Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Good Eats Newsletter - May 21, 2008

Vermont Life Summer Issue
If you haven't yet read the summer issue of Vermont Life, you owe yourself to pick one up. This issue is dedicated to Vermont food, it's growers, restaurants, activists and believers. Pete's Greens is honored to be included in the issue alongside so many important members of the local food movement.

As a friend of mine, who stayed up until 2am to read the whole magazine, said, "This issue of Vermont Life makes you realize how lucky you are to live in Vermont." And, she is right. The writers and photographers have done an amazing job highlighting all that is good with the state of food in Vermont.

This is an issue to hang on to and refer to again and again.

The picture of Pete on the
front cover was taken by
Natalie Stultz.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
I have a pretty long commute to the farm and I am always on the lookout for a good book on tape to keep me entertained during my drive. When my librarian managed to get Michael Pollan's latest and greatest into the collection, I was thrilled.

In Defense of Food picks up where the Omnivore's Dilemma left off. If the latter makes the case against industrial food production, the former is more of a guide as to how one should eat. I must admit that I've read a lot of books in the past few years about traditional diets and nutrition, including those from Sally Fallon, Jessica Prentice, Sandor Katz and Nina Planck. And, I would recommend all of these. In my opinion, however, Michael Pollan's book does the best job of summarizing the state of current nutritional knowledge (or lack there of), and giving a sensible, overall approach to eating. You may have heard of his philosophy as summed up in a New York Times op-ed, "Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not too much." These are truly words to live by.

The book, while humorously written, does an excellent job of explaining how our collective knowledge of what is actually good for us has gone so completely awry. The root of this, he believes, is in isolating the concept of nutrients from foods as a whole, a pursuit which he refers to as "nutritionism." Pollan delves deep into past studies and recommendations, exposing many of the reported risks and benefits of specific nutrients as either incomplete, inconclusive or incorrect. The problem lies in zeroing in on a particular nutrient, (think oat bran, saturated fat or omega 3 fatty acids), to the exclusion of its role in a food and/or diet. The book makes a very strong case against attempting to construct a healthy diet out of nutritional components. Instead, it suggests looking to an intelligent combination of whole foods that ultimately will provide all the nutrients we need.

As CSA members, I think we all intrinsically believe that Pollan's way is the right way. Including lots of fresh vegetables, cooking from scratch and avoiding chemicals, pesticides and additives comes with the farm-t0-table philosophy. In Defense of Food goes beyond these simple recommendations, however, to reveal truths about the state of scientific knowledge and provide tools for sifting through the miriad of new nutritional revelations and recommendations that are sure to come.

Splitting a Share
If you are looking to split a CSA Summer Share, but can't find a friend or coworker to join you, visit the Members Seeking page on our Website. There are several people listed who are actively seeking a share-buddy. If you don't find someone on the page that matches your desired pick-up spot, shoot me an email and I can post your information for others to find.

This Week's Share Contains
A Mix of Fingerling, Purple, Red and Blue Potatoes; Red Beets; One Bunch Baby Leeks; One Bunch Baby Beets with Greens; One Head Lettuce; One Bunch Chives; One Head Pac Choi; One Bag Mesclun; Butter; Champlain Valley Apiaries Honey; Bonnieview Farm Feta Cheese; and Patchwork Farm & Bakery Pain Au Levain.

Bread Ingredients: Wheat flour, fresh milled whole wheat flour, fresh milled rye flour, well water, levain, salt. all organic grains.

Storage and Use Tips
Baby Leeks - It's always so exciting to cook with the first alliums of the season! Trim off the dark green leaves, and cook with the white and light green parts only. To get the most sweetness out of your leeks, try sweating them instead of sauteing. When you sweat a veggie, you cook it in a fat, (I like butter), over a lower temperature or flame. You should barely hear it sizzle. This slower method of cooking yields a much sweeter taste. Add the leeks to a quiche or mix in with mashed potatoes for a decadent side dish. Store the leeks loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in your crisper drawer.
Baby Beets with Greens - Again the first of the season, these baby beets are so sweet and tender. Try chopping and sweating your leeks, add the baby beet roots, cook a bit more, then add the chopped beet greens sprinkled with salt and pepper and cook until tender. It's so simple, yet so good. Store the beets and greens loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in your crisper drawer. There's no need to separate these baby beets from their leaves for storing.
Head of Lettuce - If I am not going to use my lettuce right away, I will wrap it in a kitchen towel and then place it in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. The best way to wash your lettuce is to tear it into pieces and submerge in water. Swish it around, then lift the lettuce out of the water. This method allows the dirt to sink to the bottom of the basin or bowl. A salad spinner is the best way to dry the lettuce after washing. Second best is to wrap the washed lettuce in a towel to absorb the moisture. If you have any lettuce left over, try throwing a kitchen towel into the spinner bowl before covering and placing in the fridge.

Localvore 'Lore from Heather
I wasn't able to go to Bonnieview myself to pick up the cheese and visit the lambs as I had hoped. I've known Neil and Kristen for as long as I've lived in Craftsbury, but haven't been to their farm in ages. He's a friend of my neighbors', and we met at a potluck years ago. Kristen was a regular library volunteer before she and Neil were a couple. Their daughter, Tressa, is just 4 months older than my daughter. He started milking sheep in 1999 and I've been enjoying this feta cheese since they first started producing it. The piece I bought for myself at the Co-op last week was tangy and perfectly creamy.

Boy, I really wanted to go! But, Neil called me back to say that the cheese packer wouldn't be in until 3pm, and the cheese wouldn't be ready until 6pm. Luckily the Craftsbury Common Market starts up soon, and we'll see them there for sure. In addition to sheep farming and cheese making, they are core members and organizers at the market.

So, instead of my field trip, I did a little virtual travel and found this article on Newsday.com : 10 Vermont cheese farms. I just copied over the bit about Bonnieview; there are indeed 10 farms listed, and a link to great photos.

By Sylvia Carter, March 28, 2008
Vermont is not just Cheddar anymore. Many varieties are available at these and other farms on the cheese trail. Those made from raw milk are, by law, aged 60 days. All farms are on the vtcheese.com Web site but some have their own sites. Many creameries have observation windows so you can watch cheese being made. Some offer weekday tours, others are by appointment, so visit Web sites or call before you go.
Bonnieview Farm, 2228 South Albany Rd., Craftsbury Common (802-755-6878; vtcheese.com/members/bonnieview/bonnieview.htm). On a 470-acre hilltop farm, Neil Urie makes sheep's-milk cheese: subtly tangy natural-rind Ben Nevis, named for the highest mountain in Scotland, and Mossend Blue (named after Moss End, his family's ancestral farm in Scotland), and more.
There's also a great Vermont Cheese article at vermonttoday.com with a write-up about the American Cheese Society awards, in which Bonnieview Ewe's Feta and Mossend Blue both took 2nd place.

We have honey again this week from Champlain Valley Apiaries. I was just looking through their website, and found it newly expanded with articles and links. Check it out at champlainvalleyhoney.com. They include great information about nutritional benefits of honey and how their honey is produced. There are also links to a couple of articles and a video, all featuring them. Of course eating it is the purpose here, so try the honey recipes below for a change from maple syrup! My favorite way to eat this honey is on an apple, peanut butter and honey sandwich. Yum!


Recipes
Thank you to Heather for compiling all of the recipes for this week's newsletter!

Creamy Feta Dressing
This is perfect for a springtime salad! Try using your head lettuce here torn into pieces and sprinkling with roasted beets. If you have fresh mint in the garden, use some here.
Makes about 1 cup.

1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp salt, to taste
3 tbsp yogurt
1 tbsp mayonnaise
fresh black pepper
fresh minced or dry herbs: mint, dill, chives, parsley
1/3 c oil
1/3 c feta cheese, finely crumbled

Blend together vinegar, garlic, yogurt, mayo, salt, pepper, & herbs. Blend in the oil in a drizzle until emulsified, then stir in feta. Keeps 1 week in the refrigerator.

Pasta with Greens and Feta
This is a recipe Heather has been making for at least 15 years! Any greens will work, especially the beet greens in this week's share. Sometimes I garnish it with sliced salty olives, as well. It's from Mollie Katzen's Still Life with Menu, a beautiful and eclectic cookbook. S
erves 6.
Feel free to cut it back to 3 or 4 servings.

1 pound pasta such as gemelli, penne or bowties
1/4 c olive oil
4 c chopped onion
8 c mixed bitter greens, washed and chopped
salt to taste
1/2 lb feta, crumbled
fresh grated Parmesan
fresh black pepper
Kalamata or other salty olives

Put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta; cook according to package directions.
You want to time this so the pasta is ready when the greens are just wilted.

In a large wide and deep saute pan, cook onions in olive oil for about 10 minutes, until golden and caramelized. Add chopped greens with a bit of salt and saute until just wilted. Add the feta, cooked pasta and toss to combine. Add a couple splashes of pasta cooking water as needed to bring it together. Serve with a generous grind of black pepper and fresh grated Parmesan. Olives optional.

In a Hurry Green Curry Recipe
Perhaps you still have a block of tofu from last week and need some inspiration! Otherwise, potatoes would be a perfect alternative. You could also use both. This recipe from 101cookbooks.com calls for just a bit of curry paste to start. You can always add more at the end. To add more flavor make a thin paste with some of the hot broth (this will help avoid curry paste clumps), now stir the paste in to the larger curry pot a bit at a time until the flavor is to your liking.
Serves 4.

2 teaspoons green curry paste
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 14-ounce can coconut milk (light ok)
1 large onion, sliced
1/2 c sliced leeks
14 ounces water or light vegetable broth
2 c cubed potatoes
6 ounces of firm tofu cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
2 cups asparagus, cut into 1/2-inch segments
pac choi cut into thin ribbons
squeeze of fresh lime juice
1/4 cup small basil leaves
1/4 c chives, cut into 1" slivers

In a large thick bottom pot over medium heat whisk the curry paste with the salt and a small splash of the coconut milk. Simmer for just a minute. Add the onion and leeks and saute until it softens up, just a minute or so. Add the rest of the coconut milk, broth and potatoes. Cook until potatoes are tender. Taste and adjust for flavor - this would be the time to add more curry paste if needed.

Stir in the tofu and, JUST BEFORE SERVING, the peas and asparagus and pac choi. Simmer for a minute or two, just long enough for the vegetables to cook a bit. Finish the pot with a squeeze of lime, basil leaves and chives. Taste, and adjust seasoning again if needed.

Honey Rhubarb Fool
Here's a simple parfait recipe from the National Honey Board. I'll bet you know where to find some rhubarb! They have a wealth of recipes at www.honey.com.
4 servings.

1 lb. rhubarb, trimmed and cut in 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup honey
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup honey

Place rhubarb and the 1/3 cup honey in a 2-quart saucepan and cook until rhubarb is completely tender. Chill.

In chilled bowl, whip cream until starting to thicken. Add 1/4 cup honey and beat to soft peaks. To serve, layer rhubarb mixture into dessert glasses alternating with honey-sweetened whipped cream. Garnish with mint sprig, if desired.

Honey French Toast
Serve this topped with the honey rhubarb compote and whipped cream from the previous recipe. WOW!

1 c milk
1/3 c honey
3 eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla
12 slices bread

Gently heat milk with honey just to dissolve honey. Set aside to cool. Whisk eggs, then whisk in the honey milk. Whisk in spices and vanilla. Dip slices of bread into egg mixture and cook on a medium hot, buttered griddle until golden. Serve with butter, honey rhubarb sauce and whipped cream for a decadent brunch.

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