visit often for advice and assurance.
Ball Canning has been the authority on canning techniques, tools and recipes for many a season.
Preserving Food Safely – Tested Recipes for Canning Approved by University of Wisconsin. Much love to our hippie friends over in Madison.
Food In Jars – My Favorite canning food blog, EVER.

VOCAB LESSON
*Blanch: Blanching is a way to lock in the freshness of your produce. It makes freezing and preserving easier and will keep your produce looking great. First, prepare a large bowl of ice water, heavy on the ice. Second, boil a large pot of water on the stove. Clean your produce before blanching by removing any undesirable leaves or stems. Drop the veg into the boiling water for about ~30 seconds, then immediately put into the ice water to stop them from cooking. The shock of the ice stops the veg from cooking and locks in the color and fresh flavor. Lay the veg out onto a paper towel or clean kitchen towel to dry. Make sure the vegetables are completely dry before putting into a zipper lock storage bag for the freezer. If you’re pickling, pop them right into the jars, and you’re good to go!

Leafy Green Galette

It’s been a busy 2 weeks since my last post! I’m feeling so much better and have had energy to try out several new recipes from some of my favorite food blogs.  Thanks to assistance from my friend Jon, we cranked out 3 recipes one night last week. We made Blueberry Mojito Popsicles, Okonomiyaki, and this wonderful Leafy Green Gallette. The Okonomiyaki turned out perfectly; they are like egg foo young with less eggs, more cabbage, scallions and shrimp. It’s really a flavorful fried treat, and perfect with all of the cabbage and scallions I’m getting from the farm right now. The Blueberry Mojito popsicles are so good, lots of blueberries with mint and lime and a bit of rum for adult fun.
LeafLove

The greens were pilling up in my fridge once again and I came back to my favorite galette dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen for relief.  I love galettes. They are a completely blank canvas of dough with infinite filling possibilities throughout any season. {See a reoccurring theme here with my blog?} The crust bakes up delicate and flaky, and the filling is topped with a caramelized layer of cheese… Oh My God they are good. In the midst of 3 different things happening in the kitchen, everything was right on track until I made a minor mistake. Minor mistake is usually not a big deal for me; I’m pretty good at damage control and can rebound quickly. With this blog in mind, I will settle for nothing less than perfection Not enough flour on the surface. Dough sticks to parchment and pretty, decorative crust is ruined. Enter panic mode – recipe post is ruined, blog is ruined, forget about it. Sigh.
I may have been a bit more dramatic about it then, looking back now. Me, over-react?! NO…. LESSON: Mistakes in the kitchen happen all the time.  Part of being successful includes making mistakes. Learn from them and move forward.
So, even though my galette didn’t turn out beautifully, it did end up tasting pretty darn good according to Jon (who was sent home with leftovers). Being creative in the kitchen definitely involves risks, and trusting your gut and going with the flow can be really difficult – especially if you’re just trying your hand at cooking, or testing an unfamiliar recipe. This is the fear I’m trying to break you from with this blog. Take the risk, because the reward of success is so much greater than the fear.

FILLINGDoughMix Assemble

For the pastry (from Smitten Kitchen):

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
¼ tsp salt
8 TBS (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chill again
¼ cup plain greek style yogurt (or sour cream)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup ice water

For the filling:
3 TBS butter
1 cup spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup kale, stems removed, greens roughly chopped
1 cup swiss chard, stems removed, greens roughly chopped
1 cup swiss chard stalks, diced
1 leek, white part sliced and rinsed
½ cup chicken stock
1 cup peas
½ cup ricotta cheese
1 basil ball (see recipe) or 1 TBS chopped fresh basil and one clove garlic minced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided in half
1 egg, whisked

Make dough:

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Make Filling:

Melt 2 TBS butter to a sauté pan over medium heat. Add leeks and chard stalks to butter and sauté until tender, about 4-5 minutes. The chard will likely turn the leeks pink; it’s no big deal. Add the leafy greens to the pan, and the chicken stock. Cover with a lid and let sit for about 10 minutes until the greens have wilted. Stir in peas. Sauté until all liquid has evaporated. Remove the mixture from the pan, set aside and let cool. Mix the ricotta cheese, basil ball (or fresh basil and minced garlic) and ½ cup parmesan cheese together, set aside.
Flour a large piece of parchment paper, heavily. I mean dust that sucker with no less than a half a cup of flour. You’re going to roll the dough out on the parchment, and transfer to a baking sheet. It’s a whole lot easier than trying to move it without the parchment, trust me – I’ve made that mistake before too. Roll the dough out into a rectangle shape on the parchment paper, until the dough is about 3/5” thick, right between a ¼” and an 1/8”. Transfer the parchment to a baking sheet. Spread the ricotta mixture out in the center of the dough, leaving about 3” all the way around. Then add the green mixture on top of the ricotta. Carefully fold the edges of the crust up and over the toppings. This can get tricky. In some places you’ll need to pinch, overlap or pull the dough to cover all of the edges. It might not all be pretty, but don’t sweat it. Once all of the dough is pulled up and over the topping, use a pastry brush to spread the egg wash to the exposed dough. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on top and pop that galette in the oven. 400° for 30-40 min until the crust is golden brown. Let cool before cutting and enjoying!

BaconGalette

Galettes are free form; they work great as circle pies too. This is a galette I made last fall with squash, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bacon and Gorgonzola cheese. It was crazy good. {The possibilities are ENDLESS}

Savoy Cabbage, Kale and Ginger Soup

So, like I mentioned previously, I’ve been on house arrest with strep throat this week. This being the hottest week of the summer so far, I’m trapped indoors. What 31-year-old gets strep throat in the middle of July? I haven’t had strep in over 20 years (reality check, I’m getting old)! Thank goodness for AC, popsicles, and farm goodness, or I may have just melted completely – mentally and physically. I’m welcoming this quarantine to recharge my batteries, clear my head and focus on a healthier future.

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This week in the farm delivery was a beautiful head of savoy cabbage, one of my favorite varieties of cabbage. It’s sweeter and more flavorful than it’s more sulfuric cousin and it sure is pretty. Along with the savoy was another large bundle of laccinato kale, which I was eager to consume for it’s super food (recharge into superhuman) qualities. I’ve also been reading a lot about the health benefits of the gnarly root ginger, most having to do with anti-inflammatory and gastrointestinal effects. It’s also said to help sore throats. Bring on the ginger!

I was channeling something with Asian flare, a little sesame oil, maybe some cilantro and lime. As crazy as it sounds in this weather, I wanted to make a super food soup, capable of wiping the strep right out of me in one fell swoop. Who wants to eat soup in 95° weather? This girl. Trust me, it’s been a long summer so far, I’ll take all the super food I can get to recharge and charge forward.

squashstewSavoyNKale

Ingredients:
1 small savoy cabbage
1 bunch of kale (any variety will do)
1 large scallion
1 medium zucchini or summer squash
1 cup chicken stock
3 cups water
2 TBS EVOO
1TBS sesame oil
2 TBS roasted peanuts
1 lime, halved and quartered
2 TBS ginger root, grated
salt and pepper to taste 

PREP:
Peel away a layer or two of the savoy cabbage to remove any damaged leaves. Cut the cabbage in half and cut out the core. Slice the half in half and slice into thin strips. Cut out the stem of the kale by folding it in half and cutting along the rib in the middle. Remove the stems from the kale. Slice the kale into thin strips. Cut the greens off of the scallion and save the greens for later. Cut the bulb in half and slice into half moons. Do the same for the zucchini, slice in half lengthwise and then slice about 1/8” thick.

Add evoo and sesame oil to a large straight-sided pan (with a lid) over medium heat. Add scallions and zucchini and sauté for 2 minutes. Add cabbage and kale, add salt and pepper to taste, sauté for 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add water and chicken stock. Reduce heat and cover with lid, let simmer for about 10 minutes or until kale and cabbage are tender. Turn off heat. Add grated ginger and stir to combine. Ladle soup into bowls and top with sliced green onions, peanuts and lime wedges. Get your super soup on.

 Variations
This would be a great soup to turn the up the heat. Adding chili flake at any point would make spice lovers happy.

Cilantro would make a lovely garnish to this soup (I just used all mine in a fabulous compound butter listed below {scroll}).

Add bacon. I initially cooked up some bacon to sauté the cabbage in, but changed course thinking it might interfere with the Asian flavor. Nope. I crumbled the bacon on top and it was a lovely salty addition. Always use bacon.

Frozen Herb Balls

Yep, I went there. Surprised? Let’s face it; no one wants to cook in this heat. Currently it’s 94° and you could literally fry and egg on the blacktop.  Anything frozen in 94° heat sounds good to me. {While battling strep this week I’ve easily put away a dozen popsicles in the last 2 days. Don’t judge.}

PileOfBasil

This time of year, you have to keep a close eye on prolific herbs like basil, cilantro, and parsley or they may just bolt before you get to their delicious greens. Rare Earth loves basil, they love basil more than anyone I know. I easily receive 4-5 pounds of basil throughout the CSA season, and I’m the last one to complain! This week’s pound of basil almost got away from me, but I was able to save it just in the nick of time by making frozen basil balls! Freezing herbs in olive oil and salt is a superb means of preserving the fresh herb flavor for use all year around. Toss those herbed balls into pasta, When the temperature drops to 25° and you’re wearing wool socks, you’ll thank me for this one.

Ingredients:

2 cups basil, stems removed (parsley and cilantro also work well for this recipe)
2-3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1tsp Salt
2-3 cloves of garlic

Remove the basil from the stems. Cram the basil leaves into a food processor, and add the evoo. Add salt and garlic and pulse* until a paste forms. Using a cookie dough scoop, portion herb paste onto parchment paper on top of a sheet tray, leaving an inch or so in between scoops. Pop the sheet tray into the freezer for an hour or 2, until frozen, then place frozen basil balls into a zip lock. It’s helpful to label the bag with a date and which herbed balls are inside. You can use the basil balls in infinite recipes all year ‘round. My favorite – tossing an herb ball into a fresh baked bowl of spaghetti squash. The possibilities are endless.

BeforePulseAfterBasilBalls

Vocab Lesson!

BroccoliBolt

*Bolting – Bolting is when an herb (or plant) goes to seed after the fruit or vegetable has ripened. With basil plants, a large thick cluster of leaves forms, with small buds in the center. This often changes the taste of the herb or vegetable to an undesirable flavor. By trimming back the herb, the plant is forced to send up new shoots or stems, keeping the plant full and healthy, and the basil a’comin.

{This is what a broccoli plant looks like when it goes to seed}

*Pulse – To pulse a food processor is to push the power button on and off in rapid successions. This causes the contents of the food processor to settle briefly before being mixed again, to create a more even mixture. Using the count of “One-one-thousand” is a good standard count when pulsing.

Caramelized Scallion and Cilantro Compound Butter

Compound butters are a lifesaver. Well not literally, but they are a great way to maintain fresh flavor all year long, and make quick work of large amounts of herbs that need to be used quickly.   The butter is frozen into easily accessible logs.  Butter makes a great canvas. There are so many flavor combinations and never a wrong answer. It’s a great addition to sautéed greens, add to scrambled eggs, toss with pasta, and would be a mighty fine way to finish off a steak while it rests. The only real question is, what can’t you add butter to?
ShallotGreensRoastedShallotSidebySide
I just love the beautiful scallions from Rare Earth. The contrast of the purple bulbs with bright green stems scream summer flavor.  The combination of caramelized scallions adds a robust flavor and dimension, while the cilantro gives freshness. Summer, butter, love.

Ingredients:

1 bunch scallions, about 6 medium (you can use white or purple)
1 bunch cilantro (about 1 cup with stems removed)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste (optional)
Parchment paper and plastic wrap

Remove the furry roots from the scallions, and peel away any outer parts that look wilted or dirty. Cut the green stems off the bulbs of the scallions, and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Chop the green stems, and save about 1 cup. Add evoo and 1TBS butter to a skillet over medium heat, until butter is melted. Add scallions and cook until softened and just slightly caramelized, about 7-10 min. Remove scallions from pan and let cool on a paper towel. Add butter, cilantro, chopped green onions and scallions to a food processor. Process until everything is blended and whipped together. Be careful not to over process the butter or it will break and curdle. This is bad.

WhippedButterButterRoll
Tear a sheet of parchment paper about 18″ long, and layer 2 sheets of plastic wrap on top of it. Slap that butter right on top of the plastic and form it into a long rectangle. The stiffness of the parchment paper will help you form your log. Fold the parchment and plastic over the butter and roll into a log about 2″ in diameter, or like a regular stick of butter. Twist the ends of the plastic to seal the butter, careful to removeany large air pockets. Place in freezer to set and store. When you’re ready to use the compound butter, just slice off what ever amount you need and add it to any dish just as you would regular butter. You’ll never go back to boring old butter ever again, I swear by it.

To New Beginnings

Ask and ye shall receive! Here you have it, The Harder, She Cooks… A food blog by yours truly, Sarah M. Harder. You’ll have to use your own imaginations to finish the phrase, I like to think the harder she (or he) cooks, the easier it will be. That’s the point of my blog, to share recipes and techniques with those who are not as experienced in the kitchen, or want to try something new and most importantly to share how easy it is to use fresh, local ingredients in the kitchen!

Most of you know I’m a huge advocate of using locally grown produce in as many ways possible. This love affair of farm fresh produce comes from my experience as a work share volunteer at Rare Earth Farms in Belgium, WI – as well as having gardens as a kiddo growing up in NE Wisconsin. I was graciously given two green thumbs, one from each grandmother of mine, and I just can’t help but to play in the dirt and see what will grow. SE Wisconsin is perfectly suited for bountiful growing seasons, although fast, we are lucky to grow food for sustenance throughout the year.

I wouldn’t consider myself a foodie, but I know plenty of people who do. I love food! I love trying new recipes, learning about new techniques, exotic cuisines, rare/random ingredients, fermenting, canning, baking…. The list goes on and on. So maybe I am a foodie after all.

This food blog is a component to a website I’m working on called CSA Share / SE Wisco, which also aims at promoting and educating people about the benefits of CSA membership to local farms here in our back yards. The website will also provide a community for CSA members to share recipes featuring produce from their weekly CSA deliveries and many other helpful tips and information about CSA’s and local farms. It is getting close to final stages, so be on the lookout for a launch within the next couple weeks.

In the mean time, I will be playing with goodies from my own CSA share and other great items from the farmer’s market. I’m always down to try a new recipe, so feel free to share them my way or ask any questions you might have!