Monday, August 16, 2010

Chester Blackberries, Frikeh and Fenugreek Greens At Ayers Creek Farm

My last stop in Oregon was the Hillsdale Farmers Market and Ayers Creek farm booth, and if you haven't been there, you must go and bring home a few treasures from this amazing organic farm that is also featured in a profile in my book. An editor at Timber Press clued me into this farm and ever since I met Anthony and Carol and toured their farm, I've become a confirmed fan. And at the market, it was easy to see I wasn't alone in my appreciation.

I'd planned to get frikeh (a parched green wheat)--Anthony had mentioned they'd have it in his weekly newsletter. What I hadn't anticipated was being seduced by Chester and Triple Crown blackberries and intrigued by Fenugreek greens.
See these Chester blackberries, three flats deep on this table? A crowed formed before the market sales began and people piled up three and four flats. A short time after sales began this tables was nearly cleaned off. I'd been eyeing those berries so big and succulent and all those people loading up, well, I couldn't resist them either.

One taste and those juicy sweet blackberry tones played with my palate. The flavors were perfectly balanced and seeds remained in the background as the juice oozed out. The lingering complex decadent-tasting flavor with a mildly tart essence made it clear why people loaded up here. I bought two pints and when I got home and shared them, I wished I'd gotten more.
I was also tempted by these squash blossoms. I'd never seen squash blossoms so large and perfect. Carol said that the bumblebees love them so much they sometimes fall asleep in them. "I have to shake the flowers in the mornings to wake the bees up," she laughed.
Ayers Creek also has an inviting display of preserves and charming chalkboard labels that really say Carol and Anthony Boutard love growing quality produce and bringing it to market. It's hard not to take pictures when their produce is so beautifully displayed. The red currant preserves are great additon to panty and they're so elegant looking, they make great gifts.

The shallots and garlic caught my eye next. I bought some grey shallots. Last year I blogged about them and even grew some, but Anthony and Carol's grey shallots seem larger, so I asked Carol which shallots I'd plant if I wanted to grow them. "The smallest" she'd told me. The cloves apparently aren't like garlic. With that, you plant the biggest cloves. "And they're heavy feeders," Anthony said, "So fertilize and don't overwater." Next year I'll plant one or two of the cloves I bought.
My gaze moved to the other table. Amish Butter popcorn, frikeh and greens. The locally grown popcorn looked so perfect I had to buy a few bags. Maybe I'll save some seeds and try planting a few of these kernels next year and see what comes up in the garden.

I picked up the frikeh and imagined it with parsley and lemon in a refreshing tabbouleh salad. I could almost taste she smoky-sweet flavor. Carol said the key to the sweet flavor is that the green wheat is harvested before the sugars transform into starch in the grain. As far as I know Ayers Creek Certified Organic Farm is the only farm growing and processing frikeh in the country, so if you want to take a foodie vacation be sure to put the Hillsdale Farmers Market on your list. July and August are best bets for getting frikeh.

Right above the frikeh was a package of vibrant-looking fenugreek greens which I picked them and toyed with before asking, "What do you do with these?" This was the first time I'd seen them at a market.

"Open the package and smell," Carol said.

When I opened the bag and inhaled I caught a faint whiff of cinnamon with a hint of ginger. Was I just imagining it? But Carol's smile said I wasn't. Perhaps market produce should be sniffed before buying. "Isn't it heavenly?" Carol said.

"But how do they taste raw?" I wondered out loud. "They're bitter when raw, but add them to the end of fried potatoes and they're perfect," Carol said. They're popular in Indian cooking and also in many places in Africa. I was so intrigued with this green that was new to me, I bought two bags.

I couldn't stop talking about the frikeh, popcorn, berries and greens when I got home and I couldn't wait to try them. Here is what I made:

Potatoes, Favas and Fenugreek Greens with Sweet Onions

I used Colorado Red potatoes, Walla Walla sweet onions, the last favas of the season and salsa are from Gathering Together Farm. The Fenugreek greens came from Ayers Creek Organic Farm in Gaston, Oregon. I also used Rockridge Orchards apple cider for a braising liquid

1 t0 2 tablespoons extea-virgin olive oil
1 or 2 medium-size sweet onions, sliced
3 medim-size red potatoes, cut into bite-size chunks
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup fava beans (removed from pods and blanched)
Apple cider
2 cups of fenugreek greens
Lemon juice
Freshly ground flur de sel sea salt and pepper
Fresh salsa (optional)

Saute the sweet onions in olive oil until soft, add potatoes, stir and cook until soft and onions are beginning to brown. Add garlic and fava beans. Stir and cook for a few minutes before addding fenugreek greens. Stir then add just a little apple cider, cover and braise the greens until soft but not overcooked. (Check after a few minutes.)

Squeeze lemon juice over the mixture; sprinkle with salt and pepper and add a spoonful of fresh salsa over the top.

My cooking assistant was so happy to see so many treasures from Oregon and he can't wait to sample each one. This recipe is rated four paws up.

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