Cypress Family Farm to Kitchen’s Brandi Grill Shares Three of Her Favorite Recipes

“Where can a family go to find farm-fresh vegetables in Cypress, Texas?” That is the question Brandi McRill of Cypress Family Farm to Kitchen asked herself nearly four years ago. She had started feeding her family seasonally in early 2015 by visiting farmers’ markets. In a few short weeks, she noticed a vibrance in the flavor of the dishes she created and an overall improvement in her well-being.

Brandi loved touring the farmers’ market, taking in the sights and smells and feeling the buzz of energy from the crowd. She felt strongly that she was shopping with purpose and improving her family’s health in the process—until her busy life got in the way.

Having a long daily commute, the weekends meant not wanting to leave Cypress. She slowly began feeling, “torn between my desire to eat fresh, seasonal vegetables grown by local, small farmers and the time constraints of a hectic modern-day schedule. I became frantic for a solution that fit my lifestyle, so I started searching to find one,” she says.

Brandi tried a home delivery service but quickly realized it wasn’t the same quality she had become accustomed to, and she was disappointed to realize produce at a nearby so-called farm stand was not locally grown. She reached out to an established co-op in town and offered to host a drop spot location, but they were not interested in expanding beyond the city. There seemed to be no options. Then, a solution presented itself. Her husband, Jack, suggested that Brandi start her own vegetable co-op. So, Brandi started asking the farmers’ market vendors if anyone had an interest in helping her get started. She finally found a farmer willing to give her idea a go and reached out to her friends, family and neighbors to see if she could fill the 10-member requirement.

On July 1, 2015, Cypress Family Farm to Kitchen was born. They purchase, in bulk, from local farmers who grow pesticide-, herbicide- and fungicide-free vegetables within a 35-mile radius of Cypress. The boxes included six to nine different varieties and are priced at $30 per share. Pickup is easy for members. Members can grab and go but often stay to discuss recipe ideas.

Following are recipes from Brandi that have been written to be eaten individually or as a dinner menu plan for a seasonal farm-to-table dinner party. All of the meat, herbs and seasonal vegetables used can be found at the farmers’ market or through a vegetable co-op during the months of January and February. 

Suggested Wine Pairings

Beet bruschetta pairs beautifully with a sweet red wine. Brandi’s favorite is Lambrusco Emilia imported by Andreucci Wines in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Brandi’s preferred wine to pair with the risotto is Butternut Chardonnay from California. Its smoky and oaky flavor complements the spinach and feta. 

Pedernales Cellars Viognier is suggested to pair with the herbaceous Spatchcock Chicken.

Beet Bruschetta

Beets are loaded with nutrients such as folate and vitamin C. The topping for this bruschetta can be eaten as a salad or side dish. Note: The beets can be prepared up to 2 days ahead if stored in the refrigerator.

Ingredients

2 beets, tops and bottoms removed

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 orange (or tangerine)

1/2  red onion, diced

5-6 fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon local honey

4 ounces goat cheese, plain

Splash milk

1 baguette

Fresh microgreens (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line an oven-safe dish with aluminum foil leaving enough to cover beets before cooking.

Cut tops and bottoms off beets and place in dish. Drizzle with oil, and top with sprig of fresh rosemary. Loosely wrap foil and place in oven for 60 minutes. The beets are done when you can easily slice a knife through them.

When beets are done, immediately squeeze juice from 1 orange over the top and let rest, reserving juice. (This step is essential to sweetening the beets and removing some of the earthiness.)

Remove rosemary sprig and strip fronds (leaves) from the stem. Dice.

In a small bowl, combine goat cheese and dried rosemary; add a splash of milk. Mix in for a creamy texture. Set aside. Slice baguette into thin rounds and line onto serving dish.

Dice red onion and add to a small bowl.

When beets are ready, dice into bite-sized squares; chop basil leaves and add to onions. Drizzle with honey and combine with reserved juice; stir together.

Assemble your appetizer by topping each round with herbed goat cheese and arranging on serving platter. When ready to serve, top each round with beet mixture and finish with a few sprigs of microgreens.

Spatchcock Chicken

Spatchcock is replacing the traditional roasted chicken on dinner tables across the country. This cut allows browning of all sides of a whole chicken while remaining succulent and reduces cooking time. The technique is simple: Grab a sharp pair of kitchen shears, place the chicken breast side down with the wings and neck facing you. Cut the backbone with the shears and discard. Season with salt and pepper. Flip the chicken over with the breast side up and press down with your palm so the chicken lays completely flat.

When choosing a chicken, nothing beats a pasture-raised bird from a local farmer. This succulent bird was raised in Tomball at Three Sister Farms. (Use the leftover bird to make a stock for your next risotto!)

Ingredients

1 4 1/2- to 5-pound whole chicken

1 tablespoon salt

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon course-ground mustard

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 F. Salt and pepper the chicken. Combine butter, mustard and herbs. Slather chicken with mixture.

Place in oven and cook 1 hour or until thermometer registers 155 to 160 F, basting at the 30-minute mark. Remove from oven, cover in foil and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. Carve chicken, finish with a jus and serve warm.

Spinach Risotto

Risotto seems intimidating, but it’s quite simple. Risotto is versatile and can be used with any combination of vegetables, meats and cheeses. Our risotto features this season’s power-packed spinach and takes advantage of the bounty of leftover lemons from December’s harvest!

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter

3 cloves garlic, minced   

1/2 onion, diced

2 cups arborio rice

3/4 cup  white wine       

5 cups chicken stock

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup  feta cheese

Directions

Place 5 cups chicken broth in medium saucepan and heat through. (You will ladle broth from this saucepan into the rice to cook to al dente.)

Heat butter over medium heat, cooking garlic and onion until soft.

Turn heat to high, add 2 cups of arborio rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

Add 3/4 cup white wine and cook until wine has soaked into rice.

Ladle warm chicken broth into saucepan, 1 cup at a time, until 4 cups have been used, allowing all of the liquid to soak into the rice before adding the next cup.

When the fourth cup has been absorbed and rice is plump, turn heat to low. Zest lemon and squeeze juice into mixture.

Add herbs, spinach and cheeses while stirring to combine.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Finish with last cup of broth to allow risotto to loosen up and develop a creamy texture.

Serve warm.

Cypress Family Farm to Kitchen plans to expand from two to seven pickup locations throughout Cypress and the surrounding area. Education, advocacy and involvement are at the forefront of their plans, and they are looking into creating a farm-to-kitchen food line. Recently having formed Farm to Kitchen Collective, they hope to launch a program to help consumers identify restaurants, food trucks, farmers and artisans that truly support the farm-to-table movement. Learn more at CypressFamilyFarmToKitchen.com.