We Don’t Stop Eating Local

Posted: September 30, 2010 at 1:18 pm

We like the Green City Market Locavore Challenge.  We like how it raises awareness of local foods, and we like how it enhances the local food movement.  Hell, we had a fantastic time at last week’s community dinner.  We just don’t challenge ourselves to eat local for two weeks.  Our efforts to eat the local way include:

At Green City Market on September 29 we got the one jewel tray of tiny, pale orange American persimmons.  We also got some kale.  With my wife working several farmer’s markets for Tomato Mountain, we are never more than a day away from new food.  So it is always coming.  Grapes and pears so we could take an apple hiatus.  Rocket, tomatoes, peppers, the last of the cucumbers, lettuces to keep me forever in salads.  Celery, carrots for soups.  I picked up a whole bunch of very tiny okra, but I have yet to cook.

For the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, we had our yearly dish of stuffed vegetables; this year a Syrian inspired recipe (i.e., flavored with tart tamarind paste) of peppers and zukes filled half with Mint Creek beef and half vegetarian. 

There is always pasta.  Dinner the other night got whipped up from more (other) zucchini, juliet tomatoes and onions over whole wheat noodles.

And salads.  With plenty of remaining tomatoes, the last cucumbers, peppers.  It made me happy to no end that my kids surprised me the other day with a bread salad (a/k/a panzanella) they put together for a birthday lunch.

I don’t always make tomato salads.  There was cauliflower boiled until just tender, herbs, olives and some hot pepper, a dish inspired by something I had a few days earlier at the Green City Market dinner.

My wife made soup from local chicken and seasonal vegetables.  My daughter made the kreplach.  My other daughter mixed sweet potatoes, carrots and spices around the house into tzimmes.

Tell us how you have not stopped eating local.

Department of Weighing In: M Burger

Posted: September 30, 2010 at 12:59 pm


Who does not love a hamburger sandwich?  Besides, there are so many hamburger experiences.  A thin MikeG nomenclatured “30′s style” burger provides a much different eating experience from a wide Kuma creation.  Switch from flat grill to gas fired “charcoal”, and your burger tastes all so different.  The toppings alway vary.  Endless burgers satisfy.  Then, there is M Burger.

Seeking to satisfy those endless burger cravings, the Lettuce Entertain You folks took a bit of space from Tru and made it into a burger house called M Burger.  They quickly duplicated this space by another carve-out, at the River North Osteria via Stato.  With a limited menu and limited seating, this is supposed to be a burger for easy urges.  More over, it is meant to evoke those two great burger yearnings.  With secret sauce,2/3rds paper-foil wrapper, it may remind you of burgers of your youth or it may remind you of a California burger.  And there’s a secret menu!

Evocation, however, does not replace substance.  I had about three bites into my burger when my wife started hers.  Salty.  Her first words of description matched my unexpressed thoughts of a few minutes earlier.  Beyond salt, the whole thing tasted cheap.  Yet, of course, not truly cheap.  Not as cheap as a McDonald’s double or as cheap as a Mickey’s Drive-In Big Baby.  They say the meat is “all natural midwest“.  I guess such descriptions evokes quality, local meat.  In the same vein, the fries, frozen with their skin-on, evoked fresh cut.

Anyone else still need to weigh in on the M Burger?

161 E. Huron St and 5 W. Ontario

Raviolis love it and so do we…Ricotta!

Posted: September 28, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Ricotta is traditionally made with the whey from another cheese.  We are going to make it with new milk since most of us probably don’t have whey lying around.  (If you do have some whey hand, besides ricotta you can use that whey for a lot of things. Check out these ideas!)

This cheese is super easy and quick, so it can be another one of those trick cheeses you can whip out for company.  They’ll be indebted to you forever. Because, why kid ourselves, we learn how to make cheese, to impress our friends.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 gallon of pasteurized whole milk

1 tsp cheese salt

1 tsp citric acid, diluted in ¼ cup cool water

butter muslin

¼ cup heavy cream

Pour the milk into a big pot. Before heating it up, add the citric acid and cheese salt and stir in well.  When you add your   citric acid and notice that half of it is left in the bottom of the measuring cup, just scoop up some milk, swirl it around and pour it back in. Repeat until everything is in the milk.

Heat the milk to 185-195 degrees or until the curd and whey separate and the whey is not milky. DON’T BOIL!  Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally so it doesn’t scorch.


Once you see that the whey is clear, cover and let it rest off of the heat for 10 minutes.

Carefully ladle the curds into a muslin-lined colander. Tie it up and let it drain for 20-30 minutes.

Afterwards, scoop out and add cream if you want creamier ricotta. I don’t recommend this though. Creamier ricotta sounds delicious, but the texture ends up being weird and not like the ricotta you know from the store.


Done! You can store it for over a week in an airtight container in the ‘fridge.

I added a layer of dried basil leaves to the top of the ricotta and put the lid on and stored it in the ‘fridge for two days. Afterwards, it had a delicious hint of basil. I used it to stuff raviolis and my family was pleased.


Here! Check out my recipe for pasta dough and make your own! (This is from my personal food blog and this is the same post from when I broke my foot. So you’ll have to pass through the pictures of my bruised foot to get to the pasta recipe. Sorry!)

I’m going to eat the leftover raviolis. Enjoy!



Harvest’s Farewell: Moroccan Spiced Corn Chowder

Posted: September 28, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Photo Credit iStock Photo

These are the days of change. Every day, the early autumn sky is dotted by more and more colors – schoolbus yellow, pumpkin orange, and brick red. The temperatures continue to decline, the air turning from humid to crisp. The markets are changing as well, each week the tables shrink, summer’s produce disappearing seemingly before our very eyes. All this creates busy days for those of us who seek to capture at least some sliver of the harvest canning, drying and freezing.

This week’s market buy destined for the freezer was fresh corn, which I saved in two ways: frozen kernals, shaved from the cob, and then as stock, both of which are put to good use in this recipe.

Moroccan Spiced Corn Soup with Harissa
Serves 4

3 ears corn
1 small shallot
2 sprigs thyme
4 cilantro stems
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1 medium garlic clove, minced
½ Serrano chile, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and finely ground
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and finely ground
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 Yukon Gold potato, cut into 1/8 inch dice
1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
4 teaspoons of harissa

Shuck corn and remove kernels from the cob. Place corn kernels into a bowl. Put cobs into a medium saucepan with shallot, thyme and cilantro stems. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and reserve as corn stock. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan until hot, but not smoking. Sauté red onion and Serrano chile slightly softened, approximately 2 minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant approximately 30 seconds. Sprinkle pan with all-purpose flour and spices and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add 3 cups of the corn stock and bring to a boil. Add potato and simmer for 5 minutes. Add corn kernels and cook for 10 minutes or until corn and potatoes are both tender. Let cool slightly and puree in a food processor. Force through a fine mesh sieve, pressing hard on solids; discard solids. Return to cleaned pan and bring to a simmer. Add kosher salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon. Add heavy cream and cook for 2 minutes. If the soup is too thick, add any remaining corn stock or water. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Pour into bowls and top with a teaspoon or less of harissa.

Your reaction to Chicago Food Film Festival: thumbs up or thumbs down

Posted: September 27, 2010 at 8:25 am

To butcher the Shakespearean line, I have not come to bury the first annual Chicago Food Film Festival, but I also have not come to praise the festival.

I’m somewhere in between.

Combining food and film is a marvelous concept. And kudos to the New York people for bringing the concept to Chicago first.

There was a nice variety of movies, and the food that accompanied the movies. Oysters, deep-fried stuff, soda pop, burgers, and yes, beer.

I personally attended the Saturday night event. The burgers from the DMK Burger Bar were outstanding — even better than what I’ve had in their restaurant (and that is saying something). And there was a nice outlay of cheese and crackers, beer and other alcoholic drinks, soda pop, and cookies.

The warehouse space, thanks to the Museum of Contemporary Art, was the ideal setting for the event. And Purple Asparagus got some well-deserved attention and, hopefully, plenty of tips.

The surprise was the high price point of $30. You can debate as to whether there was sufficient value for the money. And the crowd on Saturday night seemed a little too hip, more there to be seen than to appreciate the food/film marriage.

The price point seemed to shut out a willing audience that might be more appreciative of the concept. Though given the size of the crowd that was there, you can’t get too many more people in the space.

But what did you think? If you went either night or both nights or if you were a VIP — let us know what you liked about the first annual Chicago Food Film Festival, and what could be improved.

Hey, it was the first one. And we certainly want it to come back. But the people are the best judges of how we can make an even better combination of food and film.

Agree with me? Disagree with me? Let us know how you feel in the comments section.

Skokie Farmers Market: 9/19/10 Update

Posted: September 23, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Skokie Farmers Market
Sundays, June 27 through October 31
7:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
5127 Oakton St.
Free parking lot between Skokie Public Library and Skokie Village Hall
Skokie, IL

Another lovely late summer/early fall Sunday on the North Shore, punctuated by the sudden turning to gold of the locust trees on the Skokie Library/City Hall grounds.  Good shopping weather for this transitional season – summer crops still around, like Michigan peaches, while the pumpkins and apples are steadily gaining ground.  Today had by far the biggest range of apple varieties from Michigan, and samples were everywhere, so ask, and your specific culinary need will easily be fulfilled.

 New and in-season produce offerings included:

-          T& H Farms, Marengo, IL: Fall flowers and foliage:  Chysanthemums in two pot sizes – 6.5” pots at 3/$20, or big 2-gal pots for $9.50 each.  Also, a good variety of flowering kale – four color/leaf types available.

-          KAP Farms, Fox River Grove/Troy, IL:  Deco pumpkins  of all types – ugly/cute warted, white “ghost,” blue, and the standard Jack o’ Lantern, as well as sugar pumpkins and the small desktop types.  Also, winter and “Orangetti” squash (the latter a spaghetti type), large and small decorative gourds, chiles, summer squash, and the bargain of the week:   baskets of very ripe (but not squishy) heirloom tomatoes for $1.  The basket I selected included four fruit, two of which were exquisitely flavored Brandywines. 

-          A. Dongvillo Farm, St. Joseph, MI: Apples: Jonathan, Ginger Gold, Paula Red (a natural mutation of the McIntosh); two varieties of grapes

-          R&B Miller Farms, Coloma, MI: several varieties of apples – Gala, Cortland, Jonathan, Fuji, Honey Crisp, & Golden Supreme; also Bartlett pears, comb honey, and apple cider by the gallon and half-gallon

-          Heritage Orchards, Benton Harbor, MI: late peaches, the last of the year; Cortland apples;  large field-grown tomatoes, $1.80/lb; apple cider; and bulk 12 lb. buckets of prune plums, pears, and peaches for $16, or tomatoes for $13, for the canning and jam-making enthusiasts

-          M&D Farms, Homer Glen, IL:  delicate, thin skinned new potatoes, red and white varieties, for a bartgain $1.00/lb; poblano chiles; and winter squash, several varieties, fifty cents per lb., including spaghetti squash

-          River Valley Farms, Burlington, WI: very large clumps of hen-of-the-woods mushrooms; self-contained kits for growing white buttons and portabellas at home

-          Oosterhoff & Sons, Momence, IL:  Asiatic lilies, eucalyptus, tuberoses

Going To The Heart Of Local Wine Country, Part I: Old Mission Peninsula

Posted: September 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm

View from 2 Lads

View from 2 Lads

[This is part one in a two-part series about the two preeminent wine-making regions in the Midwest: the Old Mission Peninsula and the Leelanau Peninsula, both located adjacent to Traverse City, Michigan.]

It’s worth noting at the outset in any article about Michigan wine that Michigan is the second-largest producer in the country (after California, of course) of varied agricultural products. Except for tropical fruits, there’s relatively few things that Michigan does not produce locally. (Local dried beans, anyone?) In late 2009, Gourmet (RIP) highlighted Michigan’s move toward more direct farm-to-table production (as opposed to mainly supplying giant food processors). Thus, before someone stands up to recite to me that “just because all 50 states can grow wine grapes, doesn’t mean they should,” let me say that a state with the varied agricultural bounty of Michigan *should* produce wine, if only – if only – to pair with, at a base organic level, the food that was grown in the same soil. It seems obvious to me that a basic tenet and value of eating local embodies the notion of returning to the soil and the purity of food that is lovingly and carefully grown nearby. However, we seem to be behind the eight-ball in grasping the value of pairing all of this gorgeous, Midwestern-grown food on our tables with wine grown in the same place and that this is, by its very definition and nature, an extension of an eating-local philosophy. If you were to complain about the scarcity of quality Midwest wine to pair with local food ten years ago, I would probably agree with you. However, that complaint is now becoming more of a statement of willful ignorance than actual reality.

Take, for instance, Old Mission Peninsula. Although there are several winemaking pioneers in the Midwest, the current epicenter of local winemaking is on the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas in Northwest Michigan. This area sits on the 45th parallel, home to many other winemaking regions around the globe (including Bordeaux). But what sets this area apart is not necessarily that it is situated on a celebrated, global wine-making parallel, but that it is uniquely positioned between two large bodies of water.



That this region is nestled in between large bodies of water is no small thing in terms of wine-making. We all know that Midwest winters can be harsh, but the water insulates the area by moderating the climate, as well as protects the vines during the growing season. This moderating effect has made Old Mission Peninsula a proven success story in growing delicate, vinifera grapes, such as Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay, to name a few (and the list is growing). These grapes thrive on rustic hills reminiscent of Sonoma (albeit the hills are a lot less steep). Traverse City, adjacent to Old Mission Peninsula (actually it shares a zip code with Traverse City), has a history and culture that is conducive to quality wine-making. Whereas, historically, Midwest wine either intentionally or unintentionally veered toward the sweet side, ostensibly, to appeal to novice or occasional wine drinkers, the winemakers on the Leelanau and Old Mission began producing vinifera wine that would appeal to wine-drinkers whose palates were not afraid of drier, more complex tastes. Riesling, in particular, is an exciting wine with its rich, complex notes of green apple, peach, pear, lime, tropical fruits, minerals and sometimes even petroleum (as compared to the popular two-note bomb of oak and butter typical of many California Chardonnays). Like Alsatian Rieslings, these wines are high in acid and aroma, and along with their funkier aromas and tastes, are more unusual to occasional wine drinkers.

Serious local wine-making began on Old Mission Peninsula

Serious winemaking in northwest Michigan began on Old Mission Peninsula in 1974, when Ed O’Keefe started Chateau Grand Traverse. The first winery in Michigan to plant 100% vinifera grapes (as opposed to cooler-climate hybrid grapes), Chateau Grand Traverse is best known for its award-winning Riesling. CGT is now producing 80,000 cases per year, and edging toward the title of the top-selling winery in Michigan. Today, many will say that CGT’s dry Riesling is world-class, and is helping to put Michigan on the short list of top U.S. Riesling producers (along with Oregon, Washington and New York).

Including Chateau Grand Traverse, Old Mission Peninsula is now home to seven wineries: 2 Lads, Brys Estate, Bowers Harbor, Black Star Farms (also on the Leelanau), Chateau Chantal, and Peninsula Cellars. All except 2 Lads focuses heavily on white wines. Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir are favorite Old Mission Peninsula red varieties, and the more unusual Gamay Noir is produced by CGT as well.

Gaining National Attention

The wines of Old Mission Peninsula, along with the Leelanau, have steadily gained their share of national attention lately. Eric Asimov, the wine columnist for the New York Times, commented excitedly about Michigan’s Rieslings – a wine he believes is terribly underrated. Food and Wine got in the action, and since then, so has Elin McCoy for Bloomberg. In Chicago, the Sun-Times and Chicago Magazine have recently written about its wines. Still, though, the region is relatively unknown even in Chicago wine circles.

What To Drink

Despite my strong belief that the upper Midwest’s forté is white wines, some of the most exciting wines I’ve tasted recently from the Old Mission Peninsula have been red wines. Not your usual reds, though; I mean, Cabernet Franc and Gamay Noir. (I wrote about Cabernet Franc here on The Local Beet.) If you can snag a glass of Peninsula Cellars’ 2007 Cabernet Franc at Hopleaf or Eno at The Fairmont in Chicago, you won’t be sorry. As for Gamay Noir, Chateau Grand Traverse is producing some exciting stuff. Of course, Riesling continues to represent well in this area (especially Chateau Grand Traverse’s version), as well as Peninsula Cellars’ Pinot Blanc. All summer, I was a regular drinker of 2 Lads’ Rosé of Cabernet Franc with its raspberry, rhubarb and herbaceous tones. I’ve been on record numerous times as a fan of Bowers Harbors’ semi-dry Riesling, and Chateau Chantal is producing some notable late harvest wine as well. Anything by red-phobic Left Foot Charley will satisfy you immensely.

If you still need convincing to check out Old Mission Peninsula, here are some pictures:

Peninsula Cellars Tasting Room

Peninsula Cellars Tasting Room

Vineyards of Chateau Grand Traverse

Vineyards of Chateau Grand Traverse

View from Chateau Grand Traverse Vineyards

View from Chateau Grand Traverse Vineyards

2 Lads' Tasting Room

2 Lads' Tasting Room

Bowers Harbor Winery

Bowers Harbor Winery

Bowers Harbor Vineyards

Bowers Harbor Vineyards

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Watch What You Eat! First Ever Chicago Food Film Festival

Posted: September 23, 2010 at 10:03 am

Food movies are so delicious. Movie theater food, not so much. The first ever Chicago Food Film Festival changes all that this weekend.

Following up on the continued success in New York, the folks at the Food Film Festival have made their way to the Midwest. On September 24 and 25th, they’ll transform the MCA Warehouse into a screening room to show some of the favorite movies from the past four year’s festivals.

Packed with mouth-watering documentaries, features, short films and food, the festival brings you the opportunity to taste what you see on screen for a multi-sensory, full-bodied experience.

On Friday, take in a series of short films, including Craig Noble’s The Perfect Oyster during which you can feast on the Fanny Bay variety from Shaws. On Saturday, the focus is on the big Bs: burgers and beer. Check out The Beer Wars, Cud, and a shortened version of The Best Hamburger in America, directed by the festival founder, George Motz. During the screenings, get your fill of burgers from DMK Burger Bar and brews from Stone Brewing, Half Acre and Two Brothers.

What are you waiting for? Buy your tickets now to feast, view, and support Purple Asparagus, the festival’s non-profit partner all at the same time.

Click here for tickets. General admission (which includes food and booze) is $30.00.

Kids Apple Tasting, French Market – 10.2.10

Posted: September 23, 2010 at 10:01 am

Come try some apples!  On October 2, 2010 the Chicago French Market will hold an apple tasting for kids, ages 5-10.  Apples sampled will include the latest apple creation from the folks at the University of Minnesota, the  ”SweeTango.”  Looking to match the runaway success of the Honeycrisp, they created this one.  It combines the texture of the Honeycrisp with the sweetness of the Zestar apple.  Kids (and their parents) should learn how to pronounce the SweeTango.  In addition to tasting it, there will be three other distinctive apple varieties.  There are also plans to train the kids to taste like a food critic

Saturday, October 2, 2010
11:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m., Apple tasting workshop
11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Make apple slinkies
Arrive early for admission! Space is limited.

Chicago French Market
131 North Clinton Street
Chicago, Illinois 60661
$5 donation to The Good Food Project (includes one child and guardian)
Includes tasting of four apple varieties, one apple slinky and 10% off apples at any Chicago French Market produce vendor.
Purchase tickets at the door. Arrive early for admission! Space is limited.
For more information, visit www.chicagofrenchmarket.com <http://www.chicagofrenchmarket.com>
The Good Food Project is a not-for-profit organization that conducts fun and educational food tastings in schools to help children develop a lifelong love of good food and enjoy the benefits of a healthy life.
For information about The Good Food Project or to arrange an apple tasting in your child’s school, visit www.thegoodfoodproject.org <http://www.thegoodfoodproject.org> and contact Susan Taylor at goodfoodchicago@gmail.com or 773-648-0068.

Everything Tastes Better When It’s Local (Including Paw Paws, Big Jones)

Posted: September 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Last week, I made an emergency visit to Dominick’s.  I really hated shopping there.  The dinginess, the poor selections and quality,  I realized what I like more than anything about eating local, I liked shopping not at Dominick’s.  Luckily, when I shop at farmer’s markets, I find some awfully tasty food.  I find that everything tastes better when it’s local, even the local food not purchased at farmer’s markets.  I find food better in two ways.  One way, when you explore various cuisines our “ethnic” foods, you do better when you make the food with local food.  The other way, you can still explore unique foods while eating local.  I thought about all of this finishing an early lunch today.

I happened yesterday to pick off a shelf, of the many hundreds of cookbooks around the Bungalow, a book on Provincal cooking.  It made me want to eat a tuna sandwich for lunch today.  I built my tuna sandwich in that style, adding sliced tomatoes, two types of peppers, and a big handful of rocket (arugula) to some canned tuna*.  Squished between a crusty roll from Angelo Caputo’s and a few minutes wait for all the flavors to mingle, man, it all tasted good.  It tasted especially good because of those local ingredients, the Genesis Grower’s rocket, whose blast of flavors suggests, perhaps, the nature of the plant’s real name**; the sweetness of heirloom tomato against the chile heat.  Who cared where I got the tuna and the olive oil, because that sandwich tasted like the South of France.

For dessert, I ate a paw paw.  For a short stretch, if one can make it to the Green City Market on a Saturday or Wednesday, one can eat local and eat a tropical fruit.  Paw paws are the only tropical fruit that prosper around here.  With it’s sticky-soft flesh, musky aroma, and exotic flavors, paw paws do taste tropical.  Paw paws taste slightly like bananas, but not a whole lot really.  They are sweet, with a tinge of bitterness, very nearly like eating burnt caramel.  More over, the fruits contain a strong dose of vanilla.  In fact, because you have to eat the fruit well ripe, there is also a good whiff of fermentation too, so it’s more like a good vanilla extract.  You know, the booze.  You get to eat some pretty interesting stuff when you eat local.

A few weeks ago, I ate at Big Jones for an Edna Lewis Tribute tasting menu.  Big Jones Chef, Paul Fehribach, cooks from the Low Country (with little forays across the South).  He makes very good food, and he makes food that tastes of a place.  Like I (mostly) transported myself to the Riviera with my locally sourced tuna sandwich, Chef Fehribach transports you to the South because he uses his local ingredients.  As Big Jones states on its web site, “Our use of local and artisan farm produce has become so central to our cooking.”  Big kernels of hominy never tasted better than when they started with 3 Sisters Garden corn.  Edna Lewis would have recognized her tribute because of the tomatoes or peaches served in honor.  Everything tasted better because it was local.

Being a locavore does not mean giving up alternative cuisines or strange fruits.  We can cook up Asian stir-fries with the tofu and other vegetables found at Green City, and we can follow that with a paw paw that tastes like it came straight from the Malay jungle.  We can visit France or the South with local foods.  It always tastes better.

*I’m pretty parial to Italian tuna packed in oil, but I recently learned about a better tuna product.  Look soon to the pages of the Local Beet for more.

**Not really, as I believe the English term, rocket is probably derived from the French roquette or the Italian rucola.  For additional background, see here.

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Iron Creek CSA, Weeks 9 and 10

Posted: September 16, 2010 at 10:36 am

While I may not have posted updates on the CSA in a while, I have definitely been diligently photographing each week’s bounty. Here’s where I left off:

Week 9

Iron Creek CSA, Week 9

  • corn
  • various cherry tomatoes
  • blackberries
  • butter lettuce
  • various bell peppers
  • zucchini
  • patty pan squash
  • watermelon
  • leek
  • white onion
  • red onion
  • oak leaf lettuce
  • various heirloom tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • various chiles

The blackberries from this week and the last were combined with some Seedling Farms peaches to make a hazelnut crisp. Nothing really fancy this week, much of it was eaten in salads or sauteed with a little olive oil and salt. The watermelon was deceivingly small and ended up providing us fruit for a few breakfasts. The chiles and onions were used in salsas for a taco party that we hosted.

Week 10

Iron Creek CSA, Week 10

  • various bell peppers
  • various chiles
  • cucumbers
  • summer squashes
  • various heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • various heirloom tomatoes
  • patty pan squash
  • oak leaf lettuce
  • leek
  • corn
  • white onion
  • red onion
  • watermelon
  • basil plant

This was the week before we left for vacation, so we ended up giving away the tomatoes and peppers and eating the rest. The basil was planted and is now thriving on our kitchen windowsill.

I’m still unpacking from my vacation, but I’ll post a few local food highlights from the trip as soon as I can.

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Be a Sustainable Cook! (Cont.)

Posted: September 15, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Mushroom Braised Beef (with Sugarsnax Carrots!)

We’re well into the Green City Market’s annual Locavore Challenge. The two week long event is a great opportunity for newbies to the local food scene to see all that’s available to them, especially at the pinnacle of the harvest season. Explore the markets, the Chicago shops devoted to stocking local and sustainable products, and the many restaurants that not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. Hopefully, when you’re done, you’ll have whet your appetite for more. Surely you’ll go back, at least in part, to a globally sourced diet. But, perhaps, you’ll begin to think more about where your food is coming from and, more importantly, how it’s been raised, grown, or produced. And so, I thought it would be a good opportunity to provide my top five tips for being a better food consumer so you too can be a sustainable cook.

1. Love your veggies. Like or not, being a more sustainable consumer means consuming less meat. Regardless of how well the animals are raised (and I’ll talk about this in a minute), the American appetite for flesh is unsustainable. Large portions of meat with small side vegetable side dishes is so 1950’s, and yet somehow, this diet continues to hold sway in Chicago. Take this opportunity to celebrate the tremendous diversity of vegetables out there and perhaps, at least for a few meals a week you’ll make veggies the star with meat on the side. Stick with me. Both here and on my personal blog, Little Locavores, I have a ton of veggie recipes, ones that even kids will eat!

2. Be flexible. When you go off the grid of industrial eating, things can get a little weird. A carrot isn’t always a carrot – it could be a Thumbelina or a Sugarsnax – it could be huge like a small stick or tiny like your thumb. As a local eater, you need to go with the flow. Decide on your menu after you return from the market, not before. When you taste the delectable variety of what’s out there, you’ll be happy you did.

3. Buy Better Meat. Yes, I’m back to the meat. Call me a broken record, but if there’s one single change that you can make to become a more sustainable eater, it would to be buy meat that’s raised humanely without unnecessary antibiotics and growth hormones. As I’ve written before here, this isn’t simply a matter of personal health, but an imperative if we want to maintain the effectiveness of antibiotics in disease prevention.

4. Take the Trash to Table Challenge. A few months ago, on my own blog, Little Locavores, I issued the Trash to Table Challenge. Once upon a time, we knew how to be frugal. When food was expensive, our ancestors used every edible part of the plants and animals that they brought into their kitchens. Then food became cheap and time dear, and we all became wasteful. With the exception of the most careful among us, we’re all guilty of it to some extent. Let’s rethink our garbage can and compost bin as the last resort. Got herb stems? Throw them inside a chicken that you’re roasting. Got vegetable scraps, make stock. Create recipes that transform your trimmings, scraps, and leftovers into delicious dishes. In this vein, I’ll share with you my recipe for Mushroom Braised Beef, which I made with the Mushroom Broth made from a bagful of frozen mushroom stems.

5. Give yourself a break. While I’m sure there’s someone out there’s who’s 100% sustainable, it sure isn’t me. I do my best, but to live in the real world means, at least, for me, that you’ll falter every once in a while. When you do, don’t get frustrated. It’s all a process and I believe that once you get into the habit, and realize how easy and delicious being a sustainable cook can be, that you’ll only want to do more.

Mushroom Braised Beef
6 servings

2 tablespoon all purpose flour
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 beef chuck roast
1 tablespoon butter
1 large leek, trimmed and sliced (save trimmings for stock)
1 carrot, sliced (save trimmings for stock)
1 celery, sliced
1 thyme sprig
1 parsley sprig
1 bay leaf
2 cups mushroom stock
2 cups beef broth
½ pound crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Mix together flour, salt, and pepper to taste in a shallow bowl. Coat the roast with the flour mixture. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven or slow cooker insert over medium-high heat. Brown the beef on all sides. Remove to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium, add butter and cook leek, carrot, and celery until softened. Pour in the mushroom stock, broth, and add thyme, parsley and bay leaf. Cook over low heat or on the slow cooker for several hours, between 4 and 6 hours or until very tender. Remove the meat to a bowl and refrigerate. Strain the sauce into another bowl and refrigerate overnight. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan and cook ½ of the mushrooms. Repeat with remaining ½. Remove the fat at the top, reserving a tablespoon. Heat the tablespoon in a medium saucepan and add flour stirring until the flour is lightly browned. Whisk in sauce until it thickens. Add the beef and sauteed mushrooms and cook until heated through. Serve on mashed potatoes, turnips, or noodles.

Skokie Farmers Market: 9/12/2010 Update

Posted: September 14, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Skokie Farmers Market
Sundays, June 27 through October 31
7:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
5127 Oakton St.
Free parking lot between Skokie Public Library and Skokie Village Hall
Skokie, IL

The 12th was a perfectly lovely September Sunday morning in Skokie, and a great chance for those who shied away from shopping outdoors in the rain on Saturday to pick up late summer’s bounty, as well as a delicious preview of fall. New and in-season produce offerings included:

-          Noffke Farms, Coloma, MI:  prune plums, Honey Crisp apples, Bartlett pears            

-          T& H Farms, Marengo, IL: large hardy chrysanthemums, flowering kale, mixed cut flower bouquets, incorporating sea oats; large field-grown tomatoes for $1.50 per lb., and gigantic zucchini for $3.00

-          KAP Farms, Fox River Grove/Troy, IL:  root vegetables for fall: beets, kohlrabi, carrots, beets; also small ‘kebob’ (boiling) onions, mixed colors, for $3.00 per pint

-          A. Dongvillo Farm, St. Joseph, MI: two varieties of grapes, prune plums, peaches, blueberries

-          R&B Miller Farms, Coloma, MI: several varieties of apples – Gala, Cortland, Jonathan, Fuji, Honey Crisp, & Golden Supreme; also Bartlett pears and comb honey

-          Heritage Orchards, Benton Harbor, MI: Swiss Gourmet, Elstar,  Ginger Gold, & Honey Crisp apples; Stanley purple plums

-          M&D Farms, Homer Glen, IL:  Peppers & chiles:  poblano, cubanelle,  jalapeno, ‘Gypsy’ sweet yellow peppers, yellow & green bells

-          River Valley Farms, Burlington, WI: in addition to the usual variety of portabella/oyster/shiitake mushrooms and prepared sauces, River Valley also was carrying onions and shallots this week

-          Oosterhoff & Sons, Momence, IL:  Celosia (both cockscomb & plume types), zinnias, eucalyptus, & tuberoses

-          Greg Bartoshuk: a local daylily hybridizer of 25 years experience; sells/trades a large assortment of 1st quality ready-to-plant roots, and provides a wealth of planting and care advice.  3 or 4/$10, depending on time of day; see his page at daylilytrader.com for varieties and more information.

Top Chef’s Cooking up a Cure Against Scleroderma – 10.22

Posted: September 14, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Scleroderma, meaning “hard skin” in Latin is an auto-immune disease that affects 300,000 people in the US, predominately woman.  It can be life threatening. This disease causes thickening and tightening of skin, and in severe cases, also hardens internal organs. There is currently no cure for Scleroderma.

Our pal, Cleetus Friedman is chairing a panel of great local chefs to “cook up a cure” to support the Chicago area chapter of the Scleroderma Foundation and promote continued research into a cure for the disease on October 22 at Salvage One.  More information about the event can be found at www.cookingupacurechicago.com

Some of the participants include:

City Provisions



David Burke’s Primehouse


Girl and the Goat

Heaven on Seven

Hot Chocolate


Purple Pig

The Signature Room


Uncommon Ground


…and more!

The night will consist of a silent and live auction and a generous sampling of food and drinks. All proceeds from the “Cooking Up a Cure” event will support ongoing research and funding for scleroderma.


WHEN:            Monday, October 18, 2010

                        Doors open at 5:30 p.m.


Tickets are $100 for an individual ticket or tables of ten for $1500.

For tickets contact Ann Peterson at apeterson@scleroderma.org or 312.660.1131, or purchase online at www.firstgiving.com/scleroderma-chicago

WHERE:     Salvage One
1840 W. Hubbard St.
Chicago, IL 60622

This One’s For the Kids – City Provisions, Dietzler Farm Dinner on 10.2

Posted: September 14, 2010 at 5:15 pm

More than a few farm dinners, with their provided transportation and free-flowing kegs of local beer, are as much about the booze as they are about anything.  You will still eat exceedingly well on those trips, but you hardly want to bring the children.  Thus, Cleetus and City Provisions have set aside a dinner for the kids.  Yes, there will still be beer.

October 2nd at Dietzler Farms in Elkhorn, WI with New Holland Brewery.

Tickets are $50 per adult and $20 for kids under 12 and include food and drinks, and tour of the farm.


Tax and tip are also included.

Call 773.293.2489 or email

supperclub@cityprovisions.com today to make your reservation 

Living Downstream – Documentary with Land Connection Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
WHAT’S SO FUNNY ABOUT VEGETABLES? – Benefit for the Talking Farm Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
We Challenge Ourselves to Eat Local Every Day Friday, September 10th, 2010
Rise to the Locavore Challenge with the Beet, Others at Green City Market – Saturday 9.11.10 Friday, September 10th, 2010
Pave Henri – the stinky but delicious cheese Thursday, September 9th, 2010
Illinois at Harvest Time Thursday, September 9th, 2010
Saying Goodbye To Summer Loves Thursday, September 9th, 2010
And Now We Stop to Blog – Rosh Hashanah 2010 Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Challenge Us This Locavore Challenge Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
The Locavore Challenge – Local Dried Beans Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Skokie Farmers Market: 9/5/10 Update Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Ravinia Farmers Market: 9/1/10 Update Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
Drink Locavore Challenge: Cabernet Franc Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
Be a Sustainable Cook Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
Must Have Been in the Water – Check out this Atlanta Local Food Blog Sunday, September 5th, 2010
I See Your Math and Raise You One Study Friday, September 3rd, 2010
Eat Local Dates Friday, September 3rd, 2010
My Adventures in Cheddar Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
Alpana Singh Makes Two Illinois Wine Selections For Big Bowl Wednesday, September 1st, 2010