a grainy affair

This last week we received our first ever grain CSA. I am freaking out a little bit about it: thirty pounds of ancient and heirloom grains and lentils grown right here in Montana and delivered to us. What a gift! What a fun experiment to learn to cook with new food! What an honor to support this hard-working family! What fun to learn about these grains and beans!

www.digthischick.netthe farro seed dates back 20,000 years!

The girls and I explored and talked about the dried kernels yesterday. Their enthusiasm met my curiosity and we had a full-blown educational experience at the kitchen table. We learned about true whole grains: fully intact grain. People often strip grains of the nutrient-rich exterior to speed up cooking or improve aesthetic. We learned about food industrialization and seed threat (ok, that was just my own lesson. I lost the girls when I started talking about Monsanto and soil biodiversity). We packed them in my favorite jars and planned meals.

heirloom and ancient whole grains

I quite literally couldn’t wait to cook with our new beauties. And so, last night’s dinner became our first Prairie Heritage Farm CSA meal, prepared by Ruby and me. It may sound clinical but here’s what it was: DELICIOUS.

The farm’s website has some recipes and I adapted our dinner from a recipe they listed out of Mothering Magazine, using ingredients we had on hand. I think many vegetable combinations would be awesome (winter squash + sage or summer squash, fennel + thyme). Next time, I’ll add frozen corn.

Farro Lentil Pilaf
serves 6 or so

farro lentil pilaf via www.digthischick.net

3 T olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
1 cup uncooked lentils
1 cup uncooked farro
2 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
plain yogurt or sour cream
cilantro, chopped


Preheat the oven to 325. In a Dutch oven, heat oil and sauté garlic until fragrant. Add farro, lentils, carrots, celery, parsnip and stir. Add water, tomatoes, salt and cumin. Cover and bake in the oven for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until grain and lentils are done to your liking. We like the farro to be al dente. Remove dutch oven. Gently (minimal stirring) fold on cheese and pine nuts. Serve immediately with a dollop of yogurt of sour cream and cilantro.

farro lentil pilaf via www.digthischick.net

Holy smokes was it tasty. Ruby reluctantly took her first bite and then beamed, “Yum! I think this is good for my body!” It’s actually all gone already because Andy brought it to work for lunch and I ate it for breakfast.

farro lentil pilaf via www.digthischick.net

CSAs are growing in popularity and with good, heartening reason. Everything we buy is a vote for what we want in our world. Investing in food grown by our neighbors directly supports our local economy, environment and community. And, the freshly and sustainably harvested food brings nutrient-packed food into the bodies of those you love. To find CSAs and farms in your neighborhood, visit Local Harvest (type in your zip code on the right hand side of the page).

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Today, in my mamalode column I wrote about my meandering, spontaneous ways. Trying to figure out if I need to work on my daily rhythm (always late/behind) or embrace my natural inclination. Click to read mama digs: tick tock.

30 Responses to a grainy affair

  1. I love CSA’s!! So far we’ve just done veggie ones in the summer…good to know there are more options out there. I can’t wait until summer to start getting our shares to supplement our own garden. SO wish Montana had a longer growing season!

  2. carrie says:

    i’ve been reading your blog for a while now and i also live in missoula. this post made me chuckle because i did a very similar post on my blog last night! (http://lifeislekker.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/whole-grains/). my husband and i did the same grain CSA and are excited to explore these new foods. your farro pilaf looks great! i’ve done a lot of whole grain recipe searching and have a book on hold at the library that should be coming soon. enjoy!

    • dig dig says:

      Awesome! Happy to ‘meet’ you. Would love to know how you use end up using your grains. I am so excited about them!

      – Nici

  3. Melina says:

    They are so beautiful in those jars!! I’d love to get something like this in the mail. I wonder if they’re available in WA….I’ve been so enamoured with my juicer this year that I’ve had liquid meals for the last month. I need fiber. In a big way.


  4. Sara says:

    So, so cool – and thank you for sharing the CSA website! I make my little guy’s baby food – he is almost 8 months – and would love to utilize a local CSA for ingredients. :)

  5. Jen says:

    Yet another reason why I keep telling my husband we need to move to Montana. That is SUCH a great idea, adn your food looks delish. Thanks for sharing! Jen

  6. Jaim says:

    Your mama lode article had me laughing! I have always thought of you as someone who’s got their shit in order and ordered by color and size. I am so much like what you describe I had to smile that I really am not the only one out there that will by pass my chores, laundry, vacuuming, tiding for a good weekend up the mountain. I used to think that I got so much done in the winter but now that the girls can ski I think I maybe get less done in the winter. Thanks, once again, for pointing out that I am not alone in my untidiness

    I love that you are using this CSA! They supply our little local grocery store in Choteau and they’re also at the local Great Falls Farmers Market. We have close friends who just moved their CSA to Fort Shaw and it’s so awesome to see how we’ll their doing. I’ve actually thought about their grain CSA but just haven’t. Your recipes may push me over the edge, so keep them coming. By the way, I’ll plug my friends CSA and if anyone’s in the Great Falls area you should check them out! groundworksfarmmt.com


  7. Katie says:

    I wish I could just reach through the computer screen and grab that plate. Looks delicious! You probably already know about this cookbook: Good to the Grain. I only recently discovered it and am loving it. With your new grain csa it would be perfect!

  8. Brandi says:

    LOVELY! I’m going to be relocating from Fairbanks, AK area to Minot, ND area this fall. I can’t wait to research similar opportunities in the area!

  9. Jorie says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for the website info :)

  10. I’m so excited about this whole ancient grain thing. We grow favas, of course, but I want to see what sorts of grains we can grow here in zone 3. From what I hear, definitely barley. I’ll have to ask our local farmers if anyone grows it for sale. Anyway, so awesome and I can’t wait to hear more about your grains!

  11. I love our island’s CSA and the attainability of fresh and local foods. I feel really lucky about the food that’s available to us. But I must admit, I’m a bit scared of lentils. Seems like they’re all around us. I’ve got to say this recipe actually looks like something we’d like and love. Thanks, pal.

  12. sian says:

    Damn it now I want to do grains too! And I’m only just learning to cook the basics. You make me wanna be better Nici! Also loved your essay it was like you were describing me. Not that I have stopped trying to be organised and on time but I am more forgiving of my natural inclination. It does have it’s perks xxx

  13. Just wanted to say that I think Ruby’s a little young for wine. I didn’t start my kids on wine until they were at least 5, but she *is* precocious.
    A grain CSA? What a superduper coolio fab thing! Yay, you! xo

  14. Wow! This is awesome! And it looks delicious! Introducing our children to real food early on is so amazing all the while supporting local farmers who grow heritage grains… Could it get any better??

  15. kristianna says:

    Thanks for the recipe! I bought farro from TJ’s recently and have been unsure how to make it

  16. Ellie says:

    Sounds truly awesome, Nici. I might lie if I said that I’ve cooked farro before.
    We subscribe to two CSAs, which means that, here in Northern Cali, we get fruits and veggies year round. Holy smokes the citrus right now.
    As for whole grains etc. you might want to check out this book:
    She has strong opinions that not everyone might agree with (e.g.: yes to butter, most oils are bad), but some of the stuff she claims about how whole grains used to be treated to improve digestion in ancient cultures (soaking etc.) makes a whole lot of sense.

  17. Cari says:

    So, I would love to bring my little peanut girl to your home to play with your girlies. I would bring the wine (I’m told I have great taste) & you could make that dish…. Then we’d have a lovely time chatting while our girls ran around having a blast. I completely saw that scene in my mind. Is that weird??? :)
    You are doing good things by introducing people to this information.
    Thank you!

  18. Martha says:

    Going to do a spring/summer share with my mama this year, love living down the block from her! :)

  19. Monique says:

    Thank you for posting the website. I was happy to find quite a few around where I live. I am going to research this more and hopefully participate in one. Your meal looked delish.

  20. Dave says:

    This is reminds me of one of my favorite jokes. What do vegetarian zombies eat? Graaaaaaaains!

  21. Kristin says:

    I have the recipe for the lentil burgers from Benny’s in Helena. Let me know if you want it.

    And http://www.timelessfood.com/ has good recipes.

    We get giant bags of lentils (and sometimes purple barley) from my cousin so I’m always excited to see new lentil recipes.


  22. Louise says:

    I am not a coffee drinker. I am a tea snob to a lesser degree of your coffee snobbery (give me a Tetleys British Blend and you can keep your Lipton kind so I guess more fussy than snobby, I take my own tea bags to the pancake house)! But every part of this post makes me want to try a shot of espresso, I can smell it through your words and despite disliking the taste, I do love the smell of coffee. What an awesome hubby you have!

  23. Louise says:

    Somehow I commented on the wrong post, but I’m sure you know that already!!

  24. carrie says:

    any yummy new recipes you’ve tried with your grains? i’ve made several soups with them. my favorite is probably a venison and wheat berry stew in red wine that i made tonight – so much flavor!

    do you plan to mill any of the grains for flour? we don’t have a mill so i’ve been cooking them all but it would be great to make fresh flour.

    happy cooking with grains…

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