Born under the earth sign Taurus, I arrived in this world ready to start digging and planting. My love of gardening, nature and craftsmanship was further nurtured by a long lineage of homemakers, masonry workers and farmers. You could say, perhaps, I was born with a silver garden spade!
My natural propensity for tending to the garden easily translated into the kitchen with all of my culinary efforts. But despite the fresh herbs and produce I regularly enjoyed, I didn’t quite make the full connection of our food story until I journeyed back to discover more about my heritage in Ireland.
The first thing I noticed was the quality of the food and the care in preparation everywhere we went from pubs to small fishing villages and bed & breakfast homes. Each morsel held the story of the land that produced it and the people who prepped and created the dish.
An amazing forerunner in the organic farming and farm-to-table movement, Chef Jamie Simpson, once told me, “To move forward in the American culture, it seems like we have to step back.”
Indeed, that’s exactly what I did in Ireland. I stepped back to a time where we knew where all our food came from. Where gardens, farms and root cellars cohabitate with both homes and diners. Where heirloom varieties were cherished and our waitress could tell us why tomatoes in her town tasted different than those of another.
We spent time with homemakers and chefs who used some of the same methods my grandmother had passed down to me and discovered plenty of new ones that were steeped in the old ways or polished with a modern twist. They all understood the nuances of each piece of produce, how to design the dish around the best picks for seasonal enjoyment, and the best ways to preserve or re-purpose extras.
Things that we consider a novelty in the U.S., are simply a way of life on the Emerald Isle. I’ve enjoyed gardening, cooking, canning and eating fresh foods most of my life, but it was there that the food story came to full fruition. In the land across the pond, in the kitchens and dining rooms of my Irish kin, I could feel the history of food and the full impact it has on our lives.
Food, after all, understands the cycles and hardships of the earth and the people it nourishes. Food affects our bodies but can also affect our outlook, our disposition for the day (ever miss your coveted cup of morning coffee?!) and even the way we view our backyards.
When you look at the soil, do you see the potential for life or just the way it may muddy your floor? When you see a new variety of seasonal produce, do you ask how you might apply it to a dish or do you settle for out-of-season items that offer less quality?
I returned from my travels with a renewed sense of desire to continue to embrace the farm to table culture I love and to further infuse my heritage and history, both American and Irish, into each dish.
This led me to experimenting with growing, tasting and creating new varieties of produce and organic foods. It led me to realizing my dream of putting together a sustainable living guide and cookbook that will be published the May with Viva Editions. It led me to journey even further out of the kitchen to discover people in my area who were breaking new and innovating ground in the farm to table movement while still preserving the methods of our past like Chef Simpson.
My transformation in the kitchen is still undergoing a metamorphis daily as my family and I explore new ways to incorporate seasonal produce and nature’s bounty into our home. We are also working on becoming better stewards of the earth and are currently contemplating setting up beekeeping to help take a step towards protecting this vital asset.
Each day I try to share what I’m able to with the world-at-large, as well, because after all, it’s through the generous knowledge and guidance of others throughout my life that have contributed to the wonderful foods that bless our table each day!
As root planting season is quickly approaching and when the first carrots will be planted and the last will be pulled from the cellar, in this spirit of sharing delicious regional dishes and knowledge, you’ll find my recipe for Sorghum glazed roasted carrots below. This dish pays tribute to all the varieties of this vegetable along with a nod to my Kentucky homestead. If you don’t happen to have Kentucky sorghum on hand, you can easily swap in maple syrup instead.
I hope you enjoy this simple dish as much as my family does and that you add a bit to your own food story along the way!
Sorghum Glazed Roasted Carrots
1 pound of fresh carrots, peeled (feel free to add in a few other root vegetables, too, like beets and turnips)
¼ C Kentucky sorghum
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
Optional: dried herbs of your choice, I like to add a little rosemary, oregano and basil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Slice carrots into ¼” slices. If the carrot is already thin (around ¼” in diameter, you may leave it whole.)
3. In a large bowl, add carrots and olive oil. Toss until carrots are coated.
4. Add sea salt and black pepper (and optional herbs, if desired.) Toss until evenly distributed.
5. Spread carrots in a single layer onto a large roasting pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until carrots are soft.
6. In a small saucepan, over a medium heat, add sorghum and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a soft boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from heat and set aside.
7. When carrots are finished cooking, remove from oven and drizzle sorghum glaze over the carrots. Place roasting pan back into the oven and bake for 5 minutes.
8. Remove from oven, serve and enjoy!
Want to meet purveyors who are making a difference with their customers? Check out BonAppetit.com’s “Out of the Kitchen”, an ongoing exploration of the relationships that build and sustain the food industry. See how hyper-local food markets operate and how their focus on quality and service keep customers coming back for more.