Spilling the Beans: Abra Berens Dishes on Legumes, Beans, and More in Her Latest Cookbook

         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 titled Grist: 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 following recipes are reprinted from Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes by Abra Berens with permission from Chronicle Books, 2021. Photographs © EE Berger.

Seared Chicken Thighs W/Buckwheat, Smashed Cucumbers + Tajín Oil

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
  • Olive oil
  • 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.

Tajín Oil

  • 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.

Whole Roasted Leeks w/Chickpeas, Lemon Vinaigrette, Ricotta + Chard

  • 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
  • Salt

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.

  Lighthouse Wine Shop: A Beacon to Great Vino in Southwest Michigan

       Cade Carmichael doesn’t want us to drink what he calls “supermarket wines” but he also isn’t advocating we take out a loan for an expensive bottle of wine. That’s why when he opened Lighthouse Wine Shop last year in St. Joseph, Michigan he decided to feature value wines.

         “I didn’t want to start off with big wine names,” he says. “Good wine doesn’t have to be expensive.  Value wines are those that taste like they should cost more than they do.”

         It’s all about knowing where to look and for those of us who don’t want to begin the laborious process of understanding the intricacies of every wine region and producer, Carmichael is willing to do the hard work for us. His fascination with wines came not from living in Southwest Michigan where we have a wonderful abundance of wineries but when he moved with his wife to Frankfurt, Germany where they lived for five years before returning to this area. From Frankfurt, it was easy to explore the wine regions of such countries as France and Italy as well as Germany.

         In the wine appellation of Côte de Nuit Villages in Burgundy, a historic region of France that produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. Appellation or appellation d’origine contrôlée or AOC which stands for “controlled designation of origin” is certification granted by the government that refers to the area’s agriculture products—a list that includes not only wines, but other categories such as cheeses and butters.

         But the thing is, Carmichael tells me, is there are some value wines from the Côte de Nuit Villages that are very affordable if you know where to look. He shows me bottles from Domaine Faively, a winery founded in 1825 in the Nuits-St. Georges.

         “Right next to Nuits-St. Georges is a small village called Vosne-Romanee,” says Carmichael. Another historic village like Nuits-St. Georges, Vosne-Romanee is known as having some of the most expensive burgundies in the world.

         “Vosne-Romanee literally shares a border with Nuits- St. Georges, so they have the same soil and growing conditions- the vineyards facing east get the morning sun and shade in the evening,” says Carmichael. “But there’s a huge difference.”

That means instead of spending a small fortune for a bottle from Vosne-Romanee, you can enjoy the wines of the Côte de Nuit Villages by choosing those produced by wineries in Nuits-St. Georges.

         In an interesting aside, Carmichael tells me that China is now producing Bordeaux style wines, using five Noble varietals— Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot—which comprise the best for making that type of wine. How is it working out?  Well, the 2013 vintage from Ao Yun—the name means flying above the clouds as the winery is 8,500 feet above sea level, in the foothills of the Himalayas that has similar growing conditions to the Bordeaux region of France—was awarded  a score of 93 by Wine Advocate and sells for around $300. But that’s an aside.

         When sourcing his wines Carmichael looks, of course, for value but also the unique such as those made from indigenous or natural yeast rather than cultivated yeast. Sometimes, through diligent searching he’s able to score big.

         “I bought the last three cases of Terreno Vitigno,” he says about a wine from Monleale, a sub region of Piedmont in the Tortonese hills of Italy. “It’s all that’s available.”

         He also has (or maybe had as Lighthouse’s specials sell out very quickly) Piccolo Derthona made from Timorasso, a varietal grape that’s nearly extinct.

         “I try to find things—they’re not weird—but unique,” he says.

         The Lighthouse Wine Shop is in the small mall on the corner of Glenlord Road and Red Arrow Highway and right across the street from Coach’s Bar & Grill in Stevensville. In keeping with Carmichael’s vow not to be a cookie cutter type place, he and his father-in-law built display boxes, used wine barrels as tables for showcasing wines. His wines are divided by country and there’s a good representation of Italy, Spain, France, South America, and California to name a few.

He also sells wine accoutrements like corkscrews, gift baskets and boxes. A major focal point on the store is the large white board or what Carmichael calls “a lyric board” that changes. He uses vinyl records for the music that plays in the background. The groups performing are modern and include Phoebe Bridgers & Waxahatchee as well as classics such as Johnny Cash, the Beatles and Chicago. Speaking of the latter, Carmichael says that his Chicago patrons seem to prefer French wines while those from this area choose Italian. He thinks that might a reflection of Whirlpool Corp. having manufacturing plants in Cassinetta, Naples, and Trento in Italy. Coincidentally as he’s saying this, Doug Washington walks in to buy a bottle of Italian red wine. A Whirlpool employee he says he worked for the company in Italy.

         When I started working on this column, I received an email from Janet Fletcher, who lives in Napa Valley, California  where she develops and tests recipes for cookbooks and magazine features, evaluate cheeses for her classes and columns, does extensive gardening, and prepares dinner nightly with her winemaker husband. I’ve talked to her frequently in the past and wrote about several of her cookbooks including Wine Country Table and Cheese and Beer. I also follow her blog Planet Cheese.

Fletcher, who has won three James Beard Awards and the International Association of Culinary Professionals Bert Greene Award, has a new cookbook out called Gather: Casual Cooking from Wine Country Gardens and I asked her if she would share recipes. She agreed, including recipes easily made at home and the California wines she suggests using when serving them.

The following are recipes she shared along with anecdotes about their origins and Fletcher’s wine recommendations. These wines are necessarily easily available but when a Merlot is called for you can substitute a local Merlot or one from another area though keep in mind that Fletcher paired her food and wines very carefully.

Maggie’s Ranch Chicken

Serves 4

Ranch chicken has nothing to do with ranch dressing, says Katie Wetzel Murphy of Alexander Valley Vineyards. “It’s what we called this dish as kids,” she recalls. “It seems that my mother, Maggie, only made it when we came to ‘The Ranch,’ which is what we called the vineyards before we had a winery.” Baked with honey, mustard, and tarragon, the quartered chicken emerges with a crisp brown skin, and the sweet aroma draws everyone to the kitchen. “Kids like it and adults like it,” says Katie, “and most of the food we make has to be that way.”

1 whole chicken, 4 to 4 1/2 pounds, backbone removed, then quartered

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup honey

4 tablespoons salted butter

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 fresh tarragon sprigs, each 6 inches long

Wine: Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Season the chicken quarters all over with salt and pepper. Put the quarters into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a small saucepan, combine the honey, butter, and mustard over low heat and stir until the butter melts. Pour the honey mixture evenly over the chicken. Place a tarragon sprig on each quarter.

Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, then remove the dish from the oven, spoon the dish juices over the chicken, and return the dish to the oven for 30 minutes more. The chicken will be fully cooked, with beautifully browned skin. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the juices to settle.

Antipasto Platter with Southern-Style Pickled Okra

Makes 6 pints

“Napa Valley’s Regusci Winery proprietor, Laura Regusci, developed a passion for pickling in her grandmother’s Kentucky kitchen,” he writes. The family pastime began as a way to preserve vegetables for winter and share homegrown gifts with neighbors. Today, Laura carries on the tradition, growing okra and other seasonable vegetables in the Regusci estate garden for pickling. Each Thanksgiving, pickled okra adds a southern spirit to the family’s antipasto board

3 pounds small okra

6 cups distilled white vinegar

4 cups water

1/2 cup kosher or sea salt

1/4 cup sugar

For Each Pint Jar:

1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

1/4 teaspoon dill seeds

6 black peppercorns

6 cumin seeds

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 fresh oregano sprig

1 bay leaf

Pinch of ground coriander

Pinch of red chile flakes

When creating the antipasto platter use the pickled vegetables along with alongside figs, salami, other charcuterie meats, and marinated  veggies like artichokes.

Suggested Wine: Regusci Winery Rosé

Have ready six sterilized pint canning jars and two-part lids. Trim the okra stems if needed to fit the whole pods upright in the jars. Otherwise, leave the stems intact.

In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep hot.

Into each of the six jars, put the mustard seeds, dill seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, garlic, oregano, bay leaf, coriander, and chile flakes. Fill the jars with the okra, packing it in upright—alternating the stems up and down if needed—as tightly as possible. Fill the jars with the hot liquid, leaving 1/4-inch headspace, and top each jar with a flat lid and screw band. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, then cool on racks without disturbing.

Refrigerate any jars that failed to seal and use within 2 weeks. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. Wait for at least 1 week before opening a jar to allow the flavor to mellow.

In Goldberry Woods: An Inn and Farm Far Off the Beaten Path But Close to Everything

       Nestled on a peninsular formed where the curve of the Galien River is intersected by a small unnamed creek, Goldberry Woods Bed & Breakfast is definitely off the beaten path even for those who know their way around the backroads of Southwest Michigan.

       “Yet we’re close to Lake Michigan and Red Arrow Highway,” says Julie Haberichter who with her husband Eric own and operate the inn.

       You wouldn’t guess that by looking around at the surrounding woods and lack of traffic sounds. And, of course, that’s part of the charm. Here on 30 acres of woods, old and new orchards, grapevines, and gardens, the Haberichters have re-imagined an old time resort albeit one with all the modern twists—swimming pool, farm-to-table cuisine, kayaks ready to go on the banks of the Galien, walking trails, and cottages and their Innkeeper’s Inn with suites for large groups or individual stays.

       Goldberry Woods is the story of how a couple painstakingly restored a resort that had fallen into disrepair, creating a major destination for those who want to get away from it all.

       But this is also a story about how two engineering majors from the Chicagoland area met in college, discovered they lived just towns apart, married, honeymooned at a B&B that was a working flower farm in Hawaii and decided that quirky inns were the type of places they wanted to stay.

       That is, until, while vacationing in Harbor Country in 2011 they happened upon what had been the River’s Edge B&B in Union Pier and decided that unique places were instead where they wanted to live. By 2012, Julie and Eric had bought the property, restored it and had opened Goldberry Woods B&B.

       A little more explaining is needed here. If you’re like me and are thinking goldberries are some rare, antique type fruit like say lingonberries, marionberries, or gooseberries, you’d be very wrong. It turns out that Goldberry, also known as the River Woman’s Daughter,  was a minor character in Christopher Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, though she never made it into the movie series. An ethereal blonde with a penchant for green velvet gowns, she was from the Withywindle River in the Old Forest and certainly seems as though she’d be at home here surrounded by ripening fruit and veggies.

       It’s obvious that the Haberichters are more familiar with The Lord of the Rings than I am but then Julie also knows someone who learned to speak Elvish, the language of the elves. If that sounds unique, consider this. According to some sources, there are more people now who speak Elvish as it is spoken in The Lord of the Rings movies than Irish.

       Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure but the name Goldberry does speak to the charm of this place where the Haberichters forage and grow old fashioned foods, plant organic, practice sustainability, and  harvest the eggs from the heirloom chickens, ducks, and quail that at times run free range in Goldberry’s gardens.

       Julie brims with excitement as she takes me on a tour, pointing out the novelty and heritage produce she grows. There are pumpkin eggplants also known as pumpkin-on-a-stick which indeed look like miniature pumpkins, ground cherries which she uses in her Jasmine and lemon tea,  Malabar spinach with its rich glossy oversized leaves, and cucumelons (tiny little veggies that can be eaten straight from the vine) among many others.

Because what’s in season changes quickly as does the weather, there’s always something different or a variation of a favorite at Goldberry Woods.

       “The oatmeal we serve at Goldberry Woods is constantly changing from season to season, served hot or chilled based on the outdoor weather and the availability of seasonal fruit,” says Julie, who shared the summer version of her Chilled Coconut Steel Cut Oatmeal (see below).

       There’s also some serious forging going on.

       “We started looking for as many fun and unusual ways to use the wild plants growing throughout our flower beds and woods as possible,” says Julie. “ We have experimented with dandelions, violets, spruce tips, and sassafras to name a few.”

       While she’s talking, Julie brings out glass jars of jam. I try the spruce tips—made from the new tips of the spruce tree at the beginning of spring. Scooping up a small teaspoon to try, I note a definite evergreen taste, refreshing and somewhat woodsy with just a touch of sweetness. It would work on buttered biscuits, toast or even as sauce for lamb and pork. The violet jam is a deep purple and there’s an assortment of pepper jams such as habanero gold pepper jelly with chopped sweet apricots. Unfortunately, Julie didn’t any have jars of the dandelion jam or the pear lime ginger jelly she makes—it goes fast. But she had a large bushel basket full of colorful peppers which would soon become a sweet and spicy jam.

  August, she told me as we walked into the old growth orchard, was begging her to make a yellow floral jelly from goldenrod flowers. So that was the next chore of many on her list.

       Having learned to determine the edibility of certain mushrooms she forages the safe ones from where they grow in the woods, frying up such fungi as puff balls which she describe as having a custard-like interior. In the spring, there are fiddlehead greens easily available, but Julie has to trade for ramps which though they seem to grow wild every place where there are woods, don’t appear anywhere within Goldberry’s 30 acres.

       Now focused fully on running Goldberry Woods and raising their three daughters, Julie previously worked as a chemical engineer in a food processing plant that used a million gallons of corn syrup per day. Now she teaches classes in how to harvest honey–there are, naturally, bee hives on the property.  If all this sounds like a real divergence from a career in corn syrup and a degree in chemical engineering, Julie started an environmental club in high school and gardened in college.

       Unfortunately, you can’t eat at Goldberry Woods unless you’re an overnight guest. But you can stop and visit as the couple has set up their Goldberry Market in a 1970s trailer.  It’s very cute plus they have an outdoors stand on the property. They also take their produce to the New Buffalo Farmer’s Market which is held on Thursday evenings. As for what to do with the unique produce they sell, there are recipes on their website and Julie will always take the time to give ideas. It’s her passion to share the best of what Southwest Michigan produces.

For more information, visit goldberrywoods.com

The following recipes are courtesy of Goldberry Woods.

Chilled Coconut Steel Cut Oatmeal

Serves 8

  • 2 cups coconut milk (1 can)
  • ½ cup steel cut oats
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • ¼ cup of seeds such as quinoa, chia, flax or amaranth
  • ¼-1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Fresh sliced peaches

Bring coconut milk, 2 cups of water, salt, and the steel cut oats to full boil in an 8-cup microwaveable bowl, approximately 6 minutes.  Do not let the oats boil over as this makes a sticky mess.

Remove bowl to the counter and stir.  Allow the concoction to cool down a bit, stirring occasionally, maybe 30 minutes (this is to keep from heating up your fridge!)  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, add the old fashioned oats, seeds, sugar and spices.

You may need to add more liquid at this time to reach your desired consistency.  We find this recipe to be refreshing and like the oatmeal to be a bit thin.  Adjust sweetness to your taste.

If it’s chilly out, reheat in the microwave.

Here’s the fun part.  Stir in whatever looks good to your taste.  Here are some ideas:

  • Use coconut milk and stir in vanilla, shredded coconut, bananas, honey, dried apricots, almonds….
  • Use apple cider and stir in applesauce, sautéed apples, raisins, nuts, maple syrup, walnuts

Goldberry Woods Egg Rollup

Makes about 8 servings

Egg Mixture

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 12 eggs
  • Salt and pepper

Filling

  • 12 ounces precooked meat and veggies of your choosing (Malabar Spinach, sausage, ham, bacon, asparagus, peppers, greens, mushrooms…..)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (we usually use a good sharp cheddar and a shredded Monterey Jack that melts well—feta is great, too)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Combine all the Egg Mixture Ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Spread parchment over a 11×17 jelly roll, tucking into the corners.  Pour the egg mixture onto the parchment paper.

Bake the eggs for 15-20 minutes.  Wait until the top sets completely.

Remove the egg roll pan and spread the filling over the eggs evenly.

Use a towel and the parchment paper to tightly roll up the eggs.  Leave the seam side down and cover the whole rollup with the parchment paper so that it doesn’t dry out.

Return to the oven for 10 more minutes to allow the cheese to melt and the filling to heat up.

Slice into 1 ½ inch slices.

About 8 servings.

Golden Rod Jelly

YIELD: Makes 4 pints

  • 8 cups packed Goldenrod flowers
    4 teaspoons lemon juice
    2 packages pectin powder
    6 cups sugar

Make a goldenrod tea.  Put the flowers in a stainless steel pot and add just enough cool water to cover. Bring to a gentle simmer for 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat and allow the flowers to  steep for at least an hour or overnight in the refrigerator. Strain the flowers through a fine metal sieve.  Gently squeeze excess liquid from the flowers.  Measure 5 cups of liquid.  Add water if necessary.

Place goldenrod tea back into pot and add lemon juice.  Add the pectin, stir, and bring to a boil until pectin is fully dissolved.

Add sugar and bring to a full boil for one minute. Remove from heat and pour into sterile canning jars.  Keep jelly in the fridge for up to one month.

What to do in Union Pier

While visiting Goldberry Woods, take time to stop at St. Julian Winery’s tasting location in Union Pier. St. Julian is the oldest winery in the state. There’s also the Round Barn Tasting Room next door.

Stop at Union Pier Market for a great selection of gourmet goods, beer, and wine. Next door, also on Townline Road, is the Black Currant Bakehouse for made from scratch pastries as well as sandwiches and such distinctive beverages as their Rose Quartz Latte, Chaga Chai, and Honey Lavender Latte. Milda’s Corner Market next to Union Pier Market features foods from over 40 countries and freshly made Lithuanian fare including “Sūreliai” Mini Cheesecake bars, Koluduna (dumplings), and Kugelis.

Head to Townline Beach and then consider dinner at The Grove Restaurant, just off Townline Road and steps from the beach.

For more information on what to do in the area, visit Harbor Country.

The article on Goldberry Woods previously ran in the Herald Palladium.

VERDANT HOLLOW: TRUSTING NATURE AND THE GOOD OF THE EARTH

“It’s hard work but it’s good work,” says Molly Muchow about co-managing the 230-acre Verdant Hollow Farmhttps://www.verdanthollowfarms.com/ on Garr Road in Buchanan with her husband Brett.

It’s also a big change in lifestyle for the couple who until a few years ago were living in Chicago with their three children and Molly was working as a personal chef and Brett as a certified teacher on the city’s South Side. But they like the vision that owner Susan Flynn had when she purchased the land in 2016.

Her goal was to create an Animal Approved Welfare by AGW farm for producing certified grass fed lamb, goat milk, pasture raised pork, vegetables, and eggs.

The AGW designation is the only label guaranteeing that animals are raised outdoors on pastures or ranges for their entire lives on an independent farm using truly sustainable, high-welfare farming practices. It’s an independent, nonprofit farm certification program. one of the top five fastest growing certifications and label claims in the country. Welfare Approved farm using regenerative practices to produce seasonal vegetables,

Obtaining these certifications was a goal not just for raising animals to bring to market but also to create a place to host visitors for retreats, education, and to carry forth the concept of regenerative practices in raising the best produce possible. It’s a type of farming designed to reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity with the end result of reducing carbon output.

It is a beautiful piece of land, with hollows, woods, pastures, and an 1860s-era barn repurposed by Stanley Tigerman, an award winning architect whose work incorporates an urban whimsicalness to rural structures.

         “We plan to build six cabins—it will be a place for people for relaxation and detach from technology, returning to the pace of what farm life was,” says Flynn who though she’s from Chicago knows the area well because she has had a home in nearby in the area for the last two decades.  

         “That would be before the 1940s,” says Brett.

He adds that Verdant Hollow is a no-till farm.

I tell him that as an urban dweller, the concept of no-tilling evades me. Brett explains that tilling upsets the ecosystem of the soil. No-tilling also provides protection from soil erosion. To further protect the soil, in the winter they cover crop, using plants to protect and nourish the soil.

“We also don’t use any treated wood here,” says Brett.

         “Our animals are pasteurized year round,” says Molly, noting that the goats have seven acres to roam.

As part of their educational outreach, they also invite school groups out to visit, showing them the rhythms of what farm life was list long ago.

         “The kids really liked the chickens,” says Flynn.

         They also liked the goats and sheep and the two Colorado Mountain dogs—June and Case—who protect them.

         “Two of them can take out a mountain lion or cougar and are always on the alert to protect the other animals,” says Brett.

I must have passed some unspoken Colorado Mountain Dogs’ test because today they’re just friendly as can be, letting the goats come up to the fencing so I can pet them.

But while I’m doing so, I come under the watchful eye of a llama who is also a guardian animal and seems less disposed to accept me than the dogs. Indeed, he stares from within what looks like a guard box that allows a wide open view of the animals in the large pen. The latter encloses a large, wooded area where the animals can munch away to their hearts delight. That also includes the Katahdin Hair Sheep, prized for the taste of their meat and heritage hogs who are allowed to run free through the woods as well. What’s raised here is sold to local restaurants and can be purchased by anyone at the farm.

It’s all still a work in progress. Besides building guest cabins, they also laying out new roads, erecting a welcome pavilion and expanding green and hoop houses, ensuring a longer growing season for microgreens and starting vegetables earlier in the spring as well as the medicinal herbs they grow. There is are solar panels, a system for collecting rainwater, big areas for composting, yurts, and meditation platforms.  The farm is  also part of pilot project for Cannabidiol (CBD) which is an active ingredient in cannabis derived from the hemp plant that’s can be used to help reduce pain, insomnia, and anxiety and features CBG (cannabigerol) which is more potent for healing as well as beneficial in treating such conditions as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and cancer.

In all, they’ve come a long way and there’s still so much they want to do. But living on the farm yields a sense of satisfaction, of accomplishment, and of producing from the land, food that is good, healthful, and helpful.

Verdant Hollow Farms Recipes

Slow Cooker Bone Broth

1 whole pasture raised chicken (stew or soup bird)

2 whole carrots, skin on, scrubbed, and quartered

1 whole onion, skin on, clean and cut in half

3 stalks celery, clean, and quartered

1 whole head of garlic, clean, and cut in half horizontally

1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

Optional additions: clean veggie scraps, fresh ginger, fresh herbs, dried mushrooms

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and cover with cold water. 

Set to low and let simmer for 12-24 hours (the longer the better).  Strain through a cheese cloth and add salt to taste. 

Drink on its own, as a base for soups, or stir in some cooked rice and winter greens for a quick lunch.

Molly’s Notes:  

I always freeze a couple containers to have on hand when someone gets the sniffles or just needs a warm cup of goodness!

*I keep a baggie in the freezer to collect any carrot peels, veggie scraps, or chicken bones while cooking other meals.  Add these scraps to your slow cooker for extra flavor and a way to reduce kitchen waste.

Carnitas

1 3-4 pounds bone in or boneless pork shoulder or butt roast

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon salt

1tablespoon ground pepper

2 tablespoons bacon fat, olive oil, or avocado oil

¼ cup fresh lime juice

¼ cup fresh orange juice

Fresh lime juice and salt to taste

Chopped cilantro

Taco toppings: shredded lettuce or cabbage, queso fresco, salsa, pickled or raw red onions

Warm tortillas (Molly Muchow prefers the corn, but flour works also)

Season your pork shoulder roast with the chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Heat your oil in a large sauté pan.  Once it is hot enough to sizzle with a drop of water, add your shoulder roast.  Brown on both sides and transfer to your slow cooker.  Add your lime, orange juice, and a ½ cup of water.  Cook on low for 8-10 or until it starts to fall apart from the bone.

Preheat your oven to 425.  While the roast is still hot, shred with two forks, discarding the bone. Spread the shredded meat and a cup of the juices on a large sheet pan.  Sprinkle an additional 2-3 tsp of salt over the pork and place in the oven.  Stirring every five minutes until slightly crispy, but still tender.  

Squeeze additional lime juice (to taste) over the shredded pork and serve with warm tortillas, chopped fresh cilantro, and any of your favorite taco toppings.

*The pork roast can also be slow cooked in the oven.  Once seared on all sides, place in a deep roasting pan with the juices/water, cover with foil and cook at 325 for 3.5-4.5 hours.

Lamb Curry

½ medium onion, diced

3 medium carrots, peeled and diced

½ head cauliflower, diced

1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped

1 tablespoon ground lamb

3 tablespoons ground curry powder

2 tablespoons coconut oil (can substitute with other oil you have on hand)

1-2 handfuls of chopped greens (kale, chard, or spinach)

Chili flakes (optional)

2 teaspoons salt

Cooked rice (I prefer jasmine or basmati)

Sauté the onion, carrot, cauliflower, garlic, and ginger over medium heat until soft.  Season with salt and add the ground lamb.  Sauté the lamb and vegetables until the lamb is browned (5-10 minutes).  Add the curry powder (and chili flakes to taste) and continue cooking until it is well incorporated into the lamb and vegetables.  Remove from heat and fold in your chopped greens, letting them wilt in the pan.  Serve over rice with a side of warm naan on a cold winter day!

*This recipe is a great way to use up any veggies you have in your fridge.  Feel free to add any other chopped vegetables you have on hand (zucchini, fennel, peppers, etc.)

For more information: 773-882-4431; verdanthollowfarms.com

Hummingbird Lounge: Appalachia cooking Meets New American Cuisine on Michigan’s Sunset Coast.

         Raised in Southern Appalachia in Stagg Creek, a slip of a town tucked in a corner of North Carolina hills and hollows near the Tennessee state line, Shane Graybeal describes the region as “food heaven” and the beginning of his fascination with food.

         “Both my grandparents had farms,” says Graybeal, who after graduating from culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina worked in France, Italy, Washington D.C. and spent seven years in Chicago working at such well known restaurants as  Bin 36 and Sable Kitchen & Bar. Along the way he was inducted into Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the world’s oldest, largest and most prestigious food and wine society.

         But he missed small town living and being close to the farms where he sourced his foods.

          “I’ve been a fan of Southwest Michigan for many years,” says Graybeal who now is executive chef at the recently opened Hummingbird Lounge in New Buffalo. “When I was living and working in Chicago, I  sourced a lot from Southwest Michigan.”

         Among the local food producers they use are the Mick Klug Farm in St. Joseph and Kaminski Farms Meats in Three Oaks.

         Another plus for Graybeal was being back in a small town.

         “Though compared to Stagg’s Creek, which has a population of about 300, New Buffalo seems like a big city,” Graybeal adds with a laugh.

         Graybeal describes his food as a “cheffy take on American classics, comfortable food all dressed up.” I loved the description but was surprised to learn that “cheffy” is an actual word meaning relating to or characteristic of a chef.

         His take on food matches the overall philosophy of Hummingbird’s owner and operator Ben Smock who wanted to create a cocktail bar and restaurant that was comfortable and “served food you want to eat.” The lounge opened in April and is located in what had been a grand home built in 1901 that once housed a creperie in  New Buffalo.

         Smock has an extensive background in the food industry starting when he worked at his grandfather’s bowling alley in Davison, Michigan where he grew up. He graduated from Michigan State University’s hospitality program, worked at McCormick Place, Levy Restaurant group and the Ravinia Music Festival and started his own consulting business where he provided food service planning and events. He’s also opened a number of venues.

         The menu changes frequently, depending on what’s in season. Graybeal was excited because the first peaches were hitting the market along with blueberries and raspberries.

         “I’m thinking fruit cobblers,” he says.

         He also brings a bit of Appalachia to the menu.

         “Food is very important there,” he says, making one want to jump in a car and head south to see what he’s talking about. “And I think in the right context—pickling, charcuterie, foraging–it comes across very well.”

Earlier in the season, he took ramps, cut them into a tiny matchstick size and flash fried the garlicky wild greens to add to an asparagus dish. We’re guessing that the round super thin pickled with cherry Kool-Aid hails from the mountains as well—and they’re delicious.

Graybeal also made ramp vinegar which he now uses in some of his dishes. Now with fresh Michigan peaches available, he makes a jam to pair with pork, but kicks it up a notch with the addition of jalapeno peppers.

But, he notes, the food is a side note to the cocktails and what’s on the menu are more like a tapas bar—nibbles that are share,able. The Lounge’s cocktail team takes what Graybeal is preparing in the kitchen and concocts drinks to accent his flavors.

The cocktails—which also change frequently—have in the past included a Smoked Pineapple Margarita, a tequila based drink with seasoned and smoked pineapple and salted foam, The HRG Manhattan using Traverse City Whisky Company blend along with sweet Vermouth, Angostura bitters and a fancy cherry and A Real Dandy Old Fashioned with rum, demerara syrup, bitters and expressed orange. For those who don’t drink, there are spirit-free cocktails. There’s also a small wine list offering by the glass or bottle and local brews.

         Why did they name the place Hummingbird? Smock says they chose it because hummingbirds drink all day and it just fit because they are open throughout the season. For warm weather dining, there’s a large back porch and garden area. The garage has been redone and is now an inviting event space. The interior of the restaurant itself is very cozy with a curated antiquated feel to go with the history of the home including a fireplace flanked by columns, its mantel topped with a large mirror and coach lanterns, cozy rooms, polished wood floors, and the deep gray walls are accented with lots of white woodwork. The bar is sleek—less Victorian and more urban trendy which makes for a nice contrast.

Chef Graybeal’ s Pork and Peaches

Rub pork belly with salt, sugar, and vanilla powder. Place in pot. Cover and marinate overnight. The next day cover with lard and cook on low heat for three to four hours. Cool and then crisp up in a hot pan until golden brown and tender.

Peach Jam

Cook together for two hours, them finish with a squeeze of lime juice. Puree in blend until smooth and cool.

To serve—crisp the pork belly, put two ounces of jam on a warmed plate, top with the pork belly, slice a peach and toss with aged sherry vinegar, basil, parsley and mint and a little olive oil. Place on top of the pork.

Beef Skewers with Whipped Feta

For the Beef Skewers:

Grind the brisket, combine with the other ingredients and whip with the paddle attachment. Form into balls and then into long rolls, place each roll on a skewer.  Grill for six minutes on both sides.

For the Whipped Feta:

Combine in the mixer, whip using the the whip attachment until light and fluffy-like similar to icing.

Just for fun, I thought I’d include a recipe for Kook-Aid brined veggies.

Trish Yearwood’s Fruit Drink Pickles

Drain the brine from the pickles into a bowl. Add the fruit drink packet and sugar into the brine and stir until dissolved. Pour the brine back to the jar, discarding any that’s leftover. Refrigerate at least 2 days and up to 1 month.     

Woodstock & Smoke: Volkswagens Transformed into Smokers Create Great Barbecue Hit the Road In Southwest Michigan

        If you missed the 1960s, remember it fondly, and like great barbecue, Tim Carrigan, owner of Woodstock and Smoke, a food fleet of food trucks with a groovy vibe and his son, Max, have a treat for you. A few years back, they started with one old Volkswagen Beetle (also nicknamed in the 1960s as VW bugs), painted it green, removed the chassis, and inserted a large smoker. Oh, and they painted the exterior with flowers just like the Love Bugs of that era which were supposed to represent peace and, you guessed it, love. The term referred to cutely painted VW Beetles which were so popular that two movies were made centered around the concept—Disney’s 1968  “The Love Bug” a comedy about a Love Bug that comes to life starring Dean Jones and Michele Lee and a sequel titled “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”

        To complete the look of that era, the chefs often wear brightly colored tie-dye Woodstock and Smoke t-shirts.

        Garrison says it started off as one of those I’m bored type of things—though with working as a chef at Fernwood Botanical Garden in Niles in Southwest Michigan, catering, and teaching culinary classes at Buchanan Public Schools it’s hard to figure out how he had time to be bored—and decided to something with the smoker and VW he had.

        “I always loved Volkswagens,” he says. “I had a Volkswagen and a grill and so I drew one up and had someone do the fabrication. Then it sat out in a field  for a year. Someone saw it sitting there and asked if they could use it for a graduation party. It was a hit.”

        Now there are six with four more in the works. One of the existing ones is a pizza Love Bug that reaches temperatures of 600° and can bake a pizza in four minutes.

It’s not easy finding cheap Volkswagens but necessary to keep costs down. Carrigan has sourced them from as far away as Warsaw, Indiana, and Jackson and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Then they fix them up. And some sure do need fixing. One, he says, had a tree growing through it, another’s roof was crushed by a falling tree.

        “We find them in sheds, barns, fields, wherever,” says Max who completed his culinary degree at Grand Valley State University; his father’s degree is from the culinary program at Grand Rapids Community College.

        The smokers, at five-feet tall and six-feet long, take up all but the hood and back of the VW. The  use apple and cherry wood to produce the heat needed for a day at a site like Watermark. They also have to pack enough wood to keep the smoker going all day long.

        On a busy Memorial Day weekend, the Love Bugs were busy smoking and grilling throughout Southwest Michigan. Watermark Brewing Company has them booked for every Saturday and Sunday and that’s where Max was when I stopped by to taste their smoked Brussel sprouts. I was disappointed to see that they were sold out of a lot of items including the sprouts.

        “I’m waiting for more food to arrive—we’ve been so busy I called for more,” Max told me.

        Fortunately they still had their slow roasted pork which is then shredded and piled high on a bun. Max made up a sandwich for me and then gave me a sampling of sauces so I could decide which one I wanted as a topping for the pork. I almost declined a sauce as the meat was so tender and tasty. Plus there were so many choices—including Blueberry Habanero (which they sell by itself because it’s so popular), a classic red barbeque sauce, Carolina Gold—apple cider vinegar, chili pepper flakes, and a tad of local honey, spicy strawberry, and a cherry barbecue sauce. It was hard to decide. My favorite was  a white sauce made with mayonnaise, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and fresh garlic.

        “It’s mayo based,” says Carrigan. “You can find it in some of the southern states but it’s rare.”

        I arrived earlier the next day so I wouldn’t miss out on the Brussel sprouts and was surprised to see so many people ordering them including Richard Russell who kindly allowed me to photograph his pulled pork with sprout. When I said I was surprised they were so popular (my husband thinks they’re akin to poison) he said he thought many people were served the overcooked mushy ones that didn’t have any flavor.

        “I was always in the kitchen growing up,” says Carrigan, who brought Max into the business when he was 14.

        “I learned to cook from my dad,” says Max, as he was loading up 250 pounds of meat for the following day. “In the summer we cook around 300 pounds.”

        Not only do they grill meats and Brussel sprouts,  big pans in the smoker are filled with the family recipe for baked beans and other fishes such their deluxe macaroni, a cholesterol-defying dish, is made with three types of cheese and meat such as their smoked pork put on the top. The meat comes from various local butchers including Lowry’s Meat & Groceries on River Street in Buchanan, a place that’s been in business for more than 50 years. There’s also teriyaki, smoked corn beef, grilled local asparagus when in season, and Max is serving Korean pork and barbecue at Watermark.

        You can find one of the VWs at the Bridgeman Farmer’s Market on Sunday, downtown New Buffalo on Thursday night, Green Stem in Niles and the South Haven Farmer’s Market on Wednesday. They also recently rented a family restaurant on the southeast corner of U.S. 12 and Red Arrow Highway in New Buffalo and though they’re not serving food there (or at least not yet), that’s where they do their food prep and load up the Volkswagens.

        “We also do car shows, food festivals, concerts for the St. Joseph Symphony Orchestra, wineries like Lemon Creek Winery, and parties,” says Garrison. To check out where they’ll be, visit their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/WoodStockandGrill

        “I’ve always been fascinated by all aspects of cooking,” says Carrigan, who with his team create recipes. It was Steve Gargis, who has been with Carrigan’s catering company for seven years and is now also doing Woodstock and Smoke who came up with the Blueberry Habanero Sauces and also has a jalapeno sweet corn that’s very popular. They also make desserts such as brownies, fruit buckle,

Others involved in the business include Melanie  Hutchinson who coordinates events and has been with Carrigan’s JML Catering for 13 years.  JML represents the first initials of his three children. Carrigan married his high school sweetheart Kaylene who works as a nurse though she helps out when things get really busy. Like Max, the other two children grew up in the business. Jayla, the oldest daughter became a nurse but helps out as does his youngest, Lexi, who is studying to be an audiologist at Grand Valley State University. Son-in-law Dough Zundel helps train new hires on how to use the smokers.

Carrigan describes himself as liking to keep things simple (though we don’t really believe that) and notes that he still lives in the same house he grew up in.

Like I mentioned earlier, Love Bugs used to be about Peace and Love, now we can add barbecue as well.

Sidebar: Alabama White Barbecue Sauce     

Tim Carrigan said white barbecue sauce was unique to the south and hard to find even there.  A Google search showed that white barbecue sauce originated in Alabama around 1925 at Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ located in Decatur, Alabama. Gibson’s now bottles the sauce and people use it not only on barbecued meats but also as a dip, on pizza, and anything else you want. It can be ordered from the restaurant’s website, bigbobgibson.com or, of course, Amazon.

There’s even a “Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Legends from a Legendary Barbecue Joint: A Cookbook by Chris Lilly,” the great-grandson-in-law of Big Bob and executive chef at Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ.

Big Bob’s White Sauce

Recipe courtesy of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • ½ half teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

The following recipes are courtesy of Woodstock and Smoke

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

  • 3 pounds Brussel Sprouts
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Toss the sprouts with the oil and add in additional seasoning. Place in the smoker for 30-35 minutes or till done.

Pork Butt Rub

  • 1 cup coarse salt
  • ½ cup granulated garlic
  • ¼ cup pepper
  • ¼ cup granulated onion
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup dry mustard

Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container until ready to use. Rub on the pork butts and let them rest in the refrigerator a few hours before putting them into the smoker. Cook until fork tender and meat shreds easily.

Hungry for Harbor Country: Food, Friendship, and Fun in Southwest Michigan

Lindsay Navama

         Growing up in Tahoe City, a one stoplight town in California’s High Sierra Mountains, Lindsay Navama yearned for the big city life. Los Angeles offered just that, and she was happy there in her career as a recipe developer, personal chef, and  owner of Cookie Culture, a boutique bakery.  

Lake Life Cranberry Limeade Cosmo

         But when she and her husband, David, moved to Chicago for work, Navama felt unmoored and wondered what to do next in her life.

         Lured by articles about the wonders of Harbor Country, the swath of countryside starting at the state line and curving north along Lake Michigan to Sawyer, Michigan, the couple decided to check it out.

         Unfortunately, upon arrival the two were totally underwhelmed.

“We heard people call it the ‘Hamptons of the Midwest but we thought is this it?” says Navama.

Whistle Stop Asian Noodle Salad

         The two didn’t return for several years,  but when they did—they both experienced what she describes as the region’s magic.  It was more than just the beautiful beaches, the eight quaint small towns each unique in its own way, lush farmlands, orchards, rivers, and woods, there was also an appealing vibe. Each visit brought new discoveries– an estate winery, a fun delicatessen that became like a second home, a Swedish bakery that first opened for business in 1912–and new friends.

         Wanting to spend more time there, the couple moved into a small place in New Buffalo and dubbed it “Camp Navama.” There Navama cooked and entertained, developing her own recipes and tweaking them when needed to feed friends on gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, keto, paleo, and other diets. She learned the rhythms of the land and seasons such as when deep blue Concord grapes were  peaking at Dinges’ Farm in Three Oaks or when an order of fresh caught sturgeon arrived at Rachel Collins’ Flagship Specialty Foods and Fish Market in Lakeside.

Buffalo Cauliflower

         In ways it was a convergence of Navama’s experiences growing up in the High Sierras and adulthood in the ever-so-hip L.A. food and cultural scene. Navama identified with many Harbor Country residents who moved to or had second homes in the area and brought that big city sensibility with them when it came to art, food, entertaining but appreciated a more rural way of living and a lot less concrete.

         Navama no longer felt lost and instead saw the direction her life should take.

 “I wanted to preserve those memories, great meals, and good times in Mason jars,” she says.     

Of course, jars can’t hold memories, but paper does and so Navama  wrote “Hungry for Harbor Country: Recipes and Stories From the Coast of Southwest Michigan,” (Midway 2020; $34.95).

A great cookbook with 50 recipes and photos by Gabrielle Sukich of Benton Harbor, it’s also a travel guide with small maps, listings of restaurants, wineries, intriguing hideaways, and everything else the area has to offer.

“I never saw myself as living any other place than California and here I am in a tiny town in the Midwest,” she says. “And I’m beyond grateful it happened.”

Whistle Stop Asian Noodle Salad

4–6 servings 

Contributed by Whistle Stop Grocery and Chef Eva Frahm

1 pound angel hair or capellini pasta

5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced

¼ cup plus ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

¾ cup hoisin sauce, divided

1 medium red bell pepper

1 medium yellow bell pepper 

¼ cup seasoned rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce

Sriracha, to taste (optional)

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, chopped

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the pasta water, if desired. Add the angel hair and cook 7 to 8 minutes until just al dente, so the noodles are still slightly firm and not overcooked. Drain into a colander, rinse gently with cold water, let drain again, then place in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms in ¼ cup of the olive oil for about 7 minutes, or until lightly browned. Season with ⅛ teaspoon of the salt and ⅛ teaspoon of the pepper. Remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons of the hoisin sauce. Stir to coat and set aside.

Julienne the bell peppers by cutting them into ⅛-inch-thick strips. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining 10 tablespoons hoisin sauce, the remaining ⅓ cup olive oil, the rice vinegar, the garlic chili sauce, and the Sriracha (if using). Set aside.

Add the mushrooms, peppers, scallions, cilantro, and sauce mixture to the noodles. Toss gently to incorporate. Season to taste with the remaining salt and the remaining pepper and transfer to a serving bowl or store covered in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days.

Lake Life Cranberry Limeade Cosmo

1 serving 

3 ounces favorite vodka

1 ounce triple sec

2 ounces cranberry juice cocktail

3 tablespoons limeade concentrate, thawed

a cocktail shaker and martini glass in the freezer for about 20 minutes.

Add the vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and limeade concentrate to the chilled cocktail shaker. Shake your booty while you shake your Cosmo for about 10 seconds, because why not?!

Reprinted with permission from Hungry For Harbor Country by Lindsay Navama, Agate Publishing, Photos © Gabrielle Sukich.

Golden Raspberries: The Perfect End to Autumn

Amber colored with a touch of light pink, golden raspberries are a rare find compared to their red and black equivalents. But they’re worth the search.

“They taste like raspberries dipped in honey,” says Cindy Grewett who raises golden raspberries at Kitty Hill Organics, her 14-acre farm in Dowagiac, Michigan, a small town located close to the Indiana-Michigan border.

“Or candied raspberries,” adds her assistant Ashley Morris.

Golden raspberries at Kitty Hill Organics in Dowagiac, Michigan. Photo Jane Simon Ammeson.

“Have you ever tasted one?” Ron Goldy, Senior Extension Educator at the Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center, Michigan State University, asks me when I call to get more details about golden raspberries and who else might be growing them in Southwest Michigan.

I tell him I have—Grewett sells them at the St. Joseph Farmers Market held on Saturdays on the bluff overlooking the pier and where the St. joseph River flows into Lake Michigan. People also stop by at the farm where she and her husband live in a 150-year-old farmhouse but it’s best to call ahead to make sure she hasn’t sold out.

Golden Raspberry Custard with Chocolate Sauce. Photo by Jane Simon Ammeson.

“They’re sweeter than red raspberries,” I say.

Cindy Grewett adds golden raspberries to a glass of Tabor Hill Sparkling Wine. Photo by Jane Simon Ammeson.

“But they still taste like raspberries,” Goldy says and he’s right.

I’ve never thought of red raspberries as anything but sweet and tasty. Yet compared to goldens they’re tough stuff with a taste that’s stronger and with just a little more bite.

They may be milder and sweeter but goldens are also more fragile than their black and red counterparts and
thus transporting them is a trickier and more expensive proposition as they’re more likely to bruise and crush.

Kitty Hill Organics. Photo by Jane Simon Ammeson.

“That’s one reason why people don’t grow them,” says Grewett.

“We know what we know– we all get used to eating things we know and are familiar with like red raspberries,” says Goldy, offering another reason why they aren’t as popular as reds.

There’s truth to that. How many of us have bought kohlrabi lately?

“I don’t know of anyone else growing them in the area,” he adds.

All this makes them more of niche market type of fruit, found more often at farmers’ markets than in stores.
There are other distinctions as well, Grewett explains.

Unlike red and black raspberries that have two growing seasons and often are referred to as everbearing, goldens fruit just once in late August and into September.

When looking for goldens, remember they’re also called by the rather bland name of yellow raspberries and the much more exciting champagne raspberries.

More golden raspberries. Photo by Jane Simon Ammeson.

Speaking of that bubbly drink, Maria Neville, owner of Body Logic in downtown St. Joseph suggested adding golden raspberries to a freshly poured glass of champagne, prosecco, or other sparkling wine. It’s about easy as can be except for getting the cork out of the bottle and but the look and taste is both elegant and spectacular. If you’re not in the mood for a cocktail, Grewett suggests adding goldens to seltzer water or lemonade.

“That is if you have any left,” she says, noting that they’re so tasty as is, they’re often consumed straight out of the box.

Grewett also likes goldens, a naturally muted strain of red raspberries, because of their health benefits.
“They’re full of vitamins B and C,” she says, adding that they also contain folic acid, iron, copper, and ellagic acid, a phenolic compound thought to prevent cancer. And despite their delicate looks, goldens are a powerhouse of dietary fiber accounting for approximately 20% of its weight.

Photo by Jane Simon Ammeson

Eating healthy and raising pesticide-free produce is one reason Grewett left a job as a hostess at Tosi’s Restaurant in Stevensville, Michigan one requiring her to dress in heels and formal wear and become a full-time farmer. She already was growing organic fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs for friends and family as well as for herself but wanted to make it easily available for others as well.

Now, when you stop by the farm, she’s typically wearing old jeans or shorts, t-shirts, thick gloves, and knee-high rubber boots good for mucking around in the dirt and mud.

“When people bring their children here and they see carrots or here and they see carrots or fresh beets growing out of the ground or raspberries on the vine they get so excited,” she says. “I like that they can pick and eat a tomato still warm from the sun and not have to worry about chemicals. It’s a great way to show kids—and adults—the connection to what we grow and what we eat.”

Cindy Grewett’ s Golden Raspberry Custard with Chocolate Sauce

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons corn starch

1/3 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

Golden raspberries

Chocolate sauce

Place milk, butter and vanilla extract in a saucepan and cook at medium heat until mixture is simmering being sure to stir frequently so mixture doesn’t burn.

Remove mixture from heat before it comes to a boil. Mix cornstarch, sugar, salt, and egg yolks in a saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Return milk and butter mixture to the stove and slowly add cornstarch mixture (if you add too quickly egg yolks will cook), whisking constantly until custard thickens enough to coat the bottom of a spoon, approximately 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove from heat. Let cool. Top with golden raspberries and then drizzle chocolate sauce over the custard. Serve.

Red & Golden Raspberry White Chocolate Napoleon. Photo courtesy of Driscoll’s Berries.

Red and Golden Raspberry White Chocolate Napoleon

Recipe courtesy of Driscoll’s Berries

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

4 ounces chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips (about 2/3 cup)

4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese

1/2 cup part-skim or reduced fat ricotta cheese

1 1/3 cup each red and golden raspberries

3 sheets filo dough (14 x 18 inches each)

Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside a second baking sheet and parchment paper of the same size.

Place one sheet of filo on work surface.

Brush with one-third butter and sprinkle with half sugar. Cover with the second sheet of filo, brush with one-third butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Lay third sheet of filo on top and brush with remaining butter. Trim filo edges evenly and cut stack into 18 rectangles, about 2-1/2 x 4-inches each.

Arrange rectangles in a single layer on parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with second piece of parchment and second baking sheet. (Bake in two batches if pieces don’t fit in one pan.) Bake 15 to 17 minutes until filo is golden brown, lifting top baking sheet to check. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Heat white chocolate in a glass or ceramic bowl in microwave 60 seconds, or just until chocolate is softened. Stir until melted. Stir in cream cheese and mix until smooth. Stir in ricotta and mix well. Mixture can be prepared up to four hours ahead, covered and refrigerated.

To assemble the layers, spread a thin layer (about 1 1/2 teaspoons) white chocolate and cheese mixture on each of the six filo pieces. Top with about 12 raspberries. Spread a layer of filling on six more filo pieces, place white chocolate side down over raspberries. Repeat filling and raspberries on each napoleon. Reserve 1 1/2 teaspoons white chocolate mixture and set aside.

Spread remaining white chocolate mixture on last six pieces of filo. Place white chocolate side down over berries. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and secure a raspberry on top each napoleon with a dab of the reserved white chocolate mixture. Serve within 30 minutes.

Abra Berens of Granor Farms in Southwest Michigan Nominated for a James Beard Award.

              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 of 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.

Abra Berens’s Vinegar Braised Onions with Seared Whitefish and Arugula

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.

Abra Berens’s Roasted Parsnips w/Fresh Goat Cheese, Pecans and Pickled Apricots

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.

Tortillas from Molino Tortilleria

              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.

Variations

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.

Garlic Mayo

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.

A Century of Garlic

More than two decades ago, Penny Murphy, owner of Ma’s Organic in Benton Township in southwest Michigan made a commitment to a 90-year-old woman, the aunt of an acquaintance who had immigrated to America from the Ukraine 75 years earlier.

               “She wanted me to continue growing the Ukraine rose garlic she’d brought with her,” Penny told me when I visited her farm six years ago for an article about garlic.

               Last week I received an email from Penny saying that though her crop was about two weeks late, she had harvested and was curing this year’s garlic. It all comes from the six bulbs of Ukrainian rose garlic she’d been given all those years ago and that it would be ready to buy around August 10th. This is always a big deal for her customers who are garlic aficionados. Once Penny puts out the word that her garlic is available—she typically raises over 1000 heads—it sells out quickly. I know the when I stopped by a few years ago to pick some up, there were lots of cars in front of her old farmhouse there to buy it.

Garlic has been around for a long time—the Chinese domesticated it about seven thousand years ago and now grow 80% of the world’s garlic. That’s often the garlic we find in grocery stores. Penny told me that once people tried the Ukrainian Rose variety they never wanted to go back because of its rich flavor.

Penny also gave me a recipe for the garlic paste she makes. Since it’s been six years since I last ran it, I thought I’d share it again.

Ma’s Garlic Paste

1 Ukrainian rose garlic bulb

1 tablespoon olive oil

Dash lemon juice

Salt

Preheat oven to 350° F degrees.

Nip off the top of the garlic bulb (the part attached to the stem). Wrap in foil, cook in oven for one hour. Let cool down, bringing it to a warm – not cool – temperature. Twist the garlic head at the root end, squeezing out the warm garlic into a blender or a food processor. Add olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Mix until smooth. Store in refrigerator until needed.

Ma’s Organics is at 476 North Benton Center Road, Benton Harbor. Call 944-0240; masorganicgarden@gmail.com