Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things...and a Recipe!

This week marked our third pick up as part of our farm share from Red Fire Farm.  And, while I knew I would enjoy the weekly bounty of local, organic produce, I had no idea just how much fun it would be.  Every week we receive into our kitchen a plethora of tasty veggies, and there are always a few that I've never tried before.  From field greens, to beets, to garlic scapes, the summer is off to a glorious start.  Below are a few of the most enjoyable discoveries I've made thus far.

Sauteed spinach, garlic scapes, and pine nuts tossed with whole wheat pasta.  Cooked on the same day it was picked, the sweet, green flavors of the spinach were perfect with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a glass of red.

This bowl contains a couple of unlikely new favorites.  The red leaf lettuce is joined by slices of raw Hakurei turnip, those little white rectangles you see here.  I was as as skeptical as you are about eating raw turnip, but after trying a sample offered by the lovely ladies from Red Fire, I am hooked.  The flavor is both sweet and sharp...almost like a marriage between a radish and a carrot.  Speaking of which, I did join a few carrots with some raw beets to make a brilliantly colored simple slaw.  Dressed with a simple vinaigrette of olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, the resulting sweet and tangy crunch made the perfect salad topper.  (If you think you don't like beets, it's worth grabbing a couple fresh from a farm stand--wrap them individually in tin foil and roast them at 400 till soft. Peel and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I'd wager you'll find yourself among the ranks of the converted!)

My most cherished revelation thus far:  the garlic scape.  When the bud of the garlic flower emerges from the garlic plant, the result is these surprising, elegant scapes, which must be picked to allow the garlic bulb to grow to full size.  They can be used in any recipe where you might normally use garlic or onion.  I'm also told they can be eaten raw, tossed with salads and such, but I have yet to give this a try.  Sauteed in your favorite recipe, they will impart a mild, garlicky flavor, and a smooth but firm texture, much like asparagus that's been cooked just right.

Below is a recipe for a garlic scape frittata that I modified from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  I made it for some afternoon festivities last weekend, and it was gone in a flash.  

6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 T olive oil
2-4 garlic scapes, chopped (the number will vary depending on their size and your love of scapes)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together the eggs, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet (this is important, as the frittata will finish cooking in the oven).  Add the garlic scapes and cook until just beginning to soften, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the eggs and stir gently until the eggs on the bottom are set firm, about a minute. Gently pull the cooked eggs away from the edges of the pan and tilt the pan so that the uncooked egg runs into the cleared edge of the pan.  Continue with this process all around the pan until most of the egg is set, 1-2 minutes.  (The top will not be cooked, but that is where the oven comes in).  Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about 3-4 minutes, until the top is dry to the touch.  Loosen the frittata with a spatula and flip it onto a serving plate.  Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.  Fast, simple, and delicious--buen provecho! 

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Proud Mama

So far so good with my six (not so) little basils!  In spite of the record-breaking month of cold, soggy gloom in Boston, they are growing big and strong.  Soon to come:  homemade pesto!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Serving Ourselves Farm in Edible Boston Magazine

This past spring I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days volunteering at Serving Ourselves Farm, located on Long Island in Boston Harbor. The organic farm provides much needed high quality produce to underserved populations in the Boston area. It also serves as a job training program for homeless individuals residing on the island, giving them the opportunity to learn about many different aspects of food production and the farm to table cycle. Click here to read the piece I wrote about my experience for the summer issue of Edible Boston.

Yes, that is me in the picture, looking much too serious!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Henrietta's Fabulous Table

When my mother arrived in town this past Friday, I knew I wanted to take her someplace special for dinner. Normally, in June, I would have thought first of the most delicious dining spots with outdoor seating. But, given the dreary weather that persists in this town, patio dining was not an option. I wanted a meal that could remind us of the season, even if the weather would not. And so we found ourselves at Henrietta's Table, where my mother, my fiance, and I kicked off our visit with a fabulous, locally-inspired supper.

Our starter plate of local cheeses, including a tangy bleu, a scrumptious soft cheese, and the most complex, flavorful cheddar I've ever had the pleasure of eating.

All three of us enjoyed delicious salads with fresh local greens. Mine featured pastrami salmon, chive oil, crispy potato wafers, and Vermont creme fraiche. The perfect combination of salty, creamy, and crunchy. Yum.

Maine Rock Crab Cakes with seasonal asparagus and a creamy remoulade. The crab was sweet, flaky, and perfectly seasoned. Not a breadcrumb in site.

Last but certainly not least, our seasonal strawberry shortcake desert. We nearly didn't order it, as we were uniformly stuffed, but we decided we really ought to do our part for Mass Farmers Markets. For those of you who may not have heard of the Strawberry Dessert Festival, participating restaurants are donating a portion of proceeds from strawberry desserts to Mass Farmers Markets, through June 28th. The perfect excuse to indulge!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Coming Soon (tomorrow!) to a Theater Near You...

Earlier this week, thanks to the lovely folks at Edible Boston magazine, I had the opportunity to attend an advance screening of Food, Inc. at the Kendall Square Theater. The film, a documentary directed by Robert Kenner, presents a remarkably comprehensive picture of the troubles plaguing our current food system. Although the cast of characters and issues are familiar to many of us (Monsanto, factory farms, and corrupt government officials on one side; Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin, and public seed on the other), Kenner has put the pieces together in a clear, concise manner that makes it easy to understand these very complex issues. He has also done a remarkable job of illuminating the human suffering that results from our current food system, a subject that often takes a back seat to the animal suffering involved. There are long-time farmers being forced to pay for patented seed or face a lawsuit, undocumented workers being treated as a disposable work force, and families all across the country who want to make better food choices for their children but can't afford to when broccoli costs five times as much as a two liter of soda.

The film is informative without being preachy or sensational, and will surely strike a chord with many, many viewers, including those who aren't as familiar with these issues. It also reminds us that we do have tremendous power as consumers, and that every dollar we spend sends a message to the farmers and companies involved, as well as our government. Choosing locally raised chicken during one trip to the grocery store may feel insignificant, but the cumulative effect of these small personal choices sends big messages to the decision-makers in this system; even Walmart, the biggest player of them all, made all of their milk hormone free based on consumer choices.

Whether you're new to the sustainable food movement or you think you've heard it all before, this is a movie that we all need to see. It is both convincing and inspiring, and will hopefully serve as a much needed vehicle for growing the grass roots movement required to effect real change.

So get out there this weekend and head to the theater! Then visit their website to find out what you can do to create a food system that's healthy for our bodies, our minds, and our planet.

(For theaters and showtimes near you, click here!)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

In My Mother's Garden... will find four varieties of tomatoes--including yellow--green beans, squash, cucumbers, lettuce, and zucchini.  Oh, and some brilliantly red radishes, which have been proclaimed "so, so spicy!"  The raised veggie bed was suggested by a landscaper my mother hired to make some non-edible improvements to her back yard (three cheers for him!), and now she has a full season of crisp, fresh flavor to look forward to.  

If only she lived a little closer than Oklahoma.  When the afternoon sun grows far too hot, we could have garden parties in the shade with green bean salad and a cold glass of Prosecco.  Lucky for me she will be visiting next weekend, and we can do just that. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


In this morning's New York Times, Kim Severson has a great article about urban produce-sharing programs.  

Through Neighborhood Fruit, backyard growers can register their fruit trees and share their harvest when the time is ripe.  Don't have a fruit tree to share?  Not to worry.  You can still get in on the picking for a small fee.  At Veggie Trader, you can also swap and share produce from your garden.  

What a fabulous way to get some fresh, local goodies and get to know your neighbors while you're at it!