Louisville native Rae Strobel grew up eating healthy food and by middle school, she was cooking “standard things” like chili.
But it wasn’t until after graduating from the University of Kentucky and moving to Portland, Oregon, that she became interested in what she was eating. “That’s where my local food consciousness really took off,” she says. She wanted to grow her own food.
But she also wanted to travel the world. And she did, hitting Hawaii, Australia, India, Greece, Turkey, and Thailand, where she stayed with a friend for a month. “I remember going out to her garden and picking lemongrass and galangal,” Rae recalls, to season the Thai curry they would cook.
Returning to Kentucky in 2007, Rae worked a day job in Louisville but helped a farmer friend, Adam Barr, sell vegetables he was growing on part of his 270-acre family farm in Rhodelia, near Brandenburg (www.barrfarmsky.com).
Soon they married and now have a son, raising him on the farm served by Meade County Rural Electric Co-op, where they grow vegetables, along with laying hens, meat chickens, pork, and beef. Rae is a farmer now, but her travels inform her cooking, particularly a Thai coconut curry that she uses to prepare any of the 40 different vegetables they raise.
Autumn Thai Coconut Curry with Veggies
4-5 Tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2-4 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
4-5 C (total) chopped vegetables such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and kale
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
3-4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp green or red Thai curry paste stirred into 1⁄4 C hot water
3⁄4 lb chicken breast or thighs, cubed, bones and skin removed
6 Tbsp chopped cilantro, optional
Chop all the vegetables before starting. Add the hardest vegetables first, then those that take less time to cook.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 3 minutes to soften. Add ginger and garlic and cook 2 minutes more, stirring. Add sweet potatoes; cook 3 to 5 minutes. Add butternut squash and a little water, just enough to keep a very thin layer of water on the bottom of the pan so the vegetables don’t stick. They will release their own juices after a few minutes. Cook 10 minutes. Once the sweet potatoes and squash begin to soften, add kale, coconut milk, curry paste, and soy sauce. Cook until potatoes and squash are tender but not mushy.
As vegetables cook, cut chicken into small cubes. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil on high heat in a cast-iron skillet. Add chicken and cook through, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Spoon vegetables over rice, top with chicken, then cilantro. Serves 4.
Garlic Cheese Grits
Recipe by Sarah Fritschner
6 C chicken broth
2 C grits (not instant)
1 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp pepper
1⁄4 tsp granulated garlic
1⁄2 C milk or cream
12 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 C)
1⁄4 C butter
1 tsp Tabasco sauce (or any hot pepper sauce)
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 4-quart casserole dish. Combine broth, grits, salt, pepper, and garlic in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir constantly and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until grits have thickened, about 10 minutes. Add milk and stir. Remove from heat, add 2 cups cheese, butter, and Tabasco, and stir until all are combined. Pour into the casserole dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake 60 minutes. Let it stand 15 minutes. Serves 12.