Known in Germany as Einkorn, and in Italy as Farro Piccolo, Einka comes from Bluebird Grain Farms in Winthrop Washington. I had tried a bit of einkorn grown by Lentz Spelt Farms, available in Seattle at Big John’s PFI, but the price tag of $6.75/lb kept my quantity low. It was enough, however, to see, feel, use, and taste the difference. After receiving my order from Bluebird less than 24 hours ago, I have been on a bit of an einka bender: pasta, chocolate chip cookies, and now waffles.
My waffles originated with Joy of Cooking, with separated eggs, whipped egg whites, and melted butter. Trying the recipe this morning with the einka flour was, again, successful. Waffles start with these ingredients,
plus baking powder and salt. I melt the butter on my stove top rather than in a microwave, seasoning my tiny cast iron pan every time I do. The batter turned out nice,
with the same consistency that I have come to expect. One 4-ounce ladle is just enough to fill our thrift store waffle iron. For me, the most difficult part of waffle-making is the waiting for the iron to thoroughly do its job; an undercooked waffle tastes eggy and not in a good way. Given enough time, the waffles did not disappoint:
If you are unable to consume all the waffles in a batch, let them cool on racks, wrap in parchment, and place in a freezer bag. They thaw and re-crisp under an oven broiler. Adding a scrambled egg and some fresh fruit, gives Junior a break from our usual breakfast routines. Oh, and just so you know, waffles do NOT need any added sugar in the batter. Enjoy the baked waffles with Grade B Maple Syrup!
8 ounces einka flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, separated
3 tbsp melted butter
13 ounces milk
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another bowl, combine the egg yolks and milk. Whisk together while adding the melted butter in a steady stream. Whisking will keep the eggs from scrambling if the butter is too warm.
In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until peaks form. Don’t overbeat as the whites will become dry and difficult to incorporate.
Add the milk mixture to the flour, mixing until just moistened, but leaving some lumps. Gently fold in the egg whites.
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
At Christmas, I receive beautiful things from my sister and my nieces. Teapots, water pitchers, felted wool patchwork throws, ornate measuring spoons, and custom collage have all been graced to me by these people. This last Christmas, I received this from my niece:
This is vanilla extract at it’s finest. Infusing vanilla beans in alcohol takes time, so she cautioned me to wait 4 to 6 weeks before using. My jar is now half full so I will bring home more bourbon, more vanilla pods, and start another jar. Alchemists of old were intent on turning ordinary items into gold. My niece has done just that.
Bluebird, having a summer sale of 10% off any order, had me crunching numbers for emmer and einka. I can source emmer at my coop, but einka, the name Bluebird uses for einkorn farro, is harder to find. I was happy indeed that ordering einka from Winthrop, including USPS shipping, was less money than the one Seattle source that I know of. I ordered 10 pounds.
Fast forward 2 days. It’s Saturday, Farmer’s Market day. I haven’t been doing the Saturday market, opting for the closer-to-home, a-little-less-expensive Sunday market. However, the Saturday market is where you score excellent clams and amazing kombucha, so with clams & pasta on the menu, I went. I make a clam & pasta dish originating with Mario Batali’s Simple Italian Food, a book I bought before ever knowing who Mario Batali was. Since it’s summer and warm out, I brought home some whole wheat linguine to boil up rather than mix up handmade pasta. When the mail carrier brought me a box from Winthrop, however, my plans changed.
I thrilled that my order from receipt Thursday mid-morning had grain at my door Saturday mid-afternoon! Wasting no time, I loaded the mill, knowing we’d be trying Einka pasta with our clams.
I’ve not used a lot of gluten-free flours, but the einka does remind me in texture of oat flour, even the way almond flour looks and feels. I found 1 recipe for einkorn flour pasta and it was essentially identical to how I always make pasta so I did 3 heavy cups of flour and 3 eggs. The flour is very loose when processed in the Nutrimill, the air has not been compressed out of it via packaging/storage. The dough came together nicely, and I left it to rest for 30 minutes.
I use a pasta machine for rolling but I do knead the dough before it rests, per Marcella Hazen’s insistence. I got the moisture level just right, with little sticking and no crumbling.
While the rolled dough waited for cutting, I got the water boiling, and proceeded with the other items on dinner’s menu: clams, kale, green peas for Junior, green salad, and baked-this-morning sourdough bread. When the dough is perfect, I love using the cutting attachment on the pasta machine.
The pasta turned out great. The texture and bite of the noodle seemed like the other whole wheat version I make. For a low-gluten grain, the final product was not slimy, and it held together in the sauce. I look forward to more recipes with my new stash of Bluebird Farm Grains Einka.
I am a grain geek. Bins filled with hard red wheat berries, oat groats, rolled oats, rye berries, medium ground white wheat flour, anything with a Fairhaven label excite me. The idea of a 3-day conference on the 10,000 year relationship with wheat makes me swoon. The textures, slight variations of earthy color, the potential alchemy, combine to give culinary and intellectual satisfaction. However all this, the single grain that will always draw me in, whether in a bakery, a deli case, on a website or store shelf, is Emmer Farro.
I learned of emmer after searching for locally grown wheat and wheat flour. I was in the midst of my quest to Not Buy Food From China, a journey that revealed many negative things regarding our food systems in America. Easily mired in unpleasantries, my discovery of Bluebird Grain Farms lifted my eyes and heart. There was good afoot, people choosing to hoe a harder row for the well-being of humanity. Emmer is an ancient grain, dating back about 17,000 years, the mother grain of modern durum wheat. It is a simpler grain than the highly hybridized modern wheat, containing only 28 chromosomes, rendering it high in protein but much lower in gluten than its modern counterpart. Bluebird’s seed stock of Triticum dicoccum came from the World Seed Bank 30 years ago.
Sadly, since emmer is low in gluten, it is not an ideal flour to use for my sourdough bread. The long fermented dough needs the strength of gluten to get it through that final push to a beautiful oven spring. I have tried combinations of flour with emmer, but don’t yet have the ability to produce a satisfactory loaf. Emmer is, however, perfect for pastry, cookies, my Neapolitan-type pizza, and are delicious as cooked whole berries. Emmer and the hard red wheat grown by Bluebird have been my pantry favorites.
At Christmas, per my request, I received Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions. I have friends and acquaintances who spoke highly of the book and a few simple internet searches revealed that many others felt the same. I figured there was gold to panned, information to be gleaned. I dove into the read, as is my usual way, but found myself mired yet again, this time in the “fact” that all grains are killing all of us, slowly but surely, and the only remedy is to soak the flour, just-ground whole wheat only, for 12-24 hours, to eliminate the toxins that are found in grains. Wanting to do what’s right or best nutrition-wise, I began soaking/fermenting flours before finishing a recipe; if we wanted pancakes on Saturday morning, I better have the batter soaking before 8PM Friday night. My poor family. Not all the recipes I tried worked: the soaked flour biscuits were hockey pucks, and the soaked flour bagels looked mottled and grossly misshapen. Everything had a pronounced sour overtone.
I learned that using flour made from sprouted wheat was free of toxins, so I began sprouting the berries, dehydrating them before grinding into flour.
This flour had a sweeter taste but made it easier to make cookies and biscuits and pizza. My devotion to the 2-gallon jars of upturned, rinsed grain, and the daily growl of my Nutrimill grain grinder were constant. As hard red wheat is less costly, and since sprouting and soaking was making the grain healthier, I moved away from emmer, using only the stronger grain in an all-purpose fashion.
In the midst of this new grain regimen, my sister was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. Overnight her diet became soy-free, corn-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, most meats-free, ground nut-free, sugar-free, and anything remotely resembling estrogen-free. In a blink, my internet searches became variations of How To Eat For Cancer, and where my new-found practice might fit in. As with any search of the interwebs, I found conflicting advice on every topic I looked for. I quickly became further mired, now learning that most foods would certainly kill most of us. Grain is healthy vs grain will kill you. Soy is your best friend, I mean fermented soy is your best friend, I mean, soy in any form will kill you. Sprouted grain is perfect for your body vs sprouted grain still contains those little wheat toxins and will not only kill you, but will make you obese before you die. Only eat raw. Only eat vegan. Only eat the Nourishing Traditions way. I don’t remember at just what point, but I became angry with food, mostly angry with grain.
Around this time, I began to realize that I didn’t feel as good as I had at Christmas. I had eaten more holiday foods that I normally avoid, and I definitely had partaken in my share of emotional eating regarding my sister’s health, but this was different. My naturopath set me onto some supplements but the chief alteration I made was to stop the hyper frenzy of grain preparation. As I focused my thoughts and awareness, I realized we had begun eating more wheat products because of the “healthy” way I was preparing them. Our fruit and vegetable and true protein consumption had gone down. In a pattern predictable for me, I had brought my body out of balance.
For the last two months, I have worked to correct these nutritional missteps. I solicited advice from a nutritionist and educator who I know and respect. She was gracious to share some of her family practices, some of her views on grain preparation/consumption. She was careful to acknowledge that these practices are what work for her and her family, that everyone’s body is different, having different nutritional requirements. Her words brought a deep breath of very fresh air and freedom. I am feeling settled again.
The bread I make is with 80% heritage whole wheat that I usually grind, and 20% white unbleached organic flour. The dough has a high moisture content and the ferment is long. Bread makers the world over, who work to follow old traditions, make bread this way. While this bread is digestive-friendly, we don’t eat it as often as we were. For the weekend day when we have pancakes or waffles, I use emmer flour. As emmer makes great pasta, I aim to make my own rather than purchase from the store. Occasionally I make emmer raspberry scones, perfect with a scrambled Beatrice egg for breakfast, or a kuchen with seasonal fruit. An emmer berry salad with diced tomato, cucumber, onion, and parsley is a refreshing lunch or side dish. We don’t have more than one grain per meal, but include meat from well-husbanded animals, and lots of chemical-free fruits and veg.
Not all grains are equal. Not all wheat grains are equal. The grain grown by Bluebird, and farms like it, offer a path to ancient foods, produced without pesticides, herbicides, and stored without fumigants. This food is much closer to the grain that humans first adapted to eat, while far removed from the wheat so many are now intolerant of. Additionally, not all bodies are equal. I have to listen to mine, encouraging those I cook for to do the same.
It would seem the grain of Sumerians, Pharaohs, and Romans is making a comeback. Word on the street has it that Chad Robertson of Tartine is working on a sourdough loaf utilizing ancient grain like emmer. This will be the next book I ask for at Christmas.
Dwarf Blue Scotch. Black Tuscan. Red Russian. Lacinato. Dinosaur. All kale. Some different names for the same variety, all available as seeds from my favorite grower Uprising Organics. Kale is a hearty green. Hearty means thick leaf, tough vein, strong stem, a commitment made if eaten raw, and filling. A strong-tasting, sometimes bitter green, as well as a potential source of gastro discomfort, kale can be off-putting to the uninitiated. Once charmed, however, the kale aficionado is an addict for life.
Where I live, kale can be grown year round. Summer kale has a more tender leaf, but a hotter, more bitter flavor. It is a plant hounded by the ever-flittering white codling moth. A moth whose sole purpose in its 2-week flying existence, is to lay eggs on my kale. Summer kale sports tiny leaf holes, bites of food enjoyed by the moth progeny. As the weather in the PNW starts to cool, nighttime temperatures in the low 40s or below, happy chimes begin to peel for the kale. Cool temps mean farewell to the moths and welcome to sweeter taste.
My favorite and usual way to prepare kale is to braise. I start with some olive oil, chopped garlic, and red pepper flakes. Once the garlic begins to sizzle, I add the kale, fattest stems removed, leaves torn into manageable sizes, with only the water still clinging to the rinsed leaves as moisture. I toss to cover the leaves with the oil, cover the pan with its lid, waiting only a few minutes for the leaves to wilt and take on the flavor of garlic-pepper-oil. Braised kale draped on an olive oil bathed pizza is lovely; bacon and kale on a pizza is crazy. White beans and kale make a deliciously thick soup. Kale massaged with salt and olive oil makes a more approachable raw salad. Kale sliced thin, tossed with julienned carrot, thinly sliced onion, apple-cider vinaigrette, and queso fresco is a tasty way to fill a tortilla. If you’ve not tried it, do. If you’ve only tried kale once, give it a second chance. I believe this is the food that kept Europeans in the far north alive and contributing to the gene pool. Go kale!
Choosing to be an omnivore is a big deal. While eating plants should be done with a concern for life, eating meat is the result of taking a walking-around, oxygen-breathing life, so that my body is physically nourished. If I know that the creature was well cared for, allowed to flourish according to its innate biology, had only one bad day in its life, then the food it provides can emotionally nourish as well. It is important to me that the life of the animal was not cheapened:
with crowded, polluted living conditions
by being fed grains not suited to its digestive system
by being fed grains that have been genetically modified
by getting shot full of growth hormones to speed development and with antibiotics to curb disease rampant in its filthy environment
with its short sad life ended at the hands of uncaring, un-careful humans
One of the largest insults to the animals who offer so much protein, is the deflated price most Americans pay. This cheap protein comes from enormous contained animal feedlot operations, or CAFOs. Thousands of animals packed into tight spaces eliminating the need for expensive grazing acreage. The feed consists primarily of corn and soy, the two main crops subsidized by the Federal government, keeping the price very low. Ruminating animals are not made to eat these grains, preferring grasses instead, easily becoming ill, requiring antibiotics and other medications. More details, descriptions, and photos of CAFOs are an internet search away-I’ll leave that to you. The resultant cheap price at the grocery store, means I can consume this meat without any further thought: no thought of conditions, no thanks for the life given, no knowledge of where it came from.
Ranchers and farmers like George & Eiko, Jerry & Janelle, and the crew at Sea Breeze Farm, take careful meat production very seriously. I buy meat from these people at the University District Farmer’s Market. I can visit their farms. I can talk with them about their practices. I can take classes from them to learn the processes they employ. I spend a lot of money to buy their food.
When I buy meat produced with care at the farmer’s market price, I am making a financial sacrifice. I recognize that the life of the animal I’m consuming is worth this higher monetary cost. I recognize that the farmers I’m paying are worth the price of their attention and hard work on behalf of these animals. I recognize that life is not cheap and it should never be treated as such.
There are some who learn the details of modern conventional meat production and walk away from consuming any animal product. There are others who learn and continue to choose the cheaper product. There are those, like me, who learn the bad, but also find the good, the people who they can support. I leave you with a link to a short video from a sheep farm in southern Oregon, a blessing.
Ah, sugar. So sweet, so simple, so toxic? I recently read a New York Times piece by Gary Taubes, outlining the dangers of this sought-after, addictive, weight-inducing substance.
I don’t drink soda, diet or otherwise. I offer no-sugar-added juice for my son, locally produced when at all available. I only buy fairly traded, organic chocolate. Upon learning about human rights violations in cane fields and the genetic modification of sugar beets, I had moved to purchasing only organic, fairly traded sugar. Enjoying a sweet morsel containing ethically produced sugar, made the treat even sweeter. I have a limited-sugar policy in my kitchen due to the health concerns of some of my housemates, usually reducing the amount of sugar in all recipes calling for the substance, at least by one-quarter. I was thinking I was doing pretty well and by national standards I’m sure I was. The New York Times article, however, is moving me closer to becoming anti-sugar.
Draw your own conclusions about the article. My personal response is to start reshaping my tastes, my concept of sweetness, to align more closely with how my people evolved through time. We each originated somewhere. My genes concentrated in northern Europe, the Scandinavian and UK countries. I don’t know where those Peoples migrated from, but it had been a long time since inhabiting the warmer, tropical areas where human life may have originated. That said, sugar cane didn’t grow in the colder north. My ancestors drew sweet sap from certain trees and bees produced honey from the flowers of a short growing season. People had to work hard to sweeten their food. Sweets were cherished, relished delicacies savored during the holidays of the long, frozen winters. These treats would give some joy and hope that the snow & ice would melt again into summer. Sugar as hope. Sweetness as joy.
As I’ve worked to limit the sugar I use, my palette has improved. I can taste the sweet molasses of the sourdough bread crust. Winter kale, surviving cold temperatures, has a sweetness when braised with olive oil and garlic. Certain lettuces are bitter to contrast with those that are sweet like sunshine. The raisins in my otherwise non-sweetened granola, explode with sugars. Going forward, I’ll be exploring locally produced honey as a sweetener, used very sparingly, in baked items and desserts. I’ve looked into processed Stevia and may use that on occasion but want to have more local control over what I use for sweetening foods. Some will add this topic to my ever-expanding collection of soap boxes. Perhaps. Maybe I will be able to silence their criticism with treats that are just sweet enough to busy their tongues in identifying and relishing all the flavors put forth…not just sugar.
Foods from France and Italy are my favorites to make. The flavors suit me and the wines to go with are delicious but the idea behind the flavors is what draws me most. Use the best of what’s available: the freshest, the ripest, the just-picked, the what’s-from-here.
I’ve started pursuing this philosophy in my kitchen. Foods I grow, those available at the year-round farmer’s market and those produced within my state are what I try to stock my fridge and pantry with. It made sense to me to eat food handled and processed as little as possible by anyone other than myself. The tomato should taste like a tomato. The jalapeño should have some heat. The zucchini need not be of a perfect uniform size. Crunchy salads containing a variety of greens, both bitter and sweet, can exist.
Just because I can buy broccoli at the store in February doesn’t mean I need to. Farmer’s markets will supply foods that grow here, regardless of how desirable those foods are to the general food-buying masses. This year I used rutabagas and celery root for the first time. I grew and braised radicchio Treviso. I’ve become addicted to all forms of kale and raab (rapini). Foods I’ve never really wanted to try I did because they were available.
I can also procure grass-fed, organic beef, chicken, pork and eggs; 7-8 different varieties of potatoes; wild-caught salmon; sustainably raised shellfish; cheese from several local artisans; the best dried mix of foraged mushrooms I’ve ever used; beautiful wheat and emmer farro berries; seasonally: chiles, tomatoes and several varieties of apples; locally produced milk, amazing cinnamon rolls, jarred pickled veggies and kombucha, all at one place on a Saturday morning.
There will probably always be things I buy from elsewhere. We can’t grow olive trees where I live and locally made parmesan can’t hold a candle to the Parmesano Reggiano from Italy. When I read a recipe though, I look for how I can make the dish using what is available to me locally. It increases my sense of place and, really, makes me feel more human.