4.24.19

As city girls, we’re constantly fantasizing about a rustic life where we can grow our own food and eat with the seasons. According to our latest poll, most of our readers are dreaming about the same.

Chef Abra Berens is living that life, hosting unique dinners on the idyllic Granor Farm in Michigan and we love how she’s managed to balance her passion for farming with a talent for high-quality culinary art.

Abra’s ethos is simple: the meals we eat should change with the seasons and their ingredients should come from the freshest sources nearby. The talented chef and former farmer recently published her debut cookbook Ruffage: A Practical Guide To Vegetables which has us majorly hungry and inspired.

  1. Here’s what is inside the new author’s fridge

Always in my fridge:

Eggs, pickles, fancy salted butter, sour cream, garlic confit, hard cheese (Parmesan, gruyere, cheddar), soft cheese (chevre, cottage cheese, feta) and some weird mix of vegetables in a variety of quantity and freshness.

Recipe staples always on hand:

Canned chickpeas, chili flakes, vinegar, oil (olive and neutral), oil-packed tuna, chickpea flour and pasta.

Favorite ingredient:

Most used: red cabbage. Most beloved: fresh sardines.

Best food memory:

Sitting at the Point Reyes Lighthouse with my husband eating a huge spread of Cowgirl Creamery cheeses on a fresh baguette and drinking an ice cold beer in the middle of a day-long hike.

Favorite cookbook:

Deep Run Roots by Vivian Howard or Tender by Nigel Slater

Midnight snack perfection:

Popcorn topped with grated gruyere and a lot of black pepper.

Food I love to eat with zero prep:

Portugese Piri Piri Mackrel tossed (with the oil) and fresh tomatoes, while eating outside when it’s super hot.

Must-have kitchen tool:

A knife of at least some degree of sharpness.

Must-have munchies:

pistachios

Favorite condiments:

Pickle liquid dressing, chili oil, bagna cauda and real buttermilk ranch.

Go-to clean proteins:

Eggs and whole milk from Granor Farm (where I work), and black beans from my dad’s farm.

Best bargain tip:

Look in your fridge/pantry before you feel like you need to go the store. There is often enough to make a meal with what you already have on hand.

Best label-reading tip:

Buy stuff without labels — this is a cheeky way of saying look for primary ingredients. They are cheaper and more of the money you are spending has gone to the farmer instead of the food processing company.

Favorite veggie + what you make with it:

Red cabbage or cauliflower salad — I shave it thinly and dress with whatever flavors go with the rest of your meal. Either a pickle liquid dressing and a bunch of herbs, or with dates, ancho chili paste and a lot of lime and cilantro. And on and on and on and on.

Craziest thing I buy at the market:

I love the very average spring rolls from the sushi part of the grocery store. I always say I’m not going to buy them, but I have no will power and I’m coming to terms with that.

Favorite food splurge:

Oysters. Lots and lots of oysters.

Ideal dinner setting:

Wherever there are people I want to talk with and happens to be food too.

Signature entertaining detail:

That everything will be about 80% finished when you arrive. If you ask how can I help? you will be put in charge of finishing something, so don’t ask unless you mean it.

Simple go-to recipe:

When there is nothing else to eat I make socca. Equal parts chickpea flour and soda water with a pinch of salt pan fried (in more olive oil than you think you need) into crispy pancakes and then topped with whatever vegetables you have on hand tossed with oil-packed tuna or olive oil.

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