Archive for July, 2012

Wrap your head around that one.  You know the lamb, fig and olive stew from the Hunger Games (Katniss’ favorite meal)?  Well it turns out there is an actual recipe for that stew AND an entire cookbook not only from that movie, but many, many others.  Even books and TV shows have their own compilations on the shelves at the Los Angeles Public Library – must be the official tinsel-town collection.  I thought it was especially funny that many of the cookbooks highlighted in a recent HuffPost Chicago article were from science fiction movies.  Those Trekkies not only want to dress like Kirk, but eat like him too!  Anyone for Romulan ale?  You can see other crazy movie cookbooks at HuffPost Chicago’s, Real Recipes from Imaginary Figures, 7/27/12.

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Written by organic farmer Atina Diffley, Turn Here Sweet Corn is an intimate account of her relationship with the land, the soil, and the produce she grows.  Along with her husband, one of the first certified organic producers in the Midwest, the book gives an in-depth look at the beginnings of food co-ops and the organic movement.  But it is also an almost religious tribute to the soil and seeds and growth and renewal.  Their farm is taken over by the City to build a school and a suburban sub-division and she gives a heart-breaking account of bulldozers and the destruction of fields. I think she is an amazing, dedicated, and resourceful woman.  The book is both entertaining, but also educational and I learned more about dirt than I knew was possible.  *There is a happy ending so don’t fear the bulldozers.

I continue to be inspired by local farmers who believe so clearly and purely in what they are doing and push themselves to the limit to make it all happen.

And thanks for clueing me in on eating sweet corn raw …. it’s the best!

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I realize I am sadly behind the times, but at least I finally joined a CSA and it feels exciting, and adventurous, and healthy, and just plain FUN!  Guessing what’s coming next in my share, figuring out what I’ll do with it, and how I’m going to consume it all before the next delivery.  There’s some stress (maybe nervous excitement), but I’ve always done better under a deadline so I’m motivated.  I recently read a NYT article describing the general level of stress we are all under due to Summer’s bounty.  NYT, 7/18/12,  “Raw Panic” .  Only in America can we be stressed about too much food, but that’s another post.

I have managed not to cave under the pressure yet, but I don’t necessarily agree with the author’s recommendation to immediately cook everything to get the most for your veggy dollar.  I’m eating raw – raw kohlrabi, cabbage, corn (did you know you can eat corn raw, right from the cob), turnips, carrots, radish, kale and beet greens.  It’s a raw-tastic buffet with intense flavors and crazy combinations.  I’m writing and eating potato salad with kohlrabi, radish, broccoli, onion, and basil with a homemade buttermilk dressing.  Yes, I’ve been gnawing on the softball-size kohlrabi for at last a week and a half, but it came straight from the field so it takes forever to break down into an inedible mess.  I’m good for at least another week.

I want the true taste of each vegetable.  Maybe next year I’ll cook some, but for now it’s all fresh and un-altered.  Now where are those ears of corn . . .

Thanks Broad Branch Farm for working so hard to provide super wonderful organic veggies.  And for making my life a little “raw-er”!

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Visiting the Mediterranean Mart is an adventure every time (and I don’t even need to buy an airline ticket).  Like the best book, it draws you into another landscape of sights and sounds that I may never experience in person but can enjoy a slice of just down the road.  Saturday I discovered fava beans (or broad beans)…and yes, I had to ask what kind of beans they were, but that’s half the fun!  So fresh fava beans have a skin – who knew.  Open the pod and take out the beans from the fuzzy, furry interior; boil them for about 2-3 minutes; plunge them in ice water, and then peel off the rubbery, thick skin before finally using in your favorite recipe.  You certainly can’t see the skin when they come out of the pod so I had to move ahead assuming the cooking gods were right.  It’s one of those magical cooking processes that doesn’t happen until it happens and then you are amazed.  I love those!  My beans ended up in a shrimp and fava bean risotto (loosely based on this recipe).

Fava bans are one of the oldest plants still cultivated today along with chickpeas, lentils and peas.  They are thought to have been introduced in the Mediterranean world around 6000 BC.  A hardy plant that can withstand cold, they can be used as a cover crop because they restore nitrogen to the soil (once you harvest a main crop you plant a cover crop to prevent erosion and re-store good things to the soil in prep for next year) and they can overwinter (they don’t die back in the cold so they can do all the good things mentioned above).  The beans can be fried for a tasty, crunchy snack or used in many different recipes.  You will find them in dishes from Latin America, Northern and Southern Europe to the Middle East and China.

The Mart also has a selection of fresh bread (I buy the thin sheets of Lebanese flatbread in the frig) as well as Labneh, a Lebanese cream cheese.  I sprinkle the sheets with olive oil and salt/pepper and broil in the oven until they are crunchy and slightly browned and serve with a dish of the Labneh spiced with any fresh herbs I have on hand.  Place on a platter along with hummus, olives, and nuts and you have an easy appetizer.  They always have a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as Middle Eastern sweets, canned and packaged goods, and gifts!  Take a mini-vacation, support a local business, and learn about another culture/cuisine.

Mediterranean Mart
1221 West Glen Avenue (Glen/University across from Starbuck’s)
Peoria, IL
309-691-9111

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Peach Leaf Wine, a blend of red wine and cognac, flavored with peach leaves, is an aperitif served cold with a slice of orange peel.  A lovely view of lavender fields and cyprus trees is not required, but recommended.

We made our own version this Summer and if I close my eyes and turn off the noisy air conditioner under the porch I can almost believe I’m there!

It’s a lovely color of deep, sunset red with a sweet, almond flavor from the peach leaves.  A nice little drink to enjoy during these hot and humid days.

Vin de Peche Recipe

*thanks to the folks at Greengold Acres for the organic peach leaves

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Sunset at Port Clyde after a day spent on Monhegan Island eating haddock sandwiches and collecting sea glass and oyster shells on the beach; discovering fairy houses in the Cathedral Woods; glimpsing beautiful fields of purple lupine; navigating the Atlantic and seeing harbor seals, Minke whales, and a puffin; watching lobstermen hauling in their catch; and, enjoying the company of women I have known half my life.

Thank you Juli, Karen, Jill, and Theresa for your love and support and for a wonderful trip.  See you in two years!

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