Sunday, November 21, 2010

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Figs for Thanksgiving

Blue Cheese-Stuffed Grilled Figs

For a Thanksgiving app, something nobody else will bring to your dinner, unless you dine with a pack of foodies, try this delicacy that fuses salt, sweet and fat...alternately they're nice right off the tree but few have this option. From Patience Gray's "Honey from a Weed," Best eaten from the tree, or gathered in a very early morning and set on a fig leaf in a dish in pyramid form to eat at mid-day.

Ingredients and Method: 

Enough figs your group, two or three per person. Split each fig in two, length-wise. Stuff with a bit of blue cheese or chevre. Wrap each fig with a 1/2" strip of bacon or prosciutto.

Brush figs with olive oil and grill, or broil, turning once, until figs are hot and cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Serve on white Chinete plate, not near the shrimp, in a circle with stems pointing inward like a circle of synchronized swimmers. They should be eaten early on during the Thanksgiving festivities, before the game, and after bottles are open.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Pear Butter

The steps are similar to putting up just about anything, although in the case of pear in their golden years, a very easy version of preserving.

Peel and cook down the pears adding a teaspoon (or so) of the vanilla infused sugar until reduced by about 1/3.


Stir all the while, if you can. When it is concentrated, add enough butter to bring up the flavor, around a teaspoon per pear. Stir and cook down a bit more. Set aside to cool.


Put in a pretty jar and have with toast in the morning. Or with a white fish, poached in the evening. Save those pears. Winter is right around the corner!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Dark Side of Terrior

On Sunday, (today, 10-31-10) Emily Field will exhibit a mural at Green St. Cafe in Northampton. The restaurant and the young artist both have something to celebrate. Emily is making her debut as a up and coming iconoclast and the restaurant, no stranger to icon busting, will make a toast to twenty years on Green St.

After going mano a mano with Northampton's most sacred of cows, the boys who stand by their food are hanging in there, one pot o creme at a time.

The owners of Green St. Cafe have endured eviction notices, lost business and public outcry, due to squabbles with their landlord, Smith College. The restauranteurs and the academicians are pawing the ground at the moment, pausing before the next assault. For over five years it has been Old School French Food vs. a new Engineering Building for Smith's next generation of female engineers. Meanwhile students go about their business. They might stop in for a coffee or seabass with buerre blanc. Or they might not. They might decide to major in engineering or decide to farm.

Emily's mural, a futuristic depiction of the Valley from a middle earth perspective, is so powerful that portions of the plaster are peeling away from the wall from the heft of her vision. The work combines the wit and line of Ralph Steadman with liquid lyricism only the very young can achieve. Local food is more than root vegetables in Emily's world. It is skeletons, jelly fish, hoop houses, trucks and rocks painted in a palate devoid of the color, the kind of color that comes from plastic. The future isn't plastic anymore.

Artist Reception
Green St. Cafe
Green St., Northampton, MA
October 31, 2 pm to 4 pm

Friday, August 6, 2010

Field to Table: Heirloom Tomatoes

Blight hardly a takes a bite. Only one instance reported to date and heiroom tomatoes everywhere this weekend! Try some from Kitchen Garden of Sunderland. They can be purchased at Greenfield Farmers' Market on Saturday morning. Other sources for heirlooms include Chez Albert Restaurants, the Amherst and Northampton's Farmers' Markets and directly at farmstands. Kitchen Garden put over 50 different varieties of heirlooms in the ground. They are best eaten on their own but some are canning them. Imagine heirloom tomato sauce in February and then then put aside a good day or so to heat the jars and preserve the summer.



Heirloom gazpacho recipes to come......

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tomato Famine?

About a month ago a guy who has a paper route mentioned to me that he had seen some funny spots on a person's upside-down tomato plants. Later in the day, a woman who lives in Florence said that she saw the same thing on one, just one, of the leaves on her tomatoes. She picked it right off, hoping it wasn't what she thought it was... what it was last year.


This week, a farmer from Hadley was sure what it was when he plowed his entire tomato crop because of late blight. Now it is late July.

The first official indication of blight came in an alert from vegetable entymologist Ruth Hazzard on the UMass Extension Service website. Ruth is an early pioneer in organic growing in Massachusetts and in the country. Last summer, she managed the blight crisis with information on detection, remediation and prevention of the very same fungal disease that felled Ireland in the potato famine. Hazzard continues to advise on late blight detection and response at the UMass Extension website.

The organic response to stemming blight—which reveals itslef as nickel-sized dark green or brown lesions on the leaves, and brown lesions on the stems—is to use a copper-based fungicide on the plants. It isn't cheap, nor is it a quick fix, but if used in time, it can save the crop. The danger is that the blight can spread to plants such as potatoes.

Last year some organic farmers, very few, managed to avoid the blight by treating their tomato crop early in the season. Simple Gifts Farm of North Amherst was one such farm, and ended the season with such a harvest they were still selling tomatoes in January at Winter Fare in Northampton.

Because tomatoes, including heirloom varieties, are a big money-maker for farmers, some started their tomatoes in hoop houses this year to hedge their bets. This summer the blight has the potential to take down any and all organic farmers who happen to be up- or down-wind of the airborne fungus.

Corn is one crop that is doing well this year. It came in early, is coming on strong, and is being consumed now.  This Friday, for example, corn will be a topping on wood-fired pizza at the Hungry Ghost Bakery on State Street in Northampton. (On Friday nights they serve pizza and bread made with wheat grown in Hadley.)

If you miss your heirloom organic tomatoes this summer, don't fret, they'll be back. Everything else, from wheat to cheese to eggs to meat to fish, and this month corn, along with most produce, can feed everybody, even ghosts.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Melintzanosalata

Aubergines to the French, Melazana to the Italians, eggplant travelled from the Iberiann peninsula to Siciliy, southern Italy and finally Greece. This little bunch was purchased on Saturday morning in Greenfield.

The following dish is interpreted from the greeks from Patience Gray, who wrote "Honey from a Weed" while traveling the Mediterranean seeking out marble and quartz mines with her lover, a sculptor. Living in the remotest of regions for months at a time, they ate like the locals. During the day he carved and she wrote and cooked, seeking advice from the wives of stone masons and the occasional wandering chef. Dinner combined fire with a surrounding abundance of things growing on trees, swimming in the sea and local wine.

This salad, actually a babaganoush of sorts combines eggplant, olive oil, lemon and garlic with some hardboiled egg. Except for lemon and oil it is all Valley.

Melintzanosalata - Eggplant Salad

"Make a vine-twig fire out of doors and, when it flares up, put a number of young shiny aubergines on a grill directly on the flames. Keep the fire going fiercely and, when the undersides blacken, turn them over. In 10 or 15 minutes they will be pulpy (they collapse) and completely black."

If you are fresh out of vine twigs, I recommend a fire fed with gas and continue as directed. Once the young shiny aubergines are fully black, scoop out their innards and mash with two cloves of garlic, two to three tables of lemon juice (to blanch) and at least one tablespoon of salt. This can be done in Greek fashion with a mortar and pestle but a food processor will work, or a couple of sharp knives. Once the mixture is the consistency of cream, add some capers (without caper juice) and top with fresh parsley or basil leaves. Patience recommends making the dish in the cool of morning and then serving it chilled "for super out of doors with hard-boiled eggs, black olives and good bread." That part requires no substitution.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I break for asparagus, part 1


Hadley Grass Demand Outgrows Supply.....

On Rt. 116, they are rerouting the road, they being the state, to accommodate the local market's trade. When the Hadley grass is in, over 100 lbs of native aspsaragus hit the loading dock at Atkins Farm of Amherst every day. It still isn't enough for customers. The legacy crop, once an economic mainstay of the Valley continues to be in short supply in the peak of the season. "We have four main sources but it is still not enough," says John Koslowski who has been produce manager of Atkins Farm for 40 years. 

Spring isn't the busiest time of the year for Atkins but it kicks off the season and the demand for asparagus is more than the store and local farmers can handle. The store sells tons of asparagus every summer. Koslowski buys from four local farms. "I've got guys growing more for me, and guys growing a couple of acres. I am begging for more. People want to buy local and we try to provide it but come asparagus season, there is just not enough." He supplements with asparagus from California and Canada."I wish we had more local but during the season, people just have to have their asparagus."

"I break for asparagus" continued....

I break for asparagus, part 2

Construction is currently underway.......
to expand the produce section in the front of the store and Rt. 116 is being re-alligned to make room for that at the intersection where Bay Road meets the highway. "They've been talking about fixing that corner for 25 years," said owner Pauline Lannon who adds that there will be 2 roundabouts, one where the white barn used to be (across from Atkins) and one further down Bay Road. "It is our land on both sides of the road," she says in reference to Rt. 116. "We will be building out."

Atkins, once a humble garage full of apples for sale, has turned into something more over the past since its merger with a competing orchard across the street in 1970. The fruit stand opened in 1962 and in the 1800s, the Atkins family planted their first fruit trees in Amherst.

The first major upgrade was cider donuts. Now, the apple stand has blossomed into a store with not only a fish and meat counter but attractions. In summer, ice cream, in autumn, scarecrow contest, at Easter, an egg hunt and in summer they do a brisk business as farmers bring a steady supply of plants and veggies hot off the vine, due to the proximity of the store to local farms. At the end of June, they will be selling wine and beer near the gift section.

Expect to see asparagus through the middle of June before the tomatoes and corn, but right around the time beer and wine go on the shelves at Atkins. 

Last Dance with Sorrel....

"I feel summer creeping in and I'm tired of this town again...."

If you find yourself feeling Tom Pettyish this time of year, check our a little, hard to find, wild green called sorrel. You can't just waltz into any store with a coupla bucks in your sweaty paw. Sorrel is hard to get.

Relatives, farmers and gardeners might be a source if they're growing it or have some wild. Friends in Florence have it in their garden. They make soup with it.  A delicate lemon flavor in a slightly creamy broth. So spring, so green, so full life the tender shoots plant happiness in body and mind. 

Sorrel has the consistency of spinach with a big wave of citrus, especially when mature, around 6" tall in the leaf. For future use, puree and freeze in ice cube trays. When you feel winter creeping in and you're tired of this town again, a hit of sorrel with pasta and you've got to put on that party dress. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Locavore Rhubarb Crisp

Rhubarb Crisp.... 

I was given a nice bunch of rhubarb from the guys at Green St. Cafe. It grew in their garden in Easthampton. The stalks were nice and fat. At the restaurant, they're serving rhubarb in a sauce over biscuits studded with crystalized ginger. Rhubarb grows wild and is a perennial. You might have some in the backyard. If you come across it, pull rather than cut at the stem. If you cut at the stem, it might get infected with fungus. Watch out for leaves....not so good for you.

Rhubarb is in season now and will be for another couple of weeks, hopefully until the strawberries are up. The combination is a classic since the sweetness of next week's strawberries tempers the tart, tangy, sometimes ornery rhubarb but really, they are not necessary. Rhubarb is such an unusual, almost citrus flavor, it is great on its own and worth putting up for winter.

This recipe for rhubarb isn't the classic strawberry/rhubarb pie and it isn't a sauce in a fancy restaurant. It is a locavore version of the New England Crisp, the secret weapon of Yankee homemakers for generations. Throw it together just before dinner, seduce your guests with the aroma of baking fruit, and serve hot for dessert. Ice cream with that? Raw cream from the cows in Ashfield?

Rhubarb crisp is where local ingredients can really shine. Rhubarb, everywhere, flour can be local also. The recipe for all crisps is merely fruit that cooks in the oven with a 'crumble' on top consisting of flour, sugar, oats and butter, lots of it. (Some add nuts but really necessary and according to Martha Stewart, oats are NOT helpful since they get soggy.) If, instead of plain white flour from the store via the mid west, you use local whole wheat berries and grind them yourself, you will get a nice crisp since the flour will have fiber in the form of bran and germ right in there.  For that to happen, merely buy some wheat berries from the co-op or at Atkins, have your baker run it through the stone grinder asking him or her to grind it rough, and be nice since you're not really paying for this.

Then go home and make the recipe. If you want to skip the grinding step, merely purchase stoneground soft white winter wheat, grown by Four Star in Northfield. It is sold on the farm or at the aforementioned stores, if they have not yet run out. If you insist on nuts, throw in some local chestnuts (purchased last fall and frozen) that are roasted and then chopped and browned in a dry pan. If you say "hey, hey, sugar is not local, hello!" then go ahead and use honey. You may end up with a unique texture unlike the traditional New England crisp but it will be completely local.

Locavore Rhubarb Crisp

Preheat oven to 425 - 450 depending on your oven (burning not an option)

5 T butter, chilled, cut into small chunks
4-5 C rhubarb, chopped into 1/2" pieces, remove strings if it is tough rhubarb
1/2 C white sugar (or honey)
1/4 C brown sugar
1 C whole wheatberries ground rough or regular flour
2 T chestnuts roasted, coarsley chopped and browned (optional)

Slather a layer of rhubarb on the bottom of a baking dish
With two knives, using an old pastry technique, mix the butter with the flour
When butter and flour matter is somewhat but not completely mixed, add the sugar to the crumble and nuts if you have them
Spread the crumble over the top of the rhubarb layer
Put in 425-450 oven
Have dinner
Pull out of oven 45 minutes later
Enjoy Rhubarb Crisp with local ice cream or raw cream (SideHill Farm)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Leeds Locavore: Backyard Asparagus, Backyard Chickens

This week the asparagus is up in the backyard where I live in Leeds, MA.

Our first meal from the garden was entirely local -- an asparagus omelet with the spears (1001 ft.) picked just minutes before hitting the skillet and eggs from a friend's hens (16 miles away by car, 10 miles as the crow flies).

Asparagus grows in fits and starts, some fat, some thin and scattered all over the place, like clams. This is my friend Lora's backyard asparagus, a perennial both literally and figuratively. Like rhubarb it comes up every year, first thing out of the garden.

Recipe of the Week: Backyard Asparagus Omelet



WHAT

Pick Asparagus
Gather Eggs

HOW

Get a cast iron skillet very hot, but not smoking, add well oiled spears of asparagus, ends trimmed. Remove from pan and cut into into 1-1/2" pieces and set aside.

Wipe out skillet was wiped out and heat more oil plus some butter until almost smoking. The way to prepare an omelet that really celebrates the flavor of the eggs, is to cook it the way they do in France (3000 miles). It is a gentle preparation that requires a bit of mastery over the pan.

First the eggs are lightly beaten with a fork, three are ideal, and slide them gently into the pan. Then use the fork to swirl the eggs, gathering them up into the center of the pan. Once you've gotten control of the eggy mass with your fork, move the pan under the eggs so they don't stick but continue to cook. Motion is essential for even heat. (This takes a bit of practice but you will find yourself flipping the omelet in the air, a useful skill.)

When half of the omelet is slid onto the plate, add the asparagus and then flip the rest of omelet over it, making a perfect envelop of heat. Voila.

Perhaps this was because the asparagus and eggs were practically alive, or perhaps because the food was cooked with love or because the food was cooked in the French tradition, backyard lunch was a revelation The asparagus spears quite fat and they were tender and sweet. According to Lora, it was neither the provenance, nor the love, nor the French but her fertilizer -- chicken shit courtesy of our friend with the hens. The circle of life in Leeds continues.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rego Park Locavore


After a scant, 15-year hiatus an old friend and I had lunch in New York last week. It was a beautiful Spring day. Our plan was to catch up and cook a locavore-ish meal together. Back in the day we slaves in the factory of fashion in New York. Now we're slaves to food, she in Rego Park with her family and me in the country with friends and farm animals. She now works as a caterer and blogs in "Grapes and Greens." (photo: Deborah Soffel)

When Deb came walking down the hall on the 18th floor of my friend's place, she looked pretty jaunty with her saunter and spray of flowers. Girlish squeals ensued then the brief silence ....

"Oh, are these up?" I said of the lilacs. And she said, my New York friend, "At the bodega, they are," and with that we resumed our friendship. 
Rego Park and New York City are vague on the point of provenance. The man who sold me the broccoli rabe at the farmers' market referenced an unknown county in upstate New York. In Rego Park, at her neighborhood market, Deb asked why a mountain of bananas was referred to as "local." An employee responded with "that's what the sign says lady.."
I show her my food for lunch, broccoli rabe from the farmers' market in Union Square. 


She brought herbs from her garden in Rego Park which we spread out over the counter, and marveled over. Then she pulled out the tofu, local, perhaps from Chinatown, and then she pulled out some red quinoa. Local to her kitchen, good enough. 


The apartment we had to cook in was the home of an ineligible bachelor with little in the way of amenities. The larder stocked only with Nutella and no wine glasses, pepper or place mats to be found .... just some Japanese cups and a glass with a painting of a pole dancer on it....but we punted, like back in the day, and made a decent show of it.

Reunion Lunch: Rabe & Pink Quinoa

Reunion Lunch via Rego Park

what

1- bunch brocooli rabe (Union Square Farmers' Market)
1- cup red quinoa (the store)
Herbs including mint, oregano (deb's garden, Rego Park)
1- block tofu (Chinatown)
how
-Open wine (20 sec)  
-Prep veggies (5 min) by trimming stems of broccoli rabe and dicing herbs.
discuss friends (ongoing)
discuss old boss (20 min)
discuss ex-husbands (10 min)
discuss deb's recent wedding (20 min)
discuss lack of spices & decide herbs will do (2 sec)
-Cut tofu up into little cubes and brown in olive oil  (2-5 min)
-Put quinoa in pan with water and cook (20 min)
discuss families (ongoing)
discuss food and/or sex (ongoing)
-Stirfry broccolli rabe in to small pan with olive oil (5-10 min) in two batches
discuss books (ongoing)
discuss jewelry (2 min)
Set table 
discuss politics (20 sec)
discuss dan barber and Stone Barns (4 min)
Plate. Deb surrounded a mound of quinoa with a wreath of broccoli rabe studded with fried cubes of tofu  and we are so local to one another the meal was memorable.


Eat with additional discussion.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Event of the Week: Sunday in Pulaski Park with Goats

Earth Day....
Demonstrations on bicycle repair, clotheslines, cloth diapering, backyard chickens, composting and urban gardening as well as baby goats, trash-sorting games for kids and puppets....... 
This Sunday, 4/25 from 11 am to 4 pm in Pulaski Park, 
Northampton, MA


"BREAD CAN BE BLOWN AWAY......" Hannah D'Alessandro


"Bread," took first prize two weeks ago at the Hungry Ghost Annual Poetry Contest in Northampton, MA. When asked where she gets her inspiration for her poem, six-year-old Hanna said "It's just something I am working on at school..."  




Bread
Bread is like a flying saucer
When you cut it
And it falls to the ground.
Bread is adored by all creatures
Squirrels, moose, deer,
Crabs, mermaids, oysters,
Starfish, chipmunks.
But sometimes when your window is opened
And the wind is blowing
Bread can be blown away.
So tomorrow morning,
When you get breakfast,
Make sure your window is not
Opened. 
 
      --Hannah D’Alessandro 


 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Veggie Star Appearance in the Valley

Hadley grass, so prized, so loved, so chronicled in the Valley that some folks can actually taste on which side of the river it is grown. Like with wine, terroir makes a difference.

This time of year there are recipes galore for this New England perennial. In one, the asparagus is transformed into ice cream (!) and then piped into the beginning of the season, keep it simple to best taste this shining star of Hadley, lo these many decades. Recipes requiring asparagus to be transformed into ice cream that gets piped into endive. Another recipe suggests bundling up asparagus into parchment paper to bake in a slow oven. Why not? But maybe later in the season when the sensory impact has taken its initial toll.

What

Forage asparagus at a farmers' market or at a stand in Sunderland on the river, or Atkins, Serios or foraged from a spot near the oxbow. Look for skinny spears encased in weeds.

How

Merely break off the ends...let the vegetable show you where. No knife necessary. Clean gently with water, dry and coat with olive oil.

Put on a baking sheet and broil until browned or cook fast and hot in a skillet on top of the stove or on the grill. Come up with a way to prevent the spears from falling in.

You can boil it but do it fast and take the spears out (thin after 4 min, fat after around 6 min) and run them under cold water or plunge in ice or a cold mountain stream to stop the cooking. This will maintain color, flavor and nutrients.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Deadline for readers from author of "Diet for a Small Planet"

At a lecture yesterday at Smith, Frances Moore Lappe, spoke of a city where people are planting food everywhere, just in case they run out. They are even planting food in graveyards. Francis Moore Lappe wrote Diet for a Small Planet when she was 26. This is a photo of her at the time when she was musing on the phenomenon of hunger amidst abundance. In the Opening Note of her new book she writes, "...the world is in the grip of a financial crisis that's created 100 million new victims of hunger - pushing the total over one billion, higher than ever in history. Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation in London tells us that "[we]e could literally be nine meals from anarchy and we are still in denial...."

She follows with "Are you scared? I know I am."  Now she is a sleek, sixty something person with the moves of a dancer and the energy of a lioness protecting her cubs. We are her cubs and she is tireless. In her new book, "Liberation Ecology," her 16th, she recommends that we learn to think like an ecosystem and to do that some reframing has to happen. She poses disempowering ideas such as: "No Growth is the Answer!"  After each idea is a "reframe" which in this case "Since what we've been calling "growth" is largely an economics of waste and destruction, let's call it that. Let's reserve "growth" to describe that which aligns with nature's rules to promote greater health....."

(During the lecture in the Weinstein Auditorium, a student sitting in front of me across the aisle put down his notebook and began taking off his sneakers off, one at a time. Then he took off his socks.  He held one up and smelled it thoughtfully. I guess that's normal.)

What is not normal is that Frances Moore Lappe's new book is in limited edition. There were only 1500 copies printed and her intent is to get feedback from readers before she publishes a final draft. Responses due no later than May 1, 2010! Her plan is to re-frame and edit the book based on reader ideas. The book can be ordered at smallplanet.org.

How's that for thinking like an ecosystem?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Fiddleheads

Ostrich fern fiddleheads pair very nicely with grilled fish and horseradish cream sauce.

To Prepare Fiddleheads: Trim stems and rinse removing brown sheath from plant. Boil for 10 minutes in salty water or steam for 20 minutes (according to the USDA to insure safety when consuming unregulated food) or cast USDA caution to the wind and boil at roiling for one minute, plunge into cold water to keep color then stir fry in cast iron pan. If grilling, par-boil and use screen to avoid dropping fiddleheads onto fire. Serve with salt and butter.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fiddlehead Season: Return of the Swamp People

Fiddleheads are in the shy stage of life pausing before unfurling into ferns. Ostrich fern (atteuccia struthiopteris) fiddleheads are edible, forragable, and pretty much free, if you know where to look.  They come up in April and May and like alluvial, sandy soil. In western MA, they have been known to grow near the oxbow or on the west side of the Connecticut River in the upper reaches of Hatfield. Usually water is near by. Be sure to identify the ostrich fern, which has smooth stems with a line down the inside and papery brown scales, as opposed to the ferns with a fuzzy white exterior. If foraging, get land owner permission (if possible) and refrain from harvesting more than half of the plant to insure re-growth. If you don't have a chance to forage, shy ferns have been spotted at River Valley Market and Serios Market in Northampton as well as Atkins in Amherst for around $4 per lb. Those who forage fiddleheads and bring them to the market are called the swamp people by certain sectors of society. It isn't the easiest way to make a buck.  

Health Note: Fiddleheads are a good source of vitamins A and C, niacin, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, and phosphorus. They are known to be 'clean the system' meaning that they can be tough to digest, depending on what kind of diet you maintain. Fiddleheads have a lot of fiber, as does asparagus which makes both good for you. As Michael Pollan says, eat food, mostly plants. This is pure plant.  (Drawing by Bobbi Angell)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Grow Your Own: A Great Day for Locavores

Mixed Marriage Wins Hands Down, a great day for locavores!

How Hadley spelt and polish vodka won entrepreneur Paul J. Kozub a "Double Gold" award in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
 
Some say Paul Kozub is a marketing genius, some say he is a vodka genius but others say that the stuff in those pyrotechnical display bottles all over the Valley is worth the price.

Over the weekend, when the rest of us were relaxing in the beautiful weather, a panel of hard-working spirits experts convened in San Francisco to taste vodka. This contest, for which it takes more than a passing interest in booze to judge, is purely taste-based. No information was given to judges during to competition about price or brand or country of origin.

In the category of non-flavored vodka, Kozub's V-One was given a "Double Gold" award among 200 entrants. (The top vodka, the winner of all of the Double Golds was Chase Vodka from Herefordshire, England priced at $40 per bottle.)

For Kozub, it all in the name of local sustainability. "I've been at this for four years, my family is from Hadley and the spelt is from Hadley," says Kozub. "I'm in it for the long run." He plans to sell the vodka in all 50 states in five years time. Although the distillery is in Poland, it is owned by a local person there.

If you're a believer in ingredients, V-1 is made with spelt, some of it grown by Allen Zuchowski of Lazy Acres Farm in Hadley where it is harvested and shipped to the distillery in Poland. If you're a believer in process, the ethanol used to distill is the cleanest Kozub can find -- 97% pure. He claims that spelt is the best ingredient over potato or wheat based on testing 40 recipes over a two year period.

This is a great day for locavores. Now in the category of local spirits, there is wine, beer, mead, hard cider and now vodka. And Zuchowski's farm is also producing spelt and wheat for Hungry Ghost, Wheat Berry in Amherst and others making and selling bread. This latest entry in the list of local food makes the wait for corn and tomatoes in August just a bit easier on all of us.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Attend Hands-On Workshop, Go Home with a Chicken


Dave Tepfer, Simple Gifts Farm, is making some of his two year-old laying hens available for adoption to good homes at a workshop organized by North Amherst Community Farm, Inc. this Saturday, April 3rd.

Homes for Hens Workshop participants will be able to take their hens home, set up the coop, and collect eggs from the hens the next morning!

The workshop is already full, testament to the number of people
interested in raising chickens. The laying hens will be available for purchase ($10 and up). For more information, contact John Gerber, 413-549-6949 or jgerber@psis.umass.edu

Ask Farmer Bill:

I'm thinking of getting some chickens so I have have free eggs. I figure $10 down now and, what, 10 years of free eggs? What do you think? Should I should get chickens?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Local Organic Vegan Kosher Whole Wheat Bread Stone Ground

NYC 3-24-10
10:14 a.m.
Union Square Farmers' Market

Fluffy and crusty on the outside bread made from wheat grown in Ithica, stone ground, and sold at a stand, the first grain vendor allowed at the Union Square farmers' market. The farm, Cayuga Pure Organic,  was founded by Tycho Dan, among others. 

"Vegan, organic, and kosher," says one Tycho Dan's partners to vendors to passersby. "Not sure about the vegan part," Tycho Dan says to me. A half a loaf of whole wheat bread sells for $4.50 causes quite a stir, even in New York.

I learn that it is made from hard spring wheat flour, stone ground on the farm. No white flour, all local. This bread has the kind of rise no seen ever with bread made with the whole wheat, no matter hot fine those grains are ground. When pressed, Tycho Dan reveals that baker Keith Cohen uses a secret mixture combining sourdough starter and yeast.

He cannot reveal the ratio. In fact, Tycho Dan can't even tell me where the bread is baked. The Union Square Farmers' Market's vendor criteria prevents it, due to the fact that the bakery is not a farm.  

A customer walks up and asks for a sample. She chews, frowns and asks, "Is this bread baked in a wood fired oven?"  Tycho Dan replies,  "No, but the oven is brick and was built back in 1926." She nods sagely and walks away. "People think they know it all," he says and laughs. Tycho Dan has been up since 3 am when the truck was packed, the crew drove down to the city, and set up in the dark. To try the bread if you can't make the Wednesday Farmers' Market in NYC, try Orwasher's Bakery on the upper east side.

$10 Matzo Brei


NYC 3-25-10
3:52 p.m.
Fairway, 73rd and Broadway 

Man in aisle: Matzo Brie $10?
Woman in aisle:  Gluten free.
Man: But....?  
Woman: It says on the box, "Made with oats,"
Man: $10?
Woman: Look at this big box!
Man: No Jew pays $10 for matzo
Woman: Gluten free, oven baked...
Man: $10?
Woman: (takes one down from shelf and opens box) But look, they're round...!
Man: $10?
Woman: Passover is next week!
Man: Only my wife, not a Jew, would pay that much for matzo.
Woman: Ok, ok. (walks away)

First of the season fiddleheads


First of the season fiddleheads

NYC 5:37 p.m. March, 26, 2010
Fairway, 73rd & Broadway 
$4.49 for 1/4 lb. 
Origin unknown

Friday, March 26, 2010

EVENT: Grow Your Own Maple Syrup


On Friday, March 26th, at 7 p.m. at the Wendell Free Library, two short films on maple sugaring and maple products will be shown. The films are local filmmaker Steve Alves’ "A Sweet Tradition" and a DVD on maple candy and cream. Wendell sugarmaker Bill Facey will discuss the fine points of making quality maple syrup. The evening is sponsored by the Wendell Agricultural Commission. For more information, call 978-544-8604.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jamie Oliver's TED Prize wish: Teach every child about food | Video on TED.com

More Jamie, this time at TED, ranting to intellectuals..."school lunches are run by accountants....you can't duck and dive, all you can do is buy cheaper shit." Jamie Oliver's TED Prize wish: Teach every child about food | Video on TED.com

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jamie Oliver Takes On School Lunch Menu and Obesity in West Virginia

Finally, sort of a solution to one of the causes to childhood obesity, a local and national crisis due to processed foods and school food mediocrity. This British chef uses the media to kick some U.S. butt by exposing truck loads of fat and pizza for breakfast....view video. Considering the obstacles, both political and financial, it is a wonder that so much local food is being bought by area schools. Last year, 205 farms in the state sold food to Massachusetts schools according to Kelly Erwin, director of the Farm to School program in Amherst, MA. In a recent Hampshire Gazette story, Erwin, Senator Stan Rosenberg, Andrew Morehouse of the Food Bank and others weigh in on recent legislation to increase school spending on local food. For the entire story in the DAILY HAMPSHIRE GAZETTE, read on. 

Grow Your Own: Gardening 101


In a couple of weeks, Molly Merritt will be teaching Gardening 101 as part of Montview Neighborhood Farm's Workshop Series. Education Director Lisa DePiano's impetus for providing this course is a response to people's increased interest in growing their own vegetables. Advanced courses such as "Permaculture Fundamentals" will be offered also. Molly is the annual vegetable grower at Montview, a small, human powered farm located on city owned conservation land in downtown Northampton.

ValleyLocavore: Molly, what made you want to teach this class?

Molly Merritt: I have been interested in organic gardening since I was a teenager. I have apprenticed on various farms in New York and Massachusetts and studied sustainable agricultural at Hampshire College.

VL: What will the workshop entail?

MM: Soil testing and amendment (correcting soil contents), a few methods of bed preparation and the basics of growing crops from seed to harvest. 

VL: Will the workshop be hands on?

MM: I will be giving participants a sample planting schedule, which is concise guide to what to plant when. I will also give them a resource list for helpful materials.

VL: When and how much?

MM: The workshop costs $25 to $40 based on ability to pay. No one will be turned away. It will be held on Saturday, April 18th from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. People can register by sending an e-mail to: montview@pedalpeople.com or by calling 413-825-6795.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why? Because We Need the Eggs!

Are 3 hens per household enough?

As interest in backyard chicken farming grows, so does concern at the civic level about how to maintain zoning restrictions. Recent stories in the Daily Hampshire Gazette reveal a debate about increasing the number of three hens per household for Northampton Residents.

Ever thought about joining the ranks of backyard chicken farmers. Hens make great pets, roosters need only to drop by every once in a while and eggs are free.

There is a lot of talk these about keeping chickens. Families from San Francisco to New York City and the rest of us are reaching back into time to figure out what our ancestors knew best: Grow Your Own.....

Organic eggs that are not mass produced, such as the kind from hens raised at Diemand Farm in Wendell, are better for you and the land. Less travel, more flavor and a better life for the hens. Since the film Food, Inc. revealed strange practices at large scale chicken processing plants, demand for local eggs is growing.

The Pioneer Valley Chicken Association of Western Mass offers group membership and lots of useful information offered by locals. Monthly workshops are offered at area farms.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sweet, Legal Meat for Lent

Fish is one of the only things you can eat during Lent if you're a Catholic because the "fast" requires abstaining from meat. If you're a Catholic locavore and ice fishing isn't on the menu but bending the rules is, then look to the sea for sustenance.
A lobster caught in Maine or off the coast of Martha's Vineyard is 100 miles away, give or take. The trip to Maine from Holyoke is around 200 miles but on Martha's Vineyard, the trip from the fishmonger's place to where the lobsters live is about half an hour by boat.
In winter, lobsters live in an igloo of their own design. As in the case of oysters, the amount of energy expended building up the tough shell makes for a very sweet meat. Last week I happened to run into a lobster in Vineyard Haven whom I interviewed before cooking, eating, and then eating again. The recipe that follows is for an "after-the-feast" velvety bisque that promises to get all of us through the month of March, whether we're locavores, Catholics, locavore Catholics or just pescavores....before the bisque, the best technique for cooking a live lobster is to boil it in sea water or just plain water for around 10 minutes, depending on size.


Lenten Lobster Bisque

1. Collect all the leftover shells after the lobster feast.
2. Remove the gill feathers, tamale (green stuff—digestive), coral (eggs) and lobster meat.
2. Reserve gill feathers, tamale, coral and meat. They will be added later to the bisque.
3. Remove any other leftover stuff such as eyes and lungs.
4. Coat shells in olive oil and place in roasting pan for around 30 minutes at around 340 degrees (be super careful not to burn!).
5. Make stock using leftover lobster water or clam juice, and add a mixture of chopped medium onion, 2 cloves finely diced garlic, a rib of diced celery and a finely diced medium carrot as well as several sprigs of thyme.
6. When the shells are nice and brittle, remove from pan and de-glaze for any leftover flavor.
7. Put the shells in a brown paper bag and break into tiny pieces with a hammer. This is best done outside or on the fire escape.
8. Place all the tiny shell pieces in a pan with a stick of butter.
9. Melt butter and shells and put mixture into a food processor.
10. Mix until shells are ground as fine as possible.
11. Drain lobster-infused butter using a cheese cloth and discarding the shell.
12. Thicken stock with a couple of handfuls of rice.
13. Add lobster-infused butter to stock and 1/2 cup of sherry (optional).
14. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
15. Taste and adjust as you see fit by adding coral and about 1/2 cup cream (optional).
16. Add leftover lobster meat.
17. Serve with lobster gill feathers as garnish.
18. Toast slices of baguette and slather with tamale that has been cooked with a bit of butter and a very small amount of onion.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How to Make Bread: Slow Rise, Great Taste


Bread with local wheat
 Crunchy on the outside, steaming hot and fluffy on the inside, this bread recipe is as easy as it gets.

"The Rising" takes place of its own accord. The human merely has to mix, wait for the yeast do its magic, flip and bake. How-To Video

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day - Synesthesia 101

Feast of the Senses

Love is chemistry. People say that they know the minute they lay eyes on one another they knew it was time to go big or go home. Love at first sight is hard to miss; your heart beats faster, you feel it in your gut, your loins, speech is meaningless. At first, every day is Valentine's Day. Every breakfast, every cupcake, every date, every caress is seamless. Later, when the calendar falls on February, there is the chance to experience infatuation all over again. Sensory overload can be called upon to get all burners going. 



Many think that we form our attractions based on scent alone. Love can be a rose, love can be a cookie, love can be the whiff of another, and love can a be a night to remember in a rambling old Inn. And the quick, yet significant, fix of chocolate is the ultimate example of synesthesia with a full court press of sight, smell, taste and ... if limbic (see below) is a sense, then that one finally.


Chocolate, this weekend, will be celebrated at the Old Deerfield Inn in Old Deerfield and at the Inn at Norton Hill in Ashfield. The gems picture above from Heavenly Chocolate at Thorne's Market in Northampton sells a combination of chili pepper and cocoa concoction making it possible for the shyest person to bust a move.

Foreplay

Jerry McCarthy is a man who knows about the power of scent. It can be reason we pick our partners, although we might not realize it. "The sense of smell is near the limbic area, the sensual area of the brain," he says. "Our sense of smell causes us to impulsively do things. That is why they put perfume near the door in stores. Scent is a much more powerful influence on our behavior, much more powerful than our sense of touch or hearing." McCarthy runs Leyden House up in Leyden. An importer of shea butter, almond oil and things like distilled lavender oil, his expertise is in pairing his oils and creams with scent. Customers of Leyden House include spas and individuals interested in unique fragrances and massage oil. Jojoba, for example, is available. It is more expensive to other oils and is known for its "glide appeal."

Scents with specificity abound. For example, the makings of a truly sensual bath can be concocted with what McCarthy describes as aphrodisiac scents. That is a blend of clary sage, patchouli and Ylang Ylang which creates a floral aroma with an earthy undertone. McCarthy is in love with the combination of rose and almond oil. "Rose is an essential oil, it is spelled the same in German and French and English. Rose becomes, "Eros," the god of love. To bring your loved one to aquatic ecstasy, a tub of rose scented almond oil that is strewn with rose petals could put the limbic area of the brain into synesthetic overdrive. Products can be purchased at Joya and River Valley Market in Northampton or through the company website which is www.leydenhouse.com.

 

Farm to Orchard to Table

At Tabellas Restaurant in Amherst, Farm to Table Dining protocol makes for one of the only restaurants in the area that serves local bubbly.  At dinner, if you happen to visit Tabellas in Amherst, a recommended pairing of hard cider is provided by a man with soulful eyes.
The effect of the elixir, West County Cider in this case, is quite profound and if love is in the air, that too becomes profound. Soulful eyes describes three dishes to pair with cider. First there is the house made chicken liver pate wrapped in bacon because the gamy of the meat is so well matched by the fizz of the cider.  He also recommends the signature lemon peppercorn chick pea fries for a lighter version combining heavy with light. Finally from the main courses, he recommends a pairing of hard cider with a grilled Pork Loin in a sauce of hard cider and bourbon graze. Besides the pedigreed food and romantic local bubbly, what is very cozy and intimate about the place is the interior. Dark wood, dark interior and a couple of corner booths provide an atmosphere where all sorts of sensory exploration can take place. Early or late reservations recommended for obvious reasons on Valentine's Day.

And the source of local libation is the tiny town of Colrain where the country's first orchards pressed apples into hard cider. Traditionally fermented cider was the only cider. It is growing in popularity here but has an established following and has for years in Europe. In Colrain, West County Cider is a 1400 tree orchard of French, American and English apple trees. The hard cider is made without additives or concentrate according to Judith Maloney,  who started with just a "clearing in the woods" in 1984. "The Redfield is best for love," she says of the six or so varieties they sell. "It has a slight spritz it is made from apples whose flesh is red when you cut into it." The red of the apple can be seen through the clear glass bottles it is sold in. This champagne alternative, an edgier champs, if you will, can be found at area restaurants and liquor stores. A chief appeal is that it hits at least four of the senses; sight, touch, taste, and fizz could be heard or felt as a tickle.

Sleepover

Henry Miller said that in Paris when it rains, there only two things to do; make love or play cards. If you decide to stay at a B and B up in the hilltowns, pray for rain. Literature provided in the rooms at The Inn at Norton Hill lists  two local attractions: The Ashfield Hardware Store and the Belding Memorial Library.
The staff is barely visible and the old mansion is newly restored with the original open hearth and rooms with wide floorboards and fireplaces.

Then there is the Yellow Room. With three three walls of windows and French Doors, it is strictly a colonial affair at night. With its four poster and hand made quilt a view of the Juliet Balcony morning explodes in light and color followed by breakfast in bed.

Across the street, groceries, meals, hard cider can be consumed ravenously before retreating back to Valentine exertions. More chocolates are are available for restorative purposes. They are Elmer's house brand and made by an outfit in New Hampshire called Unbridled Chocolate. They are all hand made with imported chocolate and come in rainbow flavors ranging from mint to espresso. Best is the butternut crunch because of the yin and yang effect of almost bittersweet dark chocolate and salty butter.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This Week on Farm 2 Fork

In an interview with Dorothy Suput about a "Strolling of the Heifers Microloan Fund for New England Farmers" Tuesday night, Don Persons learned about available farm financing.

Suput said that the program is in its second year. Funding for farms with an annual gross of $250,000 or less is partnership between the Chittenden Bank and "The Carrot Project." Loans range from $1,000 to $15,000. This is the second year of the program. Click here for more information.  The next deadline is February 26, 2010.

Sources for the loan's initial capital includes money from “Farm Relief” benefit concerts featuring Pete Seeger, his grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, and bluesman Guy Davis in September, 2008 and by the Paul Winter Consort in September, 2009, as well as major grants from the Thomas Thompson Trust and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters; and private investments made through The Carrot Project.


(Photo by "Wire Image")

An interview with Andrew Huckins, the Hampshire student who started the Northampton Winter Farmers' Market revealed his vision behind the weekly food, music and art fest.  "I want to broaden the scope of this winter farmers' market with music also. The musicians just wanted a place to play together. Now they're coming to the market on Saturday. The vendors really like it," said Huckins. This week's Thornes Winter Farmers' Market will feature a "mapping" art exhibit and music, as well as food from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Northampton. Check out Andrew's facebook page to learn more about music and upcoming news for the market.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hamp City Council Approves Almost $1M for Farmland

After several months debate, the Northampton City Council has approved an expenditure of $990,000 for a portion of 145 acres of farmland in Florence for mixed use including farmland, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. The money will be appropriated the CPA (Conservation Protection Act) funds. An initial deposit of $80,000 from the CPA's reserve fund has been approved. The remaining $910,000 will be borrowed over a 15 year period, according to the Gazette. 

With an assessed value of approximately $2.475 M, the balance of which is expected to come from grants and other fund raising, the 145-acre acquisition is not a done deal. The Trust for Public Land has partnered with the City to negotiate with the sellers to finalize the transaction.

Read the entire story as reported above the fold in today's edition of the Daily Hampshire Gazette...
(Photo by Seth Gregory)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hamp Takes Back the Land: Make that 2 Farms!

With mortgage foreclosures flooding the housing market and impending threats of food shortages, Hamp is taking steps to take back the land...

After a significant meeting of the City Council, the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported the following:

"Northampton officials advanced a plan Wednesday to buy not only the Bean family farm off Spring Street, but the abutting - and much bigger - Allard Farm."  Click here for the full Hampshire Gazette story.....

As of 1/25, the City Council has approved the purchase of the Bean Farm. The next step is to get the city's CPC to approve preservation funds....the deadline looms.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Venison via Cooperstown

The animal was shot with a bow and arrow in the upstate territory where James Fennimore Cooper penned, "The Last of the Mohicans."  A lot of hunting goes on in Cooperstown. My brother, who sent the frozen package, did not kill the deer, but if he becomes the last of the hedge fund managers, due to a scarcity of things to hedge, at least he won’t starve. It was his brother-in-law who felled the animal and offered the tenderloin, the finest cut.

Chef Donna and the inspector came for dinner. She peered at the cuts of venison, lying in a pool of red wine. "Tenderloin! Where is the deer from?" she asked. "And the wine?" Chef strapped on her apron, accepted a glass of wine and got to work. Chef is a pretty petite woman with blonde hair and big blue eyes. It would be just another Sunday night supper with friends. The inspector brought the produce. I provided the game, the wine and the place and chef would teach us a thing or two.

There were two pieces of meat; eight inches in length each, an inch and a half wide and more than an inch thick. It was purple. "Dry," she said. "It has to be very dry. Give me a paper towel or an old rag....."  Chef Donna is a talking-teaching chef.  "This," she said pointing to her rib cage under her left wing, "is where the tender loin comes from. Tenderloin doesn't get worked too much so it isn't tough but it is not flab either."

The inspector is a quiet man, for the most part. He works in agriculture. Once, when we were having a cup of coffee, I asked him what he was thinking about and he said, "Seed oil crops." 

Chef cried out for a skillet to sear the meat. We went for the big cast iron one. "Venison is so lean, look!" she said. "This is not the kind of meat that explodes with fatty flavor so you have to work it." And work it she did. Taking each piece with “Tongs!” and dredging them VERY lightly in flour, she seared each side until it smoked, An aroma seared meat filled the room setting off various smoke alarms. The inspector responded instantly and I followed his lead. When all of the windows and doors were open, it was time to roast. Now the oven was going full blast.

"Baking pan, no roasting pan," she cried and I produced a glass one. She shook her head grabbed a different one—metal with sides. Into the oven went the loins and chef bounced back to her reduction on the stovetop. "Here is pepper," she said adding some, "and here is bay leaf..." and then for some reason we all started arguing about Africa. Nobody could shut up. The inspector took a position and wouldn’t budge. Finally chef held up a wooden spoon. “There are some things that men and women will never, never agree on! It is that simple.” She invited us to taste the reduction, which was about half its original amount and agreed was perfection, although chef said, “It is not even a demi-glace yet!” 

Out comes the meat from the oven. She heaved the bloody roasting juices from the seared meat into the sauce. “Now it is demi-glace,” she said. Then she began to freestyle. From her purse, she fished out a plastic bag. In the bag was something red. “Pomegranate!” she said and halved the fruit to extract the seeds and juices. Bits of pomegranate flesh were painstakingly removed and the added to the demi-glace. We tasted it. Africa was replaced by Bali, or maybe heaven.

“Plate!” she cried and slapped each loin down and began to make a little tent for each piece of meat out of tin foil. "Now these will rest," she said. "They rest for the exact amount of time that they cook." We were about to experience an entirely, expect for the last minute fruit, early American repast.

In Colonial times, a woman was abducted by the Narraganset Indians in Lancaster Massachusetts and held hostage for three months.

During the ordeal, Mary Rowlandson ate with her captors traversed the state with her captors, and spent one night with a dead child in her arms. She fought off violence, exposure and terror but somehow survived.

In "A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson,” she described a local diet: "Their chief and commonest food was Ground-nuts," she wrote. "They would eat Horses' guts and ears and all sorts of wild birds which they could catch; Also Bear, Venison, Beavers, Tortois, Frogs, Squirils, Dogs, Skunks, Rattle-snakes; yea, the very Barks of Trees."

Our repast of venison and roasted roots; yea were the very elements of a feast.  The venison, roasted and pink on the inside was flanked with rows of beets, brussels sprouts and kale.  The vegetables tasted of sweetened earth and butter. The meat tasted of strength.