Friday, December 26, 2008

Dark Days of Winter Challenge - week 6

Happy holidays!

This week's dinner was quite spur-of-the-moment; fortunately that moment happened at the North Market around lunchtime, so I had plenty of time to implement it. We'd gone to pick up some ice cream from Jeni's as a present for my mom, and our walk around the market took me past North Market Poultry. I was struck by the loveliness of the duck, so despite a small qualm as I remembered the pet ducks of my childhood, I purchased a couple of duck legs for our Christmas eve dinner. Never having cooked them before, a Google recipe search seemed to indicate that braising or confit were my best options. I selected this recipe from Epicurious because I had the ingredients on hand. The fruits were a raisin medley and dried cranberries, both from Trader Joe's - not local, but purchased for the mince pies I didn't get to make.* I used herbes de Provence instead of the thyme sprigs, because my thyme is currently frozen and I am patently incapable of following a recipe to the letter (except for baking.)

Side dishes were all local - All Blue and Desiree varieties of potatoes roasted in rendered duck fat; roasted Brussels sprouts from the freezer with homemade butter (from cream from Snowville Creamery), and mashed carnivale squash from Toad Hill organic farm with maple sugar from Pleiades. A nice glass of syrah from Ohio winery Kinkead Ridge (under their River Ridge Cellars label) accompanied the meal.

*All baking was put off because of the knife wound I sustained to my right thumb while trying to remove a new chef's knife from the package on Monday. I didn't really want to wrestle with dough with such a wound. I hereby lodge my complaint with the adage that "more injuries come from dull knives than sharp." As my brother (a former sous chef) says, "sharp knives just keep going." (It's healing nicely, thank goodness.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dark Days of Winter Challenge - week 5

This week's entry is my very first patty melt. I think that a patty melt is what happens when you realize that ground beef will be the quickest thing to defrost for dinner, and while you haven't got any hamburger buns there is a loaf of bread that will do just fine.

The patty melt was made of ground beef from our friend Ed at Long Meadows Grass Fed Beef in Utica, Ohio (~43 miles) and cheddar cheese from Meadow Maid (grass-fed milk!) It was more of a "what's in the fridge" version than a classic patty melt. The sides were spaghetti squash and homemade potato chips (which are very easy to make, and with a mandoline you can slice the potatoes very quickly! I don't use a deep fryer either, just a shallow layer of canola oil in a frying pan.) Not a bad meal, and it went from idea to the table in around 30 minutes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dark Days of Winter Challenge - week 4

This week's dinner has become a regular menu item for us - Asian lettuce wraps. Fortunately we have a local grower with a hothouse, so the heads of romaine should keep coming our way this winter.

The meat of this dish is usually pork or chicken; I have some locally-made tempeh in the freezer that is awaiting its turn as well. This week I used 2 chicken thighs, and marinated them in soy sauce, ginger, citrus, and honey before pan-frying them with some 5-spice powder.

The base of the filling are sai fun noodles, also called bean threads. They aren't local, but some trial and error has shown that this dish isn't as good without them. The lettuce leaves are washed and dried (don't try leaving them damp. It will end badly. Trust me on this.) and filled with a healthy dollop of sai fun noodles. On top of the noodles goes some shredded carrot, julienne snow pea pods, cooked chicken (I cook the thighs whole, then slice them and return them to the pan to soak up extra sauce) and sliced scallions. Then you bundle it up as best you can and get it into your mouth as best as you can. It's not really a meal you want to eat in public, but it is darn tasty. Just be sure to have a napkin handy!

Dark Days of Winter Challenge - week 3

Oops, I am behind in posting! I blame it on Neverwinter Nights: Storm of Zehir. I've been glued to it for days.

This week's meal is my number one comfort food: creamed chipped beef on toast. My mom always made it from scratch when I was a kid, but in recent years I have come to rely on the Stouffer's version. I know it violates the "no processed food" rule, but I usually only eat it when I'm sick, or recovering from being sick. Comfort food has its own set of rules.

This dish was actually inspired by the restaurant Alana's, which is arguably the best restaurant in Columbus. We ate there a few weeks ago, and one of the starters was my old standby, listed as: Blues Creek Farm Chipped Beef 'Shit on a Shingle' with Gravy on Toast. Once I picked myself up off the floor from all the laughing, I promptly ordered it, and it was delicious. Since Blue's Creek is the butcher shop I frequent, I decided to try it at home.

The main problem, as you can see, is that I made the roux way too thick. I was starving and didn't feel like playing the too thick/too/thin/just right lotto, so I quit fussing with it and served it. The chipped beef was astonishingly not salty - I actually had to salt the dish! The beef, bread, milk and butter were all local; the flour was not.

How did it stand up to the classic? For one thing, it had much more of a beef flavor. The meat tended to shred, so the texture was a bit different as well. Still, it was delicious, and I could easily get accustomed to this new version of my old favorite.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dark Days Challenge week 2 - old patterns die hard

Okay, after saying I was going to avoid the meat-squash-veggie-potato pattern of meals, my next Dark Days meal falls into that category. Almost. (No pictures because they were *really* terrible.)

A protein did take center stage, and it was boneless sirloin pork chops in an Asian marinade. I seared them with a heavy coat of five-spice powder then added some soy sauce, ginger, and citrus juice (sudachi) as it cooked. Good stuff.

The side dishes did not, in fact, include a potato. Nor rice, nor any other starchy thing. They did involve great fun with ratios, however. I broiled a kabocha squash with a soy/ginger/honey glaze, and cooked carrots with a honey/ginger/soy glaze (yes, I used the same ingredients for the sauces, but in different ratios)I braised pac choi in a soy/citrus combination, and to do something new and different I had an adventure involving a quick pickle of daikon radish.

One thing I have learned about quick daikon radish pickles: when the first step says to toss your sliced radish with a small amount of salt to draw out some water, do not use a very large amount of salt in hopes that it will work more quickly. Especially if that radish has been sitting in the fridge awhile and gotten a bit porous. Porous radish soaks up salt like crazy, and all of your rinsing and soaking won't help it.

Ah, how I love trial by error.

Fortunately, I had recently received some good advice about seasoning, the gist of which is this: there are three main components to seasoning, which are salt, sweet, and acid. If there is too much of any one of those, you can balance it out by increasing the other two. While this wouldn't work with every recipe, it was great advice for pickles. They went from being too salty to being too acidic (I tossed the rinsed, drained radish with rice wine vinegar) so I added an extra dose of sugar (which is actually an ingredient anyway) and it was all okay. And pretty darn tasty.

Lest I forget: Kabocha squash was from Just this farm. Carrots and pac choi from Wayward Seed Farm. Daikon radish from Sippel Farm. Pork chops from Blue's Creek. It's funny how I can remember a story about every single thing I buy. The teenage girl who waited on my at the butcher shop was sunny and cheerful; there was very little pac choi to buy that week but I managed to score some anyway; the kabocha squash is called sunshine squash. I had no idea what to do with a daikon radish, but they were really lovely and I carried it around the market like a baton. Don't you just love food with stories?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dark Days Challenge - Week 1

Wow, I really am behind! The Dark Days Eat Local Challenge started on the 15th, eep! Fortunately I have a fantastic and brand-new meal to rave about, complete with a strange and (almost) artfully blurry photo!

This simple and delicious meal featured the autumn sausage (with apples and maple) from our local farmer/butcher shop, Blue's Creek. It was "loose" (or whatever you call casing-free sausage) so I browned it into crumbles in a skillet then gave it some time on paper toweling for fat drainage (because here at Green Leanings we are trying to watch our waistline.) In a separate skillet I braised some wonderful lacinato kale from the good folks at Wayward Seed Farm in apple cider. I was not at all in the mood for vinegar (a normal seasoning for kale and chard), so the kale (which was just past the "baby" stage, nice and small and tender) was only seasoned with the cider, garlic, salt and pepper, and a wee touch of olive oil. I tossed the sausage in at the end and had one of the tastiest meals ever, and one that I made up on the spur of the moment! The sweetness of the apple cider and the slight bitterness of the kale were perfect together, and was a delicious counterpoint to the sausage. The side dish was a mysterious variety of white acorn squash (peyton or some such thing, no idea how to spell it) from Just This Farm. It had a little salt, butter from Hartzler's Dairy, and maple sugar from Pleiades Maple Farm.

One of my goals for the Dark Days Challenge is to come up with new and interesting recipes. It is easy to fall into the meat-starch-squash-vegetable pattern, so I am hoping to find new and exciting ways to combine them. You'll notice that squash gets its own category, along with vegetables and starches. That is because I have a squash problem (I love to buy them), and probably own a good 20-30 right now. I don't serve it with every single meal, but I am trying hard to make it part of every other meal at least.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Woefully behind, and the state of my cupboards

I am woefully behind in blogging. I still have meals from the October challenge to dig out of the camera or from the dim reaches of memory, along with any number of other things I've meant to post about. Life has been a little too exciting in the Chinese sense, and I hope things will get sorted out soon.

Local eating fell a bit by the wayside in the wake of various health issues, and I did a few things I almost never do. The biggie is that I went shopping for food at the regular grocery store. It was an odd experience, having to pay attention to whole sections of the store that I normally bypass on my way to the cat food or pharmacy. And despite the fact that I was sick, hungry, and desperate not to cook, I could barely find a thing I wanted to eat. Prepared foods looked unappealing, except for some spicy California rolls (spicy crab is a big weakness of mine.) Canned soups also failed to tempt me. Frozen dinners were right out, even the vegetarian ones. I ended up with a loaf of multi-grain Tuscan bread (another weakness of mine - makes incredible stuffing!), a very small wedge of cheddar cheese (I had used all the local stuff to make Welsh rarebit), and a can of Heinz baked beans (the English import.) I also had a package of Archway frosted gingerbread cookies (that were stale! How tragic!) which are a holiday tradition in my house, and two boxes of holiday ice cream novelties in my cart (snowmen faces and christmas trees, also a holiday tradition.) The snowmen faces aren't very good, but I stand by the minty christmas trees.

I looked through my cupboard and freezer to see how well I have practicing what I preach. The following lists the things that were not put up by me or otherwise produced locally. In the freezer: aside from the newly-purchased ice cream novelties, there was an open package of garlic naan from Trader Joe's. That's it. The cupboards contained some Kashi cereals, hot cocoa mix with extra marshmallows, ovaltine, one can of black beans, a couple of sauces from Trader Joe's, and a package of instant miso soup. I think there is some instant oatmeal and a can of tomatoes knocking around in there, plus a box of farina. There are some lentils, couscous, brown rice, bulgur wheat and Asian noodles that aren't produced locally, but I still put those in the category of whole or almost whole foods.

You'll notice the heavy emphasis on cereals. While I do enjoy my local oatmeal with apples, some mornings you just want to grab a bowl of cold cereal or something quick and instant. And cold cereal is our favorite food for those late-evening munchies.

So despite some slacking in the cooking department, I am pretty happy with how our eating is going.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Eat Local Challenge update

Eating fell by the wayside last week, as I endured a hideous bout of insomnia and its associated physical woes. Fortunately I am feeling better and even sleeping a bit like a normal person (well, as close as I get, which isn't very.)

A few notable meals from the camera:
Here we celebrated the end of summer with a jerk chicken thigh (we are getting by with very small meat portions these days), corn on the cob, broccoli, sweet potato fries, and roasted cherry tomatoes. Next we have lettuce wraps with pork and carrot, along with some broccoli in brown sauce with sesame. Normally we'd have scallions and rice noodles in the lettuce wraps as well, but I forgot the scallions and we were out of the decidedly non-local rice noodles.
Next up is a barbecued chicken thigh with roasted purple viking potatoes, corn on the cob, and Brussels sprouts.

The next two items are a little blurry:
Here we have a pear poached in homemade grape juice; I reduced the poaching liquid to make a sauce, and was clearly in a hurry to eat it.
This is a very typical brunch of pancakes with raspberries (red and amber) and a side of peppered bacon.

And tonight's dinner was pan-roasted chicken breasts with garden herbs under the skin; mashed kennebec potatoes, steamed broccoli, and roasted *somethingmumblesomething* sweet potato squash with butter and maple sugar. (I forget the full name of the variety, but it is an odd heriloom.) And don't forget that pan gravy! I made extra so I can make a batch of chicken and noodles this week.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Eat Local Challenge - days 2 through 5

I really thought I'd be keeping better track of my meals! I have been taking photos at the very least, so I will take you on a journey of some of the meals from the past week.

Thursday night was pasta night, with spinach linguine from Pastaria at the North Market, marinara sauce from cherry tomatoes from the garden, shitaake mushrooms from Toby Run (NM Farmer's market), grated mozzarella cheese from Blue Jacket Dairy (~58 miles in Bellefontaine, Ohio), and garlic bread (with wheat bread from the Clintonville farmer's market.) I used the same marina sauce, bread and cheese to make a pizza-on-toast for lunch.

Friday was fish night! I am delighted to add locally-farmed trout to my menu this month. The fish is rainbow trout from Freshwater Farms of Ohio, which clocks in at 68.2 miles from my doorstep. This fillet came pre-seasoned with an orange-basil marinade. Side dishes were braised rainbow chard with leeks, roasted cherry tomatoes, and roasted delicata squash with maple syrup (which didn't fit on the plate.)

Saturday was market day, and I had a very simple lunch of fried cheese (again from Blue Jacket Dairy) and Asian pears from Gillogly Orchards (104 miles by car, but still in the 100-mile radius as the crow flies.) For dinner we attended a local pizza function and were able to taste pizza from around 20 different local pizza shops.

Sunday brunch was french toast from that same loaf of bread from the Clintonville market, topped with non-local powdered sugar (hey, it was in the cupboard, and makes for happy french toast!) and local raspberries and maple syrup. Accompanying it, as usual, is peppered bacon from Bluescreek at the North Market.

Sunday dinner started with local vegetable soup (including broccoli, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, cabbage, chard, zucchini, pattypan squash, carrots and celery) made with homemade stock. I didn't get a picture of it. The main meal was Italian sausage with the last of the grapes (wonderful fall flavors, seasoned with a little Balsamic vinegar) served over polenta made with fresh corn and goat cheese. Not very photogenic, but good nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Eat Local Challenge - Day One

I thought I'd begin with a photo of a usual fall breakfast ingredients here at Green Leanings. The oatmeal is from Stutzman farms in Millersburg, Ohio - 84.5 miles from my home. They also make cereals with puffed corn and spelt, and I'll be adding those to the breakfast roster as the month goes on. The maple sugar (best thing ever!) is from Pleiades Maple Farm in Mt. Gilead, Ohio (~43 miles), and the apple (variety: golden grimes) is from the orchards of Bill and Vicky Thomas in Philo, Ohio - approximately 73 miles. I peel and grate the apple into the oatmeal as it cooks, which doubles the volume and makes a great and healthy breakfast. A little maple sugar to sweeten and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and it's pure heaven.

Lunch today was leftover pork roast (from Bluescreek in Marysville, Oh, about 30 miles) with cider gravy from the aforementioned orchard. I also cooked an acorn squash from Elizabeth Telling farm, which is 115 miles by car (but still within the 100-mile radius) and drizzled it with maple syrup from Pleiades.

Tonight I am attending a cooking class at Columbus' historic North Market, so who knows how local the food will be. The market is home to Bluescreek meats, the Greener Grocer (emphasis on local produce) and other fine purveyors of local food, as well as a wonderful farmer's market on Saturday.

Since I will be eating at class tonight I decided to have the launch dinner last night, and it was a stir fry with a veritable plethora of local ingredients: chicken thighs, broccoli, edamame, yellow summer squash, shitake mushrooms, scallions (from the garden), carrots (3 varieties), and swiss chard. It was so full of veggies that we didn't even miss the rice! The chicken and most vegetables were purchased at - you guessed it - the North market.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

October Eat Local Challenge

It's almost time for the Eat Local Challenge! This is my second time participating, and I'm quite looking forward to it. We're a month later this year, so I'm interested to see how that impacts my food choices.

Here is my statement of participation:

1. What is your definition of local?
I'm going to go with the 100-mile radius. At this point in my adventures as a locavore (one and one-half years) I am pretty well set with suppliers, and they are all within that radius.

2. What exemptions will you claim?
-The usual suspects: tea, sugar, salt and pepper, spices, oil
-The (very) occasional pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks (I don't think I can make it through October without them!)
-Any condiment/seasoning in my refrigerator
-Bread that is not made with entirely local ingredients, but comes from local bakers or bakeries.
-yogurt for cultures (just enough to make my own with local milk)

3. What is your goal for the month?
I want to learn to make things that I normally rely on local producers to obtain, most notably pasta and bread. I am in possession of a bag of local wheat flour, and I plan to use it! My oven is too dubious for loaf bread, but I plan to try some flat breads and maybe bread machine recipes. I'd also like to come up with more inventive meals, and limit the meat-veggie-starch type of offering.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Behind on updating, and another breakthrough local meal

Okay, so I haven't been so good with the updating. I could blame it on Hurricane Ike (which gave Ohio a pretty thorough spanking) or on the green beans (have I put up enough to last the winter?) but instead I shall throw out some mea culpas and try to be better.

This past weekend was so amazing that it will take several posts to cover it all! Farmer's marketing, the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival at Freshwater Farms, and the freakin' spectacular "Shake the Hand That Feeds You" dinner by Slow Food Columbus at Flying J Organic Farm were all crazy, wonderful highlights.

First, the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival! We rushed through the markets on Saturday morning and then made the hour drive out to Urbana, Ohio, for a quick visit to the festival. I fed the trout, petted a sturgeon, and stuffed myself on grilled shrimp and shrimp cocktail (along with the best fresh kettle chips EVER) before spending all of our money on fish and shrimp. I'd never had freshwater shrimp before, and I have to say they were delicious! I wimped out and only bought shrimp tails; we never found the place that was selling the heads-on shrimp, and I'd spent all of our money anyway. Next year I shall be more intrepid and acquire the whole beasties and make some shrimp stock.

If we'd had more time I'd have stopped to pick raspberries (there are a couple of big berry farms are in Urbana), but with a dinner to get to I headed home.

So this is what happens when you buy a bunch of fresh fish and shrimp, don't have an opportunity to cook it immediately (and must consume it all in one meal):

Not only do you get a crappy, blurry, dark picture, you get cornmeal-breaded trout topped with creole shrimp, served with a side of Swiss chard with onions and garlic!

The only non-local ingredients in this meal were the canola oil for frying, salt and pepper, and a little tomato-paste-in-a-tube to augment the tomatoes in the creole shrimp. The best part is that this was a totally unplanned meal - I had all of the ingredients on hand. The fish was dredged in local wheat flour, then local egg, then local cornmeal. The creole shrimp had local butter, onions, garlic, poblano peppers, freshwater shrimp, and grape tomatoes and celery from the garden. The Swiss chard was cooked with locally made apple cider vinegar and local butter. And the whole meal took under an hour start-to-finish, and that included peeling and de-veining the shrimp.

No wonder my diet isn't working! A wonderful meal, and one I am very proud of. Being a locavore rocks.

Monday, September 1, 2008

One Local Summer - Week 13

It's the final week! This dinner was a vegan tribute to Debbie, the coordinator for the Midwest for this challenge. (Thank you for all of your hard work!) It was a simple dish, served warm, and was somewhere between a stew and a salad. Local black beans teamed up with onions, bi-color corn, and grape and pear tomatoes from the garden. The only non-local ingredients were the oil (for sweating the onions) and the spices (cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika.) I am sure I will be revisiting this dish over the winter!

Leaves are already crunching underfoot in my yard, but with the warm days and bountiful markets it definitely feels like summer is still with us. I did see the first pumpkins this past weekend - but I think I'll wait for watermelon season to end before I start buying fall produce!

Friday, August 22, 2008

One Local Summer - Week 12

I didn't get a chance to photograph this week's meal, so I thought I would include some gratuitous cuteness for your pleasure. The black cat is Jinx, ans the vision of fluffiness is Mr. Grey.

This week's meal entry was a totally local chicken gumbo! It included chicken breast and chicken chorizo, corn, onions, green pepper, garlic, tomatoes, celery, thyme and okra. Non-local additions were salt, pepper and oil. It would have been better with bacon (wouldn't everything?) but sadly we were out. It was the only ingredient missing from the recipe though!

Other than cooking, I've been putting up berries and even made my first batch of marina sauce! I'd forgotten how incredibly messy that is. The weather has been terrible for tomatoes this year, so I hope that some big boxes of romas will make it to market eventually.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

One Local Summer - Week 11

This week's meal featured pole beans from the garden, chicken wrapped in bacon, corn on the cob (we aren't tired of it yet!) and the cutest little baby red thumb potatoes. Non-local ingredients were olive oil, red pepper flakes (to jazz up the pole beans) and salt and pepper.

We have actually had local meals every day this week, but I didn't take pictures of them all! We had pizza yesterday, since I thought that both cooking and processing 4 dozen ears of corn for the freezer would be too much work. (And I was right!)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

One Local Summer - Week 10

Can you believe it is already week 10? The summer has flown by. I'm finally home from my travels, which means it is time to buckle down and start putting up food - and get back to having lovely local meals!

This week's meal is a chicken thigh roasted with garam masala; potatoes, onions and pole beans pan-fried with cumin and coriander; eggplant, garlic and grape tomatoes cooked in garam masala and cumin; and corn on the cob with lime, butter, and chili powder. Tomatoes and pole beans are from my garden, and all other meats and veggies (and garlic) are from local farmers. Spices, olive oil, and lime were the non-local components.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One Local Summer - Week 9

Happy summer everyone! I am home for a few days before heading off to my next tent-related adventure (this time I'll be at Pennsic.) I have managed to hit a couple of markets and picked up some lovely produce - so lovely that I must spend part of tomorrow putting up corn and peaches.

This week's OLS meal was a quick-and-simple one: roasted chicken thighs with BBQ seasoning, corn on the cob, and broiled zucchini (cooked with olive oil, salt and pepper and thyme and dill) topped with a sauce of thinned Greek yogurt and scallions and mint. Chicken was from Speckled Hen; corn from Wishwell Farms in Bellefontaine Ohio (~54 miles); zucchini from Paige's Produce (~41 miles); scallions and mint from my garden (zero miles), butter from Hartzler's Dairy. Non-local ingredients were olive oil, yogurt, and salt and pepper.

We've been enjoying local berries (blackberries, black and red raspberries, blueberries) as well as peaches, apricots, and the occasional plum. I saw melons at the market today but was out of money. I may run off to another market tomorrow in search of a small watermelon and/or muskmelon.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Great article on yoghurt

I'm not sure why I spell yoghurt like I do, if I picked it up from British English or it's just the way that I say it. It makes sense to me, even though my spell checker hates it.

Anyway, anyone with any type of interest in yoghurt should hie themselves over to the Saudi Aramco World web page to read the wonderful article entitled Of Yogurt and Yörüks. Yörüks are a nomadic Turkish people. It is a nice look at how yoghurt is made, as well as different types of yoghurt products (including butter and cheese and drinks.) It makes me want to whip up a batch of yoghurt before I head back to Brushwood. I really don't have time for that, but the idea is tempting. I may stop by the local Middle Eastern grocery store and pick up a container of labna (oh, if only it was organic/hormone free!)

I have a subscription to Saudi Aramco World and it is a really fantastic and totally free magazine. There aren't always articles on food, but it is a great source for information on the Muslim world, both modern and historical, as well as related museum exhibits throughout the world.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Top Chef tour!

I should be driving to upstate New York right now, but instead I have to pause here and say: SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

The Top Chef tour was in town today, and I managed to get the very last seat in the first demo. We had Hung Huynh and Richard Blais as the chefs, and they were both in the kitchen during the short pair of demos (each did one dish.) Hung made an Asian shrimp dish with cellophane noodles, and Richard made an awesome salad of tomatoes, peaches, scallions, basil, and cilantro with yuzu/Minus 8 ice wine vinegar dressing with mozzarella "scallops" (just cut liker scallops, not seared or anything, and called scallops just to be funny.) They were funny and personable and took questions (I asked Hung about non-salty components of Asian sauces, and he suggested sugar, honey, lime juice, and tamarind juice.) I wish I'd had a question for Richard, since not many people were asking.

So now I am in fan girl heaven. Alas, they did not have the culinary boner T-shirts, or I would certainly have bought one. They had an intriguing pair of bicycle-powered blenders in front of the tour bus, which did not in fact get used while I was there.

While waiting for the demo I sampled a few wines at the Food and Wine festival, and picked up a couple of bottles of (tasty!)local champagne. It was nice to see all of the Ohio vineyards representin'. I also picked up a ton of fruit at the markets today, including red plums (Methley, or something like that), apricots, peaches, wineberries (a bit like raspberries but more tart), blueberries, blackberries (not black rapsberries!) and cherries. I am in local fruit heaven right now, despite my failure to get raspberries and black raspberries.

Friday, July 11, 2008

One Local Summer - Week 8

This week's meal featured meat cakes! Roughly based on the idea from here, my version is basically a flat, round meatloaf (this time I made it with sweet onions and an egg from Elizabeth Telling Farm) which is then topped with mashed potatoes (these were lightly mashed red thumb potatoes, which were a lovely shade of pink) and bacon sprinkles. The meat cake has become a staple in our house, a kind of vegetable-free shepherd's pie, only much groovier. Side dishes were corn on the cob and pole beans with onions. The pole beans were a 0-mile food, right from the garden!

Non-local ingredients were salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, and Worcestershire sauce.

One Local Summer - Week 7

This week's designated meal was a main course of BLT's (well, okay, they were actually "BL's" because I don't like tomato on sandwiches) with corn on the cob and zucchini capaccio, based on Eric Ripert's excellent blog recipe at at Avec Eric. The bacon was from Blues Creek, zucchini from Paige's Produce, and corn from... well, I forget the farm's name but it was grown in Circleville Ohio (~40 miles.) Non-local ingredients were olive oil, salt, pepper, and Parmigiano cheese (I had some local Gouda but the dish really called for the imported Parmigiano Reggiano, so I used it.)

I made the mistake of turning the oven on for the zucchini, since my toaster oven only holds so much. Bad choice! I am not touching the oven again until fall is in the air.

One Local Summer - Week 6

I'll be off living in a tent for the next few weeks, without internet access. (I know, the mind boggles!) So I will be posting a few of the meals I have been collecting, to cover me while I'm gone.

This week's meal featured BBQ chicken (chicken from North market Poultry, sauce from City BBQ), green beans (Bird's Haven Farm) with scallions (Just This Farm) and butter (my own homemade!) and potatoes (H-W Farms) with red onions and smoked paprika. Non-local ingredients were olive oil, salt and pepper, and paprika. I made the chicken in the toaster oven, which is currently my favorite kitchen device!

I also *finally* started putting things up. I froze a few pints of berries and some chopped sweet onions (I will not run out of onions this winter! I won't!) In past week I managed to put up a little bit of asparagus and English peas. These were all frozen and vacuum sealed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New market craziness - Columbus Square farmer's market

I ventured over the the new Columbus Square Farmer's Market today, as it is quite close to my house and much closer than the morning market in Pearl Alley (through some weirdness with the city the Pearl Alley Grower's Association doesn't do the Pearl Alley market anymore.) It did, however, require that I miss out on the samosas and chai from Pearl Alley, which is quite a sad thing.

I missed the ribbon-cutting ceremony by a few minutes, but boy was this market packed! There were 4 farmers, Meadow Maid cheese, and a concession truck that was still setting up when I left. The lines for a couple of the farmers, most notably the one with berries and corn (being worked by one person), were extreme. I waited in line for a good half hour for my dozen ears of corn and a cilantro plant. The traffic getting in and out of the area was also really bad, but nothing a slight detour to a different entrance to the area wouldn't fix. (The market is in the lot of a big strip mall/out-lot area. I do not advise using the entrance closest to the market as it was completely congested today.)

Other than corn and berries there were also plenty of potatoes, onions, and summer squash; kohlrabi and cabbage were also to be found, as well as honey and the aforementioned cheese. I hope the market grows and shoppers become a little more savvy - it was clear that many of the patrons were not frequenters of this type of market.

Monday, July 7, 2008

One Local Summer - Week 5

This week's meal was a vegetarian pasta dish. I even skipped the cream sauce this week! Fresh linguine from the North Market met olive oil, roasted grape tomatoes (roasted in the toaster oven with olive oil, salt and pepper), english peas, shitake mushrooms, garlic and fresh basil. This week's salad included cucumbers, plum purple radishes (my favorite radish ever) and more grape tomatoes. Non-local ingredients were olive oil, salt and pepper.

I didn't even miss the cream sauce!

Friday, June 27, 2008

One Local Summer - Week 4

This week I learned that I am terrible at cooking steak. I understand the theory and all (I've read my McGee and watched Top Chef contenders cook steaks in a variety of ways) but I have this deep-seated fear that it (all meat, really) will be underdone, so I tend to overcook it. Too many years as a vegetarian, perhaps. As this was my first attempt at cooking steak I should probably cut myself a little slack. It wasn't too bad, just a little tough.

I seared the steak and finished it in a pan with lots of butter. It is topped with sautéed oyster mushrooms and garlic scapes (cooked in the same pan as the steak so there were plenty of butter and fond) and the sides were English peas (briefly boiled and buttered) and mashed redskin potatoes (with butter and milk.) Dessert was mango lassi frozen yogurt from local artisan ice creamiere Jeni's.

Non-local ingredients were salt and pepper.

Steak from Long Meadows Grass-Fed Beef in Utica, Ohio (44 miles)
(Here's an article about Ed and Nancy and their beef.)
Mushrooms from Toby Run in Bellville, Ohio (~50 miles)
Garlic scapes from Just This Farm in Galloway, Ohio (~24 miles)
Potatoes from H-W Organic Farm in Sullivan, Ohio (~85 miles)
Milk and butter from Hartzler's Dairy in Wooster, Ohio (~88 miles)
Ice cream from Jeni's at the North Market (ingredients weren't local, but Jeni is our local ice cream star (small batch artisanal ice creams, sorbets and frozen yogurts) so we feel no qualms about including all of her works in our local diet. My waistline owes at least an inch to her!)

local shopping GRRRRR!

Why is it that no one carries organic cultured buttermilk? I've given up on local stuff, I just want some that is both organic and cultured. Looks like I have to drive all the way to Whole Foods in Dublin for it. I have struck out at several regular groceries as well as my co-op and Raisin Rack.

Color me frustrated.

What does one do with cultured buttermilk? Well, you can use it to make creme fraiche and sour cream; you can make buttermilk ranch salad dressing; you can make really fabulous pancakes; probably a number of other things I haven't thought of.

Monday, June 16, 2008

One Local Summer - Week 3

It's that time again! No picture this week, as I was hungry and dinner was a little less than lovely. Tonight's OLS meal was a stir-fry of veggies and mushrooms with one breast of chicken (shared between two people.) One of my goals is to reduce our meat consumption, which has gone up a little since we discovered humanely-raised local meat. Being able to stretch one small chicken breast (really a half-breast) into one meal is a good thing (I have managed to make one feed four before, in a stew or curry with plenty of veggies. Grandma would admire my thrift!

Anway, on to the dinner! The stir-fry included snow peas, garlic scapes, early carrots (SO good!), rainbow chard, asparagus tips, green pepper, mushrooms (shitake and yellow oyster) plus the chicken. Only the seasonings were non-local (soy sauce, black bean paste, ginger, sesame oil.) I meant to serve it over (local) soft wheat berries, but it was so hot I couldn't bring myself to boil water. Dessert was a strawberry granita (local strawberries and non-local sugar) which is a wonderful thing on a hot day!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

marketing report!

I actually wrote down prices today, so I will include them. I swore I wouldn't buy too much this week, since I am leaving for Chicago on Thursday and will be working 14 hour days until then. But alas, I could not resist!

Snap peas (finally) 2 X $3 (a pint, I think)
snow peas $3/pint
hakurei turnips $2
plum purple radish $2
garlic scapes $2
green onions $2
shitake/oyster mushroom mix $5
strawberries $4.75
strawberries $4
grape tomatoes $4
red thumb fingerling potatoes $3

Chicken ~$5 for boneless split breast
chicken chorizo ~$10 for 6 links
thinly-sliced ham ~$5
baguette $3.95

So that totaled around $61 and some change. This is not counting the coffee, cinnamon roll, donut, cookies, or booze (not local, but a nice bottle of gueuze and a strange ale with hibiscus.)

There were not long lines for strawberries this week! It helped that several vendors at almost every market had them. I am starting to feel a little strawberried-out. There was still asparagus available, but I am actually a little tired of it.

Meal plans: for my OLS meal I plan to do a stir-fry with the garlic scapes, scallions, snow peas, mushrooms, and chard from the garden. If I have time this week I'll roast a chicken and the fingerlings and turnips (if not they will keep until next week.) There will be plenty of ham sandwiches - darn, wish I'd bought some cheese for that. Radishes and butter on baguette, as well as ham sandwiches on baguettes. Ah, if only I had some brie! And salads, of course. Must eat more salads.

What's in season in your area?

Friday, June 13, 2008

The most beautiful lettuce ever

I picked this up Wednesday at the Westerville market. The girl said the variety was red sails, but I think it might be red frills (or so says my google image search.) When I caught sight of it I said, "I don't know what it is but I want it!" Something that colorful has to be good for you, right? :-)

We were going to have it for a dinner salad tonight, but I ran out of steam. Dinner ended up being short ribs (braised in soy sauce, scallions, cilantro, sesame seeds, rice wine vinegar, and lime juice) over lime-cilantro rice (hey, at least the cilantro was local!) with mixed braising greens with garlic, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. The greens were quite bitter, so I was sad that it is not the time for leeks (leeks are an instant sweetener for bitter greens! It's almost magical.)

One Local Summer - week 2

This week's challenge meal featured these lovely calypso beans:

Dinner was calypso beans with green garlic and chorizo, braised greens with green garlic, plus a salad of mixed lettuce, snow peas, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and French breakfast radishes. The dressing was a homemade creamy peppercorn with a spice mix from Penzey's. Non-local ingredients were salt, pepper, and most salad dressing components. I forgot to get a picture of the salad, but here are the beans and greens. (The bean dish is not pretty, and as I was eating I realized that I had made a version of beans and franks! Much tastier than the canned stuff, though. Chorizo is my new favorite thing.)

I am slowly learning to cook dried beans. Here is the method I used to cook dinner:

Beans with chorizo
serves two

1 heaping cup of dried beans (mine were calypso beans)
some sort of allium: you can chop a small onion and a clove of garlic, or a small bunch of leeks. I used 4 or 5 stalks of green garlic
2 links of chorizo or similar spicy sausage

Beans: the hot soak method.

Rinse and pick over the beans. I like to spread them out on a cookie sheet to look for rocks and other non-desirables. Place your beans in a pot on the stove with plenty of cold water (I like to have it at least 3 inches above the top of the beans. You do NOT want to run out of water!) Bring the pot to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally, then turn the burner off and cover the pot. Forget about it for 2 hours (though more time is fine.) After two hours I like to drain and rinse the beans (especially if they are kidney beans! I am weirdly paranoid about kidney bean poisoning, which comes from kidney bean lecithin or Phytohaemagglutnin. It happens when the beans are soaked and undercooked, so be sure to drain the soaking water and cook them well.) After the beans are drained and rinsed I put them back into the pot with plenty of water (again, you do not want to run out of water!) and my allium-of-choice (you can sweat the onion/garlic/whatever before adding the beans and water, but it is also okay to just toss them in raw.) Bring the pot to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until the beans are done. Stir occasionally. But wait, she hasn't mentioned salt! A good rule of thumb is to wait until the beans are soft before you add the salt. Don't be stingy with it, as beans need salt - but also remember that sausage will be joining the party in a little while. It will bring a little saltiness to the mix.

So that's pretty vague, isn't it? Really, the cooking time varies by type of bean, probably age of bean, and possibly what day of the week it is or what phase the moon is in. I plan for at least 1.5 hours but it really can vary. The first time I made calypso beans it took an hour; the second time it was more than 1.5 hours. I usually don't taste-test until the beans have had an hour in the pot. Be sure to stir them, especially if your stove is an electric relic with uneven burners like mine. If the beans have too much liquid in them when they are nearly finished you can use a ladle to remove some of it. They should be a little moist but not too runny. You can always add another dash of water after the sausage goes in, if it ends up being too dry.

When the beans are almost done I add in the chorizo, which has been cooked as I decribe below:

(You may have noticed that whenever I am in doubt about the cooking time of a grain or legume, I tend to cook the major components of the dish separately to have better control over it.) In this case I browned the chorizo in a small skillet then braised it (use water or beer) until it was mostly cooked through. I am squeamish about sausage casings so I peeled them off before slicing the cooked sausage into 1/2 inch rounds. This does make the sausage fall apart, which is actually quite nice for a bean dish.

So we have cooked chorizo and almost-cooked beans. The two are united and cooked on low for about 5 minutes, or for however long it takes for the beans to be cooked through. I like mine to be quite soft, so they do tend to fall apart a little.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Thinking out loud

Never mind me, I'm thinking out loud. My fridge is pretty full, and there are a number of fruit, vegetable and dairy issues that must be dealt with ASAP. So pardon me while I do a little thinking out loud (which doubles as a lesson on menu planning for locavores, so I hope it's not too boring.)

Dinner tonight: beans and greens and things (calypso beans, braising greens, chorizo, green garlic), salads (lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and cukes from market; arugula and snow peas from garden; penzey's peppercorn dressing). Broccoli as a side dish? Asparagus? Will I ever spell broccoli correctly on the first try?

MUST DEAL WITH WHIPPING CREAM BEFORE IT EXPIRES! Should I get ambitious and make Alice Water's cream biscuits? This will involve turning the oven on, eek. Make Chantilly cream for strawberries, turn the rest into butter? That's a plan.

Strawberries: Must deal with older berries in fridge, either via jam or granita. I think granita will win given the heat. Slice fresh berries for dessert (with Chantilly cream and Jeni's honey vanilla bean ice cream, *swoon*.)

Other meals this week: chicken legs with Penzey's BBQ seasonings. Potatoes, roasted in toaster oven with rosemary? Pan-fried with onions and paprika? Sliced on the mandolin and pan-fried? Use either asparagus or broccoli (I forgot to mention that I got some early broccoli from the Clintonville market, wheee!)

Stir-fry greens: beautiful, and I need to use them before they wilt. Maybe with another bean dish? With carrots? In a weird veggie melange with potatoes and carrots? As a side dish for the chicken? OR, I could defrost the short ribs and do them Asian style (I think I still have scallions) and do the greens in a lime/sesame sort of a way. Remember to look at the new horde of Asian sauces in the cupboard.

Spinach: I keep forgetting that I buy this. I love it in pasta salads with grape tomatoes and pine nuts. Also could do the spinach salad with bacon dressing from Alton Brown.

There's also a small chicken in the freezer to defrost, and tons of ground beef. And a couple of steaks. Maybe steaks with mashed potatoes and asparagus? Save broccoli for this?

Edited to add: Risotto! Totally forgot about that. Save enough asparagus for this. Make stock from mushroom stems and assorted vegetable bits.

EDITED YET AGAIN: So let's see what I've actually cooked. Monday was a whiff as I wasn't feeling well. Tuesday we had bbq chicken legs, boiled potatoes with butter and parsley, and broccoli and asparagus with homemade butter. That cream I mentioned got turned into Chantilly cream and honest-to-goodness butter! We also had strawberries and cream with Jeni's honey vanilla bean ice cream.

Wednesday we had a weird Asian noodle salad with shrimp and local snow peas (back yard), mushrooms (shitake and oyster) and scallions. My noodle sauce fu needs some work - everything I had on hand was salty, so I ended up using just a drizzle of sesame oil, some ginger soy sauce and lime juice. Dessert was some of the fabulous strawberry granita I made the other day.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Marketing report!

I've been a bit lax with the marketing reports!

Strawberry season is in full swing here, and my fridge is packed full. I need to make strawberry granita this weekend. I made yogurt last week and have been eating a nice big bowl of local strawberries, yogurt, and granola for breakfast every morning.

Today's other finds included a mix of shitake and oyster mushrooms (destined for risotto), spinach and lettuce, grape tomatoes, braising greens, asparagus, green garlic, carrots (yay!), and a beautiful bouquet of stir-fry greens (mustard, tatsoi, and a bunch of other ones, including the yellow flowers of the han-something-something green, or something-han-something. I forget.) We also got some chicken legs and grass-fed T-bone steaks (which made me remember why we don't eat steak - quite pricey!) Oh, and a loaf of bread. And some ice cream. And bacon and chorizo (the latter will be in my One Local Summer dish this week.) Oh, and cheese - Gretna Grillin' cheese and some sort of chipotle cheese.

Notable local meals of late: calypso beans and chorizo; grass-fed burgers with raw milk cheddar and arugula microgreens; salads and salads and more salads (complete with baby snow peas from the garden); the odd braised greens with green garlic; grilled cheese and fried cheese.

Speaking of fried cheese, I think I need to go and cook some right now!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

One Local Summer - first meal of the challenge!

Tonight I made a pasta dish, inspired by a recent post from Laura at (not so) Urban Hennery. It is based on a recipe from Nigel Slater, and it involves cooking bacon in butter. It sounded so wonderfully insane that I had to try it. I added in a few extras from the market this week, and produced the best creamy pasta sauce I've ever made.

Creamy pasta with bacon and spring market finds: baby leeks, green garlic, shitake mushrooms, and asparagus
(serves two)

~3 tablespoons butter
5 slices of bacon (or so), as lean as possible*, cut into lardons (I used peppered bacon)
3 baby leeks, roughly chopped
3 stalks of green garlic, sliced thin (I use the whole green stalk but not the leaves)
~1 cup of shitake mushrooms, chopped
~1 cup of thin asparagus spears, in 2-inch pieces
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
Fresh chives for snipping
pasta for two (I used fresh linguine, so the timing below is for fresh pasta)

Get your pasta water ready to go. I use my electric kettle for rapid boiling (then I add it to the pot I'll be using) or at least put a lid on the pot when heating the water (saves energy by bringing it to a boil faster.) Don't put the lid on when cooking the pasta though!

Prep all ingredients beforehand. It will make your life easier, trust me.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add bacon and cook over medium heat until the bacon begins to color. Add in the leeks and green garlic, and cook until tender. Once the bacon takes on a bit more color and the leeks/garlic are soft, add the shitake mushrooms to the pan. When they start to lose a bit of their raw look, add the asparagus.

Drop your pasta into the boiling water, and cook for the recommended time. When it is done to taste, drain it, reserving a half cup or so of the cooking water (I like to catch the last bit of water that drains off - it has a lot of starch from the pasta, and makes an excellent thickener for sauces.)

While the pasta is cooking and once the asparagus is tender, add the cream to the bacon/vegetable/mushroom mixture. Stir well, and allow it to bubble briefly. Add a little of the pasta cooking water (I used maybe 1/4 cup) and allow the cream sauce to gently bubble until it thickens a little. Turn off the heat and add the drained pasta to the skillet, tossing to mix. Divvy the pasta into bowls, and top with snipped chives (and maybe a grating of local cheese, or parmigiana reggiano.)

*The bacon I had wasn't very lean, so I cooked the lardons from fattiest section in a separate pan, discarding the fat (or saving it for a spinach salad or other application.) I cooked it until crispy, then sprinkled it on top of the bowls of pasta. The texture contrast was heavenly!

This pasta was served with locally made whole wheat bread and a salad of (local, hothouse) cucumbers and grape tomatoes. Dessert was a bowl of fresh strawberries, no sugar or cream required! Although I have to say that hothouse or hoophouse vegetables make me feel like I'm cheating!

All of these ingredients were locally grown or produced. They were purchased at either the North Market Farmer's Market, the North Market proper, the Clintonville Farmer's Market, the Westerville Farmer's Market, or the Worthington Farmer's Market. The butter was purchased at The Raisin Rack.
Butter: Hartzler's Dairy (Wooster, ~88 miles)
Shitake mushrooms: Toby Run (Bellville, ~50 miles)
Asparagus: Anderson's Orchard (Pickerington, ~26 miles)
Leeks: Comb's Fresh Herbs (Gahanna, ~12 miles)
Green Garlic: Just This Farm (Galloway, ~24 miles)
Cream: Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy, Ohio (They sell it in 1/2 gallon cartons! What a fabulous idea!) They are about 95 miles away, and the only local dairy to sell whipping cream.
Pasta: Pastaria in the North Market
Bacon: Blues Creek (Marysville, ~30 miles)
Cucumbers: Bird's Haven Farms (Granville, ~25 miles)
Grape tomatoes: H-W Organic Farms (Sullivan, ~85 miles)
Strawberries: Rhoad's Farm (Circleville, ~40 miles)
Bread: Der Bake Oven (Fredericktown, ~45 miles)
Chives: pot of herbs (my back yard, 5 feet)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The first strawberry of summer!

I took photos of this strawberry. I tried to make them nice photos. I used different lighting. I took great pains to avoid getting the clutter of my house in the background. And now my computer (the one with the photo software) won't boot. Grrrr.

Instead I present you with a crappy cell phone photo of the event. In the interest of full disclosure, it wasn't really the first strawberry of summer. It was more like the fifth or sixth. But you get the idea. The furry individual is Mr. Grey, whose beatific image has graced this blog before.

Don't worry, I rescued the strawberry (and ate it) before Grey could tear it apart with his razor-sharp-claws-that-need-a-trim. Silly cat, you're a carnivore!

I went to the Westerville Farmer's Market this afternoon, and Bird's Haven Farm provided me with strawberries and a couple of cucumbers. I also picked up few bunches of radishes and a whole chicken (a small and leggy Rhode Island Red) from my friends at Frijolito Farm. The radishes will soon meet some butter and salt and bread (if you've never tried this I recommend that you eat some RIGHT NOW; it is an amazing flavor combination, no matter how weird it sounds) and the chicken will become coq au vin, or rather poule au vin, since I think it was a hen.

Yesterday I expanded my cooking repertoire by making chicken cordon bleu (chicken from Speckled Hen, ham from Blues Creek, garlic-herb cheese from Meadow Maid) with scalloped potatoes, steamed asparagus, and velouté sauce. My chicken pounding and rolling skills are a little lacking, but it was still quite tasty (although a fair bit of the cheese escaped during cooking. Bad cheese!) Monday I spent the day making chicken stock, 8-10 quarts of it. I was out of onions (gasp!) but I tried to make up for it with chives and leek tops. It's pretty tasty, though not as amazing as the stuff from North Market Poultry.

Now I must go eat some more strawberries. Looks like berries, granola and yogurt season has officially started! (Now only if I had bought granola today, and supplies for making yogurt! Ah well, that will be on the agenda for next week.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

One Local Summer - now with button!

(I just learned how to put the link into the button. The real trick will be doing it twice!)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Catching up on market reports, and One Local Summer

Boy, am I behind on market reports!

Two weekends ago I had a marvelous score at the Worthington Farmer's market: dried beans! We have a dearth of shelling beans at the markets around here, so finding that Pop and Judy had a whole slew of varieties was pretty darn thrilling! I bought soybeans, black turtle, calypso (black and white), soldier, stuben, and light (pink floyd) and dark (red ryder) kidneys. I used some of the dark red beans in a Jamaican rice-and-beans dish, and they came out perfectly!

The last few market days have seen me with asparagus (will I ever buy enough to freeze?) and morels (this was probably the last week); spinach (my own is floundering) and lettuce (mine is almost ready to harvest!); baby leeks (most wonderful thing EVER) and scallions (mine are tiny, and I only planted a few.)

I saw some leeks and scallion plants for sale at a local garden center. I didn't buy any, but I may go back and pick some up. I may have to dig a new plot for them, but I would love to have them in my garden (though my partner did point out that there is NO way that I could plant enough leeks. I do love them!) I picked up some yellow pear (closest I could come to sungold) and grape tomato plants, so it looks like I am giving tomato gardening another shot.

What have I been doing with my market finds? I have finally conquered risotto, and I will post my method (it's a method rather than a recipe) soon. I really like the onion-green veggie-mushroom combination (it's best with ramps, asparagus and morels.) I've both roasted and steamed asparagus and made a lovely salad with some local grilling cheese (only I fried it, because fried cheese is awesome.)

In other news, I have joined the One Local Summer challenge, hosted by Farm to Philly this year. I must produce at least one local meal a week, with the only exceptions being oil, salt and pepper, and spices. I am quite looking forward to it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My garden, and my gardening hero (Ruth Stout)

First of all, a little information about my garden: we've got snap peas, lettuce, arugula, and spinach planted in existing beds along the patio. With the exception of the spinach, they are doing well. The snap peas aren't getting as much sun as they'd like, but they are planted along the fence to improve the soil in that bed. I also have pots full of herbs: the giant one has tarragon, sage, oregano, thyme, and salad burnet (the latter will soon be replaced by chervil.) Smaller pots have cilantro and parsley, chives, basil and dill.

A slight segue: if you cook at all and don't have an herb garden, do yourself a favor and buy the largest flower pot you can find. Set it by the door closest to the kitchen (outdoors, of course, in as sunny a spot as possible) and plant herbs in it. Don't forget to water it. Being able to nip out back with the kitchen shears and cut fresh herbs for cooking is one of the most fabulous things EVER. Trust me on this.

Anyway, we have also dug a new garden bed this year. It is currently sporting the following: chard, celery (very wee celery plants), scallions, Brussel sprouts, 3 radishes (that's all that survived), pole beans and snow peas. There are also a great number of mystery squash plants, courtesy of the compost heap. I hope some of them are marina de chioggia.

The garden is having some drainage issues (as in, I could probably plant rice in parts of it) thanks to our insanely heavy clay soil. I dug out the worst spot today and placed a layer of sand and leaf matter down deep, which will hopefully help the situation.

The other thing I did today was mulch the heck out of the garden bed. This is where my new gardening hero comes in: the amazing Ruth Stout. I'm currently reading Gardening Without Work, and it is an amusing and informative read. It's also one of the first gardening books I've been able to read cover-to-cover.,7518,s1-5-19-189,00.html

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A wonderful market day!

Today was the Cinco d'Ohio festival at the North Market, which marks the official start of the farmer's market season. A number of the vendors were selling things other than vegetables, but I guess it is still a bit early in the season for most farmers.

That did not, however, prevent us from bringing home a large haul. The items I am most excited about are: FISH!!! Locally produced fish, no less, from Freshwater Farms of Ohio. I've been meaning to drive out there, but they saved me the trip (it's uncertain whether they'll be at the market throughout the season.) We picked up some beautiful trout fillets and some smoked trout as well. The next bit of excitement involved fresh morels (wheee!) at $10 a pint, and the first of the asparagus! You can tell that this was a multiple exclamation point kind of a market day. I also picked up some spinach, watercress (never used that before!), baby leeks and scallions, and some ramps from the Greener Grocer (which I have also never cooked before.) Originally I was planning for a risotto with ramps and morels, but instead they may both adorn some cooked trout.

On a brief foray to the Clintonville plant sale/preview market we picked up some thin young hothouse (or hoophouse) green beans, as well as some potatoes.

I am so excited to have fresh local produce again! My own strawberry plants are in bloom (not that I've ever had a strawberry from them, I think the rabbits get them) so hopefully strawberry season is close!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like.... spring!

Despite the impending white doom falling from the sky (well, rain and snow mix through Monday night) it appears that spring has sprung. The forsythia are blooming like crazy and most of the shrubbery is in leaf. My seeds starters are mostly doing well (except for a few stubborn varieties) and I can't wait to get them out to the garden. The pole beans win the "coolest-looking sprouting plant" award; I'll try to get a picture later today (but there's not a lot of light on this grismal Saturday.)

We went to two markets today - the North Market and the Worthington winter market. Getting to the North Market was rather tricky - the half marathon was today and many streets were blocked off. We finally made it there, and found 2 farmers (Combs and Toad Hill) plus herbs for sale (Somerset Herbs, I think) and Gypsy Bees. We stocked up with 2 bags of spinach, one each of lettuce and arugula, a dozen eggs, and sweet woodruff and (salad) burnet to plant.

Salad burnet is an amazing herb, tasting a little like cucumbers. I may have to buy a few more plants! It apparently goes very well in dips, and I am all about the dips these days. (Making your own dips is easy-peasy. I'll try to post some recipes, even though they are a)not usually local and b)involve things like "add some of this and a little of that.)

Inside the North Market we picked up a cinnamon roll and cupcake from Omega Artisan Baking, and some ham and polish sausage at Blue's Creek. And coffee for me, because I was a bit of a crankypants.

We made a brief stop at our Co-op (Clintonville Community Market) to pick up some dried dill, rolls from Eleni Christina Bakery, and a bottle of Clos Normand Brut for me (if you haven't tried French fermented cider I heartily suggest that you do. It is an entirely different experience than English hard cider.)

Our last stop was to the Worthington winter market, which continues to do a brisk business. By the survey they were conducting it seems like it may be a weekly occurrence next year! Hopefully more vegetable vendors will be on board. This week we bought potatoes, onions, garlic, and snow peas from H-W Organic Farm; feta and garlic and herb cheese from Meadow Maid (really good local cheese from grass-fed cows, and I believe most varieties are rennet-free); and some ground beef from Long Meadows (which was swamped, and Ed was working solo today.) I was thrilled to see mushrooms from Toby Run there, so I picked up a small container of oyster 'shrooms.

The folks from FLOW (Friends of the Olentangy Watershed) had a table at the Worthington market. This is the organization that sponsors a cost-share rain barrel program (you get a rain barrel for $30 - sorry, all of the workshops are full this year, but you can get on a waiting list. We're going next weekend, since I managed to be on the ball and sign up a few months ago.) Anyway, FLOW does a lot of interesting and cool things, so you locals should check out their web site and consider volunteering (they have stream clean-ups coming up in the next few months, where they pick up garbage and remove invasive foreign plants like honeysuckle and garlic mustard.)

So what am I going to do with all this food? This will be a "semi-local" meals week, with sausage-stuffed portabella mushrooms, udon with shiitake, spinach salad with warm bacon dressing (an Alton Brown recipe), pasta salad with baby spinach (Try it! It makes a great addition) and lots and lots of salads. Maybe some arugula pesto if I get very industrious.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

first farmer sighting at the North Market!

We headed to the North Market this morning to scope out the farmer's market situation. This should be the time of year that the farmers come trickling back in, and lo! We did indeed see our first farmer!

Combs Fresh Herbs were there, with some wintered-over radicchio and spinach as well as forsythia and pussy willow branches and other assorted plant material. We bought some of each of the edibles, plus a small aloe plant and a catnip pillow for the kitters.

The weather has been pretty cold here, so I'm guessing the market will be slow to get started this year. Le sigh. I can has asparagus soon? Please?

We also picked up some bacon and cottage ham and Crème Fraîche with amarena cherries ice cream from Jeni's. And we continued to eat our way through the ice cream sandwiches from Jeni's - so far the favorite is the fromage blanc with mango.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dark Days Challenge addendum: the joy of leftovers

One thing that local eating has taught me is that sometimes, in fact a lot of the time, making food from scratch is both completely worth it and not that difficult. My cooking skills and repertoire have certainly expanded over the last year!

Tonight I conquered my fear of pie crust. I had leftovers from a roast chicken and some assorted veggies on hand, along with a bit of gravy - and what could be better than a chicken pot pie?

I confess that I stopped at the store and looked at ready-made pie crusts. The ingredient lists were... daunting. I held onto a box for a little while, then decided that making a small pie crust couldn't be too hard... and I was right!

I used the most basic of short crust recipes, cut in half - 1/4 c. butter, 1/2 c. flour (half all-purpose, half local soft wheat) and as much ice water as it takes to bring it under control (a couple of tablespoons.) It wasn't the easiest thing I've done, and the rolling of the pie dough looked like a bad sitcom, but by gum I managed a successful pie crust! I only used a top crust, since I like the flaky top part the best.

I was a little concerned at how the soft whole wheat flour would behave, but I needn't have worried. The crust browned nicely and was flaky beyond belief. I had a small ball of dough left, so I rolled it out into a vaguely oval shape and spooned on some jam for a tiny but tasty jam tart (it did leak all over the pan, but I ate it concealed the evidence.)

So thus ends the final Dark Days meal. Huge thanks to Laura at Urban Hennery for throwing down the gauntlet and doing the wrap-ups, and to all my fellow Dark Days challengers (whose menus were a constant source of inspiration.)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Dark Days Challenge - sliding into home plate

Can you believe it is almost spring? Still not a bud to be seen, and my crocuses haven't bloomed yet, but it is technically spring. My seeds are beginning to sprout, and I look forward to planting a new, bigger garden this year (but I am not looking forward to digging a new bed, nope, not one bit.)

Since the Dark Days Challenge ends this week, I have decided to slide into home plate with some old favorites and new meals. I have loved this challenge, and it helped me understand that it IS quite possible to eat locally year round, provided some advance planning is done. I did quite well, considering my putting up of food started toward the end of summer (I had to wait for a freezer and vacuum sealer to come into my life before I could start.) I must have frozen an adequate amount of food, because I am just now coming to the end of it.

Monday night's dinner: We had our favorite grass-fed burgers from Flying J Farm (Johnstown, Ohio) with bacon from Blues Creek (Marysville, Ohio) and garlic and herb cheese, made from grass-fed milk, from Meadow Maid (Versailles, Ohio.) I couldn't find my usual ciabatta buns, so I picked up something called "pan bread" at the local Italian shop. (It looks like a normal loaf of bread but the slices are quite thick.)As a side dish I just roasted some red potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Tuesday night's dinner: My first attempt to cook lamb chops! I felt like I was in a bit of a rut, dinner-wise, so I picked up some lamb shoulder chops and dug the remaining white kidney beans and tomatoes out of the freezer. What can you do with those ingredients, you might ask? Why, Tuscan lamb chops with a ragout of white beans and tomatoes! The lamb chops were seared off and then braised with a mixture of red wine, water, tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs (thyme and rosemary.) The beans and tomatoes went into a pan with some olive oil, chopped onions and garlic. Since the tomatoes were frozen they provided plenty of liquid for a sauce and I added some oomph with a little red wine. Thyme and rosemary were the main herbs here as well. When the chops were done I strained the braising liquid and added a little to the beans (which made them a little more lamb-tasting than I wanted, but oh well. For a side dish I quickly sauteed some green beans in butter.

Tonight's dinner: My last pasture-raised chicken is roasting in the oven. The leftover bread from Monday's dinner is well on the way to becoming stuffing, and the remainder of the green beans (I defrosted a big bag, the last one!) will be cooked with some bacon. I doubt I can resist making mashed potatoes and gravy!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dark Days challenge - Baby's first omelet

I occasionally phone my mom with new additions to my baby book; they tend to be things like "baby's first car wreck" or "baby's first therapy."

Today it was baby's first omelet.

Okay, so that is technically not exactly true. I ate a few bites of a very runny mushroom omelet when I was in France during high school, but it was accomplished with much gagging and the making of faces (I was serious when I said I don't eat egg yolks!) Les omelettes aux champignons are a big thing in France.

I've even made omelets before, always for somebody else. I usually just fry egg whites for myself, because the thought of egg white omelets never really did it for me.

Today I had 15 minutes before I had to leave for an appointment, and no leftovers in the fridge. I was starving. I had no bread and only 2 eggs plus some cottage ham. I decided to sacrifice an egg and try an omelet, reasoning that it was the quickest thing to make. I found some garlic and herb cheese and scallions to join the ham, and made myself a 1-egg omelet with lots of "stuff."

It was really good! The garlic cheese and chives were strong enough to drown out the egg yolk taste. (I didn't add any milk to the egg, just a little salt. Mostly because I couldn't remember whether or not you're supposed to add milk.) It ended up fairly browned, as I was trying to make certain the egg cooked through. And I used way too much butter. Mmmm, butter. And all of the ingredients were local, except for the salt and pepper.

I think I could eat that again. Maybe I'll even try a frittata or quiche (frittatas don't have a crust, right?) They are actually a darn easy local meal, and I can even make a Greek omelet with locally made feta cheese (which is sadly nothing like real feta cheese, so maybe I'll chalk it up to "terroir" and get some of the real stuff.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

dark days challenge

Yesterday I made what was almost chicken piccata.

I pounded the heck out of the chicken breasts from the North Market (they were a little too thin for butterflying) and dredged them in flour, cooked them to a lovely golden color, then made a sauce with the stock from the North Market, butter from Hartzler's and a lemon (not local, but from a local grocer.) I was set to add the capers when I decided that they looked... overly funky. They'd been in the fridge a very long time, and there wasn't much liquid, and they were strangely mottled. So I decided against using them, which was a shame because the sauce could have used the bite. The chicken was still lovely, the sauce good, and the mashed potatoes and green beans tasty. The potatoes, chicken, stock, green beans, and butter were local. Flour, salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon were not. I did really enjoy the thinness of the chicken breasts - I will have to beat the heck out of them more often. Of course I usually buy whole chickens, so this means my raw meat preparation skills must improve.

Tonight is another local meal: pork chops marinated in apple cider, cooked in the cider with apples and onions; roasted redskins with rosemary; and the second-to-the-last package of corn from the freezer. It's hard to believe that all of the corn I cut off the cob is almost gone! I'll be using some non-local salt and pepper and olive oil.

Okay, now I'm hungry! I thinking I'm going to declare it "close enough to dinner time" and get started on those potatoes.

Oh, and the deviled eggs were wonderful! I've finally found a way that I can tolerate the taste/texture of egg yolks. I couldn't find the older batch of eggs so I ended up using most of the fresh dozen (SO hard to peel!) but as I was putting them in the fridge I found the older eggs. So I made a second batch. I'm amazed at how quickly they disappeared at the potluck! At least now I understand the allure (I ate my first deviled egg ever on Saturday night, right after I finished the first batch.)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

winter farmer's market report

We got up early this morning and headed to the North market, in part to get in practice for the farmer's market season, and in part to see if anyone had ventured out yet (The market starts in April, but a few farmers had mentioned coming before that for a Saturday or two.) They hadn't (except for the guy from Gypsy Bees, who had a table inside) but we didn't let that slow us down.

We started with a cinnamon roll and hot cross buns from Omega Artisan Baking. I procured a latte from the coffee shop (the price jumped up by almost $1, thus removing its "cheapest latte in town" status. Le sigh.) and after demolishing the cinnamon roll we jumped right into shopping. Cottage ham and pork chops from Blues Creek. A boneless, skinless chicken breast and stock from North Market Poultry (for chicken piccata; since I forgot to have it butterflied I guess I will be learning to do that myself.) Grape tomatoes, a cucumber and lemon from the Greener Grocer (not local, sigh.) Sugardaddy's brownie cream cheese ice cream from Jeni's. Angel hair pasta from Pastaria.

Next we headed up to Worthington for the winter farmer's market. It was pretty much the same as usual, but 2silos were there with eggs (unfortunately I bought some from Raven Rock before I saw them) and the vegetable people (H-W Organic) had snow pea pods! I spent $22 on veggies: four huge onions, 2 bunches of scallions, potatoes, snow peas, baby lettuce and baby spinach. I bought 2 blocks of cheese from the Ohio cheese people (raw milk jack and garlic and herb) and a 1/2 gallon of apple cider from Gillogly Orchards. You can probably guess that pork chops with apples, onions, and apple cider will be on the menu this week. I also picked up a small rosemary plant. I hope I don't kill it!

Can it be spring? Can it be strawberry season, or at least asparagus season? We have kept vegetable and fruit buying to a minimum this winter, and I am starved for fresh fruit. Tasty fresh fruit.

There are no big Easter plans here at Green Leanings. I will be making deviled (local) eggs and a pasta salad (with local cheese and spinach) for an early potluck, and possibly some chicken piccata for us later in the evening. I don't like egg yolks so making the deviled eggs should be... interesting. They always look so pretty; maybe if I add enough flavoring I'll find them to be edible. I love egg whites, but have never liked the taste and texture of yolks.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Snowed in, day two: more Dark Days meals!

Yup, it's easy to eat locally when you're at a level 2 snow emergency. I didn't manage to take pictures today, as we were busy with shoveling. Okay, so I couldn't do much of the shoveling, but I tried! It warmed up today so the snow was all heavy and wet, and having a cold/asthma/out-of-joint collarbone is not conducive to shoveling.
No snow blower here at Green Leanings!

We only had two meals today (unless you count the time spent with a pint of Jeni's Pear Riesling Sorbet as a meal) because of late sleeping/the time change/sheer exhaustion from trying to manually clear 20.4 inches of snow from the driveway.

Brunch was the aforementioned peppered bacon (Blue's Creek) and eggs (Raven Rock) with toast (I forget who made the bread, but it was from a Farmer's Market last month.) Eggs cooked in bacon fat are the best thing EVER. Well, aside from the bacon itself. We are big fans of bacon here.

Dinner involved more pork because it was the quickest thing to defrost (it didn't feel like dinner time, what with the extra daylight, so I had to cook at the last minute.) I warmed up some cottage ham from Blue's Creek with honey from Gypsy Bees; with it I served colcannon (red potatoes, leeks, and green cabbage with butter and milk), corn (with butter), and green beans (with shallots, olive oil, and lemon.) Non-local foods were the salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil (I was a little tired of drenching everything with butter!)

I confess that I was tempted to get pizza for dinner, but it seemed silly to risk the roads without a pressing reason. I'll be out of town for much of the next week, so there won't be much in the way of local meal reports.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

dark days challenge - being snowed in has its advantages

We've had 20.4 inches of snow in the last two days, plus drifts. I'll try to get some pictures tomorrow, if I can stop coughing long enough to shovel. Where are the money-hungry flocks of children with shovels when you need them?

I was very sad that the snow storm coincided with our winter market (which was apparently canceled.) Now I must wait 2 weeks for more spinach and lettuce and onions (which I am out of again! Eek!)

Anyway, today was a cooking kind of a day, and the advantage of being trapped at home is that you must use what is in the freezer and pantry. So we've had nothing but local meals today.

Breakfast was a big pot of oatmeal from Stutzman Farms with a granny smith apple from H-W farm, sweetened with maple sugar from Pleiades. Salt, cinnamon and nutmeg were non-local additions (and I grated the latter from whole spices.)

Lunch was another rendition of pasta and meatballs. The angel hair pasta came from Pastaria at the North Market; the marinara sauce was made from scratch from frozen tomatoes from the freezer (it came out quite well, but there was a lot of liquid that I drained off), and the meatballs were again with grass-fed beef from Long Meadows (plus local bread soaked in local milk, local herbs, local egg, local onions and garlic.) Non-local ingredients were salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese (terroir, from the local Italian market.) It was quite tasty, and just the thing for a snowy afternoon.

While the oven was on from the meatballs, I cut up my one rouge vif d'etampes pumpkin and roasted it for soup. I sweated garlic and the last of the onions, then added the roasted pumpkin and some veggie stock from the freezer. As it cooked I grated a GIANT carrot from the root cellar project (it was buried in sand in a cooler in the garage, and aside from some sprouting was still quite fresh-looking and tasty) and cooked it with some ginger and curry powder. Eventually it joined the rest of the soup and the whole lot got punished with the immersion blender (aka The Punisher, after a very amusing blog post by A Hunger Artist, aka Bob del Grosso.) I added a little more ginger and a healthy dose of thyme, and it was quite good. If I'd had cream on hand I would have mixed a little in at the end, but instead I just grated some Parmesan on top and served it with crostini from Whole Foods (I made crostini last week but they didn't toast quite enough and went stale.) Non-local foods: seasonings and cheese and crostini.)

While the soup was simmering I made a batch of scones using 1/2 local (soft) wheat flour, and local butter, milk, egg, and raspberries from the freezer. The combination of raspberries and whole wheat made them a very strange color (purplish grey) but they were quite tasty and rather light. I look forward to having one for breakfast.

Brunch tomorrow will be more local peppered bacon and eggs (cooked in bacon fat, my favorite.) You see what a hardship this eating locally thing is?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Dark Days Challenge - breakfast for dinner, and too much excitement at home

Life has been a little too exciting chez Green Leanings. First of all, we both have contracted the plague, aka a really nasty upper respiratory bug. I am pretty much coughing non-stop, and my partner is just getting sick. Yesterday evening a guy from the gas company came out to investigate "a non-flammable intensity gas smell" near the meter (that was mentioned 4 months ago by a meter reader.) No detectable gas with his equipment, but we could both smell it. Then he dug into the ground, and bingo. Gas at 10 times the flammable level near the foundation of the house. He turns off the gas. I have a panic attack.

Repairmen come out today. The area with the leak is covered by a deck, and they won't touch it. So my partner manages to rip out the decking single-handedly while the repairmen attend to another house on our street. Did I mention the blizzard? Yes, we are in the midst of what some people are calling "the blizzard of '08." The repairmen return and manage to fix the leak, despite the worsening of the weather. The gas company tells us they can turn the gas back on... on Monday. At this point it is about 55 degrees F in the house. We mention that we are at home and freezing, and they tell us maybe tonight... maybe tomorrow. Maybe. Miracle of miracles, the same guy who turned off the gas is on duty, and recognizes our address. He tests the line (took about an hour in the heavy snow), turns the gas on, and makes sure the furnace and hot water heater are working properly. And he's a cat person, so a few of our curious furkids get a scritching in the process.

I had been planning to go to a nice, nearby Embassy Suites hotel for the night (and enjoying their manager's reception, hot tub, and cooked-to-order breakfast) but the roads were getting worse and worse, and suddenly we had hot water again. So I pulled out the (local) bread I was defrosting, cut a few slices for toast (with local butter), and cooked up some (local) peppered bacon and eggs. Since it was a celebratory dinner we had a little more bacon than usual. This batch is really fatty, and the joys of lightly crisped fatty bacon cannot be underestimated. For dessert I enjoyed some lapsang souchong with armangac prune ice cream from Jeni's (as a lover of things smoky I find it quite fabulous.)

It was rather nice to have a totally local meal in the face of adversity. And having hot water to clean up the bacon grease? Priceless.

Plus there's enough bacon left for breakfast. Life is good (except for the coughing, and the gaping hole where the deck used to be, and the foot of snow. But since I have heat, I'm not complaining.)