Loving Local Food
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Overheard last week at our favorite farmstand (Chipman Farm) in Maine. Uncharacteristically, there was a box of California corn for sale. Usually, they only have vegetables they grow themselves. Teenaged girls enter the farmstand, and ask the woman working “What’s the difference between California corn and Maine corn?” We were on our way back to the car, but this stopped us in our tracks. She politely answered, “California corn is grown in California, and Maine corn is grown in Maine”. The girls said, “We’d like to buy Maine corn”. Howard and I turned to each other and smirked. Howard said, “They’ll have to wait a few more months then”.
I continue to be amazed how out of touch people can be about food and seasons. We try to eat with the seasons, and this is the time of year I wait for, especially in the wasteland between the last days of winter and the long days of early spring. Summertime fresh fruits and vegetables, locally grown, are finally available.
This summer, we are members of the CSA at Waltham Fields Community Farm. We’re in the third week. So far, lots of greens (kale, collards, chard, spinach, arugula. cabbage) and spring roots (radishes, turnips, beets, scallions). I love the challenge of making meals from what we pick up each week. With this CSA, we have some choice in what we get, but it’s still limited to what’s ripe and ready and coming in from the field.
It’s also strawberry season. Last weekend, we had our annual picking and jam making weekend. We picked over 20 pounds of gorgeous strawberries at Spiller Farm in Wells Maine. Then we spent the evening making strawberry freezer jam: four batches. I prefer freezer jam to the truly canned version because the berries aren’t cooked and retain the fresh flavor when we eat it in the midst of winter. We eat a spoonful into yogurt for breakfast every morning.
Here’s a few of the things I’ve made so far:
Melissa Clark’s Tuscan Kale Salad
Shrimp with Arugula and Tomatoes
Vietnamese Chicken Salad
I also took some inspiration from what was in the refrigerator to make this early summer salad with radishes and peas. The vibrant colors were gorgeous.
Minty Radish and Pea Salad
½ cup shelled peas
12 sugar snap peapods
1 scallion, sliced
1½ Tbsp olive oil
½ Tbsp cider vinegar
½ tsp honey
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2-3 Tbsp slivered mint leaves (from 1 large sprig)
Scrub and trim the radishes. Cut half of them into quarters lengthwise. Slice the other half thinly, crosswise.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice and water. Blanch the shelled peas by cooking in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Scoop them out and cool in the ice bath. Boil the peapods for 3 minutes and transfer them to the ice bath as well. Drain the peas and pat dry. Cut the cooked peapods in half crosswise.
In a small jar, add olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Shake well to combine.
In a medium bowl, combine the radishes, peas, and scallion with the dressing. Add the mint leaves and toss well.
Winter Wind Down
It’s so exciting! Winter is definitely on its way out! Next weekend, it will be officially be Spring. I’ve been noticing how much lighter it is when I leave work each evening. With the time change tonight, it will be light even later. I suppose that means it will get light later in the morning to compensate (and it will be really hard for me to get up in the morning).
Our bounty from the Winter CSA has dwindled, but we still have some vegetables left. They have stored well in plastic bags in the refrigerator. (We also have half a dozen butternut squash left in a basket in the basement.)
I was able to put together a delicious shepherd’s pie with ingredients we had on hand: ground beef from Chestnut Farms, root vegetables from Shared Harvest CSA, and other odds and ends in the refrigerator, taking my herbal inspiration from Simon & Garfunkel (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme). I diced and roasted the vegetables the night before to make this easy to throw together after work, so it came together quickly.
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 rutabaga, peeled and diced
1 celery root, peeled and diced
1 tsp sage, divided
1 tsp rosemary, divided
1 tsp thyme, divided
1 onion, diced
1 lb ground beef
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup beef broth
½ cup chopped parsley
2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
½ cup yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F. Toss diced parsnips, carrots, rutabaga, and celery root with 2 Tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp each of the sage, rosemary, and thyme. Spread the vegetables in a single layer onto a large baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and slightly caramelized.
Place the peeled potatoes into a pot of water. Bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes). Before draining, set aside ¼ cup of the potato cooking water. Drain the potatoes. Whisk the potato cooking water into the yogurt. Mash the potatoes with the yogurt mixture and a generous seasoning of salt.
In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and ground beef. Saute, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until the onions are soft and the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes. If the meat gave off a large amount of fat, drain the fat before continuing.
Add tomato paste, beef broth, and the remaining sage, rosemary, and thyme to the meat. Cook until the sauce thickens up. Stir in the roasted vegetables and the parsley.
Pour the mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the meat.
Bake until edges of the mashed potatoes start to brown, about 25-30 minutes.