Chicago, an international food destination, is once again hosting the prestigious James Beard Awards on June 3-5. To buy tickets, see below. Chicago also recently was recognized by Food & Wine’s new Global Tastemakers Awards in the following categories:
○ 10 Best Cities for Neighborhood Restaurants in the U.S. (#4) ○ The Best Cities for Food in the U.S. (#6) ○ The 10 Best Bars in the U.S. (The Violet Hour, #10) ○ The 5 Most Creative Bars in the U.S. (The Violet Hour, #1, The Aviary, #2)
James Beard Awards 2023: full list of Chicago nominees
One of the James Beard Awards’ highest honors, Outstanding Restaurant recognizes establishments that “demonstrate consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, and hospitality.” Helmed by husband-and-wife duo John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, this tasting menu spot is grounded in pristine products and produce grown in close collaboration with small farms. The menu, which evolves constantly, is served in a welcoming atmosphere with an open kitchen, so guests can watch the chef’s creativity in action.
Last year, executive chef Erick Williams of Virtue took from the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes. This year, his chef de cuisine Damarr Brown is being recognized for displaying “exceptional talent, character, and leadership ability”. Brown, a fan favorite on Top Chef, has been demonstrating his culinary expertise in Virtue’s kitchen in the Hyde Park neighborhood, composing elegant versions of classic Southern American dishes.
A hidden gem no more, Khmai has received local and national acclaim for its authentic Cambodian cuisine. Executive chef Mona Sang draws on her Cambodian heritage to compose the restaurant’s weekly menus, which are all served family style for the entire table to enjoy. Khmai is located in the Rogers Park neighborhood — be sure to make a reservation before you go.
Chicago is home to a plethora of excellent French restaurants, but Obélix has still managed to stand out from the pack. The intimate space in River North serves up elevated takes on modern French fare. Diners will find favorites like French onion soup, escargots, and steak frites, alongside creative dishes like foie gras macarons, lobster crepes, and confit squab.
A longtime favorite in the West Loop neighborhood, this venerable institution has earned this nomination for “fostering a sense of hospitality among its customers and staff that serves as a beacon for the community”. The menu melds rustic and refined elements in a way that’s both classic and approachable. The four-course tasting menu offers various options, including sourdough cavatelli, truffle fried chicken, dry-aged beef striploin, and more.
This funky space in the West Town neighborhood is a jack of all trades — wine shop, cheese counter, intimate restaurant, and community gathering space. You can grab some small plates at happy hour, enjoy a weekend brunch, load up on ingredients for the perfect charcuterie board, or just kick back with a glass of wine and enjoy the laidback vibes.
These regional accolades recognize chefs who set high standards in their culinary skills and leadership abilities, while contributing positively to their broader community. The following Chicago chefs have been nominated for Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2023:
For more than 30 years, the James Beard Awards, among the nation’s most prestigious honors, have recognized leaders in the culinary and food media industries. This summer, nominees and Award winners will be honored through a weekend of events sure to be the industry’s and food lovers’ highlight of the year, gathering nearly 1,500 of the country’s top chefs, restaurateurs, food media, and culinary enthusiasts in Chicago with millions more tuning in live and on TV. More than 70 Awards will recognize excellence in the categories of restaurants and chefs, books, broadcast media, journalism, leadership, and lifetime achievements.
Join us as we celebrate excellence and community while recognizing our rich and diverse culinary heritage and those who tell its story.
James Beard Media Awards Saturday, June 3 at 5:00 P.M. CT, Columbia College Chicago
A theater-style seated awards ceremony honoring broadcast media, cookbook, and journalism nominees from around the country. A reception will immediately follow the ceremony, highlighting chefs and other luminaries, including those from the Chicago culinary scene. 400 guests are expected.
This Academy Awards-style event will feature red carpet arrivals and an awards ceremony honoring the best of the best in the restaurant and chef industry. This premier event will be broadcast live. 1,650 guests are expected.
A walk-around tasting reception held at Union Station will immediately follow the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards. Attended by over 1,600 chefs, restaurateurs, food media, and culinary enthusiasts, the event will feature food and beverage stations highlighting chefs from around the country.
Reservation Policy: All reservations are non-refundable.
The James Beard Foundation is a nonprofit organization with a mission to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability.
Summer is officially in our rearview mirror, but that’s not stopping the twin-city destinations of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, from looking at the open stretch of beach ahead! While these Gulf Coast destinations are synonymous with summer vacation for many travelers, today we’re sharing why a visit during the “off” season – specifically autumn – should be put on the map!
Mild temperatures, special rates and fewer crowds are just a handful of reasons why a trip to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is special in the fall.
The Beach Within Reach: After peak summer season, the temperature isn’t the only thing coming down. Average daily rates for lodging also drop in the fall. A list of seasonal vacation packages, deals and special offers can be found at GulfShores.com.
Uncrowded Beaches & Restaurants: With its colorful sunsets, fall is an amazing time to enjoy 32 miles of sugar-white sandy beaches and the clear – still warm – waters of the Gulf of Mexico without the heavy summer crowds. Food is this destination’s love language and there’s no shortage of dining options. Many restaurants here have outdoor dining well into the fall season and the wait times are much shorter at this time of year.
Fishing: Though fishing is a year-round sport along the shores of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, there are unique opportunities to reel in seasonal catches. The 2022 amberjack season remains open until November 1, and recreational harvest of gray triggerfish will be open until December 31. Check out the Fishing Seasons page for a full list of the best time to catch different species.
Mild Temperatures: After the country recorded its second hottest season on record, a break in the heat may be a welcome change. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are located in the southern subtropical area of the country, where mild temperatures – like an average monthly temperature of 71.2 degrees in October – greet visitors.
Festivals & Events: There’s always something to do, see, and experience on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. The annual Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival takes place November 3-10 this year, and it will draw more than 200 songwriters from around the country and the world. The festival is named for Frank Brown, the former night watchman at the famed Flora-Bama roadhouse, and it serves as a fundraiser to provide healthcare for musicians, who are typically self-employed.
From tiny homes to RV resorts to beachfront condos and resorts, there’s a place for everyone in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
Brett Robinson Vacation Rentals: Offering the largest selection of beachfront and bayfront condos and hotels on the Alabama Gulf Coast, Brett Robinson Vacation Rentals’ “Outstanding October” promotion features 15% off bookings now through October 31, with additional savings available the longer you stay.
Perdido Beach Resort: This family-friendly resort, which underwent a complete renovation in 2021, is located right on the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach. The “Fall into Savings” offer includes a savings of 30% off when booking three or more nights. The offer is valid through December 31.
Sugar Sands RV Resort: For those who take their “home away from home,” this RV resort features 82 spacious sites with full hook-ups and five “tiny homes.” Sugar Sands is offering end-of-season specials through October.
Here’s a look at some new and beloved dining opportunities and experiences in the destination.
Fisher’s: Chef Bill Briand, a five-time James Beard Semifinalist, leads the culinary charge at one of the best restaurants in town. Fisher’s Dockside is the downstairs, more casual restaurant, while its sister restaurant, Fisher’s Upstairs, offers a fine-dining experience. Open-air seating at both restaurants overlooks more than 150 yachts docked at Orange Beach Marina.
Fresh of the Boat: Enjoy waterfront casual dining at SanRoc Cay Marina in Orange Beach with an upscale bar and live music daily.
Picnic Beach: The menu at this indoor/outdoor, picnic-themed restaurant focuses on fresh, clean ingredients, from premium smoked BBQ to healthy green drinks. You can even take your picnic to go and head to the beach!
Opening Soon! The owners of the beloved Jesse’s Restaurant in Magnolia Springs are opening a second location on Fort Morgan. Offering casual fine dining, Jesse’s is known for its steaks, fresh local seafood and signature entrees. This new restaurant is expected to open in late October.
“What I remember from eating my grandma’s food is after eating, you feel good,” says Jew whose original family name was spelled Jiu but was changed when the family moved here when going through customs. “That sensation is what I want people to experience. Understanding that chefs back in old China—they were considered doctors too, where they were healing people and giving remedies to fix your ailments. A lot of it was basically what they were feeding you. I try not to take it too seriously, but there are things I feel like as a chef, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make people feel good afterwards too.”
But those years cooking Cal weren’t wasted.
“Cantonese cuisine and California cuisine really align in how ingredient-driven the food is and how minimal—the goal is to do as little to a perfect ingredient,” says Jew. “Finding that perfect ingredient and thinking of the cooking method to showcase its natural flavors the most, to me, is very Cantonese and Californian. I’m using that mentality to bridge the two together.”
A bio major, Jew says it starts with the ingredients.
“There are just some classic things we want to reinterpret,” he says. “There isn’t a lot of specific recipes for a lot of things. Chop suey just doesn’t have really any recipe to it. We’re taking the creative freedom to do our version of that, or even something like egg foo young.”
Anything that needs slow braising will do well in a clay pot. The porous clay distributes an encompassing gentle heat all while sealing in the juices. The slightly alkaline clay also keeps proteins loose and tender. I appreciate a clay pot for its kindness to cooks. It holds heat so well that you can set it aside off-heat for an hour or two and come back to find everything inside still nice and toasty. And if you don’t have one, a small Dutch oven with a tight lid will do. Lion’s head (獅子頭, shī zi tóu in Mandarin) are a classic Chinese meatball (the bumpy texture looks like the curly manes of mythical lions). We use savory ingredients ingredients—mushrooms, seaweed, and a blend of pork—that compounds the sīn flavor exponentially. Use whatever delicious fungi you’ve got. Sometimes I drop a handful of fresh cordyceps (蟲草花, chóng căo huá) sautéed with garlic, or shave matsutake as in this recipe. For the bacon, choose an intensely smoky kind. You can use a meat grinder or hand-chop everything old-school.
Active Time — 1 hour, 15 minutes
Plan Ahead — You’ll need about 3 hours total, plus time to make Chicken Stock; pre-soak the clay pot for 2 hours
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Special Equipment — Meat grinder (optional), soaked 9-inch clay pot or a small Dutch oven
Lion’s Head Meatballs
3 oz / 85g nettles or stemmed lacinato kale
1 tsp neutral oil
4 oz / 115g skin-on pork belly
12 Savoy cabbage leaves, thick stems trimmed
12 oz / 340g pork shoulder, cut into 1½-inch pieces
3 oz / 85g pork back fat
3½ oz / 100g medium-firm doufu
4 tsp peeled and minced ginger
1½ Tbsp light soy sauce (生抽, sāng chāu)
1 Tbsp powdered milk
1¼ tsp freshly ground white pepper
1 tsp fish sauce
1½ cups / 360ml Matsutake Broth (recipe follows)
2 Tbsp neutral oil
3 oz / 85g fresh wild mushrooms (such as matsutake, black trumpets, or chanterelles), chopped if large
½ rosemary sprig, about 2 inches long
3 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 fresh matsutake mushroom, very thinly sliced or shaved with a mandoline
To make the meatballs: While wearing thick gloves, strip the leaves from the nettles and discard the stems.
In a wok or a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the neutral oil until shimmering. Add the nettles and a pinch of salt and cook until wilted but still bright green, about 1½ minutes. If using kale, this will take about 3 minutes. Finely chop and set aside.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.
Remove the skin from the pork belly. Add the skin to the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds to firm up. Using tongs, remove and set aside. Add the cabbage leaves (work in batches, if needed) to the water and blanch until just wilted, about 30 seconds, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet to drain.
Place the pork skin, pork shoulder, belly, and back fat in a single layer on a plate and put in the freezer until the surface is just frozen but the center is still soft enough to be ground, about 15 minutes.
If using a meat grinder, grind the fat and skin through a fine grinding plate (⅛-inch / 3mm holes) into a large bowl. Switch to a coarse grinding plate (¼-inch / 6mm holes). Regrind about half of the fat-skin mixture back into the large bowl, then grind the shoulder and belly through the same grinding plate. Mix gently to combine. Regrind about half of the pork mixture again. Grind the doufu through the coarse grinding plate into the large bowl.
If chopping by hand, separately mince the pork belly skin, pork belly, pork shoulder, pork fat, and doufu using a chef’s knife or cleaver (two if you got ’em). Transfer to a large bowl as each one has formed a sticky paste and then mix well.
Add the nettles, ginger, soy sauce, powdered milk, 1½ tsp salt, pepper, and fish sauce to the bowl and use your hands to mix until well combined and a sticky paste forms but the meat is not overworked.
Divide the mixture into six portions. Roll each portion into a ball that is firmly packed and smooth. Wrap a cabbage leaf around each meatball, leaving the top exposed (save the remaining cabbage leaves for the clay pot). Refrigerate until ready to cook, up to 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Place the wrapped meatballs in a single layer in a soaked 9-inch-wide clay pot or small Dutch oven. Tuck the remaining cabbage leaves between the meatballs, then add the broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Transfer the pot to the oven and bake uncovered until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm a wok or a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the neutral oil and let it heat up for a few seconds. Add the mushrooms and rosemary, season with salt, and stir-fry until the mushrooms are browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Discard the rosemary.
Spoon the stir-fried mushrooms and any oil left in the pan over the meatballs and top with the pine nuts and shaved mushroom. Serve immediately.
Makes 1 ½ cups / 360ml
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, sear the bacon until dark golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and sear until very browned on one side, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low; add the seared bacon, chicken stock, both dried mushrooms, and kombu; and simmer until reduced to 1½ cups / 360ml, about 1 hour.
Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Stir the fish sauce into the broth. Let cool, transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
On a weekly basis, my mom would cook corned beef with cabbage, or chicken à la king, or sausage lasagna. It was too expensive to travel internationally, but we got to eat all over the world from our kitchen table. When she cooked food from her childhood, though, she would make us this steamed fish, topped with ginger, green onions, and fermented black beans. The flavor of steamed fish in Cantonese cuisine is all about sīn tìhm (鮮甜), the essential flavor of a fresh ingredient in combination with a pure, smooth sweetness. The final lashing of hot oil in this dish infuses the green onions and ginger into the flesh of the fish and enriches the soy. Take care not to overcook the fish; I like to turn off the heat in the last minutes of cooking and let the steam finish the job. The flesh should pull off the bone in tender morsels, not flake. I always score round, fleshy fish to help it cook evenly. Then I steam the fish only until the thickest flesh right behind the gill area is not quite opaque or, as Cantonese cooks say, “translucent like white jade.”
Active Time — 20 minutes
Makes 4 servings
Special Equipment — Steamer, 9-inch pie plate
1 Tbsp fermented black beans (optional)
One 1½-lb / 680g whole fish (such as black bass or Tai snapper), gutted and scaled
large handful aromatics (such as thinly sliced ginger, green onion tops, and/or strips of fresh citrus zest)
¼ cup / 60ml high-smoke-point oil (such as peanut oil)
In a small bowl, cover the black beans (if using) with water, let soak for 30 minutes, and then drain.
Prepare a steamer in a wok or a large, lidded pot following the instructions on page 167 and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, using kitchen shears, cut off the gills and the fins (careful, sharp!) on the top, bottom, and sides of the fish. Run your fingers over the skin, especially near the gills and belly, toward the head to check for any last scales; remove the scales with the edge of a spoon or the back of a knife.
On both sides of the fish, make eight 2-inch-long parallel slits into the flesh, not quite deep enough to hit bone, starting about 1 inch from the gills. Place the fish in a pie plate. (The fish can hang over the edges so long as everything fits in the steamer. If not, cut the fish in half to fit and hope none of your guests are superstitious.) Tuck some of your chosen aromatics into each slit, then stuff the remaining aromatics in the cavity. Top the fish with the black beans.
Place the pie plate in the steamer, cover, and steam until the eyeball is opaque and the flesh of the fish is white and flaky at the thickest part near the head and first slit, 10 to 12 minutes.
While the fish is steaming, in a small heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat, slowly warm the oil.
When the fish is ready, remove it with the pie plate from the steamer. (Reassemble as a whole fish if you cut it in two.) Drizzle with the soy sauce, then top with the ginger and green onions. Turn the heat under the oil to high and warm until it just starts to smoke. Immediately pour the oil over the fish, getting as much of the ginger and green onions to sizzle as you can. Garnish with the cilantro and serve with a spoon big enough for drizzling the juices.
For this recipe, I prefer medium Chinese eggplants, the pale purple, slender ones that are ten to twelve inches long, over similar-looking but more bitter varieties. This calls for oil-blanching and, because eggplant is basically a sponge, brining them for an hour first until they are saturated but not bloated. During frying, the water turns to steam and makes the eggplant creamy and not at all oily.
Cooking is really the study of water. It takes water to grow everything, of course, and so the amount of water that remains in an ingredient after it is harvested or butchered dictates how it will heat through in the pan, whether it will soften, seize, crisp, or caramelize. You’re adding water when you use stocks, vinegars, or alcohol. You’re creating barriers to water with starches. How you cut ingredients and the order in which you add them to the pan is about controlling how and when they release the water inside them. Even the shapes of cooking vessels are about releasing or retaining moisture. When cooking with a wok, changes to water happen so quickly that split-second timing is essential.
¼ cup / 5g packed Thai or opal basil leaves, torn in half if large
Trim and discard the eggplant ends, then cut into thick wedges, like steak frites—first cut crosswise into three 3-inch chunks, then halve those lengthwise repeatedly until you have 1-inch-thick wedges.
In a large bowl, combine 1 qt / 950ml of the water and the salt and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Add the eggplant, making sure it is submerged, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
Fill a 5-quart or larger Dutch oven with the neutral oil and secure a deep-fry thermometer on the side. Set over medium-high heat and warm the oil to 375°F.
Meanwhile, drain the eggplant and dry very well with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ¼ cup / 60ml water, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set this sauce aside.
Add the sliced garlic to the oil and fry until crisp and light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Use a spider to transfer them to a paper towel to drain.
Check that the oil in the Dutch oven is still at 375°F. Set up for the second fry by setting a dry wok or large skillet over high heat.
Carefully slide all the eggplant into the oil. Stir until the eggplant has darkened and caramelized at the edges, about 1 minute. Remove the eggplant with the spider and drain well over the Dutch oven, then transfer to the screaming-hot wok.
Immediately add the chopped garlic and most of the chile rings (reserve a few for garnish) to the eggplant in the wok and toss everything to combine. Add the reserved sauce and continue to toss until the sauce thickens to a glaze and the eggplants are browned at the edges, about 1 minute. Add most of the basil leaves and toss until wilted.
Transfer the contents of the wok to a serving platter. Crumble the fried garlic and scatter it over the eggplant with the rest of the basil and chile rings. Serve immediately.
I remember the first time I heard the word victuals. It was uttered by Jed Clampett—only he pronounced it as “vittles”–on that great TV series from The Beverly Hillbillies+ which ran from 1962-1971 and told the story of a family who had moved from Appalachia to, well, Beverly Hills, California. The Beverly Hillbillies, now in syndication, is televised daily around the world and the word victual, which means “food or provisions, typically as prepared for consumption” has become a go-to-term in the food world with the rise of interest in the foods of the Mountain South region of our country. The joke at the time was that the Clampett were so out-of-step with all the wonders of Beverly Hills and that included their use of the word victuals. But the joke, it seems, may have been on us as we deal with the overabundance of processed foods and yearn for authenticity in our diets. You know, like victuals,
In her book, Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes(Clarkson Potter 2016; $16.59 Amazon price) winner of James Beard Foundation Book of The Year and Best Book, American Cooking, author Ronni Lundy showcases both the heritage and present ways of southern cookery in this part of the United States and also shares the stories of the mountain. Lundy, a former restaurant reviewer and editor of Louisville Magazine, highlights such roadways as Warrior’s Path, the name given by English settlers to the route used by the Shawnee and Cherokee traveling for trade, hunting and, at times, to prepare for battle. Describing the towns, villages and hamlets along these routes, Lundy shows how an amalgam of immigrants some willing (Scots, Germans) and some not (African) brought with them foodways and how they merged with other ethnic groups and the foods available in the region.
The author of ten books on Southern food and culture, Lundy’s book, Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken, described as the first first regional American cookbook to offer a true taste of the Mountain South, was recognized by Gourmet magazine as one of six essential books on Southern cooking. Lundy also received the Southern Foodways Alliance Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award.
To gather the stories, recipes, traditions, and foodways, Lundy traveled over 4000 miles through seven states. Along the way, she did a lot of stopping and eating. Each chapter in her book delves into an identifying food of a region or its heritage–think salt, corn, corn liquor, and beans. And, in many ways, reconnecting to her own roots. Born in Corbin, Kentucky, she remembers shucking beans on her aunt’s front porch.
“They taught me how to break the end and pull the string down and break the other end and pull the string back on the bean,” Lundy says. “I would watch them thread it up on a needle and thread, and they would hang that in a dry place in the house…We developed these things, like drying beans for shuck beans, or drying our apples so that we could through the winter make apple stack cakes and fried apple pies. We’d have dried beans on hand, cure every part of the hog.”
Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Bacon & Orange Sorghum Vinegar
“Delicious root vegetables love the cool of both spring and fall in the mountains. Gardeners love the twin harvest,” Lundy writes in the introduction to this recipe. “The root cellar is where such vegetables were stored in plenty of mountain homesteads, although some folks kept them in baskets and bins in a cool, dark place in the house. In fact, folks with larger houses might close off “the front room,” as the living room was more commonly called, to conserve on heat when the weather got cold. That room might then become an ad hoc fruit and vegetable cooler.
“My mother kept the Christmas fruit in the front room until company came, but not vegetables. We ate them too fast then—boiled, buttered, and salted or eaten raw with salt. Today I make this lovely salad first in the spring, then again as autumn splashes the hills with the colors of the carrots and beets.”
3 medium yellow beets, trimmed and scrubbed
3 medium red beets, trimmed and scrubbed
2 large carrots, cut into 1½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 red radishes, thinly sliced
½ small red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
4 slices bacon, cooked
Orange Sorghum Vinegar (see below), to taste
Drizzle of bacon grease, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Wrap up the yellow beets in a large piece of aluminum foil. Do the same with the red beets, and place both packets on a baking sheet. Roast until the beets are tender at the center when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, on a separate baking sheet, toss the carrot pieces with the oil. Season with a sprinkle of salt. Roast the carrots for about 25 minutes, until tender and caramelized.
When the beets come out of the oven, carefully open the packets to release the steam, and let the beets cool. Once the beets have cooled, gently rub the skins off and cut the beets into wedges.
To assemble the salad, lay the red beet wedges on the bottom of a large shallow serving bowl. Lay the roasted carrots on top, and then the yellow beet wedges. Throw in the sliced radishes and red onion. Break up the bacon slices and scatter the pieces on top. Season with salt and drizzle with the orange sorghum vinegar. Toss ever so gently. Give it a taste and determine if a drizzle of bacon grease is needed. Serve.
Orange Sorghum Vinegar
Makes ¾ cup
½ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sorghum syrup
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Pour the vinegar into a small glass jar with a lid. Add the sorghum and shake or stir until dissolved. Add the orange juice and shake or stir to combine. Use as directed in recipes, and store any that’s left over, covered, in the refrigerator.
Sumac Oil Flatbread with Country Ham & Pickled Ramps
makes two large flatbreads (serves 4 to 6)
“In early mountain communities, one farmer might own a valuable tool or piece of equipment that was made available to family and neighbors as needed,” writes Lundy in the introduction of this recipe. “There was often a trade involved, although more frequently implicit rather than directly bartered. If you were the man with the sorghum squeezer and mule, you could expect to get a couple of quarts from your neighbors’ run. If you loaned a plow, you could count on borrowing the chains for hanging a freshly slaughtered hog. Or when your huge cast-iron pot was returned, it might come with several quarts of apple butter.
“With a little of that same sense of sharing, Lora Smith and Joe Schroeder invested in a traveling wood-fired oven for their farm at Big Switch. In their first spring back in Kentucky, it rolled over to a couple of weddings, as well as providing the main course for the Appalachian Spring feast. Joe says plans are to take it to a couple of music festivals down the line to both share and perhaps sell enough pizzas to pay the gate.
“Music makes a good metaphor for what happens in this recipe. Lora adapted a fine flatbread recipe from acclaimed chef and baker Nick Malgieri for the crust, then added some local color. In the way that European mandolins and violins were transformed by new rhythms and melodies into something purely mountain, the use of sumac-scented olive oil, tangy country ham, and pungent pickled ramps makes this a dish that tastes distinctly of its Kentucky place.
“If you have access to a wood-fired oven, bake away there according to how yours works. The directions here are for a home oven.
“The flatbread slices are even better when topped with a handful of arugula, mâche, or another bright, bitter green that has been drizzled with Orange Sorghum Vinegar (see recipe above).”
2 cups all-purpose flour
⅔ cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal, plus extra for rolling the dough
½ tablespoon salt
2½ teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110°F)
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
6 ounces country ham, sliced about ¼ inch thick and cut into bite-sized pieces
¾ cup Will Dissen’s Pickled Ramps (page 000), at room temperature
¼ cup Sumac Oil (recipe follows)
Combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse a few times to mix.
Combine the yeast with ¾ cup of the warm water in a medium bowl. Whisk in the olive oil. Add this mixture to the food processor and pulse to combine; then let the processor run continuously for about 10 seconds, or until the dough forms a ball. You may need to add up to another ¼ cup of the warm water at this point if your dough is not coming together.
Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
Move the rested dough to a floured work surface and flatten into a thick disk, then fold the dough over on itself. Do this several times. Return the folded dough to the oiled mixing bowl (you might have to oil it again first). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350°F.
Sprinkle a floured work surface with a little cornmeal. Transfer the risen dough to the surface and divide it in half. Working with one piece of dough at a time, gently press it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough out as thin as possible, aiming for a roughly 10 × 15-inch rectangle. Transfer the dough to a prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with second half of the dough.
Pierce the dough all over at 1-inch intervals with the tines of a fork. Divide the country ham evenly between the two portions of dough.
Bake the flatbreads until golden and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes, switching the baking sheets’ positions about halfway through cooking.
Remove to racks and let cool slightly. Divide the ramps and sumac oil evenly between the flatbreads, and serve.
sumac oil makes about ¹⁄³ cup
Native people gathered the crimson berries of the sumac plant (not the noxious, poisonous white-berried variety, of course) to dry and grind them into a powder that gave a delicious lemony flavor to fish cooked over an open fire. They and the settlers who followed also used the sumac to make a drink akin to lemonade. You don’t have to gather berries and make your own; you can buy good-quality ground sumac at almost any Mediterranean or Middle Eastern market and some natural foods stores.
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground sumac
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Use immediately.
Slow Cooker–Roasted Pork Shoulder
“Thrifty homesteaders knew how to cook all cuts of the hogs that were slaughtered in the winter,” writes Lundy. “The shoulder, slow-roasted with fat and bone, produced a richly textured, deeply flavored meat worth smacking your lips for. Modern mountain cooks use the slow cooker to create the same effect that roasting in a woodstove, kept going all day for heat as well as cooking, once provided.
“I buy pork from one of several producers in my neck of the Blue Ridge who pasture their pigs and process them humanely. They also tend to raise heritage pigs that naturally come with more fat, and the cuts I favor reflect that. The last roast I cooked like this weighed about 3½ pounds at the market with a top fat layer about an inch deep. I trimmed that fat to ½ inch and the roast was then about 3 pounds.”
½ tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3-pound pork shoulder or butt, bone-in
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sorghum syrup
1 small yellow onion
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Rub the salt and pepper into all sides of the roast, including the top fat. Place a heavy skillet over high heat and as it is warming up, place the roast in the skillet, fat side down. The heat will render enough fat for browning the rest of the roast without sticking. When there is enough fat to coat the bottom of the pan well and the fat on the roast is turning golden brown, flip the roast over and brown the next side.
Brown all sides of the roast. This may entail using tongs to hold the roast to brown the short edges, but it only takes a minute or so and is worth it since it will intensify the flavor. You may also need to spoon some of the rendered fat out of the skillet as you are browning—the point is to sear the meat, not deep-fry it.
When the roast is browned all over, place it in a slow cooker. Carefully pour off the grease from the skillet. Add ½ cup of water to the skillet and deglaze it. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the vinegar and sorghum, stirring to dissolve the syrup. Pour this mixture into the slow cooker.
Peel the onion, quarter it, and break apart the sections. Scatter the pieces around the edge of the roast in the pot. Cover, and cook on the high setting for 30 minutes. Then turn to low and cook for 4 hours.
The pork roast will be well done but meltingly tender when the inner temperature is 165°F. Remove it from the pot and allow it to rest under a tent of foil while you make the sauce.
Strain the pan juices to remove the onion pieces. Degrease the juices and pour them into a small pot set over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with ½ cup of water to form a slurry. When the juices in the pot begin to bubble, whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Continue to whisk as the mixture bubbles for about a minute and thickens. Remove from the heat.
To carve the roast, begin on the side away from the bone to yield larger, uniform pieces. Pass the sauce on the side.
Buttermilk–Brown Sugar Pie
“Pies were the Mother of Invention because necessity required that they be made from whatever was on hand. In the summer there was no dearth of fruit that could be gathered—often by small children who would eagerly do the work for just reward later.,” writes Lundy. “In the winter dried apples, peaches, and squash could be simmered into a filling for the hand or fried pies beloved in the region. Vinegar pie was as tasty as, and easier to come by, than one made with lemon, and apple cider could be boiled to make a tart and tangy filling. Buttermilk was enough to turn a simple custard filling into a more complex delight. And using cornmeal as the thickener in these simple pies added character as well as flavor.
“My cousin Michael Fuson introduced me to brown sugar pie. It was his favorite, he told my mother when his family moved from Corbin to Louisville and he began spending time in her kitchen. “Well, honey, then I’ll make you one,” she said. That my mother could make brown sugar pie was news to me. Mike was as generous as a homesick teenaged boy could be and allowed me an ample slice before consuming the rest on his own. It was, I thought, one of the loveliest things I’d ever eaten. But then I made a version of my own with buttermilk instead of cream, and the sum of these two pie parts was greater than the whole of all pies put together.”
Makes one 9-inch pie
Single unbaked pie crust (use your favorite recipe or 1/4 batch of Emily Hilliard’s Pie Crust below)
1 1/2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup very finely ground cornmeal*
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
3/4 cup whole buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the crust in a 9-inch pie pan and refrigerate it while making the filling.
In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cornmeal, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Beat in the melted butter. Add the dry mixture and stir vigorously until the brown sugar is dissolved. Add the buttermilk and vanilla. When all is well combined, pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake for 45 minutes, or until the center is set (no longer liquid, but still tender to the touch).
Allow the pie to cool until just barely warm before slicing. I like to drizzle about 1/2 tablespoon of buttermilk over my slice.
Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or fork and knife, cut in the butter. Make sure pea-sized butter chunks remain to help keep the crust flaky.
Lightly beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk in the ice-cold water and the vinegar.
Pour the liquid mixture into the flour-butter mixture and combine using a wooden spoon. Mix until the dough comes together in a shaggy mass. Be careful not to overmix. Use floured hands to divide the dough in half and then form into 2 balls. Wrap each ball tightly in plastic wrap. Let them chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before rolling out.
Note: if you cut this recipe in half, it will work for a two-crust pie.
A much maligned vegetable belonging, along with peas and lentils, to the vegetable class called legumes, beans are about as low on the food chain as you can go in terms of respect. Kids snicker at rhymes about beans and the gas they produce and sayings like “not worth a hill of beans” signifies their, well, insignificance.
Once Abra Berens,the former co-owner of Bare Knuckles Farm in Northport, Michigan and now the executive chef at Granor Farm in Southwest Michigan, was like most of us. She didn’t give a bean about beans. That is until she became intrigued by the bean and grain program at Granor, a certified organic farm in Three Oaks, a charming historic village with its own burgeoning food culture.
Now she’s all about legumes and grains and for anyone who knows Abra that means a total passionate immersion in the subject which resulted in her latest cookbook, a 464-page door stopper with 140 recipes and over 160 recipe variations titledGrist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes. Just published by Chronicle Books on October 26th, the demand for Grist is so high it was hard to get a copy at first.
Now, that’s worth more than a hill of beans.
Berens, a James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Chef: Great Lakes, also authored Ruffage. That book, which came out in 2019, was named a Best Cookbook for Spring 2019 by the New York Times and Bon Appétit, was a 2019 Michigan Notable Book winner, and was also nominated for a 2019 James Beard Award. She puts the same energy into her Grist.
“We are told over and over again to eat a diet rich in whole grains and plant-based protein,” writes Berens in the book’s introduction. “The science is there—high in soluble fiber, low glycemic index, healthy fatted protein—but the perception of whole grains seems to still be of leaden health food, endless cooking times, and cud-like chewing at the end of it all.”
Indeed. Consider this. A cup of cooked black beans has 245 calories and contains approximately the following percentage of the daily values needed in an average diet—74% folate, 39% manganese, 20% iron, 21% both potassium and magnesium, and 20% vitamin B6.
“But we all know that they’re good for you,” says Berens, who describes herself as a bean-evangelist. “I want people to understand these ingredients and you can’t understand these ingredients until you know them.”
And so, she introduces us to 29 different grains, legumes, and seeds. Some like lentils, lima beans, split peas, quinoa, rice, and oats we know something about. Others are more obscure such as cowpeas, millet, teff, fonio, and freekeh are mysteries. That is until you read her book and learn not only how to cook them but also about their history. There’s a cheat sheet of the health benefits of each. Berens also conducted interviews with farmers including her cousins Matt and John Berens, third-generation farmers in Bentheim, Michigan who have transitioned into growing non-GMO corn and edible beans and Jerry Hebron, the manager of Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to cultivating healthy foods, sustainable economies, and active cultural environments. Hebron has been raising crowder beans for almost a decade.
We also get to meet Carl Wagner, a farmer and seed cleaner in Niles, Michigan. Berens said she wanted to include “invisible” farming jobs and this certainly is one. She didn’t know what a seed cleaner was until a few years ago and figured that most of us don’t know either. Wagner, with his wife Mary, run C3 Seeds, a company that provides seed cleaning for grains and seed stock. When Berens asked him what he’d like people to know about his job, his response was that they would know that seed cleaning “is part of buying a bag of flour or a bottle of whiskey.”
“The biggest thing is that if people are interested in cooking with beans, it’s an easy entry point it’s not like buying $100 tenderloin,” says Berens.
Of course, you can buy beans in the grocery store. Berens recommends dried beans not canned. But Granor Farm also sells black, red, and pinto beans at their farm store which is open Friday and Saturday. For information on the times, visit granorfarm.com
Berens is already working on her next book, tentatively titled Fruit, due out in 2023. When I ask her how she does it all, she laughs and replies, “I don’t have any hobbies.”
And she takes things very seriously.
“Every author has to think about why they’re putting something in the world,” she says, “and what is the value of it and makes these books worthwhile.”
With Grist, we’re learning the value of tasty and healthy foods that taste good.
The angular mouthfeel of the buckwheat plays well with the crunch of the cucumber and against the crisp of the chicken thigh. Serve the buckwheat warm or chilled, depending on your preference. If you aren’t eating meat, the salad is a great lunch on its own or pairs well with an egg or fried tofu.
1 cup buckwheat groats, toasted or not
2 medium cucumbers (about 1 lb. total), washed
1/4 cup Tajín Oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup plain yogurt, Greek or traditional
1 lemon (about 1½ oz) zest and juice
10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
Any additional herbs you want, roughly chopped (mint, tarragon, thyme, cilantro)
Pinch of chili flakes (optional)
4 to 6 chicken thighs
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Toss in the buckwheat groats and give the pot a stir. Return to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook the grains until tender, 8 to 15 minutes.
Drain the groats, toss with a glug of Tajín oil, and set aside.
Trim the ends of the cucumbers and place on a cutting board. Using the widest knife (or frying pan) you have, press down on the cucumbers until their skin cracks and they break into irregular pieces. Dress the cucumbers with the Tajín oil and a pinch of salt.
Combine the yogurt with the lemon zest and juice, chopped herbs, chili flakes (if using), a pinch of salt, and two big glugs of olive oil. Set aside.
Blot the chicken skin dry and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a large frying pan over high heat until the pan is starting to smoke. Add a glug or two of oil, lower the heat to medium, and fry the thighs, skin-side down, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the
chicken and sauté until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes more.
To serve, dish the buckwheat onto serving plates. Top with the chicken thighs and then the dressed cucumbers. Garnish with a thick spoonful of the herbed yogurt.
1 cup neutral oil
2 Tbsp Tajín
In a medium sauce or frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the Tajín, and let steep for 5 minutes.
4 large leeks (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cleaned of dirt
4 sprigs thyme (optional)
¼ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 orange (about 3 ounces), peel stripped, juiced, or ¼ cup white wine or hard cider
3/4 cup olive oil
2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed
1 bunch chard (8 ounces), cut into ribbons (or spinach, kale, or arugula)
2 lemons (about 3 ounces), zest and juice
4 ounces ricotta
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the whole, cleaned leeks, side by side, in a roasting pan.
Scatter the thyme (if using), chili flakes (if using), and 2 large pinches of salt evenly over the leeks.
Scatter the orange peel strips over the leeks and drizzle them with the orange juice and ¼ cup of the olive oil to coat.
Cover with foil and bake until the leeks are tender, 35 to 45 minutes.
Combine the chickpeas, chard ribbons, lemon zest and juice, and remaining ½ cup of olive oil with a big pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper.
When the leeks are tender, transfer from the roasting pan to plates or a serving platter. Top with the chickpea and chard salad. Dot ricotta over the top and serve.
Spoon Pudding with Pork Chops and Cabbage Salad
For the spoon pudding:
¾ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
For the salad:
About 1 pound red cabbage, shaved into thin strips
¼ cup olive oil
10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
1 lemon zest and juice
½ teaspoon chili flakes
½ teaspoon paprika
4 pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled
To make the spoon pudding:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an ovenproof baking dish or frying pan that can hold 2 quarts total volume.
Combine the cornmeal, salt, 1 cup of boiling water, and the melted butter and whisk out any lumps. Combine the eggs, milk, and baking powder and add to the cornmeal batter. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake until the edges of the spoon bread are just set and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes.
To make the salad: Combine the cabbage with the olive oil, chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice, chili flakes, paprika, and a couple pinches of salt. Toss to combine and adjust the seasoning as desired.
Serve the spoon bread alongside the grilled pork chops and cabbage salad.
Though France is known for its fabulous pastry shops, in “Chez Moi” Greenspan shares recipes created by home chefs.
“In France you can get all the butter puff pastry you want in the grocery store and buy the most extravagant cakes at patisseries,” says Greenspan. “But it was really a revelation to me that the patisserie desserts are not the same desserts you get in French homes. These are charming, uncomplicated, satisfying, and delicious but they’re not fussy at all.”
Intrigued by what her friends baked at home, Greenspan, who has spent nearly two decades living in France, traveled across the country collecting their recipes—from Alsace she includes both a Christmas Cake and because of the area’s beautiful plump cherries, a cherry crumble tart, Tart Tropezienne comes from Saint-Tropez, Olive Oil and Wine cookies from Languedoc-Roussillon and the Soft Salted-Butter Caramels (be still my beating heart) is often found in Brittany.
It took Greenspan some five years to test all the recipes for this, her 11th cookbook, because it was important to her to bring these desserts to America. That involved testing and re-testing with both American and French flours and even traveling from her home in the U.S. carrying five pound bags of flour—one can only imagine the panic at the airport if the flour containers had busted open. Each recipe begins with a story of how she discovered it and where it comes from.
“The stories make the food more personal,” she says.
Surprising, there are several recipes calling for cream cheese including one titled The Rugelach That Won Over France. Before, says Greenspan, the French thought of cream cheese only to be used to make cheesecakes and spread on bagels.
That was before about a decade ago when cream cheese came to France “big time,” says Greenspan noting the French call it Philadelphia rather than cream cheese. And, of course, there’s Nutella which Greenspan describes as being the peanut butter of France.
She also includes a recipe for Crackle Cream Puffs (along with other cream puff recipes including one filled with mascarpone) noting that just as we have our cupcake shops, right now in Paris there are shops selling nothing but cream puffs and that they can be filled to order while you wait.
For those new to French dessert making, Greenspan recommends starting off with her Custardy Apple Squares and then Laurent’s Slow-Roasted Pineapple. As for me, I’m moving straight on to the Soft Salted-Butter Caramels and the macarons.
Brown Butter-Peach Torte
Makes 8 servings
For the filling
2 pounds, ripe but firm peaches
3 tablespoons (1½ ounces) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Tiny pinch of fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or a drop of pure almond extract)
Juice of ¼ lemon (or to taste)
For the crust
1 partially baked 9- to 9½-inch tart crust made with Sweet Tart Dough, cooled
1 recipe Sweet Tart Dough (recipe below), rolled into a 12-inch circle and refrigerated
Sugar, for dusting (sanding sugar, if you’d prefer)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
To make the filling: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice cubes and cold water nearby.
Cut a small X in the base of each peach. Drop a few peaches at a time into the boiling water, leave them there for 30 seconds and then lift them out with a slotted spoon and drop them into the ice water. When they are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins. If you’ve got some hard-to-peel peaches, you can boil them for a few seconds more or just remove the remaining skin with a paring knife.
Dry the peaches, cut them in half, remove the pits and cut each peach into about a dozen chunks. If the peaches are small, cut fewer chunks; the torte is best when the pieces are about an inch on a side. Put the peaches in a bowl.
Put the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and allow it to melt and then bubble. Stay close to the butter as it boils, and when it reaches a light caramel color, pull the pan from the heat. You may see some small dark brown spots on the bottom of the pan, and that’s fine; for sure you’ll catch the whiff of warm nuts. Wait a minute or two, then pour the butter over the peaches. Add the sugar, flour, salt and vanilla and gently stir everything together. Finish with the lemon juice, tasting as you go. I prefer the juice to be a background flavor, but you might want it to be more prominent, and, of course, the amount will depend on the sweetness of your fruit.
To assemble the torte: Put the tart pan on the lined baking sheet. Give the filling another stir and scrape it into the tart shell, smoothing the top. You should have just enough filling to come level with the edges of the crust.
Remove the circle of dough from the refrigerator and let it rest for a couple of minutes, just until it’s soft enough to maneuver without cracking. Brush the edges of the tart shell with water, then position the circle of dough over the crust. Press the rim of the torte with your fingers to glue the two pieces together and then, pressing on the rim as you go, cut the top circle even with the edges of the pan.
Use a knife, the wide end of a piping tip or a small cookie cutter to remove a circle of dough from the center of the torte—this is your steam vent. Brush the surface of the torte lightly with cold water and sprinkle it generously with sugar.
Bake the torte for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the crust is deeply golden brown and, most important, the butter is bubbling. If you think the crust is browning too quickly—the thick rim has a tendency to get dark—cover the torte lightly with a foil tent. Transfer the torte, still on its baking sheet, to a rack and allow it to cool until it’s only just warm or at room temperature before serving. As it cools, the buttery syrup will be reabsorbed by the peaches, which is just what you want—so don’t be impatient.
Serving: Whatever you serve with the torte—vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt (I like the tang of yogurt with the sweet peaches), softly whipped cream or even more softly whipped crème fraîche—don’t let it cover the top of the torte – it’s too pretty to hide.
Storing: You can partially bake the bottom crust up to 8 hours ahead and you can have the top crust rolled out and ready to go ahead of time, but the filling shouldn’t be prepared ahead. The baked torte is really best served that day. If you’ve got leftovers, refrigerate them. The crust will lose its delicateness, but the torte will still be satisfying.
Sweet Tart Dough (Pâte Sablée)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.
Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, whisk will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked.
Don’t be too heavy-handed–press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To partially or fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust.
Put the tart pan on a baking sheet to bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a coking rack (keep it in is pan).
To fully bake the crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (Keep a close eye on the crust’s progress–it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash). Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
To patch a partially or fully baked crust, if necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to that the rawness off the patch.
Storing: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months I (Dorie), prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer–it has the fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.
Excerpted from BAKING CHEZ MOI, (c) 2014 by Dorie Greenspan. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
For all those who have been opining that Southwest Michigan is indeed become a food-centric destination thanks to our great farmers and the crops they grow in fields and orchards, multiple wineries, breweries, distilleries, chefs and food producers, the biggest proof came last week when Abra Berens, chef in residence for Granor Farm in Three Oaks was nominated for the Best Chef award in the Great Lakes Region by the James Beard Foundation. This coveted honor came about for multifold reasons including her best selling cookbook Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables (Chronicle Books 2019: $35). The book make veggies easily accessible and tasty. Containing 300 recipes based upon 29 vegetables, the cookbook was on numerous top ten cookbooks for 2019. Then there is also Granor’s Farmhouse Dinners, often featuring celebrity chefs, she prepares. These dinners, based on what’s grown on the farm as well as locally sourced foods, attract people locally but also from Chicago, Detroit and even Indianapolis. For the last two years, each dinner has sold out and has had a waiting list.
“I never thought it would happen to me,” says Abra when I called to congratulate her. “I think the term was gob smacked when I found out. A long time ago I figured it was not my wheelhouse because my food is not fancy food.”
It turns out that Abra heard about the honor from a friend who lives in Pennsylvania and saw the press release from the James Beard Foundation and immediately pulled it up on her phone. It was hard to read but there it was.
She grew up cooking and has worked in restaurants since she was 16 including Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor and then at Ballymaloe Cookery School and Farm, a 100-acre organic farm in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland. In ways Ballymaloe was similar to Granor in that what they grew on the farm was served at its restaurant and guest house.
“It was an education for me—that connection with what a farm is growing and the meals you eat,” she says.
Next stop was Neal’s Yard Dairy, a serious cheese shop where staff people like her worked with some 40 cheesemakers, in selecting, maturing and selling farmhouse cheese made in the United Kingdom and Ireland. From there, she headed to Chicago where became the executive chef at Stock Café at Local Foods, Vie and the Floriole Cafe & Bakery. As if that wasn’t hectic enough, Abra also co-founded Bare Knuckle Farm in Northport in Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula. That meant a round trip commute of 700 milers on a regular basis for six years
It was worth it, says Abra about those six years, because she wanted to do dinners based on what she grew.
It worked well in Chicago and definitely does in Three Oaks as well.
Granor Farm is expanding too.
“We’re adding new space to the kitchen and we’re working to grow vegetables year round by building indoor growing space,” she says. “We’re putting in refrigeration to add dairy such as artisan cheeses from Windshadow Farm in Hartford, Evergreen Lane Cheese and Creamery in Fennville and Capriole Goat Cheese in Greenville, Indiana.”
They’re also growing heritage varieties of wheat, rye and corn. Their Bloody Butcher corn, a variety grown by Daniel Boone’s brother Squire almost 250 years ago, is used by Molino Tortilleria in Sawyer to make their corn tortillas. Abra also plans on making and selling bread from these heirloom grains using a wood burning oven.
All in all, though she didn’t ever expect it, Abra definitely deserves the James Beard nod. It’s a first for Southwest Michigan and shows all the great things—foodwise—to come.
The following recipes are reprinted from Ruffage by Abra Berens with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019.
“Parsnips are perfect for roasting because they are naturally a bit drier than carrots or sweet potatoes,” she writes at the beginning of this recipe. “I like to roast them pretty hard so that their little chips burn, foiling the natural sweetness of the root. As with all oven roasted things, allow enough space between the pieces on the baking sheet; A convection oven will help develop that crispy exoskeleton on the veggie comma and cook until the roots are tender when pierced with a knife. “
Roasted Parsnips w/Fresh Goat Cheese, Pecans and Pickled Apricots
“Pickling dried fruit heightens its flavor by introducing a serious tang and a touch of salt,” she writes explaining the reasoning behind pickling. “It breathes new life into a pretty standard pantry staple. It works with all dried fruit though Apple chips get weird and soggy. You can also pickle fresh fruit, though this was sometimes soften the flesh to mush so be gentle with the heat. I love this with basil, which is increasingly available from year-round growers. If you can find good looking basil, either drizzle with basil oil or use parsley or mixture of parsley, tarragon, and or mint. “
10 parsnips or about 2 pounds, ends cut off, peeled and cut into obliques1/4 Cup olive oil, plus more for cooking the parsnips
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup Apple cider vinegar
1 half cup dried apricots cut into 1/4 inch strips
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 cup pecans, toasted
6 leaves basil, torn
Heat the oven to 400° F. Toss the parsnips with a big glug (about two tablespoons) of olive oil, 2 pinches of salt, and 2 grinds of black pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast until the parsnips are tender and golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
Heat the vinegar, salt and brown sugar to boiling. Pour this over the apricots and let them sit for 10 minutes. These will keep for weeks so feel free to scale up and have some on hand.
Drain the apricots reserving the liquid for dressing or making a spritzer with soda water. Remove the parsnips from the oven, toss with the ¼ cup olive oil and let it absorb for a couple of minutes.
Place on a serving platter, dot with the goat cheese, scattered the pecans and apricots over them, garnish with torn pieces of basil and serve.
w/currants, walnuts, blue cheese + burnt honey
10 parsnips (about 2 pounds)
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup currents
1/2 cup walnuts
4 ounces blue cheese
One sprig rosemary, stripped and minced
After roasting the parsnips, removed them in the oven and turn on the broiler. Combined the honey and water to thin. Drizzle the roasted parsnips with the honey mixture and slide under the broiler to char like a toasted marshmallow. Removed from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with the currents pickled (same as for the apricots, if you like), walnuts, blue cheese and rosemary.
w/other roots, garlic mayo + sage
5 parsnips (1 pound)
5 carrots (1 pound)
1 celery root (1/2 pound)
2 sweet potatoes (1 pound)
5 sunchokes (1/2 pound)
½ cup garlic mayo
3 sprigs sage, cut into thin slices or fried in oil until golden and crispy
Roast the roots drizzle with the garlic mayo and garnish with the sage.
For the mayo, combine two crushed cloves of garlic, the juice and a half cup of mayonnaise.
Vinegar Braised Onions with Seared Whitefish and Arugula
8 shallots or cippolini
Neutral oil salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup red or white wine vinegar
1- 6-ounce filet of white fish per person
4 ounces arugula
1/4 cup olive oil
Heat the oven to 325°F.
Clean the shallots. Cut them in half from top to bottom.
Heat a glug (about two tablespoons) of neutral oil in a medium of improved frying pan until just above smoking.
Sear the onions, cut side down until well charred. Flipping season with a hefty sprinkle of salt and pepper. Char the other, grounded side as best as you can. As long as there is a good char on the cut side, you’ll be good.
Remove from the heat and pour the vinegar over the onions, getting it into the petals of the onion. Be aware it will spit as the vinegar hits the hot pan and will probably make you cough. Cover with foil or parchment paper and place in the oven. Bake until the onions are tender, about 25 minutes. In a large frying pan heat a glug (about two tablespoons) of neutral oil until smoking hot. Blot the whitefish skin dry, sprinkle with salt and sear, skin side down, about 5 minutes.
When the skin releases from the pan, place the whole pan in the already hot oven to cook through, about 4 minutes.
In a medium bowl, dress the arugula with olive oil in a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Serve the fish, skin side up, top with arugula and onions, spooning the onion liquid over the whole thing period.
After 20 Years, Bruce Sherman Turning Over Kitchen to Chef de Cuisine Tim Vidrio.
Since taking over what was a casual park café in 1999, Sherman has been the only executive chef North Pond.
“It’s with mixed emotions for sure…back then, I couldn’t have dreamt of all we’d achieve here, and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished. The time feels right, there is a strong team in place and I look forward to seeing what the next twenty years bring – for the restaurant, and for me,” says Sherman.
Under his leadership, North Pond has received numerous awards and honors such as a Michelin star rating for seven consecutive years as well as multiple James Beard nominations and winning Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2012.
While he’ll no longer be running the kitchen, he will, along with longtime business partner Richard Mott, remain a partner. “I want to thank Bruce for all he’s done here. He’s been a great chef, partner and friend and I understand his desire to start a new chapter. We will all miss him, and equally, we’re excited to see Tim grow into this role,” states Mott.
Vidrio joined the North Pond team in early 2011 and for the past three years has been chef de cuisine. Prior to joining North Pond, Vidrio worked his way through Chicagoland kitchens, including Le Francais, Moto, and NoMi at the Park Hyatt Hotel. He shares Sherman’s philosophy of respectfully and sustainably working with the best of the season while maintaining close relationships with farmers, producers and growers. John Arents, who worked at North Pond some fifteen years ago, returns in December as Managing Partner/General Manager, and longtime GM Natalie Boschert will return from maternity leave in spring in an operations role.
North Pond serves dinner Wednesday — Sunday beginning at 5:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch service begins at 10:30 a.m. Smoking is not permitted in North Pond. Valet parking is available on weekends at the corner of Lakeview and Deming Streets and reservations are recommended. For reservations or further information, please call 773.477.5845 or visit North Pond.
Chef Sherman’s Winter Spinach-Apple Soup
1 shallot, peeled, sliced thinly
1/2 small onion, peeled, sliced thinly
1 firm, sweet apple, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1 clove roasted garlic
1 tbl. olive oil
10 oz winter spinach
1/3 heavy cream (optional)
1 c chicken stock or water
salt and white pepper
3 oz butter, chilled and cubed
Heat a medium size Teflon (non-stick) pan over the fire and place the olive oil in it. Add the sliced shallots, onion, apple and roasted garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes until softened but not colored. Next, add in the washed baby spinach- stemmed, if necessary. Add in some salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg and then stir for 1-2 minutes until softened. Add in cream and reduce by half until thickened. Add the chicken or vegetable stock and heat until the liquid boils. Transfer the mixture to a blender, add in the butter and puree until very smooth. Transfer to a pot to heat through, adjust consistency and seasoning before serving.