Saturday, December 22, 2007

Between Nose and Tail Eating

The Neck

Fergus Henderson, through his books and TV appeaarances has (at least) raised the foodie awareness towards odder parts of the animal. He extols not only the liver (usually salted) or the marrow bone (now famous). He pleads for you to try the parts at the extremes, say frying up an ear and including it in a salad. In this spirit, there is the neck.

Our organic, local lamb from Wettstein's farm had a neck. It gamely lowered its jaws to the ground so he (or she) could nibble and nosh in his (or her) short but happy life. It is a cut less used in American cooking. Joy speaks silent of its joys. Yet, there is was. Taking up a great use of our upstairs freezer. It became the centerpiece of our Shabbat meal.

There really is no way of cooking a neck beyond braising. That said, there is, I imagine after one neck preparation, no hard way to ruin a neck. A pan, some flavored liquid, some aromatics and time, time, time. It is a hunk of product, mostly bone and fat--and long solid bone. We had expected we could cut the neck into something approaching osso buco style steaks, but that bone is long and big. You need a band saw. Our neck bubbled away for about 3 hours with stock and assorted middle eastern style spices like cumin. Local red potatoes and not local green olives went in twenty minutes before the finish. Local (frozen) peas and local parsley went in at the final five minutes. It took a certain amount of poking and digging to get morsels of meat to feed the crowd. For that you get very rich, to some a bit too fatty, rich, soft, lamb meat.

If you do not have a lamb neck in your freezer, I do see them at Middle Eastern butchers like Sahar, 4829 N. Kedzie, Chicago.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Winter Farmer's Markets

Don't Fret

Tomorrow is the last day of the Green City Farmer's Market for several months. Eat localers might think themselves stuck with their inventory on hand. Fret not, there are some markets open in the coming months. For the most part, I cannot vouch for these markets, or more importantly, tell you what will be there this winter. Still, it's a start. I DO hope to visit many of these--if anyone has any intel on these markets please pass them forward.

I've included a couple of Wisconsin markets. I'll post about options in Michigan and Indiana in another entry.

[Unless other indicated, the quoted material comes from the Illinois Department of Agriculture's web site, which has excellent eat local materials.]

Churchs' Center For Land & People

Via Bill Daley at the Trib's blog, I learned of this organization and the series of winter farmer's markets and market/brunch's being held in the Chicago area. Here's the schedule.

Twin City Farmers Market
"Indoor market. Historic building. Meat, permanent freezers of beef, pork, pastured chicken and pastured bison. Fresh eggs. Seasonal produce(much of it grown organically), baked goods, some locally made products (soaps, candles, baskets, rugs, woodwork, metalcraft, etc.)and gift baskets. 106 AVENUE A, STERLING, IL 61081
Heritage Farmer's Market
Located on Route 9 East of Pekin; 18837 STATE ROUTE 9 PEKIN, IL 61554

Geneva Winter Market
The Winter Market in Geneva, IL starts Thursday, November 1st and will run every Thursday (except Thanksgiving Day, and between Christmas and New Years) through the middle of May. You'll enjoy shopping for the finest local produce, cheese, meats, eggs, cheese, nuts and honey; as well as baked goods, and more! Farmers and Vendors who will be there are: Curds & Whey Cheese Company, Pine Row Farms, Unicorn Farms, Grandma's Eggs, Schramer's Meats, and Inglenook Pantry! Location: Winter Market at Inglenook Pantry 11 N 5th St, Geneva, IL 60134
Dane County Farmer's Market
One of the premier farmer's markets in the USA. So great that is makes me depressed--I can never fully hit all the stands, by the time I have shopped a part of the market, put some stuff away, taken a coffee break, the other part is packing up for the day! The market meets once a week during the winter at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Monona Terrace. Here's what the Market web site sez about the winter fare:
Wondering what you can find at the DCFM Winter Market? Here's a listing to help guide you.

Apples; Cider; Jams, jellies, and preserves; Pears; Pear and apple butters; Raspberry products

Stored Vegetables
Carrots, Garlic, Potatoes, Shallots, Turnips

Fresh Vegetables
Chard, Greens, Kale, Lettuce, Micro-greens, Radish, Spinach, Tomatoes

Beef, Bison, Brats and sausage, Chicken, Conventional and special cuts, Emu, Ground beef, Highland beef, Jerky, Ostrich, Pork, Roasts, Turkey, Steaks

Bison products, Emu products, House plants, Orchids, Ostrich products, Potted flowers

Flavored cheeses, Goat cheese, World-class aged cheeses, Fresh cheese curds

Baked Goods
Flat breads, Biscotti, Cheesecake, Pastries, Cinnamon rolls, Sweet breads, Torts, Cookies, Muffins, Panettone, Sourdough bread

Specialty Items
Mushrooms, Maple syrup, Wool products, Candles, Honey, Pesto, Vinaigrettes, Eggs, Hot sauces, Flavored sea salt, Goat milk soap, Salsa, Yarn, Sheepskins, Hides and leather, Soups, Pasta sauce, Fresh-ground whole wheat flour, Herbal vinegar

Milwaukee Public Market
The sheen has faded slightly from this market, with the closing of some of the food stalls. It does not help that last year I got a chance to visit the even cooler Detroit and Cleveland Markets (to be discussed in a forthcoming post). Still, last year, the Milwaukee market sold a bit of local produce all winter, including some much need garlic. This is a stellar source for Wisconsin cheeses, and the C. Adams bake shop is worth the visit alone.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Inventory

On Hand

I vacillate over whether we are prepared for the winter. I think we have enough until we make a big meal (like Thanksgiving), and then I feel like we have used too much!

The following is a good list of produce. In addition to the produce, we have plenty of frozen local cow, local lamb and local pork (chicken we buy live from John's at Fullerton and Central). We have about five pounds of local walnuts, bags of local wheat (several types of flour plus bulger) and cornmeal. I'm not listing general kitchen staples, canned goods, beans, noodles, etc. Some of the staples are local, some are not. We get eggs weekly from Farmer Vicki's Genesis Growers. We buy milk and cheese (local) and bread (sometimes local) as we need it.

Cranberries - about twelve packages, in our basement fridge
Cabbage sprouts - 3 heads - basement fridge
One of Vicki's greens that I've never heard of - basement fridge
Bok choy - one head - basement fridge
Swiss chard - 1 bunch (this will be used tomorrow for dinner) - upstairs fridge
Broc - 3 or 4 good sized heads - basement fridge
Pie pumpkins - maybe 4 - Storage room, attic, living room and basement
Celery - 2 bunches - upstairs fridge
Herbs=parsley, cilantro, sage, thyme and mint - upstairs fridge (to the extent they are not spoiled)
Bacon - upstairs fridge (generously gifted by MikeG); downstairs fridge (not local)
Winter squash - plenty including acorn, delicata, turban and butternut - storage room, attic, living room and basement
Keeper onions - - about 30, at least - storage and kitchen
Sweet potatoes - a good amount, 20 or more - attic and storage
Garlic - about 25 heads - storage and kitchen
Cabbage 1 whole/1 half - basement fridge and upstairs fridge
Sunchokes - good amount, say two meals worth - basement fridge
Carrots - plenty, at least 20 lbs - basement fridge and upstairs fridge
Parsnips plenty, at least 20 lbs - basement fridge and upstairs fridge
Beets - red - plenty - basement fridge and attic
Turnips - good amount - basement fridge and attic
Potatoes small round red, yukon gold, russet, fingerling - we are especially long on the red and we have a 50 lb bag of russet (less those used for latkes) - attic and storage
Apples - rome, gala, sungold, yellow delicious, others - about 50 lbs - dining room and attic

I do not have an exact tally of what's frozen but it includes many bags of greens, green beans, peas, asparagus, corn, apple sauce, pesto, broccoli, red peppers, cherries, grapes, raspberries, blueberries.

How We Did Local Yesterday

Paul and Us

At the Green City Market, Chef Paul Virant of Vie demonstrated his signature dish, gnocchi. The Vie menu is an every changing guide to what can be done with gnocchi. Showing that winter cooking is not all root vegetables and stews, Chef Paul cooked up a gnocchi made with Illinois produced goat cheese from Prairie Fruit Farms. He garnished the gnocchi with oyster mushrooms from Wisconsin's River Valley (at the market) and escarole from an un-named Wisconsin farmer. He finished with a sauce made with butter and sorrel purchased from Growing Power (at the market). The goat cheese gave the gnocchi a pleasant tang, and the tang balanced well against the buttery-earthy oyster mushrooms. He sure made it look damn simple.

For us, first my wife thought about trying the gnocchi. Then we considered our leftovers, either Monday's pasta with Farmer Vicki's cauliflower or Tuesday night's stir-fry with Vicki's bok choy, carrots and broccoli. Instead, we were mesmerized by a gorgeous loaf of ciabatta bread we picked up at the Green City Market from Bennison's Bakery--outside of Fox & Obel's peasant sour dough, I would say Bennison's is my favorite bread in Chicago. A simple dinner, Whole Foods smoked salmon spread (not local, but it could have been their smoked trout spread from Rushing Waters in Wisconsin, so it feels less a cheat!), washed rind "petite frere" cheese from Wisconsin's Crave Brothers (one of the few local cheeses I have not adored, and I've liked other things from Crave Brothers, it was way too mild for a washed rind); Maytag Blue from Iowa, canned bread and butter pickles from some local farmer's market, and butter from the Amish in Indiana. Winter's been easy so far.

At the penultimate market, we were disappointed to not find Farmer Vicki's Genesis Growers. It turns out because of the heavy August rains, she has not enough crops for Wednesday and Saturday, so she is holding out until Saturday. So, there was not that much for us to buy. Grower Power had carrots and parsnips; we bought nearly 10 lbs or each (both last an incredibly long time). We skipped their red potatoes as we are pretty long on tubers, and we skipped their brussell sprouts because we will be out of town for a week. Hillside Orchids still had a good amount of apples. We purchased big bags of rome, gala and sungold.

Because this is when eating local gets fun, I promise to post a lot more regularly.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Vie - va

Vie and Me Eat Local

New Vie menu posted yesterday (here). See how they cope with the changes in weather.

Chef Paul Virant demonstrates at the last Wednesday Green City Market of 2007. 10:30 AM.

I will be at the market picking through the scraps tomorrow. I hope you show up as well. I will say that if you are planning on stocking up tomorrow, you may be hard pressed. As of a couple of weeks ago, the market was fairly bare. Still, Vicki should be there and she has a good selection of root crops and hoophouse greens. Likewise, Growing Power has their green houses working to good effect. There should be squash and potatoes (just not a lot of variety) and apples that can still be stored away. Don't forget to get enough onions and garlic to last. Next week it gets tough.
I am reasonably confident of our ability to hack it out the rest of the winter. We have plenty of carrots, parsnips, cabbage, beets and turnips that should last. We are very well stocked on potatoes--helped by a purchase of 50 lbs of Wisconsin potatoes at a wholesaler, and garlic and onions. I'm not even sure we can eat all the squash we have. We have our sources for hot house materials that should give us some stuff green. Yes, lettuce can be had! Finally, we have a freezer full of stuff: peas, green beans, asparagus, a lot of corn (we could not eat it fast enough). While we will be buying citrus and bananas and maybe an avocado or two, I otherwise expect to be local these cold months. I know Vie will be too.