Chef Todd Heberlein the head chef at Volante Farms takes his soups seriously. For that matter he takes all his cooking seriously, but with a nice pinch of humor. While he has cooked for over 5000 people at the re-opening of the Getty Museum and for A-Listers at the Emmy’s, he is most at home, he exclaims emphatically, on a farm. It would be hard not to believe that is would be any Chef’s dream job. Imagine having the finest and freshest ingredients available for you at your disposal.
Chef Todd hosts a cooking series where the setting is bit like America’s Test Kitchen meets the trendy Farm-to-Table Supper. These gatherings are becoming a mainstay in the locavore food movement. Two dozen of us were able to sit and enjoy wine pairings while Chef Todd created and told stories, all while sharing invaluable cooking and food tips along the way. Our night’s theme was “Healthy Winter Cooking.” The Winter Barley Soup nailed it for me.
The recipe leaves a ton of room for interpretation, which I love. If you don’t have sweet potatoes, throw in parsnips or turnips. If you don’t have escarole, let it be kale. I thought the best part was that during these winter months a local ripe tomato can be hard to find in the Northeast corridor, but alas, a can of San Marzano Tomatoes will do the trick nicely. This soup is hearty, full of flavor and perfect to reheat over and over until the pot is empty. The added sherry makes for a sweet kick to this flavorful mix. One tip Chef Todd offers that makes complete sense to us all? He never dictates how much salt or pepper to put in a recipe. This, he says, is a personal choice.
The farm store is a beautiful tapestry of color housing unique locally sourced products ranging from specialty chocolates like Taza to marinades and honey. Produce with whimsical names like cherimoya, kohlrabi and pomelo share space with bags of grains from Four Star Farms. The farm has just been awarded with a Wine and Malt Beverage license. The prepared goods are stocked daily and the baked goods are simply tantalizing. Chef Todd’s wife Jen is responsible for these sinful delights. Nutella whoopie pies and S’more cupcakes beckoned us from the backdrop of our dinner. The dessert that was prepared for us this winter night was an absolutely divine Flourless Chocolate Citrus Quinoa Cake. Yes, Quinoa. Believe me, this is so darn good, it would fool even the most finicky eater.
Volante Farms has been around since 1917. The facility is now as state of the art as a farm can be, but still exudes that quintessential farm feel you want your kids to experience. Direct family descendants still call all the shots. It is the kind of place where you could spend hours filling your bags with some of the most unique items around or you can simply swing in to grab a few ears of corn. I highly doubt though you will leave with just corn.
Winter Barley Soup
|Meal type||Mushrooms, Onions, Sweet Potato, Tomatoes|
- 2 lbs four Star Farms Barley
- 1 oz dried mushrooms, chopped
- 1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 bunch collard greens, stems discarded, leaves chopped
- 1 head escarole, chopped
- 2 tbs garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup sherry
- 1 tbs sage, chopped
- 1 lb sweet potatoes, diced
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
|1||Preheat oven to 375 degrees.|
|2||Lightly coat sweet potatoes with oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread out on a sheet pan and roast until tender, about 15-18 minutes. Set aside.|
|3||Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in a soup pot over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until golden brown. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add sherry and reduce by half. Add tomatoes and mushrooms, and simmer for 15 minutes.|
|4||Add a pinch of salt and pepper, barley and about 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer. Cook for 20 min.|
|5||Add collards and escarole and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes.|
|6||Remove from heat, stir in sage and sweet potatoes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.|