Friday, November 27, 2009

Scavenge and Glean

Scavengers aren't generally thought of very well, but there are ways of appreciating them. After all, when a murder of crows descends, they do clean up our roadkill, our rot, our discards. They loudly scold us for our errors, and move on to clean up for someone else. (Yes, a flock of crows is really called a "murder.")

Here's a non-crow version: Food Bank Farm went to farmers' fields after they were done harvesting. They dug and pulled and collected missed roots, tiny broccoli heads that wouldn't sell at market, imperfect greens, missed apples, and delivered the fresh food to food pantries. (Julia, the vegetable farmer at Fishkill Farms, calls her late season pool-ball sized cabbages "kittens.")

Worlds apart, in the U.S. there are philosophically driven dumpster divers, and in China, rag pickers who dissassemble our discarded electronics to save the reusable pieces. They are driven by poverty.

Another version is groups like Fallen Fruit, like Iskash*taa. Like a friend of a friend Inna Pickle Inna Jam who rides her bike around, offering jars of preserves and asking fruit tree owners if she can pick their unwanted fruit. Her preserves are named after where the food was discovered: Norvell Street Quince and Essex Street Plum.

This dark, moody day after Thanksgiving, the flocks of crows are here, talking. I'm not taking it as a death toll, rather, as a sign of efficiency, of early winter cleanup, as something that is right and makes sense.

Full disclosure: I was predisposed to be pro-scavenge since I had and loved a vulture stuffed animal as a kid.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Roasted Squash

My grocery, Nature's Pantry in Fishkill, had a full thanksgiving meal laid out for shoppers to taste this weekend. Thankfully, it was a vegetarian meal. They also provided recipes for the food they offered, and I thought I'd share the tastiest one here.

Roasted Squash
  • 1 lb. orange squash deseeded and peeled, and roughly chopped (kabocha, butternut, acorn)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp chopped shallot
  • 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 c margarine, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix herbs and spices into the oil, then fold into the squash. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour in a glass casserole dish, or until tender when poked with a fork.

Thanks to vegannifer for the image.

Holiday Veg Roast

We hope that you and your loved ones enjoy the roasts prepared with love by wintergreens!

If you forgot to order one, maybe you'll find this Everyday Dish video useful. In it, my pal Brian McCarthy makes a great seitan roast.

Vegan Turkey Loaf from Everyday Dish TV on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Distribution - November 22, 2009

This Thanksgiving distribution we have food that is sturdy in the cold (kale, sage), many items from the root cellar, and our first fermented bit.
  • roots: rutabagas, turnips, radishes from Huguenot Street Farm
  • rhubarb chutney from Madura Farm (the rhu, not the chut!)
  • sage from Huguenot Street Farm
  • potatoes & sweet potatoes from Huguenot Street Farm
  • squash: butternut and delicata from Huguenot Street Farm
  • fennel from Morgiewicz Farm
  • curly kale from Morgiewicz Farm
  • garlic from Huguenot Street Farm
If green was the theme of the first distribution, the theme of the second is "roots."
There's nothing better than mixed roasted roots in the fall. I chop all roots (the denser ones should be smallest) with squash and fennel and whole garlic cloves and quartered onions and bake them with olive oil and salt, for an easy meal filled with a lot of earthy flavors. If you have a fry daddy or a good exhaust fan over your stove, you may want to make pretty root veggie chips.

If rutabagas (a cross between a turnip and a cabbage) are new to you, you might want to prepare them in a way that they are the focus: mashed with maple or with pears, or stuffed into squashes with pecans, or in a soup with chipotle.We decided to include rhubarb this distribution with the theory that this chutney can be a locally grown replacement for cranberry sauce at a thanksgiving meal. It's sweet, sour, tangy, and a tiny bit spicy, and goes nicely on crackers as an hors d'oeuvre, or as a tangy side to the many salty and savory foods we traditionally eat at this holiday. (The chutney has the following ingredients: fermented rhubarb, onion, raisins, agave nectar, apple cider vinegar, ginger, garlic, jalapeno, olive oil, salt, allspice, clove, black pepper, cinnamon, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.)

Sage is a rich herb, and a key ingredient to stuffing. It tastes great with potatoes and apples, and, if your fry daddy is still hot, there are sage potato chips.You can figure out what to do with potatoes and delicious sweet potatoes: Mash 'em! Ditto for squashes. Just don't forget to roast your seeds! Use garlic in your mashes, and every day in everything, to keep from getting sick.

And kale. We're so obsessed with bready things and creamy things on thanksgiving, that we often forget our greens. When we remember them, our guests are happy. There are a billion ways to prepare greens, but I find that this recipe (pretty and appealing) is by far the most universally accepted by people who aren't used to eating leafy greens.

Fantastic fennel. Try it carmelized, in potatoes, with pasta, or for the strongest licorice flavor, shredded raw in a salad.

There are some unusual foods in this distribution, but I urge you to give them a try. You're not always going to love every food that's locally grown, but it's worth it to find out.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winter Salad

Green salads are not just for summer lunches. What goes nicer with hot soup or a hunk of fresh bread?

Way back when I was a young and going to school in Jersey, there was a snow storm that dumped something like four feet of snow, and stopped everything for days. Suffering from serious cabin fever, I hiked to a friend's house for dinner.

This was not an easy task, since plows hadn't come through at all, and drifts were taller than me. A walk that usually took fifteen minutes took me at least an hour and a half. Tired and wet when I got there, I thought it would be the soup or the tea or the whiskey that would win my heart, but it was a green salad with lime dressing, topped with avocado, pepitas, and lots of pomegranate seeds.

I grew up in the desert eating pomegranates and kumquats like they were going out of style, but I had never thought to put either of them in a salad. Nearly twenty years later I remember that salad and evening fondly. I don't remember my friend Matthew's boyfriend's name—the smart guy responsible for the salad.

Now my salads are always an experiment. If I'm craving something, I put it on a salad, or, in the dressing. (Tequila, no problem! Jicama, good idea! Flax seeds, sesame seeds, and peanuts, great! Pickles, well, all right. Peanut butter, yes, excellent with sesame oil and soy sauce.)

In winter this often means I'm putting hot foods on top of my greens: roasted beets and parsnips, wild rice, curry sauce, mashed potatoes, half burned spicy green beans, bean thread, squashes. Nuts and fruit are great on top of the hot layer. Obviously I use big bowls for these monster creations. Half of the time there's so much good stuff in there, I don't need dressing at all.

Today's salad had chopped raw fennel (the whole thing, bulb to fronds), haruki turnip, walnuts, and an apple. This sounds a little sad, but here it is anyway: It was the highlight of my day.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Biblically Bad

With 2009 being the worst farming season in NY in memory, the whole being-grateful-for-our-food ritual feels important.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Salted Plums

I grew up next to the Mexican border, sucking saladitos that I bought for a nickel from a box next to the register at the corner store. Better than candy, these salted dried plums made your face and neck pucker, were useful for bets and challenges, and made pop fiz like crazy when you dropped them in the can. I haven't had a saladito in years, but my hankering is satisfied by the Japanese version, umeboshi plums. (You can taste ume in wintergreens' plum vinegar radishes.)

My friend Youko serves ume dishes at her New Paltz eatery, Gomen-Kudasai, and sent this info my about beloved salty snack:
The Japanese are masters when it comes to fermentation and pickling. The ume plum is no exception. When the plum is picked it is fermented in a very specific amount of salt that promotes only an important beneficial bacteria: lactic acid bacteria. These bacteria run the show and prevent harmful bacteria from entering the plum. This probiotic quality of umeboshi, in combination with its other healing properties, provides one of coolest examples of holistic eating.

Umeboshi vs. Conventional Antibiotics

Conventional antibiotics are nutorious for 2 things: gastrointestinal upset, and easy bleeding & bruising. Both of these are rooted in the fact that conventional antibiotics are often (but not always) broad-spectrum antibiotics, meaning: they kill the beneficial bacteria in your gut too! Without friendly gut bacteria, your gut cannot digest food efficiently. Moreover, gut bacteria are primarily responsible for vitamin K production, which is responsible for blood coagulation and keeps our bleeding in check.

There are times when only a presrciption antibiotics should be recommended. However, umeboshi is better used as an antibiotic tonic. A tonic is something which helps the overall functioning of a system over a longer period of time, rather than doing something very specific in a short period of time. Umeboshi is also, like ginger, a gastrointestinal tonic.

So unlike conventional antibiotics, umeboshi works as an effective long term pathogen antibacterial, but at the same time protects (rather than destroys) your gastrointestinal health.
Another random use: ume apparently works as a hangover cure. Though I haven't tested the theory, friend-of-wintergreens Eva said our fermented pickles make for an excellent hangover recovery. If you've overindulged, indulge in a pickle, or drop an ume plum or saladito in your morning seltzer!If you missed the link the first time, Just Hungry illustrates how to make your own umeboshi.

Beacon or Bust

It was a great summer in Cold Spring, but winter is all about Beacon! We've closed up shop in Cold Spring, and will now be at the Beacon Farmers Market the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month, through the end of April.

Harvest Pie

  • 3 large potatoes
  • 1 sweet potato or yam
  • 2 Tbsp soy milk
  • 1 Tbsp margarine
  • 1 1/2 c vegetable stock
  • 2 c assorted fresh veggies
  • Your favorite herbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat over to 375 degrees (F).

Cook and mash potatoes adding soy milk and soy margarine to make it creamy, and salt and pepper to taste. Some people like to add lots of garlic!

Make a "gravy" by boiling your vegetable stock for 10 minutes uncovered, or until slightly thickened.

Clean and chop the veggies so that they are in small chunks or thin slices. Use your favorites—root vegetables and celery are nice. Put vegetables in a round shallow baking dish. Add chopped herbs—I use parsley since it tastes great, and is still standing in the cold garden. Pour gravy mixture on top and spread mashed potatoes so that all the veggies are covered by a mashed potato "cap". Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top of the mashed potato becomes crisp and golden. Cool and serve in slices.

Serves 4, prep time = 1 hour

This is a rich dish, so be sure to serve it with something green!

*Add small chunks of seitan to vegetable mix.
*For a pot pie style dish, use pie crusts (top and bottom), add peas to the mix, cut potato mixture in half and stir into vegetable mix, and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mushy and Sweet

It was great to meet all our members at the first distribution of the season! We couldn't have asked for a nicer day, and appreciate all of your enthusiasm about the C.S.A.

There's no doubt that pawpaws were the highlight. I was sent a recording of one of our smallest members politely asking if she could have "more pawpaw please," her new favorite food. We were told about the pawpaw festival in Ohio which includes everything pawpaw, and has me wanting a pawpaw beer. Several people revealed the location of existing trees in Beacon they believe to be pawpaws. And several more took and promised to plant pawpaw seeds.

Maybe in a couple of years we can have a Beacon pawpaw festival! In the meantime, we'll see you again over apples and squashes.

Harvest Soup

Here's an easy and satisfying way to use all the veggies now in season, and to have your lunch prepared for the whole week.
  • 9 cups water
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cups squash, cubed
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1 small cauliflower, cored and cut into 1 inch florets
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into thin slices
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 small head of cabbage, cored, quartered, and sliced thin
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 2 Tbsp white miso
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

In large pot, bring water to a boil. Add all ingredients except lemon juice. Return to boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently to form thick stock. Stir in lemon juice at the end. This soup makes a great leftover and is fat free.

This is the kind of soup that tastes best eaten out of a ceramic bowl that someone you love made in their pottery class!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Distribution - November 8, 2009

Hey winter, bring it on! We're ready....

Our first share distribution of the season features some last items plucked before the frosts, and a few that have grown sweeter with the cold. Here's what we've got:
  • pawpaws from Lee Reich's "Farmden"
  • scallions from Huguenot Street Farm
  • green peppers from Huguenot Street Farm
  • cabbages from Huguenot Street Farm
  • peppermint from the wintergreens garden
  • broccoli (huge heads!) from Madura Farm
  • brussel sprouts from Madura Farm
Just to be cheezy about things, everything in our first distribution is GREEN!

I was so excited about being able to make pawpaws available for wintergreens, and Lee blew my mind by talking about the possibility of providing hardy kiwis next year. I tasted one, and they're really really good. But, in the here, now and today, pawpaws are an amazing thing! We'll crack a couple open at the market so that you can taste them. If you don't like them, you should make a point of giving these rare babes to someone who might be interested. And you should plant the seeds! Pawpaws shouldn't be rare, and we can start a pp trend right here in Beacon. Lee suggested reading his pp chapter in Uncommon Fruits before planting them. If you decide to do that, put the seeds in a baggie in the refrigerator with a moist paper towel (and ideally some moss) until you're ready to plant. Sorry to have given you a reading assignment and a project, but not too sorry... Oh! I'm supposed to remind you not to eat the skin or the seeds. Just that luscious, custard flesh. Farmer Ron from Huguenot Street swears by frozen pawpaw: like sorbet.
The scallions and peppers are two other things brought in just before the killing cold. We don't have a ton of these, but enough for fajitas or a stir fry.

Cabbages taste perfect in fall. I'll post a lovely Harvest Soup recipe made with cabbage and all the other veggies available now, but really all I ever want to do with my cabbages are eat them boiled, or make colcanon. Oh yes, and stinky kraut.

Mint! Make tea with fresh leaves, chop them up and add them to salads, cook them into beans to keep your belly settled, or make really tasty Indian Dal. If you're already busy making fried green tomatoes with your garden rescues, try them this time with mint chutney.

Broccoli. You're good here, right? Everyone feels stronger and smarter after eating broccoli, and the cold weather makes it go down even sweeter.Ridiculously attractive brussel batons. For many years I'd only had slimy, overcooked brussel sprouts, and they were the only vegetable I didn't like. After having them raw and cooked well, they've become one of my favorite things about fall. These are a bit spicy, very crispy. Again, you'll just want to show off your Popeye muscles after you eat them. If you don't know what to do with them them, consider roasting them, caramelizing them, or chopping them and making them lemony.

Happy first distribution! Eleven to go...

Extending the Season

People tend to think of covering tender plants in the spring, when they are first put out. But row covers, wrap, and cloches work well at this time of year, too. We had our first heavy frost last night, and some of my covered herbs are looking unscathed this morning. (That's peppermint in the picture.)

Once garden herbs like chives have had a tiny taste of winter, you can put a shovel full into a pot, and they'll grow vigorously on a sunny windowsill indoors, thinking its spring again.

Then you can not only enjoy this chive oil on top of celeriac soup, you can chop fresh chives onto your soups, salads, and sandwiches year round.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Seed Arts

The [vital] Hudson Valley Seed Library is having an art opening in Rosendale November 14th to show off the artist-designed seed packs for the coming season.

It's a win win win: Hudson Valley farmers/seed savers, Hudson Valley artists, and Hudson Valley chefs all in one room for one evening.

What the World Eats (and eats and eats)

© Peter Menzel from the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

Thanks to Tea and Food for reminding me about this amazing book, and providing a link to some of the fascinating pictures of families in different countries with all their food for one week laid out around them. I'd be terrified to do this exercise!

Revolution Bread

"It will be a great day for America, incidentally, when we begin to eat bread again, instead of the blasphemous and tasteless foam rubber that we have substituted for it."
—James Baldwin in The Fire Next Time, 1962
A James Baldwin book wasn't a place I expected to find a quote about the U.S.'s wrecked food systems, but there it is, right in the middle of race and religion and violence and sex. Baldwin, of course, was also referring to our wider lack of basic sustenance, beyond food, specifically in Harlem in the Fifties and Sixties. Harlem still has a shortage of nutritious food.

It is interesting for me to think about how long we've been losing our connection to real food. On some podcast I listened to lately, Michael Pollan was talking about the commercialization of prepared food in the Fifties. When cake mix was first marketed, it didn't go over well because people felt that just adding water was cheating. Cake mixes continued to be sold, of course, but producers backed up a step, and made it so that a cook has to break an egg to use the mix, and therefore feel like they're doing some food preparation. Now that's better! We've made an effort!

I also heard about a diet recently where the guidelines were simple: eat [and drink] nothing out of a box, bottle, or package. Prepare your own food and drink.

Revolutionary idea.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Easy Duck-Free Pâté

If you're having company, or even if you want to treat yourself to a special cracker spread for your Sunday night TV-a-thon, this easy recipe is rich and tasty. While typing up this recipe, I had a flashback of my go-to comfort food from college: stuffed mushrooms. Who doesn't adore appetizers?

Serves 6

  • 2 ounces water
  • 12 ounces sliced mushrooms of your choice
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 4 ounces firm tofu, mashed
  • 2 ounces chopped walnuts
  • salt and black pepper to taste
*I like a little something green in here, too, like a chunk of bell pepper or a few fresh green beans.

Heat the water in a frying pan, then cook mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Simmer five minutes or until soft. Transfer the vegetables and tofu to a food processor or blender and process until smooth Add walnuts, salt and pepper and blend for another five minutes.

Transfer to a serving dish and chill for at least two hours before serving. Serve with crackers, crudites, or on slices of cucumber.