Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Weatherbury Farm Redux Polenta Version

Monday was a great day to visit the East Liberty Farmers Market. I got a lot of delicious items, and I will be writing all about the different vendors who were there in a post coming soon.

Because it was there, I bought two batches of asparagus from Harvest Valley Farms. I love local, fresh asparagus, and you should too. Last night we had a delicious dinner with roasted asparagus over polenta. Roasted asparagus tastes good with anything, but since we have some great organic local cornmeal from Weatherbury Farm, that is what I used. Some photos of the farm are below.


Weatherbury Farm started growing, milling, and selling their own grains quite a few years back. Back in April of 2008, I wrote a blog post about beef and farm stays at Weatherbury Farm. At that time, their grains were not available. Now, grains are a big part of their business. They are all certified organic, grown on their farm, and milled on their property with a mill certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. All of the following products are stone ground. They grow Maxine Hard Winter Wheat, which is used for whole wheat bread flour and unbleached bread flour, Frederick Soft White Winter Wheat (available in August 2016), which is used for whole wheat cake and pastry flour and unbleached cake and pastry flour, Aroostook Rye, for whole rye flour and light rye flour, Oberkulmer Spelt, for whole spelt flour and unbleached spelt flour, Wapsie Valley Open Pollinated Corn, for open pollinated polenta (more coarse) and open pollinated cornmeal (more refined), buckwheat flour, and rolled oats. They also grow black turtle beans, and those will be available in November 2016. Some other grains they are working on are einkorn, emmer, and Hull-less oats. We just missed a grain pickup; it was Saturday, May 14. Customers need to order from Weatherbury Farm (link to the order form) about a week in advance because they mill to order. Then you drive to their farm in Avella, PA to pick up your order. They have a Facebook site, FYI.

Weatherbury Farm grains can also be purchased at the Market Street Grocery in downtown Pittsburgh. Currently they have cornmeal and buckwheat.

Or, a greater variety of the Weatherbury Farm grain products are available through the Penn's Corner Farm Alliance Farm Stand. You can place an order through an app or online by May 19 and then pick it up next week. This pattern repeats each week, actually. Multiple location are available for pick up (Monroeville, Squirrel Hill, Lawrenceville, Homewood, or Northside, etc.) or one can get home delivery (in the Pittsburgh area) for an order over $50 for a $15 fee. I will definitely have a blog about Penn's Corner at some point.

The farm itself also sells grass-fed, sustainably organic freezer beef and lamb. Customers can order beef now in the form of 1/4 or 1/2 cow to be picked up in August and/ or December of 2016. There is also a waiting list for lamb. Last year I was lucky enough to purchase 10 pounds of whole cow hamburger. I wish I had purchased 20! It was fantastic and so convenient.

I purchased the oats, polenta, and turtle beans about a year ago also. As soon as I brought them home, I placed all of my bags in the refrigerator. The only one left is the polenta. It is still very good, actually.

As I said, I made polenta last night to go with roasted asparagus, onion, and mushrooms. The recipe heavily borrowed from this one.

Roasted Veggies over Polenta
2 bunches asparagus
8 ounces of cremini/ baby portobello mushrooms (you could use button or regular portobellos also)
1/2 medium-sized red onion (or one small, or 1/3 of a large, etc)
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh, minced rosemary
1 tsp fresh, minced thyme
1 tsp fresh, minced oregano

1 cup Polenta from Weatherbury Farm
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese or
1/3 cup shredded Royer Mountain Cheese from Clover Creek Cheese Cellar (this has so much flavor compared to Parmesan, you don't need as much)
1/4 tsp black pepper (or crushed red pepper if you like a little heat)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

After cutting off tough ends, chop asparagus into 2 inch pieces. Quarter the baby bellas, 1/4 the 1/2 of the red onion.

Spray the vegetables with an oil mister (or drizzle with oil), sprinkle with salt and toss. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. If your asparagus is different thicknesses (as mine was) leave the thin stalks out for now. Put in the oven once it is preheated. Set timer for 5 minutes.

Bring 3 cups of water and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil. When it is boiling, add the polenta in a slowish, steady stream while stirring (so no lumps are created). Turn down the heat so that the polenta is at a low boil or vigorous simmer. Set the timer for 10 minutes.

At this point, your timer should have gone off, so turn your baking sheet, stir the vegetables, add the thinner asparagus, and reset the timer for five more minutes, which will be enough time to bring out the sweet flavors of the vegetables without making them too soft. Adjust timing as needed for your own oven, of course.

Stir the polenta as often as you can otherwise it sticks to the bottom of the pan and burns. You may need to add up to 1 cup of additional water if the polenta sticks too much or seems too dry.

When the vegetables are done, remove them from the oven and move them to a bowl. Toss them with the rosemary, oregano, and thyme. Or serve on a platter and sprinkle with herbs.

Once the polenta has absorbed all of the water, remove from heat. Stir in shredded cheese, and add pepper if you wish.

I used to purchase local mushrooms from Mushrooms for Life at the Farmers@Firehouse market in the Strip District. Sadly, the market is no longer open. Boo hoo. I'm not sure if he will pop up anywhere this season. In the meantime, you can get local mushrooms at the East End Food Coop.

Articles about Weatherbury Farm:

Furthermore, if you are looking for additional recipes with polenta, in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette a feature was written about George Washington's recreated grist mill at Mount Vernon. Interesting recipes using grits, which I believe are interchangeable with polenta, appear in the article. There is one for shrimp and grits, which I have made many times and is delicious, and peach and grits parfait, which I may try during peach season.

What grains do you use from local grain suppliers? How do you like to prepare polenta/ grits? Or asparagus?

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