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.)