Great Gratin!

Say it aloud, holding your pointer finger up in the air.
“Great Gratin!” makes a great exclamation!

butternut squash & leeks new pi eats

Your guests may give the same performance after eating it : )

This gratin goes with everything (including turkey!). It’s simple to put together, makes wonderful use of our beautiful local squash, and has been popular whenever I’ve served it. Thyme, lemon, and parmesan make it sing.

new pi eats sauteing leeks

There may not be  marshmallows on top, and it may not be a traditional family recipe, but this would be a great last minute addition to a holiday table. But holiday meal or just a cozy night in, this recipe will serve you well all winter long.

new pi eats harvest gratin

Harvest Gratin of Butternut Squash, Corn, & Leeks

Adapted from Fast, Fresh & Green: More than 90 Delicious Recipes for Veggie Lovers by Susie Middleton

Serves 4-5 as a side

1 T. plus 1/2 t. butter
1 c. fresh breadcrumbs
1 T. olive oil
kosher salt
1 medium leek (all but dark green parts) – about 2 1/2 oz., diced and washed
1 1/2 t. minced fresh garlic
1 1/3 c. frozen corn kernels, defrosted (a bowl of water does the trick)
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 c. cream
1/3 c. chicken broth
1/2 t. finely grated lemon zest
1 t. finely chopped fresh thyme
about 2 1/2 c. (12 oz.) peeled and seeded butternut squash, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 c. finely grated parmigiano reggiano

Preheat oven to 400F. Rub a 5 or 6 cup shallow gratin dish (or a 9 1/2 inch pie dish) with 1/2 t. butter.

In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, olive oil, pinch of salt, and mix well.

In a medium skillet, melt 1 T. butter over medium-low. Add leek and pinch of salt, cook, stirring until softened and just starting to turn golden, about 5 min. Stir in garlic, then add corn, 1/4 t. salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook, stirring, until the corn is glistening and slightly shrunken, 2-3 min. Remove pan from heat and let cool a few minutes.

Combine heavy cream and broth, then mix in lemon zest, thyme, 1/2 t. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Set aside.

Add squash to the corn-leek mixture and toss to combine. Transfer to buttered dish and spread evenly, then sprinkle with parm. Pour cream mix over everything, scraping out any seasonings left in the bowl and distributing zest and herbs as evenly as possible. Sprinkle bread crumb mix over everything.

Bake 40-45 min., until golden on top, brown on the sides of the pan, squash is tender when pierced with a fork, and juices are bubbling.

Sparkling Winter Salad – Delicious for Everyone (Vegan & GF Guests Included)

We’re into the wonderful, grounding part of the year that’s all about tradition.

New Pi Eats Sparkling Winter Salad

We all know what’s going to be served on Thanksgiving. The mashed potatoes, the pies, the bird… but once in a while a new pop of color’s nice on the table. That’s where this comes in – but watch out, it might steal the show.

It certainly will gain you accolades with bird-eschewing guests. Vegan nephew? Check. Gluten free aunt? Sub cooked quinoa for farro and you’re golden. Grazing guests? Keep it in the fridge and they’ll be satisfied – and healthier for it.

New Pi Eats pomegranate method

But what about the cook? Sure, pomegranates are great for you, but isn’t harvesting the seeds (officially called “arils”) from their vessel a bother? You can certainly pick up the pre-seeded ones. I’m into the whole fruit – seeing it in my fruit bowl sets the right tone for the season. Instead of ruining your white shirt, fetch a bowl of water. Cut the pomegranate in half lengthwise, then cut slits in each half and fan it out, if you like. Submerge it in the bowl of water and either set to giving it some firm whacks with a sturdy kitchen spoon, or just pull the arils out under the water. Strain and appreciate a few gorgeous moments in the kitchen.

Sparkling Winter Salad
Farro with Roasted Sweet Potato, Kale, and Pomegranate Seeds

Recipe thanks to Food52

Serves 3 – 4 as a main course, or 6 as a side dish

1 c. farro (gluten free: sub cooked quinoa)
extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and cut into ¼-inch wedges
1 large sweet potato (or winter squash), peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 2 ¼ c.)
½ t. ground cumin
½ t. ground coriander
1/3 c. walnuts
3 c. packed, roughly chopped kale (stems removed before chopping)
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 t. fresh lemon juice (Meyer if available), to taste
freshly ground black pepper
½ c. pomegranate seeds
purely optional (for non-vegan): small block of feta, cubed, to garnish

Boil farro with 4 c. water. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 20 min. Stir in 1 t. salt and simmer until tender (about 10 min. longer).

Drain and transfer to a bowl to cool.

Heat oven to 400°F.

Toss onion with oil to lightly coat. Spread on baking sheet and sprinkle with generous pinch of salt. On a separate pan, toss sweet potato with oil; sprinkle with cumin, coriander, and a pinch of salt.

Roast until tender and onions browning, stirring once (onions will be done first).

Toast walnuts in an oven-safe dish until darkened in color and fragrant, about 5 to 8 min., watching carefully. Cool, then roughly chop.

Sauté kale and garlic in 1 to 2 T. olive oil in a large skillet, stirring, until kale wilts but is still bright green.

Mix or layer everything, drizzling with about 1 T. olive oil and lemon juice, seasoning to taste.

New Pi Eats Sparkling Winter Salad 2

Poppin’ Party Bars

These are so much fun.

New Pi Eats Poppin' Party Bars

Like pistachios? Great. Popcorn? Perfect. Toasted almonds and cranberries and sea salt? I’m there. These bars will take just about anything you throw at them – and make it look spectacular.

We experimented with all different toppings and I don’t think there was a bad one in the batch: we tried everything from dried pineapple (unsugared – so different from the sugared kind!) and toasted coconut flakes to yogurt covered pretzels (and raspberry yogurt covered pretzels. Those are our mauve friends, below).

New Pi Eats any kind of topping bars

And I LOVED the popcorn on them – great crunch and really fun. These would make a great new take on Halloween popcorn ball treats this year.

Watch your mailbox or inbox for the November/December Catalyst winging its way to you with an article about my new favorite popcorn and one of our great local producers – Tiny But Mighty. It’s the most flavorful popcorn I’ve had, its hulls disappear and don’t get stuck in your teeth (a boon for those reluctant flossers out there!), and it’s darn cute to boot.

Poppin’ Party Bars

Fun & rich: These are as good as the toppings you choose, so go wild. Cut into small squares – they’re dangerous!

Makes about 26 small bars

In advance: Can be made 5 days ahead, stored airtight at room temp.

Adapted from

Toffee cookie base:

1 c. (2 sticks) butter, room temp, plus for greasing
½ c. (packed) light brown sugar
¼ c. sugar
½ t. sea salt
1 ½ t. vanilla
1 ½ c. flour


6 oz. semisweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped (try Guittard chocolate chips from the bulk section)
approx. 1 ½ cups toppings: pistachios, dried cranberries & unsugared pineapple, lightly toasted coconut & slivered almonds, yogurt covered pretzels, crushed candy, popcorn (really good!)
flaky or coarsely ground sea salt

Toffee cookie base:
Heat oven to 375°F.

Line a 13x9x2″ baking dish with foil, allowing 2″ overhang (or use a silicon pan); grease with butter.

Beat butter at medium speed until smooth, about 3 min.

Add sugars and salt; beat until light, about 3 min.

Beat in vanilla; slowly incorporate flour fully (will be sticky).

Spread in lined dish in a thin layer.

Bake until bubbling, puffing, and golden (may look separated – don’t worry), about 22 min. Cool. Can be made 2 days in advance of topping.

Heat oven to 375°F.

Scatter chocolate evenly over cookie base; bake until melted (several min.). Immediately spread evenly.

Top as desired while still warm, lightly pressing into chocolate.

Sprinkle with salt.

Cool 15 minutes. Lift from dish with foil overhang. Cool until set, about 2 hrs. (or refrigerate).

Remove foil and slide onto cutting board. Cut into bars.

So Simple Roast Chicken

The best things in life are often the simplest, and this might be one of them. You don’t need a recipe. Okay, start with this one… but once you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

New Pi Eats So Simple Roast Chicken

No need to baste, no need to change temperatures, no need to rub or slit or truss or push herbs anywhere – just get that oven nice and hot and you’re on your way. This is my new go-to recipe for crisp-skin, juicy chicken – with almost no prep.

Calvin Yoder of Echo Dell Farm, Kalona, producer for New PiThis method lets the good, clean chicken flavor come through – so you’ll want to start with a good, clean chicken. Meet Calvin Yoder of Echo Dell Farm, raising New Pi’s whole, local, organic chickens since 1988:

“A lot of people have no idea what real chicken tastes like. I just talked to somebody yesterday, who’d bought our chicken,” Calvin crosses his arms, “she told me it was the best chicken she’d ever had!” He shrugs and looks at the ground modestly, but you can tell he’s pleased.

Read more about Calvin and his Kalona farm here on page 12 - he’s a great guy. In addition to the chickens, Calvin produces milk for Organic Valley, a local dairy co-op (yes, we carry his milk too : ). Actually, if you really want a feel of his farm, watch this little video of him giving us his “cow call” (how he calls his cows into the barn for their milking):

One more thing to share with you: this year your Co-op’s been celebrating “The Year of the Chicken,” sharing all things educational in relation to raising chickens. We started the year with a class about raising backyard hens, focusing on eggs, and now we’re closing out the year with meat chickens. IF you’d like to go to the next level with your chicken, this Saturday’s event is for you!

Meet the Meat New Pi event this Saturday

Now, let’s get cooking:

Simplest High-heat Roast Chicken

Adapted from Barbara Kafka’s Simplest Roast Chicken
Serves 2-4

5- to 6-pound chicken at room temperature, wing tips removed (if larger or smaller, bake roughly 10 minutes/pound)
1 lemon, halved
4 whole garlic cloves
4 T. unsalted butter, optional
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 potato, sliced thinly
1 c. chicken stock, water, fruit juice, or wine (optional, to deglaze  pan for sauce)

Place rack on second-to-bottom level in oven.
Preheat to 500°F (for convection, 450°F).

Remove the fat from the tail and crop end of the chicken. Freeze the neck and giblets for stock. Reserve chicken livers for another use.

Stuff the chicken’s cavity with the lemon, garlic, and butter, if using. Season the cavity and skin with salt and pepper.

In a roasting pan with 1½ inch sides, lay potato slices in the center, making a platform to place the chicken on (this will absorb the drippings and should prevent it from spattering and smoking up the oven). Place the chicken, breast side up, on the potatoes. Put it in the oven legs first and roast 50 – 60 minutes (10 minutes in, move the chicken with a wooden spoon to keep it from sticking), or until the juices run clear.

Remove the chicken to a platter: put a large wooden spoon into the cavity and use a second wooden spoon to balance it. As you lift it, carefully tilt the chicken over the roasting pan to pour the juices into the pan.

Optional: Pour off or spoon out excess fat from the roasting pan and put the roasting pan on top of the stove. Add the stock or other liquid to the pan and bring to a boil, while scraping the bottom vigorously with a wooden spoon. Let reduce by half. Serve in a sauceboat alongside the chicken.

After enjoying the chicken, make a simple homemade chicken stock! Boil the carcass with ample water for a couple hours (which will make your house as cozy as can be) with odds and ends of vegetables: onion, celery, and carrots, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, and anything else you like – and you’re ready for soup season.

Anissa’s Cranberry Pumpkin Granola – The Perfect Fall Snack

[New Pi Wellness Lead & Registered Dietician Anissa Bourgeacq knows all about the importance of eating colorful, seasonal food. Enjoy her guest post on granola her kids love to help make! -- Allison]

Anissa's Cranberry Pumpkin Granola - New Pi Eats

It’s October: the days are cooling down, and the leaves are turning into those beautiful shades of orange, yellow, and red. This change always reminds me of the importance of including colorful foods in my meals every day. October also brings chilly football games, back to school activities, and cozy movie nights with family and friends. What better way to eat your fall colors and have a quick, hearty, and healthy snack than granola?

The pumpkin and dried cranberries in this recipe make it seasonal in every sense of the word. What says “October” more than its shining star, the pumpkin? (Don’t forget to roast those Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin seeds!) This granola goes great with yogurt, over warm oatmeal, or straight out of a bowl. Put some in a baggie for a quick snack, while you’re taking the kids to practice, or bring a bowl along to your next tailgate.

Anissa Bourgeacq, RD, New Pioneer Food Co-op Wellness Lead

Anissa Bourgeacq, RD, New Pioneer Food Co-op Wellness Lead

Pumpkin’s orange color means it has high antioxidant content. The puree offers lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which support vision health. Pumpkin also is a source of beta-carotene, which correlates with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s also a powerhouse when it comes to vitamin A, K, and B.

Embrace this October by making a big batch of granola! It’s a perfect start to eating your colors of fall.

Pumpkin Granola

Makes 10 Servings
• Serving Size: ½ cup • Calories: 196 • Fat: 7.2 g • Protein: 4.5 g

½ c. pumpkin puree
2 T. coconut oil, melted
1 ½ t. vanilla extract
¼ c. agave nectar or maple syrup
1 t. ground cinnamon
½ t. ground ginger
½ t. ground nutmeg
4 c. rolled oats
¼-½ c. pecans, chopped (optional)
¼-½ c. dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a bowl, mix together pumpkin, oil, vanilla, agave/maple, and spices.

Add pecans and oats, stir to coat well, and spread evenly over two parchment-covered cookie sheets.

Bake 20-30 minutes, until desired crunchiness is achieved, stirring and rotating every 10 minutes.

Cool, then stir in cranberries and store in an airtight container.

Alicia’s Mexican Corn Salad (Esquites)

[Happy Eat Local Week! Find news of our celebrations and take part here (and see info at the bottom of this post).
Up now? Enjoy a guest post from local food blogger and New Pi member Alicia of Culinary Bliss, and enjoy local goodness! -- Allison]

Alicia's Mexican Corn Salad on New Pi Eats

If you choose to make it a priority to eat locally and seasonally, you’ve probably faced skepticism about how fulfilling life can be when lived without so many of the foods our culture takes for granted. How do you stomach a December sandwich without a slice of fresh tomato?

Things become easier when we make an effort to focus on the foods we can enjoy, rather than those we can’t. This is easy right now, in the time of great abundance. The purpose of Eat Local Week is to celebrate and enjoy all the bounty of the summer harvest.

There is nothing so Iowan as sweet corn. Consider this recipe, adding a Mexican twist to this homegrown favorite: it balances the corn’s sweetness with chili powder, lime juice, and salty cheese.

cutting corn off the cobcutting limes

Whole milk Greek-style yogurt is a good substitute for mayonnaise. You can find cotija, the dry, salty, Mexican cheese, at any local Mexican grocery store (Editor’s note: For a slightly different flavor, substitute powdered Parmesan, crumbled feta, or nutritional yeast, all available at the Co-op).

For nice, cleanly cut lime slices, I find the easiest way is to slice them in half and then in quarters, with your knife at an angle and the lime face down.) If you want to keep things simple, just use these ingredients as toppings for steamed or grilled corn on the cob.

Alicia's Mexican Sweet Corn on New Pi Eats

Mexican Corn Salad (Esquites)

makes approximately 3 cups of salad – recipe doubles or triples easily

4 ears of sweet corn
2 T. mayonnaise (I prefer Vegenaise); or substitute whole milk Greek-style yogurt
2 T. melted butter
¼ c. cotija cheese (or powdered Parmesan, crumbled feta, or nutritional yeast), plus more for finishing
½ t. salt
cilantro (optional)
chili powder to taste
1-2 limes

Steam the ears of corn in a large stockpot with just a couple inches of water at the bottom. You will know they’re done when the kernels turn translucent instead of cloudy.

While the ears are steaming, mix the mayonnaise, melted butter, cheese, and salt in the bottom of your serving bowl. Add fresh cilantro, if desired.

Once the corn has finished cooking, cut the kernels off. I find it easiest to use a serrated knife and a pie pan so you have a flat surface with raised sides. Be sure to use the back of your knife to scrape the ear after cutting off the kernels to get the remaining liquid. (This is known as “milking” the cob.)

Pour the warm kernels into the mayo mixture and fold gently to coat them.

Sprinkle chili powder and extra cheese on top of the salad. Serve warm or at room temperature with slices of lime.


Want to hear more from Alicia? Read more on Culinary Bliss.

I bet you’re making great local meals too. Share them with us!

Eat Local Week!

Erin’s Pesto: Where Mystery Meets the Mundane

[New Pi Iowa City customer service star Erin McCuskey's been celebrating local basil and researching pine nuts. Enjoy her guest post on the wonders of pesto! --Allison]

As the cicadas sing their late summer song, my basil plants are ready to be harvested. While our garden has survived a fire, drought, deer, and blight, these plants have a voracious tenacity that is to be admired.

The leaves make an easy addition to many dishes, but I think basil shines brightest when made into pesto. The ingredients are few, but the powerful zing of the sauce registers somewhere on the side of sublime.

New Pi Eats pesto ingredients

In the planning phase it all sounds so good until you find the container of pine nuts in the store, look at the price and ask, ‘Ten bucks for this small container?” And therein lies the rub—a plant that grows like a weed here in Iowa must be matched with a nut from far, far away that seemingly costs as much as semi-precious stones.

So why bother with buying pine nuts?

New Pi Eats pesto & gemelli

The simple answer? They make the best pesto. Pesto, loosely meaning to pound or crush, is a traditional Italian sauce made with a mortar and pestle (Julia Child is rolling in her grave as I tell you a blender or food processor works just fine.)  I am convinced that a small magic happens when basil and pine nuts collide. All the hot summer sun soaked up in the pregnant leaves of the basil bursts around the dense, creamy, coolness of the pine nut; the resulting flavor envelops any chosen vehicle in a divine, mysterious alchemy. Finally, I understood why this recipe is so prized.

But why are pine nuts so expensive? Year after year, it is a question I have tried to satisfy with the standard “because it is rare and worth it” answer. But at almost thirty-three dollars a pound, I needed to know more. The deeper I delved into the history of the pine nut, the more complicated the answer became. The demand for pine nuts—a product that has been a source of food for many cultures for thousands of years—collides with the shrinking natural resource base which yields them. This tiny nut thus becomes a symbol for the current state of the volatile global food market.

Pine nuts are a wild crop. In the context of products sold at New Pi, this is a very elite distinction—I can think of only a handful of things that fit into this category (like morel mushrooms or wild salmon). The fact that we manage to carry them year round is amazing, considering the work it takes to get them on the shelf.

There are many pine species around the world that produce edible nuts. There are, however, only a few kinds that can be harvested for commercial use, and their availability can fluctuate wildly from year to year. In the U.S., the pinyon tree has been deforested to the point where their nuts are not available commercially. Around the globe, seasonal conditions, natural disasters such as fire or infestation, and human-induced pressures such as deforestation and destructive harvesting all contribute to volatile pricing.


Erin! New Pi Iowa City customer service star.

The pine nuts New Pi carries are imported from Russia via New-York based Tierra Farms. When I contacted Joe Citek from Tierra, he confirmed that their buying plan for the nuts varies from year to year. The Siberian nut they sell currently has been chosen for its tiny but robust nature. Gathered from Siberian pine in old growth forests, the nut must germinate for 18 months, and a tree might require 40 years to produce harvestable nuts (though it can live 800 years). When the nut is ready to be harvested, each kernel must be extracted from a tiny shell. It is dried naturally and kept cool to prevent spoilage—a process which ensures they are raw. This endeavor takes time and must be performed by hand.

In the end even Mr. Citek admitted, “I am not positive of the exact growing region of the Siberian pine nut that is exported to New Pi.” Thus is the nature of a wild crop. Those tiny kernels come from literally and figuratively a mystical, unnamed place. While the source of every product should be identified, the food map is so vast and wild it cannot be entirely delineated. The small kernels of the faraway pine nut are as mysterious as my homegrown basil leaves are mundane. Let the two meet, and see the small miracle of pesto happen.

Erin’s Pesto

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated July/August 2013 issue

1/3 c. pine nuts
3 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 c. (not packed) fresh basil leaves – about 4 oz. or 2 very large handfuls
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6-7 T. olive oil
1 T. lemon juice
salt, to taste

  1. In a pre-heated medium skillet, toast pine nuts and unpeeled garlic cloves. Stir attentively for about five minutes. The fragrance from both will bloom as they brown. Set aside on a plate to cool.
  2. Peel garlic and chop coarsely.
  3. Combine basil, Parmesan, oil, pine nuts and garlic with a pinch of salt in food processor or blender for about a minute. (The Parmesan provides a salty background, so only add more salt after tasting.)
      Toss with al dente pasta, spread on sandwiches, combine with boiled red potatoes, or anything else. Store in a glass container in refrigerator. Makes 4-6 servings.

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