Feeding Frenzy

A professional gastronaut feeds the blogosphere with tales of his culinary adventures - sometimes on-the-job, sometimes just-for-the-hell-of-it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Emmer ("Farro") Polenta

A couple weeks ago we got in some organic emmer (the Italians call it “Farro”) and spelt products from Lentz Farms in Eastern Washington. We got whole emmer and spelt berries and rolled emmer and spelt. We also got a nice cracked emmer cereal that I immediately knew I wanted to play with. I was also on orders from the boss to start creating recipes using Castelmagno (a fairly rare cheese from the north of Italy).

What I did was to make polenta with the emmer cereal and it turned out beautifully.

First, I made a porcini mushroom broth (yes, we carry dried porcini at PFI). I made it simply by simmering the porcini with garlic, chopped onion and salt to make a dark, coffee-colored broth. You could add typical stock vegetables to this – and you could roast those vegetables first. I didn’t and was happy with the results for my use, but roasting the vegetables first (until they’re dark).

Once I had my broth, I slowly cooked the cereal with it (3 cups of broth to each cup of cereal) until the mixture was quite thick, even stiff. At that point I grated some of the Castelmagno (about 2 ounces of the grated cheese for each cup of cereal) into the cooked cereal and stirred it well. I also added a few dried oregano leaves to the mixture. At this point you would salt and (white) pepper the “polenta” to taste.

You could, at this point, just serve it hot as a side dish for ragouts or meats. Or you could move onto the next step in our game. The choice is yours.

The next step:

Spread the mixture into a sort of cake about 3/4” thick onto a plate or cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Cool in the refrigerator until cold.

When the mixture is cold, remove it from the refrigerator and cut it into squares or diamonds or whatever shapes make you happy. It’s easiest if the shapes fit comfortably on your food-turner (spatula). Chill the shapes again briefly.

Remove them once again from the refrigerator and brush them with a good, grassy extra virgin olive oil. Grill them over a quick hot fire, until nicely marked and heated through. About 4 minutes per side should do the trick. We like to grill over rosemary wood (it’s plentiful in our yard).

You may serve these hot as side dishes or you may let them cool (on a rack and not in the refrigerator or you’ll lose your nice crispy bits) and use them as bases for canapé-style appetizers. Again, the choice is yours.

Black Chick Peas

One of the benefits of working at Big John’s PFI is the opportunity to play with ingredients in the name of product-based recipe development for our website. It’s particularly fun when the ingredients are novel in some way. Just such an opportunity presented itself recently in the form of the Black Kabuli chick peas from Timeless Natural Foods. Black chick peas.

These guys are pretty much what you look for in chick peas (garbanzo beans) – nutty and buttery. They’re a little richer than regular chick peas and a little chewier. Delicious. They’re not black all the way through, but have black skins and dark tan flesh inside.

The first thing I thought of when I saw them in the store was hummous. I mean, come on. Of course I thought of hummous. The recipe that follows is different in a few ways from a normal hummous recipe. Aside from the fact that the chick peas are black, I also added lemon zest and Aleppo pepper (my current spice obsession) to the mix. You could, of course, use regular chick peas.

Black Chick Pea Hummous

14 ounce package of Black Kabuli Chick Peas, from Timeless Natural Foods
1/2 to 1 ounce of raw, peeled garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
2 – 3 teaspoons salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
3/4 cup Moomtaz Koura Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you could use any olive oil but this is the one rocking my world at the moment – a Lebanese oil that’s as buttery as the Lebanese usually are but just a little peppery in the finish)
juice of two lemons, freshly squeezed
1 cup tahina

Wash and pick through the chick peas thoroughly. Place them in a pan with at least 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then lower the flame. Simmer for at least 2 hours. I found that three and a half hours was about right for hummous. There is no need to soak beans. Certainly don’t do it here.

Drain the chick peas, reserving about a cup of the bean liquor (the water the beans were cooked in – just in case). Cool completely – in the refrigerator to speed things up, if you like.

In the bowl of a food processor, using the metal blade, pulse the chick peas, the garlic, the lemon zest, the salt and the Aleppo pepper until they resemble the texture of coarse corn meal. With the food processor running, add the olive oil and the lemon juice. Then, with the food processor still running, add the tahina. At this point, if the hummous is too thick, you may add, tablespoon at a time, the bean liquor until the hummous achieves the desired consistency.

Serve at room temperature, garnished with olive oil and sliced cucumber, with warm pita bread, feta cheese and olives.

The yield is approximately 5 cups, depending upon how much liquid you add. I usually like my hummous chucky, but I made this one smoother (but thicker) figuring that the more of the dark skin was dispersed through the mixture, the better the color. I was right.

So the next thing I tried with the black chick peas was a Mezze chick pea salad I quite like. This worked beautifully. The color was gorgeous and the chewiness of the beans gave it a nice mouth-feel.

This isn’t so much a recipe as a guide. The dressing is absolutely a “to taste” sort of thing. I like citrus, so I have a heavier hand with the lemon.

Black Chick Pea “Mezze Salad”

This is the base of the salad

1 14 ounce Timeless Natural Food Black Kabuli TM Chick Peas
2 1/2 cups medium bulgar wheat
Lemon Juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic, peeled and minced very fine
lemon zest
1 cup well-chopped fresh mint leaves

Rinse and pick through the chick peas. Combine the chick peas in a pan large enough to hold them with 4 ½ cups of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer the beans for about 2 hours, or until tender, but not yet soft. Drain and cool in the refrigerator.

In a large bowl, combine the bulgar wheat with 4 - 5 cups (depending upon how chewy you want it) of salty hot water. Set aside. The bulgar will absorb all the liquid in a fairly short time and it won’t get at all pasty. Perfect for salad.

Once the bulgar has absorbed all the water, add the chick peas to the bowl.
Make a dressing with lemon juice, a good, buttery olive oil (I used Koura again), minced garlic to taste, lemon zest, salt & pepper to taste. The proportions I use for the dressing is about 1:1 juice/oil, but your tastes may very. If you want less oil but don’t want a more intense lemon flavor you could add a little water to the dressing.

Add the dressing to the salad. It’s okay if this makes the ingredients pretty wet. The bulgar will absorb any excess and will only be improved in this way. Adjust seasonings again. Add the mint leaves now.

This is where the fun starts. You can add pretty much anything to this salad and it will just make it better. I added pitted calamata olives, sliced cucumber, diced sweet red pepper, chopped scallions and sliced yellow crookneck squash to my salad and it was lovely. Heres a list of suggested additions:

• Pitted olives
• Cucumber
• Peppers (sweet or hot, pickled or roasted)
• Yellow crookneck or zucchini squash
• Scallions
• Fresh figs
• Dried cranberries
• Crumbled Feta Cheese
• Fresh peas
• Pine nuts or almonds
• Persimmons
• Roughly cut spinach
• Pickled shallots
• Capers
• Cherry tomatoes
• Shaved Kefalotyri cheese
• Grilled beets
• Grilled fennel
• Flat-leaf parsley
• Fresh oregano or basil leaves
• Dill weed

Don’t let that be a limiting list. Use your imagination here. It would be hard to fail this salad.


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one party at a time.

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