Veggie Bingo Benefit

Posted: June 30, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Just arrived in the Beet in-box, an event that sounds like a lot of fun for a very good cause:

Holy habaneros! More free food?

That’s right. From the people who brought you Soup and Bread, it’s the summer event you’ve been waiting for:


Join us at the Hideout on Wednesday evenings from July 8 to September 9 for a friendly round (or six) of bingo to benefit Chicago’s community gardens. Each week we highlight a different local garden. Prizes range from jars of locally produced honey, bottles of hot sauce, and handmade soap to the grand prize of a box of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, courtesy of the very generous folks at Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks.

Veggie Bingo runs from 6 to 8 PM every Wednesday for ten weeks. The actual bingo games start at 6:30, and run about an hour. Cards are $1 a pop, or six for $5, and can be purchased from your bartender. All proceeds benefit NeighborSpace, a nonprofit organization that acquires and preserves community open space in the city.

In addition to the veggies, we’ll also be loading up the grill with free hot dogs and tofu pups. Bingo games will be led by an all-star team of callers, starting with dapper country crooner Lawrence Peters on the 8th. See the Hideout website and the Soup and Bread blog for upcoming celebrity callers as we book ‘em.

The particulars

What: Bingo!
Where: The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia
When: Wednesdays, 6-8 PM, from July 8-September 9
Who: The Hideout, NeighborSpace, and Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks
Why: To raise money to help Chicago’s gardens grow.

An Episode of Dining Disasters

Posted: June 30, 2009 at 10:33 am

On Menu Monday I noted that a few disasters occurred during an episode of local cooking.  Thing is, late Friday, with the glow of the postprandial Black Maple Hill bourbon (which followed a few local beers) it did not seem so bad after all.  Alls well that ends well, right?  Well, I can say this, during the course of the episode I exhausted my entire repertoire of curse words.  And in the cold light of a new day, I can certainly marvel at it all.  What happened first?

The dinner began really, not on Friday, but on Father’s Day, or even the days previous to Father’s Day.  For one thing, as a Father’s Day present, the three girls did nearly all of the house cleaning for our family brunch.  For another thing, the house remained fairly clean following said brunch.  Clean enough that we felt able to invite some friends over for our Friday Feast.  I swore to myself I would not lose my cool with the kids.  See, at least half of Friday Feast is about getting the kids to clean the house for said feast, and the other half, almost, is me going batty about the lack of cleaning progress.  I would stay relaxed.  Having faced down that hurdle, I survived the second one too.  The meat, a boneless log of pork shoulder got defrosted in time.  I marinated it with olive oil, herbs, green garlic and anchovies; then put it in a pan in the grill off-set from the coals.  I expected about five hours of slow roasting.  The rest of the day would be for salads and other sides.

Did I mention dessert?  Do I ever mention dessert.  No.  Because I never make dessert.  I either open up a package of Eli’s Cheesecake or eat what my wife or mother makes.  In this instance, my wife planned on strawberry pie.  In the AM, she prepared the crusts and berries.  She would bake the pie when she returned from Mado.  The first disaster fell.  I was rooting something out of the fridge and the bottom crust, placed in glass pie plate came down.  Smash.  Glass.  Everywhere.  And a lot of swearing.  And no apparent pie for dessert.  What could I do but clean up and move on to salads.

My wife was home about the time I got around to dressing the finely shredded cabbage for my famous garlicky-lemon cabbage salad.  One of the surest things in my catalogue and something I’ve taken to making whenever the meal smacks, at all, of Mediterranean flavors.  When it seemed ready.  I tasted.  It tasted awful.  Just awful.  When I make cole slaws I’m a bit used to having to tweak from the first taste, adjusting sweet, salt and mayo/oil to get the right mix, but this was not a cole slaw.  It was famous garlicky-lemon cabbage salad, and I can make it in my sleep.  I added more salt, which I soon realized was exactly not the thing I needed.  The salad just tasted so bitter.  I think, but am not positive, that it was bad olive oil.  I chalked it up to the same gremlins that pushed the pie plate out the fridge.  Although at the time I admit to yelling at the gremlins in a not so calm tone.

I finished up a salad of shaved fennel, radish and parsley in an orange juice vinaigrette.  I’ve had good success with raw fennel salads, so I did not sweat this one either.  It would be better than the cabbage that did not come out.  Except the fennel seemed to have no flavor.  Zip.  Zero.  I’ve never had such bland fennel.  Not only was my cooking being challenged, but my whole faith in local foods was getting a work-out.    Damn.  Damn.

I went back to tend the meat and make it meat and potatoes.  I found some good looking storage potatoes, sliced them, and put them in the pan to cook in the pork renderings.  That could not go wrong.  I decided to speed up the process by putting the pan over the coals.  And that did work getting the fat going.  With the head start, I decided to put the potatoes back on the less hot side.  But I decided to put the pork over the coals for a bit.  The meat was almost done, and I figured a bit of crust would be a nice finish. 

I was back inside where my wife was having a few disasters of her own.  The pie turned out to be not quite the disaster I thought.  She had another crust, what would have been the top crust, already made.  That could be a bottom crust now, and she would make a crumb topping.  Except it took her a dickens of a time to find where she put the other crust.  I mean which of those gremlins put the crust in the basement fridge.  She was faring worse with her risotto, which was going at a snails pace.  I left her trying to will that to fruition, with less vocal swear words.  When I got back to the grill, the roast was on fire. 

I guess I should have paid more attention to the amount of fat on the roast.  I put the fire out.  A little char-crust would not kill anyone, flashing back to Junior Soprano saying, “we did not know about charcoal cooked food back then”.  The pork shoulder went just fine with a a little trimming.  The risotto that got done, but without the peas that the gremlins hid, tasted good too.  There was a delicious green sauce for the meat, potatoes cooked in pork fat; grilled asparagus and grilled green onions.  We had already had several slices of garlic toasts.  Who is not in a good mood after fresh grilled garlic toasts.  Then, there was strawberry pie, and two ice creams made by our friends.  Did it matter that the gremlins made sure that when my daughter put one of the ice creams in the basement freezer for safe keeping; they popped t the freezer door ajar.  I mean who does not like soft-serve.  It was an episode of dining disasters but a good dinner none-the-less.

Garden Bounty and Local Trout

Posted: June 30, 2009 at 8:37 am

Four bite-sized cauliflower heads have finally sprouted amidst the enormous leaves that, until now, have been sucking up the sunlight and water with no clear purpose. I never exactly understood what self-blanching meant before, but the inner leaves of these plants curl themselves up so as to protect the delicate white edible portion from sun exposure. Still, I tied the inner leaves snugly with some string to further blanch and protect the good bits (called curds), which gives them about a week more growing time before I harvest them one by one.

The bounteous spinach patch occupied one of the sunnier spots in the garden and was beginning to bolt (producing seeds as well as leaves that were thinner and pointed, not so round and wrinkly). Thinking this might be a good spot to relocate some tomatoes and peppers, I pulled out the entire patch and rinsed it over and over and over again. Then I sautéed them with some nearby collards and some unidentified and unwanted greens a friend donated from her Angelic Organics CSA bag, and served them at a birthday lunch.

As part of the meal preparation, we woke the boys up around dawn and headed up just north of the Fox River to Lake Julian Trout Farm. Kim and I lack the skills to catch and identify a fish from a natural body of water, as well as the courage to eat an animal that might have just dined on sewage or PCBs. Lake Julian stocks its own wholesome-looking pond, and if you can’t catch a trout there . . . well, don’t blame the trout.

Even our boys, not known for their infinite patience, were easily able to tolerate the four-minute expanse between when the worm was first drowned and the unlucky fish pulled at the line. My nine-year old (code name: Pikachu) was very excited as he proudly pulled the first trout from the water and dangled it before Kim as I ran to fill a bucket with water. I have very little fishing experience, and holding a wriggling fish in my right hand while using my left hand to remove the hook without stabbing myself was an interesting challenge. Kim was much better at it. Pikachu was a little bit sad, and apologized profusely to the terrified, flopping fish, as well as the other four we caught within the hour.

The only real snag was when he excitedly whipped the pole from the water later on, releasing the fish, but catching the hook in the large tree that shaded our fishing spot. The man who ran the farm warned us that if we had caught it, we had to take it home with us. And he charged by the pound. Even Pikachu knew it was a joke.

After the gas, buying nightcrawlers and hooks, the gutting fee and the per-pound cost of the fish, it cost a hair less than buying trout from an icy grocery store display. But the boys had a great time, learned how to properly cast the line into the water, and watched their food all the way from Cary to Morton Grove. We had a good discussion about where food (especially meat) comes from, and we all enjoyed the freshest seafood we’ve eaten all year after we grilled the trout in butter and lemon.

The lemon was certainly grown from out of state, and I couldn’t tell you where the whipping cream for the butter came from. But Kim and the boys enjoy churning their own butter, which is pretty easy to do. It turned out to be a very nice meal, although I was the only one who ate the greens.

The broccoli heads continue to grow larger and more of the potato leaves are turning yellow, which means harvest time is within sight. The chive bud has broken into dozens of white flower heads and the pencil pod golden wax beans are getting bushy and blocking sunlight from the eggplant, which means I’ve got to start thinning them further (36” apart) for everybody’s own good.

The tomatoes and peppers in the Square Foot Gardens are cold, shaded and miserable and not worth saving. Their brethren in pots atop the barbecue grill, however, are looking well. The peppers are beginning to fruit already. And the tomatoes I planted next to basil and parsley are looking very healthy indeed.

The herb spiral in the front yard has more marjoram than I can imagine using the rest of my natural life. Chives and parsley are also doing well there (a breath-killing and breath-freshening combo just outside the front door!), and a nearby sage plant has shown itself to be a perennial survivor although, again, how much sage does a person really need in a 72-year span?

Menu Monday Mama Meichulim Style

Posted: June 29, 2009 at 4:08 pm

I’m not sure if my wife or I picked up this book: Mama’s Meichulim: Traditional Jewish Cooking Made Easy from the Temple discard bin, but I’m glad we have it (you might not find it for free like us,  but Amazon can point you to sellers as low as $4).  You know, though, since we’ve had the book, I do not believe my wife or I have cooked a recipe from it.  I do not even find most of the recipes that tasty sounding, a lot of tomato soup and lima beans if you ask me.  Still, I am inspired by Mama Meichulim every Menu Monday.  Really, when I listen to Mama Meichulim, Menu Monday is an after thought.  I should be hard at work on Sunday getting ready for Menu Monday and the week ahead.

There’s a couple of things I enjoy about this book.  First, it gives a peek into the proto-locavore kitchen.  The canned lima beans and tomato soup were the results of no CSA box.  On the other hand, there’s no Chilean grapes or the like on her table either.  It is cooking from what could be had.  Second, really what I love best is the extreme thrift encouraged by Mama.  For instance, she instructs you to buy a good old fowl.  Out of that bird, one should get soup, poached meat for a meal, a neck for stuffing, schmaltz for cooking/flavoring, gribenes for noshing, but anyone can do that.  From there, the odds and ends including the feet, the offal and the wing tips become fricassee, and if you think you cannot squeeze one more meal out of a big hen; she has you making patties from the bones and whatever meat you can scrape up.  Mama M’s core instructions are to have one weekly project.  Beyond the fowl, she would have you making a rash of noodles for assorted dishes and a few other things.  A boatload of cooking and meals would practically make themselves the rest of the week.

All those who want to eat local should abide by Mama Meichulim.  It really helps to have a bunch of your CSA box or market purchases done in one swirl of cooking.  If nothing else, it means that you will have a good stash of local foods ready come meal times.  Me, I try for two good bouts of cooking a week.  At least that’s the plan.  I’m nearly always good at making a bunch of stuff on Fridays, to be served for our Shabbat meal and used onwards.  I am trying to make also, a habit of making stuff on Sunday too.  Mama Meichulim style.

Now, I do not have that book right in front of me.  I am pretty sure there’s no mention of kohlrabi in the book.  I know she’s not cooking any fennel, and if she did cook broccoli, I very much doubt she’s doing it Penny’s Noodle Style.  Did I mention that I made a big slab of pork shoulder on Friday?

Besides Mama Meichulim, I take a lot of inspiration from Roger Gray.  Of course Roger Gray is not one chef, but two, British authors and River Cafe padronas, Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.  They pretty much use what comes in my CSA box or what I find at the markets in their books.  They make it look so damn easy too [ed., is that why they call their book, “Italian Easy Recipes from the London River Cafe”?]

When I see kohlrabi leaves looking a lot better than I thought, in our basement fridge, I did them the way Roger Gray would.  Boiled until tender, then dressed with some olive oil and lemon.  I added some split olives, a touch I believe they would have approved.  A dish ready for the meals ahead.  The bulbous part, the enlarged stem, I julienned with my best technique and combined with equal sized sticks of Sarvechio.  I will dress that when ready to serve and also add some rocket leaves (one must have much rocket in the house to cook like Roger Gray).

Other things I have made in bunches.  I shredded finely cabbage from the CSA box, added much green garlic and dressed with lemon.  It was part of a series of disasters that I will relate tomorrow.  A shaved fennel salad fared almost as bad.  I mentioned the broccoli Penny’s Noodle style, which means blanched and dressed with Dijon mustard, soy and sesame oil.  That dish went to the Farmer Vicki farm party, some of it.

The other thing we brought to the party, bagels.  See, when one goes to buy bagels at NYC Bagel (the one near the new Whole Foods, and IMO, the best bagel place in Chicago) at around 5 PM, one gets about 35 bagels in their order of one dozen as they would dump the rest anyways.  My wife came up with the brilliant idea of coating the bagels with radish butter.  We have more bagels and radish butter to eat, so Mama Meichulim would be happy.

The fennel and kohlrabi were from previous weeks.  That broccoli and cabbage came from the CSA box.  There’s lettuces and chard still to be used.  At the Thursday Eli’s Market, I took advantage of Chad’s good deals on carrots, got some radicchio that I meant to grill (Chad also recommends wrapping the radicchio in bacon for the grill.  Right on!), and spring onions I did grill.  I also got one of his varieties of strawberries.  At the Oak Park Market on Saturday, it was nearly all fruit, berries really: cherries, raspberries, blueberries, and tayberries.  Id did get some peas.  I also got the end of the asparagus, which half went with an egg for lunch today.  And a bag of rocket for my Roger Gray stuff.  Oh, and old potatoes.  Nichols had the first of the year, freshly dug potatoes, but I figured I could assuage my taste for potato salad with last years much cheaper spuds.  The potato salad is the one dish I did not get around to making.

Or roasting the beets; cooking the kale with the ham hocks out of the freezer, making use of the leftover pork.  I actually did not finish the broccoli, that needs more uses.   The peas.  Did I mention I picked up local zucchini at Whole Foods?  There’s no rest for those eating Mama Meichulim this Menu Monday.

Beery Respect for Benton Harbor, MI

Posted: June 27, 2009 at 10:18 am

What do you think of, when you think of Benton Harbor, Michigan? Do you even think of Benton Harbor, ever? At least not since the 2003 race riots there? Well, maybe you’re aware of the city if you have an appliance from Whirlpool, or if you ever assembled an electronics kit from Heathkit. But do those really make you think about the city? Benton Harbor gets even less respect than Phil Spector in jail without his hairpiece.

Next time you think about Benton Harbor, think about the beer.

No, you can’t go to your local Sam’s or Binny’s to get the beer from Benton Harbor. Benton Harbor beer doesn’t come to you. You go to it*.

Specifically, you go to 190 5th Street. Here:


Talk about re-purposing. The Livery was a horse stable, built over one hundred years ago. It’s now a brewpub and music venue.

The upstairs music venue retains much of what I imagine must have been the original interior, when it actually was a livery. (I’m guessing the stage and sound system aren’t original to the building, though.)

But, unlike the Eccentric Café at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, you don’t need to pay a cover to drink the excellent beer when there’s music playing. The downstairs space, appropriately gritty, is a great place to get a beer, maybe play a board game, and chat a bit over some better-than-usual bar food.

And a good chat it is. The folks behind the bar are surprisingly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their beers.

Be sure to try one of the three real cask ales served via antique English-style beer engines. If you’re used to the beers from the corner tap, it might seem a bit warm, and not fizzy enough. If you’re used to some of the best beers at some of the best bars in London, you’ll feel right at home. I had the Malcom’s Best Bitter, an easy-drinking real ale that could be considered a lighter version of a British-style Pale Ale.

But the main reason to go is for the barrel-conditioned beers. Steve Berthel, brewmaster, explained to me that he and a friend took a trip to Heaven Hill Distilleries a few years back. Heaven Hill uses their Bourbon barrels only once, then sells them – and they’re reasonably cheap. So he picked up a few.

All sorts of beasties can find comfy homes in wooden barrels; most notably Brettanomyces. It’s noted for bringing flavors like “horse sweat” to beers. If that doesn’t sound especially appealing, try the Liverator, available as a barrel-aged doppelbock, somewhat accurately described as “Oreo cookies in a glass.” Dark, rich, caramely and malty, this is a big beer, at 8% ABV. Steve knows how to use those barrels. You’ll also know that if you try the smoky, malty sweet Kilt Tilter. It would make my Scottish ancestors proud.

And, Steve has the chutzpah to make a beer named Laughing Dragon – an IPA which laughs at convention, and is bittered, finished and dry-hopped only with the often-despised Chinook hop (described by some as having a “cat-piss” aroma). It’s very good.

“I don’t try to make traditional styles,” Steve says. “I want to invent beer styles of my own.”

Like so many brewmasters, he started homebrewing 18 years ago – with all the scorched surfaces that come from boilovers on the stovetop. Prior to opening The Livery, he brewed professionally at the late Kraftbraü in Kalamazoo (which is rumored to be coming back … no further details).

l to r: Special C Lager (clean, with a light roastiness), Laughing Dragon, Paris-Robbaix Pale Ale (slightly sharp, but very tasty), Malcolm’s Best Bitter, Liverator), Red Canoe (a creamy lager using traditional British hops), Old Flynn Stout (rich coffee flavors, tight head due to nitrogen tap), and Kilt Tilter Scotch Ale.

So, next time you spend two or three hours battling the traffic to your summer place in Union Pier, or New Buffalo, take a trip just a few miles north to Benton Harbor. Savor a barrel-aged beer. Listen to some live music. Then go back to your summer place, relaxed and satisfied in the knowledge that your life is now infinitesimally richer.

*unless you know a guy in Michigan – there are a few distributors who’ll sell you 1/4 and 1/2 kegs. But Steve’s not going to do bottles. Like most good brewpubs, though, you can get a growler (1/2 gallon bottle of their beer) to take home.

Local Meal Pic of the Moment

Posted: June 27, 2009 at 10:09 am

This meal uses a couple ingredients from Homegrown Wisconsin CSA Delivery #1, but the featured player is the chicken from Wisconsin Pasturelands, purchased via Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks.

Butterflied, “high-roast” chicken is one of my favorite Cook’s Illustrated recipes. Essentially, it involves seasoning and oiling (butter in this case) a butterflied, brined chicken and roasting it at 500 degrees for about 40 minutes on a broiler pan. I skip the brine and I don’t seem to really suffer for it. The chicken always comes out nicely cooked, juicy, and with absurdly brown and crispy skin. The beauty of this recipe is not in the simplicity of the roast, but the secret side dish: line the bottom of the roasting pan with foil and cover with a layer of thin-sliced potatoes tossed lightly in oil and seasoned (German butter potatoes from Nichol’s, in this case). The potatoes receive drippings of chicken fat and you wind up with beautiful, schmaltz-y home fries as a side dish. (Larger potatoes are better, the smaller ones tend to over-cook a bit, as seen in this picture). It’s really a beautiful, low-maintenance way to cook a whole chicken and potatoes.

I sauteed my CSA’s spinach with some of the green garlic I had and pan-roasted some whole River Valley mushrooms. I washed it all down with a bottle of Tyranena Scurvy IPA. A nice meal. Everything’s local but the salt, pepper, and oil.


Posted: June 27, 2009 at 9:24 am

Somehow I feel like yesterday’s admonition to get to the markets for cabbages is not as encouraging as what I can tell you today. That is, the burst of heats in Southern Michigan has brought a bunch of berries to bloom. You should find much including blueberries and raspberries. I saw at one vendor in Oak Park, black raspberries, and at another, Walt Skibbes, the oblong musky, tayberry. Of course there’s also plenty of cherries too. Get your summer fix, berries or brassicas.

Brassicas in Your Bag this Local Calendar – UPDATED

Posted: June 26, 2009 at 10:21 am

Updates below

The last few weeks, the local re-usable shopping bag has contained cherries and peas and carrots.  When you use the Local Beet Market Locator you will still find those items.  In fact, not only will you find sweet cherries, but you will also find our local tart cherries.  We’re lucky to be in an area with this delicacy.  Take advantage.  Beyond that stuff, at the markets this week you will find all sorts of members of the brassica family, a/k/a cabbages.

According to my trusty source Wikipedia, this family of  plants  “is remarkable for containing more important agricultural and horticultural crops than any other genus.”  Wiki points out that we can get whole plant eating from the brassicas: turnip roots to kohlrabi stems; cabbage leaves to broccoli flowers.  Even the seeds, e.g., mustard, are culinarily used.  How can you not pass brassicas up this week at the market.  If nothing else, they usually offer the best deals.  Take the napa cabbages now for sale at Nichols Farm.  One cabbage will easily make six months worth of kimchee.

What to do with your brassicas when you return home?  Well, you can search the Local Beet’s archives for ideas and inspirations.  I’ll tell you this.  When in doubt, you cannot go wrong with mustard, pork or cream when preparing cabbages.  Penny’s Noodle Shop is not a place that I’ll often associate with words like “I” and “like”, but I do very much like one thing there, a salad of broccoli with a mustard-soy dressing.  Very easy to duplicate.  I’m forever making variations on cole slaw (although more often than not these days its my lemony-garlic version), but try this dish too.  Shred some cabbage.  Slice some bacon; lardons if you have ‘em.  Crisp up the bacon in a cast iron pan.  Remove the bacon.  Stir the cabbage in the grease for a few minutes.  Add a bracing dose of vinegar.  Jim the Vinegar Guy’s hot pepper vinegar if ya got it.

Besides shopping for cabbage and their relations this week, what else is in store?

Besides buying goat and cheese milk this weekend from Prairie Fruit Farms, I will take a trip to a farm.  One of the real benefits of CSA membership is the opportunity to visit the farmer and see the operations.  This Sunday, Farmer Vicki of Genesis Growers hosts a party for her CSA subscribers.  If you are Genesis Growers CSA member, I hope you take advantage of this too.  Stop by and say hi to the Local Family too.

Work for your local!  Our pals at Fork and the Road lead a bike tour this Saturday focused on local foods.

Beet Farmer Vera V is not quite sure what else she’ll have to sell at Logan Square besides fresh lavender.  Go find out then say hi.

Have you seen Food Inc. yet?  Deborah Fellinger, our first staff writer, has a nice review up.  In Chicago, Food, Inc. can be seen at Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark St.

Need another movie on our food systems.  No Exit Cafe in Roger’s Park has an exclusive showing of the film Fresh this Tuesday, June 30.

Looking at the Twitter while waiting for the family at the gym made me realize I should have mentioned the UnCommon Grounds Friday afternoon farmer’s market.  I really need to make it one of these days soon.

Before evening getting to Twitter, I realized I forgot Melissa and Purple Asparagus who will be at the Family Fun Tent at Millenium Park from June 29 through July 2.

Other than that, what else.  The now omnipresent Fruit Slinger says go out and get some strawberries before it’s too late.

Squash Time

Posted: June 26, 2009 at 9:05 am

Could I go out with Mother and Daughter last night.  To downtown Oak Park’s “Thursday Night Out.”  No.  I had to eat some of the much food occupying the bungalow*.  And guess what I just located.  Amidst all of the lettuces, fennels, carrots, pea variations and such, is one big, beautiful, fully edible spaghetti squash.  It’s especially funny (to me I guess) to have this, as nearly all of our squashes in storage failed, likely from last year’s late summer rains.  Since I do not think of spaghetti squash as an especially heavy plant, it should make for a nice alternative one of these nights.

*Was all psyched to post about my Thai style salad last night until I was cowered by the gorgeous-ness of Editor-in-Chief Morowitz’s CSA salad.  My salad did not even look that good live.

FRESH Film Screening

Posted: June 26, 2009 at 8:28 am

No Exit Cafe is hosting a screening of FRESH a new film focusing on sustainable food and farmers. This is the first and only screening of the film in Chicago so far. The film features notable contributors to the food movement such as Joel Salatin, David Ball, and author of Omnivore’s Dilemma Michael Pollan. The film will be held at No Exit Cafe in Rogers Park, Tuesday, June 30th. Doors open at 6 pm, Film starts at 7:15 pm. Food and drinks will be available.

Seating is limited with a suggested donation of $5
Please RSVP to

No Exit Café
6970 N. Glenwood Avenue
Chicago, Il 60626
Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
Doors open at 6pm
Film starts at 7:15pm

CSA Delivery #1 Eating: Salad and Dessert

Posted: June 25, 2009 at 7:24 pm

This post is about some ingredients from the first delivery of my Homegrown Wisconsin CSA. Click here For the details about that delivery.

Craving a light dinner tonight, I decided to make a salad of the delivery’s most delicate component: red leaf lettuce.

Lately, I’ve been very fond of salads with a cooked component. The combination of warm and cool is nice, plus it’s a nice way to use vegetables that I don’t otherwise enjoy raw, in this case zucchini.

I dressed chopped red-leaf lettuce and chopped snap peas (for texture) with olive oil and vinegar. Meanwhile, I gave zucchini slices a very hot and fast sear in oil: just enough to brown the exterior without totally killing their texture. Chopped green garlic got a light sautee and all the hot components were added to the cool base with some shavings of cheese and a few grinds of black pepper. Dinner salad:

For dessert, my sweet wife whipped up the slam-dunk of the CSA delivery: A strawberry-rhubarb crisp.

Fortunately we have homemade vanilla ice cream in the freezer.


Let Them Eat Real Food: Food, Inc.

Posted: June 25, 2009 at 8:50 am

It is not such a far fetched assumption that if you are on this site and reading this, you’re well aware of the muddled, cluttered affair the American food system has become: a system often blamed for adversely impacting the environment, irresponsibly treating workers and animals and the high rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity among Americans.


How the business of feeding people became the industrialized arrangement that stocks pantries across the country is the focal issue of Food, Inc., a Robert Kenner film featuring investigative foodie journalists Eric Schlosser, who co-produced the film, and local eating advocate Michael Pollan (who is given a “special contributor” credit).


Now, if you have read Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation” or Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food”, the majority of the information presented in Food, Inc. is not new (the fact that the inexpensive crop of corn sneakily makes its way in one form or another into food products such as Heinz ketchup, the raising of abnormally large-breasted mutant chickens for consumption, subsequent ammonia rinsing of said chickens before becoming packaged mutant chicken breasts). It is, however, a powerful reminder that eating fresh, whole food should be an option for everyone, not just those willing or able to drive to Polyface Farm.

The film offers suggestions for individuals who are interested in creating change in the American food system—plant a garden, buy locally sourced ingredients whenever possible—but it’s clear that there is still a long, long way to go before a head of broccoli is less expensive to purchase than a Big Mac.

In Chicago, Food, Inc. can be seen at Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark St.

Visit the official Food, Inc. movie site at

A Few Site Improvements

Posted: June 24, 2009 at 8:26 pm

A brief note to keep you on top of a few tweaks we’ve made to make the site a little more user-friendly:

  1. No login required for comments: After talking to a lot of readers, I found that our login/registration system was a big barrier to discussion. I’d rather have your comment than your registration, so we’ve opened the doors. Registration is still required for the forums.
  2. Search!: Now that we’ve got a good cache of content, there’s something worth searching for. There’s a (beta) search box at the bottom of every page on the site right now. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Try the search!
  3. Post navigation: All single article or blog post pages now have links for next and previous entries in the same category so you can page through stuff you’ve missed—and comment on it.


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Blogging My CSA: Delivery #1 Arrives

Posted: June 24, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Once again, my wife and I are subscribers of a Homegrown Wisconsin CSA half-share. This means we’ll be receiving ten bi-weekly deliveries of organically-grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs (along with eggs for an extra charge).

Click here for a rundown of the 2008 delivery: Anatomy of a CSA

I’ll be recounting the deliveries and what we wind up doing with everything in this blog. For those of you who are HGW subscribers, or subscribers to any other CSA, I hope you’ll join in the discussion and tell us what you do with your haul.

My personal goal is 100% usage. No edible food wasted. I came close last year, but some stuff just didn’t make it.

So, let’s get started:

Clockwise from bottom: Green garlic, rhubarb, button mushrooms, mint (in a baggie), spinach, eggs, lettuce (red leaf), strawberries, snap peas, lettuce (unknown variety), zucchini.

The first thing to be eaten will most definitely be the red-leaf lettuce. In my experience, this does not have a long shelf life at all.

Here are a couplecloseups and some thoughts about what I got:

Green garlic is one of my favorite ingredients to work with. These stalks are so fresh that you can smell the earth on them and you can feel that they’re still full of moisture. I’ve purchased an absurd amount of green garlic this year, and I’m sure I’ll find plenty of uses for this.

Strawberries will mostly be eaten out of hand, some will wind up with the rhubarb in a dessert, I’m sure. I’ll probably also be eating the snap peas out of hand, since I’ve never found a better way to enjoy them.

I was a bit surprised to see the size of zucchini that we received (see foreground of main photo). All I’ve seen in farmers markets to this point are little babies. This one is a foot long. Huge.

I’ll have no problem using the mushrooms and spinach (common ingredients in our house), and eggs are a staple here. All-in-all this is a pretty easy delivery: no challenging ingredients and a lot of stuff that’s eaten raw/fresh: lettuce, berries, peas. I think I’ll go have some berries right now.

Follow this space for more CSA updates. More photos here.

Follow up links:
Salad and Dessert
June 27th, Local Meal Pic of the Moment
Local Meal Pic of the Moment: Pasta Edition, includes update on usage.
Bloggin’ My CSA: Delivery #1 is Over


Linky Wednesday

Posted: June 24, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Today’s whirl around the localfoodiverse:

Via the omnipresent Helen R, we learn that steak and potatoes locavore chef, Rick Gresh now has a blog.  We’ll keep an eye on the garden.

Then we learn that Helen and my Mom share a love for this book.  I can personally vouch for the ricotta salata and gravlax recipes.  Put it on your eat local book shelf.

I can vouch for these goat kids because I have had their stuff more than a few times at Vie.

Seeking to conquer all of America’s fading industrial glory, Michael Symon has his sights on…Milwaukee!

Cattail shoots seem the ingredient of the moment.  They’re even showing up in CSAs, just not my CSA.

Purple Asparagus needs volunteers for their Millenium Park Family Fun Tent.  Contact Melissa at if you can help. 

Chuck finds one of our favorite Wisconsin breweries sneaking into our territory.

Slow Food USA wants you to take better care of your kid’s school lunchesCivil Eats has much too.  We should all care.

Are you having a hard time finding local beef? (Via the indispensable Jill Richardson.)

Drink local gin.

Hey, get us on this list!

The Iceberg Cometh Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
Adventures in Freezerland Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
The Greatest Jamaican Restaurant in Oak Park Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
Meet the Beet and Kendall Dean Thursday at Eli’s Cheesecake Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
Local Executive Salad Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
The Harvest Begins Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
A Full Accounting on Menu Monday Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Why Milwaukee Beer? Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Celebrate Experimental Station June 25 Monday, June 22nd, 2009
Vie Gallery Monday, June 22nd, 2009
Meet Our New Beer Man Monday, June 22nd, 2009
Beer Hunting in Greater Milwaukee Monday, June 22nd, 2009
A Taste of Lamb @ Mado Family Dinner Monday, June 22nd, 2009
The Place Across from Depot Monday, June 22nd, 2009
OK, Fall’s Over Saturday, June 20th, 2009
Peas & Carrots in this Local Calendar – UPDATED Friday, June 19th, 2009
Be a Local Farmer – Work with Farmer Vicki Friday, June 19th, 2009
Get a View of Nichol’s Farm Friday, June 19th, 2009
It’s not quite summer yet Friday, June 19th, 2009
Drink Local Pop Thursday, June 18th, 2009
Eat In With Slow Food, Daley Plaza 8/26 Thursday, June 18th, 2009
In Need of Ire Thursday, June 18th, 2009
A Berry Happy Birthday Wednesday, June 17th, 2009
I Like Cuban Food But For Wednesday, June 17th, 2009
What do Snow, Ramps, Coffee and Asparagus Have in Common? Wednesday, June 17th, 2009
Chef at the Market: “My” Asparagus Wednesday, June 17th, 2009
What’s Local Cassie’s Green Grocer – Fennel Wednesday, June 17th, 2009
Meet the Beet @ Eli’s Cheesecake Farmer’s Market Wednesday, June 17th, 2009
Local Meal Pic of the Moment Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
Sweet Cherries! Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
Check out our new “Follow” page Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
A Late Edition Menu Monday Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
North Center Finds Monday, June 15th, 2009
Free Screening of FOOD INC. this Monday, June 15th Monday, June 15th, 2009
Farm to Table Celebration at Carnivale Monday, June 15th, 2009
Welcome Food Diva to the Internet Monday, June 15th, 2009
Bad Timing by Prairie Fruit Farms Monday, June 15th, 2009
New @ New, New Maxwell Street Market Monday, June 15th, 2009
It All Cannot be Local – Fair Trade Gathering Monday Night Monday, June 15th, 2009
The Garden in a Rainy June Sunday, June 14th, 2009
SFOB @ GCM Saturday, June 13th, 2009
A Cherry on Top of Your Local Calendar Friday, June 12th, 2009
Monica Eng’s New Gig – School Lunch Reporting Thursday, June 11th, 2009
Love at First Bite Wednesday, June 10th, 2009
Home Grown Chicago Wednesday, June 10th, 2009
Linky Wednesday Wednesday, June 10th, 2009
A Blueberry Bush to Call Your Own Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
Shop Local Late Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
Eat Pastry for City Farm – June 11 @ Vie Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
Eat Local Beans (Dried) Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
Elis/Wright Lecture Series Monday, June 8th, 2009
Our Growing Home Contest Winner Monday, June 8th, 2009
Gardening Made Easy Monday, June 8th, 2009
Seeing Red Again on Menu Monday Monday, June 8th, 2009
Candy Girls – Fork and the Road Monday, June 8th, 2009
Lamb Lovers Make Your Mado Reservations – Next Family Dinner Sunday, June 7th, 2009
Meal Pic of the Moment Sunday, June 7th, 2009
Cool Nights and Seedlings Saturday, June 6th, 2009
Hallalejuh: Seasonal, Sustainable Restaurant Close to Home Friday, June 5th, 2009
Taste June with this Local Calendar – UPDATED! Friday, June 5th, 2009
Local Mystery Meat From the Freezer for Dinner Tonight Friday, June 5th, 2009
Local Enough Thursday, June 4th, 2009
Eat Local Fish – Robert’s on Devon Thursday, June 4th, 2009
When Life Gives You Hollandaise, Make Angel Food Cake Thursday, June 4th, 2009
Melissa Provides Food Storage Tips in Today’s Sun Times Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
Linky Wednesday Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
The Local Narrative: Why what we know about food makes it taste better Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
Winter Prep Begins: Asparagus Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
Local Hummus Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
Local on This Week’s Vie Tasting Menu Monday, June 1st, 2009
Seeing Red This Menu Monday Monday, June 1st, 2009
1,000 Things to Eat Monday, June 1st, 2009