Friday, April 21, 2006

Just 'nother Brilliant Idea From the Condiment Queen
(Not Local)

Prosciutto and melon or prosciutto and figs are common antipastos. Anyone ever think of prosciutto and papaya? Well my wife did.

The other day, when we were on Da'Bomb, we picked up some very ripe papaya. Somehow in this lean time for fruit (yea apples do get boring), a papaya seemed more in the spirit than international berries. And now that Ms. VI came up with the idea of combining it with prosciutto, well I have a noted exception.

Add a course. We have realized that one of the best ways to enhance a family meal, to make it elegant, is to have a first course. And we have realized that first courses are easy. Sometimes we just open a container of olives. With nearly every meal lately, we have tried to have a first course. Yesterday's papaya with prosciutto was one of the best (not counting my wife's home made soups). It also set up well against our second course, pasta with freezer pesto (whew, I did not think there was something local in the meal*.) The funky yet sweet taste of the papaya contrasted exactly right with the funky yet salty taste of the prosciutto. If anything, the more intense papaya works as a better foil than the relatively mild cantaloupe. Do try.

Make sure you give credit where credit is due.

*Actually, the meal also included local green beans from the freezer, and the freezer neither ruined the texture for the pasta dish, nor sapped any flavor.
Eat Local Blog Coming Soon!

The launch day for the Eat Local blog is nearly there, perhaps even next week, in conjunction with Earth Day. There will be about 35 authors on the blog, repersenting all parts of the country. The stated goal for the site is to create a year-round resource for people who would like to read about eating local or to set up their own eat local challenge. It should be both an inspiration and a database.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Argyle Street (and nearby)

I used to live a block from the Asian food center that is Argyle Street on the North side of Chicago. Quite bizarre, I grew tired of eating around there while I lived there. I really contribute that now, to the lack of Internet resources.

This post by Erik M on LTHForum is especially useful and would have kept me motivated if I lived there.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Box
Spring CSA Week 3

The box is not even here, but Farmer Vicki does such a great job making it hard for me to wait for tomorrow, I thought I'd share her report on Week 3.

Quote Farmer Vicki:
This week's boxes contain French Breakfast radishes. Traditionally, they are the radishes used for making breakfast sandwiches. They are long and slender, tender and relatively mild. Don't waste the leaves - they make an excellent addition to your juicing, in a smoothy, in a greens recipie or in a salad. Greens are high in nutritive value - far more so than the radish itself. We also have salad turnips (red ones and white ones). They are both young tender turnips, designed for eating raw, although they can be steamed, stir fried, or cooked the same as a traditional turnip. Again, don't miss out on the delectable greens.

Another treat for the week is bekana. It looks like a lettuce, with more of a thin "greens" type leaf texture. It is considered a Chinese non-heading cabbage (brassica group). Several different veggies fall in this catagory, but with a great deal of variance between them. This veggie I eat raw most often, altho it can be handled like a green, juiced, steamed, braised, sauteed. I enjoy greens with rice and/or beans (pinto, etc.). I season by steaming the rice in a veggie broth with onions, celery and garlic (optional). I wash and chop the greens and add for the last couple of minutes so they remain a bit firm. To include beans, precook the beans and add to the rice mixture. Steam together for several minutes before adding the greens. This green is particularly good in a stir fry. Just add it to your favorite recipie. Please share your greens recipies as many folks struggle with how to use them.

Some folks have raab in their boxes and some have boc choi. If you are planning a stir fry, include the boc choi or raab in your box. The whole plants are edible. Boc choi is a wonderful Chinese veggie with lots of possibilities. I use it raw in salads at times, but most often in stir fry. It can be used in place of celery in a soup recipie. The flavor is light, fresh and mild, with almost a hint of cabbage, but uniquely its own flavor. Raab is wonderful lightly steamed with butter and salt, or add it to another dish (such as the stir fry).

I do appologize as we forgot to tag the bekana, the raab and the boc choi bags. Bekana is light green and looks a bit like lettuce. Raab is darker green and has stems with buds and/or flowers. The boc choi is a clump of stalks with broad leaves at the top with lighter colored stalks. A few of the turnips were ready and I placed them in boxes at random. They are either red or white and round.

You will find I like growing greens, oriental veggies, lettuces and salad crops. Of everything I grow these are my favorites. I have been known to grow 30 varieties of lettuce in a single year, but usually stick to 8-9 types. I've settled on the one's that do best for me in each season.

We are trying to plant crops outside and the rain is holding us up. The field was a solid lake on Sunday night. If we try to go out there it will suck us right up. I have learned the hard way to stay out of the field when it is this wet. That sand will grab a boot and hold it tight. It takes Hercules' strength to pull up out of that goop. When the field dries we will have to run to get out there and get it done before more rain settles in on us (Thursday, I believe). I want to sing "Rain, rain go away," but after our lack of rain last year I hesitate. One year after 3 or 4 weeks with no rain, to be silly, I went out and did a rain dance. Coincidentally, it began raining and it rained and rained and rained. I felt as if we should begin to build an ark. It rained until the fields were flooded and we were unable to get into them for over 2 weeks. The weeds prospered, the crops rotted and I was dismayed, to say the least. Since then I never, ever attempt to wish for something other than what we get. So, perhaps on Wednesday we can get into the field again.
Get Ready
Eat Local Challenge Coming in May

Last year, a group of food bloggers participated in an Eat Local Challenge in August. This year, an Eat Local challenge has been called for May. You will see soon, references to a blog dedicated to the challenge. In the meantime, I want to give advance warning for all who may also want to participate.

The thing is, you may want to participate, but May is not an easy month to dive into eating local in Chicago. Most people around here have not aligned themselves with a farm like Genesis Growers to get spring items. Only a few farmer's markets open in May and late May at that--Green City and Evanston. Moreover, there will not be a lot of produce for sale in these markets. If you expect to get by on local food in May, in the Chicago area, without any preparation, you better enjoy rhubarb. Still, there are many things you can do to participate, if not explicitly, in spirit.

First of all, pay attention. You can find certain local products with a bit of poking. For instance, Caputo's sells Michigan apples. Even Whole Food's has Wisconsin potatoes. Try to plug these things into your larder. Second, think beyond produce. Milk, eggs, cheese, meat can all be sourced from local providers. Last, think about some of the rationales for eating local. Reduce energy consumption, eliminate waste. So, what can be bought in bulk. What packaging can be ditched? As I say, even if you cannot eat local products in May, you can abide by the spirit of the Eat Local Challenge in May.

To help people participate in the Eat Local Challenge in May, I will be posting various resources over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Eatchicago Asks a Vital Question
Seek These Out

Whitefish Salad at Good Morgan's Fish
"It's so good because we make our own mayonnaise"
And it is. Even my scared of fish daughter ate some. All of their stuff shows similar care. If you wanna have actual gefilte fish (i.e., not outta a jar), they will grind the fish for you and wrap the bones separately. If you are even more lazy, Good Morgan makes it for you. And if you are a traditionalist or nostalgic, Good Morgan makes true gefilte fish, that is a fish fillet stuffed with ground fish.

Delightful Rugelach
Last week, my wife and I were inquiring of certain delightful items at Delightful Pastries on Lawrence, as to their flour content. The woman behind the counter said she'd get the baker. We expected an older, well Eastern European looking man. Out came a twenty-something woman with a vague accent--long story short, she's Polish by birth, raised in South Africa, educated in New York, and learned in French pastry. It is her family that bought the former Lawrence Pastries a few years back. While we were shopping macaroons, we asked about the rugelach, which we had learned to love from our last visit. It turns out these have no antecedent in Polish baking, but she enjoys baking them. These are by far, the best rugelach I have had in Illinois.

Good Morgan Fish
2948 W. Devon Ave., Chicago
(773) 764-8115

Delightful Pastries
5927 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60630
(773) 545-7215