Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Eating Seaonally (You Gotta Eat Your Greens!)

When I was in Dominica for four months this winter, I had a lot of time on my hands. I also had a lot of crayons and that led to a lot of greeting card making, which led to writing a children's book. The title was There's a Chicken in my Kitchen!. It was about growing up on a farm- through a young ten-year-old girl's (my) eyes. It was divided into four chapters- spring, summer, fall, and winter, with a section in the back with corresponding recipes. There were two vegetable stories per chapter- along with one animal story and one story about the seasons (swimming in the river, dirt and bugs, etc). Spring-time I had a story titled- You Gotta Eat Your Greens! and it was all about... yep, how we gotta eat our greens. And trust me, you might think you're sick of them now- wait til mid-summer and an edible leaf is nowhere in sight.

The other week at the market I met a very nice elderly couple who had just heard about the market and were there "checking it out". They had walked around, viewed the kohlrabi, kale, collards, lettuce, radishes, beet greens, and cabbages and said to me as they left, "We sure are glad we know about this! We'll have to come back when the vegetables start coming in".

Now, before you say anything, don't even try to pretend you don't know what they're talking about. They are talking about the good stuff- the okra, summer squash, cucumbers, and best of all, tomatoes. Now that the weather is sweltering and sticky, we are ready for the food to fit the season. But this is part of learning what the season IS. Although it may feel like August, it's still (barely, but still) June, and we are yet a little way from the rich, ripe overflow of tomatoes and cucumbers. The squashes are peeking through the present greens, and are very welcome. Green beans are coming in, potatoes are being dug, onions are being pulled before the solstice. But still the kale, collards, cabbages, and radishes are hanging to the last threads of cool morning air, and we should make the best of it. The great thing about new foods coming in is that the old ones are completely changed. Brand new recipe ideas pop up as potatoes mingle with the radishes- roasted and tossed with dill, mustard, and olive oil. Summer squash is thinly sliced and added to a cabbage slaw. Steamed green beans and caramelized onions can completely change your ideas about kale. Sauteed zucchini will be mixed with chopped basil and thinly sliced chard that has been wilted in balsamic...

These are my favorite times of food-seasons, when the old overlaps with the new. The flavors of everything suddenly change and open up new ways of not only cooking the foods, but also experiencing the tastes. I love it when spring meets summer and when summer meets fall. It's like a new season comes at the PERFECT moment, just when you think you are tired of the old one, an opportunity comes where you can fall in love all over again. It creates these wonderful little mid-seasons, almost like individual seasons themselves. This would never, ever happen if we could pick and choose what we wanted, whenever we wanted it. Sometimes it is a bit challenging to keep cooking that darned old kale week after week, when all you want is a tomato. But if you stick with it, the rewards are beyond amazing. You grow to really know what the food tastes like, and learn to cook in ways that ten stacks of cookbooks could never teach you. It takes a real commitment to cook entirely seasonally and to not give up on the kale before it gives up on itself. But, as Carlo Petrini said, it is the waiting that makes food taste so good- the longing, the suspense. It is also the dedication of hanging on to the end. True love is never gained without full commitment and joy.

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                 Even if your refrigerator looks like this:

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Here's to the brand new market season!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kinda-Sorta Kimchee, or, What to do With All Those Veggies

I just received the Main Street Market letter and saw the post on A Strange Grace, a blog attached to the email, about kimchee and remembered- O yeah, I wanted to do one of those too.  I don't make real Korean kimchee and don't pretend to.  I just ferment seasonal vegetables because they are really, really good like that.  Grace's little short history is nice, I would recommend reading it.  My inspiration comes from Wild Fermentation- a "cookbook" that I would say is an absolute MUST for every single person who has ever met and loved vegetables.  I have gone through many fermentation phases, including miso, but the fermented root veggies is a phase that never stops.  You can ferment almost anything, as Sandor will tell you.  In this batch pictured below I actually had some green beans from Crabtree that produced themselves a bit early.  I really love broccoli and snap peas too.  Kohlrabi is wonderful and crunchy, beets turn everything a nice fushia, radishes are really good whole, and garlic scapes are beyond amazing.  Just experiment and don't be afraid.  As far as I can tell nothing will kill you, it might just not taste that good....

Wild Fermentation can actually be purchased now at Greenlife- the last time I saw it it was on the beer brewing shelf.  It can also be bought through Chelsea Green Publishing, and I'm sure on Amazon.  Both Sandor's site and Chelsea Green are on the sidebar of this blog 

What I usually do:

Take a HUGE pile of veggies- greens, roots, stalks.... I have heard that un-fresh stuff can be used but personally I can taste that in the finished product, the veggies just don't sparkle as much if they aren't really fresh.  Wash them all but don't worry too much about the dirt, but only if it is local and organically produced.   A little dirt is good for us- in fact, Sandor has a recipe for eating it in his other book The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved, which is also very worth owning (and I am in it for a brief moment, or at least my very moldy salame is).  Chop everything as you like it.  I usually do a variation of slices and rounds.  Small radishes are super yummy left whole, and I even left some teeny tiny beets from Circle S Farm whole in my last batch.  Sometimes, if two vegetables are similar in color or texture (if you use beets or even pink radishes everything will turn pink anyway), I cut them into different shapes, just so I'll know what is what when it's all done.  For instance, last time I cut the kohlrabi into sticks and the daikon into rounds.

Make a paste of finely chopped (by hand or in the food processor) ginger, garlic, and chilies.  This part is all up to you, depending on how spicy or strong tasting you like it.  The tastes mellows a WHOLE lot, so use three times as much as you think you need.  I really don't like it too spicy, but I do like a lot of ginger and garlic.  For one gallon I usually use two or three heads of garlic and a large hunk of ginger.  I add about three dried chilies- string up and dry this summer's chilies in your kitchen and you will have enough all winter and next spring-long to make whatever you want with them.    In Wild Fermentation, the recipe tells you to first soak the veggies in a brine of 3 T salt to 4 Cups water (un-chlorinated).  Then you pour off and save the brine, mix the softened veggies with the ginger-garlic paste, and pack them into a jar or crock.  If the moisture drawn out of the veggies does not cover them by the first day or so you add back a little brine.  I have started skipping the first step and just adding a little brine to the raw veggies tossed with paste and packed in a jar.    They only problem with this is that it is harder to control how salty the veggies will be and how much moisture will come out of them.   I end up having brine overflow onto the counter, even if I only added a teeny bit.  If you have never done this, read Wild Fermentation, and don't follow my advice.

Whatever you ferment the stuff in, you have to be able to fit something inside to weigh down the veggies, to both help press their juices out and to keep them from floating up and being exposed to the air, and thereby getting moldy.  When I do small 1 gallon batches I use a glass wine or other booze bottle full of water to act as a weight.  It does not fit entirely snug into the jar, there is some wiggle room, but I have never had a problem. I prefer to use bottle withOUT a punt, just so no veggies hang out up in there.  (Wild Fermentation has several other suggestions).  Cover the whole thing with a cloth to keep out bugs and dust and set in a cool dark corner to ferment.  Taste everyday.  You can skip the tasting the first few days if you don't like salty veggies, but the magic will happen either quickly or slowly, depending on how cool your corner is.  The hotter it is the more salt you should use and the quicker the fermentation happens.  The kimchee can be left out until it is as pungent as you'd like it.  Once it tastes perfect, stick it in the fridge and enjoy for as long as it lasts.  It is very nice as an after dinner digestif.

The veggies I used for this one:

  • Signal Mountain Farm bok choy (mainly the white part and some of the green)
  • William's Island Farm and Crabtree Farm garlic scapes
  • Crabtree Farm green beans
  • Circle S Farm spring onions and teeny beets
  • Crabtree Farm kohlrabi and beets
  • William's Island Farm Hakurai Turnips
  • Sequatchie Cove Farm Easter Egg Radishes
  • and.......Helios Radishes from my own yard!

Then, yesterday I just made another batch.  I didn't have any garlic or ginger so I used layered tons of William's Island Farm garlic scapes and some whole and ground dried chiles with:
  • William's Island Farm daikon and turnips
  • Circle S Farm broccoli
  • Crabtree (or Sequatchie Cove, I don't remember) Farm kohlrabi
And that's it.  I thought about throwing some beets but I decided I wanted this one to be whiter.  I just poured some brine on it, weighted it down, and put it in the corner.  I obviously added too much brine, as you can see things floating in it.  I may pour off some of the excess brine, especially if it looks like it might creep up and overflow.  In about a week I'll let you know how it is....

Sunday, June 6, 2010

June Celebration Dinner Menu

To Start

Chilled Soup
With Crabtree Farm kohlrabi and Williams Island Farm leeks and garlic scapes

William’s Island Farm Leg of Lamb Sandwiches
On Niedlov’s Farmer’s Rye with William’s Island Farm arugula pesto and Sequatchie Cove Creamery’s Cumberland cheese

Wontons filled with Link 41’s Lamb Sausage
Sequatchie Cove Farm Shiitake

Both with William’s Island Farm nappa cabbage

The Feast

William’s Island Farm Lamb
Braised with William’s Island Farm garlic scapes in red wine

Cold Soba Noodles
Tossed with roasted Crabtree Farm beets, Circle S Farm spring onions, 
Signal Mountain Farm fennel bulb and handmade black bean miso

Roasted William’s Island Farm Daikon and Hakurai Turnips
with cilantro from my yard

William’s Island Farm Nappa Cabbage Slaw
With Signal Mountain Farm radishes and Sale Creek Honey

To Finish

 Chocolate Beet Cake
With Crabtree Farm beets, Scharffen Berger chocolate, and a Sequatchie Cove Farm strawberry sauce

Featuring (and Many Thanks to)…. 

-All beautiful and colorful wine glasses and water glasses are made by Prentice Hicks and donated for use during this dinner.  They can be taken home, if desired, for $20 a cup and $25 a wine glass

-Various bowls (big and small), plates, and vases (small and big) are made by Anderson Bailey, and are also donated for use during this dinner.  They may be taken home as well, please ask for prices. 

-A few of the plates and vases are made by Danielle Fox.  Unfortunately there was a mishap in her last firing and she was not able to donate as many pieces (beautiful serving bowls) as we hoped.  Her few pieces are donated for use tonight and available for purchase as well. 

-All flowers are done by our gracious and talented hostess Eleanor Cooper. 

-Of course this dinner would have been nothing but empty plates and stomachs without our dedicated and hardworking farmers- William’s Island Farm, Sequatchie Cove Farm and Creamery, Circle S Farm, Signal Mountain Farm, Sale Creek Honey, and Crabtree Farm were all extremely important in the making of this dinner.  They are all at Main Street Farmer’s Market- along with many other farms producing equally delicious produce and meat.

And last, but decidedly not least- Many thanks to all of you, the eaters, who choose to make this community better and more alive everyday.  I look forward to seeing you all at the Main Street Farmers Market throughout the season!