Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

National Farmer’s Market Week – August 2 – 8! July 31, 2009

Filed under: Events,Farmer's Market — realfoodmama @ 3:09 pm
Tags: , , ,

This coming week, August 3rd to 9th, is National Farmer’s Market week as declared by the US Secretary of Agriculture.

Unfortunately there is nothing particularly special occurring this week in Santa Fe – we have continuous Cook with the Chef events, but this has been happening since the beginning of the summer. I have contacted a few people to see if they have thought of anything additional, but with no response as of yet!

Regardless I do find it rather interesting that there is a government sanctioned “week” for celebrating locally grown food. It is a great way for people who may not know much about their local food sheds to learn. I encourage all of you to contact your newspapers and local publications, as well as your local farmer’s market associations, and make sure that the word gets out.

Happy Eating!

 

Gardening update and a recipe to boot!

Filed under: Eating local,Fight Back Fridays,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 1:02 pm
Tags: ,

The monsoon season has started here in Santa Fe and our garden is loving it. The squash and the beets were being sorely abused by the sun throughout July, wilting terribly and leading to several scorched young squash…so sad as they were our sugar pumpkins! Luckily there remain quite a few which didn’t get burned up. And while everything is happier, the recent bout of afternoon rainstorms has sent a couple of plants into full swing, leading to a rather large harvest of green beans, wax beans and dry beans as well as the summer favorite, zucchini.

Since we are all but swimming in zucchini, I have been experimenting with a variety of recipes for the delicious summer squash. Sadly, we didn’t plant nearly enough of our Indian Woman Yellow beans and as a result, ended up with only enough for one meal, even after all the rain. The following are two recipes I made this week using fresh zucchini from our garden:

    Sauteed Vegetables with Indian Woman Yellow Beans and Garden Fresh Tomatoes

This recipe is almost entirely from our garden, the only exception being the mushrooms.

1 zucchini cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 oz crimini mushrooms, cut into chunks, not sliced
two small roma tomatoes OR 6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
6 oz cooked beans, washed and drained
1 tsp sea salt

Heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a skillet. Add the mushrooms and cook until they release all their water and start to brown. Add the zucchini and the sea salt and saute until the zucchini starts to become translucent, then add the cooked beans and the sliced tomatoes. Cook until the beans and tomatoes are warm, then remove from heat and serve.

    Zucchini Pecan bread

2 medium zucchini, grated and squeezed of water
1/2 c sourdough starter
1 c all purpose flour – this is my local flour discussed here
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c sweetener (I used evaporated cane juice)
1/3 c shortening (I used butter)
1 tsp organic vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder (aluminum free)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
~ 1/8 c locally grown pecan pieces
~ 1/8 c fair trade organic dark chocolate chips

Mix 1 c sourdough starter with zucchini, eggs, vanilla, shortening (melted butter), sugar. Mix flour, soda, powder and spices in a separate bowl and add to the starter/zucchini mixture. Stir until well integrated then add the pecans and chocolate chips. Pour into a greased bread ban (I used an 8″ pan) and bake at 350 degrees for ~60 minutes.

This post has been part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays. Happy Eating!

 

Local organic flour – some baking experiments. July 29, 2009

Filed under: Eating local,Real Food Wednesday,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 11:17 am
Tags: ,

I was finally able to get a few pounds of the local organic wheat flour sold here at my Co-Op. As some of you may have read in this post, there is a local wheat grower’s Co-Op in New Mexico which provides local, organic and heirloom variety wheat flour to many of the local bakeries here in town. It turns out prior to WWII, New Mexico was actually a huge wheat growing state and many of the wheat varieties used are over 100 years old.

Since the flour only comes in 50 lb bags, I got about 5 pounds with which to experiment and have really loved the results, so I thought I would share the most recent recipes with everyone:

    Raspberry Buttermilk Pancakes

1 1/2 cup flour soaked in 1 1/2 cup buttermilk for 2 hours. (I didn’t get a chance to do this overnight unfortunately. I plan on trying a longer soaking the next time.)
3 Tbsp butter (other fat can be substituted – coconut oil would probably be delicious!)
3 Tbsp raw honey (or sweetener of choice)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp aluminum free baking powder + 1/2 tsp baking soda ( I tried one without additional leavening not knowing how the soaking would affect the mix and it was like a really thick crepe…which was good, but not what I was going for!)
tsp organic vanilla extract
about 1/2 c fresh organic raspberries

I heat a cast iron skillet to about medium then place approx 1 Tbsp light olive oil or butter in the pan. Once it has heated (or melted in the case of the butter) I wipe it clean with a paper towel and then use this “mop” to re-grease between cakes. I typically measure out about a 1/3 of a cup of batter at a time.

The fresh raspberries add a nice tartness which compliments the buttermilk flavor well. I look forward to making bread with this flour, as I have yet to do so. My sourdough starter, discussed here, has taken off nicely and I am sure that it will produce a great loaf. More details on that soon!

This post is my contribution to Real Food Wednesday’s, hosted this week by Cheeseslave. Happy Eating!

 

Sampling the Goods July 28, 2009

Filed under: Eating local,Farmer's Market — realfoodmama @ 12:18 pm
Tags: , ,

As it is Tuesday, I made my way down town to the farmer’s market to meet a friend for coffee and to do some of the shopping I failed to do Saturday as a result of the enormous crowds. It was Spanish Market weekend here in Santa Fe, which basically means a bunch of tourists come to the most confusing city in the country, get lost and basically cause general chaos. As a result the Farmer’s Market was a veritable madhouse Saturday morning and I bought nothing as a result….but I digress.

Since the atmosphere at the Tuesday market is much more laid back, it tends to be the day I buy my fruits and vegetables. For one, none of the meat or egg vendors are there, and secondly, because the crowds are so much smaller I tend to fell less guilty about sampling everything and asking questions about the produce.

As a general rule, the vendors are more than willing to let me try their goods. Many of the apple and tomato sellers have slices for people to taste, and in the event that I want to try a pepper to test it’s hotness, or a cherry to test it’s sweetness, I typically am granted the favor. I suppose even I would think it unreasonable to sample, say, an eggplant, but I actually don’t like eggplant so I suspect it won’t be an issue. In either case, it is my opinion that a vendor who is willing to let a customer try a piece of produce is more likely to answer questions about how it was grown, provide suggestions for cooking it, and nourish that relationship between buyer and farmer. They are also much more likely to get my money.

I was, therefor, rather surprised this morning when I asked to sample a raspberry and was told no. As I am sure you are all aware, a raspberry is a paltry thing – a small, single bite fruit. So why the unwillingness to allow me to try the $5 for a 1/2 pint fruit? I can only guess at the motives, but it certainly left a bad taste in my mouth.

It made me really wonder about the attitude of the farmer – a well known local, certified organic, mono-crop producer. The unwillingness to part with a single berry so as to potentially engender a relationship with someone who would, under different circumstances, become a regular customer, seems a poor decision. But perhaps he doesn’t think he needs to create personal relationships with his customers since he has an established brand. It is a rather peculiar kind of arrogance that I found quite disheartening.

The whole purpose, in my mind, of buying locally is to establish a relationship of trust between the farmer’s growing my food and myself. I want to know that the farmer cares about me; my health and well being. I want to know that the food grown is not sprayed, not processed, not pumped full of chemicals. I want to know that the grower is thoughtful, concerned about his or her community, and wants to provide sustainable food for that community. Perhaps this is too much to expect, but I find that so many of the vendors at the farmer’s market are like this.

Outside of local markets, this is absolutely not the case. Things are packaged to the point where it is impossible to open them even once you get home. Sampling the produce is frowned upon (some might even call it stealing) and the meats are frequently dyed or packaged in gas to trick us into thinking it is fresher than it is. It is an odd system we have that seems to encourage the idea that we should eat what is in front of us because it is there. The American food buyer who questions the source or, god forbid, wants to reassure herself that she is getting a good product, is seen by some as presumptuous – why ask when we should simply trust the labeling? As eaters, we need to take back control over what we eat, and the easiest way to do that is to ask questions and try things, then make purchases based off whether we like the answers to our questions.

So while the desire for raspberries was strong, I can’t in good conscience go back to that particular farmer and feel good about making a purchase. The experience illuminated for me that even local, certified organic farmers may, or may not, share my vision about local, sustainable, relationship based agriculture. There are many still out there who are more concerned with profit and loss (how much does one raspberry cost, anyhow?) and their government certifications than whether or not the people eating their food trust what they’re getting.

It was with a heavy heart that I turned away from the raspberries (which did look delicious) and continued my quest for fruit, finding some delicious apples from a farmer who not only let me sample them, but also answered my questions about his practices, explaining that he did not spray and that the blemishes on his fruit were from a hail storm prior to harvest. I bought ten and am so excited about the pie I’m going to make with them I can barely wait to finish writing this post.

The imperfect apples, with their pox marks and their variation are preferred by me any day to a 1/2 pint of uniform, certified organic raspberries that may, or may not, be delicious. Happy Eating!

 

Rendering lard in a crockpot. July 22, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Real Food Wednesday,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 1:12 pm
Tags: , ,

Cubing the lard

Cubing the lard

The lard supplier at my local farmer’s market asked me to make him another pie. In exchange for the delicious treat, he gifted me with another 2.5 pounds of un-rendered leaf lard. So, in the spirit of sharing, I thought I would walk my readers through the process of rendering lard once again, as I am trying a different technique this time.

I use pork lard as it is really the only type of fat that is easily available at my farmer’s market. And I like the faint hint of bacon as well, as I am a hardened swine eater. The lard comes in a long rope, which I then cut down to approximately one inch cubes. The last time I rendered lard I did it on the stove top and I discovered that I was left with a lot of cracklin’s (chicharones they are called here) which no one in my house eats so it seemed kind of a waste.

On a suggestion from a reader, I tried using the crockpot this time and was much happier with the results. After cubing the lard up into smaller pieces, I put it in the crockpot with approximately 1/2 cup of water. I then turned the thing on and walked away from it for about six hours. I ended up with much more of the liquid fat and much fewer chicharones – not only that, but the peculiar smell seemed lessened. I am not sure if that was because I kept the lid on it for the most part or if it was a result of the slower cooking. In either case, I was quite pleased with that particular side effect, as to be honest, the smell made me a tad nauseous.

Here is a picture of the finished product cooling on my counter. I use a wire stir fry straining tool to remove the chicharones, however I do not strain the lard aside from that. As you can see from the picture, there isn’t a lot of sediment in the finished product, however if one were more concerned about getting a perfectly clean lard, cheesecloth could be used to capture all the small bits.

Finished product before it is cool.

Finished product before it is cool.


Blueberry Raspberry pie.

Blueberry Raspberry pie.

The end result was a beautiful pie crust – to be honest, this is the first time I have ever successfully done a lattice work crust and I am pretty sure that the lard is responsible for my success.

In addition to making great pie crusts, lard also allows for the most incredible fried chicken. I regularly try my hand at southern classics as my partner is from Alabama and misses the food from his part of the world. Until this last attempt, my fried chicken was almost always dry and frequently under seasoned. By using 50% lard and 50% peanut oil (I didn’t want to use all my lard up on chicken), I was able to make the juiciest, most flavorful chicken to date – the under seasoning is still a bit of an issue because frankly, I can’t believe anything needs that much salt. It also created a beautiful golden brown color and a fabulously crispy texture. Sadly I have no pics of the chicken, but I highly recommend using lard for this purpose.

Happy Eating!

This post has been my contribution to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays blog carnival.

 

Food, Inc. and the continued wait. July 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — realfoodmama @ 1:35 pm
Tags:

I had big plans tomorrow night to attend a Slow Food hosted screening of this film. Unfortunately, the organizers had to cancel the screening and panel discussion due to the fact that it is still playing in the public theatre here in Santa Fe and as a result private screenings are not allowed.

What a huge disappointment! I was so looking forward to watching this film with a group of like-minded individuals and to follow it up with a nice discussion. I had planned on providing a review and a summary of the panel talk here on the blog, however it looks as though it has to be postponed.

Stay tuned however, as I have been assured that the screening will take place, however it may be some time down the road. I may just have to bite the bullet and go to the United Artist’s theatre after all! I really do not want to miss the opportunity to see this film. I hope that each of you has had the chance to go to this website and discover if the film is showing near you. If so, I highly recommend you take some time to watch – although it should be noted it is my understanding that some of the scenes are quite graphic and may turn you off meat for an undisclosed period of time.

Until then, Happy Eating!

 

Slow Food and Slow Money July 17, 2009

It has been a few days since last I wrote, so apologies to anyone who has been popping in looking for updates. We have had an eventful week here as my cat had her babies and being a new grandmother has kept me from writing!

In addition to the new additions, it has been as hot as the devil here and I spend most of my energy trying not to move around too much. Luckily however, today is nice and overcast, the new kittens are sleeping peacefully with their mom and I actually have some free time!

My Farmer’s Market here in Santa Fe has been hosting a weekly Cook With the Chef series this summer, pulling the executive chefs from various restaurants in town who are participants in the local Farm to Restaurant project and having them do a cooking demo every Saturday utilizing fresh local ingredients which can be found at booths around the market. I am a regular attendee as a) I love to cook and b) I love to eat good food. (Samples are always provided!).

Last weekend there was also a book signing event coordinated during the same time as the demo, and I stopped to chat with the author briefly and discovered a wonderful organization I wanted to share with my readers. Woody Tasch, author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money was not only promoting his book (which I plan on reading) but also advertising for the first annual Slow Money National Gathering which is to be held in Santa Fe in mid-September.

The ideas behind the Slow Money concept are basically ones of changing our economic vision from a global to a local and sustainable economy. They use the phrase “nurture capitol” to promote the importance of investing in our local food economies and systems. This is taken from the web site, the address for which is provided below:

In order to preserve and restore local food systems and local economies; in order to reconnect food producers and consumers and reconnect investors to that in which they are investing and to the places in which they live; in order to promote the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration; we do hereby affirm the following Principles.

I. We must bring money back down to earth.

II. We must bring our money home. We must put money back into local economies and carbon back into the soil.

III. We must invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered.

IV. We must invest as if carrying capacity, diversity and non-violence mattered; as if aquifers mattered; as if childhood nutrition and food deserts and obesity side-by-side with hunger all mattered.

I am very excited to attend the symposium and am hopeful that by posting this some of you will also come to Santa Fe and participate in this ground-breaking event. More information about the Slow Money movement can be found at www.slowmoneyalliance.org.

This post is a part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday’s blog carnival.