Tuesday, June 29, 2010

10 Reasons to Buy Local Food

I am still in the midst of organizing my apartment, and while doing so I realized that I am a paper hoarder.  I am not talking about stationary, which I consider design related - so that makes it collecting - not hoarding.  Yet on the other hand, my wallet is always bursting with receipts, my desk is covered with ticket stubs, metro cards, random things handed to me on the street, and magazine tears.  So I finally went through it all and came across something that I was actually glad I kept.  It is a pink photocopy of 10 reasons to buy local food, which was taken from "With an Ear to the Ground," by Vern Grubinger.  I thought I would share:

1.  Local food tastes better.  Food imported from far away is older, has traveled on trucks or planes, and has sat in warehouses before it finally gets to you.

2.  Local produce is better for you.  The shorter the time between the farm and your table, the less likely it is that nutrients will be lost from fresh food.

3.  Local food preserves genetic diversity.  In the modern agricultural system, plant varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen uniformly, withstand harvesting, survive packing and last on the shelf, so there is limited genetic diversity in large-scale production.  Smaller local farms, in contrast, often grow many different varieties to provide a long harvest season, in a an array of colors and flavors.

4.  Local food is safe.  Local farmers aren't anonymous and they take their responsibility to the consumer seriously.

5.  Local food supports local families.  Wholesale prices that farmers get for their products are low, often near the cost of production.  Local farmers who sell directly to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food, which helps the farm families stay on the land.

6.  Local food builds community.  When you buy direct from a farmer, you're engaging in a time-honored connection between eater and grower.  Knowing the farmer gives you insight into the seasons, the land, and your food...It gives you access to a place where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture.

7.  Local food preserves open space.  When farmers get paid more for their products by marketing locally, they're less likely to sell their farmland for development.  When you buy locally grown food, you're doing something proactive to preserve our agricultural landscape.

8.  Local food keeps taxes down.  According to several studies, farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas most other kinds of development contribute less in taxes than the cost of the services they require.

9.  Local food benefits the environment and wildlife.  Well-managed farms conserve fertile soil and clean water in our communities.  The farm environment is a patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds, and buildings that provide habitat for wildlife.

10.  Local food is an investment in the future.  By supporting local farmers today, you are helping ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Swiss Chard or Spinach Tacos with Caramelized Onions

Twice last week, I made wilted greens tacos, once with spinach and once with Swiss chard - both were delicious.  This recipe is taken from my favorite Mexican cookbook, Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless.  I didn't take a series of picture this round, but I still thought I would share the recipe.

Swiss Chard or Spinach Tacos with Caramelized Onions, by Rick Bayless from Mexican Everyday (serves 2 to 3):
-12 ounce bunch Swiss chard (or collard, mustard, or beet greens), thick lower stems cut off
OR 10 ounces spinach, about 10 cups
-1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
-1 large red or white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
-3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
-About 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1/2 chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
-Salt to taste
-12 warm corn tortillas
-1 cup crumbled Mexican queso or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese, for serving
-About 3/4 cup salsa or hot sauce

To begin, cut the chard crosswise into 1/2 inch slices (small spinach leaves can be left whole).  In a very large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, about 4-5 minutes, until golden-brown, but still crunchy.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir around until  fragrant.  Add the broth or water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the greens.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pan and cook until greens are almost tender, anywhere from 2 minutes for tender greens like spinach, or 5 minutes for Swiss chard.

Uncover the pan, and raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is nearly dry.  Taste and season with additional salt if necessary.

Serve with warm tortillas, crumbled cheese, and salsa.
To learn how to warm tortillas, click here.

Last year around this time I made strawberry-rhubarb crumb bars.  Click here for the recipe.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sorbet

Last week I made strawberry-rhubarb sorbet with the produce from my CSA.  This recipe is of course from my favorite book, The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.  Although it was a refreshing treat for my hot and stuffy apartment, I couldn't help but wish I had made ice cream instead.

Here is the recipe for David Lebovitz's Strawberry Rhubarb Sorbet from The Perfect Scoop (makes about 1 quart):
-12 ounces of rhubarb
-10 ounces of strawberries, rinsed and hulled
-2/3 cup water
-3/4 cup sugar
-1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed

To begin, wash the rhubarb and trim the stem and leaf ends.  Cut rhubarb into 1/2-inch pieces.
Place the rhubarb, water, and sugar in a medium, nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the rhubarb is tender and cooked through.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
While the rhubarb is simmering, slice the strawberries.
Combine the cooled rhubarb and strawberries in the food processor until smooth.
Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to to the manufacturer's instructions.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

CSA Week Three

This week I received a plethora of greens, which included lettuce the size of a baby!  Here is what I got:
-The mother of all green lettuce
-Swiss Chard
-Snow Peas
-Dozen Eggs

I am so excited to have my first batch of blueberries of the season.  I spent the majority of my time last night looking for something special to do with them.  Sometimes the best thing to do is to just eat them.  They are the perfect snack.  Tonight though, I am making blueberry pancakes.  I can't think of anything better than breakfast for dinner.  I was thinking of making blueberry kuchen, but I want to save that for the Fourth of July, so I have settled on trying blueberry frozen yogurt.  Hopefully I will get more blueberries next week so I can make more treats.
As for the gooseberries, I want to try my hands at gooseberry pie, but still searching for a good recipe and  I also need to stop by the Green Market and see if they have more.  One pint just isn't enough for pie.
I also see a lot of salads in my future!

Last year I made garlic scape pesto.  Click here for the recipe.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kale Chips

For the past few years I have tried to like kale, but by the time I swallow I am dreading the next bite of it.  Kale is packed with nutrients and antioxidants (click here to read more), so I am always annoyed with myself for not liking it.

So for the past year or two I have noticed a few kale chip recipes popping up in the food blogosphere.  So I thought I would give it a try and hope this would be the end of my kale-loathing days.  The recipe is taken from Smitten Kitchen and is simple enough.  A bunch of kale, some olive oil, sea salt, and I added some red pepper flakes for a little heat.  Twenty minutes later you have kale chips, which sound and look similar to the dried leaves you rake up  in the fall, sans the red color.  I would imagine they even have the same texture if you ate a dead leaf.  But don't get me wrong, these chips are packed with flavor, they still have that green smell and are light and crispy.  So light that they can fly out of your hands and on to the floor, but so good that you still eat it.  Five second rule!  If you are like me about your dark greens I would definitely give this recipe a try.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lemon Curd

In May I got to go to my favorite city - San Francisco!  Although it was a business trip, I still had time to eat at some great restaurants and try some sweets.  The best part though, was staying at the California designer director's bungalow in Oakland.  She has lemon and lime trees in her backyard.  So dreamy!  She let me pick as many as I could take in my suitcase - so ended up picking a dozen.

May was quite the busy month filled with packing and moving, so I was totally bummed that I hadn't had time to use them.  Luckily most of them kept pretty well.  Supermarket lemons are no competition for these lemons.  They are extra lemony, have super smooth skin, and seem a bit more on the sweeter side rather than the tart side.  I thought lemon curd from the book jam it, pickle it, cure it and was the perfect way to showcase them.  It was pretty simple - juice the lemons, cut some butter, break some eggs, combine with sugar, and stir on the stove top.  The worst part was waiting for it to cool :)

CSA - Week Two

This week from my CSA, I received the following:
-Bok choy
-Snow peas

I have been busy making strawberry rhubarb sorbet, which I will share later.
Taco Pizza and regular tacos - I can't help it, I love Mexican!
Pasta with scapes, peas, and parmesan, which was inspired by the delicious meal I had at Stone Home Wine Bar.  It is so worth making the trip out to Brooklyn to experience Chef John Gibson's dishes.  I have been to Stone Home several times, and I am never been disappointed.  What I love most about Stone Home is that John's menu changes seasonally, I have never gotten the same thing twice.  I definitely recommend checking it out.

Oh and I made fried rice with bok choy and snow peas (sorry no picture).  I never realized how easy it is to make.  Check out the recipe from The Kitchn blog here.

Tonight, I plan to make kale chips - I will let you know how that goes.  It is a real challenge to get me to eat dark greens.

Last year around this time, I made a runny strawberry-rhubarb pie.  Click here for the recipe.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcakes

Last weekend I balanced my time between soccer and baking.   On Sunday I spent the majority of the day on these rhubarb compote shortcakes with macerated strawberries from Martha Stewart.  There were so many components - the short cakes, rhubarb compote, macerated strawberries, and whipped cream.  If you are going to make these, I would make sure to only share them with special people.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

CSA - Week One

This past Wednesday was the start of my CSA.  We got a lot of delicious food from the Garden of Eve Farm.  I was so excited to get rhubarb and strawberries!  If you have only had strawberries from the grocery store, please go to the farmer's market this month and pick up some strawberries immediately.  You have not tasted a real strawberry until you taste a local strawberry in season!  The texture and taste are a whole new experience.  They actually taste like strawberries - how crazy is that?  Click here to learn how to properly store strawberries.
Here is what I got:
-Potatoes (from last winter)
-Bok Choy
-Dozen eggs

Here is what I have been making:

I made spinach marinara omelettes, inspired by the omelette my sister had at Clinton Street Baking Company.  It was actually the first omelette I have ever made and it really wasn't that hard - thanks to Julia Child's instructions from the Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
I made spinach black bean quesadillas the next night and frozen yogurt with strawberries and granola for dessert.  Click here for the fro yo recipe.
Yesterday I tried to recreate a Chipotle burrito, not quite successful, but still tasty.
Today I am hoping to get around to make Martha Stewart's shortcakes with rhubarb compote and macerated strawberries.  I can't wait to see what I get next week!

Last year around this time, I made quick strawberry jam.  Click here to check it out.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dominos Pizza - Is it Really Better?

After the beer garden, we hung out on Anna and Marcus' roof, where we could admire the Manhattan skyline as we waited for Domino's pizza.  I don't know why we had decided on Domino's, but I was willing to give it a try due to the recent commercials proclaiming how horrible their pizza use to be and how it is now so much better.  I guess I could give them credit for being honest.  
A little background on my pizza past:  I lived for Pizza Hut and its greasy golden crust as both a child and teenager.  Book-It was not about books for me, it was about my personal pan that no one but me could touch.  Did I mention that Pizza Hut and I have the same birth place - Wichita, Kansas?  I can still taste the crispy, slightly burnt pepperonis in my mouth, or the taco (no meat please) pizza I would order with my mom.  At my grandparent's place we would order Godfather's.  I don't know why they preferred Godfather's over Pizza Hut, but I did quite enjoy their dessert streusel pizza.  As I got older Papa John's came in my life and quickly exited, as I found their pizza too "gourmet."  Garlic dipping sauce, pepperocinis - really?  Not needed.  As I got older I would sometimes stop at Little Cesars with friends for their five dollar large pizzas, but I rarely had Domino's.  To me Domino's was the loser of the pizzas.  After moving to New York, I have been inundated with pizza, unfortunately I have yet to find a good place to order in Harlem.  So I took this opportunity not only as a little party, but also as a research project.  

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden

Things are finally starting to settle down again, and hopefully I can get back to posting more frequently.  On Memorial Day weekend, my friends Anna and Marcus were so sweet to wake up early on a Saturday and hop over to Harlem, and carry loads and loads of boxes up loads and loads of stairs (5 flights to be exact AND that isn't counting the stairs from the other apartments).  Thanks to Marcus' crazy brute strength, we completed the task in 5 hours and ended the afternoon with tacos and beers.
The next day we decided to venture out to their neighborhood in Astoria, Queens.  We met up at the Bohemian Hall and Beer Gardens, my absolute favorite spot to hang out on a gorgeous day and throw back a few Czech beers.  The garden is really just a large gravel lined backyard with long picnic tables filling the space.  On the perimeters are spots to purchase food and beer, and there is a center section for bands to play and people to dance.  The inside is lined with booths and is quite small compared to the outside.  There is also a basement with wood panel walls and tables, which is great when it is a little colder.