Einka & French Lentil Blend tops taste test
Brooke and Sam Lucy, co-owners of Bluebird Grain Farms outside of Winthrop, headed to San Francisco earlier this month to receive a national award from the Good Food Foundation for their organic Einka & French Lentil Blend.
The awards honored 207 winners from 37 states, Washington D.C., and Guam across 17 different categories including: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, grains, honey, oils, preserves and others.
The Bluebird Einka and French Lentil blend, made with the ancient grain einkorn and rich, peppery lentil legumes, was a standout in a taste test of more than 40 entries in the grain category from across the country. Sam Lucy grows it, and other heritage grains including red and white wheat, emmer farro and dark northern rye, right here in the valley and processes it at the Bluebird facility on Rendezvous Road. The farm and its products are certified organic. The couple started the company in 2005.
The winners were announced at a gala dinner at the Herbst Theater in the historic San Francisco War Memorial and performing arts center on Jan. 17. Speeches were given by Michael Pollan, noted author, journalist and professor who has written extensively on the places where nature and culture intersect, especially in relation to the food we eat, and Alice Waters, author, chef and owner of Chez Panisse, a Berkeley, California, restaurant famous for its organic, locally grown ingredients.
“It was such an honor to meet those two people,” said Brooke Lucy. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for both Alice Waters and Michael Pollan. Alice Waters has been the voice of the organic food movement that really started in the West and she has been such an instrumental player in getting it into restaurants and spreading the word with chefs.”
The Friday night gala was followed by a weekend of activities including a food show on Saturday that showcased the competition winners, and a farmers market on Sunday.
“Saturday was what was really amazing for me,” said Brooke Lucy. “It was absolutely our target market — people who are interested in organic, local, West Coast products and people who are really on the forefront of buying new products and taking risks, and are excited about it. We made a lot of great connections.”
Bluebird Grain Farms is a vertically integrated farm business: a producer and processor that sells its products directly to consumers across the country and through some distributors on the west coast.
“Operations like ours are few and far between,” Brooke Lucy said, “but there’s definitely a real connection between those types of businesses. A lot of them are husband-and-wife teams and they’re in it and it’s intense.”
The couple sat next to the husband and wife co-owners of a company from South Carolina that makes mushroom jerky.
“Sam and I really appreciated meeting a few people who are actually growing the product they are then selling and marketing,” Lucy added. “It gave me some courage to just really try to dig into problem solving some of our challenges right now.”
Here is a recipe from Bluebird Grain Farms for their award-winning Einka and French Lentil Blend:
Baked Einka & Lentils with Chicken
1 cup Einka & French Lentils
1/2 cup chopped red onions
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
4 bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons za’atar
Salt and pepper
¼ cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Combine the einka and lentils, red onions, apricots, thyme, salt and pepper and broth in a shallow baking pan that will fit the chicken in one layer. Cover and bake 25 minutes. Turn the heat to 425°F., top with the chicken pieces. Drizzle the chicken with the olive oil, sprinkle with za’atar and salt and pepper. Bake 20-25 minutes or until lentils are done and chicken is browned and crisp. Serve topped with the hazelnuts and cilantro.