Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Good Eats Newsletter - September 10, 2008

Pete's Musings
Last week Meg and I got a treat and left the farm for California for 8 days. Thanks to our great crew all was well when we were gone. By chance our trip coincided with the last day of the Slow Food Nation event in San Francisco. We toured a large farmers market and a Victory Garden on the lawn of the civic center and that night sampled all types of Slow Food approved foods in the tasting pavilion on the waterfront. It's remarkable to be in a place where so many of the foods that we eat rarely because they are not local to Vermont are local, abundant, and relatively cheap. Nuts, exotic fruits, and olive oil top this list. But I was also struck by how relatively undeveloped the California food scene is. Vermont food producers have filled more niches than their California counterparts and when you factor in our tougher climate and much lower population we are clearly out-innovating what many consider to be the foodie capital of America.

We rode our bikes south down the coast from San Fran enjoying spectacular scenery, perfect sunshine, and chilly ocean water. North of Santa Cruz industrial vegetable farming thrives-I estimate there are several thousand acres of brussel sprouts growing there. In Watsonville we saw strawberries and baby greens by the thousands of acres and south of there artichokes. The scale is amazing and overwhelming. I respect their precision and uniformity but there is something joyless about watching a crew of 50 harvest romaine by the tractor trailer load and realizing that they will be picking the same field for a week or more. I picked up some good ideas about cultivation and onion drying but we were soon back to the beach and the Monterey aquarium. This was by far the longest summer vacation I have had in 12 years of farming and was a real pleasure. Next week I'll write about our friends Todd and Jordan who run a kitchen company specializing in preserving the bounty of the California summer. - Pete

High Mowing Organic Seeds’ September Field Day
On Wednesday, September 17th, High Mowing Organic Seeds will host its annual September Field Day. The event runs from 12:30 - 7pm, and is free and open to the public. This is a wonderful opportunity see High Mowing's operation in Wolcott. In addition to a session on growing soybeans in Vermont, there's a field tour, a seed saving workshop and a local foods celebration. Check out the schedule on their website. Children are welcome.

Take an Eat Local Challenge
Throughout August and September there are (have been) numerous Eat Local Challenges taking place throughout the state. Depending on the hosting group, the Challenge can range from a meal to a month. In the Mad River Valley, where I live, our Challenge is set to start this Sunday, September 14th. We allow people to set the parameters of their Challenge. For some people, cooking that first fully-local meal is a true Challenge. For others of us, a week can be pretty easy.

You may ask, why many of us who eat mostly locally would still bother taking the Challenge. Personally, I like doing it because it refocuses me on trying to incorporate more local foods into my diet. When there isn't a non-local alternative to fall back on, I might discover a new recipe, a new method for preparing a food or even an all new food source. Plus, it supports the Localvore movement and our farmers and food producers.

The rules of a Challenge are pretty straight-forward. You can eat 100% locally, or like most people, you can take advantage of the Marco Polo rule that allows you to incorporate salt, spices and leaveners in your diet. Most people I know also take a wild card or two for things like chocolate, coffee or tea. Many Challenges let you take up to 5 for the week.

We are very lucky in the Valley that many of our restaurants participate in the Challenge. If we are hungry and don't feel like cooking, we can pick-up a localvore blackberry scone, grab a take-out lunch or enjoy a sitdown all local dinner.

This year, as during past Challenges, next week in the Valley will be chock full of Localvore-inspired events. We have a kick-off potluck dinner at Lareau Farm on Sunday from 5-7pm, featuring Knotty Pine. Kate Stephenson (one of our shareholders) and I are hosting a kimchi and sauerkraut making social next Monday. There's a localvore, Boyden Valley Wine dinner at the Common Man on Wednesday, and a Green Mountain Global Forum lecture by Fred Magdoff, of UVM, on the global food crisis. All of these events are posted on the Localvore website and are open to the public.

If you've missed your own area's Challenge or don't have a group active in your town, you are always welcome to join with us for a meal, a day or the week.

This Week's Share Contains
Tomatillos, to make up from last week; Cherry Tomatoes and/or Beefsteak Tomatoes*; Mesclun; Bunch Sweet Salad Turnips; Zucchini; Eggplant; Mixed Sweet Peppers; Bunch Basil; Bunch Cilantro.

*Some sites will receive a mix of cherry and beefsteak tomatoes. The others will receive a larger quantity of beefsteak, but no cherries. Next week the sites will be reversed, so if you don't get cherry tomatoes this week, you will the next.

Localvore Share:
Maplebrook Farm Mozzarella; Elmore Mountain Bread; Butterworks Farm Yogurt;

Storage and Use Tips
Eggplant: There are differing opinions on whether or not you should salt and drain eggplant slices before cooking. Some say that the salting process eliminates any bitter juices; others say it's not necessary. After a couple of years going through the extra hassle of salting, I am now in the latter camp. As I really can't taste the difference, I don't believe that it's worth the extra time in the kitchen.

Angelic Organics, a large CSA outside of Chicago, had some good information on storing eggplants: "Eggplant prefers to be kept at about 50 degrees, which is warmer than most refrigerators and cooler than most kitchen counters. Wrap unwashed eggplant in a towel (not plastic) to absorb any moisture, and keep it in the hydrator drawer of your refrigerator. Used within a week it should still be fresh and mild."

Cilantro: Cilantro has a long history. It had been cultivated in North Africa and parts of Asia for thousands of years before the Spanish conquistadors brought the herb over to Central and South America. Some Asian recipes will refer to it as coriander leaves. If the plant is left to flower, it will produce coriander seeds. Cilantro adds great flavor to salsa, chili, tacos, salads, enchiladas, stir-fries and curries. For the freshest flavor, add it to the dish once it's removed from the heat or sprinkle it on as a garnish before serving. Storing cilantro with moist leaves in a plastic bag will most likely lead to green slime instead of a good meal. It keeps better if you stand it up, unwashed, in your refrigerator in a glass full of water, covered loosely with a plastic bag. Change the water every 2 or 3 days to keep it fresh.

Localvore 'Lore from Heather
Sunday, October 12, Bonnieview is hosting another farm event, this time a brunch. Chef Sissy Hicks returns to prepare a feast of Bonnieview products, including eggs, milk, cheese, pumpkin, lamb and pork. If the brunch is anything like the two previous dinners, it's sure to be a memorable meal. The buffet will be served from 11 am ‘til 2 pm, outside in front of the green house, weather permitting. Seats are $25 per person. Call Neil and Kristen at 755-6878 for reservations. Only 50 seats are available, so call soon to reserve yours!

It took some doing, but we are finally able to include Maplebrook mozzarella in the share. I have been planning to pair it with basil and tomatoes since we started harvesting them. For the Spring Share, Nancy Hofer would take my order and deliver the cheese herself on the way to her camp at Lake Parker. This spring she took another job at a publishing company and is only working part-time with Maplebrook. Since she wasn’t able to deliver, I have had to go through a few channels to order the cheese. Black River produce came through in the end, and I will order ricotta from Maplebrook as well in the future.

The Maplebrook website seems to be down, but here’s a blurb from the Vermont Cheese Council site. When Nancy has delivered in the past, we’ve had great conversations about the humane treatment of dairy cows and the importance of small dairy farms to the Vermont economy. Maplebrook is as dedicated to producing gourmet quality cheeses as they are to supporting sustainable local dairy farms.

"Maplebrook Farm cheeses are made daily by skilled old-world cheese artisans. We make our own curd from the milk of cows that are rBGH free and that graze in the green mountains of Vermont. Our cheeses are made in small batches using all natural ingredients with no preservatives.

Our cheese is a 100% Vermont product. When you buy this product, you are directly helping to support small dairy farms of Vermont. All our cheese is made from whole milk that has been pasteurized. A gluten free product and there is no corn in the veg rennet we use.

Easier to come by this week were the bread and yogurt. I called Butterworks to place the order and it was delivered to Vermont Soy in Hardwick last Thursday. Tim picked it up Friday afternoon on the way back from making local deliveries.

As for the bread, it is wonderful to be working with Blair and Andrew of Elmore Mountain bread again! Their enthusiasm for baking Localvore bread is infectious! With Milanaise local Quebec flour and Gleason whole-wheat flour, they have been inspired to create new breads for Good Eats. This week’s loaf is made with caramelized Pete’s onions, Vermont Milk Company cheddar cheese, sea salt, yeast, and water. I can’t wait to make my favorite grilled vegetable sandwich!

Heather’s Fave Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches
This is a sandwich stack, meant to be eaten with fork and knife! If you like, make full sandwiches with 2 slices of bread, but expect juice to be running down your wrist! We eat this at least once a week in high summer. Serves 4.

¼ cup oil
2 TB soy sauce
2 TB balsamic vinegar
1 tsp prepared mustard
1 clove minced garlic
salt & fresh ground pepper

1 sweet onion cut in thick rounds
2 squash, cut into ½” diagonal slices
1 or 2 eggplant, cut into ½” slices
1 pepper, cut into thin strips

1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 TB finely cut basil ribbons
4 slices bread for open face stacks
1 or 2 tomatoes, sliced
1 mozzarella ball, sliced

Whisk together marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Toss cut vegetables in marinade and set aide. Mix basil into mayo to make the sandwich dressing. Heat grill or a grill pan for the vegetables.

Grill vegetables brushing with marinade, until browning and tender. Remove to a plate.
To assemble sandwiches, spread mayo on bread, layer on vegetables, tomato and cheese. Place on medium high heat grill to toast bread slightly and melt the cheese a bit. Serve immediately.

Eggplant-Polenta Stacks With Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Serves 4.

1.5 lb. tomatoes
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
Pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 large eggplant or 1 small, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Coarse salt

1 large zucchini, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Additional olive oil

4 large fresh basil leaves
4 1/4-inch-thick slices mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

To remove tomato skins, core the tomato then submerge in boiling water for 20-30 seconds, until the skin begins to pull away. Immediately dunk into an ice water bath until cool to the touch. Remove from water and peel skin. Puree tomatoes in blender. Strain into a heavy small saucepan. Add 1/4 cup water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer tomatoes to reduce, about 10 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons oil and simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Combine 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Gradually whisk in cornmeal. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until polenta is very thick, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add Parmesan and butter and stir until melted. Mix in cayenne pepper. Spread polenta in 9-inch-square pan. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour. (Sauce and polenta can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate.)

Prepare grill (medium-high heat) or preheat broiler. Brush eggplant and zucchini with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill or broil until tender, about 2 minutes per side.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil large baking sheet. Cut polenta into 4 rounds. Place rounds on prepared baking sheet. Top each with eggplant, 2 zucchini slices, basil leaf and mozzarella slice.

Bake eggplant stacks until cheese melts and begins to brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to plates. Rewarm sauce. Spoon around eggplant stacks. Sprinkle with chopped basil and serve.

Young Turnip and Apricot Salad with Toasted Nuts
Adapted from Farmer John’ Cookbook. Serves 4.

½ cup walnut pieces
1 bunch salad turnips, greens washed, spun dry and set aside
½ cup finely sliced dried apricots
¼ cup finely chopped parsley or cilantro
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup minced sweet onion
1 small hot pepper, minced, or to taste
1 clove garlic
1 tsp dry mustard
scant tbsp grated horseradish
1 tsp soy sauce

Toast walnuts in a dry heavy skillet stirring constantly until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer to a dishtowel to cool. Wash turnips and cut into thin matchsticks. Combine with apricots and walnuts in a large bowl.

Coarsely chop turnip greens. Put the parsley, chopped turnip greens, oils, vinegar and yogurt into a blender; process briefly, until the ingredients are just combined. Add the onion, hot pepper, garlic, mustard, horseradish, and soy sauce; process until thick and creamy. Pour the dressing over the turnip mixture; toss until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Line individual plates with a generous amount of salad greens; spoon the turnip salad on top. Serve immediately.

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