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The term farm-to-table is thrown around so often these days that sometimes it’s difficult to see beyond the buzzword. But for this week’s test kitchen visitors, Ian Knauer and Shelley Wiseman, it’s truly a way of life. Former Gourmet magazine editors, they now run a cooking school at an organic produce farm in Titusville, New Jersey, where they teach everything from classic techniques to modern homesteading skills. They also host seasonal dinners and sell food at the weekend farmers’ market (like soup made with whey leftover from their cheesemaking classes!).
Ian and Shelley were in town to celebrate their first cookbook together, “The Farm Cooking School: Techniques and Recipes That Celebrate the Seasons.” They stopped by the test kitchen to catch up with our deputy food editor Greg Lofts, who used to work with them at Gourmet, and share one of their favorite dishes from the book: a savory rhubarb chutney. “It’s a good example of how we cook at the farm,” says Shelley. “We only use what’s available to us, and often it's something we have in excess that time of year, like rhubarb, and we have to figure out what to do with it.”
The chutney calls for cooking rhubarb down with brown sugar, golden raisins, fresh ginger, serrano chile, and garlic until tender and syrupy. “It’s very simple and lasts forever in the fridge, or it can be preserved and kept at room temperature,” says Shelley. She recommends serving it with roast duck, braised pork belly, or on a cheese plate.
For the test kitchen, Ian and Shelley paired the chutney with grilled bone-in pork chops from a neighboring farm in Titusville. Ian says, “There’s a farm that raises animals a mile away from us, and we send them all our scraps. It’s a wonderful way to recycle the trimmings and peelings of all our vegetables—they feed the pigs, and we buy the pigs back, so it’s a complete circle.” The spicy-sweet-tart chutney was the perfect foil for the rich meat, and in mere minutes, there was nothing but bones left on the plate.
Another dish inspired by a bumper crop in the book: eggplant brownies, which sounded so intriguing that Greg baked a batch for Ian and Shelley’s visit. Ian came up with the recipe as a way to use up bruised eggplants that weren’t pretty enough to sell at the market. “I was looking for a creative way to make dessert out of a vegetable everyone thinks of as savory,” says Ian. He decided to treat steamed eggplant like applesauce, having it take the place of fat in the batter. The food editors were surprised by how fudgy and chocolatey the brownies turned out. Sarah thought the eggplant worked even better than applesauce because of the vegetable’s velvety, gooey texture and neutral flavor. Perhaps it’ll serve as summer baking inspiration; after all, the test kitchen's already developed a Chocolate-Zucchini Bread and Chocolate-Beet Cake, so can eggplant be that far behind??!