I wanted to set aside a post or two here to delve a little deeper into the recipes from Feast’s November 2014 issue, if you’ll indulge me. I spent a good amount of time getting each recipe right, and although they could easily (and perhaps deserve to ) be standalone posts, I don’t want to drag it out all month: I have other things to get to, you have other things to get to, and mostly I want you to take the time to see the finished product in the magazine itself, or at the slideshow online.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to order these, but I like the way Feast’s editors organized it, so i’ll take their lead. We’ll start with what is arguably the most chuckle-worthy offering; Dirt Lover Fig and Fresh Thyme Pastry Pockets. These are a sophisticated take on a Pop Tart, people, plain and simple: I’ve always been a fan of puff pastry and how you can twist it (quite literally) in myriad ways, and these seemed like a pretty natural opener to a menu filled with – if I did it correctly – lively spins on classic dishes.
Allow me to cut right to the chase on this one: Green Dirt Farm makes spectacular sheep’s milk cheese, period. Someday I’ll work my way through their entire repertoire, but the two I picked are likely to be longtime favorites of mine. This one – the Dirt Lover – is this gorgeous, woodland-mushroom, squirrels-skittering-about-on-the-forest-floor-in-early-winter cheese that I’ve been eating by the slice which, in my humble opinion, makes similarly-textured cheeses (like Brie) fall flat on their faces. It has a lovely rind and this ethereal inner softness, and the flavor is perfect up against the sweetness of the fig paste, dried figs, and the hit of fresh thyme. When cooked, the cheese melts right into the pastry, giving you flavor in each and every bite which can’t be easily duplicated with any other cheese but the Dirt Lover. If you don’t live near one of their stockists, fear not: it’s available to order (along with their other cheeses, including the nettle fresh cheese I use for the ice cream recipe) online. Read a little about them while you’re there and ogle photos of their farm and sheep: someday I need to plan a wee day trip to visit them. Look at the sheep, come on; how could I not go?
So, I think you have your instructions: order cheese, ogle beautiful sheep, make pastry pockets, recipe here.
Next up: Asian Pear and Fennel Salad with Blackberry Butter and Sage Vinaigrette, which is one of my favorites, and definitely one which has already made a repeat appearance at my own table. It’s just so easy, friends: fennel and asian pears are everywhere right now, as are the chicories which ground it and the hazelnuts which garnish it. The dressing comes together in mere minutes using a food processor, and it’s one of the best ones I’ve ever made. Something about using a butter versus say, a reduced juice in this gives it a voluptuousness you don’t normally associate with a vinaigrette, yet it’s not thick or heavy in the way that dressings can sometimes be. The sage in this gives it a decidedly fall-winter flair, and I have plans to try either cilantro or basil in it this summer for a warm-weather take. I used Bekemeier’s Blackberry Butter for this; they’re a local producer who is a constant presence in most of the grocery stores I frequent, and they make fruit butters, jams, and honey, among other things. If you live in Missouri, chances are you have to look no further than your own grocery store. If you don’t, you can order any of their products online via their website. Stock up on the blackberry butter: I promise you you’ll use it more than once for this. If you want to branch out, I recommend both their peach butter and their strawberry butter, both of which I have plans for this summer.
Finally (in this segment at least) is another repeat-performer at my own dinners, and one which will likely make an appearance at several holiday dinners this year: the Buckwheat Honey Rolls. PEOPLE: buckwheat is amazing in the winter. If you don’t know this already, use this recipe to find out. It’s hearty, it’s flavorful, it’s flat-out Midwestern in feel. I used Hilty’s Bee Yards buckwheat honey for this, which is this impossibly thick, flavor-loaded, almost wheat-y honey, similar in viscosity and color to molasses. The depth of flavor and color is really the thing here, and it can’t be duplicated with even the darkest of dark wildflower honey, so don’t even try. You get a double dose of buckwheat in these due to buckwheat flour here, and the combo adds a beautiful burnish to the rolls. Think of these as a rustic, woodsy Parker House roll; robust in flavor but still soft and fluffy. Think outside the holiday table with this recipe: these buns are just as happy to be dinner rolls as they are homes for burgers or pulled pork, so consider them a very multi-use item for all your winter party and dinner needs. I never say “foolproof” when it comes to bread (because add 1 fool to 1 bread recipe and you have a disaster), but this is one of the easiest bread recipes you’ll make. If you live in Missouri, it shouldn’t be too difficult to locate Hilty’s honey products: check local grocers and farmers’ markets and you’ll probably see it. If not, their buckwheat honey is available online.
Everyone needs cloud-soft rolls; that’s just a fact of life. But they should be good rolls, and these are good rolls, so arm yourself with buckwheat flour and a little buckwheat honey and make. all. the rolls (using this recipe, of course.)
That’s it for today! Next, we’ll talk about the rest of the dishes, including a dreamy polenta with caramelized onions, Brussels sprouts and apples with some serious kick, a chocolate cake you’ll want to bounce on like a trampoline, and a bonus ice cream recipe using another cheese I’m completely in love with.
See you soon.