In our work as well as in our lives, food is a common thread that connects us all. Here at the Boston Area Gleaners we are obsessed with how food is grown, harvested, cooked & shared. We have the extreme privilege of visiting many different farms and handling many different kinds of produce, from which we draw a great deal of inspiration. We want to chronicle your food knowledge, stories and recipes in your own words, in your own style. Here BAG's Outreach Coordinator, Leah Costlow, shares her own food story.
Before I moved to Massachusetts and started working for BAG, I spent more than a few years living and working on diversified farms in Maine. My longest stint was 3 years on a horse-powered farm in the midcoast town of Wiscasset. I spent the summers managing sheep pasture and growing veggies with the aid of Bill, Perry, and Millie—three tall, brawny, russet-colored Belgian draft horses. Winters were busy, too, with livestock chores, winter markets, and sustainable logging on the farm’s large woodlot. I lived in a tiny cabin heated for the winter by a tiny wood stove, hauling water in 5-gallon buckets from the farmhouse a quarter mile away, and grabbing veggies every day from the farm’s walk-in cooler. I slept on a futon in the cabin’s cozy loft, accessed by a ladder through a hole in the floor. And let me tell you: I slept very well.
With so much to do from dawn to dusk, it was usually a challenge to actually cook for myself and enjoy the fruits of my own labor. Whenever I stumbled across a quick, delicious, nourishing meal, I would file it away in my mental catalogue of easy recipes. Over time this catalogue became (in my mind, at least) a collection I called “The Apprentice Kitchen.” These aren’t recipes so much as an odd assortment of ideas and guidelines for feeding yourself quickly and seasonally, without too much fuss or mental energy required. And who wouldn’t want to cook like that?
As an apprentice, I had full access to what we called “home use” farm produce. Any gleaner would be familiar with this food—it’s the stuff that would otherwise go to waste! In August and September, this often means ripe, ripe, RIPE tomatoes. Cracked, juicy, fat, heavy tomatoes, at the peak of perfection—but too good to survive a trip to market. Here’s what to do for a miracle meal that's good at any time of day:
Drizzle olive into a small or medium cast-iron pan. When the olive oil is hot, add thick slices of ripe heirloom tomato: I’d go with ½ inch or thicker. Your pan should be small enough that you can cover the bottom with tomato. Season the tomatoes with a little salt and pepper, then crack eggs on top of the tomato slices. Keep the heat at a moderate level, so the olive oil and tomato juice bubbles up around the bottom of the egg, but not so high that the eggs cook too fast. If you like your eggs well done, put a lid on top of the pan after a few minutes. Otherwise, take the pan off the heat when the yolks feel springy. Scrape onto some good sourdough bread and season with salt, pepper, and whatever fresh herbs you might have around.
Whether you’re a farm apprentice or a gleaner, this is a meal to satisfy...no matter how tired, hungry, and sore you are.
By Leah Costlow
Simple or complex, innovative or an old standby, we want to know what gleaned dishes you love! Contribute to the upcoming BAG cookbook, and have your recipe featured here on the blog!
Email your recipes to Miss Jeanie at missGLEANie@gmail.com