Thursday, June 30, 2011

Make Mine Delivery

Ever wonder what it is like to join a food delivery service? Our friend Cat did, and she loves it! She says:
Today we got our Dominion Harvest delivery or, as we call it, our “red box.” Dominion Harvest is a local produce delivery system. That sounds so boring, but it is not. Basically, they have relationships with local farmers and they gather together an assortment of the best produce (meat, cheese, and egg options are available too) and deliver it to your house. We get ours every other week. Unlike other Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) options, Dominion Harvest charges by the week (instead of an upfront charge for the season), allows you to pause or cancel service anytime, and just brings what’s available (instead of you choosing what you get at the market). I’ve been doing it for a few years now and it works perfectly for us.

I HEART getting red box. Every other Friday, I pull up to my house to find this on the front porch:
It’s closed up and protected with ice packs when delivered, but that picture was less enticing! Plus, there is always a sheet on the outside of the box telling you what you have and what farm it came from.
To be clear, I love farmer’s markets. I love going to them, buying food from them and being part of the whole affair. But, for us, it’s just hard to get there every week. And with a new-ish baby, it’s really important to us to eat as healthfully as we can. Not to mention that I love not choosing the food I get in my box (although you can tell them if you have allergies or just don’t like certain things). Not choosing it all myself means I learn about a lot of different foods (hello, garlic scapes!) that I never knew about and wouldn’t have tried otherwise.
So, what’d we get? Today’s delivery brought this:
My phone didn’t do the best job of capturing the beauty here, but I was staving off a one year old who wanted to get her hands on everything. It was the best I could do!
We got green beans, zucchini, honey, flowers, onion, mushrooms, lettuce, cherries, turnips, melon, and cherry tomatoes. The flowers are such a nice touch. They just make me feel fancy.
What’ll we do?
We get so much out of this box because we are determined not to waste anything. Once we have it, we use it no matter what. Hence, the stir-fried lettuce experiment of 2009. (Note: if your lettuce is a little too bitter, a quick stir-fry makes it delicious).

Some of the green beans, zucchini, and melon get flagged “baby” right away. My kid craves zucchini and, since we make her baby food, I always try to scope out some good options to make and freeze for the week so we don’t have to think about it again. We’ll throw some turnips in there for good measure too.

Everything else, we will just integrate into our weekly meals. We’ve been cooking with cherries lately, so they will probably be added to a stir-fry. Looking at the rest of the box, I see some grilling (beans, turnips, and zucchini), salad, and pasta sauce in our future.

For some folks, nothing replaces the thrill of going to the farmer’s market yourself. But if you can’t, look at ways to bring the market to you. In addition to Dominion Harvest, there are other CSAs that deliver or offer pick-up options, check them out and choose one you like. Whatever gets you eating delicious, seasonal, and local food works for me. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Beach Eats

Thanks to Anne D., who cooked for the masses during a recent trip to the beach. She also generously wrote about all the eatin' we did!
Last week's trip to the Outer Banks yielded some outstanding meals, which will make the trip as memorable for the food as for the sand, sun, family and friends. We brought eggs, vegetables, bread and herbs from our gardens, CSAs or farmers markets, so many of our beach meals had a strong sense of home.
The first such meal was one centered around a Sheepshead fish right off the boat. A local fish shop scaled and gutted it for us, and we named it "Four-dollar Moe", after the astoundingly low price he fetched. We wrapped it in tin foil after stuffing it with garlic, dill and fennel leaves, topped with lemon juice, lemon slices and olive oil, with a healthy dose of freshly ground sea salt and black pepper. The sides that night were skewered fennel and onion quarters, grilled with Moe on an old charcoal grill. It was divine! Sheepshead is new to me, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the light, flakey meat (which tasted ever so slightly of crab) and the way it contrasted with the crunchy sweetness of the fennel and onions.
In preparation for the next day's lunch, after the fish and skewers came off the grill, we laid slices of eggplant tossed in garlic, olive oil and crushed red pepper, so they could cook while we ate. Then, after coming in windblown and hungry after a morning on the beach, we made gorgeous open-faced sandwiches from made with Norwood Cottage bread with roasted eggplant and onions, mozzarella, red bell peppers and basil. We ate that with fresh penne salad with squash and the first cherry tomatoes of the year. Strange and delicious to have such a strong taste of Italy while dripping in a bathing suit!
And, of course, I had to make my very favorite meal -- poached eggs for breakfast. I love to make them in any combination -- variations on the classic Benedict -- with runny yolks oozing out that bright orange color that tells you the chicken it came from was healthy and free. That morning we ate them on slices of fresh white toast, (thanks again Norwood Cottage!) topped with cherry tomatoes, rocket and basil, dripping with fresh Hollandaise.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Harvest

Rachel's Freshly Dug Garlic

Our new friend Rachel gardens, cooks, eats, shops, and lives in Richmond's Northside.
Here's what she wrote... 
"I am so glad to have the opportunity to share in the RFC!
 My household is in the process of harvesting and curing our garlic. We have a small cape house with a large garden on the Northside. As our garden has grown, we've learned much about growing food, of course, but many lessons in how to store the fruits of our labor. These are tough lessons to learn! How disappointing to find that your beautiful food has gone to mush or has rotted. Through trial and error (and let's face it, a few tears) we've learned that's food storage has two key elements: prep and placement.
Right now it is all about the garlic and shallots, but  time is of the essence as our potatoes need to be harvested and, in a small house, space is limited.

When you first harvest your garlic and shallots (potatoes too) you must handle them gingerly and lay them out flat in a cool dry spot for several weeks to cure. Don't scrub off the dirt just yet. The skin is fragile and too vigorous brushing can tear the product (not good for storage).

This process allows the skin to harden and the product to become more firm. Less moisture means that the product will store better and for longer. So! This is your prep and it ain't pretty. Your leaves will dry and make a bit of a mess. Your dirt will dry and crumble. Ah, but the mess means you are doing something right. You'll see the dirt give way to creamy garlic skin and to bright shallot paper.
Once cured, you'll want to trim your product of its dried leaves and gently brush off the dirt. Now, find a place to store the haul. Best practice is to store the garlic and the shallots in a cool dark spot, labeling helps. Done properly, a good storage program will allow you to enjoy these summer treats for months to come. Last year we planted 50 square feet of garlic and, with this storage program, we had garlic available to us through December.

As if on cue, my husband harvested the potato crop today as well. Check out this basket o' spuds! Like the garlic and shallots, you need to let them cure. Same deal, you want a cool spot without much heat or  moisture. By the way, a fresh potato tastes nothing a store-bought potato. They have more water content and almost a peppiness in the taste. So good!
(all photos, and writing by Rachel Rees)