Lessons from Quillisascut Farm School
New book praises sustainable food culture
September 24, 2008 - Updated: June 30, 3:50 p.m.
Eyes closed, the details of the day come rushing back to my senses.
Delicate white flowers of the blooming serviceberries framed the driveway. The smell of spring sun on the earth rose from garden starts in the greenhouse. More than two years later, I still smile at the simple pleasure of sharing a conversation and a meal with Quillisascut farmers Lora Lea and Rick Misterly for an article about their farm. We ate delicate spring greens gathered from the farm, poached quail eggs, their farmstead goat’s milk cheese and toasted rustic bread.
Now, the story of seasons and daily rituals of the small sustainable farm near Rice, Wash., are chronicled in a new book by author Shannon Borg and Lora Lea Misterly “Chefs on the Farm: Recipes and Inspiration From the Quillisascut Farm School of the Domestic Arts” (Skipstone, $24.95). The book arrives in bookstores next week, but the Misterly’s will be in Spokane on Saturday to sign and sell copies of the book at the Eat With Your Eyes Sustainable Food and Film Festival.
Lora Lea Misterly says she hopes the book will inspire readers to strive for a sustainable food culture, to support local farmers and to simply slow down and find pleasure in the ritual of cooking and eating together.
“I think it’s everyone’s story,” Misterly says. “It’s about how we eat and how we hold on to our culture that way, and how we create the landscape of where we live by supporting the farms that make up that local landscape.”
Borg, a Shadle Park graduate, first visited the Quillisascut Farm School for an article she wrote for Northwest Palate magazine. She says it helped her reconnect with the area and rediscover some of her own family food memories.
Quillisascut’s message of sustainable living, supporting local food growers and celebrating the area’s seasons has become even more relevant in the past two years as the book was created. Food scares that have led the government to recall grocery store staples such as spinach and tomatoes have more people considering the source of their meals.
“I feel like this was a story that needed to be told,” says Borg, who lives in Seattle. “I think just to have people know that there are farms like this out there, that there are people in your community that you can go to … that you can have a relationship with the people who grow your food even if you live in a city.”
The book includes details about the farm work during each season, including essays from those who have visited the farm. Since 2002, the Misterlys have held summer retreats so chefs, culinary students, farmers and others could see the farm-to-table connection first hand. There’s a short essay by Spokane chef David Blaine, Rick Misterly writes about some of his work and the foreword was penned by Seattle restaurateur Tom Douglas.
The recipes in the book were created by chef and instructor Kären Jurgensen (another northeast Washington native, who grew up in Republic). She also is an instructor at the Seattle Culinary Academy.
The recipes are seasonal, local and many feature heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables grown at Quillisascut. Lora Lea Misterly is a member of the Seed Savers Exchange and founding member of Slow Food Upper Columbia, which in part, dedicates its efforts to preserving the diversity of local plant varieties.
Misterly says she hopes people will find the inspiration to take another step toward a sustainable food culture by reading the book.
“I hope that people can find an entry point if they need one. If they already know it all, to remember and if they are still looking for ideas, to find ideas. … Or even to just the pleasure of looking at the photographs and seeing what the seasons are like in northeast Washington and seeing how they are different from where they live.”
“Hopefully they’ll want to go out and connect to the farmers where they are. The farmers’ market is a great way to do that because they are already bringing things to you.”
Here are a couple of recipes from the book.
Apricot-Grilled Cheese Breakfast Sandwich
“Inspired by fresh baguettes from our wood-fired oven, this breakfast treat tastes better than candy. The method is similar to a grilled cheese sandwich, but we have used tangy goat cheese and sweet, tart apricot preserves,” authors Borg and Misterly write.
1 baguette, about 20 inches long and 3 to 4 inches thick
1/2 cup Apricot Preserves (recipe follows)
1/2 cup fresh chevre
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Cut a baguette in half lengthwise, then trim off the crusty top of each piece and reserve for another use. Cut each half lengthwise into 4 long slices (you will have 8 slices total). Spread 4 of the slices liberally with apricot preserves and spread the other 4 slices with fresh chevre. Sandwich together and butter the tops and bottoms.
Heat a large skillet and fry the sandwiches until golden, turning once. Serve hot.
Variation: Any preserves substitution would be delicious.
Yield: 4 servings
Approximate nutrition per serving: Unable to calculate due to recipe variables.
“A must for the pantry – and the essential ingredient for Apricot-Grilled Cheese Breakfast Sandwiches,”
6 pounds pitted apricots
6 cups organic sugar (evaporated cane juice)
Mix the apricots and sugar together and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, stir and mash the mixture. Pour in a heavy bottomed pot and heat over medium, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thick and syrupy. Transfer to sterilized jars.
Refrigerate or process in a hot water bath for the pantry (see note).
Note: The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends processing apricot preserves in a hot water bath for 5 minutes for altitudes up to 1,000 feet. For elevations of 1,001 to 6,000 feet, process the jam for 10 minutes.
Yield: 4 pint jars
Approximate nutrition per 2-ounce serving: 87 calories, no fat, .5 grams protein, 22 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, less than 1 gram dietary fiber, less than 1 milligram sodium.
Huckleberry Cider-Glazed Chicken
“At the farm, we use frozen huckleberries from our summer foraging and fresh apple cider for this dish,” authors write.
2 cups huckleberries
1/4 cup diced shallots
2 cups apple cider
4 cups chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken, backbone removed and flattened
4 tablespoons chicken fat, lard or oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
To prepare the glaze, puree the huckleberries in a blender and reserve. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the reserved huckleberries, shallots, apple cider and chicken stock. Reduce to about 2 cups. Strain, season with salt and pepper and reserve glaze.
Rub the chicken with salt, pepper and fat. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet on the stovetop over high heat for about 3 minutes. Put the chicken in the pan, breast-side down. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes. Turn the chicken breast side up and glaze with a bit of the reserved glaze. Cook for another 10 minutes and glaze again. Continue this process until the chicken is done, about 20 minutes more or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve with glaze pooled over.
Variations: Try grape juice, blackberry juice, pear nectar or quince nectar in place of the huckleberry cider.
Yield: 4 servings
Approximate nutrition per serving: Unable to calculate due to recipe variables.
Anise Seed Roast Pork with Celeriac Mash
“Celeriac, also known as celery root, is an often overlooked vegetable with a celery-parsley aroma, which adds complexity to this dish. I recommend using organic or pastured pork for better moisture and flavor. Garlic stored in winter will start to sprout a shoot in each clove, which can be bitter, so be sure to remove it. When boiling dense root vegetables like potatoes and celeriac, start the cooking process in cold water. This method allows the inside of the vegetable to cook without the outside turning to mush.”
For the roast pork:
2 pounds pork loin
5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon anise seed, crushed lightly with mortar and pestle
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the celeriac mash:
1 pound celeriac, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 russet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream or sour cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Trim the pork loin of any silver skin, but leave fat intact. With a sharp knife tip, shallowly score the loin on all sides. Slip the garlic into the scores. In a small bowl, combine the anise seed, salt and pepper and rub the surface of the loin with the mixture.
Put the loin in a heavy cast-iron skillet or roasting pan and cook in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking for 25 more minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. Let the loin rest for about 7 minutes before slicing. Reserve pan juice to pour over when serving.
To prepare the celeriac mash, put the celeriac and potatoes into separate saucepans and cover with water. Bring each to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and run both vegetables through a food mill into a large bowl. Stir in the butter, heavy cream and nutmeg. Season with salt to taste.
Variation: For more intense celeriac flavor, omit the potatoes; however the puree will be somewhat looser.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition per serving: Unable to calculate.
Here’s the rest of the schedule for the Eat With Your Eyes Sustainable Food and Ag Film Festival:
Thursday: “Good Food,” 7 p.m., Magic Lantern, with filmmaker Melissa Young speaking.
Friday: “Shall We Gather at the River,” 7 p.m., Magic Lantern, with filmmaker Don McCorkell speaking.
Saturday: Several movies, including “Red Gold” about the salmon runs of Bristol Bay, Alaska, and other shorts including the story of the Quillisascut Farm. The festival continues with the free, family-friendly film “Tortilla Soup” shown on the The Shop’s outdoor screen, 924 S. Perry St.
Tickets are $15 for Thursday and Friday films and $25 for Saturday’s events. A limited number of full event tickets are being sold for $45. For information or tickets, go to www.brownpapertickets.com/event/41314