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.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ready or not...Wednesday is pick-up day for Cape Ann Fresh Catch

This week illustrates many of the challenges that come with belonging to a community supported fishery (CSF) like Cape Ann Fresh Catch (CAFC). Although I love eating my weekly share of sustainably-caught fish, picking it up and using it can present some logistical challenges for a mother with a busy family. As a member, once a week we receive a whole fish (or you could receive fillets) which is delivered at a specific time and location throughout northeastern Massachusetts. For me, the pick-up day is Wednesday and the time is between 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm at Butter Brook Farm in Acton, MA which is about 10 minutes from my house.

Challenge #1 - conflict with the pick-up time.  Wednesday was also an early release day for the Chelmsford public schools which meant that instead of being able to use the full half day to take my son and a couple of his friends on a mini field trip, I had to arrange activities around our weekly fish pick-up. This time, it was easy enough to work around since the only real conflict was one that I was creating.

Challenge #2--sometimes deliveries get canceled and have to be made up.  As members, we agree to accept that from time to time mother nature will get in the way of a catch which will mean no fish for that week and a make-up delivery will be scheduled.  For the winter season, which started back in November and will end next week, we have had four deliveries canceled due to snow and unsafe fishing conditions.  The way CAFC decided to make up the missed deliveries was to double up during the last few weeks of the season, so this week instead of one whole fish, we received two…or rather many. The catch this week was winter flounder so we received two bags with about six fish in each. This wouldn’t be so bad except this week my husband had a business trip and tonight (now Friday) he and my son left for an overnight camp-out at the SEE Science Center with the cub scouts, so there has been no occasion to cook and eat the beautiful and very fresh fish we received.

Challenge #3 -- if you can't eat it right away, you still have to fillet it freeze it. Tonight, when I have the house all to myself and could be doing a variety of other more enjoyable, more relaxing activities, I will be filleting winter flounder and then vacuum sealing the fillets to put into the freezer for dinner on another night. Not so awful, but on my first mommy’s night off in over six weeks…after a month of the flu and my husband’s latest two-week business trip to Europe…I had hoped to enjoy a bubble bath, followed by a glass of wine and a baked potato while watching Netflix in my most comfy pair of jammies!

So, why do I do it?

Because I am committed to supporting my local economy and making sure that the men and women who go out on the boats to catch the fish that make my family’s dinner receive a fair wage for the work they do and the sacrifices they make…and most of the time it is no more inconvenient than a trip to the supermarket.

Note:   Between their first delivery in June 2009 and October 2010 Cape Ann Fresh Catch kept $1.1 million dollars here in Massachusetts. Through the CSF model, fisherman are able to receive on average 50% more for their catch than through traditional markets. (These statistics came out in a recent e-mail from CAFC to its members.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pizza Night

Friday night pizza night is a tradition that reaches all the way back into my childhood when my mother would bring home Pizza Hut pizza, root beer and ice cream on my father's payday.  This was a true treat as we NEVER had soda in the house and take-out pizza was a real splurge.

My husband and I continued the tradition as a way to wind down after a busy work week when it was just the two of us and we still honor this tradition with our son. 

PJ's favorite pizza is Antonio's pizza which is made right across the street from our house.  Antonio's pizza fits loosely into my definition of eating locally.  I don't know that Antonio obtains his ingredients from local sources; however, there is no chain of Antonio's pizza restaurants, just Antonio and his family making pizza and subs for people in our neighborhood.

I can't eat pizza very often.  It is one of the foods that upsets my stomach and gives me heartburn, so over the years I have experimented with making homemade pizza that is a little easier on my stomach.  Pictured above is a deep dish pizza I made last night using Bob's Redmill Gluten Free Pizza Crust.  The toppings are inspired by my favorite Antonio's specialty pizza -- the Greek Pizza which is topped with sliced tomatoes, spinach, black olives and feta cheese.  I was out of black olives, but I had a container of marinated feta cheese which we received in our winter CSA share.  We had also gotten a pound of sweet Italian sausage. Part of the sausage I planned to in Pasta e Fiagioli for Saturday night's dinner.  I had a jar of diced tomatoes that I had put up from our summer share as well as spinach that I had blanched, froze and vacuum sealed early least summer.  So these, along with a shallot became the topping for my pizza. 

I sauteed the sausage in a skillet and when it was close to being fully cooked through, I added diced shallots and the frozen spinach which was still bright green and tender (I will definitely try putting up more spinach using this method this coming spring and summer.)

I sauteed the pizza topping while the pizza dough was prepping in the oven. 

The cheeses I used to top the pizza were:  Maple Brook Farm Mozzarrella , marinated feta cheese from West River Creamery, and freshly grated pecorino romano. 

Now if you are looking for a quick meal for a week day night what I did to make this pizza would not work for you.  The pizza pictured took me an hour and a half in total time to make.  However, there are things you can make ahead so that this could be a very quick and easy weeknight or weekend meal. 

Let's start with the crust. 

Based on the recipe on the bag, the total time to prepare the crust for pizza toppings is about a half an hour to forty minutes.  The dough can be made up and refrigerated the night before.  Or you could prepare the first step, which is to partially bake the dough in the pizza pan and then refrigerate the pizza for use the following day.  I find this dough only works for deep dish as it is very sticky and I have not had much luck rolling it out.  You could try regrigerating the dough to see if it dries it out enough for rolling and shaping into a regular dough, but I have not bothered with this.  I have added additional ingredients like flax seeds or whole grain millet.

As I mentioned, while the dough was prepping in the oven, I sauteed my ingredients:  Sweet Italian Sausage, a shallot, and then finally the spinach.  You could put the spinach leaves on the pizza without sauteeing them with the Italian sausage...just use fewer leaves as too many will make your pizza wet.

Once the dough comes out of the oven, I add a layer of diced tomatoes.  On top of the tomatoes I add the pizza topping and then the cheese.  Per the directions on the package, I cook the pizza for 15 minutes at 425 degrees and then serve. 

The great thing about pizza is that it is very versatile.  You can often buy ready made pizza dough in your local grocery store.  Toppings can be anything you can imagine and are a great way to use leftovers.  Kids like helping out with toppings as well. 

Well, not my kid.  He has often told me he doesn't like homemade pizza.  He only likes Antonio's.  So, for now, I make a homemade pizza for me and Peter and then I support a local business owner by buying a small cheese pizza for PJ.  The point is to keep it simple and make it a treat!