Boulder chef, farmer wants you to grow your own food, too

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Photo: Farm Fork Food Eric Skokan
Chef Eric Skokan on his farm

Boulder chef Eric Skokan has put together lots of menus in his time, but it was always kind of a slog until he became a farmer. Then, he says, his dishes came alive. He’d pull some fresh vegetable from the soil and get inspired.

Skokan is a force to be reckoned with in the farm-to-table movement. He has two restaurants in Boulder: Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare. At both, produce and animals from his farm take center stage. His new cookbook, called “Farm Fork Food: A Year of Spectacular Recipes Inspired by Black Cat Farm” highlights ingredients that grow well in Colorado. He challenges cooks to make the most of them.

Recipes reprinted from FARM FORK FOOD: A year of spectacular recipes inspired by Black Cat Farm, by Eric Skokan with permission of Kyle Books. Copyright (c) Eric Skokan, 2014.

Buttermilk poached turkey with spiced eggplant and onion beignets

Turkey in America comes on a platter of great expectations wrapped in a long tradition. As a result, in the restaurant I feature turkey in out-of-the-box dishes using unique flavors and uncommon cooking techniques. Already rich in flavor, the turkey gets a boost from the buttermilk poaching liquid used in this dish. Spiced eggplant adds a strong contrast while the onion “beignets” add a pleasing textural foil.


  • 3 cups eggplant, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • sea salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon amchur or vinegar
  • 1½ cups julienned onion
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • ½ cup rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons black cumin seeds
  • 1½ cups beer or soda water
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 small onion, peeled and studded with 6 cloves
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 pounds heritage turkey breast, cut into 1-inch-thick slices

In a large sauté pan over high heat, cook the eggplant in the oil until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the ginger and garlic and cook until just beginning to color. Add the spices and cook for  2 minutes, until aromatic. Pour in ½ cup water and cook until reduced by half. Season with salt, cayenne pepper, and the amchur or vinegar.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 inches oil to 375°F, as measured by a deep-fry thermometer. In a medium bowl, mix together the julienned onion, chickpea flour, rice flour, and black cumin seeds. Pour in the beer until the batter has the consistency of pancake batter. Season with salt and stir well. Using a tablespoon, drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil and fry until golden on the outside and firm in the center. Using a handheld strainer, transfer the onion beignets to paper towels to drain. Continue until the batter is used up.

In a medium pot over medium heat, combine the buttermilk, sage, clove-studded onion and nutmeg. Cook until the milk begins to simmer, about  5 minutes. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Season the turkey with salt  and cook in the simmering buttermilk for 10 minutes, until it reaches 155°F  on an instant-read thermometer or is firm to the touch and cooked through.  Remove the pot from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

Divide the turkey among four warmed plates. Garnish each with the eggplant curry and onion beignets. Serve immediately.


Stuffed summer squash with ratatouille & Taleggio

Ratatouille is breathtaking when you think of the hours and hours of sunshine concentrated into a single spoonful. It really is a marvel. I like to highlight ratatouille in this spectacular dish as a celebration of the end of summer.

SERVES 6 TO 8Photo: Farm Fork Food Eric Skokan stuffed squash

  • 2 cups diced summer squash 2 cups peeled and diced eggplant
  • 2 cups diced red peppers
  • 3 cups diced tomatoes
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • ¼ cup minced garlic
  • 1 large fennel bulb, diced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, plus ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • sea salt
  • 12 small round summer squashes, like Eight Ball or Ronde de Nice
  • ¼ cup Taleggio cheese, cut into thin slices
  • ¼ cup basil coulis (see larder)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Working in batches, in a large saute pan over high heat, saute the diced sqaush, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and fennel in the olive oil until lightly browned. Transfer to a baking dish, add the bay leaves and rosemary and bake until a crust forms on top, about an hour. Stir the vegetables, mixing in the crust, and bake 30 minutes more. Remove from the oven and stir in the thyme and chopped basil. Set aside.

Cut the tops off of the squashes. Using a spoon or melon baller, hollow out the centers of each squash. Place the hollowed squashes and tops in a medium bowl, dress with the sunflower oil and toss well to coat. Season with salt.

Spread out the squash on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in the oven until just tender, about 6 minutes.

Fill the squash cups with the ratatouille. Top with the Taleggio and return to the oven until the cheese has melted, about five minutes more.

Divide the squash among warmed plates. Garnish with the basil leaves and basil coulis. Serve immediately.


Despite the lack of rhyming, “you say summer squash, I say zucchini” should have been included in the song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” because they really are the same thing. We grow about twelve varieties at the farm, in every color and shape: the traditional long “zucchinis,” crooknecks, scalloped pattypan and round squash (Eight Ball, One Ball and Ronde di Nice), which I love for this recipe as they make perfect vessels for baking when hollowed out. Most summer squashes are part of the Cucurbita pepo group, like acorn squash, and develop a hard shell and tough seeds if left to mature on the vine too long. Because their flavor and texture are better when small, before the seeds have developed, we harvest them almost every day. For best flavor, try the light green varieties like Costata Romanesca, Lounge Fiorentino and Cocozelle—very old traditional European types. American supermarket owners don’t like them as they bruise easily, so the dark green color was bred in to mask the bruising, and the flavor was lost in the bargain.

Pumpkin soup with duck confit and spiced pepitas

I adore the Japanese varieties of Hokkaido squash like Kabocha and Red Kuri. Deeper in color and flavor than their American cousin, Blue Hubbard, they excel in this soup. The aromatic duck leg confit adds decadence while the pepitas add a playful crunch.


  • 1 pound Kabocha or Red Kuri squash, halved and deseeded
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • sea salt
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 duck leg confit (see larder)
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin
  • seeds or pepitas
  • pinch of chile powder
  • pinch of ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

In a roasting pan, lightly coat the squash with oil and season with salt. Roast in the oven until the squash starts to color and is very tender, about  15 minutes. Let the squash cool, then peel.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, place the squash, onions, and garlic and add enough water to cover. Boil until the water is reduced to three-quarters, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a blender while still hot and purée until very smooth. Season with salt.

In a small sauté pan over medium heat, warm the duck confit. Remove the leg from the pan, pull the meat from the bone, and shred into small pieces.  Place the shredded meat in a small bowl and season with salt, if needed.

In a small sauté pan over medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds with the chile powder and ground coriander until fragrant.

Divide the soup into four warmed soup bowls.

Top each with the shredded duck and spiced pumpkin seeds. Drizzle the soup with the pumpkin seed oil and serve immediately.