Tag Archives: Farm Crawl

A Meal for Sharing: Turkish Inspired Baked Eggs

Turkish Inspired Baked Eggs reminds me of the homey cooking I was treated to while working in Turkey.  It is a bright tomato and chick pea saucy stew in which you bake/poach eggs until they are just set.  The perfect bite should be scooped up from the pan with flat bread, catching a bit of the veg with a glorious bite of baked egg with golden, soft yolk.  You can make it a bit more fancy by baking the eggs in individual pans of sauce for a dinner party, but it is best eaten from the main skillet family style.  That is one of the best parts of eating with friends in Turkey, the shared feast placed around a central mat, everyone passing portions and plates, dipping into platters with your flat bread, and sharing the meal in a way that is more than just sitting around the table together.

This is also a recipe that was requested by some dear friends, Jill and Sean from Blue Gate Farm in Iowa.  Jill and Sean got Dave and I hooked on farm fresh eggs. In fact, they’ve ruined us forever from store bought.  We stumbled onto their farm (almost literally) from an amazing event that they organize each year called the Farm Crawl where a number of small farms highlight their wares and put together a ton of fun for anyone who wants to come by and visit.  Dave and I belonged to the Blue Gate Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) while in Iowa and “upgraded” our order to include their truly free range eggs and honey.  At the end of that first season with the CSA Dave and I bemoaned the end of the lovely weekly boxes of vegetable treasures and the eggs, and we grumbled as we had to start buying the veg from the grocery store again, but we didn’t throw a hissy fit until that first Saturday breakfast of pancakes and eggs.  Oh those despicable eggs…

One of my Eating Culture classes visiting Blue Gate Farm.  Sean and Jill are at the far left and the amazing chickens are in the background on the far right.

One of my Eating Culture classes visiting Blue Gate Farm. Sean and Jill are at the far left and the amazing chickens are in the background on the far right.

I’ve always enjoyed eggs and honestly I didn’t notice a great difference when I first switched to the farm raised eggs.  They certainly were prettier with the nice, tall standing golden yolks, and they were delicious, but they tasted like eggs to me.  My poor taste buds simply didn’t recognize the shift until I tried to go back to the grocery store version.  Dave and I took a bite and looked at each other with horror on our faces.  What was this thing we were trying to eat?  I quickly fired off an email to Jill imploring her that if there was any kindness in their souls they would still allow us to buy eggs from them over the winter.  This started a lovely tradition where every other week Jill or Sean would show up to our favorite brewery (Peacetree Brewing in Knoxville, IA) with a cooler of eggs.  We would come, buy a couple dozen eggs, eat a take out dinner from the local Chinese restaurant, and enjoy a lovely pint of our favorite frosty offerings from Peacetree.  We still miss that ritual!

Little Man playing at Blue Gate Farm. It’s nice when the place where you get your food is also a fun place to run around.

The Turkish Style Baked Eggs recipe is one that I put together to highlight those glorious eggs from Blue Gate Farm and the sense of community it inspires.  It is a dish meant to be shared with friends and loved ones, served with tons of flat bread and preferably with a couple of pints of your favorite frosty beverage (a nice sparkling cider works well here too).

Note: Small children, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are generally discouraged from eating eggs that are not hard cooked.  For our own little one, we scramble up an egg or two on the side and then serve his scrambled egg with a liberal dousing of the stew.

Turkish Style Baked EggsTurkish Inspired Baked Eggs
Ingredients:
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chipped
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. cumin, ground
1 tsp. coriander, ground
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. tomato paste
½ cup water
4 eggs
Flat bread (see Using Frozen Pizza Dough recipe)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425º.
  2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tbsp. olive oil. When the oil is hot, tip the onions and garlic into the pan and sauté until soft but not browned.
    Onions and Garlic
  3. Add the chick peas to the pan along with the smoked paprika, cumin, coriander and thyme. Stir to combine and sauté for a couple of minutes, or until the spices start to give off a slightly toasty aroma.
    Chickpeas and spices added to the pan.

    Chickpeas and spices added to the pan.

    Everything starts to look toasty and brown.

    Everything starts to look toasty and brown.

  4. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, tomato paste and water to the pan and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and partially cover the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes. The sauce will reduce a bit and concentrate its flavors, but you still want plenty of liquid.
    Adding the diced tomatoes and tomato paste for depth.

    Adding the diced tomatoes and tomato paste for depth.

    The stew thickens, so add just a little water to loosen it up and provide the delicious sauce to bake the eggs in.

    The stew thickens, so add just a little water to loosen it up and provide the delicious sauce to bake the eggs in.

  5. While the vegetables are simmering, prepare the flat bread. See Using Frozen Pizza Dough for directions, or simply warm up store bought flat bread in the oven.
    The stew is ready for the eggs.
  6. Taste the chickpea and tomato stew for seasoning and make any adjustments that you would like, adding a little more water if the sauce has reduced too much. Then make four shallow indentations in the stew to hold the eggs. This won’t be perfect, but it helps to keep the egg together and to mark where you want to drop them. Carefully break the eggs individually into a ramekin or small bowl, and tip them into the four indentations. Season the eggs with a dusting of salt, pepper and paprika.
  7. Place the skillet into the preheated oven and bake until the whites are just set but the yolks are still soft, about 5-8 minutes.
    Turkish Style Baked Eggs
  8. Serve this directly from the pan at the table, alongside a fresh green salad and with copious amounts of flat bread. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Turkish Inspired Baked Eggs recipe.

Farm fresh eggs

A Corn Maze and the Making of Fall Traditions

When Dave and I first started dating I was surprised to learn that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving also; though their holiday is a month earlier (on the second Monday in October).  I’d always thought of Thanksgiving as a uniquely American holiday, but in fact it is not.  The importance of the Thanksgiving meal, however, does vary greatly between the two nations.  In Canada, or at least on Vancouver Island, there no displays in stores, no Thanksgiving-themed commercials, no chatter about getting together with family, or trying to figure out long distance travel to get home for this one evening.  Instead, all the focus seems to be on Halloween, complete with fireworks.  Our cats will not be amused…

With this difference in Autumn celebrations, I feel out of sync with the season.  Halloween seems on time, but the fact that Thanksgiving is already over leaves me feeling like I’ve missed out on something important.  We had a great Canadian Thanksgiving, and we will be celebrating American Thanksgiving come the end of November, but in the meantime we’re trying to carve out some new Fall traditions and get into sync with our new community.  In Nanaimo that means a trip to McNab’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch.

A perfectly foggy day for the corn maze and pumpkin patch.

A perfectly foggy day for the corn maze and pumpkin patch.

The day we went was a little late in the season, since it was after Thanksgiving (Canadian) and most of the really big pumpkins were gone.  However, they had tons of small to medium pumpkins, a local school fundraiser with all the homemade baked goods my heart could ask for, and the corn maze was still in full swing.  I was already feeling nostalgic for Iowa since a much-missed friend was throwing a fall celebration party with all of our friends, and we had just passed the dates for two of our favorite things to do in Iowa; the Farm Crawl and the Brews and Muse Festival at Peacetree Brewery.  Oh, friends, we were sure missing you on those weekends (especially those friends who shall remain nameless but kept sending emails and Facebook comments about the delicious new brews from Peacetree that we were missing out on… trisky hobbits that you are).

So with homesick hearts we went looking for new traditions at the pumpkin patch.  I assure you I never thought in my life that I’d say I was homesick for Iowa, but I’m getting sincerely tired of leaving places behind that have become home.  In our quest for new traditions to make this place home, McNabb’s did not disappoint.

Even after living in the American Midwest for five years, I had never been to a corn maze.  At Farm Crawl there was a corn maze, but I was always more interested in Pierce’s Pumpkin Patch, the borscht served at Coyote Run Farm, and the amazing preserves, people and brew (Peacetree again…) at Blue Gate Farm.  So McNab’s was my first time to be in and amongst the corn.

Dave and Little Man heading towards the corn maze.

Dave and Little Man heading towards the corn maze.

Surrounded by corn... like being back in Iowa.

Surrounded by corn… like being back in Iowa.

The day was perfectly foggy for an Autumn trip to the pumpkin patch, and we headed off to the maze first.  We had a great time trying to get lost, and searching (often fruitlessly) for the little markers hidden in the paths.  Apparently the markers haven’t been moved in years so the locals all know where they are, but since we’re new the hunt was still fun.  Once the chill of the maze started to get to us, and the enclosed space of the corn from Little Man’s viewpoint started to wear on him, we took the Hay Ride tractor to the pumpkin patch.  Here we selected a couple of pumpkins, had them measured and then heaved them back to the tractor, wishing we had brought the stroller to carry our pumpkin booty.

Hmmm... Which one can I carry all the way to the front?

Hmmm… Which one can I carry all the way to the front?

As we got off the tractor at the front of the farm, we ran into some friends from town, and hung around the fire pits chatting.  That is the sort of thing you miss when you move often; the regular meeting of friends in public places.  Little Man ran around with their kids, visiting the piglets and goats, and climbing massive downed stumps.

pumpkins

When Little Man finally started showing signs of wearing down and needing lunch, we headed off for lunch.  We could have stayed there for hot dogs, but the morning was cold and we all wanted some warm, inside rest.  So we headed for Coco Café in Cedar.  The café’s name is an acronym for the Cedar Opportunities Co-Operative, whose mission is to provide developmentally disabled adults with employment opportunities within their community.  This year the maze was dedicated to Coco’s, and I had heard of it before as well.  It has the reputation of being a nice little café with cozy atmosphere and good, local food, for good prices.  Perfect.

Walking into Coco Café I caught a glimpse of our little family in the glass door; all looking cold, dazed, hungry, and distinctively muddy.  Inside I ordered a hot cocoa, and Dave got coffee.  Little Man was very pleased with my drink choice, and did his best to polish off my whipped cream before I could get to it myself.  Dave had a Thai Curried Chicken Panini with a green side salad.  Little Man had the grilled cheese on an awesome whole wheat bread; and I had a massive bowl of Beef and Barley soup complete with a good-sized hunk of warm Pumpernickel, rich with molasses.  Dave’s Panini was great, and we were both impressed with the salad.  After our time in the Midwest we had come to loath side salads since inevitably they were tasteless piles of wilted, ice berg lettuce buried under a mound of not-cheese.  At Coco Cafe even the side salads were great.  Not a hint of iceberg lettuce to be seen, but only dark, lovely salad greens with a homemade vinaigrette.  Little Man liked his sandwich, but preferred my cocoa; and my soup was divine.  It was full of great vegetables, barley and beef, the broth was rich and stew-like with a good amount of black pepper.  This soup was a perfect example of why homemade soup is so much better than the stuff from a can.  All in all we had a great, home style lunch that did not break the bank, and which warmed us up from our stomachs to our fingers and toes.

On the way back home, Dave struggled to keep Little Man awake so that he could take a nice long nap at home.  Little Man, for his part, did his best to hide behind his Pooh Bear and fall asleep.  In the end we all had great naps, and ever since I’ve been fixated on hot beverages.  I want drinks that I can hold in a real mug, not paper or factory made, but something made by real hands, something that fits nicely between my palms, and warms me from the fingers on out.  And that brings me to my family’s Wassle; a hot mulled cider that fills the home and the heart with the aroma of the holidays.

This recipe for wassle comes from my dad’s side of the family, and just a whiff of this simmering away in the slow cooker makes me think of “family.”  I don’t mean “family” in the sense of just the three of us, but of gatherings of loved ones, whether or not you are biologically related, where you can just relax and be at home.  In fact, it’s worth making this wassle just for the aroma.

When Dave and I first made this wassle for our friends-who-became-family in upstate New York, their first comment was “mmmm… this is good…” followed quickly by asking if we’d ever tried this with rum.  We hadn’t.  We did.  It was delicious.  But I have to say, this wassle is amazing on its own and doesn’t need any accoutrement.  What sets it apart from other mulled ciders I’ve tried is the mixture of apple cider with pineapple, orange and apricot nectars.  Cardamom and cinnamon round out the spiciness of the hot, hot drink, and are key to its aroma.  There is no added sugar, the juices are sweet enough as it is.  So if you’re having friends/family over and want that scent of the holidays that will stop them in their tracks the minute they set foot in your home, this is the wassle for you.  The only problem will be getting them to leave later, since it’s so nice to just sit with loved ones while cradling a mug of this wassle in your hands.

Wassle (A Hot Mulled Cider)

Ingredients

4 cups apple cider

4 cups unsweetened pineapple juice

1 ½ cup apricot nectar

1 cup orange juice

6 cinnamon sticks

1 tsp. whole green cardamom

Directions:

  1. Pour all juices into your slow cooker and turn it on to high.
  2. Place the cardamom pods on your cutting board and crush them with the back of a spoon or flat of a knife.  Alternatively, crush the pods in a mortar and pestle (I just can’t find mine since the move…)
  3. Add the cinnamon and crushed cardamom to the slow cooker.
  4. Cover and heat until pipping hot, then turn the slow cooker down to low and simmer the wassle for 25 minutes.  Enjoy!
  5. Optional: float a new cinnamon stick in each mug.

Click here for a printable version of the Wassle recipe.

pumpkin 2