The Gift of Good Rye

October 8, 2012
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged Grains

Lovers of rye, unite! For those who think rye is just for monster pastrami sandwiches served to tourists at Carnegie Deli, think again. The versatile whole grain played the starring role in every dish of a dinner served in late September as part of the ongoing Rye Bread Project. The project was co-founded by Copenhagen-based chef and regional farming advocate Trine Hahnemann, and is part of a larger movement to reintroduce heritage rye grains to the northeastern U.S. It kicked off two years ago with a similar feast of traditional Nordic, rye-infused recipes. This time around, though, a significant new development was cause for celebration: the generous donation of 24 varieties of heritage rye seeds by the Norwegian-based Svalbard Global Seed Vault - a feat that took Trine these interim two years to accomplish. In the ceremonial capstone of the evening, Trine handed Greenmarket's Regional Grains Director June Russell a burlap satchel containing a symbolic handful of the seeds, grown by Danish farmers, which create a grain superior to the cover crop rye used in the U.S. A much larger donation of these seeds is en route to Agronomist Elizabeth Dyck of OGRIN, who will then distribute them to farmers in the region who will plant them as the beginning of a long-term testing process. What better way to celebrate the symbolic re-introduction of rye to our region than devouring it in a succulent array of forms! The lavish feast was hosted by New Amsterdam Market, and served to some of rye’s most devoted advocates in the market’s historic office at the South Street Seaport. Using local ingredients, Trine transformed the extraordinarily nutritious grain into rye flakes for a cauliflower gratin, pastry for a kale-pine nut tart, the nutty cooked whole grain in a butternut squash salad, and the crumble in a traditional Danish apple dessert featuring layers of homemade applesauce and whipped cream. Completing the table was of course the bread: Trine’s delectable rye focaccia, and the beloved Finnish Ruis bread -- a 100% whole grain, flat, round loaf that has been a fixture of Finnish life since time immemorial -- baked by Simo Kuusisto of Nordic Breads. June Russell, one of several speakers at the event, talked about how far the regional grain movement has come in spurring farmers to once again grow crops like heritage wheat, emmer and spelt -- mainstays in the region during pre-industrial days -- thanks to a growing market for these crops among chefs, bakers, millers, malters, and other grain-focused enterprises. Inexplicably, rye has lagged behind these other crops in the grain resurgence. Until now. With the continued success of the Regional Grains Project, the Rye Bread Project, and other exciting efforts promoting the regional food system, we can expect lots more meals like this in New York’s culinary future!

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