Eat Local Fish: Whole Whitefish at New Whole Foods

Posted: May 31, 2009 at 5:35 pm

The new Whole Foods near Goose Island had the kind of fish that made me a kitchen superstar the other night.  I ran to Devon to get classic nice piece of whitefish, whitefish from Robert’s.  Granted, my fish was $4.99/lb, but for a dollar more, the Whole Food’s version still made a good deal. 

Do like I did the other night.  Roast them whole.  I like to use a bed of seasonal green and white vegetables.  This time of year, scallion works fine as a fish bed–raising the fish allows the heat to hit all sides of the fish for even/turn free roasting.  I stuff the cavity of the fish with lemon slices ans seasonal herbs.  Look now for some cilantro, thyme, rosemary, maybe lovage.  Be generous with the salt, including the inside of the fish, and some pepper.  Douse with olive oil.  Roast in a pre-heated 400 degree oven until the skin looks crisp (I like to cheat to make sure with a small cut).

Compost Chronicles: A Request

Posted: May 31, 2009 at 10:31 am

I just received an email from Michelle Hickey, the Sustainability Project Manager of Seven Generations Ahead with the following request:

“I just met a woman last week who started a worm compost business in October. She is trying to figure out how to market and study the benefits of using her product. This will be the first growing season for her to test how effective her worm compost is in delivering nutrients to the plants. She is generating about 1 ton/week. She has already sold large volumes to some farmers, and I thought to help connect her to some who may be interested. Would you have any connections for her? It could be an arrangement where a farmer purchases the product at a discounted rate and uses it on half of the crops, observing and reporting the results to Annette.”

If anyone knows of someone who’d like to participate, please email me at

The Jewel of the Midwest

Posted: May 31, 2009 at 10:26 am

It’s officially Spring.  I’ve eaten asparagus everyday this week, spring onions have taken over for the storage ones and I bought my first locally-grown strawberries yesterday at the Oak Park Farmers’ Market.  Hot damn!  It’s time to cook.

This morning we had the very local, yet unphotogenic, strawberry pancakes, a recipe that I will be demoing at the end of strawberry season during Taste of Chicago.

Strawberry Pancakes
Serves 4

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour, I used Ackerman’s available at the Downtown Farmstand
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
¼ cup diced strawberries
2 tablespoons butter

METHODS: In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda and powder and salt. Whisk the eggs into the buttermilk and pour over the dry ingredients. Stir until the liquid is absorbed by the dry ingredients. Add the strawberries and orange zest mixing just until incorporated. On a hot griddle, melt the butter and drop the batter by 2 tablespoon measures. When browned, flip and brown the other side.

We served these drenched with maple syrup from Burton’s, a new vendor at Green City Market.

Meal Pic of the Moment

Posted: May 31, 2009 at 8:53 am

Local Sunday Breakfast: Local eggs, Nichols Farm spring onions, Saxon Creamery Green Fields cheese, home-baked sourdough wheat bread


BREAKING: IL Local Food, Farms and Job Bill Passes IL House

Posted: May 30, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Make that passes unanimously!  Great job Jim and Debbie!!

Beet Up for Red Strawberries

Posted: May 29, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Know what else you can do when you Beet-up with us tomorrow at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market? Eat red strawberries. Now, if you have been buying any strawberry anywhere you will be getting a red strawberry. But are you? See, strawberries are red damnit. As in red on the inside.  At the ones you will find Saturday at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market.  My pal Farmer Vicki of Genesis Growers has some strawberries that you do not want to eat, you just want to smell.  Nichols should have several heirloom varieties.  Walt Skibbes from Michigan is also a reliable fruit seller at the market.  Come get some red strawberries at the Beet-Up any time from 9 until 1130.

Well, well, well, Oak Park will not be the only market for real, red berries.  Most of our area markets should have strawberries this weekend (and if you need to find a market, go to our market finder on our home page).  Still, we want you to come to Oak Park to meet up with the Local Beet and your fellow eat local eaters as well as partake in the Go Green activities at the Market.  Then, we will eat some local foods at Marion Street Cheese Market around 1145 AM. 

The Oak Park Market is on Lake Street between Elmwood and Scoville.  Details here.  Marion St. Cheese Market is at 100 S. Marion, Oak Park, IL.

Mado Gets Times’d

Posted: May 29, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Our good friends at Mado get some well deserved publicity.  The article will be out in this Sunday’s NYTimes, but I hope they do not mind that we are jumping the gun with the link.  I mean don’t blame us, the NYTimes put it out today.

Mediterranean influences (Mado’s motto: “Midwestern farmers, Mediterranean flavors”) seep through, but mainly this is just good food. An entree of lake perch with garlic and leeks was delicate, still sizzling in its pan as it arrived, and the beef heart — often passed over in places less intent on finding use for an entire animal — with mashed potatoes and red wine was tempting. Still, perhaps the most impressive moment came in the simplest dish: an arugula salad with tiny, ruby-colored carrots and shaved asparagus — a momentary journey to some quiet farm while still sitting in the city’s chaos, which, of course, must be the point.

Meet the Beet with Our Local Calendar

Posted: May 29, 2009 at 8:35 am

Two exciting opportunities to mingle with the Local Beet and fellow travelers this weekend.

On Saturday, we attempt our first ever “Beet-Up”, an invitation to come hang with us at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market.  Shop together, swap recipes, have some coffee and donuts, but save room for a lunch afterwards at Oak Park’s Marion Street Cheese Market.  Melissa Graham, the Sustainable Cook, will be holding demonstrations from 9 until 1130.  Some of the Local Family will be promoting the magic of vinegar with our friend, Jim “the Vinegar Guy” Vitalo of Herbally Yours, and yours truly might just be found at a Local Beet table with other participants for the Market’s Go Green Day.  The Oak Park Market is on Lake Street between Elmwood and Scoville.  Details here.  Marion St. Cheese Market is at 100 S. Marion, Oak Park, IL.

On Sunday, the indefatigable Melissa Graham leads a kid’s sushi making class at Shedd Aquarium.  Learn to to roll sushi using sustainably caught and raised seafood. Seafood that is as good for the earth as it tastes. On hand will be a Shedd employee who will talk about the importance of sustainability in the aquatic world. $20.00 per adult, $5.00 per child. Adult and child beverages are included in the price. Families who arrive an hour early will receive free admission to the Aquarium.

We hope you can join us at these activities.  What else?  Go to our market finder on our home page.  Then expand the view.  Look at all the markets.  And not just in Illinois.  We have now included markets in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin to our finder, and we add new markets daily.

One of our favorite organizations, Growing Home, holds their benefit on June 11.  It features such Top Chefs as Rick Bayless, Paul Virant, and oh, and can she ever rest, Melissa Graham.  Need more?  We are very excited to have the opportunity to offer two tickets to the event.  Just give us your best eat local adventure.  Details here.

Meet the Beet this weekend.  And let us know any other good events.

Beating the rains

Posted: May 28, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Give me a few good days with low humidity and I can get a lot done.

That describes the Memorial Day weekend. I set a few planting deadlines and met them all before the rains (and chill) came back. 

My brother grows several acres of peppers. I think he counted 60,000 plants in his greenhouse. He set aside six rows of plastic weed-barrier mounds inserted with drip tape for me. I prefer to plant directly in the ground but after several years of drought and a September flood last year I’ve got 1/3 of my garden in the mounds. Normally the rows are planted with two workers sitting on a planter inserting plant plugs while a third worker drives the tractor. . . at about 2 miles per hour. I was impatient so I grabbed the bottom half of an umbrella stand (with a pointed tip) and poked holes in the plastic, inserted plants, squeezed a little dirt around the root structure, and moved on. This I did late in the afternoon so the plants wouldn’t be stressed by all that strong daylight or wilt onto the plastic and die. It happens. Overnight the plants perked up with the cool air and had a healthy start. The overcast sky on Monday was also a help.

Tomatoes, May 26, 2009

Tomatoes, May 26, 2009

A few days earlier I planted cucumbers, summer squash, and okra. The black plastic absorbed the day’s heat and the irrigated water helped the seeds sprout quickly.

Baba Petra's cucumbers

Baba Petra's cucumbers

I finished rototilling the rest of the garden, which I started over a month ago. I planted a few more rows of snap beans to add to the beats, radishes, kale, Swiss chard, collards, peas, rapini, kohlrabe, cardoon, onions, garlic, leeks, herbs, and dye flowers. 

market garden, May 26, 2009

market garden, May 26, 2009

There’s still a small patch of ground that needs to be tilled. It’s a low spot and a bit too mucky to work. I’m afraid by the time I get to it the weeds will be out of control and the ground will be like cement. I’m thinking of throwing a few inches of compost to help work the soil but with the recent rains I’ll have to start paying attention to the weeds. I don’t use any chemicals, instead I go through each row by hand and break up the soil a bit with my hand cultivator (like a hoe but with prongs) and carefully pull out all the weeds with their roots intact. I throw them into the wheelbarrow and feed the sheep with them. I don’t dare put them back in the rows in case they grow again! 

Some of the rows I will mulch with year-old straw (over layers of newsprint). It depends on the crop and how much time I have for this task. I still have a few thousand tomatoes to stake and tie up. Every once in a while I’ll run the rototiller through the rows to help keep weeds down. I have two tillers for this task, one large and one small for when the plants get larger and block out most of the weeds on their own. By late August or September I get to a point where I spend so much time harvesting that don’t care about weeds anymore and just let them go.

Win Tickets To Growing Home’s 7th Annual Benefit

Posted: May 28, 2009 at 7:55 pm

The Local Beet and Growing Home are proud to announce a sweepstakes where you can win two tickets to Growing Home’s 7th Annual Benefit dinner, a $250 value!

Read more about the event and how to enter here.

Beet-Up for Donuts

Posted: May 28, 2009 at 2:40 pm

At least some will Beet-up with us this Saturday (and take in all the Go Green activities at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market) for the chance to meet your fell eat local fans.  Then, there will be the folks in it for the donuts.  And here’s an important note to you. 

You may believe that the best time to get your donuts is right when the market opens, at 8 AM.  Wrong.  I got news for you.  The earliest donuts are not the best.  See, those donut volunteers have been slaving away in the Pilgrim Church basement for a long while before you even show up.  You may get some fine donuts in the 8 AM line, and also believe me, that will be an 8 AM line, but they may not be the most ooziest, freshest donuts at the market.  Nope.  Around 930 when we are starting to Go Green and Beet-Up, the earliest donuts will be gone.  Instead, that crew will now be in fever pitch, cranking out donuts as fast as they can.  And you my friends, you who wait until then, will benefit from nice hot donuts.

NB: The donuts come in three flavors: plain, powdered and with cinnamon sugar.  There is, however,  no such thing as a totally hot powdered donut as the donuts need to cool enough before they can get their white coating.

Besides the donuts, Melissa starts her kid-friendly demonstrations at 9 AM.  Meet your fellow local food fans.  Compare shopping notes.  Discuss storage and preservation.   Get inspired to eat local.  Stick around to join us for lunch afterwards at Marion St. Cheese Market in Oak Park at around 1145.  Beet-up!

The Oak Park Market is on Lake Street between Elmwood and Scoville.  Details here.

Marion St. Cheese Market is at 100 S. Marion, Oak Park, IL

We Recycle – Making the Most of Seasonal Bounty

Posted: May 28, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Early last fall, we published a feature on preserving your harvest.  Our excuse for publishing it then was that it was in the middle of peak canning/freezing/cellaring season.  Truth be told, we published it then because we we were not around now.  Yes, much of your preservation is going to be done much later in the season when the tomatoes are ripest and we are beyond the summer apples.  Still, there is no reason that preservation cannot begin now.  So, we threw the article back up on our home page.  Early season vegetables like asparagus and peas are easily frozen.  Is there better jam than one made from local strawberries?  Use our recycled guide now for your seasonal bounty.  I am sure we can recycle it a few more times as we move through the year.

“We Are Corn Chips on Legs”

Posted: May 28, 2009 at 7:59 am

Michael Pollan is a popular fellow. Popular enough that yours truly was herded into an overflow room to hear his discussion with journalist Bill Kurtis at the Harold Washington Library Center on May 18.

Two of Pollan’s books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, have become the premiere sources of literature on why Americans might want to shift their corn heavy, low fat low calorie low taste tendencies to consume “food-like substances,” as he describes in In Defense. “We are corn chips on legs,” he says, referring to the abundance of high fructose corn syrup in packaged foods, adding that a good rule of thumb to follow is to “avoid any foods you ever see advertised.”

Sourcing out food from more localized origins is well and good, but Pollan makes the point that not all produce, for instance, is always available. “We feel this entitlement to have foods all the time,” he says. Which reminds me, strawberries are currently coming into season…

Market Finder Goes Interstate

Posted: May 28, 2009 at 7:47 am

Our Farmers Market Finder (available on the top of every page on this site) has now begun expansion beyond Illinois and into NW Indiana, southern Wisconsin, and SW Michigan. Markets are being added daily.

If you know of a market that we haven’t added, or have any other feedback, please feel free to contact us.

Link O’Wednesday

Posted: May 27, 2009 at 9:20 am

Lots of fun stuff around the world of local food.

We Beet-Up this Saturday at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market.  Hopefully a few people will come.  I hear over 100 will be at this Locavore Tweet-Up in Vermont tonight.

The papers are all over local this week.  I could pretty much just link to the food sections of the Trib and the NYTimes.  Of course this piece near the back of the Trib’s food section most interested me and this one mentions my kids alma mater, Hatch Elementary.  Both papers hit canning.  The Sun Times is not nearly as local focused, but does hit on a major locavore concern, what to do with so much rhubarb this time of year.

Adrian and Maggie just finished their year of 100 mile local near Houston.  They’ve made some adjustments going forward.  Keep up with them here.

As Obama said more than a few times on the campaign trail, “do they think we are stupid.”  Let’s see.

Slow Food’s hit the campus in Milwaukee.  Don’t let the kids have all the fun.

More fun in Milwaukee?  “Cheap food is an illusion,” thus speaks Will Allen of Growing Power in the new film, Fresh about sustainable farming.   No screenings currently planned for Chicago, but there will be one in Milwaukee on June 4.

In Civil Eater, Aaron French goes after Thomas Keller’s definition of local food.  I wholly agree with French. 

The green effects of local food continue to be to casually swept aside.  C’mon use your noggin.

Illinois’s not the only state passing laws supporting local foods.  Look what’s happening in North Carolina.

Do you think of Hellman’s mayo as local? Chipotle?

The Hellman’s thing is actually representative of a large eat local movement in Canada.  I mean this was the place where the 100 mile challenge made it to TVFoodnetwork.  See here or here for more.

Do we crave validation for our local food heros?  Here’s some.

Sharon and Dimitra are good friend of the Local Beet.  They have formed a new venture, Fork and the Road [ed. clever!] to lead bicycle based food tours around Chicago.  At least one of their upcoming events will be focused on local foods.

Eat local ham!

What we need to get for Molly the Eat Local dog.

Share with us any other good eat local links.


Beet-Up for Eggs Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
WBEZ Chicago Matters: Beyond Burnham: The Global Food System Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
IL Food & Farm Act Update Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
Jelly Monster Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
Sky Full of Bacon: Prosciutto di Iowa Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
Menu Tuesday Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
See My Local Spring Dinner Monday, May 25th, 2009
Beet-Up Monday, May 25th, 2009
Slow Food Tomato Fest 2009 Sunday, May 24th, 2009
Restructuring the Beet Saturday, May 23rd, 2009
I Blew It Saturday, May 23rd, 2009
What Kind of Shopper Will You Be with This Local Calendar Friday, May 22nd, 2009
Waiting for the Sun Thursday, May 21st, 2009
Local Links on Wednesday Wednesday, May 20th, 2009
Task Force Act, One Step Closer Wednesday, May 20th, 2009
Composting Legislation Passed! Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
I Believe in Food Miles Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
Makin’ Herbs with Menu Monday Monday, May 18th, 2009
Ramping Up Saturday, May 16th, 2009
Go Green with our Local Calendar Friday, May 15th, 2009
City Provisions June Supper Club Farm Dinner Friday, May 15th, 2009
Late Day Links Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Go Green Day – Oak Park Farmer’s Market Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Beet-Up with Us, May 30; Oak Park Farmer’s Market Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
It’s Local Day Linky Wednesday Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
What Does Chicago Taste Like? Israel? Piedmont? Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
Swan Creek Benefit Dinner Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
Volunteer for Green Fest w/Purple Asparagus Monday, May 11th, 2009
Volunteer for Green Fest w/Purple Asparagus Monday, May 11th, 2009
No Look Back Menu Monday Monday, May 11th, 2009
The Backyard Garden in May Monday, May 11th, 2009
The New Green Friday, May 8th, 2009
A Very Delicious Calender Indeed Friday, May 8th, 2009
Thursday Local Links Thursday, May 7th, 2009
Go Green (Several Options) Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
I Say the Publican Does Not Fear Fresh Tuesday, May 5th, 2009
Look Ahead, Look Behind Menu Monday Monday, May 4th, 2009
A Whiff of Spring Monday, May 4th, 2009
Did You Miss the Eat Local Episode Too? Saturday, May 2nd, 2009
Local Calender Friday, May 1st, 2009
Family at the Farm: Traders Point Creamery Friday, May 1st, 2009