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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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?
Yep. The little con artist knew what he was doing all along! Good thing he’s so freakin’ cute.
How about peanuts? Ever seen those growing? Yes, they are…phallic looking, as Kasha’s aunt Gerry was quick to point out!
And the corn. The glorious corn.
How about this celery? Bialas farms was a celery and onion farm when it first started.
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.
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!
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:
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.