Making every bite count

24 September 2008

What $40 will get you at Findlay Market

1/2 lb raw milk gouda 
1 dozen farm fresh eggs
1 loaf harvest bread (with polenta. rye and buckwheat)
1 green pepper
2 yellow peppers
basket orange slicer tomatoes 
2 lbs heirloom tomatoes
1/2 of a monstrous watermelon (the other half will be my friend Jenny's) 
bundle of sage
bundle of tarragon
bundle of parsley 
bag of spinach
4 small knob onions

That made last night's dinner. I made a batch of pesto, added two tomatoes to the remnants still in the blender and pureed. Cooked up some whole wheat shells, to which I added the sauce and briefly cooked. Chopped another orange tomato, some basil and a 1/4 yellow pepper. Served alongside creamed spinach. 

Yesterday's brunch, again from my market bounty. 
Two slices harvest bread with a poached egg, a slice of gouda and one tomato sprinkled with tarragon. There is also a sad example of an egg cooked in the cast iron skillet.  

I lived in Athens for four years, but I rarely left campus and only left the city limits on my way home. There is an entire world beyond the four greens of OU, a world of organic, local farming, a rich agricultural history and plenty of quirky foods. (Schnuckelputz and pawpaws? Only in Athens County.) 

Until today, I hadn't tried a paw-paw, and I mistook them for plums yesterday. 

21 September 2008

Things I've made recently

Sadly, photos are lacking
My larder is stocked with: 
1 pound of gave-rosemary glazed roasted almonds
6 jars of kimchi for my co-op
40 jars of pear sauce with molasses and cinnamon (yes, 40. and they're not here. They're at Chad's, ready to be distributed.) 
3 trays of roasted peppers
2 trays of oven-dried tomatoes 
countless ice-cube trays of pesto (sans parmesan so it freezes better) 
1 jar tarragon vinegar
1 bottle hot sauce 
endless jars of salsa (all gone, thanks to Fred)

Why I do what I do...

Some people are dog people. Others are kid people. I'm a vegetable person. 

I love 'em, but only in season. Don't you dare feed me asparagus in August, and if you try to feed me a cold tomato, I'll stab you with my fork. 

(Left: A smattering of heirlooms from the Thistlehair Farms booth at Findlay Market.) 
I don't buy produce from grocery stores. 
I keep most vegetables on the counter so their taste fully develops. 
I shun cold tomatoes, lettuce that's straight from the fridge and mealy apples. 
I shop the perimeter of stores. 
I joined a food co-op to ensure I always have local, organic food. 
And I urge you to do the same, if you're able. 
My body, after two years of eating locally and organically, has completely adapted. I'm almost fed up with tomatoes, and the beauties I've roasted, pureed and frozen will tide me over until next year. Sorry, but we're not meant to eat insalata caprese year-round in Ohio, nor should we be expected to endure cold mealy, anemic supermarket Flavr Savr tomatoes. (A misnomer indeed.) 
At left, a salad made from co-op and market produce: Pea sprouts, avocado, tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar. 


Breakfast for dinner: Swiss chard pancakes and salmon with maple glaze

Two Fridays ago, Mark Bittman's recipe of the day was for Spinach Pancakes. I substituted Swiss chard, which I steamed in a bit of water. The day-glo pink cooking water went in the batter, too! I altered his recipe a bit: 
3 cups Swiss chard, chopped and steamed in about 1/2 c water (dice the stems, and reserve the cooking water, which is full of nutrients)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg 
1 1/2 to 2 cups plain lowfat yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 eggs 
2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter, plus unmelted butter for cooking Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add the yogurt, eggs and butter, mixing well. Fold in Swiss chard and the cooking water.
The salmon was cooked very simply. After rubbing it with a spice blend Fred got from Whole Foods, I seared it in a cast iron skillet then briefly broiled it. I removed the salmon to a plate to rest. I added 2T butter to the skillet, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan, then added about 1/2 c white wine. After that reduced briefly, I added 1/4 cup maple syrup and allowed all to slightly reduce. (Do this over medium heat if you're not using cast iron, which has enough residual heat that additional stovetop cooking isn't necessary.)
Serve salmon alongside 2-3 pancakes, drizzling with the maple "syrup."
Breakfast for dinner, for grownups. 

15 September 2008

This is what I get for trying to be a locavore.

Thank you, Mother Nature.

I spent every Saturday morning at Findlay Market, where I packed my bag to the brim with local, organic produce. An average of $50 a week, so half could fill the freezer to ensure a bountiful winter. Any salad tomato that was overly ripe went in a bag in the freezer. Romas were halved, doused with olive oil and left in a warm oven overnight. The heirlooms were sliced and diced, mashed and chopped. In sauces and salsas, salads and soups, I lovingly sacrificed the Garden Peaches, the Mortgage Lifters, the Green Zebras, the Chocolate Cherries and the Yellow Romas.
I drove 60 miles with three friends on a muggy and mosquito-filled Saturday, to the largest raspberry farm in the east.
I risked life and limb (OK, so once a car almost hit me while I was on by bike) to transport succulent local plums, a dozen of the season's first red peppers, and some ripe tomatillos home with me.
I froze and canned, refrigerated and stored away.
And then, Hurricane Ike (or his remnants) hit Ohio. Yes. A hurricane hit the Midwest. 75 mile-per-hour winds knocked out power, sent shingles spinning into transformers, starting fires across the city. 
I lost power, but I didn't worry. Surely it would return by the time we returned from a dinner at La Mexicana. But, no, it didn't. Just in case, we stopped to buy a 20-lb bag of ice. The fridge and freezer were on life support and each passing minute meant that my beloved local produce was one degree closer to death (or spoilage). 
Thank goodness for good friends. The power outage lasted another four days, but the contents of my freezer were safely stowed in Sean and Katy's freezer. My bountiful fridge was safe for another day, thanks to that mighty bag of ice and another. I finally took the perishables (eggs from Thistlehair Farms, 2 quarts of organic plain lowfat yogurt, an unopened container of soymilk, some vegan butter and a hunk of parmesan) to work and stashed them in the fridge in my Whole Foods bag for a couple of days. The condiments were left in the fridge with the dwindling ice supply In all, we lost about $30 worth of goods, mostly dried up and unidentifiable condiments. (I don't remember buying blackberry jelly from Trader Joe's, and when was the last time we ate the coriander chutney? It contains cashews!) 
We used the outage as a chance to purge the fridge without guilt of wasting food (the ultimate sin). As Chad had about 100 pounds of apples and pears, the now-empty glass jars were quite useful!
Food was rescued from Sean and Katy's on Friday night, and now all is safe in my freezer (again, purged of unrecognizable leftovers, now mushy frozen veg and bags of scraps for stock). 
What did I do Saturday morning? Went to Findlay Market and restocked, of course!

Actually, it costs $1.05.