Iron Creek CSA, Weeks 2 and 3

Posted: June 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Two rainy weeks, two more weeks of vegetables from our Iron Creek Farm CSA. Here’s what we received during Week 2:

Iron Creek CSA, week 2

The contents were:

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 small bunch of spinach
  • 3 small beets
  • 1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 3 heirloom tomatoes
  • 4 tomatoes on the vine
  • 1 head Boston butter lettuce
  • garlic scapes
  • 3 English cucumbers
  • 4 zucchini

From these we made a crustless quiche with spinach, garlic, and Twin Oaks bacon; roasted beet and beet green risotto; moussaka with this eggplant and the one received last week and with ground lamb from our Mink Creek Farm CSA; garlic scape omelets; and many salads with the lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

Here’s our bounty from Week 3:

Iron Creek CSA, week 3

The contents were:

  • 3 small beets
  • romaine lettuce
  • oak leaf lettuce (I think that’s what the leafy head of greens is on the right side…)
  • garlic scapes
  • 1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 3 heirloom tomatoes
  • 4 tomatoes on the vine
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 4 zucchini
  • 3 English cucumbers
  • 1 eggplant

I think we’re finally starting get a little behind in eating all of our veggies. This week we’ve been eating leftover moussaka and beet risotto, while trying to clear out our freezer of Mint Creek Farm CSA meats. The heirloom tomatoes were a little squishy this week and one didn’t make it to a salad. I’m thinking of making a beet and Prairie Farm goat cheese “carpaccio”. We’re thinking of making a veggie lasagna, using the tomatoes and zucchini and whatever else finds it way in there. I think I’m also going to try making some baba-ganoush with the eggplant.

We’re also thinking of worm composting, but that’s another post for another time…

Have a great holiday weekend!

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Walking, public transit the way to go to farmers market, especially when you can’t find parking

Posted: June 30, 2010 at 9:44 am

Going to the farmers market can be a wonderful experience, especially if you take public transportation or are fortunate to walk. There are many good reasons to do this: less of a carbon footprint, appreciate the nature around you before you buy the nature to take home in a bag.

And there is this reason: you might not find parking, even if you do drive.

My girlfriend and I had rented a car for Friday; she was meeting my mother for the first time. We couldn’t return the car until 9 a.m., so we had the great idea to drive down to the Green City Market, get some produce quickly, and jump quickly back onto Lake Shore Drive.

Even though we went relatively early, there was not a spot to be found. My girlfriend wanted to keep trying to find a spot, but time was running out. I dropped her off and then went to find a place to wait until she came out. She got quite a bit, even if I didn’t get anything for myself.

I was happy for her, but disappointed for myself. To be close enough to see the booths and not be able to get anything was a very sad experience.

Maybe we were too naive, especially since neither of us owns a car. And maybe we would have had a better time getting a spot on a Wednesday than a Saturday.

But those CTA buses and trains are starting to look a lot better. True, they take longer than a car, having a car is easier to bring back perishable items, and you can’t carry as much back with you on a bus or train. But with public transit, you will get there and you will be able to shop for what you want.

The Last Of The Strawberries

Posted: June 25, 2010 at 10:55 am

I wrote here about how I quickly picked 12-1/2 pounds (or 8-1/2 quarts) of strawberries last weekend. Feeling a little overwhelmed with this seasonal bounty, I asked Beet readers for suggestions. The last of the strawberries were used up last night. I’m a little sad to see them go, and for me, strawberry season with it. But, using up 8-1/2 quarts (12-1/2 pounds) of strawberries was not as hard as you might think.

First, I preserved three pounds for jam. Then I made strawberry muffins.

As for the remaining 9-1/2 pounds, using them up was actually a breeze, thanks, in part, to Beet readers’ suggestions. And the bonus of this process was that I did not feel like I was eating strawberries all the time. Here’s how I used them (and I didn’t even make shortcake!):


If you haven’t tried Melissa Graham’s strawberry salsa – please do. It’s proof that strawberries are, for the most part, interchangeable with tomatoes. More than that, it ‘s a seasonally-apt way to get a salsa fix before tomato season goes into full swing.


Tim suggested throwing them in my salad. Normally, I’m a “no fruit in my salad”-type person. But, I was desperate. So I made a strawberry-spinach salad with fresh mozzarella, green onion, toasted pecans, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette and lots of black pepper. It surpassed my expectations — a little sweet, a little tart, and most importantly for a salad – it was filling.

    Strawberry-Rhubarb Sorbet

I took advantage of some leftover rhubarb in my fridge to make David Lebovitz’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Sorbet from his book, The Perfect Scoop. I loved the sound of Michele Hays’ Strawberry-Buttermilk gelato suggestion, but I wanted something a little lighter. Next time.

    Topping for yogurt

Why pay Starbucks’ prices for a yogurt parfait? Fage greek yogurt, strawberries and sometimes a banana mixed in makes a great breakfast.

    Strawberry tart

Danielle was not being hyperbolic about this tart when she called it the “best dessert ever.” Slightly sweetened, creamy mascarpone (with a trace of zesty lemon) and fresh strawberries is a decadent combination, made only more so with a port reduction. Don’t be turned off by the fancy-sounding nature of this dessert. It’s a cinch to put together. I’ll keep it in my summer repertoire and use other fruits in place of the strawberries later in the season.


I didn’t throw a daiquiri party (as good an idea as that was), but I did use about 1-1/2 pounds in shaken strawberry daiquiris. I pounded hulled strawberries into a puree and added about 3 T. to a shaker with 1 oz. lime juice, 2 t. sugar and 2 oz. rum. Typically made with white rum, the only white rum I had left in the liquor cabinet was a dusty bottle of Bacardi (which made drink number one have all the depth of lighter fluid), so for the remaining drinks I went against the grain and used Havana Club Añejo Especial, an aged Cuban rum.

    Vodka infusion

Finally, I used the remaining 2 pounds to infuse vodka. Even if you’re not a vodka person, or an infused-vodka person, strawberry-infused vodka is in a class of its own. I’ve made infused vodka or various ‘cellos in the past (which have citrus and sugar syrup) but I like strawberries best in infusions. Why? Strawberries are juicy, and give up all their juice to the infusion, resulting in a heady, sweet drink that can be sipped on its own. Or it can form the basis for numerous summer drinks. I like it in a strawberry-basil cocktail, or a topped off with sparking wine.

The moral of the story: It’s not that hard to use 12-1/2 pounds (or $18 worth) of U-pick strawberries. And I’m not even sick of them! In fact, it makes me sad to hear that strawberry season is moving on, but I’m looking forward to raspberries, blueberries, and peaches (especially peaches).

There’s a Shewolf Coming to Chicago

Posted: June 24, 2010 at 6:39 am


Two of the area’s great microbrewries are collaborating, and the result will be a big IPA called Shewolf – to be released on or about Friday, July 2. Both Three Floyds (well known for its Alpha King) and Half Acre (which makes a similarly great beer, Daisy Cutter) know their way around hoppy brews. So Shewolf IPA (a strong brew, at 7.5% ABV), should be outstanding. If I can’t get to the release party in early July, I’ll have to stop by Half Acre (4257 N Lincoln, Chicago) and see if I can pick up a growler.

Said Gabriel Magliaro, of Half Acre, on the collaboration, “There are some similarities in our brewing mantras. If anything, this is a more unique approach for us.” He describes it as a “minimalist approach,” light in color, using a lot of Pilsner malt, and Centennial, Cascade and Simcoe hops.

Read more here:

Half Acre and Sam Adams – both “Small Brewers?”

Posted: June 24, 2010 at 6:27 am

Interesting developments. The fourth largest brewer in the United States, Boston Brewing (commonly known as Sam Adams), which considers itself a “craft brewer,” is getting too big to fit into that definition (less than 62 million gallons — 2 million barrels — of beer produced per year). That’s important to them. The federal government imposes lower excise taxes on what it describes as “small brewers”  – which essentially have the same definition as the Brewers Association definition of “craft brewers.”

Only three brewers nationally are big enough to not qualify as small brewers  – two of which are nominally Chicago-area-based. #2 MillerCoors has its headquarters on Wacker Drive in Chicago, while #3 Pabst has headquarters in west suburban Woodridge. But much of the brewing for both those companies is done at the large Miller facility in Milwaukee.

Like Pabst, many of Sam Adams beers have been contract brewed in the past – Sam Adams may oversee the operation, but they didn’t actually own the brewery. But as Boston Brewing has grown, it’s purchased more breweries, so it now produces much of its beer in breweries it owns.

Still, Boston Brewing doesn’t want to lose its “small brewer” status, so Jim Koch, of Boston Brewing worked with his Senator, John Kerry (among others), to introduce Senate Bill S 3339. (The House has a similar bill, H.R.4278.) With this bill small brewers will be rewarded with the reduction of the excise tax on the first 60,000 barrels of beer produced from $7 to $3.50 per barrel and from $18 to $16 per barrel of production exceeding 60,000 barrels up to 1.94 million barrels. Anything over 1.94 million barrels will be taxed at the typical large brewer rate of $18 per barrel.

The full story is here:

I asked Gabriel Magliaro, of Half Acre Brewing (4257 N Lincoln, Chicago) what he thought of the proposed legislation.

“When it comes down to 2 million or 6 million [barrels, as a definition of a “small brewer”] it really doesn’t make any difference. What Boston Beer is trying to do is maintain its pride as a small brewer. I wish him [Jim Koch] luck in his brewing endeavors. Speaking as a small brewer, I think the 60,000 barrel limit should be increased to 200,000 barrels.”

“I believe in empowering small brewers, and I wish them the best of luck in paying their fair share to the government. But here, we try to have fun, and not get too worried about legislation. I do follow that stuff real closely, though.”

Well Stocked

Posted: June 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Moments away from hitting the publish button on Friday, I stopped blogging to watch the storm from my Western exposure office window.  Moments after that, ComEd put blogging to rest for the day.  Unlike those on the other side of my block, we had power by Saturday.  By Saturday, though, my inchoate post talking about what I like, that is talking about upcoming meal preparations, had gone moot as I spent a good amount of time making said preparations.  I made more local food yesterday, and my wife added some dishes too.  Now, we find ourselves very well stocked.

I strongly believe that the most difficult aspect of eating local is the cooking local.  Cooking takes time.  Cooking local takes more time as beets need to be peeled or kohlrabi leaves de-stemmed.  Many (nay most) of us do not have the luxury to spend hours cooking each day.  Therefore, it makes sense to work in spurts stocking up.  Here’s what’s around now.

Beets part 1 – From the Eli’s Cheesecake Market last Thursday, I bought two big bunches of beets, greens included.  Beet greens taste and cook pretty much like spinach or chard.  The only caveat to taking advantage of your beet gift is that beet greens go bad quick.  Also, there are almost always gritty, so wash well.  Like chard, the stems are perfectly edible, but like chard, separate the stems to give them a few more minutes of cooking.  I braised the beet greens with some sliced Spring onions.  I took all the greens out, leaving some of the onions behind.  I frizzed the rest of the onions as a topping.

Beets part 2 – Roasted and dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper for skordalia (see below).

Carrots – Peeled and cooked about five carrots, with a shallot clove (also peeled) and a segment of habanero (from freezer) in boiling water until soft.  Mashed and added cumin and coriander seeds and a bit of Aleppo pepper.  Finished with olive oil, parsley.

Kohlrabi greens – Originally I planned on making the greens dish above with the beets and the kohlrabi.  The beets gave up so much greens that I figure why use the kohlrabi now.  They’ll last and the cabbage family flavor of the kohlrabi tastes a bit different anyways.  Still, they are washed and stemmed.

Skordalia – To match the beets, my wife made skordalia or garlic puree from old Yukon gold potatoes and young garlic.

Grilled asparagus – With a spicy tahini dressing

Wheatberries – Truth be told, anytime my wife enters the kitchen, the Local Family leaves well stocked.  Last week’s wheatberry pilaf morphed into this week’s wheatberry salad with preserved lemon.

Lamb liver – Oddly enough no one but I touched the grilled, chopped lamb’s liver served at room temperature with lemon and parsley. 

Leg of lamb steak, goat medallions, goat spareribs – Is it odd that the goat spareribs all went at our Father’s Day repasse.  The lamb steak got eaten too, but a few goat medallions remain.

Hamburger, roast chicken – This were made for those we feared would fear the goat and lamb.  Instead, we have much left.

Lettuces – As my mother noted, the lettuces heads are huge this year, and we have huge heads of romaine and butter.  We expect to have big salad with the leftover roast chicken.

Pasta w/bacon and peas – This should have been last week’s spaghetti pie, but this and that limited our options. 

It should be a good week of eating for the Local Family, with most of the work done.

See Ya Spring: Chartreuse Pickled Asparagus

Posted: June 20, 2010 at 8:01 am


It’s time to bid farewell to spring. Rhubarb, strawberries, and asparagus are on their way out, blueberries, summer squash, and raspberry moving in their place. But before spring has vacated entirely, I’m going get some into my larder. I picked up two delicious looking pounds of asparagus in my first installment of Harvest Moon Farms CSA and I’ll think that I’ll make some more pickles.

I can’t claim the idea for adding chartreuse to my brine – that came from Sepia, used as a garnish in a delicious Bloody Mary enjoyed on Mother’s Day. However, since I don’t have access to Andrew Zimmerman’s recipe file, I had to come up with my own version, which will be a nice addition to our Father’s Day Bloody Marys. Not a drink for the kiddies, but it will make papa locavore rather happy.

Chartreuse Pickled Asparagus
1 quart

1/3 cup Chartreuse
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
3 1/3 cups white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 sprigs tarragon
1 pound asparagus, trimmed to fit into the jar

Measure the first 5 ingredients into a saucepan. Heat until boiling and then simmer until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Sterilize the quart jar in boiling water for 10 minutes. While the jar is still hot, fit the asparagus stalks into it and add the tarragon. Pour over the pickling liquid and seal. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Let cool in a relatively dark place. Use after 2 weeks.

What To Do With 8-½ Quarts of Strawberries (Part II): Muffins

Posted: June 19, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Tee recommended strawberry cupcakes, and it put me in mind to make muffins. This is a recipe to bridge the seasons. I have about 3 cups of pumpkin puree that I preserved in the freezer from last fall’s CSA box (I froze the puree in 1 cup increments). It’s high time to get rid of that stuff (if only to make room in the freezer), so I thought I’d combine pumpkin and strawberries in one muffin recipe. Ginger adds a spicy kick to these muffins. They’re perfect for breakfast because they’re hearty and only lightly sweetened.


Pumpkin-Strawberry-Ginger Muffins
(My recipe)


¼ c. + 3 T. tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
2 cups sifted unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 – 1 cup pumpkin puree or canned solid pack pumpkin
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup olive oil (EVOO is fine)
1 c. strawberries (halved if small, quartered if large)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter a regular-sized muffin pan. Put in refrigerator while you prepare the remainder of the recipe.

Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into medium bowl. Whisk pumpkin puree, buttermilk and vanilla in another bowl. Whisk in ¼ c. ginger.

Using electric mixer with paddle attachment, beat eggs on high speed until pale yellow and slightly foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar; beat until light-colored and molasses-y, about 2 minutes. Beat in oil until incorporated.

On low speed, beat in dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin mixture in 3 additions each, ending with the pumpkin mixture. Gently fold in strawberries so that they hold their shape.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Mix 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger and 1 tablespoon brown sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over muffins.

Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then carefully run a butter knife around them and remove to a rack to finish cooling.

Strawberry muffins out of the oven

Strawberry muffins out of the oven

My trip to Costa Rica and the cheese I found there…

Posted: June 18, 2010 at 12:52 pm

A week ago I came back from my trip to Costa Rica. We traveled all over the country for six days but I want to highlight the two days that we spent in Monteverde – that’s where the cheese is!

terrible picture of me, but just wanted to prove i was there...
terrible picture of me, but just wanted to prove i was there…

From Manual Antonio, a beach city on the Pacific Ocean, we hopped on a bus to the mountain town of Monteverde. The three hour ride was smooth enough except for the last unpaved, bone rattling 45 minutes. But once we got a look at the incredible view we forgot all about our pains.

The cloud topped hills of Monteverde are the stuff of postcard pictures. The soft mist, constant in the air, dampens the sound of the distant traffic. It rained every day since it was the green season.  Still warm. everything smelled like damp hay.

the view from our hotel
the view from our hotel

After checking in at our hotel we decided to venture towards town.  A dark, steep dirt road led to Hotel Belmar.  We traversed it carefully, groping for trees and catching glimpses of headlights in the distance.  We found our way to the main road and walked along until we saw Pizzeria de Johnny. Not our destination, but when buckets of rain suddenly fell from the sky, we ran inside Johnny’s for shelter. A little on the Olive Garden side, this restaurant caters to tourists. All the waiters speak English, and all you see are American and European people happily eating something that reminds them of home. That said, you would think it’s the same fast food Italian you’ve had before, but it’s not.  We found one of the best pizza places we’ve ever been to –- and we live in Chicago.  The pizza  I had was called “The Monteverde” and it’s their most popular meal. They make their own crust and top it with locally grown vegetables (leeks, eggplant, onions…) and cheese, which is a combination of cheese made in the restaurant and at the local cheese factory. It was out of control.

Full and completely content, we headed back up the mountain to our hotel. The next day we woke up early because we had a reservation for the Monteverde Cheese Factory. First breakfast! The complimentary meal at the hotel included ‘casado’ (literally means ‘marriage’, it is a mix of seasoned rice and black beans), guava and homemade banana bread.  Once fed, we were on our way down the road to the factory.

Situated right next to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, the view from the cheese factory is breathtaking. In 1951 a group of American Quakers who did not agree with the mandatory draft for the Korean War, fled to Costa Rica, since Costa Rican government had recently dissolved its military. They soon founded the town of  Monteverde.  In 1953, they created the cheese factory.

our walk to the cheese factory
our walk to the cheese factory

 At first they used old Quaker oat cans to press the cheese, but that was when they had two employees and received milk from their own cows. Within two years the factory was bustling with new equipment and taking in milk from local farmers from 120 miles away.

Today the cheese they make is sold all around Costa Rica and most of Central America.  They hope to expand even more and maybe sell it in the U.S. From the whey leftover from the cheese, they make dulce de leche candies.  Even more leftover whey goes to to feed the hogs in their pig farm. Those hogs become locally cured meats that supplement the sales of the cheese.  What began as a group of friends making a living became a large corporation.  Keeping with their Quaker values, no one shareholder can have the majority of the stock (the most anyone can have is 5% at a time).

When visiting a cheese factory, set your entertainment standards low since, as we know, making cheese is a bunch of sitting around and waiting. It was awesome to see the giant presses, pressing thousands of cheese blocks at a time, though. The factory was plain, stainless steel and the milk testing lab was simple and resembled a High School science class. I appreciated the blandness of the place since it was a cheese factory not an amusement park.

you can kind of see some of the curdling tubs
you can kind of see some of the curdling tubs
the giant cheese presses!
the giant cheese presses!
where they test the milk for bacteria levels etc...
where they test the milk for bacteria levels etc…

We were allowed to walk around the perimeter of the pressing and cooking room and peek in on the testing lab.  We were also shown a slide show of the history of Monteverde and the cheese factory. After that – the best part – cheese tasting. We tasted the factory’s first cheese, Gouda followed by many others. I liked best, the original Monte Rico, which the Quakers created with a recipe right at the factory. After the tasting the tour, we circled back around to the store where everyone could buy milkshakes and cheese to take home.

I’m glad that we went. It is always encouraging to hear stories of people who have no idea what they’re doing, taking a chance on something totally new. and then succeeding. To a lot of people, making cheese seems crazy.  If Americans with no dairy experience or knowledge of Spanish language can move to Costa Rica and start a factory, then we all can certainly making some Brie in our kitchen.

I recommend that everyone take a trip to Costa Rica sometime soon. Draped in the incredible natural landscape, the towns of this country are full of passionate, friendly people who just want to teach you about their country. The food is incredible as it is usually homemade.  The sketchiest of places have gardens out back where you can see the chef picking ingredients.  You can smell baking bread everywhere. And the plantains! The fruit here is so delicious and sweet.  I digress.

Hope you enjoyed my trip to Costa Rica, and I hope it inspired you to visit soon as make more cheese soon!




Lambing at Rivendell Farm

Posted: June 18, 2010 at 11:53 am

Last month, we finished lambing season here at Rivendell Farm. It always happens in May. That’s because we let the rams and the ewes play together in December, and five months later, most of the ewes have produced twins. Vista

Most of the sheep on the farm are hybrids — primarily with varying amounts of Suffolk (with black faces) and Dorset (white-faced) breeds. But we also raise purebred Tunis sheep – a bit more on that later.


We pasture our sheep all year long – they run free, play with each other, and wander over a large field. We do finish them off on barley, which you can see growing in the background beyond the trees. On the farm here, we do our best to subscribe to organic principles, although we haven’t bothered to fill out the onerous paperwork to be certified organic.


This is a recently-shorn Tunis ewe with her newborns. Note her red face. Tunis is a rare breed (from Tunisia, hence the name), which some people say has a finer flavor than more common hybrid sheep. Diet can have an important impact on flavor, too, which is why our sheep are pastured on natural grass (and the sheep do a great job of adding their own natural fertilizer to the grass). The Tunis babies are reddish, but as they grow up, their fleece will turn white.

When it’s breeding time, we have to separate the Tunis ewes and ram from the others.


This ewe has given birth to two new lambs within an hour or so. That’s her water sac hanging out her rear. It’ll drop off shortly. But it won’t remain in the pasture long. That what the turkey vultures are for.

Barn We used to overwinter all the sheep in the barn, but they do quite well out in the pasture all year ‘round. They have lots of grass to eat, and their heavy coats protect them from the chilly winter weather.

We had 179 lambs this year – more than we expected – about one for every 3/4 acre of our farm. We’ll let you know how they do as the summer moves on. BabyTunis

This  little guy, a Tunis, is about an hour old, and still wet. Mom wandered away as we got close for the photo, but she’ll be back to nurse him (or her) soon.

In several months, most of the lambs will be sent off for processing. We may save a few of the females, to replace some of our older ewes we’ll have to cull, who just aren’t functioning as well as mothers as they used to.

The ones we eat ourselves are processed by any of several local butchering places, all about 25 to 40 miles from here (Camden, Michigan). The ones that go into the commercial chain are processed at Wolverine Packing in Detroit.

So, that’s life on Rivendell Farm these days. The horses help plow the fields, the goats provide us with lots of milk, the solar panels provide us with lots of electricity, and the sheep seem happy. Life is good.


“You’re Not Still Eating Asparagus”

Posted: June 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm

This Local Family’s quest to eat asparagus after asparagus hardly captured the imagination as say, one man’s quest to eat just pizza.  Perhaps, the Forest Gumpian plethora of asparagus options lessened the wow factor.  Raw and cooked.  Butter or oil.  Thick sauce or thin with thin spears or thick spears.  There might not be many vegetables besides asparagus to eat in the Spring, but there are a lot of ways to eat your asparagus in the Spring.  The Local Family went twenty plus days with an asparagus dish in da house.  Granted, not every member ate ever asparagus plate.  Then it ended.  It ended with asparagus in the bin.  It ended, I think with some asparagus leftover on a shelf.  Mom, who probably carried the biggest aspara-load, taking more than a few cartons of leftover asparagus to work for lunch, showed the most resistance to more asparagus.  She who decreed the Eat Local Asparagus Challenge in the first place, said uncle.  Could we complain.  The day after ending the Challenge, we had asparagus on the grill.

We had asparagus last night too.  Asparagus risotto, a repeat of Day 7.  We still find plenty of asparagus in the market,so it is going to be a component of our local meals.  We do find other vegetables now.  When my wife whips up a June risotto, it includes asparagus and peas (and a couple of garlic scapes too).  We are not throwing away asparagus, but we are not committed to it either.  The day before, our pasta had no asparagus, only peas.

We are not committed to a CSA this season either.  Which means that each week we get to make our own kitchen choices.  No more stir fry on the menu because there was too much baby bok choi.  Yet, maybe it was some form of guilt towards Farmer Vicki.  At the Oak Park Farmer’s Market last Saturday, what did we buy.  Kohlrabi.  I was not sure anyone ever willingly purchased kohlrabi, but I answered my own question.  It was not, after all, asparagus.  And not too expensive, and a better bargain ’cause the bulbs (not roots, but enlarged stems) as well as the leaves are edible.  And storable.  As noted the other day, there is nothing you can do better with a kohlrabi than save it for a later day.  When the time comes, we might roast it.  Mash it.  Grate it.  Don’t ignore your kohlrabi.

If asparagus was the dinner of choice, the lunch of choice for the local kids for the last several weeks of school was early season radishes.  If radishes appear in the lunches now, they do not dominate as we got our first sugar snaps of the year this week.  We also got our first carrots of the year, although we have not touched them yet.  My wife is threatening stock.

The veg choices expand.  The fruit section is just getting going.  Man, there was a period where we struggled with fruit.  Asparagus have nothing on all the local apples we ate.  Our seasonal exception of citrus also ran its course.  We made good use of the earliest rhubarb, except a glop of compote did not go so well in the school lunches.  We are not bored with our strawberries, finding especially good ones this year from Walt Skibbes at Oak Park.  We found especially good, the first cherries last week from Hardin Farms at Oak Park.

We’ll have to get a few more asparagus spears under our belt.  Summer starts next week.

Iron Creek Farm CSA, Week 1

Posted: June 15, 2010 at 1:04 pm

This past weekend we managed to get to the Green City Market before it rained and picked up our first box of vegetables for our Iron Creek Farm CSA. We picked Iron Creek Farm for a few reasons: they are a USDA certified organic farm, we could pick up our share at the Green City Market, and the price for a standard and winter vegetable shares is more than reasonable. We also signed up for their winter vegetable share for $270 that will run from October 16 to November 18. Our grand total was $840 for 24 weeks of produce, which was payable in four $210 installments.

They still have some CSA shares available and will prorate the price if you purchase one anytime this summer. Other than Green City Market, they also have Chicagoland pickups at the Brookfield Market, Andersonville Farmer’s Market, Oak Park Farmer’s Market, Wicker Park Farmer’s Market, Evanston Farmer’s Market, and the Chicago Downtown Food Stand. Here’s the sign-up.

Since this is our first vegetable CSA, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. The week before they had Boston butter lettuce, asparagus, and heirloom tomatoes (which they specialize in), all which had incredible flavor. So when picked up our box, here’s what we received:

Iron Creek CSA, Week 1

(I’d like to thank my parents for having such as great tablecloth for me to use as a background…)

  • 2 heads of Boston butter lettuce
  • 3 zucchini
  • 6 English cucumbers
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 4 heirloom tomatoes
  • 4 tomatoes on the vine

That day we grilled the zucchini and made salads from the heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. With the eggplant I think I’m going to make tortang talong, a kind of filipino eggplant omlette.

We’re probably going to be inundated with tomatoes in the upcoming weeks, so it’ll be interesting to see how we cope.

Looking forward to next week’s box!

One Comment

What Do I Do With 8-1/2 Quarts Of Strawberries?

Posted: June 15, 2010 at 11:09 am

During a morning of strawberry picking this Sunday, I was seduced by the abundance of the strawberry patch, and in less than an hour, picked myself over 8-1/2 quarts of strawberries, roughly 12 1/2 pounds. What do I do with all these strawberries?

My strawberry haul

My strawberry haul

I was already planning to can strawberry jam, eat some out of hand, and make sorbet. But that’s not going to make a dent. I’d like to avoid freezing them — I’m not crazy about the mushy texture of strawberries after they’re frozen. If anyone has any other ideas for me, please post. Otherwise, I’ll let you know what happens. . .



Posted: June 14, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Chicagoland’s first-ever (to my knowledge) all-local wine-tasting event was hosted recently by Fresh Coast Distributors – a company dedicated to distributing local wine in Chicagoland — for alumni of Northern Illinois University at House Red, a wine shop in Forest Park. The owners of Fresh Coast Distributors, Kelly Kniewel and Darcy Morowitz, are Northern Illinois alumni, and it was a collegial, relaxed way for fellow alumni to be introduced to the varied and quality local wine that their company distributes. It was sold-out event, as people gathered around several wine stations manned by local winemakers Marie-Chantal Dalease, of Chateau Chantal, and Wally Mauer, of Domaine Berrien Cellars.

Dalease is the daughter of the owners of Chateau Chantal in Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan, and she talked about how her family first owned cherry orchards before clearing them to focus on growing grapes and wine-making. The soft-spoken Mauer has been making wine for many years – mostly red wine – at his Domaine Berrien Cellars, a relatively small winery tucked away in a picturesque, hilly part of Berrien Springs in Southwest Michigan. Many wine-tasters took advantage of the relatively rare opportunity during wine tastings such as these to chat with Dalease and Mauer in detail about their wines in general, as well as wine-making in Michigan and how the local wine industry has grown quite a bit in recent years.

Other wines poured at this event were from Fenn Valley and Peninsula Cellars, including Fenn Valley’s lauded ice wine, which was featured recently at a White House dinner. Standouts were Peninsula Cellars’ 2007 Dry Riesling (riesling is a grape that Michigan grows well), Domaine Berrien’s crisp 2008 Pinot Grigio (a classic representation of this type of wine), Chateau Chantal’s clean-tasting 2008 Chardonnay (100% steel barrels used; no oak), and Fenn Valley’s ice wine. All of these wines lean toward the “crisper,” acidic side; even the ice wine has a nice crisp acidity not normally present in sweet dessert wines. They are all ideal summer wines, perfect for sipping on a hot, summer day on the deck, or at a picnic or outdoor concert.

If you attended this event, feel free to post about what you liked about this wine. If you’d like to try any of these wines, please pick up a bottle or two at House Red, and please post here with your thoughts!

You can also visit the wineries’ tasting rooms. Address and contact information is listed below.

House Red
7403 W. Madison Street
Forest Park, IL 60130
(708) 771-7RED

Chateau Chantal
15900 Rue de Vin
Traverse City, MI 49686

Domaine Berrien Cellars
398 East Lemon Creek Road
Berrien Springs, MI 49103
(269) 473-9463

Fenn Valley Vineyard & Wine Cellar
6130 122nd Avenue
Fennville, MI 49408
(269) 561-2396

Peninsula Cellars
11480 Center Road
Traverse City, MI 49686-8663
(231) 933-9787

Celebrating local food — from Canada

Posted: June 14, 2010 at 10:43 am

This may not quite fit into the category, but if you are curious about Canadian food, you are graciously invited to join us Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at Kendall College.

I will be hosting an event on Canadian food for the Culinary Historians. They host a number of events dealing with the history of food, and this session deals with the impact of Canadian food.

Panelists who have been confirmed include Judy Hevrdejs, a staff writer at the Chicago Tribune, who was exposed to Canadian food while living there.

As the flyer notes:

Canadian regional cuisine ranges from German, Ukrainian and Mennonite fare on the prairies; more Anglophile traditions in Ontario, British Columbia and the Maritimes; different First Nations traditions sprinkled throughout; and Quebec with its distinctive French cuisine originating during their fur trading period.

Foods considered distinctively Canadian, outside, is product rather than recipe: cold pressed canola oil, grass-fed Alberta beef, Lake Winnipeg pickerel and smoked goldeye, Saskatoon berries, caribou and elk.

The event on Saturday will be held at Kendall College, 900 North Branch Street (west of Halsted Street, north of Chicago Avenue). There is free parking and the cost is $3 per person.

For more details, check out the Culinary Historians Web site or this direct link.

Expand your days for farmers markets Monday, June 7th, 2010
Eat Local Later – Freezing Class Presented by Talking Farm Sunday, June 6th, 2010
The Second Morton Grove Farmers’ Market Goes Good Sunday, June 6th, 2010
Coming Beery Events, Starting Tonight Friday, June 4th, 2010
What Took You So Long Friday, June 4th, 2010
Go Find Local Food Friday, June 4th, 2010
First Morton Grove Market Goes Great Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
New Markets on the Local Calendar Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
LAST MINUTE: Local Wine Tasting @ House Red 6/3 for NIU Alums Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010