Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Toast to Childhood

I grew up eating just about anything I wanted. I was a sick kid, and my mom responded by letting me have what I wanted when it came to food. McDonald's multiple times a week, and Domino's Pizza every Friday night was a way of life. The Domino's was on the end of my street and when I was in elementary school it was part of the fun to ride my bike up the hill with my friends and bring home the pizza. All that is well and good, but the childhood foods I most remember, and crave are the ones that I have only recently come to realize are not the food stuffs of most peoples childhoods.
One "dish" (to use the term loosely) that will forever be a go- to breakfast food for me is the 'Egg in a Cup.' The Egg in a Cup is actually two eggs, hard boiled for ten minutes, peeled and dropped into a coffee mug. At this point they are topped with two large pats of butter and chopped into a soft mash with your spoon. Add salt and pepper, and a piece of buttered bread and you have yourself some breakfast. It was not until my adult years that I realized that most of society was appalled by the artery clogging potential of butter covered eggs served with buttered white bread. Nevertheless, I eat mine happily, telling myself that the eggs and butter from pastured animals allows me some wiggle room. I believe that if you try this once you will not be disappointed.

Times change, tastes change, but still sometimes the simplest of foods from our childhood can make everything a little bit better. I recently heard on radio that somebody did a crazy study that determined toast, with it's toasty smell and texture, to be the top comfort food in America. Interestingly, when I think of the foods that seemed to set my family's most ordinary eats apart from my those of my friend's families, it was the toast. Three versions come to mind. The first, cheese toast, was a staple. White bread, toasted and buttered and then evenly covered with thick slices of a sharp, hard cheddar was finished simply by a sprinkling of salt. Cold hard cheese on top of warm, buttered toast, served along with a cup of coffee, and perhaps a fried egg and bacon. It 's a family favorite. Again, I recognize that many are unwilling to accept bread that is buttered and then covered with cheese and then salted. To me it is family, and a warm fire, a full day of playing in the neighborhood, or hanging round with my dad 'helping him' with house projects. It is good. Now a days I have it on 9 grain instead of white, and enjoy eating it for breakfast with apple slices.
The second type is the same basic preparation... toast white bread till golden, and butter with room temperature butter. ( I'm sensing a theme here...) I should mention that the butter at home absolutely always sat in a butter dish on the kitchen counter so as to stay soft. This time, rather than topping with cold cheese, hot sizzling bacon is used. So, that is white bread, butter, and bacon- Bacon Toast, as in "honey would you like a piece of bacon toast?" Yes, thank you!

Finally, a slightly more nutritious take on this theme, Avocado Toast. Yes, toasted bread, soft butter, and soft avocado spread thick. Top with salt. Also very good, and also eaten with great frequency. All grown up I actually don't eat bacon anymore at all, possibly a shame as I still crave it almost singularly in its Bacon Toast form. I also now usually forgo the butter on my avocado toast, (but certainly not because it taste better without). Still, it was a surprise to me when friends and coworkers showed such curiosity at my smashing of avocado slices into a smooth thick spread upon my toast. What's going on here? This is not revolutionary, just simple and satisfying. Surely this would spoil the slender simplicity of the open face toast, but writing this now I'm thinking the three together would make a pretty good sandwich.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tricycle Gardens Event at Juleps this Thursday!

Just in from Tricycle Gardens:

Julep's New Southern Cuisine SPECIAL Tricycle Garden's Cocktail Party

Please join Julep's and Tricycle Gardens this Thursday, Sept 30, 8:30pm. Come celebrate National Organic Month. There is no cover charge, no attendance fee, and you don't have to buy a ticket. Just come down and enjoy complimentary hors d'ouevres made from locally-sourced, organic product. Julep's is donating a dollar to Tricycle Gardens for every drink sold. Help us reach our goal of $1000 dollars. That means we need 1000 people that all have one drink, or a hundred people that each have 10 drinks, or 1 selfless person to take one for the team and order a thousand drinks. Stay tuned to the event wall and see what drinks we'll have available, as well as what hors d'ouevres we'll be serving. Cheers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cover Crop Time

All my butternut squash plants have died. As they came up from the castings I spread, and I have 15 squash to hold me, that suites me just fine. Now to fill in that bare soil. Last year I finally behaved myself and actually used a winter cover crop. Last year I used a pea. This season I have decided to go with a a type of perennial rye ( Wren's Abruzzi Rye) that is ( according to Southern Exposure) most suited for the southeast, blended with vetch. You can check it out or order some of your own from Southern Exposure Here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

At the Market This Week

Just as I was actually beginning to believe I could stand another eggplant, and even tomatoes and cucumbers had lost all their excitement, mid-September rolls around and all the world has changed again. What a lovely thing to go to the market and find watermelons piled next to butternut squash. Salad greens and radishes wait patiently by cartons of tomatoes. A classic salad is in the making. Erin and I started trading some notes on what each of walked away with yesterday from two different markets. Here's what we got...

Arugula (Frog Bottom Farm)
Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms (H20 Collect)
Golden Pumpkin Fettuccine (Bombolini Pasta)
Lots of tomatoes (Frog Bottom Farm)
Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Bread (Children's Hospital Bake Sale)
Edamame (Epic Gardens)
Plain, black pepper, herbs de provence, and spicy pepper chevre (Night Sky Farms)
Eggs (Faith Farms)
Goat milk soap (Night Sky Farms)
two tacos (Boka Tako Truck)
gelato (de Rochonette's delights)
Last peaches of the season (Agriberry)
Apples (Agriberry)
Eggplant (Fertile Crescent Farms)
Shallots (Frog Bottom)
Winter squash (Fertile Crescent Farm)
Flour (Faith Farm)

From the South of The James:
From Fertile Crescent...
Black Cherry tomatoes( One pint )
Sungold tomatoes (One pint)
Salad greens (A lovely bag of mixed including plenty of perfect looking leaf lettuces)
Kale (A large and beautiful bunch)
Swiss Chard (ditto)
Finally, one rather dark and dangerous looking apple billed by the large sign propped up before the basket as "The Best Apples in the World." Unsure about that, but it was crisp, juicy, and had a nice tart-sweetness.Best of all these apples from what is I believe a single tree are spray free. That is a vary rare thing for a Virginia apple, but I digress...
Carrying on...
From Thistledown Farm...
One large bag of fresh tender green beans
A very big bag of Honey Crisp and Gala Apples (grown by Saunders Brothers)
A large bag of Peaches... a last hoorah!
Several Asian Pears (all also grown by Saunders Brothers I believe)
From Victory Farm...
One bunch radishes

From Bill's Produce...
7 Red Bell Peppers (at a dollar a piece, who can resist?!)
A seedless watermelon
2 cucumbers
1 bok choy
Orange and white sweet potatoes
From Empress Farm...
One 6lb whole chicken
Whew... Now on to the cooking!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Several Ways to Prepare Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi, you know that funny white and green bulb like food you may have spied at the market or in your CSA box. One blogger described it as "an organic green sputnik." Kohlrabi is a German word referring to the turnip like appearance of this food that is actually a brassica originally bred from wild cabbage. I have tried Kohlrabi when others have prepared it , but I've never tried cooking with it myself. My parents sent me this article from Yankee magazine with two recipes for preparing Kohlrabi. Here is another great site with all kinds of information on the stuff. They both sounded good enough to make me actually want to prepare some. Alas, I may have to wait a little while. Available in early summer, we should be seeing it pop up again after the fall's first frost.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Oktoberfest this weekend!

Jerry Veneziano from Sweetwater Farms sent in this info to let us know about a fun event happening this weekend:
St. Benedict's is having their 6th annual Oktoberfest this weekend! The 'fest features authentic German music and dancing, and of course German food and drink! A variety of wursts will be available, along with pretzels, sauerkraut balls, potato pancakes and more. And of course desserts! Over 20 varieties of beer and wine available...most of it local (or at least regional)! All but one of the wines offered are Virginia wines, with the exception being a Riesling from Germany. Regional brewers include Legends and Extra Billy's from Richmond, Starr Hill from C'ville, Blue and Gray from Fredericksburg, Heavy Seas from Baltimore, and Weeping Radish from the Outer Banks.
The fest will also feature the Christkindlmarkt, a unique shopping experience based upon the Christmas markets held annually throughout Germany and Austria. Vendors will offer a variety of unique German and holiday items, including one offering lebkuchenherzen -- gingerbread hearts.
Oktoberfest will be at the corner of Belmont and Hanover in the heart of Richmond's museum district. Admission is free! Limited parking is available in the VMFA parking deck ($3); otherwise, street parking is available wherever you find a spot!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Roasting Pepper's 101

Last year at around this time, and well into October we had an over abundance of late season peppers. We had hot peppers in many forms, as well as red, orange, and green sweet peppers. By late October we had harvested all of our sweet peppers. This left us with lots of green peppers, in particular slightly under ripe Anaheim peppers.

Ripe Anaheim peppers are perfect for roasting, but when that last season harvest of still green peppers comes around roasting is the answer. We roasted them by the arm load! Just lightly coat the skin with olive oil, (sometimes this step is not even necessary,) and place on the grill over low heat. Using tongs, check and turn them regularly until the flesh is cracking and charred. Remove them from the grill and let them cool until you can handle them easily. Using a paper towel and a fine bladed knife, peel away the roasted skin. Slice open the pepper removing the stem, seeds and pith. Cut into wide slices and enjoy on sandwiches, bread, in eggs, on pizza or whatever suites you. If you don't have a grill, there are lots of "how tos" on line for broiling peppers. Living in an apartment in Philly I would just use tongs to hold them over the gas flame on our stove top. We like to dress them with a little balsamic, olive oil, salt, herbs and garlic powder for a perfect topping on some crusty bread. So good.

Farm To Family Now Offering Home Milk Delivery

Mark Lilly's Farm to Family Bus, Shop, and CSA enterprise have just added home milk delivery. You can visit the shop at 2817 Mechanicsville Turnpike, friend them on facebook or twitter for updates on the bus whereabouts, or sign up for their CSA. The CSA includes Polyface meats (including a thanksgiving turkey), and locally made bread. In addition it includes a half pound of Mountain View or Goats R Us Cheeses, as well as Mountain view milk, and yogurt. To just have milk and yogurt home delivery is $10 per week plus a $10 monthly service charge. Click Here for their website.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development

The new Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development (JAFSCD) is offering up their first issue for free online until October.
Looking at this peer reviewed journal you can check out topics such as Commentary on Why Aren’t There Any Turkeys at the Danville Turkey Festival? (That's Danville Ohio) Or you can read columns like The Economic Pamphleteer: Rethinking Government Policies for Growing Farmers, as well as Views from the Food System Frontier: Measuring Agricultural Stewardship: Risks and Rewards. Click here to read from the August issue or to subscribe.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Photo Essay from International Food Bloggers Conference

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle. I was definitely a small fish in that pond, but I loved every minute of it. Since I returned to real life in RVA, I have been thinking a lot about recipe development as well as community efforts and artisan foodstuffs, inspired by the conference. One of the most immediate components I can attend to is photography- so here are some select moments from the conference captured in pictures. Truly, everything was so gorgeous-
Yep, that is me in the foreground. This photo of the main conference room at Theo chocolate was taken by Marie Asselin of Food Nouveau. Check out her lovely blog, with recipes, travel fantasies, and her take on the food at the 2010 IBFC. Swoon.

Every detail of the conference was most civilized, including this tapas party put on by the Secret Sherry Society. How fun are they?

There was always tons of food around- of course. Plates- nay, platters- of chocolate, vats of coffee, a menu read every few hours. I am still thinking about the donuts from Top Pot that came out of these boxes. Well fried, and thus, the best I have ever had. I miss them.

And then, there were the food trucks. Oh my goodness- what fun. Do you see the one on the left dressed like a pig? Guess what they serve...

Lunch on Sunday was provided entirely by these lovelies. And the beer was crafted by Pike Brewing. Their Dry Wit was amazing- hoppy and infused with herbs like lavender and chamomille. Pike also made a Kilt Lifter ale made with a bit of scotch. Brilliant.

Every time I see this photo, I want one.
My favorite truck had falafel- do we even have one of these in Richmond? Anybody want to go in on this idea with me? Beautiful falafel, creamy raita and pickled veggies- I could eat this all day!
My other favorite (I have never been very good at owning superlatives) was the mobile pizza oven. Can you see the flames in the back, and the wood? Amazing pizza- crispy, bubbly crust- Seattle is so lucky.

These food trucks are usually part of a regular street market that goes on every Saturday in the Freemont neighborhood. There were some fruit, veggie and flower vendors there, but I liked photographing the shoes best.

Finally, below is a photo of the building where the magic happened for us that weekend, and where many fine ideas and products emerge every day- the Theo Chocolate factory. I am so enamored of their work (and their fine, fine chocolate) and I can't wait to share with you soon. For now, I can show you this:
Thanks for hosting us, Seattle, and thanks for reading, y'all!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book Reccomendations From My Summer Reading List

This summer I've been in a bit of a funk. I'm a gardener and the endless weeks of 100+ degree days, the lack of rain coupled with hellacious swarms of Asian Tiger mosquitoes had me running for cover. At home my garden was largely left to make it's own way to fall, and it's got the dead and stunted plants to prove it. Within the comfort of my air-conditioned, and mosquito free house I sought out inspiration to fight the fight again next season.
Gardening, and most certainly agriculture, can turn your entire perspective of nature on it's head. I would need all ten fingers and ten toes to count up the various assorted diseases and pest that have just this summer taken to stealing, eating, weakening, or outright killing my plants in the name of their own survival. Covered in Deet, wide brim hat, and a touch of poison ivy, heading outside can seem more like warfare than convening with nature.

To the rescue cam Susan Hand Shetterly's new book Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town. This beautiful book speaks to a love of place that encourages us to love the natural world of our own space, our own yards, neighborhoods, towns, and remaining wild places. Learning to understand, care for and respect the wildlife that surrounds her Maine home has been the work of Shetterly for the last forty years. A perfect quote on the front cover by Terry Tempest Williams says " I read [this] not only with great delight, but with a yearning to stay put and live more fully."
In one passage that has stayed with me Shettery, after describing the loss of the great alewife migrations, speaks perhaps to a common appraisal that what wild spaces left to us are not truly wild, possibly not worthy of our admiration, attention or protection.

Quote: " 'Nobody owns anyone, except in memory,' John Updike wrote. I suppose that goes for owning wild migratory fish in a hometown stream as well. We can spend our lives regretful. We can watch three ospreys and want a dozen. We can hear the shattering screams of twenty gulls and know that true cacophony is a hundred of them, each one insisting on its own insatiable hunger. We can want fish we can walk over, but those are [another's] memories, not ours. I would like to see what he saw, but I don't dare miss what is here now."
I will admit that nearly every section of this book brought tears to my eyes if not for it's sadness than for it's beauty.

Next on my list Gary Naban. That's Gary Naban, period. Okay, I have only read two of his books. I have just started the third. Erin has read and loved the forth, and my friend Lucy who finally pushed these books into my hand swears (as many others do) that everything he rights is absolutely worth reading. His writings are also works on place and how where we come from effects who we are and what we should, or even can eat. His work always seems to be far ahead of the curve. For example, Naban wrote "Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods' for publication in 2001. That is, in the year 2000 Naban at only foods that could be harvested, foraged, or hunted from within 250 miles of his Arizona home! An interesting comparison to Barbara Kingsolvers' 'Animal Vegetable Miracle' which starts off describing how Kingsolver decided she must move her family from Arizona to West Virginia in order to live off the land. Granted, Naban also eats some road kill, and one of Kingsolvers stipulations was that she would not be feeding her kids from the roadside. She was referring to dandelions, but that's just the point. Naban's approach is to look towards those traditional and wild foods of the land, the prickly pear cactus, peppers, and wild animals and discover the benefits of such foods.

I just finished reading his 2004 book 'Why Some Like it Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversity.' This amazingly interesting book delves into the genetic difference that cause people to respond differently to various foods and drinks, not as individuals, but as a people who share specific genetic adaptations to the environment of their ancestors. Why some people become anemic when exposed to fava beans, why others are so effected by refined grains and alcohol, and why some of us love to eat hot peppers and bitter greens, while others can't even stand the thought.

His book 'Renewing America's Food Traditions, Saving and Savoring the Continents Most Endangered Foods' was published in 2008. A big book filled with photographs, and recipes it's a sort of coffee table book on endangered foods. The Fish pepper I did the LGBG video on is in there, as is the Fainting Goat, and the Blue Crab. Divided up by sections like "Crabcake Nation" and "Bison Nation," Naban looks at some of the best traditional foods, and how those foods helped define different regions of our country.
Check out his official site here for many more books, videos, and information on his lectures.