What to do with: August Essentials

What to do with: August Essentials

Ben @ Ben to Table

This month’s heirloom, small-producer, and completely delicious pantry staples also coordinate quite well with the Taste of Ashkenazi Cuisine items. Enjoy!

Here's what's in the box:

  *  Pinto Beans (Rancho Gordo)
  *  Unicorn Grits (Geechie Boy Mill)
  *  Buckwheat Groats (Next Step Produce)
  *  Organic Spelt Flour (Maine Grains)
  *  Organic Rainbow Bowties (Donne Del Grano)   
  *  Sour Strips (Ashby Confections)

The Unicorn Grits can be cooked according to instructions in my "How to Cook: Grits" post.

The Pintos can be cooked according to my "How to Cook: Beans" post. 

The Buckkwheat Groats can be cooked according to instructions in my "How to Cook: Grains" post (but you may want to do something different - read on!).


Pinto Beans (Rancho Gordo)

Rancho Gordo Pinto Beans

These put the canned pintos you’re used to seeing to shame. Great as a pot bean or refried, and perfect for cholent, these cook up soft and creamy with little fuss.

What's "cholent," you ask? Essentially, an Ashkenazi beef and bean stew, likely related in some way to cassoulet. Just get a stew going low and slow (or in the pressure cooker) with onions, garlic, salt, pepper, seasonings of your choice (I'd suggest paprika, caraway, and maybe turmeric and ginger), stew beef of your choice (brisket is traditional), beans, and potatoes if you you're so inclined, and let it ride until everything is nice and tender. It was originally developed as a dish you could start before sundown on Friday and have it continue cooking through until Saturday.

Unicorn Grits (Geechie Boy Mill)

Geechie Boy Mill Unicorn Grits

Pink grits? That’s right. When Greg and Betsy at Geechie Boy Mill found some rogue corn kernels that cooked up pink, they cultivated a crop. Delicious and fun, these will cook up like the other grits we've had in the past, and be just as tasty.

Buckwheat Groats (Next Step Produce)

Next Step Produce Buckwheat Groats

Buckwheat groats are the hulled seeds of the buckwheat plant, and their taste is quite mild. You can cook them like rice, or you can toast them in the oven (spread out on a sheet at 300 degree for 35-45 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally), and then you’ve got what’s called Kasha, which can be eaten as is or steamed again. The advantage of the roasting is in flavor and texture.

And, combined with the bowties (plus a fat, salt, pepper, and onions), you could make an especially delicious version of kasha varnishkes. Just sautee a bunch of onions (ideally in schmaltz - rendered chicken fat - but you can also use butter or oil) with salt and pepper, cook the bowties (below), steam the kasha, and stir all together.

While it feels like a kind of ridiculous dish (grains with your pasta?), the groats are actually as much or more of a protein than a starch, so it's more complete than you'd think. For a more involved Kasha Varnishkes recipe, which includes a bit of egg and a bit of herbs, check out this one on Epicurious.

And here's a great post all about Buckwheat Groats from a grocer in the DC area that carries this same product from Next Step Produce.

Organic Spelt Flour (Maine Grains)

Maine Grains Spelt Flour

This variety of spelt is called Oberkumler, and comes with an 11% protein level.

I like to use spelt flour like this in breads. Depending on where you are with bread baking, you can usually use this in lieu of a whole wheat bread, or there are also great recipes for spelt sourdough online. It also work well as a flour for feeding (or beginning) a starter.

I also like to use this as 1/2 (or all!) of my flour for pancakes or crepes -- it can add a nutty taste that I quite like. One recipe I quite like is here, with the following adjustments: I added an extra egg, I substituted 2/3 cup of yogurt and 1/3 cup of milk for the 1 cup of buttermilk, and I used sugar and olive oil instead of butter and maple syrup in the batter). 

Organic Rainbow Bowties (Donne Del Grano)       

Organic Rainbow Bowties (Donne Del Grano)     

These delightful bowties are hand-produced in one of the oldest pasta factories in Puglia, bronze-die cut and colored with natural flavors.

Mainly, in addition to being tasty, they're a lot of fun. My daughter was certainly excited to dig in.

In addition to the Kasha Varnishkes recipe mentioned above, I always love bowties like this with an herbaceous pesto, or in a pasta salad (maybe with tomatoes, feta, and olives).

Sour Strips (Ashby Confections)

Ashby Confections Sour Strips

Made with local, organic fruits, and topped with a cane sugar-citric acid blend (for a bit of a sour hit), these are like amazing, craft versions of sour-patch kids.

And to go along with the Ashkenazi theme, there's always been a tradition in my family (and many) of gummy fruit candies at holidays (especially Passover), so this is also in honor of that.

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