My dad was a small farmer in Syria. His hard labor paid for my and my siblings’ education that ventured to the four corners of the globe. He was an exceptional man and father; I think about him everyday and miss him every minute. He had passion for farming and a love for his trees. One time, he was chasing a wild dog only because the dog chewed on a fresh olive tree seedling. However, my father’s greatest love was for his children. He always lit up when me or any of my siblings worked with him on the farm. My dad passed his passion for nature to me, and I got a degree in agriculture engineering. Even though I went on to become a chef, caring for my herbs and vegetables in my backyard brings me absolute pleasure. I find it to be soothing.
My father used to plant fava beans or wheat between his olive trees. This was not for the crop but rather for enriching the soil and keeping the ground and trees healthy. When I read DAN BARBER‘s article What Farm -to-Table Got Wrong in The New York Times, I thought about my father and the struggles he and many other small farmers deal with. Chef Barber encourages us to support local farmer by buying not only what is familiar to us, such as cucumbers, but also to buy the peculiar, like mustard greens or millet. Chef Dan explains the farmer’s specific sequence when rotation farming. Rotation planting enriches the ground and makes it more resistant to certain diseases and insects, without using the harmful pesticides and chemicals. So, the farmers has to plant his cash crop but also other crops to enrich the soil, just as my father had done.
After I read the article, I decided to use grains and greens I have never used before into my cooking, and then share the recipes with you. This is the first recipe, and there will be more to follow.
Beet green and kamut pilaf
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 seeded and diced jalapeño pepper
2 medium size beets, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
4 cups chopped beet green
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
-Heat the olive oil and saute the diced onion until golden.
-Add the jalapeño peppers and the diced beet. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the chopped beet greens, the mashed garlic and the seasoning.
-Drain the grain and add to the vegetables. Stir, adjust the seasoning and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-Add the walnuts and the lemon juice. Cover and turn off the heat. Allow the pilaf to rest for 10 minutes before serving.