Friday, April 25, 2008
It's starting to be the time of year where the new stuff exceeds the stored stuff. We are in our fourth week of the Spring CSA. Last week was not a great CSA week. Farmer Vicki warned us that the Napa cabbage had some insect damage, to peel off some leaves, but it turned out that our cabbage was gone, totally. Such is the price of organic/sustainable farming practices. In addition to what we are getting from Genesis Growers, we picked up some produce from Cassie's Green Grocer. She's made a great find, Windy City Harvest. Windy City Harvest would be an all around terrific project on its own, but the produce they are selling to Cassie just gorgeous. Great reason to get to her place.
Before I get to what's at hand, one housekeeping note. The weather has warmed enough that the attic is no longer a viable storage spot. We moved the remaining potatoes to the basement, and we moved the remaining apples to the basement fridge.
Celery - Stalk by stalk, it has its uses
Herbs - Mostly rosemary and mint. We have Farmer Vicki mint and Green Grocer mint.
Keeper onions - Based on our purchases a few weeks ago at Andy's Fruit, we are holding out.
Scallions (a/k/a green onions; a/k/a spring onions) - A bunch, this is the first crop produced outside by Vicki. The use of spring onions/scallions as the cooking alium, after keeper onions run out, is one of the things that gives Spring food its characteristic flavors.
Garlic - Garlic remains fine, and we should last until the new garlic arrives.
Cabbage - Red head remains but for what?
Sunchokes - I looked at the sunchokes the other day, and they are pretty much caput. We had our chance. I just have not had the nerve to toss.
Carrots - Last week's CSA box had several large (assuming over-wintered) carrots, but none this week. We are not heavy on carrots, but given their market availability now, I'm not worried.
Parsnips - In addition to some we've carried for ages, last week's CSA box contained very large over-wintered (i.e., kept in the ground during the winter) parsnips.
Potatoes - We've used a lot of potatoes of late. We finished the 50 lb bag of Wisconsin russets we got earlier this winter, and we've used quite a bit from our smaller bag of Wisconsin russets. We have about 20 lbs of reds and about 5 lbs of speciality potatoes.
Apples - Not that many left, mostly what we got at Andy's a few weeks back.
Lettuce - The CSA boxes have had a lot of lettuces. This week we got a head of romaine. Time for Dad to whip out his Ceasar salad kit.
Burdock root - 1 lb - No change
Beets - Hopefully Cassie gets some more baby beets in from Windy City Harvest as I bought out her entire supply. As I said above, this is high endorsement for what they're doing on the West Side of Chicago. Moreover, these are double duty beets, with enough nigh perfect greens for the money that it's a steal. Also got beets, larger beets from Farmer Vicki, and we still have beets from before.
Kale - One bunch in this week's CSA box. Farmer Vicki suggests using it raw, but I'm just gonna save it for a week, so that there's enough for a good helping.
Radishes - We got a lot, ate a lot--so much that we ended up not having the ones we planned on serving for a Passover salad--and have obtained a bunch again. If you want some of your own, Cassie has some great looking French breakfast radishes.
Local Pantry - Cheeses (actually low on cheese), yogurt, eggs, noodles, pork, beef, lamb, bacon, granola, grains, milk
Thursday, April 24, 2008
The other night, we ate leftover bollito misto. I counted five sauces: herbal salsa verde, tomato-based (canned) salsa rossa, creamy horseradish, intriguing honey-walnut and using the cranberries that we've carried all winter, cranberry mostarda. Five sauces for four meats: veal shoulder, beef shank, brisket and capon. How did we go wrong. I wanted symmetry. How did we screw up I asked my wife. The merguez, I had forgot to count the merguez. We did have five meats. Happiness reigns in the Bungalow.
As I noted the other day, 1/2 the reason to eat bollito misto is for the sauces. Boiled meat, especially good local meat, is tender, rich, but yes, not exactly zooming with flavor. Bland. A vehicle. An excuse. To counter the plainness of boiled meat, bollito gets served with flavor-forward sauces, the sting of fresh horseradish, the cloy of honey, the salty jolt of anchovy mixed with herbs and the exotic, Renaissance taste of the salsa rossa.
This is a standard in the Bungalow. Bollito misto was not the only meal centered around this sauce. It's probably easiest to make this in a blender or food processor (Robot Coupe as they said about five times on Top Chef last night), but I like to make it in a mezzaluna. I enjoy the workout, and I think the texture, rough, inexact, is more pleasing.
Roughly chop a good amount of fresh herbs on hand; traditionally the dominant herb is parsley. Mint, oregano, basil, rosemary, chervil and tarragon are all good additions (I used the first four).
Garlic, three cloves. Finely minced. I start the garlic on a cutting board but then add to the mezzaluna board, so that I'm chopping the garlic as I continue to chop the herbs.
Dried local hot pepper. Minced. Just in the mezzaluna. The later liquid elements will hydrate the pepper a bit.
A good dollop of Dijon mustard. Not all salsa verde recipes include mustard, but I find it adds needed binding as well as complexity. The mustard goes into the eventual serving bowl with the ingredients from the mezzaluna board.
Salty elements, anchovies, cornichons, dill pickles, etc.; I used one salt-packed anchovy. Finely minced. I do this on a separate cutting board to keep things less smelly, then add to the serving bowl.
A splash of red wine vinegar.
Olive oil, extra virgin but not one of our fancier ones until I get the right consistency. The herbs should just float in the oil.
Equal parts sour cream, red wine vinegar, olive oil. Minced fresh horseradish to desired nasal-clearing.
Adapted from David Rosengarten Entertains
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large carrot, scrubbed and diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
Good glop of tomato paste, more than a tablespoon
1 28 ounce can of tomatoes, drained
Cayenne, nutmeg, cinnamon, enough for an exotic, Oriental flavor + salt and pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
At medium or lower, heat the olive oil in a skillet, add the onions, celery and carrots, cook for a few minutes until getting soft. Do not crisp. Add the garlic and cook a bit more. Add the tomato paste, cook for one more minute. Then, add the canned tomatoes, squishing them between your fingers as they go in. Add the spices. Cook over low heat until the stuff thickens. Let cool and puree in blender or food mill. Add the vinegar. Adjust the seasoning.
Adapted from Kyle Phillips
Handful of black walnuts, crushed
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cooking stock
Adapted from Mario Batali
2 cups granulated sugar
1 pound cranberries
5 tablespoons Colman’s dry mustard
1 teaspoon mustard oil (available at specialty stores)
2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the cranberries and cook over until the cranberries are just beginning to burst.
In a bowl, make a paste from the other ingredients and some water. Stir this mixture in to the berries and cook over high heat until the mixture is thick and syrupy, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
All the ingredients were local except for the canned tomatoes, the tomato paste, the spices, the olive/mustard oils, the vinegar, the sugar, and have-to-admit, the parsley.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
From the ol' counter, I know some folks over at Whole Foods, Austin are reading this blog. Who, what department, even why, I cannot tell, but they're listening. The ISP tells all (of course, hopefully, all my Whole Food spies won't go switching to their AOL accounts to visit this site). They listen. The manager at the Whole Foods, River Forest, that's another story.
For the poop, I turn to special Vital Information special correspondent, my Wife. She (and I) were at Whole Foods, River Forest last night. She found that once again, the Passover display at this Whole Foods featured the very flour-supported baked good, hamentashen, and not just any hamantashen, but two different types/supplies of hamentashen.
Here's what she reports:
Can you share any details?
I pointed it out to the manager. He did not care. He did point to me that the product [the hamentashen] was kosher.
I don't know what details there are. What can I say?OK, that's special Vital Information correspondent, my Wife.
Got that Whole Foods.
The Eat Well people launched a blog (Green Fork Blog) on Earth Day. They press release:
Happy Earth Day!
This year, Eat Well is celebrating Earth Day with the launch of our newest venture, the Green Fork Blog. The Green Fork is the official blog of the Eat Well Guide, your resource for finding thousands of farms, grocery stores, restaurants and other "green" food outlets throughout the US and Canada. Our new and expanded listings now include produce farms, farmers markets and vegan restaurants, as well as water-conscious ratings that let you know which of your local restaurants are helping to "take back the tap". If it's been awhile, come back for a visit, and see what's new. The Eat Well team is currently at work on new cutting edge features that will make it easier than ever to eat greener, including an interactive mapping and travel feature due later this summer.
On the menu at the Green Fork Blog:
food and farming news
farm tours and seasonal food information
interviews with food activists and leaders of the sustainable food movement
food for thought
We started off Earth Day with a list of 20 ways to green your fork--click here to check it out and learn delicious ways to tread lightly while eating well! As Earth Day reminds us, one of the most vital things people can do for the environment is to change what they eat--to more locally-grown, sustainably-produced food.
Leslie Hatfield, who you may remember from The Daily Table at Sustainable Table, is our primary blogger and editor, but the whole team will be chiming in often, and we're hoping to pass along lots of stories about how people are providing and promoting sustainable food. We want the Green Fork to be a robust, busy blog, with lots of voices so don't be shy--email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share or suggest a story.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
OK, let me add one more bit. A few weeks ago I attended a Bar Mitzvah service at a Conservative Synagogue. The Torah portion that day concerned some of the kosher laws. I read the commentary. This book explained that the primary reason to keep kosher was to make the act of eating holy; that kosher had nothing to do with health or food safety or sanitation. You did it because God said so. Now, while Michael Pollin is not my God, nor even Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I feel a bit the same way about eating local. What I mean is that eating local makes me mindful of my food, it makes me pay attention to my food.
Does your sour cream have to be ingredient-less from Farmer's Natural Creamery; your yogurt from Whispering Meadows Farm; should you subscribe to Farmer Vicki's CSA. Are most of your cheeses from Wisconsin and those that are not from Champaign, Illinois. Do you pack your kidz to lunch with bags of sprouts and chips made from beets. When you go on a bender do you drink local. And do you for forsake Italian ham for that made in Iowa. Is your rice wild. Can you really stomach apples still. In other words do you eat like me and my family?
Hopefully, maybe a bit. My point is, in nearly everything that we consume in the Bungalow, we pay attention to, we see if it's local. As the stuff cited above shows, local is a pretty good standard. Just taste, local is a pretty good indicator of deliciousness. It's also a pretty good indicator or earth friendly practices, from the lack of additives and 'cides used to the lack of miles the food has traveled. On this Earth Day, pay attention a bit more to your food. Pay special attention to its localness.
Near the top of reasons to eat local is the impact such habits can have on the earth. As the treehuggers at Treehugger.com say:
Buying seasonal, local food is a boon for the environment for a lot of reasons. Since most food travels many miles to reach your table (1,500 miles, on average), locally sourced food cuts back on the climate-change impacts of transportation. Local food also generally uses less packaging, is fresher and tastier, and comes in more varieties. It also supports small local growers and lets them get more for their produce by not having to spend so much on packing, processing, refrigeration, marketing, and shipping. The best way to track down local food is at farmers markets or through community supported agriculture (CSA), which often offer home delivery.
Pretty much sez it all.
Monday, April 21, 2008
The fine farmers at Farmers All Natural Creamery, who supply me with my non-homoginized milk, are now also making sour cream. I love the ingredient list on the package: milk, cream, cultures. Don't get the joke, look at some of the labels in your dairy aisle.
I found my sour cream at Kolatek's (2445 N. Harlem, Chicago) an all around great market.
Chicagoans, Midwesterners, Americans, collectively, we are not a boiled eatin' group of peoples. There are, I believe, several reasons for our boil-aversion. People associate boiled meats with poverty food; the ol' hobo cooking his shoe type of meal. Sort of hand in hand with that, the meats most associated with boiling, are stuff. I mean the classic inclusion in a bollito misto is a calf's head. Tongue is mostly also included; often the stuffed pig's foot called zampone is too. Now, of that group, Chicagoans, Midwesterners, Americans, are they a stuff-foot eating, calf-head buying, kind of crowd? Two strikes. In contrast, we groups tend to favor roasts. Roasts equal middle class prosperity. And there surely is a bias towards crisp, crisp meats. 'Tis a shame.
Eat boiled meat. Bollito misto, a giant collection of simmered meats with assorted sauces has appealed to me for a long time. Partially, I like any excuse to make and eat the herbal accompainment, salsa verde. Partially, I needed an excuse to clear out some room in our freezer. Partially, I have a particular fascination with the food of Piedmont, Italy, which has a cuisine and climate, in some ways, that matches ours (some ways Antonious, some ways). Of the various limitations keeping bollito misto out of the Bungalow (cf. see above), the biggest thing stopping me was the big mess of hungry eaters. We needed an occasion. Shortly after my agreed that we could have a Sedar at our house, she agreed that we could have a bollito misto. What a woman!
I took a picture of the meal, cooking and done, but neither image is worth posting, talking gray and grayer. Let me just say flat out. Eat boiled meat.
One does not so much really cook a bollito misto as compile it. First, determine the misto or mix of meats. The classic, fanciest, Bollito Misto alla Piedmontese, includes seven meats. Seven is a lot, but the number has to be more than two from a range of beef cuts, veal, fresh sausages, poultry and offal. We decided on capon (the one taking up so much space), beef shanks (so nicely marked by our locker as "boiling beef*"); brisket, and veal shoulder (from Sahar Meat). We have the tongue still from our 1/2 cow, but that's for a more private audience. We skipped the fresh sausage because, while we do not keep kosher, we decided that maybe, maybe, the Sedar should not include pork. Instead, from Sahar, we purchased a bunch of their house made merguez sausages (spelled merkens at Sahar), and baked them for that aspect of the meal. There should be a contrast of meats, both for texture and to flavor the broth.
My wife rolled and tied the brisket and veal shoulder. We (I say we, but my wife did 82.74% of the work) used stock and water for the boiling liquid, some recipes use just water. We seasoned with carrots, celery, onion, peppercorns, fresh thyme, allspice, cloves, not too much salt as the meat was salted before entering its bath--we forgot-slash-did not have the advanced time to season the meat too far ahead, but per Alice Waters, I think it would (surely not hurt) to season the meat as much as two days in advanced. Our problem was waiting for the meats to defrost, and having taken out on Tuesday, the capon was still a bit chilly on Saturday.
The meats go in stages. We start with the two cuts of beef, later the veal and finally the capon. The key with the boiling is, classically, not to boil. As one of the recipes says, you want the flavor to stay in the meat not the broth. It is a bit of a battle to find the sweet spot on the dial, where the bubbles break the surface enough to cook the meat in time for dinner but not so much as to render the meats tough. Just fiddle.
The harder question becomes can you fit all of the meat in your biggest stock pot. We have some big ones. We also had some big cuts of meat. The brisket was about three pounds, the shanks about four. The veal shoulder, on bone, took up a lot of space. By the time we got to capon, even a capon cut up, we were out of room in the pot. We needed to bring in Bruce Sutter, finishing the capon in its own pot, having ladled out some stock and adding fresh cold water.
The hardest question is the timing. For one thing, none of the recipes had the exact mix of meats as ours. For another, the recipes tended to have vague directions such as "cook until tender". The problem is, you want tender, yet firm. It's not bollito musho. Luckily, we have the excellent tome by our guru Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Meat Book. At least this book gave cooking times for several boiled meats. I would say the meats simmered for the following times:
- Brisket/beef shank - 4 hours
- Veal shoulder - 3 hours
- Capon - 2 hours
Bollito misto requires a big platter as well as a big pot. I sliced the brisket, capon breast and veal shoulder against the grain. The capon thighs we chunked. The beef shank just sort of feel into pieces. For four boiled meats, we served four sauces. Sauces for another post.
*The fact that the standard Midwestern meat locker cutting order includes "boiling beef" suggests that maybe there is a sub-rosa society of boiled meat eaters around me.
You all probably know this, but just in case. The Chicago History Museum is hosting a lecture tomorrow night (Tuesday, April 22) on eating local.
In honor of Earth Day and Chicago’s efforts to go green, join us as we discuss all things local and organic. What does organic and all-natural really mean? How can I support local growers? What is a "locavore" and how can I become one? And what are area businesses doing to improve our food options and assist the local farmer? Featuring Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass Café, and Dave Cleverdon, farmer and owner of Kinnikinnick Farm and Green City Market board member. Moderated by Dimitra Tasiouras, Program Director of the Illinois Humanities Council. [Hellodali]Go here for tickets.