Last week I shared about a trip to the grocery store and my discovery there. This week, I want to share more about what I found, and then we’ll dig into this Porcini Mushroom, Greens, and Forbidden Rice Gratin.
To review from last week, my grocery store shared a series of educational signs about why organic matters, attempting to educate its patrons on the importance of supporting organic agriculture. I was reminded about this again, this weekend, when Rob and I went to see The Messenger, a documentary. Have you seen it?
One of the signs the store shared was reasons for supporting organic agriculture. One point that has stuck in my mind is organic farming supports biodiversity; “An organic farm is the equivalent of reforestation. An industrial farm is the equivalent of clear cutting native habitat with a focus on high farm yields.”
One can point to pesticide use as an example as to why conventional farming does not support biodiversity. Take neonicotinoids (ie neonics), a class of pesticides. These pesticides have been linked to honeybee and native bee declines. Important because one out of every three bites of food we eat is the result of bee pollination. But neonics also harm terrestrial, aquatic, and marine invertebrates by leaching into the soil and waterways undermining health and welfare of the food chain.
Some are calling the widespread use of this class of pesticide the next Silent Spring because they are persistent, toxic and mobile. Do you remember DDT? My concern is not only human health, but the overall well-being of other living things of which we are intricately tied to. Do the benefits of using these neonics outweigh the risks?
At upwards of $2.6 billion in industry sales (2009), and scientific suppression in our government’s decision-making process, consumers will need to vote with their pocketbooks. The unfortunate thing is, you won’t see this on nightly or cable news, popmedia or our presidential candidates debating it in an effort to bring light to this urgent issue. After-all, it doesn’t bring in ratings like Fox News, The Bachelor or Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
But the bottom line is, as consumers, we have a choice to make. With Spring upon us, I hope you’ll consider this important issue and how it affects each of us, including other living things we share our planet with. Thankfully, some home improvement stores will or have stopped selling some of these toxic concoctions for home use. But buyer beware. There are other potent, damaging pesticides still on the shelves.
Resources: This video, although slightly dated, is a review of the issue and discusses neonics pervasiveness. This Ted Talk explains the importance of pollinators, conventional farming practices and pesticide impact on bees. To take e-action, I signed up for NRDC’s action alerts. Action can be taken here on the neonics issue. I use this resource for planting pollinator friendly plants, listed by region. Finally, how we can all play a role in bringing back pollinators. To find a local farm or CSA, local harvest has you covered.
I know this isn’t easy information to digest. But it’s important and each one of us has the power to make a difference.
Let’s talk about this gratin, a much lighter subject.
Porcini (say it with me! ‘por-tchee-knee’) mushrooms can be found year-round in dried form, typically in 1 oz bags. I find them at my local Co-Op, along with forbidden rice (AKA purple or black rice). Either ingredient can be found here or here if you’re unable to find them locally.
This gratin is packed with superfoods. For example, mushrooms are powerful in immune system support and are protective against cancer. Forbidden rice rivals blueberries in anthocyanin, an antioxidant. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is protective against heart disease and cancer. No doubt our immune system can use all the support it can get in our modern world.
Porcini mushrooms and forbidden wild rice pair well because they both impart a nutty, umami flavor while the porcini also add a firm, meaty texture. Gruyère adds a bit of richness and indulgence.
The swiss chard and kale are courtesy of our local farm. If you find these greens locally, they have probably been overwintered and are particularly sweet and tender. I claim that comfort food has met superfood. Hearty enough to be served as a main, it won’t last long!
Before I sign off, I’m curious to know your thoughts on neonics. Please leave a comment below.
This gratin makes a hearty main dish or a delicious side. It won't last long! Vegetarian + GF Optional
1 oz (28g) Dried Porcini Mushrooms
1 C (194g) Forbidden Black Rice
4 1/2 C (344g) Yellow or Sweet Onions, sliced into thin 1/2 moons (about 2 large onions)
1 Tbs Coconut Oil, Virgin, Unrefined* (see note)
2 Tbs Butter, divided
1 tsp Sea Salt, divided
1 tsp Pepper, divided
2 1/2 C (104g) Kale
2 C (118g) Rainbow or Swiss Chard
1 1/2 C (116g) Bread Crumbs** (see note) Gluten Free if required
8 oz (227g) Gruyere, grated
1/2 tsp Fresh Thyme, chopped
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
Cooking Pan Spray
Fresh Thyme for Garnish
- Bring 2 C of water to boil. Place porcini in heat proof bowl and pour the boiling water over the porcini. Cover for 30 minutes to soften the porcini.
- Put the black rice on to cook. Fill stock pot with rice, a pinch of sea salt and 2 C water. Bring to a boil, turn the stove to low, cover and cook for about 30 minutes. When cooking is complete, the rice will be tender and no water will remain. Place rice in large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Cut the onions in half and slice length wise so that your slices are thin and long. Melt the coconut oil and 1 Tbs butter in a large non stick sauté pan. Place the onions in the pan with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Cooking on medium to low heat, these will take about 30 minutes to caramelize. Don't rush them else they'll burn. Low and slow here. Stir occasionally.
- For the greens, wash the kale and chard. De-stem the kale. Ribbon the greens by rolling the leaves up, length wise, then cutting about 1/2" ribbons. Then, rough chop the ribbons in 1/2. Set aside.
- Melt 1 Tbs butter and mix it into the bread crumbs. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). After the porcini have softened, strain the porcini through cheese cloth, reserving the broth. Squeeze the cheese cloth so that the broth is extracted from the porcini. Give the mushrooms a good rinse in a sieve to make sure they are free from debris. Rough chop the porcini and place them in the large mixing bowl with the rice. Strain the broth through the sieve again. Measure out 1/3 C (80g) of the broth and set aside. Freeze or refrigerate the remaining broth for future use.
- When the onions are done caramelizing, add the greens to the sauté' pan, with the onions. This may be done in batches if needed. When the greens just start to wilt, pull them from the pan and put them in the large mixing bowl with the cooked rice and porcini.
- In the large mixing bowl, mix all the rice, porcini, greens, caramelized onions, 1/2 the grated gruyere, thyme, nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Mix to evenly distribute the ingredients. Taste to check seasoning. Now is a good time to adjust if necessary.
- Prepare a 3-4 Quart casserole by spraying it with cooking spray. Pour the rice/greens mixture in the dish, smoothing it out. Pour a 1/3 C (80g) of the broth over the mixture. Spread the remaining gruyere over the top, then top the gratin with the breadcrumbs. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Garnish with fresh, chopped thyme.
- Store in a covered container for up to three days.
I use unrefined coconut oil for most of my cooking and baking. You will not taste coconut in the recipe. I reserve olive oil mostly for roasting, salad dressing, drizzling and dipping, but it can be subbed here if needed.
*For homemade breadcrumbs, process five pieces of bread in a food processor, then bake the crumbs at 325F (163C) for about 30 minutes, stirring once, to dry them out. Use gluten-free if necessary.
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
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