In which we welcome a new good dog to the farm.
To cap off a pretty great Christmas month, we just welcomed home our newest good dog in training, Rosey (short for Rose-of-Sharon). She's a 12 week heeler-Dachsund mix who hails from the great state of Texas. Her interests include playing with tiny tennis balls, following the big boys around, and snuggin' so hard.
In other news, we returned from Boston to find our greens pretty much the same, and we'll be cutting from our new tunnels on schedule this week. Unfortunately, our stir-fry greens need a bit of a hiatus after last week. I thought I'd seen just about everything that could kill a plant until this week holiday traffic (!) kept us from getting back home in time to put on the row cover. One 9F night later, and they need a bit of a nap.
But, never fear if you thought our offerings were getting a little old, we have a present for you all too! Because we're members of the wonderful Chesapeake Farm to Table produce aggregator, we have the ability to source additional items from other regional farmers we know and respect. Starting this week, we'll be offering sweet Bolero storage carrots from Sassafras Creek Farm--a certified organic produce operation in Southern Maryland--to supplement our rainbow babies (currently locked up in the ground until we get a good thaw). We also have sweet onions from 78 Acres Farm in Smithburg, MD, a diversified family farm using sustainable practices, and more garlic from Calvert's Gift Farm, another USDA organic farm in Baltimore County.
Finally, we have apples (!) from Three Springs Fruit Farm, a 100-year old family farm reinventing itself under agroecological principles and the Food Alliance certification label. It is notoriously difficult to grow many fruits in our humid and buggy region in a true zero-spray system, but we believe Three Springs demonstrates the strong commitment to environmental sustainable and fair working conditions that we expect from other farms. We'll be buying in bulk and storing products on our farm, so we're starting with my favorite, the Stayman-Winesap. If you'd like to see us bring in Granny Smith, Jonagold, or Honeycrisp (Note: Honeycrisp is about 1.5 times the price of the others), please let us know. Find all these crops in the "Other Farms" Department in the store.
A festive recipe for any occasion
Maybe I'm burying the lede here, but I proposed to Joanna on Christmas, and we are both very excited. In honor of such an occasion, here's a recipe for Persian wedding rice I've adapted to feature our carrots and roasted sweet potatoes, plus black-eyed peas in honor of the New Year. Today I'm thinking of it as a fun take on the holiday classic Hoppin' John. If you've never made Persian rice before, I can't encourage it enough. Like the best breads, a humble grain of rice can be transcendent with the right care and patience.
1/2 C almond and/or pistachios, lightly toasted
2 cups basmati rice
1-2 C sweet potatoes (mixed colors is best), cut in 1/2-in cubes
2 T fresh orange peel, slivered
2 carrots, julienned
1/2 C mix golden and red raisins (or craisins)
1/4 t saffron
2 T unsalted butter
1 C cooked black-eyed peas
4 T olive oil
1 C sweet onion, finely chopped
1/4 t cardamom
1/2 t cumin
1 t turmeric
- Pre-soak rice for 4-24 hours. The longer the soak, the better the crust on the finished product.
Rinse rice. Cook rice in a large pot of boiling salted water (amount of water doesn't matter), stirring occasionally, until partially cooked. Grains should just barely crunch but stick to your teeth. 5-8 minutes. Drain and thoroughly rinse under cold water.
Toss sweet potatoes with oil and a pinch of salt and roast at 350F until fully cooked, about 20-30 min. Set aside to cool.
In a separate sauce pan, simmer carrots, and orange zest in 2 C water to cover for about 15 minutes. Remove the carrots and set aside. Continue reducing the liquid until about 1/2-C remains, let cool slightly, and combine with saffron and 2 T oil. Set aside.
Heat butter and 1 T oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until soft and beginning to brown, 8–10 minutes. Add cardamom, cumin, turmeric. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove and combine with with black-eyed peas, carrots, fruit and nuts.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in an enameled or well-seasoned dutch oven, and thoroughly spread on bottom and sides. Add a third to half of the rice, spreading evenly, then add fruit, nut, bean mixture in an even layer, and then the remaining rice. Spread the top evenly and press down slightly.
Drizzle saffron-oil-water mixture over rice. Now here's the magic part. Wrap a clean kitchen towel around the underside of the pot lid and secure the loose edges on top with a rubber band. Place the lid securely on top the pot and put the dutch oven under very low heat. Use the oven at 225F if you can't get your stove low enough while still evenly distributing heat. The rice will steam until perfectly cooked with each individual grain, plus a beautiful golden crust on the bottom. This should take between 45 minutes and 2 hours, depending on temperature and how long you soaked the rice. Don't test it for at least 30-45 minutes.
To serve, once the bottom crust is crispy (you can test this with a knife), flip the entire mixture into a large serving dish, kind of like an upside-down cake. Finally, roughly break up the crust with a wooden spoon so it can be served with a spoon. Top with and mix in sweet potatoes.