This just in: I’m finally going to bite the bullet and buy an SLR, so you can look forward to MUCH better pictures around this joint. Anyone have suggestions?
Now, on with the show. I know we’re into fall at this point, but allow me, if you will, to bring you back to summer just for a little while. I promise it’ll be good!
This is one of my “go-to, must have, can’t live without eating it at least once a week in some way” recipes. I’m cooking for one much of the time now, but I have a tendency to go a little hog wild at the farmer’s market. One fateful day this summer the usual shopping frenzy hit when I spotted some beautiful eggplant and decided to stock up. Fast forward a few days and I had one left and I’d run out of my established ways to cook eggplant, so I knew I had to get creative. I knew it was good stuff when I made it for one of my best friends when I went to visit her on her family farm and she RAVED about it- the woman can COOK, so if she liked it, you know it’s good. More to come about the farm later, but first, you MUST make this and make LOTS of it- it freezes beautifully.
Eggplant growing on the farm
ROASTED EGGPLANT “PESTO”
1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
2 large cloves of garlic, quartered
5 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup feta cheese
2 cups fresh basil (dried won’t work)
½ tbsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 450 degrees (I use my convection oven for speed!)
1. Toss eggplant, 2 tbsp olive oil, garlic quarters, salt and pepper until coated. Place in a roasting pan and put in oven for approximately 12-15 minutes
2. While eggplant and garlic are roasting, put remaining olive oil, basil, feta, lemon juice in food processor and mix until fully chopped and mixed.
3. Add roasted eggplant, blend. Serve over polenta, rice, pasta, grains, with pita chips, tortilla chips, as a sandwich spread, etc. It’s versatile! Enjoy!
*Note: I often add kalamata olives for an extra kick.
This summer I visited one of my best friends on her family farm, Bialas Farms, in Orange County New York.
Fields are constantly tilled and rotated to ensure ample nutrients and plenty of growing room as the season goes on and new and more crops are planted.
My boss laughed at me when I told her where I had been. Her exact words? “Zsa Zsa does Green Acres, eh?” PSHHHHHH. To her I say, check out this picture. I was riding on the back of a mower being dragged by a tractor when it was taken!
Kasha's mom is driving this bad boy! The mower is her favorite new gadget, even though she joked that her husband keeps saying, "Stop mowing down all my fields, woman!" 😉
You know what, though? It was this visit that served as the catalyst for getting me back on track- I have never felt more at home and at peace with myself than when I was at the farm. I just kept thinking to myself, “WHY, when I can have all of this, am I not feeding my body the very best things for it?”
First of all, Bialas farms is my favorite place on the planet- it’s breathtakingly beautiful. I’ve been a lot of places, but it’s the farm that makes me cry to leave it, it’s the farm that makes me appreciate the most simple things in life, that makes me stop and think about my place in the world.
My little old point and shoot cannot do the farm justice. I cannot wait to go back with my SLR and attempt to capture some of the magic.
I’m a city girl (although maybe I’m really a farm girl at heart?), so seeing where my favorite foods come from and pulling them from the ground with my own two hands was a pretty profound experience. I’d never dug up potatoes, pulled leeks or beets or onions, or seen an artichoke flower. I’m ashamed to admit that I never even realized that when an artichoke is allowed to mature it looks like this:
Kasha's dad told me that for years, people didn't even realize you could eat artichokes!
I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I was also outfoxed by my tour guide when I first arrived, Thomas, Kasha’s incredibly charming and very clever six-year old, who advised me that I should just dig for the potatoes, including the fingerlings. Along came his grandma on her giant mowing tractor, took one look and said, “What the hell are you guys doing? Just pull out the whole plant!” See?
When you pull up the plant, the potatoes are attached to all the roots!
Yep. The little con artist knew what he was doing all along! Good thing he’s so freakin’ cute.
Thomas was very relaxed riding the mower. ME? I was holding on with BOTH hands. NO WAY was I going to become "the city slicker who fell off the mower that one time!"
How about peanuts? Ever seen those growing? Yes, they are…phallic looking, as Kasha’s aunt Gerry was quick to point out!
These weren't quite ready yet, but they're getting there!
And the corn. The glorious corn.
Bialas Farms grows several types of corn. Their popcorn is second to NONE!
Yes, TWO corn pictures. I'm having corn withdrawal since they aren't carrying it at the farmer's market anymore. 😦
How about this celery? Bialas farms was a celery and onion farm when it first started.
This is what you see when you look at the celery...it took me a second to realize what it was!
I'm a dork, but picking onions was particularly exciting. I remember seeing a little girl in a favorite picture book of mine doing it when I was young.
There is nothing better than walking barefoot in the fields. Except maybe the water fight Thomas and I had with the hose before Kasha would let us in the house afterwards.
As I stood in my bare feet, sinking into the luscious black dirt (glaciers moved through the valley many years ago and took out the forests. The dirt is peat. Kasha’s dad, Sonny, told me that when he tills the dirt, sometimes he unearths leaves that have been buried for thousands of years) and looked out on the fields, divided into neat rows of all sorts of vegetables and fruits, it struck me how sad it is that too many people never know, think about or understand where their food comes from. I can’t quite explain how awe inspiring it was to see fields upon fields producing SO MUCH FOOD.
New crops are constantly being added and/or tended to as the season progresses.
It’s also difficult to contemplate that so much of it just goes to waste when there are too many people starving in this world, or family’s relying on ramen noodles and other cheap foods to get their families through lean times. It’s unbelievable how much food you can grow on 50 acres- and the Bialas’ farm isn’t even considered all that big! These pictures are a very very small look, and I so wish I could show you absolutely everything!
I picked these carrots and holy MOLY, they were amazing!
Kasha's aunt was a fabulous guide to the farthest reaches of the farm- and she held my radishes so I could take a picture!
Oh, glorious beets!
THIS is a brussel sprout plant. They were just starting when I was there, but make no mistake, I MUST RETURN FOR THEM! Again, thanks to Gerry for being so patient and holding back the leaves so I could take pictures!
These things were like candy. This was during the sorting process, as I helped Kasha's mom (who is hysterical and awesome, btw) prep for markets.
Aunt Gerry showed me how green beans are most effectively picked- yank the whole plant and hang it upside down-voila! It was very interesting because at my mom's, we'd never pull the plant up, because she has so few. On a farm, a machine yanks the plant and separates the bean from the plant.
This eggplant was one of my favorite discoveries!
And Kasha’s family? I have never seen a group of people work harder in my life- they work seven days a week tirelessly (we’re talking sun up to long after sundown) and still manage to be some of the friendliest, kindest and most genuine people I have met in my life- MAJOR RESPECT. I also have to say that the passion and love that they have for their land and what they do emanates from every single one of them. I think to work as hard as they do, you simply MUST love it.
They put me right to work and I absolutely adored it. From washing lettuce to tomatoes and selling at two farmer’s markets, I was in the thick of it. My reward? ALL THE FRESH PRODUCE I could fit in my Zipcar, and then some. Check this out- this is stuff I picked in the fields, and then I had my pick of whatever I wanted at the market and from the cooler:
This is what I picked, laid out in one of the pieces of machinery that is used to sort and wash produce. I learned all sorts of things about how produce is prepared before it leaves a farm!
Oh, the things I cooked and am still cooking! I shall tell you more in tomorrow’s post, which will undoubtedly take us back into fall. It’s all about the SQUASH! I’ll leave you for now with some pictures from the farmer’s markets, which, quite honestly, make me want to jump for joy. Or eat. Probably both.
I know, I know. These last few pictures are a little oddly skewed. But aren’t they beautiful, anyway? I hope you enjoyed reading about this as much as I enjoyed being there. If you are in the NY area, the Bialas’ have stands at the Goshen Farmer’s Market, Pleasantville Market, and the Ringwood, New Jersey Market. They’re also doing a CSA this year, and I only wish I was close enough to participate! Thanks again, Kasha and family. I hope this post did the farm an iota of the justice it deserves and that I was able to communicate how much I love the farm. On another note- I’ll be back, so hide the popcorn.