Week 31: The Penultimate week at Pepperfield

If you missed out on our recent update about some of our future developments, we encourage you to check it out here.  As I began to realize that this was my penultimate week at the farm, the whole experience I shared with the people and nature seems almost surreal.

Monday started with an early trip to the hospital garden.  I worked on cleaning up some of the beds while David harvested kale.  When we returned we took a quick break for lunch and then I worked on making some squash fettuccine.  It was nearly three pounds of pasta and took me the rest of the evening.  David and I worked on leftovers for dinner before calling it a night.  The next day I made a tomato sauce.  As it simmered away on the wood stove, I worked down in the garden pulling gourd vines off the fence.  Afterwards, I transitioned to the main squash patch and worked on pulling vines off the fences.  Then I switched to cutting down the old Jerusalem artichokes.  I took a quick intermission for lunch and then headed to town for my shift at work.  Things were dismally slow.

 

Wednesday morning I continued down in the squash patch.  I finished the last of the fence cleaning and then moved onto raking up the debris and weeds leftover from the growing season.  This ate up the rest of my morning.  I took a quick break for lunch before getting ready for town and my final shift at the job.  Unfortunately it wasn’t very memorable as we closed nearly an hour early after only serving 15 tables in six hours.  The next day I finished the clean up in the squash patch.  Then David and I went to the hospital so I could have a meeting with the nutrition director about an upcoming knife skills class.  It went pretty swiftly so I went out to the garden to help David tidy up a few things before we left to go back to the farm.  David and I finished the last round of leftovers and finished our day with a session in the sauna.

Friday was pretty laid-back.  I went to town midday to bring my car to the shop.  Meanwhile, I presented a 45 minute lecture and demonstration for the Winneshiek Medical Center kitchen team about knife skills.  Afterwards, I made use of my time at the hospital to work on cleaning up a few more beds.  I got back to the farm sometime in the early evening and decided to go to town to get some food.  I made a quick stop at the Armory and grabbed some tacos before heading back for an early night of sleep.  The next day I started my morning by stacking the final load of wood in to the wood shed.  Shortly after, I ran over to the neighbors with David to pick up some chairs they had borrowed.  David went to town for the evening and I stayed behind at the farm.  I did some work on a few projects before calling it another early night.

Sunday morning started late.  Mid-morning I made lamb braise and let it simmer away on the wood stove.  I spent time reading and relaxing while it bubbled.  Later in the afternoon David and I went to concert feature macabre music.  After we went to Carina’s to catch up and have a glass of wine.  As our conversations streched into the evening, we were invited to stay for dinner.  Carina put together a great meal of roasted chicken, sweet and sour cabbage and roasted vegetables.  This meal and time with both Carina and Micah was refreshing and fun.  It was a great ending for the week.

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Il Luigi Review

Dining Experience

Rushford, Minnesota – population 807 – is home to a small Italian restaurant named Il Luigi.  And (at the very least) one of it’s few citizens is making some fantastic food!

First of all, it seems almost incredible that a town of that size houses even a single restaurant.  Housed in a brick building on the corner of Mill St and Jesse St, sits a modest Italian influenced restaurant.  But interestingly enough, I’m not going to be talking about that.  A gem tucked within a gem lies a brilliant chef dedicated to bringing great authentic food to anyone who looks hard enough.

Upon request the owner, Luis Jara, will craft a cuisine oriented meal.  You can choose the intensity of this experience opting for more courses, paired wines and other special requests.  Thanks to my uncle, I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a small private dining event featuring Ecuadorian cuisine at Il Luigi.  I attempted to keep the meal authentic by ordering an Argentinian wine, Roberto Mondovia’s cabernet.  Shortly after receiving our wine the meal began with a fish and shrimp ceviche.  Bright tones of lemon and orange permeated the palate while delicate flavors of cilantro, red onion and briny seafood created a magnificent presentation of flavors.  Similarly, each bite, more refreshing than the last, and savored each time.  The next course came swiftly after.

Chef Jara presented us with llapingachos; a small plate with a fried potato and cheese cake, pulled pork, queso fresco and three greens sauce – something quite similar to a green goddess dressing.  As I tasted this dish I was greeted with a wonderful concert of flavors.  The fattiness of the pork and cheese was contrasted perfectly by a hint of lime and red onions.  Tones of cilantro and avocado provided rich and exciting layers of depth at every mouthful.

The next course that followed was a churrasco.  This general term applies to grilled meat from Central and South America.  We were presented a plate of flat iron steak, fried plantains and beans and rice.  Most noteworthy, the meat was seasoned perfectly reflecting simple but amazing flavors of garlic and black pepper.  Unfortunately, even for flat iron steak it was surprisingly tough.  The plantains were crispy and delicious but would have benefited from some more seasoning to stand up against the starch.  Even so, the beans and rice made the dish; tenderly cooked and bursting with flavor they were the redeeming quality of the dish.

After many healthy courses I was feeling quite satiated.  As a result, I was pleasantly relieved as Chef Jara brought us the final course.  As a tall shot glass was placed in front of me aromas of cinnamon, apples and lemon wafted through the air.  The last course was Canelazo, a warm spiced beverage home to Ecuador.  It was astounding; slightly sweet, warm and highly palatable, this drink was a fantastic way to close out the meal.  Gentle notes of cinnamon and lemon brushed against our palate leaving me feeling refreshed after a heavy meal.

In short, if you happen to be in the Mid-West, take a moment to visit Chef Jara at Il Luigi.  Whether you eat the traditional Italian fare or request special meal of your own, I can promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Review

Il Luigi
***
Address:
100 W Jessie St,
Rushford, MN 55971

(507) 864-2050
Website: www.illuigiitalian.com

Atmosphere: A small family style Italian restaurant bringing a plethora of surprises and good eats.

Sound Level: Quiet

Recommended Choices: Chef tasting menu (You will need to call ahead)

Drink’s, Wine and Cocktails: Full service bar, decent wine list and soft drinks.

Price $$ (Moderate)

Open: Sunday to Thursday from 11a-10p; Friday and Saturday 11a-11p

Reservations: No

What the stars represent: ratings range from zero to four stars. Zero is poor, fair or satisfactory. One star, good. Two stars, very good. Three stars, excellent. Four stars, extraordinary.

 

 

 

Week 20: Has it Really Been that Long?

Nearly five months here at the farm and it only feels as if I arrived yesterday. “Time flies when you’re having fun”; what an understatement!

Monday started with breakfast for our guests. Lisa and Levi, the couple who joined us the night before, were documenting there time here to promote Pepperfield through Lisa’s site Rettlers. I highly encourage taking a quick glance to see what she’s up too. This was quite the serendipitous event for Pans & Perspective because we will be teaming up with Rettlers to offer some collaborative content. After breakfast, David and I made a trip to the hospital garden. I started by harvesting cucumbers, squash and tomatoes before heading into town for a meeting regarding an upcoming dining event; those of you reading from Decorah, The Courtyard & Cellar will be hosting a small event on September 3rd. I encourage you to join us for an evening of food, drinks and great music -prpvided by Maritza. After the meeting I returned to the hospital to help David finish harvesting. I picked kale and chard before returning to the farm. I made chili for dinner to share with two drop in guests, Cali and Nathan – two potential work exchange interns you may be hearing more of!

Tuesday started with one of my favorite past-times, weeding. I spent a couple hours working underneath the apple trees clearing the forest that had popped up. After about clearing half the space, I got ready for work and headed off for work. The evening was incredibly slow and was extremely dissatisfying. The next day, I woke up – late – and sped over to Dennis’. This is the same gentleman who hosted the Sankt Hans Aften party. As mentioned previously, he is hosting another party in September that includes a secret menu. I can share though, that we drove all the way to Wisconsin to pick up a special ingredient. This took nearly the entire day and after 12 hours on the road, I came home and passed out.

Thursday I began my morning by cutting up some squash for the baby goats. Afterwards, I made tom yum soup for future meals. I took off for work shortly after and suffered through another night of no customers. Friday morning I prepared a sourdough starter. Then, I spent the rest of my morning sending emails and organizing details for the upcoming events. I took off early again for work to shop around for ingredients and procure some equipment. Work was pleasantly busy as my co-worker and I got blasted with a 18-top table followed by a bundle of smaller groups for the night. All told we did nearly 100 people in an hour and a half.

Saturday commenced by making raspberry sorbet for an event we were hosting the following day. Shortly after, David and I moved the electric fence to the upper vineyard from the squash patch. During this process I (accidently) touched it to make sure it was on; it was. Then, I setup my bread to be baked before heading to work. It seemed like all the people came in on Friday night because we experienced one of the slowest Saturday nights ever. I wasn’t complaining though, I cleaned up and got out early and got to bed a reasonable time. Sunday we were slated to host the educational workshop on home seed saving. David gave garden tours and did demonstrations while I prepared the attendees a lunch of corn pudding, baked beans and potato salad. The entire event went off smoothly and I took a quick nap after everyone left. We enjoyed a lazy evening and ate a dinner of leftovers before calling it an early night.

I am aware that I mentioned the Monthly Video Update was going to be posted during this last week. I am sorry that I was not able to meet that deadline. The computer is still out of commision and I will organize that video as soon as I can. Thank you for the understanding!

Just Raspberry Sorbet

The name says it all. This has become a summer favorite here at Pepperfield.

When serving this to your friends and family, don’t be afraid to tell them “It’s just raspberry sorbet.” It’ll make you seem much more skillful having brushed off this feat as nothing. But then you can explain that it really is only “Just Raspberry Sorbet.”

Yield 2 Qts

Ingredients

1 quart fresh or frozen raspberries
1.5C Granulated Sugar

Method

1. Combine raspberries and sugar in a pot and bring to a light simmer. The goal is to dissolve the sugar without cooking the berries for too long.

2. (Optional: cool this down, it’s much easier to work with.) Blend your berry sugar mix until smooth. Do this in small batches to avoid overworking your blender and to ensure a smooth puree.

3. Strain raspberry puree through a fine mesh strainer using the back of a ladle to push it through.

4. Place puree in ice cream maker or dasher attachment of your Kitchen-Aid and spin until firm and scoopable – about 25 minutes. Allow this to set up further in the freezer for 6 hours although it can be served immediately.

Notes:

This is also a fantastic way to make raspberry sauce. Simply follow steps 1-3 and serve over ice cream, chocolate cake or a yoghurt partfait. Additionally, this sorbet will make a great addition to any dessert that needs that burst of fruit.

(This mini gallery above is credit of Elizabeth Hudson)

Many recipes call for the addition of water; DO NOT ADD WATER. Not only will you dillute this intense raspberry flavor but you will also cause your sorbet to freeze into a solid ice block as it sits in the freezer. The wonder of this recipe is that it’s scoopable as soon as you take it out of the freezer.

Week 19: Gearing up for more Food

This last week has been pretty relaxed. The farm has been quiet as the harvest explodes.

Monday began with the usual routine. David and I took a quick trip to the hospital to harvest produce for the kitchen. This included prolific amounts of cucumbers, summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, string beans and chard. Afterwards, we returned to the farm and did some small chores in the hoop house. Then, I made a corn bread to use up some older product. The following day I helped get lunch ready for some of David’s friends. I made corn pudding and he put together a mixed greens salad. Around noon, they rolled up and we spent a fantastic afternoon catching up. I ran off to work shortly after. Unfortunatly it was slow, I ended up working my shift solo and got done around midnight.

Wednesday started with a slow morning. I ran into work just so see a demonstration of some prep and help clean. Then, David and I ran to the neighbor’s farm to pick up a few bales of hay. Once we returned we sat down in the shade and spent the afternoon cleaning beans. This involved pulling the dried pods off the plants to be saved for seed and winter eating. Once we finished that, we went down to the garden to bag the rest of the ears of corn. We called it an early evening and spent the time relaxing on the deck. The next day I started my morning weeding with Ellis in the back vineyard; meanwhile David went to town to take care of the hospital garden. When he returned I was heading out for my shift. I was greeted with yet another slow night, although we had a decent push of a 14 top and 6 other tables. After that burst though, things returned to a calm night.

Friday, I tackled more weeding. Before I started, I set my sourdough up to proof while I was out in the garden. I managed to get half of the section complete before taking a break for lunch. I took off for another shift mid afternoon and had a resonable night of service – still nowhere near the volume of my first shift. The next day I finished the other half of the weeding. In the same fashion as the previous day, I took a break for lunch before heading out. We were only marginally busier than the previous night. Sunday we took the day off. Mid afternoon David, Ellis and I saw a play in town. It got over around four so we headed back to the farm and got dinner ready. Our bed and breakfast guests had planned to arrive early and meet us. We served them a tomato and meat sauce, fresh pasta, parmesan zucchini spears and a fresh garden salad. It was a true farm to table experience. We shared pleasant conversation late into the evening before retiring for the night.

The next upcoming weeks I will be preparing for four separate dining events in September. It has been a test to juggle my responsiblities here, work a couple of odd shifts, and get ready for these upcoming events. In the midst of all this, my computer has broken down…again. But, the show must go on. Expect the monthly video update later this week and get ready for another food frenzy!

Make your Own Yoghurt

Much like making buttermilk, yoghurt is another easy item to make. It’s great to have on hand just for eating but it’s also fabulous for frozen yoghurt, parfaits and can even be substituted for buttermilk if you’re in a pinch.

Yield 4qt

Ingredients

2C Yoghurt Starter
3.75Qt Milk
3/4C Non-fat dry milk powder
3 Packets Gelatin, optional

Method

1. Heat your milk in a large sauce pot stirring often to avoid scorching, bring it to 116F. Meanwhile, heat a pot of water that holds atleast 4 gallons. Fill only 2/3’s of the way full, bring also to 116F.

2. While your liquids are heating up, gather your other mise en place. Measure out the dry milk powder, yoghurt starter and gelatin if you are using it.

3. Once our milk is warm and your water bath is ready, dissolve your solids into the warm milk. Immediately transfer mixture to clean quart sized mason jars. Divide mixture among jars evenly leaving a little space at the top. This should happen naturally because only 3.75Qt of liquid were used.

4. Pour yoghurt starter to top off the jars. If it all doesn’t fit in there that’s okay. Leave atleast a half centimeter from the top to avoid overflow when you seal the jar. Give it a quick stir and cover with banded lid.

5. Place yoghurt in water bath for 12 hours. The recipe we first practiced mentioned turning the water bath on every so often to keep it at 116F, but we have discovered that you can save some energy, and headache, by placing your waterbath into a sleeping bag. (Sure it won’t stay 116F for the entire time but it will be close.) You may need to remove some water from the bath. It doesn’t hurt to have the jars submerged but we prefer to have the water to just at the lid. (There not going to be sealed like traditional canned goods so some yoghurt may escape or water may enter.) Afterwards, remove and chill.

Notes:

This recipe tends to be thin. We like to use it for smoothies so that’s perfect. If your looking to make it more like greek yoghurt use both milk powder and gelatin. If you still wanted it thicker make some batches testing with more of each of the dry powders. Be careful using to much gelatin though, eventually you’ll make something that resembles panna cotta.

Nordic Fest Food Recap

Last week I attended Nordic Fest. This is Decorah’s largest yearly festival.

Each year over 10000 people come from the surrounding areas to frequent this event. This effectively doubles the population of this small town. Figures estimate 1.5 million visitor shave visited Nordic Fest since 1967. More information can be found here. Nordic fest is a celebration of the Scandinavian culture. Food booths with traditional food line the street. Likewise, people practice crafts and provide demonstrations. Additionally, dancing and singing fills the entire town.

I arrived early afternoon to Nordic Fest. First, I jumped in lie at the Nordic Waffle booth. This was more of a Scandinavian influenced concept compared to some of the more traditional booths. I sampled two waffles, a berries and cream as well as a turkey club sandwich. The waffles were good but the most memorable part of the whole experience was the spicy aioli used to dress the club. I purchased their cookbook and then wandered the streets browsing the other booths.

The next thing I came upon was serving Kjøttboller or Kjøttkaker. The national dish of Norway, this traditional dish is known commonly as Swedish Meatballs – although in this Nordic Meatballs is far more appropriate. I was quite unimpressed with the bread, but the meatballs and sauce were rich and creamy. Afterwards, I visited the krumkake booth. Normally served at Christmas, these cookies – similar to Italian pizzelle – are usually filled with sweet whipped cream. This booth was only selling the cookies and it wasn’t nearly as exciting as the two previous booths.

Later, I sampled the wares of the Lingonberry iskrem booth. When I spoke to the operators, they informed me that they had gone through 10 gallons of ice cream in less than a day. I continued down the street and came upon the lefse booth. This was probably the longest line I waited in. Lefse is similar to a tortilla except it is made mostly with potatoes. They are then dressed with any number of fillings, although the standard in Decorah seems to be brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon and butter. I tried one simply for the novelty – I have sampled them before – but other people were on a mission. I saw single purchases of five pieces of lefse – or more – for just one person. Everyone was out to get their yearly fill.

My last stop was at the Skekt svinek jott pa smorebrod brus booth. They were serving pork chops. My little knowledge of Scandinavian culture told me that this should have been served with bread. Smorbrod is usually a small open faced sandwich with various toppings. I’m not sure how authentic this booth was but the pork chop was delicious. I wandered into a beer garden to enjoy my final snack and ordered a local beer. As I sat in the warm sun with a strong breeze pushing across the courtyard, I – along with my pork chop – felt the essence of a perfect summer day.

All in all, it was amazing to see Nordic Fest; everyone was sporting their countries colors as people milled about the streets enjoying the festivities. I checked out some of the more cultural events – demonstrations, art work and creations – and thoroughly enjoyed this little glimpse into the Scandinavian, specifically Norwegian, culture. If you’re in Iowa, or even the driftless region, during Nordic Fest, I’d reccomended making a stop to see on Decorah’s biggest events of the year.

Huge Overhaul to the Blog!

Today P&P am foregoing my usual post of a recipe or a review. Instead we’re sharing many new pages on Pans & Perspective. Please take a few minutes to click around the blog. Don’t feel obligated to read everything, but now each page has more substantial content clarifying the objective and it’s content. Ultimately, there is more to come!

Please share your feedback here or across any of our social media platforms. Find out more information on how to connect with the P&P here. And, thank you for you understanding during our migration period.

Week 17: Back in the Kitchen

Last week left off right in the middle of our second dining event here at Pepperfield. Over a leisurely evening we shared a fantastic meal with Rowen White’s seed keeping network.

Monday morning started by begining the braised lamb shoulder. Afterwards I cooked some beans for the starter plate. While those were cooking I took the time to french to racks of lamb and tie them into a crown roast. Then I portioned some cornbread and picked some flowers – borage, beesbalm and calendula – that were going to be used on the dessert. I took a break to compose last weeks post and then got ready for game time. I prepared a apple-butternut buerre blanc, put the crown roast in the oven and then finished the stuffing. At 6.30 we started the meal which began with three sisters – three ways (picture above). Next was a lamb duo of braised lamb and crown roast, served with cornbread stuffing and broccoli. The meal finished with raspberry sorbet and amaranth biscotti. The following day we spent serving breakfast to some of the our guests that spent the night from the dinner. Mid morning I split off to finish cleaning the kitchen and get the house reorginized. Afterwards, I went to town to run some errands and then met for a few hours with Hans, a gentlemen I met back at Sankt Hans Aften – the solstice party. I got back in the early evening to put together dinner. Korbin and her co-worker Meridith stopped by to help process double red corn (the corn used in the top most picture) and then stayed for dinner.

Wednesday I spent my entire day cleaning garlic. David had dug the entire patch and I sat, in the warmth of the hoop house, washing and peeling off the outside layers. I was amazed the different gradients of maroon that streaked across the skins. Korbin came back solo for another corn processing night and stayed again for dinner. We wrapped up the night with some dessert leftovers: raspberry sorbet, calomondin curd, cake and frozen yoghurt. The next day David and I went to the hospital. We planted the second crop of broccoli and summer squash. I came home briefly to get changed for an interiew and then headed back to town. Once I got back to the farm we spent a casual evening eating more leftovers.

Friday started to look normal. I mowed the upper vineyard and then helped David bag the remaining ears of corn. After lunch I did small house chores and went to my first day of work. I have obtained employment at a local burger and fry joint. [A quick aside, this is in no way the direction I am chosing as a chef. This is emplyoment to procure supplemntal income to offset my cost of living while here in Iowa. I have another interview scheduled for a gasto-pub, something I hope will be far more interesting than flipping burgers and dropping fries.] That being said, I had a tremendous amount of fun “flipping burgers and dropping fries.” I have never worked short order before, being able to bang out tickets at a lightning pace for endless hours was great. There was no stress, maybe some pressure, but everyone remained cheerful and the service went smooth. The following day was Nordic Fest. This is a huge event celebrating Norse – really all Scandanavian – cultures, in food, art and festivities. Check back next week for a full spread on the Nordic Fest food scene! I ate at a bunch of different food booths and spent a few hours wandering the streets watching people work and sampling their wares. I returned to work later in the evening. We were busier than the night before and it was still exciting. Sunday was spent catching up on the farm, I started with weeding various neglected areas and then helped transplant our second crop of broccoli as well as Chinese cabbages. I took a break for lunch and then went back out to finish the area I was weeding. Ellis made a dinner of chili, which we all enjoyed out on the deck until the mosquitos waxed and the sun waned.

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