I've been sprouting grains, exploring resources for truly raw nuts, and gathering the nerve to pay the extra few dollars per half gallon of raw milk. Have I mentioned it before: raw milk tastes absolutely, irrefutably, amazingly-even-better than plain whole organic milk. I liken the difference to real, fresh-pressed, unpasteurized brown and cloudy apple cider versus the clear, store-bought stuff that looks like stale Budweiser. Yeah. No comparison.
My food-inspired self has begun to come alive in some new way (do I say this every other post?). My insides feel a little like the backyard pear tree looks. The last week it suddenly acted alive again. Winter takes its tole on most things, but this pear tree looks particularly off in winter. It is stubby and dark, dead-looking. I am always amazed it survives. Now it has burst with tender, bright green leaves and sparse clumps of flower. Its branches are thick from odd pruning practices, and though it looks tired still and quietly brooding, one can tell it is keeping much of its energy deep inside.
So that is how my inspired self has been. Energy under the thick bark. And shock! And astonishment! I am still living.
A couple weekends ago I spent four days with friends helping with their barn-raising project. Or, I watched while others helped with the barn-raising project. I held the baby. I hauled wood for a half hour while my beloved gave me a baby break. Felt really good, but can't say it was as helpful as the hired high school track boys.
Anyhow, the reason for me being there apart from adding to the scenery, was for my friend with the barn (and a baby too) and I to test-run cooking for crowd. We have babies. Can we cater to people and babies too? The test results were grim. Sure, the barn-raising crowed always had food to eat, but again, I can't say I did much to make that happen. I made one dish the whole four days, and it took me two days and two long naps and being very very tired to complete the task. So, catering will come later. If I can barely feed myself, I can't feed others; if I can barely feed five, I definitely cannot cater for thirty.
That one dish I did manage though, that one contribution to the whole weekend of nailing, hammering, hauling, cooking, and cleaning up, managed to be a nourishing success. I gauge real success on whether or not I want to eat it and whether or not I would take the time to make it again. Well, I wanted to eat it; I want make it again soon. Alas, I have no picture.
Sprouted Grain and Butternut Salad
I used a mixture of grains for this salad and it was lovely, but you can use any one alone or a combination of the lighter grains: spelt, wheat, oat, or barley.
1 medium-sized butternut squash, cubed
1/4 cup melted butter
generous sprinkling of salt
1 large red onion, sliced into half moons
1/4 cup butter
sprinkling of salt
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon (or more!) red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups sprouted grains, cooked*
Coat squash with butter, salt, and pepper, and bake uncovered under a broiler until tender and golden, maybe even caramelized on the edges. Watch closely. Stir every five to ten minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together almond butter, vinegar, honey, and pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasoning, but do not add too much salt now, remember your squash and onions will greatly add to the flavor. Set aside to mellow and meld.
Also meanwhile, cook the onions in a large pan (larger than needed for just onions, see below) with the butter and some salt over medium heat until tender and caramelized. (If you want crunch, cook the onions at a slightly higher heat so they caramelize without getting too done. Beware of burning.)
When the squash is toasty-looking and gives easily when poked with a fork, remove from oven. Add grains and dressing to the onions and cook over medium heat until warmed. Taste, adjust seasoning to what you like (more pepper flakes? more vinegar? honey?) When ready, layer the grain mixture with the roasted squash in a serving bowl, alternating until all is used up, then gently fold to incorporate evenly. The trick is to not stir too much to make a mush. The less you have to stir, the prettier the squash will stay.
Serve warm with beef or portobello burgers, roast chicken, or pork chops and a light, fresh green salad. Enjoy!
*To sprout grains, soak in filtered water and some lemon juice or vinegar for about 12 hours in a drain-easy container (I used a reusable plastic tub with a thin towel or cheesecloth attached with a rubber-band to the top). Drain, rinse, and leave for another day or so (if you are new to sprouting, check the taste and texture every 12 hours to discover your preference in sprouted grain). Rinse every 8 hours. When you like it, rinse one last time, put in an appropriate-sized pot, cover with more water, bring to a simmer, and cook until chewy and delicious, about 20 minutes at a low simmer.