Friday, June 08, 2007

Eating Our Cow

Sirloin Roast, A Day Later

I really admire the poster Bridgestone on He posts about various meals he makes. For one thing, I appreciate that is ouevre is Sweden, a place with a much different coastline than Chicago but a not dissimilar climate. For another thing, I love how the meals are always so complete with the veg and the drink (usually a beer and a snaps or schnaps). Look at the repast in this fish dinner. This meal has the requisite snaps and two beers. Finally, he chronicles so well, the process, from ingredient to table. It's about all summed up in this telling of his Julbord 2006. I always want to make posts like Bridgestone. Except when I remember my camera, the meal's already a bloody mess.

Too damn bad, because this bloody mess of a sirloin was so nice. I wish I had captured it's various stages. Stage one would have been the look on my wife's face when I unwrapped the meat on Wednesday. Certainly one of the thrills of our 1/2 local cow is that we are not exactly sure what we get when we open each package (besides the burger). I had thought this sirloin roast was kinda the tri-tip. I expected a thick/wide piece of meat. Instead it was more of a true roast shape, a beef-football. There was no way I could get dinner on the table at a reasonable time with that hunk of meat on Wednesday.

Yesterday, I gave myself more time. Stage two meant having enough time when I found out I had only a 1/2 chimney's worth of charcoal. Luckily, Serrelli's near me sells the real stuff. Stage three would be encrusting the meat with a good rub. Stage four would be me cooking it directly over lump charcoal, rotating every 15 or so minutes. Frozen meat is not supposed to char up, but that was not so. With the burnished deep red-brown from the cooking/rub it did look like something Cedric Benson would fumble. Stage five would be the cutting. Inside, the pointy ends met the kid's needs while the fattest part was French red. It all had pure non-supermarket extra beefiness. My only quibble was the line of sinew running about 2/3rds through the bottom of the roast. It made some slices near impossible to eat. I wish I had trimmed that away (if possible). Next 1/2 cow, I'll do that, as there's no other cut like this with this package. Stage six will be the leftovers as good sandwiches.

Bridgestone would have shown the final ensemble. On the grill I roasted up the last of our asparagus and the first of our purple new onions. As the meat rested I made a lemon intensive salad from Farmer Vicki's arugula. It worked well to cut the richness as did the salsa I made from Vicki's parsley, Forest Park French Market (Geils) jalapenos and garlic and Italian olive oil. All together it would have made a nice picture.

Well sated, I waited a while to dig into left over rhubarb-sour cherry (the later coming from the freezer) crisp that my wife and daughter made last week. If I had taken pictures, you'd really be impressed.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

For Mom

In the News

For over a decade, my mother owned a business teaching the food safety course needed for all Illinois food service providers. She always insisted on making them take the test.

No so one of the competition (allegedly).
A suburban owner of a food-safety business has been charged with fraud after she was accused of cheating to ensure clients obtained state and city certificates to serve and prepare food at restaurants and other establishments...From early 2000 to last month, Koll is alleged to have requested exam books and represented that a number of people would be taking the test through her. Instead, exam answer sheets were filled out for those who paid, authorities said.

CTrib has the full story here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Eat Local Cheese

Wisconsin Cheese Tour

The great compiler, Adam at Menu Pages Chicago has information on a Wisconsin Cheese tour this weekend as well as some other data/links on Wisconsin cheese. He mentions Bleu Mont Dairy, a favorite of mine (and a reason to visit the Dane County Market).

Conversation with Kingsolver

Recorded at the CTrib

I've not been able to finish Plenty or Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, the two recent eating local books. Plenty, the 100 mile couple's book, is clever, engaging, well written, but there's just no there, there. They set out to eat within their parameters and they do it. Any notable problems like the mouse poop seem incidental. So, while it's fun to read in spurts, it's not the kinda book that's making me wanna finish. Barbara Kingsolver is a bit of a polemicist, more strident, not as cool as Martha Bayne notes. Me, I appreciate the litany of facts, arguments, statistics, the change the world idealism of Kingsolver. More importantly, while her venture is at once more unreasonable, who has a farm to return to, her endevor is more realistic. She, as I, believes that eating local is not a hobby, nor an exotic quest like climbing an Himalayan. She's taken to the road to spread the message, and the Chicago Tribune compiles some of her message from a recent talk.

This were my favorite parts:
Q. What can we do up north where we have such a short growing season?

A. Sustainable diversified farms on the outskirts of cities are the fastest growing sector of our agriculture economy. I'm amazed what these food growers are figuring out in terms of season extension. I personally have friends in Western Massachusetts and Vermont who are growing tomatoes in high tunnels -- kind of simple, inexpensive greenhouses -- where you stretch fabric over hoops and it's big enough you can even get a tractor in there -- kind of like small-scale farming in a greenhouse.

We have four months of very cold winter where I live. And we eat beautifully. You just get over the bananas. You get over the January tomatoes. Start thinking about what you have. I'm personally a huge fan of winter squash. They're loaded with beta carotene and there are so many things you can do with them and you can have them all winter.

Q. What is the most important lesson you learned from living locally?

A. [It] was a very deliberate paradigm shift. We stopped asking, "What do I want right now?" and said, "What do we have? What's abundant? What's tasty and delicious right now?" That's what we'll have. It was really for us an exercise in gratitude and because of that it was permanent. We'll never go back.

We had so much more than we imagined. Winter in many ways was easier than summer. We'd made big huge pots of tomato sauce, for example, and froze them and so when winter came, so much of the work was already done. Anyone with a freezer can buy extra foods when they're in season and toss them in there for winter. They'll still be local in February.

With a little bit of extra money invested in our own food economy, we're keeping great faith in the people around our town. We're recycling that money into our own school districts, communities and we're also improving our own food security: If you pay a little extra to our local farmers, we're helping to ensure they'll still be there for us next year.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

4 Weeks too Late

Oak Park Farmer's Market - June 2, 2007

My favorite (and home town) farmer's market got off to a rousing start. Of course, it takes at least a few weeks to get the oil temperature ideal for the donuts.

We got our first peek of the offspring of some defunct chowhounds (still foodies though, does that sound right?).

Farmer's markets make me happy. What makes me unhappy is having to wait.

Look at the Genesis Grower's stand.

Does this look like the work of a just getting started farmer? No, because Genesis Growers has been providing stuff for its CSA since April. It's also been at Green City Market. The food is there. Our purchases (besides donuts) included arugula, strawberries, sugar snap peas, carrots, parsley, basil, and radishes.

The conventional wisdom (if such thing exists) is that our climate cannot support farmers markets until June, that there's nothing to sell. Genesis Growers shows otherwise. Moreover, we were at the Dane County (Madison, WI) farmers market a few weeks ago. Mid-May, the season was about over for morels (the signs said last week), ramps had passed (how's that for funny, Harmony Valley Growers had no more ramps to sell, but Whole Foods in Illinois still had Wisconsin ramps to sell at the time). There was pea-shoots, watercress, spinach, radishes, hothouse tomatoes, lettuces, green onions, chives, rhubarb; in Wisconsin, Wisconsin. On top of all that green, there was cheese, meat, flavored oils, maple syrup (new crop!), canned goods, baked goods, jerky, keeper 'tatoes. There is just no damn good reason that the farmer's markets around here cannot open sooner. Really, they should be year round, like New York's Greenmarkets. If that's too much to ask, at least a May 1 start would make more sense.

Stawberries are Red Damnit

Nicholl's Farm - Oak Park Farmer's Market 6/2/07

What's Local at Whole Foods - River Forest, IL

Come Back Tomorrow

So, yesterday, I needed peanut butter, bread and lunch meats, did not think I needed milk(s, 1% for her, whole for me). I did my usual surveillance of the produce area, especially in light of the Whole Food Promise. California potatoes were bad enough, but Chilean citrus to go on top of the Chilean cherries. Should a localvore survive on burdock root and parsnip (the extent of the local produce)? By the end of morning coffee today, I found both our milks gone.

I'm on you Whole Foods daily. If you make promises of keeping local, keep them. And today they did. Burdock root (who even consumes burdock root?), parsnip AND the same conventional Michigan asparagus I saw last week.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ask VI

Where Can I Find Local Wheat?

Via e-mail, someone passed me on a question about local wheat. The same query was also posted at the Chicago site.

A running gag for the 100 Mile Diet couple in Plenty is their quest for wheat in their area. Peanut butter and jelly on turnips only works so many times. Can a localvore have better luck in the upper Midwest? Yes. When I visited Henry's Farm in a hilly nook of Central Illinois a few years ago, I was surprised that the farm next door grew organic wheat (commercially, alas). Illinois may be the corn capital and the soy sovereign, but there are wheat farmers too. I found several at this listing (ignore the occasional hit on wheatgrass). The question, however is where to buy locally grown wheat.

I know of two sources. First, Scotch Hill Farms from Wisconsin sold 2 pound bags of ground red wheat at the Oak Park Farmers Market last year. I assume they will do so again this year. Second, and the most reliable source that I know, is the Dane County Farmer's Market. It may be a schlep but oh what a worthwhile schlep if you are an eat local devotee. There are a few farmers each week selling wheat and other grains. See this listing.

Unfortunately, at present, eating locally takes some effort. You cannot just stroll into the supermarket and get what you need. The 100 Mile couple joked about how much fossil fuel they burnt up tracking down their meals. Still, as they say, getting there's half the fun.

Eat Local Cheese

Online and Off

David "The Hat" Hammond takes a break from cicadas this week and profiles Illinois's lone farmstead cheese maker, Prairie Fruit Farms. For those interested in the place, keep an eye on Marion Street Cheese in Oak Park. They organized a trip to Prairie Fruit earlier this year, which I was really sorry I missed, and they plan on organizing additional trips. The Prairie Fruit Farms goat cheeses, including the nearly noxious (but in a good way!) Huckleberry Blue can be found at the store or at the Marion Street Cheese booth at the Oak Park Farmer's Market.

Only to be found right now on paper, Joanne Trestrail in Chicago Magazine does an excellent report on Wisconsin cheesemakers in the Madison, WI area.