Updated Local Calendar: 19th Annual Green & Growing Fair, Wicker Park Market @ Big Star begins, Green City Market Moves Outdoors

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Posted: April 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I’m filling in for Rob this week as he’s stuck in New Jersey eating bad food. No snow this week, and the big news is that the Green City Market moves outdoors beginning this Wednesday! (Note the temporary location below.)

WHAT TO BUY NOW

You can find three types of items in season now in the Chicago area.   First, see the first Spring crops: radishes, watercress, ramps (only a couple more weeks for these), sorrel, fiddle-head ferns, nettles, green onions, and green garlic.   Look for curly wild chives sprouting up from your lawn.  Second, there is a robust crop of indoor vegetables: lettuces, spinach, micro-greens, mushrooms, herbs, rocket, carrots, turnips and beets.   Finally, there’s what’s left in storage crops: onions, potatoes, celery root, beets and apples.   Do continue to resist the tyranny of the “fresh” for a few more weeks. We expect you can find frozen and dried fruits from Seedlings at various markets. Tomato Mountain does all sorts of things with its Wisconsin tomatoes, not just salsas; I love the pickles made by River Valley Kitchen. The Downtown Farmstand sells Three Sisters Garden dried beans. Use the local.

WHAT TO BUY SOON (OR LOOK FOR KEENLY)

Morels.  Asparagus after that.

WHERE TO FIND LOCAL FOODS

These stores specialize in local foods:

City Provisions Deli in Ravenswood, Chicago

Downtown Farmstand in the Loop, Chicago

Green Grocer in West Town, Chicago 

Dill Pickle Coop in Logan Square, Chicago

Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park

Butcher and the Larder in Noble Square, Chicago

C&D Pastured Pork, locations for purchase here.  Also follow on Facebook for information regarding whereabouts.

New! We learned of an Indiana farm growing lettuces, basil and rocket (a/k/a arugula) indoors called Eden Farms. They sell mostly now in Indiana, but they also sell to the Sunset Foods stores on the North Shore.

We are still seeing Michigan apples at Caputo’s. We’ve also espied storage beets from Midwestern farms there.

WHAT TO DO NOW

Saturday – April 30

Chicago — 19th Annual Green and Growing Fair.  Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave.  10 am to 2 pm.  Special market with Nichols Farm, many other vendors, in the Conservatory.  More information and schedule here.

Evanston – Free Screening of Lunch Line, Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., Screening starts at 2:30 pm, doors open at 2 pm. (Lunch Line is about the history of the school lunch program. The screening will be followed by discussion with Hardy Murphy, District 65 superintendent of schools; Debbie Hillman, chair of the Evanston Food Policy Council; Rochelle Davis, president and CEO of the Healthy Schools Campaign; Carl Caneva of the Evanston Health Dept., and Friend of the Beet, Michele Hays, a District 65 parent who writes a blog about food education and food security.)

Geneva – Geneva Community Market – Inglenook Pantry – 11 N. 5th Street, Geneva – 9 AM – 1 PM

Grayslake – Spring Farmer’s Market – Downtown Grayslake – 10 AM – 2 PM

Sunday – May 1

Chicago — Wicker Park Farmer’s Market @ Big Star.  Nichols Farm will be there this Sunday and every Sunday through June.  10 am to 4 pm.  1531 N. Damen.  Get spinach — and tacos.

Tuesday – May 3 

Chicago – Tuesday Funk @ Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark, 7:30 pm. So you didn’t get tickets to 3 Floyds’ Dark Lord Day, don’t despair.  Go drink local beer at Hopleaf, and hear readings from Paul McComas, Tim W. Brown, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Brooke Wonders, and Scott Smith.

Wednesday – May 4 

Chicago – Green City Market – 7 AM – 1 PM – *note temporary location* N. Clark & W. Wisconsin (just north of normal outdoor location). (From the Green City Market on their temporary location:  Green City Market is currently working on a number of improvements to our site in Lincoln Park, including a new drainage system, improved pathways, and greater accessibility . We’re all very excited about this project and hope that you will be as well.   The renovation project was slated to be finished by May 3rd, in time for the opening of the Market. Unfortunately, due to the cold, wet weather we have been experiencing over the past few weeks, groundbreaking has been delayed.   As it stands now the project will likely be finished in late May.)

Chicago – Edible Gardens at Lincoln Park Zoo, 10 am to 1 pm, open to all. 

Thursday – May 5

Chicago – Ecuadorian Chocolate Tasting with Slow Food Chicago to benefit the Kallari Foundation, Fine Arts Building, Curtiss Hall, 410 S. Michigan Ave., 6-8 p.m ($10 for Slow Food members, $15 for non-members).   Kallari is the world’s only chocolate that is 100% owned by the indigenous cocoa growers and processed at a factory only a few hours from the farms. The Amazon-based chocolatiers will teach attendees about regional chocolate flavor profiles and illustrate the process of chocolate-making from cocoa seedlings to chocolate bars. The eye-opening, sensory-stimulating lecture will help guests distinguish chocolate characteristics, discern roasting techniques and recognize regional origins, all while sampling gourmet chocolates from around the world.   Purchase tickets here.

SAVE THE DATE!

May 7 – Purple Asparagus, Visit with best-selling author of World Without Fish, Mark Kuransky, to discuss the importance of marine conservation and what we do to make sure that we don’t live in a World Without Fish. Special guests include representatives from the Shedd Aquarium who will lead us through an interactive activity to show how interconnected we are with all of the world’s species. Demonstration by Dirk Fucik of Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet who’ll treat us to a delicious dish made with sustainable seafood. Free. Peggy Notebaert Museum, 2430 N. Canon Drive, Chicago. 11 am to 1 pm.

May 19 – Slow Food Chicago, Farm-to-Table Series, Big Jones, Chicago, 5-course menu featuring local farms. $49 includes tax, gratuity, and a $10 donation to Slow Food Chicago. Optional beverage pairings: $25. More information here.

May 25 – Savor the Seasons Tasting Fesivals: Lettuce, Green City Market, Chicago, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. June 7 – Taste the Great Lakes Dinner – Freshwater fish dinner at Dirk’s Fish with Slow Food Chicago. More information here.

August 3 — Outstanding in the Field with Paul Virant of Vie and Bare Knuckle Farm, Northport, MI.  There are a lot of great farm dinners with local farms this summer with Outstanding in the Field, but join The Local Beet in making the trek north for this one, as it promises to be special as anyone who has tasted Bare Knuckle’s pork belly from Duroc Cross hogs can attest.  More information here.




Crowd Sourcing Wonderful Watermelon Recipes

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Posted: April 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Watermelon pasta

Watermelon? you say.

Yes, I know, watermelon are months away from our farm stands and markets. But during last year’s season, I had a lot of it. This may sound like an embarrassment of riches to you (and to me during these cool days of early Spring), however, in September, I was doing whatever I could to avoid throwing away the weekly supply of mottled green orbs I found in my CSA box. Procrastinator that I am, I pureed and froze cups and cups of the stuff.

As I sorted recently through my freezer to make room for the new growing season, I came across my six mason jars filled with coral colored liquid. Now, what to do with it? I brought my question to the crowd.

On Twitter, I relayed my dilemma. I explained that we don’t eat too many desserts, nor do we drink cocktails often. Therefore, sorbet and margarita were off the table.

Two suggestions stood out. From a grower and seller of many watermelon came the idea of jelly. The second was a pasta sauce.

In two days, I’ve depleted my supply and crowd sourced two new magnificent recipes.

Cappelini with Watermelon, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese
Serves 2

2 cups pureed and strained watermelon puree
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 green onions, whites finely chopped, 1 inch of the greens finely sliced
2 tablespoons heavy cream
freshly ground pepper and kosher salt to taste
3 slices prosciutto, thinly sliced
1 ounce goat cheese
1/3 cup pea greens
1/4 pound cappelini

Pour the puree into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the liquid to about 1/3 cup. Strain the reduction into a small bowl. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the cappelini to the pot and cook according to the package. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the whites of the onions and cook until softened. Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute. Whisk in the reduced watermelon juice until the sauce seems slightly viscous and thickened. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta, add the prosciutto and coating all of the strands of the pasta with the sauce. Scoop the sauced pasta onto plates or shallow bowls. Sprinkle on the goat cheese, scallion greens and pea greens. Serve immediately.

watermelon jelly

Watermelon-Basil Jelly

2 cups watermelon puree
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 package liquid pectin
3 basil stems

Whisk the first three ingredients in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the basil stems. Turn the heat to medium high and bring the watermelon to a boil. Cook until the mixture is thickened and reaches 200 F. Remove the basil stems and pour the jelly into hot sterilized jars. Cool to room temperature and store in a dark place until ready to use.




“Morels in May” Annual Mushroom Hunt, May 10 @ Black Star Farms

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Posted: April 27, 2011 at 12:57 pm

If you love morels, but are hesitant to forage for them yourself, then consider driving the five hours to Black Star Farms and attending their annual morel hunt and feast on May 10th. Everyone meets at the Inn at 5 p.m., and starts the search with a seasoned guide. Following the hunt, you’ll meet up at the Inn’s Pegasus Lounge for morel hors d’oeuvres and wine. Then Chef Jonathan Dayton will prepare a special morel dinner with dessert and wine pairings. The cost is $75 per person (plus 18% gratuity and tax).

Black Star started doing these morel hunts about six years ago.  With this year’s late spring, Coryn Briggs of Black Star Farms assures us that they’re pretty sure there will still be some morels left in the woods at the Farm, but if there aren’t, they have their sources. Dinner will be a savory sampling of morel dishes paired with an assortment of wines made by Black Star from grapes grown on the premises. If nothing else, the woods are beautiful at this time of year with trillium and other wildflowers, and wild leeks, in abundance.

If you decide to stay at the Inn, rooms will be available for 20% off.   Please dress for the weather and let Black Star know if you have any dietary restrictions.

Call for more information and reservations. 231.944.1251.




Slow Food, preSERVE and a Nice Boost from Nature Hills Nursery

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Posted: April 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Some of you Beetniks may know that I recently joined the Board of Slow Food Chicago.  I’ve always been impressed with their mission, which combines a good meal with a good cause.  I’ve decided to be more active in that mission.  As I’ve been dipping my toes into SFC business, I’ve been keenly aware of their activities with a community garden in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood.  The garden, done in conjunction with the North Lawndale Greening Committee, the Chicago Honey Co-op, and NeighborSpace, is known as preSERVE.  In fact, I feel a bit sheepish that I have not been more on top of preSERVE’s activities.  Still, a recent bout of good fortune for them, makes me want to catch up in telling you about it.

This week, preSERVE received a big boost towards a more varied and sustainable garden through a generous donation by Nature Hills Nursery.  As First Prize Winner of a Green America Award, preSERVE will receive $1,500 worth of fruit trees and brambles, providing delicious fresh food for the neighborhood, signifying the permanence of the garden, and making it more inviting to the community. 

Let me know give you a bit of background on preSERVE.  Slow Food Chicago believes community gardens play a fundamental role in a vibrant local food system, and they have seen gardens thriving even in the most arid of Chicago’s “food deserts,” including North Lawndale.  Slow Food Chicago teamed with The North Lawndale Greening Committee and The Chicago Honey Co-op who had been active in Lawndale.  North Lawndale Greening Committe ran seventeen gardens, including the African Heritage Garden; while the other partner, the Chicago Honey Co-op keeps bees and an urban garden while providing job training skills to people returning from prison and others who may have difficulty gaining employment.  The Honey Co-op also provides gardening opportunities for volunteers from all over the city.  

Amongst their gardens, they found an empty corner lot, hosting nothing more nutritious than the crumbs in an empty chip bag.  The North Lawndale Greening Committee and NeighborSpace, a nonprofit that acquires and supports the community based management of small parks and gardens in Chicago, worked for years to purchase the vacant lot, which measures over 4,000 square feet and gets full southwestern exposure.  Slow Food Chicago, the Greening Committee, Honey Co-op, and NeighborSpace hatched a plan for this lot that would help address an unmet need: they would grow food: real food that was either unavailable or unrecognizable at the corner markets and fast food chains nearby, on a scale that was not possible in the existing Greening Committee edible gardens.  This would support the larger vision of a sustainable business model that would yield a return for the North Lawndale neighborhood through the eventual creation and sale of traditional value-added products– or “preserves,” like the pickled vegetables “chow-chow.” 

 With a lot of encouragement and support, these partner organizations and a host of volunteers set about spreading compost and creating wood-chip pathways between newly laid rows.  They planted rows of black eyed peas, crowder peas and sweet potatoes.  When they started getting reports from neighbors of stolen peas, the preSERVE team knew that their garden was a success.

preSERVE was founded and is led by a volunteer committee including Jennifer Sandy, Slow Food Chicago Board Member; Bob Pallotta, Slow Food Chicago former Board Member; Michael Thompson, Chicago Honey Co-Op; Dr. Shemuel Israel, North Lawndale Greening Committee; Damien Casten, Candid Wines, and Ben Helphand, NeighborSpace.  The project has over 100 supporters and volunteers who have assisted with everything from building, planting and harvesting the garden, to volunteering at Slow Food Chicago’s Summer Solstice and TomatoFest Fundraisers.   They want you to know more of what they are doing and they are happy for you to lend a hand.  

 

 

 




UPDATED: The WINNER of 2 Tickets for the Growing Home Benefit

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Posted: April 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm

AND THE WINNER IS…

Jen Caputo!

We had two tickets to give away to tonight’s annual Growing Home benefit this Thursday, April 28, at the Chicago Cultural Center, and we asked Beet readers to email and tell us about the local food they’ve had during last week. 

We received a response from Jen Caputo, who is a dedicated locavore that eats, grows and cans her food, as well as drinks local!  In her own words: 

We live in the suburbs so unfortunately the Green City Market is a little far for our daily shopping. We do try to make as much from scratch as we can though and live off our frozen and canned produce from last summer.

This week for breakfast we’ve been enjoying yogurt with peaches frozen last summer along with peach jam (our last jar!) that I canned on homemade sourdough bread (I always keep a starter alive in the fridge). Last night I made salmon cakes (salmon is wild caught in the US but not nearby unfortunately) and I added Chives cut fresh from my garden minutes earlier and parsley that is currently enjoying life under my basement grow lights (started from seed 4 months ago). I made a tartar sauce to go with them by dicing some of the pickles I canned from last summer’s cucumber harvest (also from my garden).  I was lucky enough to start my raised beds and salad boxes early this year so we also were able to harvest mixed greens all week for side salads made of arugula, spinach, mache, minzua, red oak, and speckled lettuces.

We’ve also been nurturing quite the basil forest both in the garden window and under the grow lights so dinner the other night was a homemade sourdough baguette, sun-dried tomatoes (that we dried in our oven from 2010′s backyard tomato harvest), garden window basil, burrata cheese, and a sun-dried tomato powder that we made last fall. Our favorite snack is the aged cheddars that we got up at Widmere’s in Wisconsin. Over Christmas we picked up 5 blocks each of their 2 year, 6 year, 8 year, and 10 year and after giving many out as gifts, we still have plenty to provide us with snacking pleasure!

We also love to drink local! Over the weekend we enjoyed a cocktail made from Koval’s white whiskey and a simple syrup we made from the rosemary we’ve been overwintering in our garden window. All week we’ve been enjoying local beers from Goose Island, Three Floyds and Metropolitan. We’ve also been drinking North Shores’ Aquavit, Koval’s Ginger Liqueur (aka, the best stuff ever!), and experimenting with ways to use Koval’s new orange flower liqueur (it’s pretty sweet). We pick fresh mint from our overwintered indoor plants to spruce up our water and cocktails as well.

To summarize, we eat local by preserving as much as we can, mostly from our own gardens, but also from the farmers markets. Keeping our gardens going year round either by overwintering in the garden windows or growing new under the basement grow lights, and ALWAYS drinking local beer and liquors.
 *   *   *

Congrats, Jen!


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Not the Cookbook Addict I Thought

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Posted: April 25, 2011 at 10:03 am

How closely do you follow the Local Family.  We consist of two Local teens, ever willing to eat apples for month’s on end.  Myself, Dad, the chronicler.  The person who constantly promises to broadcast the eat local revolution, one meal at a time, and then consistently loses the time to do it.  Finally, Mom, who cooks up the bulk of the locavore meals, and if you know one thing about Mom, if nothing else, she likes to refer to a book or two to guide her locavore meals.  Now, a book or two, over the years has morphed into a book or three; I mean a book or three hundred.  OK, my best guess, we own more than three hundred cookbooks.  We live in a bungalow with eight rooms plus two bathrooms.  In each of those eight rooms, you can find cookbooks.  One room, our extra bedroom, our “sun room”, sit piles of books.  You have heard me call my wife, lovingly, the Cookbook Addict.

For ages, I’ve been, mmmm, Cookbook Addict, that would make a good column for the Local Beet.  For one thing, given the size of the cookbook sections at area book stores, I knew more cookbook addicts existed.  For another thing, I knew there may be addicts and there are addicts.  I mean, man did she know about cookbooks.  Help others I pleaded to her.  Share your knowledge.  Occasionally, she gave weak promises.  She would do something.  She never did.  It remained a good idea.

I shared this good idea with Kim Bartko, who I worked with on the 2011 FamilyFarmed Expo.  She thought it a good idea.  She however, had a better idea.  See, she too happened to be a cookbook addict.  She too knew too much about the field.  Unlike my wife, Kim wanted to participate.  The Local Beet now has its Cook Book Addict.  I did not expect anyone else to approach the mania of the addict in the Local Family, but Kim’s already proved to me in a few weeks that she’s quite a crazy gal.

She is a crazy gal, however, more willing to share.  Kim brought all sorts of excellent ideas for cookbook addict posts.  We finally settled on a post on her top ten most essential eat-local cookbooks.  Of course, addict that she is, Kim could not fill a Beet post with all ten.  In her first post for us, she made it through five must have books.  None of the books she highlights is obscure or dated, but Kim makes a strong case for why they should be on your shelves.  Given her addiction, it is only a matter of time until we start getting to the books we’ve barely heard of.  Welcome a new Addict to the family.




Meet the Cookbook Addict and Her Top Ten Essential Eat-Local Cookbooks, Part 1

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Posted: April 25, 2011 at 9:52 am

Editor’s Note: We are pleased to introduce our newest Beetnik, Kim Bartko, the Cookbook Addict. Close readers of this site may know we’ve been promising a cookbook addict series for ages. Still, as Rob explains, the Cookbook Addict we found is not the one we thought we had. We are, however, very happy with the one we got. Enjoy this first episode as Kim whittles her vast collection to a few essential tomes.

cookbooks

Photos by Sharon Hoogstraten

The Cookbook Addict’s Top Ten Essential Eat-Local Cookbooks, Part 1

I cook every day of the week, mostly, but not exclusively vegetable-centric meals for my husband and myself. I’m an intuitive cook—I look to recipes more for inspiration than instruction and rarely follow them to the letter. Nevertheless, I have a serious cookbook habit and a growing collection that exceeds 300 titles. What are the ideas, interests, everyday cooking and eating habits that shaped my growing library? What attracts me to a cookbook? Convinces me I must have one more even though the shelves are bulging and they are stacked in every room of the house?

First and foremost it has to engage and inspire me, respect good ingredients, and teach me smart techniques that make the most of the great local food I buy from farmers markets or grow myself. I enjoy cookbooks that take me deep into a culture or introduce me to new flavors or food pairings. I have a weakness for those big, beautifully designed and photographed coffee table cookbooks but have to admit that I cook more often from the plain-Jane titles in my library. While I don’t have time to waste in the kitchen—Who does?—I’m not interested in cookbooks that tout quick-and-easy at the expense of flavor or the integrity of the food on my table.

Most of the dishes I make are pretty simple, especially during the week—a big pot of soup in cold months; salads and fresh vegetables when the weather warms; poultry, meat, or fish once or twice a week. I like deep, pure flavors and get annoyed by fussy gimmicks or elaborate preparations. We are not really dessert people so I make them only for dinner parties, although we both love a nice piece of fruit at the end of a meal and my daily guilty pleasure is a small square of good dark chocolate. Weekends are devoted to big cooking projects—homemade ricotta, batches of breakfast muffins, a new sausage recipe, handmade pasta, and gallons of chicken stock—all to be incorporated into meals in the coming week or to store in the freezer. My cookbook collection runs the spectrum from the how-to-cook-everything bibles, to explorations of country- or region-specific cuisines, to esoteric single-subject books that challenge me to try, in my home kitchen, something I might ordinarily leave to the pros.

Every few months we host a dinner party for eight or ten people, complete with hors d’oeuvres, first course, main course, cheese plate, and dessert, always paired with wines. More often, we’ll invite a few friends over for a weekend dinner—comforting one-pot braises and gratins in winter and in the summer, something simple on the grill with a few salads from our garden. Depending on what’s in season, I’ll bake a fruit tart or serve a big bowl of sweet cherries or wedges of melon for dessert. I rely on a special cache of cookbooks to help me plan menus, pair wines with food, and compose a cheese plate, plus a few that focus on my kind of desserts—usually fruit-based, not-too-sweet, with pure, clean flavors.

Although hardly orthodox locavores—citrus fruit, avocados, coffee, tea, olive oil and spices appear on our table regularly—most of the food in our household is local and sustainably raised and comes from farmers markets or our garden. We live in a Lincoln Square bungalow on a 35-foot lot and except for a small, weedy rectangle of lawn, our back yard is planted with vegetables, herbs, and berries as it has been since we first moved in fourteen years ago. Over the course of the April–November growing season the two chest freezers in our basement fill with tomatoes, string beans, greens, raspberries and blackberries, and we supplement our harvest with Michigan blueberries and stone fruit. I make jams and pickles, dry hot peppers, freeze herb pastes, and keep apples, pears, winter squash, onions, and garlic from the farmers market on well-aired shelves in the coldest part of the basement. Under heavy row covers, we can harvest sturdy greens like kale, chard, and collards, as well as carrots and leeks, well into December in most years. My current obsession is cookbooks that teach me inventive ways to preserve food. This is the fastest-growing part of my cookbook collection.

Now that you know a little bit about how I cook and eat, I’d like to tell you about the Top 10 Essential Local-Eating Cookbooks in my library. I’ll start with the five cookbooks I use almost every day—one of them seems always to be open on my countertop—and tell you a little about why I use them and give you examples of how I adapt recipes to what I find in my larder or local market. Next post, I’ll follow up with five more essential cookbooks with a more focused purpose—those I rely on to fill my freezer and pantry with preserved food or consult when I entertain friends and family. I’d love to hear from Localbeet readers about your can’t-live-without cookbooks. If I’ve overlooked a really great one, I probably need it on my shelf!

chez panisse veg

1. Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters

For weekday meals this is the book I look to most often for inspiration. I’ve cooked from Alice Waters’ books from my earliest days in the kitchen and if I had to name one cooking mentor, Alice would be it. I own almost all of her books but this one positively bristles with sticky notes marking favorite recipes. Some, like “Eggplant, Tomato, and Onion Gratin” or “Cannellini Beans and Wilted Greens,” I’ve made for friends so many times they’ve become my signature dishes. The recipes are simple in the best possible way—balanced, nuanced, no extraneous flourishes, perfect (and sometimes surprising) flavor combinations—and they’re organized by type of vegetable which is exactly how I think when cooking from my garden or larder. Although Alice has the luxury of Northern California’s mild, four-season climate, only two of the more than forty vegetables cataloged here cannot be grown in Chicago’s food shed (artichokes and avocados) and three more, while not commonly produced in our area, could be cultivated in our climate (cardoons, chickpeas, lentils). Each vegetable is introduced with a short essay about how it’s grown, how it’s used in her restaurant, what we should look for when buying at the farmers market, plus general directions about how to prepare and store it once we’ve brought it home. The recipes that follow are a thoughtfully curated collection that illuminates the range and versatility of each vegetable and makes the most of its distinctive flavor and texture. I’m especially fond of the many recipes for delicious gratins like the rich “Wild Mushroom and Pasta Gratin” and “Potato and Sorrel Gratin”. Served with good bread and a salad I make them often for a satisfying dinner and have leftovers for lunch the next day. An important point to note: while this book celebrates vegetables it is not a vegetarian cookbook. A number of recipes include poultry, meat, or fish and bacon, pancetta, and duck fat are often found in the ingredient list. The book is in itself a beautiful object, illustrated with Patricia Curtan’s exquisite linocut prints it also bears her classic, understated book design. The hardcover edition is wrapped in a matte black jacket that’s as elegant and timeless as a little black dress.

krasner

2. Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat by Deborah Krasner

I am fortunate to live close to Cleetus Friedman’s City Provision Deli, where each week I buy local, sustainably and humanely raised poultry and meat in the small amounts our two-person household consumes. Deborah Krasner’s essential reference taught me how to adapt the techniques I already knew for cooking grain-fed meat to enhance the leaner, firmer texture and deeper, sometimes more mineral flavor that characterizes meat from pastured and grass-fed animals. Krazner’s more than 200 recipes have multicultural roots reaching to Europe, North Africa, South America, and Asia, cultures where butchers traditionally work closely with the small farmers who raise the animals they sell. This is the first book I consulted when planning a whiskers-to-tail dinner of Slagel Farms rabbit I prepared for my wine tasting group. The book is also a terrific reference on sustainable animal husbandry, information we all need to ask smart questions at the farmers market. A list of online sources makes it easy to purchase sustainably raised pastured and grass-fed meat for those who don’t have access to a great farmers market or Cleetus as a neighbor. With its extensive sections detailing beef, lamb, pork, rabbit, and poultry anatomy and the cuts derived from butchering these animals, it’s an indispensible reference for anyone who’s signed up for a meat CSA and finds unfamiliar cuts in the box. For those who take the next step beyond a CSA and purchase a partial animal carcass, Krasner offers sound strategies to determine the amount of meat your household will need over the course of a season and suggests ways to inventory and track what you freeze. She also recommends ways to adapt your usual meal planning when you have a full freezer to mine but you’re accustomed to cooking from the grocery store’s fresh meat case.

hazan

3. Marcella Cucina by Marcella Hazan

The damp-rippled, sauce-spattered, and oil stained pages of my copy testify to the frequent use it gets in my kitchen. A search for “Italian cooking” on Amazon’s site lists more than 5,000 cookbook results (and I own way too many on that list) but this is the Italian cookbook I return to again and again for her elegantly calibrated recipes. Her brilliant “Spinach and Tomato Pasta Sauce, Romagna-Style” is emblematic of the precision, purity, and balance found in regional Italian cooking. She begins by combining surprisingly small amounts of sautéed onion, celery, carrot, and a tiny bit of pancetta, then butter-braises spinach until it collapses into a velvety tangle and finishes the sauce with a single cup of chopped tomatoes—nothing more than impeccable ingredients in perfectly attuned measure. Her command of technique and a deep understanding of its effect on flavor have no better illustration than in two recipes she offers for pasta with zucchini. Each produces simple, clear flavors with a very different character. “Zucchini, Tomato, and Basil Sauce for Pasta” has, she says, “the elemental vegetable garden taste” where garlic is sweetened by gentle simmering in the juices of fresh tomato before shredded zucchini is added in the last five minutes of cooking so it retains its texture. Contrast this with “Zucchini Sauce for Pasta with Tomato, Parsley, and Chili Pepper” where nearly identical ingredients produce an entirely different sauce when the squash is sliced into thin fingers and slowly cooked to tenderness in olive oil “to sweeten and lengthen [its] flavor,” before tomato is added to finish the sauce. Marcella cooks with a profound appreciation for her ingredients that demonstrates a respect for the food and the farmer that I strive to cultivate in my kitchen.

bayless

4. Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless

While in high school my family moved from Pennsylvania to Denver and that’s where I first tasted “mexican” food, a curious amalgam of Tex-Mex and New Mexico cooking styles that relied on canned chilies, cheese-heavy enchiladas, and leaden sopapillas. It didn’t hold much interest for me. Years later, when I dined at Frontera Grill soon after it opened, I was astonished by the first fresh, vibrant mouthful and fell in love with authentic regional Mexican food in that moment. Rick Bayless has earned his locavore credentials with the commitment to growing food for his restaurants, his early support for the Green City Market, and by investing in local farms through the Frontera Farmer Foundation. I’m a better cook and gardener because of what I learned eating at his restaurants, cooking from his books, and visiting his Bucktown garden (through a tour offered by Bill Shores, Frontera’s gardener). Following Rick’s example, we grow purple streaked heirloom tomatillos, meaty poblanos, jalapeños, and serranos to enjoy in fresh salsas throughout the summer. At season’s end, we grill tomatillos over wood charcoal to freeze for cooked salsas, like the “Essential Roasted Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa” we use to sauce enchiladas stuffed with chard from our garden and farmers market butternut squash. We do the same with poblano peppers, blistering them over a wood fire and dropping them, unpeeled, into freezer containers to pull out, a few at a time, for a staple of our winter weeknight menu, “Tacos of Creamy Braised Chard, Potatoes, and Poblanos.” I love to make a big pot of his “Oaxacan Black Bean Soup” with Three Sisters Farm dried black beans seasoned with the homemade chipotle peppers we make by cold-smoking red-ripe jalapeños and covering them with garden tomato sauce to store in the freezer. It’s a perfect cold weather supper with cornbread made from Three Sisters cornmeal. Still celebrating my recent successful adventure into home cheese making, I can’t wait to make another creamy batch of ricotta for Rick’s “Herby Ricotta-Poblano Tacos.” The spectrum of flavors in my everyday cooking is amplified by Rick’s inspiration and that’s exactly what a great cookbook should do.

zuni

5. Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers

I love Judy Rodgers’ thoughtful, evocative writing. Even if I couldn’t find a single recipe I was dying to try within its pages (it’s hard to find one I’m not swooning over) her opening essay “What to Think About Before You Start & While You Are Cooking” is reason enough to put this book on my “Essentials” list. “Cookbooks will give you ideas,” she writes, “but the market will give you dinner—study your market at least as avidly as your library.” Judy Rodgers manages, in every one of her recipes to imbue rustic flavors and textures with a quiet refinement. With her meticulous palate and restrained sensibility, she has an uncanny ability to make even “Boiled Kale, Four Ways” seem sexy that sends me rushing to the kitchen to pull out a sauté pan. As a teenager she apprenticed in the three-star kitchen of the world-renowned Troisgros brothers’ restaurant in southwest France, where she absorbed the flavors, techniques, and seasonal rhythms rooted in this still very rural region. This is the France of small farms, duck fat, goose liver, plum orchards, rough red wine, and Armagnac. She learned to salt meat and fish days ahead of time to produce deep flavor and succulent texture; to pickle the grapes, prunes, and cherries that accompany rustic charcuterie from the region where snout-to-tail eating was born; and most important, she developed the habit of tasting, encouraged always by her mentors to taste, season, taste, think, taste again. This careful observation and attunement to raw ingredients permeates her recipes with a finesse that transformed my thinking in the kitchen. I am a convert to “The Practice of Salting Early”, have learned to brighten a lackluster sauce with a few drops of vinegar or vermouth, and can now produce a silky pan reduction by gently swirling the pan instead of stirring. “Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad” made with a Gunthorpe chicken from City Provisions is our Sunday supper in most weeks. Judy’s roasting method is flawless, producing a crisp-skinned, moist, and flavorful bird that sits atop a salad of bitter greens slicked with garlicky dressing, punctuated with the occasional sweet dried currant and crusty shards of peasant bread that absorb the bird’s juicy drippings. A subtly seasoned “Rabbit Sausage,” its tender texture the result of a cream-soaked bread crumb panade, was a highlight of the charcuterie plate I served at a recent dinner party. Her recipe for “Basic Rich Tart Dough & Two Variations” is the only one I use now. The text runs on for six pages, not because there is anything inherently complex about the process, but because she details years of carefully observed experience in a two-page introduction, then provides guidelines and adaptations that accommodate multiple methods of forming the tart and the variable characteristics of tart fillings. From any other writer, this level of detail might send me screaming from the kitchen. Instead, I am enthralled.

Up next: Five More Essential Local-Eating Cookbooks I rely on for preserving and entertaining.

kim the addict

Kim Bartko is a writer, graphic designer, and shameless cookbook addict. It might have been a love of letters, cooking, and gardening that inspired her career as an editor and designer of books on gardening and cooking. Or maybe her day job fueled the passion for writing, stirring pots, and tending a vegetable patch. Regardless, she spends much of her time thinking, reading, and writing about food. Her blog, The Cookbook Addict, is a delicious nexus of insight, opinion, and cooking experiences that affirms why all of us really do need one more cookbook.




Not to Late for an Eggsellent Time at Green City Market with This Local Calendar

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Posted: April 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Did the last Local Calendar predict snow?  Was your first thought, like mine, when you saw the white, what about the pear trees.  Still, it’s hard to think ahead to fall fruit when the fields barely deliver any Spring fare.  The ability of Mother Nature to sprinkle some April snow on us just adds to our eat local frustrations.  Of course, we cannot have any local food yet.

Or can we.  The best of the local food coming in late April comes not from the storage sheds and not from hard fields but from the cozy hoop houses.  For farmers deep in plastic, this season produces bountiful crops of cold weather beauties.  Most of this food, however, goes to restaurants or CSA customers.  If you are a market shopper you may still feel frustrated.  We are hoping, however, to see enough on Saturday at Green City Market.  See below for our best guesses as to what’s in season now.

WHAT TO BUY NOW

You can find three types of items in season now in the Chicago area.  First, see  the first Spring  crops: radishes, watercress, ramps, sorrel, fiddle-head ferns, nettles, green onions, and green garlic.   Second, there is a robust crop of  indoor vegetables: lettuces, spinach, micro-greens, mushroomsherbs, rocket,  carrots, turnips and beets.  Finally, there’s what’s left in storage crops: onions, potatoes, celery root, beets and apples.

Do continue to resist the tyranny of the fresh for a few more weeks.  We expect you can find frozen and dried fruits from Seedlings at various markets.  Tomato Mountain does all sorts of things with its Wisconsin tomatoes, not just salsas; I love the pickles made by River Valley Kitchen.  The Downtown Farmstand sells Three Sisters Garden dried beans.  Use the local.

WHAT TO BUY SOON (OR LOOK KEENLY)

Asparagus!  

WHERE TO FIND LOCAL FOODS

These stores specialize in local foods:

It’s open! Eat locally butchered meat at the Butcher and the Larder.

C&D Pastured Pork’s sales around town.

New! We learned of an Indiana farm growing lettuces, basil and rocket (a/k/a arugula) indoors called Eden Farms.  They sell mostly now in Indiana, but they also sell to the Sunset Foods stores on the North Shore. 

We are still seeing Michigan apples at Caputo’s.  We’ve also espied storage beets from Midwestern farms there.

WHAT TO DO NOW

Saturday - April 23

Chicago – Green City Market – 8 AM – 1 PM – Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Geneva – Geneva Community Market – Inglenook Pantry – 11 N. 5th Street, Geneva – 9 AM – 1 PM

Grayslake – Spring Farmer’s Market – Downtown Grayslake – 10 AM – 2 PM

Wednesday – April 27

Chicago – Soup and Bread at the Hideout benefiting local food pantries – 1354 W. Wabansia, Chicago – 530 PM – 730 PM

SAVE THE DATE!

June 7 – Taste the Great Lakes – Freshwater fish dinner at Dirks with Slow Food Chicago




To Market with Mo: a Rampstand, but of course…

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Posted: April 22, 2011 at 11:12 am

Boquet lowOkay, unlike what seems like EVERYONE, this month, I am not really on the OMG ramps, ramps, ramps I must have NOW bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong, I love their ushering in of Spring, love there oniony-garlicky flavor, but quite frankly they are so thirty-plus years ago for me. Been there, done that, all at the ripe ole age of nine. Oh so ahead my time.

After moving to the midwest in the early 70′s (Hinsdale, IL to be exact) I found myself a new BBF, Kim. Well, said BBF and I were playing outside (cuz yeah, back then that is what you did, no inside on the Wii or PC for us) in the woods behind her house (which was technically Oak Brook: tip off for you foragers out there, then again guessing development over the years has wiped out the ramps) we came upon an absolute SEA of ramps or what our nine year old selves called wild onions (I mean who was on the ‘ramp’ trend back then?).

I have no idea what went off in ours heads that we both thought, hey we can sell these! Forget lemonade, that is so ‘done’, no one is selling wild onions. We furiously picked mounds of them (god we must of stunk to high hell), set up a stand at the end of the driveway. Bring on the buyers, we are so going to make our fortune. Genius! Smartest. Kids. On. The. Block. Well in the early 70′s? No. So. Much. Not one sale. We couldn’t understand it. Like I said, ahead of our time. If we had set up that same stand today we would be golden, buzzed about in the the food blogosphere or featured on the on Food Network as the youngest food entrepreneurs…

Now after all that ramp-reminiscing I am craving the stinky little weed.  Do like them pickled, or roasted, but on a cold wet day it’s in a cozy comfy pasta dish that I am a hankering for. I am hoping that the Pasta Puttana has her ramp pasta at Green City tomorrow (had some last year and it is oh so good) but meanwhile I want some pasta today. And thanks to my friend Bernie (she who has provided the gorgeous pictures on this post – this gal can shoot food!) for turning me onto this quick ramp pasta recipe from epicurious.com.

Spaghetti with Ramps (serves 4)

  • 1/2 pound ramps
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
Directions
Trim roots from ramps and slip off outer skin on bulbs if loose.
Blanch ramps in a 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, 2 to 3 seconds, and transfer to a cutting board with tongs.
Coarsely chop ramps and put in a blender with zest and oil.
Add spaghetti to boiling water and cook a few minutes, then ladle out 1/2 cup pasta water and add to blender.
Purée ramps until smooth and season with salt.
Continue to cook spaghetti until al dente, then ladle out about 1 cup additional pasta water before draining spaghetti in a colander.
Return pasta to pot with ramp purée and toss with parmesan over moderate heat 1 to 2 minutes, thinning sauce with a little pasta water as needed to coat pasta.
p.s. photo credit to Bernadine Rolnicki, food photographer extraordinaire

2 Comments



PREVIEWING THE 2010 VINTAGE: LEELANAU PENINSULA WINE

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Posted: April 21, 2011 at 11:19 am

Image:  www.leelanau.com/ © 2002 leelanau communications, inc.

Image: www.leelanau.com/ © 2002 leelanau communications, inc.

April has once again been designated as Michigan Wine Month by the Governor of Michigan. As I have written before, wine has been a steady growth industry of late for Michigan. New wineries are opening every year, though, truth be told, some wineries are way ahead of the pack. It will be interesting to see how quickly the new wineries assimilate into this pack; I think some Michigan wineries still struggle in striking a balance between making sweeter-style wine to suit more occasional wine drinkers, and making wine with more nuance and complexity to suit the more experienced oenophile. However, as the second most diverse agricultural state, and a leading grower of fruit, it should be natural for this state to develop a winemaking industry, and I don’t just say that as a wine-lover.

One area that is ahead of the pack is the Leelanau Peninsula in Northwestern Michigan. Last weekend, the Leelanau Peninsula Vintner’s Association (Twitter: @lpwines) invited a group of people who regularly write, talk about, or otherwise imbibe local wine to gather and discuss this burgeoning local industry. The main purpose of the event, though, was to try the much-anticipated 2010 vintage. Why is 2010 so anticipated? The weather during the growing season was relatively warm, which means that the wine had enough time to fully ripen on the vine, an issue for any winemaking in a colder climate.

I had the chance to spend a good deal of time barrel tasting the 2010s at Bel Lago winery, one of the best wineries in the region. As the name suggests, Bel Lago winery is located high above the beautiful Lake Leelanau.  The winery attracts people interested in trying their unique bottling of a 100% Auxerrois, normally a blending grape in Alsatian whites. They also produce many other wines, particular standouts include a fantastic Pinot Grigio (though more in the style of Pinot Gris), Gewürztraminer, and a sparkling Brut Rosé, made in the méthode champenoise, which was delicate-as-a-spring-flower on the palate, but packed with a dry, lingering finish.

Bucking the Riesling and white wine trend so pervasive in Northern Michigan, Bel Lago produces a signature red, called “Tempesta,” which is a blend of 45% Cabernet Franc, 22% Regent (a hybrid grape), 13% Lemberger, with the balance being comprised of several other varieties. I was pleasantly surprised by this red (normally, I’m a little selective about the reds being produced in Michigan). It had such ripe fruit and complex flavors, I think it would change most people’s minds about whether it’s possible for Michigan to produce complex reds that could eventually rival those from Washington and Oregon.

I had the chance to talk with Bel Lago’s winemaker, Charlie Edson, a knowledgeable and passionate winemaker who has been plying his trade since he started experimenting by making wine in carboys decades ago. After winemaking professionally for over twenty years in the region, it would be an understatement to say that he’s familiar with the tempestuousness of Michigan seasons; although Edson did not say this, it seems as if Tempesta was named for the region’s weather (n.b. it was snowing last weekend). Edson produces Tempesta only during the years when the fruit is the ripest, which means that it has been produced recently during the years ’02, ’05, and ’07, and is currently in barrels for the ’10 season. I tasted some straight from the barrel, and a few sips demonstrates the potential for full, ripe cherry fruit, complex spices, tobacco, minerals, and cocoa, balanced by restrained acidity, even though the wine has approximately ten more months in the barrel.

I’ve long been a fan of Black Star Farms and its winemaker, Lee Lutes. I didn’t have the opportunity to try all the 2010 wines (some other time, hopefully), but I did taste the 2010 Pinot Gris, one of my favorite Black Star wines. Having had the ’09 Pinot Gris, the difference between it and the ’10 vintage was stunning. As 2010 was blessed with plenty of hot, sunny days, 2009 was damned with just as many cold, rainy ones. As many ’09s from Michigan tended to have a thinner finish and more acidity, the ’10 Pinot Gris by Black Star Farms showed the season’s potential: For the first time in a long time, I could taste fuller fruit, and a longer finish.

Finally, it wasn’t all wine last weekend: I was lucky to have the opportunity to taste two of Nikki Rothwell and Dan Young’s Tandem hard ciders, labeled as “Farmhouse” and “Crabster.” The couple have been making hard cider for a few years (and the ciders’ insignia is aptly emblazoned with a tandem bicycle, a nod to the couple’s hobby). Even the British-style Farmhouse, made from a variety of dessert apples grown on the Leelanau, is more like wine in its lightness and complexity, whereas the Crabster is more continental in style, and has more complexity, grace and tartness than the usual hard ciders, which differ from their juicy, non-fermented cousins only by the presence of alcohol. Nikki and Dan discussed their plans to plant European apple varieties that are not necessarily for eating, but grown specifically for making hard cider. I look forward to learning more about what they bottle in the future.




How Will You Market with This Spring Local Calendar

By
Posted: April 14, 2011 at 5:00 pm

We really could repeat, repeat, repeat our Spring rants with each April Local Calendar.  The story mostly remains the same.  Where can we get actual local food.  Now.  See, there is food in the Spring.  In the Upper Midwest.  Let’s say you happened to find yourself in Madison, Wisconsin this weekend (and God, we wished that’s where we could find ourselves).  You would find a market full with products.  There would be a bit of cold storage.  Those very last celery roots and sunchokes and burdock roots save for the most committed to local eating.  There would also be the fresh, the new, the recent: ramps and morels and sorrel and nettles and watercress and various other short season items.  And there remains products coaxed forward by farmers with the foresight, for instance, to leave carrots or parsnips in the ground for a spring crop, or others using hoop house low tech to get spinach and rocket and lettuces to a market in April. 

Want to schlep, but not all the way to Madison?  The Grayslake market started on April 2.  Here’s a list of their Spring vendors.  We know that one of the vendors, Geneva Lakes Produce, has a robust indoor production, so you might be pleasantly surprised with the produce available now.

WHAT TO BUY NOW

You just might start seeing  the first Spring  crops: radishes, watercress, ramps, sorrel, fiddle-head ferns, nettles, and green garlic.  There may probably be more  indoor grown vegetables: lettuces, spinach, micro-greens, mushrooms, cucumbers, herbs, rocket even turnips and beets if you have a good CSA;  whats left in storage crops will be onions, potatoes, celery root, beets and apples.

Do continue to resist the tyranny of the fresh.  We expect you can find frozen and dried fruits from Seedlings at various markets.  Tomato Mountain does all sorts of things with its Wisconsin tomatoes, not just salsas; I love the pickles made by River Valley Kitchen.  The Downtown Farmstand sells Three Sisters Garden dried beans.  Use the local.

WHAT TO BUY SOON (OR LOOK KEENLY)

Asparagus!  Green Onions

WHERE TO FIND LOCAL FOODS

These stores specialize in local foods:

It’s open! Eat locally butchered meat at the Butcher and the Larder.

C&D Pastured Pork’s sales around town.

New! We learned of an Indiana farm growing lettuces, basil and rocket (a/k/a arugula) indoors called Eden Farms.  They sell mostly now in Indiana, but they also sell to the Sunset Foods stores on the North Shore. 

We are still seeing Michigan apples at Caputo’s.  We’ve also espied storage beets from Midwestern farms.

WHAT TO DO NOW

Saturday - April 16

Geneva – Geneva Community Market – Inglenook Pantry – 11 N. 5th Street, Geneva – 9 AM – 1 PM

Grayslake – Spring Farmer’s Market – Downtown Grayslake – 10 AM – 2 PM

Green Metropolis FairMindful Metropolis and the Green Parent’s Network deliver a day focused on celebrating Spring, wellness and sustainable living.  Free entry! (non-perishable food donation requested).  Presentations on car-sharing, gardening, composting, CSAs, and more. Irish American Heritage Center - 4626 N. Knox, Chicago IL – 10 AM – 4 PM

Sunday – April 17

Slow Food Chicago Book Club – Come discuss a History of the World in 6 Glasses – First Slice Cafe – 4401 N. Ravenswood, Chicago – 2 PM – See the Slow Food Chicago calendar for additional details.

Monday – April 18

Our friend Jon-David, the Mafia Hairdresser, made us aware of  GREEN CHICAGO @ Joseph Michael’s Salon & Spa..
GREEN CHICAGO is an Earthday Celebration where “Social Media Royalty meet Chicagoland Green Groups” to mingle, have fun & learn about each other. Your ticket includes munchies, fabulous beverages & a special “Mafia-Mojito” made by jon-david.  Pepsi Refresh Challenge winner, Alicia Ontiveros, will be screening a portion of Meet the Gulf, her documentary about the people in the Gulf of Mexico affected by the BP Oil Spill.  All ticket and raffle purchasers go into weekly raffles leading up to the event and 1 lucky Ticket Event attendee will win a Hair Make-Over at Joseph Michael’s Salon & Spa.  Mother Nature herself will be your special guest ambassador and show you how a salon can turn into a GREEN CHICAGO tradeshow and how a spa can turn into a screening room.  At this event green-guy/writer/hairdresser jon-david will be launching & signing his book, Mafia Hairdresser, and all proceeds will go to Climate Cycle, the May 22nd Chicago fun bike ride which put solar power in Chicago schools. You will also be able to sign up for Climate Cycle. Pre-Purchase your book and pick it up at Green Chicago, 1313 Ritchie Ct. anytime after March 31.  TICKETS now on sale VIA EVENTBRITE .  See also the Mafia Hairdresser site for more information.

Wednesday – April 20

Chicago – Soup and Bread at the Hideout benefiting local food pantries – 1354 W. Wabansia, Chicago – 530 PM – 730 PM

WHAT TO DO SOON

April 23 - Chicago – Green City Market – 8 AM – 1 PM – Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

April 30 – GreenNet’s 19th Annual Green & Growing Urban Gardening Fair – Garfield Park, Chicago

SAVE THE DATE!

June 7 – Taste the Great Lakes – Freshwater fish dinner at Dirks with Slow Food Chicago


2 Comments



’tis Rhubarb time…almost

By
Posted: April 13, 2011 at 10:38 am

S4010218Oh, oh, oh so excited. Just noticed in my garden this past week that the rhubarb is pushing thru. Sigh of relief, Spring is officially here. Thanks you rhubarb for providing the validation.


I do have a confession: I HATED rhubarb as a kid.  As much as I loved pie (and sweets of all kinds for that matter) I couldn’t get past where I had to harvest the rhubarb: a large manure pile behind the barn. To think I would actually want to consume something that came from a manure pile – NOT.  I didn’t care how incredible my mom’s pie was, and that strawberries were involved, the suspect rhubarb stopped any bite of pie from entering my mouth.  And trust me, I was not a picky eater as a child…or now for that matter.

 

A gift of rhubarb plants for my garden from my father-in-law years ago, helped me get past my aversion, and gave the stalks a try. Besides asparagus, rhubarb is another indicator to me that a long winter is behind us, and the world around will be shades of new green and the days will be warmer and longer.S4010169

 

“Pie Plant” as rhubarb is affectionately known, is botanically a vegetable but ‘swings both ways’ as fruit & veg and has edible stalks that vary in color from green to deep red. Believe it or not the green stalked have a more robust flavor….red just happened to become more popular thru the years…prettier I suppose.

 

Most popular in pie, a cobbler or crisp, stewed, or as jam, rhubarb stands up well to savory sides, salads and main course dishes.  I cannot wait for the first stalks of rhubarb to arrive at the Farmers Market so that I can chop it up, put it in a pot with equal parts sugar, a few dashes of cinnamon, ginger and a sprinkle of water to cook it down until it is nice and jammy.  Great on toast and I must say even better on vanilla ice cream.  But after a conversation with Joel from Green Acres, at Green City Market I been inspired to go savory.  The following recipe is the result.

Rhubarb Shallot VinaigretteS4010208-723376

 

2-3 medium stalks of rhubarb

1 tablespoon sugar

olive oil to coat

1 1/2 tablespoons minced young shallots

1/3 cup white wine vinegar (nb: if you run out of white wine vinegar the flat champagne that you forgot about in the back of the fridge stands in remarkably)

1/2 cup olive oil

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut rhubarb into 1 inch pieces.  Coat with olive oil and sugar.  Place on baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes or until soft.

 

Put rhubarb (be sure to scrape all the yummy caramelized bits off the baking sheet as well) in food processor or blender. Puree the rhubarb.  Add shallots, vinegar, salt and pepper and blend together.  Slowly stream in the olive oil. Viola, vinaigrette.

*Drizzle on a perfect head of butter lettuce from Iron Creek Farm for a simple salad.  Or try the salad I made for lunch today: Thinly sliced raw asparagus, french breakfast radishes (from Green Acres), leftover roasted heirloom potatoes (from Nichols Farm), diced shallots or green onion, salt & pepper to taste, tossed with the Rhubarb Shallot Vinaigrette and topped with some roasted chicken and garnished with radish sprouts (from Tiny Greens).

**We should see rhubarb appearing at the markets in the next couple of weeks and FOR sure when outdoor Farmers Market season officially kicks off the first week in May.






Will You Be Less Frustrated with This Local Calendar?

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Posted: April 8, 2011 at 9:00 am

In last week’s Local Calendar, we expressed full on frustration with Spring eating in Chicago.  Our frustrations stem from the  triple whammy: late growing season; what is growing now has  little ability to reach our markets, with hardly any markets during the Spring, and third our winter stores are about about gone.  It is not for nothing that early Spring is known as the Hungry Season.   We find Spring frustrating.  The locavore question, though, will we find this week as frustrating?

This weekend features farmer’s markets.  The Winter Market in Beverly (Chicago) associated with Faith in Place on Saturday promises some fresh produce including spinach, kale and carrots.  Green City Market themes this week’s market “Greens, Eggs and Ham.”  We hope that means there will be some things green for sale.  Green City should have some indoor grown crops and some storage crops to put a little dent in your Spring frustrations.

If nothing else, if you have the money and the time, Chef Paul Virant can meet your needs at Vie with this dinner  on the 13th featuring an array of ramp dishes.

With very limited offerings around Chicago, we encourage you to explore our region.  There is no greater bounty of local food than at the Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison, Wisconsin.  Even this time of year, you will find a mix of indoor grown vegetables and stored items.  Then, when the market goes outdoors on April 16, you will find a wide selection of what Spring an actually offer in the Upper Midwest.  In fact, we that while a trip to Madison will satisfy your shopping needs, it will only increase your frustrations because something like that does not exist in Chicago.

WHAT TO BUY NOW

This is the barest time of year on the Local Calendar.  If you don’t have your own stores of food look for indoor grown vegetables:like lettuces, spinach, micro-greens, mushrooms, cucumbers, herbs, rocket; maybe you will find some  root vegetables : beets, carrots, celery root, sunchokes, while there should still be storage crops like onions, potatoes and apples.

Do continue to resist the tyranny of the fresh.  We expect you can find frozen and dried fruits from Seedlings at various markets.  Tomato Mountain does all sorts of things with its Wisconsin tomatoes, not just salsas; I love the pickles made by River Valley Kitchen.  The Downtown Farmstand sells Three Sisters Garden dried beans.  Use the local.

WHAT TO BUY SOON (OR LOOK KEENLY)

It’s about time for the first things ofspring: watercress, ramps, sorrel, fiddle-head ferns, nettles, and green garlic.    In addition, you may find farmers producing cold hearty root vegetables in their hoop houses; those in Spring CSAs, especially, may soon see turnips, beets, and radishes.  Let us know when you start seeing these products.

WHERE TO FIND LOCAL FOODS

These stores specialize in local foods:

It’s open! Eat locally butchered meat at the Butcher and the Larder.

C&D Pastured Pork’s sales around town.

New! We learned of an Indiana farm growing lettuces, basil and rocket (a/k/a arugula) indoors called Eden Farms.  They sell mostly now in Indiana, but they also sell to the Sunset Foods stores on the North Shore. 

Your local grocery may not be carrying living waters lettuces, but look around for what they may have local.  You can almost for sure find local apples and potatoes, maybe onions at various grocery stores. A recent visit to Angelo Caputo’s in Elmwood Park found a whole new rush of Michigan apples, including varieties not seen earlier this winter like empire and gala.

WHAT TO DO NOW

Saturday - April 9

Geneva – Geneva Community Market – Inglenook Pantry – 11 N. 5th Street, Geneva – 9 AM – 1 PM

Chicago – Winter market associated with Faith in Place at Beverly Unitarian Church-  12 PM – 3 PM

Chicago – Green City Market – Theme:– 8 AM – 1 PM – Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – The Local Beet’s Sustainable Cook, Melissa Graham gives a demonstration at 10 AM.

Chicago – Screening of the movie Lunch Line – 1030 AM  – Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Chicago – Become a Backyard Orchardist – See our previous post here for details  and go here for tickets – 1 PM – 5 PM – Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Sunday – April 3

Monthly Glenwood Farmer’s Market, Winter Market – 6956-58 N. Glenwood, Chicago – 9AM – 1 PM

Wednesday – April 13

Chicago – Soup and Bread at the Hideout benefiting local food pantries – 1354 W. Wabansia, Chicago – 530 PM – 730 PM

WHAT TO DO SOON

April 16 – Green Metropolis FairMindful Metropolis and the Green Parent’s Network deliver a day focused on celebrating Spring, wellness and sustainable living.  Free entry! (non-perishable food donation requested).  Presentations on car-sharing, gardening, composting, CSAs, and more. Irish American Heritage Center - 4626 N. Knox, Chicago IL – 10 AM – 4 PM

April 17  – Slow Food Chicago Book Club – Come discuss a History of the World in 6 Glasses – First Slice Cafe – 4401 N. Ravenswood, Chicago – 2 PM – See the Slow Food Chicago calendar for additional details.

April 18 - Our friend Jon-David, the Mafia Hairdresser, made us aware of  GREEN CHICAGO @ Joseph Michael’s Salon & Spa..
GREEN CHICAGO is an Earthday Celebration where “Social Media Royalty meet Chicagoland Green Groups” to mingle, have fun & learn about each other. Your ticket includes munchies, fabulous beverages & a special “Mafia-Mojito” made by jon-david.  Pepsi Refresh Challenge winner, Alicia Ontiveros, will be screening a portion of Meet the Gulf, her documentary about the people in the Gulf of Mexico affected by the BP Oil Spill.  All ticket and raffle purchasers go into weekly raffles leading up to the event and 1 lucky Ticket Event attendee will win a Hair Make-Over at Joseph Michael’s Salon & Spa.  Mother Nature herself will be your special guest ambassador and show you how a salon can turn into a GREEN CHICAGO tradeshow and how a spa can turn into a screening room.  At this event green-guy/writer/hairdresser jon-david will be launching & signing his book, Mafia Hairdresser, and all proceeds will go to Climate Cycle, the May 22nd Chicago fun bike ride which put solar power in Chicago schools. You will also be able to sign up for Climate Cycle. Pre-Purchase your book and pick it up at Green Chicago, 1313 Ritchie Ct. anytime after March 31.  TICKETS now on sale VIA EVENTBRITE .  See also the Mafia Hairdresser site for more information.

April 30 – GreenNet’s 19th Annual Green & Growing Urban Gardening Fair – Garfield Park, Chicago


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Choosing The CSA That’s Right For You

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Posted: April 8, 2011 at 7:42 am

Iron Creek CSA, Week 9
Photo Courtesy of Roderick Gedey

Subscribing to a CSA (short for “Community Supported Agriculture”) is a worthy endeavor:  Subscribers pay a farm upfront for a “share” in the farm’s future bounty.  In return, subscribers will generally receive a box (or bag) of produce every week from June to October.  If you subscribe to a Meat CSA, you will generally receive a pre-determined amount of meat per month. 

Choice is good, but sometimes too much choice is just overwhelming.  The Local Beet’s fully searchable CSA Guide for 2011 includes over eighty—yes, eighty — farms.  But we’re here to help you whittle that list down to a manageable few options — with the help of suggestions from experienced CSA subscribers. 

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What are some of the factors you should consider when deciding on a CSA? 

 

# 1:  Meat or Vegetables?

 

Decide whether you’d like a meat or vegetable CSA — or both.  If you’d like both, and would like it from the same farm, Broad Branch Farm, Grass Is Greener Gardens, and Harvest Moon Organics offer shares of both vegetables and meat (typically, beef, poultry, and pork, and sometimes lamb, goat or veal).  Bumblebee Acres, Green Earth Farm, Midnight Sun Organics, and New Traditions Farm offer both produce and poultry shares, but not other kinds of meat.  (Walkup Heritage Farm may also make arrangements with its subscribers to its poultry and egg CSAs for a produce share.)  Other meat CSAs offer product that is incredibly varied, from pasture- and forest-raised pork to Angus beef, and they include Liberty Family Farm, Mint Creek Farm, Marr’s Valley/Country Haven Farms, C&D Family Farms, Cedar Valley, Trail’s End and Walnut Acres. 

 

Bonnie Tawse subscribed to a 3-month meat CSA with C&D Family Farms.  She said:  “Crystal raises pigs but she’s in a co-op, so the monthly share includes pork, chicken, beef and eggs.  I can’t say enough positive things about the quality of the meats.  The bacon is somewhat legendary, and has earned Crystal the nickname “The Bacon Lady . . . I was so happy with the first three months that we just signed up for 3 more.  Yes, it costs more . . . but I am so happy . . . knowing I’m feeding my family meat that was raised humanely.”  Tom Perrin agrees, and says that “not only is this meat raised humanely but it tastes way better than our grocery-store meat. . . [a]nd yes, the bacon is legendary.”  Oda says that C&D’s monthly portion is “plenty, with different varieties of meat (plus eggs) and all the stuff [they] have tried so far tastes fantastic!”  Frank has been sourcing his pork and chicken from C&D for over two years, and says, “We had a chance to visit Crystal and Dan’s farm in Knox, Indiana in May of last year, and if one thing became clear is that Dan and Crystal truly love (taking care of) animals.  All animals had plenty of space to roam, yet had covered shelter for the moments they needed it.”  Akeya is also pleased with their CSA, and will be rejoining for another 3 months.

 

Erica Smith subscribed to Cedar Valley Farm and says that “in addition to providing great quality meat, it has the BEST eggs around!”

 

# 2:  Location

 

Apart from price, this is probably the second greatest consideration when looking for a produce CSA.  I’d start by searching our guide for locations near you by entering the names of nearby towns or Chicago neighborhoods in the search box.  Alternatively, you could search for a CSA with drop sites near your workplace – some will even deliver to the Loop.  In each location, you may have several options.  So you may need to narrow it down further.

 

# 3:  Certified Organic or not?

 

Does it matter if the produce is certified organic, as opposed to being farmed using organic practices that are not certified by a third-party?  Many local farms operate sustainably but choose, for a variety of reasons, not to go through the process of becoming certified organic.  However, we recognize that whether a CSA is “certified organic” or not is a priority for many people.  The best way to find CSAs offering product that is “certified organic” is to enter those words in the search box of our CSA Guide, and it will sort the farms offering only certified organic products. 

 

Kate said that “[w]e tried Angelic Organics when we moved [to Chicago] in 2008.  It was great and the variety and amounts were good but we were really looking for a third party Certified Organic CSA.  We felt pretty comfortable with [Angelic Organic]’s farming practices but the certification was an important factor for us.  We joined Harvest Moon in 2009 and have been really pleased.  We like the variety and feel the full share is more than enough for our family of 4…[o]ur pick up spot is great, too (Lush Wine store), [as] they usually have some recommended wines for the week’s share contents…”  On the other hand, Emily was not as satisfied with her 2010 Harvest Moon winter and summer share, as it seemed that they “expanded to too many shareholders too fast,” and that they “certainly did not receive the range of crops that were promised to [them], some of the vegetables were not of good quality, and [they] often received such a small portion of produce that there was nothing they could do with it, like a handful of ground cherries.”  Liz Barrett, however, loves the quality and variety of her CSA with Harvest Moon, which allowed her to try new things like chard, ground cherries, and garlic scapes.  She also subscribed to their Winter CSA, and was happy with the dried beans, popcorn, squash and “huge” sweet potatoes that she received.  Maureen Reilly agrees, and likes their “well-run program.”

 

# 4:  Share Size

 

How much produce would you like to receive?  Many people in small households hesitate to subscribe to a CSA because the standard size weekly box– usually 3/4 bushel — is more than enough for two primarily vegetable-eating adults per week.  (Savvy, experienced CSAers will preserve, freeze or store any excess produce.)  But, if you’re a single household, eat out often, or eat a lot of meat, the 3/4 bushel box is probably too much (if you don’t want to preserve).  The solution:  Find a CSA with smaller shares, or one that delivers a share to you every other week.  Some CSAs with smaller shares are Big Head Farm, Fair Share, Fat Blossom, Four Friends Farm, Linda’s Organical Farm, M’s Organic Farm, Majestic Nursery & Farm, Midnight Sun Organics, Mike & Clare’s, Peasant’s Plot, Ready Jam Farms, Simply Wisconsin, Sweet Earth Organic Farm, Tomato Mountain, and Zanjabil Gardens.  Or, you could enroll with farms that permit you to order on a week-to-week basis, such as Esther’s Place/Lamb of God, Farmer Tom’s, Growing Power, Irv’s & Shelly’s Fresh Picks, New Leaf Grocery, Tom’s Acres, or Village Organics.   

# 5:  CSAs that grow the food v. aggregators

 

Is it important to you that the farm grow the produce it includes in the CSA box?  Some “non-traditional” CSAs are “aggregators,” meaning that they do not actually produce the food in the box, but rather, collect it from various, preferred sources. 

 

If you do not mind that your CSA is “non-traditional,” then Simply Wisconsin and Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks are two such “aggregators” that source items in their CSA boxes from local farms and purveyors (although Simply Wisconsin works only with a businesses from Wisconsin).  About Simply Wisconsin, Kathy says that she was “very pleased with the variety and quality of the produced.  They also offer shares in eggs, meats, cheese and pantry [items], which [she] also participated in last year.  The eggs were wonderful, the meats varied and tasty, the cheese was common [Wisconsin] varieties, but very fresh.”  Kathy “did not find the pantry to be of her liking . . . [t]he canned goods were always too sweet and watery, but the flours and especially the beans and popcorn were great.  Any problems were addressed by the nice coordinator up in [Wisconsin].”  Victoria Wiedel is more enthusiastic:  “Last year we chose Simply Wisconsin because it is a cooperative, and due to the quality and variety we received plus their excellent customer service we have already subscribed to a full share from them in 2011.  We have tried three other CSAs and I like Simply Wisconsin the best.”

 

Zach said that “[w]e joined Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks in December.  We love it; every other week we have two boxes that include everything from fresh veggies to delicious bread and eggs.”

 

If you would like a CSA from a farm that grows mostly everything they sell, Judy Aronson suggests Growing Home:  “I have had a CSA share with Growing Home for the last several years.  I love the mix of the predictable and occasional surprise vegetable every week.  Growing Home has a dual mission of providing local, organic vegetables and job training for the previously unemployed.  Through newsletters, farmers markets and open houses, everyone involved with Growing Home can share the joy of local, delicious and healthy food.”

 

Victoria likes Bob’s Fresh and Local:  “I usually bought my veggies and fruit from the farmer’s market in federal plaza – picking up a variety box was a bit scary . . . until I opened the first box and fell immediately in love.  OK, actually I was in love on the drive home as I could smell REAL vegetables and not the wax or plastic!  The variety was wonderful, the weekly newsletters were great, and I loved figuring out how to use vegetables I wouldn’t have normally bought at the farmer’s market . . .[w]e have already signed up for 2011 . . .”

 

Joanna “highly recommends” Iron Creek:  “I was a regular buyer at Green City Market and have always loved Iron Creek’s produce.  In their CSA, their variety was very broad and their organic heirloom seeds appealed to my own sensibilities . . . [i]n fact I have already sent in my check to Iron Creek for the 2011 season . . .[a]s a current student at Kendall College, Iron Creek provided me [with] a good, steady flow of common ingredients that I used regularly, and some new product to experiment with.  Plus their farm day in the fall was a blast.”

 

Ruth has “subscribed to Angelic Organics for years . . .[g]ood variety but they seemed to have smaller content in their boxes last year.”  Kristen is going back to Angelic Organics in 2011, where she can share a half-share every other week (new this year), after subscribing to Peasant’s Plot in 2010.  Frank agrees that AO’s boxes were less full in 2010.  He has been a drop site host for Angelic Organics for four years, and although he likes the variety, and is subscribing again in 2011, he notes that the return of Farmer John to the farm in 2010 led to some “well-documented personnel issues and a loss of focus of focus on farming activities.”

 

Erica Smith gets their veggies from Scotch Hill Farm in Wisconsin, which she described as a “vocal advocate for sustainable agriculture.”  2011 will be Erica’s third year with Scotch Hill, and has been “thrilled with the quality and variety of their vegetables and herbs,” and that they “even offer a flower share!”

 

Finally, Peasant’s Plot seems to have garnered the most comments.  Whitney says that Julia (of Peasant’s Plot) is “great, remembers everyone’s name, and always has cute hand-drawn recipe cards and announcements.”  Juliette B. says that “she was very impressed” with her Peasant’s Plot CSA last year, and that the “quantities were perfect” for her and her boyfriend, even though “she wasn’t crazy about the abundance of squash last year.”  Carrie Waller says that the “produce was great – the best arugula” she’s ever had, and that “Julia and Todd . . . hold two events at the farm so the CSA members get a chance to see their work . . .”  Kristen was not as enthusiastic, saying that she “understand[s] that rain is unpredictable . . . but [she] was expecting more varieties having been an Angelic Organics subscriber before . . . and went back to Angelic Organics in 2011 . . .”  Bert and Diane “were pleasantly surprised by the quantity and variety of fresh organic produce,” and Molly said “Peasant’s Plot is the best!” and “the clear winner of the three [CSAs] they have tried”, even though she “understand[s]” Kristen’s issue with the variety of produce offered.

 

# 6:  What about fruit only CSAs?

 

Most CSAs will permit you to subscribe to a separate fruit CSA if you are already a subscriber to a vegetable CSA.  However, if you only want a fruit CSA, are there any options for you? 

 

Mary says yes, and is “signing up again” with Earth First Farms.  “Although not a vegetable or meat CSA . . . they offer an apple share with fabulous cider!  Last year their crop failed, but I think they handled the situation with great professionalism and [in] keeping us informed of the situation and ultimately refunding our full fee.”   Big Head Farm and Crème de la Crop also offer fruit-only shares.

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Finally, the most important factor to remember when subscribing to a CSA is to be ready for some unpredictability, good or bad.  With most CSAs operating more like regular businesses than ever, customer service is generally available, and ready to address any problems with your CSA.  Most farms, however, fail to disappoint, and even though there is shared risk, it is rare that a farm will not be able to produce enough food to satisfy its CSA members.  And if the weather isn’t the greatest, all subscribers are in it together.   If there’s not enough heirloom tomatoes to your liking in this year’s box, for instance, you just supplement it at the farmer’s market. During the occasional “off year,” experienced subscribers will take the long view, and like a lifelong Cubs fan, will “wait ’til next year.” However, you may not always get everything you thought you would, so keeping an open mind is part of the fun, and managing expectations is necessary.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them here.  Special thanks to our readers who contributed valuable insight into their CSA experience!


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The Never Ending Bowl of Grated Beets and Other Quickfire Challenges from the Cellars

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Posted: April 4, 2011 at 10:02 pm

This post began about ten days ago after my wife tackled the night’s quickfire: you have food in your attic saved for the winter, it will not last much longer (or in the case of forgotten quince, longer).  Create a delicious dinner for your family making the best use of your featured ingredient (i.e., what has not spoiled).  Go.

She espied the contents of the root cellar in the sky.  Cut.  She sends the kids.  They return with food.  She triage’s.  Compost.  Dinner.  She seeks the edible.  There are beets.  Many beets.  It is not an affection for webification.  It is a bag of Illinois beets taken at a very good price last November and doing just fine, thank you very much, all winter.  A lot of beets.  And not a lot of time.  She is the Mistress of the quick beet.  While these beets would take, what, maybe 2 hours to full roast.  She cannot hardly ever boil either; a moderately faster beet cook, yet her beet time, her beet way, takes even longer because she must do her beets the way Rob taught her (not me Rob, but Chef Rob Levitt, then of Mado and now of Butcher and Larder).  That is on a bed of salt.  Believe me, Rob knew.  Beets baked in salt come out robust and flavors fully contained within.  This is quickfire.  Grate beets.  She is a magician with grated beets.  She can do a lot without roasting on salt.

So, we dined on the night’s winning dish, sauteed grated beets with farm fresh fried eggs on top, a recipe for the site.  Beets for the Beet, clever with Top Chef references.  World interrupts.  The blog waits.  And a few days later, we dined.  Pancakes of beet grated, manipulated with flour and more egg.  We lose conceit.  And another night, or maybe nights before the  pancakes, she takes grated beets and bakes in the oven with nuggets of potato, also barely hanging on from the root cellar.  By, tonight, it about ended, the final of the bottomless bowl of grated beets mixed with balsamic in place of oranges already eaten and sauteed onions, because if there are many beets, there are even more onions left.  This year, the late season sack contained 50 pounds of onions.  In prior year, we put away a mere 25 pounds of yellow onions. 

The beets in the sky not yet grated remain, about 20 or so.  Two softball sized rutabagas kept attic company.  Softballs finally met their kitchen fate on Friday.  Peeled and pot roasted with chicken, taking the place of celery root in a Mindy Fox recipe, enhanced with local bacon. 

Reductions in the root cellar making progress, we turned the other direction.  The less cellar-y, cellar part of the Bungalow contains still an awful large amount of winter squash.  Cellar tripping this AM for sandwich bags hepped me to a couple of molders, squash gone soft and white.  Soon I urge new.  Now my wife must move onwards towards squashy meals.  Would we healthy glow of orange skin from squash a-gorgin’ these next weeks.  Oh if only.  She did make hay on squash today.  Pureed a bunch.  Roasted several more.  We ate the later, glazed with maple butter, for meatless Monday.  With beets.




Meatless Monday: Local Potato, Spinach and Goat Cheese Pie Monday, April 4th, 2011
More Medals for the Home Team – US Cheese Championships Sunday, April 3rd, 2011
The Frustrations of Spring with the Local Calendar Friday, April 1st, 2011
Beery Trademark Controversies (partially true) Friday, April 1st, 2011