About this Blog

As I go into my second year blogging about cooking and eating locally, I am thinking more and more about my own heritage. Why is cooking and eating locally sourced food important to me? What values am I honoring by doing this and how were these values instilled in me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Shopping

This is why I love to shop at farmer's markets and farm stands in the late spring, summer and fall. With the exception of the lemons and limes in the background, all of the items in this picture were sourced from within 10 to 20 miles of my house.

Just look at all of that color! I had to take a picture while I was putting items away from our CSA farm share pick-up today because it started to looked like a piece of art there on my counter.

Pictured from the left are purple and green basil which came in our farm share this week. Hoop house tomatoes, some were in the share, some I purchased so that I could make a sauce. Behind the light purple Beatrice eggplant are fresh eggs. They come in a variety of colors ranging from light green to light brown. PJ likes to choose the color of his egg shell for scrambled eggs. These eggs are from Springdell Farm where we belong to their CSA. The cut flowers are a summer treat to myself, I picked these up on Wednesday along with the Beatrice eggplant from Verrill Farm in Concord, Ma. The peaches, blueberries, green beans and carrots were all a part of our share for this week among a variety of other goodies including summer squashes, cucumbers and corn! I will be doing some freezing of vegetables this weekend in addition to sharing some things with my neighbors. I suspect we will enjoy some peach and blueberry cobbler this weekend and if everything works out I will top it off with homemade vanilla bean ice cream.

The little yellow blob you see between the carrots and the basil is a fresh loaf of three cheese bread from the bakery at Whole Foods...one of my few supermarket purchases this week. On Monday after my meditation class, I slipped into Whole Foods to buy some fish and a few other staples. They were sampling this bread in the bakery that day. The little piece I had was moist and cheesy. I nearly bought a loaf that day, but was glad I waited because it will compliment the London Broil and Swiss Chard I am making for dinner tonight.

As I have been writing this blog, I realize how fortunate I am to live where I live. We are surrounded by farms and farmland and Massachusetts has made a commitment to preserving and supporting agriculture in our state. In his article entitled, "Agriculture in Massachusetts: Green and Growing," Commissioner Scott J. Soares reports that there

"are nearly 7, 700 farms providing locally grown food and other agricultural products to Massachusetts residents from more than half a million acres of working landscapes that provide aesthetic enjoyment and positive economic impact to the tune of nearly $500 million in farm revenue alone annually (Edible Boston, p. 61)."
He goes on to report that the loss of farmland acres or conversion to non-farm use has been leveling off since 2002 and that 64,000 acres of farmland has been preserved through the Agricultural Preservation Restriction program.

For me, these facts mean that I'm not the only one who cares about where her food comes from which means that support for locally grown food is a priority making it more widely available.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Easy Mom's Night

This past Friday, my son and I had dinner with my neighbor and her daughter. We've done this several times over the course of living across the courtyard from each other as our kids are the same age and her husband works nights and mine is often traveling. Our guideline for the evening is to keep it simple so that we can each relax a little while the kids are playing together. With this in mind, we ordered pizza for the kids and I threw together a salad with the veggies that were left in my crisper from the past week's farm share.

On Friday evenings I treat myself to a glass or two of wine. Any other time of the year, I drink red wine; however, I find red too warming in summer, so I cool it off a bit by making a sangria. The July/August issue of Everyday Food (p. 57) featured a recipe for Summer Fruit Sangria. So, since my neighbor prefers white wines like Pinot Grigio, I thought we'd both enjoy sampling this recipe.

Summer Fruit Sangria
In a large bowl or pitcher, combine 6 cups assorted fruit (such as mango, pineapple, cantalope, and appricot), sliced or cut into chunks, 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger. 1 to 1 1/2 cups fresh basil or mint leaves, and a half cup orange liqueur, such as Cointreau. Mash gently with the back of a wooden spoon until basil is bruised and fruit releases juices. Add one bottle crisp white wine such as Savignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, and three tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from one lemon) and stir to combine. Refrigerate one hour (or up to one day).

I used locally grown cherries in our sangria as I had picked some up to snack on earlier in the week. I also had some watermelon left over from a dinner with my mother earlier in the week, so I threw that in as well. My next door neighbor has mint in her herb garden, so I picked some of that and used mint instead of the basil. I also reduced the amont of Cointreau to 1/4 c. I would have added blueberries to this mix; however, I wanted to save them for the tart I was making for dessert. I really enjoyed this combination, especially the mint. For me, the reduction of the Cointreau was a good idea, in fact, I think I could have even gone with a couple of tablespoons and it would still have provided a punch to the drink. The cherries added to the Pinot Grigio the depth and body that I enjoy in red wine while the watermelon and mint enhanced the crispness of the wine making it perfect for a warm summer evening.

Martha Stewart's Whole Living ~ Body and Soul in Balance magazine highlighted blueberries in this month's issue and I had been looking for an excuse and the time to make the Blueberry Ricotta Tart (p. 64).

Blueberry-Ricotta Tart

1. In a food processor pulse together 1 Cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup finely ground blanched almonds, 2 Tbsps light brown sugar, 1/2 tsp toasted wheat germ, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp baking powder. Add 4 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces, and process until largest pieces are the size of small peas. With machine running, add 1/4 to 1/3 cup low fat buttermilk until dough just holds together. Pat into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour (or overnight).

2. Preheat over to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 9 1/2 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Trim edges flush with pan and prick holes in dough with fork. Freeze for 15 mintues. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove parchment and weights and bake until golden brown and dry. 15 to 20 minutes more. Let cool.

3. Puree 1 1/4 cups part skim ricotta with 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and 1 Tbsp honey. Spread into cooled shell. Stir 2 Tbsp honey gently into 2 cups blueberries and arrange on top of tart. Chill for 2 hours.

Other than using whole milk ricotta and being a little more heavy handed with the cinnamon, I didn't change a thing about this recipe. The crust was nutty and just the right texture to support the filling which was lightly sweet and creamy. The fresh blueberries were enhanced by the addition of the honey. Both the honey and the blueberries came from Springdell Farm and have been part of our farm share.

The only difficulty with the tart was the amount of time the crust takes to prepare. I'm sure you could easily make it a day ahead if necessary. The tart holds up well to refrigeration. I served some to another neighbor the following day with coffee and it was still as firm as when I cut the first piece the night before.