End of Summer Barley Bowl with Sweet Corn, Eggplant & Tomatoes

Hello dear ones and happy September. I’ve never been more grateful to reach this beautiful month of sunny skies, cooler weather, crisp mornings, and waning work on the farm. It’s been a season my friends: a beautiful, stressful, demanding, prolific, lifechanging season.

A lot has happened since we last talked way back in May. Like a hell of a lot. Let’s recap it all for you, shall we?

In mid-May, my Carrot and I began to seriously hustle. I was seven months pregnant so hustling was not so easy for me, but I tried anyway. My Carrot moved swiftly from working 60 hours a week to working upwards of 80 or 90 when needed. We were both determined to frontload as much of our work in the early part of the season as possible so we could celebrate and enjoy our first baby while hopefully also comfortably taking some time away from the farm. We laid landscape fabric and paper mulch to keep weeds down in fields where we’d never used those things before. We weeded constantly and refused to let them get ahead of us.

Around the same time, we launched a spring share CSA program to 70 members and loved every second. A little bit later in the month, we hired a new employee, lost that new employee (during our busiest planting week of the season), begged my brother to fill in, and luckily found a new employee to replace the one we lost (all in the course of about three days). Planting went well. Then it hit 28 degrees at the end of May. Somehow, with an extreme amount of work, most things survived. Then it stopped raining, and never really started again. We moved from weeding constantly to irrigating constantly. Never have we ever had to irrigate SO MUCH.

As the weeding and planting season waned ever so slightly, my hubby ramped up construction of the hoophouse we received grant funding for (the hoophouse we had no time to build with all the frontloading of farm work, baby prep and watering). He hustled like mad to try and finish it anyway, but eventually we caved and asked for an extension to finish it later this year.

June, July and August have come and gone. The crops have started, peaked, and are already beginning to slow. The CSA has been running strong: some of the fullest, most beautiful boxes we’ve ever given. I’ve seriously never been more proud of them. And praise the lord, we’re going on week 15 in the CSA with only four boxes remaining. It’s been a challenging, bountiful, sweltering season of farming. There’s so much more to say about it (things about fulfillment, balance, burn out, and alignment), but for that, you’ll have to wait.

Meanwhile, I got promoted to Sales Manager at Edible Madison. I published a couple recipe columns for them too (see here and here) and put together two more for next spring and summer. I finished an ebook that’s a collection of all of my favorite blog recipes. I OFFICIALLY finished my video series grant project with North Central SARE (you can find it here). I was on a podcast talking about it with my friend Kat and will be doing a webinar about the project later this fall.

Somewhere in that blur, we completed ten weeks of a very intense (but very helpful) baby class and drove to Madison for countless prenatal appointments (followed by date nights) before welcoming a beautiful BABY GIRL into the world at the end of July.

Lillyan Jeanette Rudersdorf was born July 31st at 2:46 in the morning. We enjoyed four perfect days in the hospital (first preparing to meet her, then recovering) followed by a couple days at home before my Carrot had to get back to work. Our beautiful Lilly is (somehow) already six weeks old.

So, since we last talked, I’ve birthed a human and recovered from birthing a human. I’ve taken a break from the farm, I’ve returned to the farm, and now I’m preparing to reduce my hours at the farm substantially. I’ve learned to breastfeed. We’ve become parents. We’ve lost sleep. We’ve caught up on sleep. We’ve snapped a couple times. Then a couple more. We’ve asked for help, and re-learned to ask for help. We’ve introduced our sweet Lilly to most people we love, taken her on countless hikes, dates, and adventures, and reveled in the fact that somehow everything and nothing has changed with this snuggly, stubborn, sweet little girl.

It’s been a tremendous past four months and I’ve missed you all desperately. I also missed cooking desperately. During pretty much my entire pregnancy I had zero energy to cook let alone craft recipes I was excited about. I was making the same twelve things on repeat, trying to sustain myself with the least amount of energy possible. But recovering from childbirth during tomato season has been the greatest gift. It would have been hard not to get excited about food again.

I started gently, asking my Carrot to bring home buckets of tomatoes for us to eat with the freezer meals friends prepared for us for dinner. Suddenly, I was heading to the farm myself and hauling home crates full of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and sweet corn. Before I knew it, my trusty Six Seasons cookbook was living open on the counter and I was working my way through all of his late summer recipes.

It’s been a beautiful journey finding myself back in my kitchen. It looks different because Lilly will only cooperate with short bursts of kitchen activity. I either cook when my Carrot is home from the farm or with Lilly in a wrap, but it works. We are well fed by the bounty of our fields and we still have a freezer stuffed with meals I prepared back in April or that friends have brought over. I know we’ll need those to sustain us when the tomatoes run out.

So, without futher ado, I have a tasty recipe for you that I spared no time photographing (because what new mom has time for that) and is a perfect celebration of the bounty we’re experiencing right now at the end of summer. I hope you enjoy it.

Much love and much more goodness to come,
Your Leek

I will admit that this recipe uses one or two more pans/bowls than I would like it to (I’m turning into a one pan if possible person), but because it’s an easily batchable and scalable recipe I love it anyway. New momma Lauren only allows things to have this many steps when a) I can easily take a break between steps and just let things go on their own or b) the end result of all the steps can provide me nourishing lunches for the whole week.

Takes 50 minutes
Serves 4

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 smashed garlic cloves
1 cup barley
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
2 large eggplant or 3 medium eggplant, cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
4 ears sweet corn, husked
1 quart cherry tomatoes, halved (or more)
1/4 cup fresh herbs (anything tender: basil, chives, mint, cilantro or a combination), optional

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large, shallow skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add barley and toast for 1-2 minutes until it smells nutty. Add chicken broth, water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer over medium low heat. Cook for 35 minutes until water is fully absorbed into the barley.
  3. On a large baking sheet, coat eggplant with remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, tossing once or twice during the baking process to make sure all sides of the eggplant get a little crispy.
  4. In a large bowl, submerge scallions in ice water to cut their sharp flavor. Let them soak at least 15 minutes. Then drain well.
  5. Bring a large kettle of water to boiling on the stove. Add sweet corn and cook for 4 minutes. Drain and remove kernels from the ear with a large knife or mandolin.
  6. In a large bowl, combine cooked barley, roasted eggplant, scallions, and sweet corn.
  7. Add cherry tomatoes and herbs right before serving.

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