Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A visit to a farm and some shortbread

Guernica peppers
Photo by Tammy Gordon

Last Sunday, I went with the DC Food Bloggers to Eco Farms, an organic, bio-intensive farm in Lanham, Maryland. Eco Farms is a family-run operation that's been proudly serving up fresh local produce to some of the best restaurants in the region. I have always been keen to learn more about farming, and to do this with a bunch of food bloggers - Elyssa, Mary, Olga, Tammy, Luke & Joe - made for some great company as well!

Our tasks for Sunday were to weed lettuces, prepare some beds for planting, and to transplant some tiny seedlings out in the beds. One of the fun things I learnt was how to use the U-bar, which is essentially a pitchfork on steroids :) I will admit to having only mixed success with it, though. I found that being tiny is an advantage when performing some farm tasks, like hoeing, raking and planting, since most of the others were complaining of backaches, but working the U-bar, alas, is not one of them!

We planted beets, which have the most adorable red-tinged roots; guernica peppers, which I'd never heard of, but am now keen to try; epazote, which, we discovered, smells like lead pencils when fresh (Laura took one sniff and pronounced that it reminded her of elementary school!); and four different types of basil. We had a surprise visitor, too, when a snapping turtle wandered in from the nearby woods! She is a regular visitor to the farm, but that was her first appearance of this year. She sat patiently on the gravel while we oohed and aahed and examined her from every angle; then, she disappeared into the woods as silently as she had arrived.
Snapping turtle
Photo by Tammy Gordon
Pretty soon, we were done for the day, and headed back into the farmhouse where Laura and Mike had laid out a fabulous spread for us. Grilled vegetables, salad greens from the farm, and couscous made for a healthy and delicious meal, accompanied by zesty dips and condiments like Laura's eggplant-red pepper hummus and Mike's stinging nettle pesto. I took along some pecan shortbread for a nutty, buttery sweet end to the meal. Recipe posted below!

A big thank you to Mike and his faithful crew at Eco Farms for a wonderful experience, and to Tammy for generously sharing the above photographs. Looking forward to the next time!

Recipe: Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbread (Makes about 3 dozen cookies)
Adapted from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I replaced half the quantity with white whole wheat flour. My "healthy" version!)
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 tsp dark rum (I bet bourbon would be great too, but this is optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Fleur de sel (optional)
Stir the flour(s) and salt together in a small bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together till fully combined. Mix in the vanilla and rum, if using, then beat in the flour till thoroughly incorporated. Stir in the pecans. On a floured piece of plastic wrap, shape the dough into a round or rectangular log about 9 inches long. I used a dough scraper pressed against the sides to approximate right angles. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least for an hour or even overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350F(180C). Using a sharp knife, slice the dough log crosswise about 1/4" thick, spacing them an inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. If using fleur de sel, sprinkle a few grains on each cookie, pressing them in gently. Bake for about 15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until a deep golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet till firm enough to handle, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Store in an airtight container.


Michael said...

Thank you so much for coming out and working so hard last Sunday! We got so much done and had a great time, too! Plus, your Shortbread Cookies were amazing! It was a pleasure meeting and working with you Maya!

-Mike Pappas, Eco Farms

TooBlue said...

Maya! Go Team Basil. Such fun planting with you. And thanks for the cookies. Don't be a stranger! -L

Anonymous said...

you‘re really talented.!............................................................