Monday, August 23, 2010

Does Eating Local Really Make a Difference?

I am not going to spout data at you.

I am not going to lecture about the benefits to the farmers or the environment.

You only have to look at the news to see the strongest argument for eating local: The Egg Recall.

I have lost track of the number of eggs recalled when it started to mass hundreds of millions of eggs.  There was no reason for me to watch for the next batch of eggs being recalled, even though I eat eggs.  I eat a lot of eggs.  I even use them raw on almost weekly basis - making a batch of fresh mayo each week (not that I go thru it all, but I only keep it a week).  And even when I cook my eggs, they are nearly always soft boiled or poached.  I love a runny yolk!

Meatloaf topped with sauteed rainbow chard & a poached egg.

But I know where my eggs come from.  I have met & spoken with the farmers at the farmer markets.  I am not saying that you can ever be 100% any of your food is 100% safe.  I do things to avoid cross contamination in my kitchen even if the chance there is anything dangerous is low:
  • washing hands after handling eggs, or any other kind of animal proteins before touching any other foods or surfaces.
  • using separate & dedicated cutting boards for animal proteins and fruits & veggies.
  • wash fruits and veggies before cutting just in case something is on the surface (who knows how many people at the market touched it before you?)
I still take chances - I have been known to eat fruit and vegetables right out of my CSA box without washing them.  But I know where that food is coming from and I know when it was picked (only 24 hours before I got my grubby lil hands on it!).

Buying local, eating local, and getting to know who is producing your food is good for you!  Even if you don't concern yourself with the environmental, social, economic impact of supporting your local farmers, it will lower the chances you will every have to be concerned with a spinach, tomato, egg, etc recall.  So for your own healthy piece of mind and wallet (how many other people had to dump the eggs they just bought 'just in case' while I was topping my meatloaf with a poached egg?), eat local... plus it makes you a mench.

A MENCH is used to describe a good person: He is a real mench!  It literally translates to 'a person', but is commonly used to call someone a good guy.

Ess Eppis!

Friday, August 20, 2010

CSA Brunch... or quick please eat this so I'll have room for more!

The bounty from the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA has been great & plentiful!  So plentiful in fact that my fridge seems to be bursting at the seams each week.  The other week it was already coming up on the weekend and soon it would be Tuesday & time for another CSA box.  I needed help, quick!  I decided to throw a last minute brunch for a few friends for a nosh and a schmooze.
NOSH is literally a snack, but if you have ever been invited over for a nosh, you know that the amount of food well exceeds what many would consider a nosh.  If you are NOSHIE, it usually means you are hungry but just looking for a nibble.  To SCHMOOZE is to chat and make small talk.  Nothing is better than a nosh while schmoozing on a lazy Saturday.
Tomatoes and potatoes seemed to be multiplying on their own so I needed to tackle them first.  I found this recipe for Spicy Tomato Chutney.  It seemed full of everything I like so I started that simmering on stove.  It needs about an additional hour simmering to get to a good consistency than is stated in the recipe.

Next I brought out one of my newest toys - the mandoline.  I love this thing!  I sliced down potatoes, red & yellow tomatoes, and onions.  Along with some spices, herbs, and half-and-half (I didn't have cream), I made Spiced Tomato Gratin from 101cookbooks.  This is not a quick recipe, but soooo worth it!  Do not rush thru the caramelizing & spicing the onions step.  This is what makes it amazing!

In addition to the gratin, I also roasted some burgundy beans - which are actual MAGIC BEANS!  My first thought when I got these dark purple string bean was that it would be great to make with kids because when you cook them they turn green!  How cool is that!?  Little did I know how excited my friends would go over this little trick.  All I needed was a lovely assistant as I put the burgundy beans coated lightly with extra virgin olive oil and salt & pepper into the hot oven, only to remove *drum roll* GREEN BEANS!  It was shock & awe!

I rounded out the menu with some quickly whipped up hummus, a (store bought) baguette, a couple of NY Strip Steaks from my U.S. Wellness Meats prize box, and fresh cut cantaloupe - half of which I turned into aqua de melon.   This was very easy, even without a blender.

1 cup cooked, cooled, drained chickpeas & reserved water from cooking
2-3 tablespoons of tahini
juice of one lemon
about 1/4 cup of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Put chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, s&p in the work bowl of a food processor with a generous splash of olive oil.  Start food processor and drizzle in the rest of the olive oil slowly.  Let in run 1-2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and taste.  Add s&p as needed.  If consistency is too thick, start running the food processor again and slowly add the water from cooking the chickpeas (if you are using canned, use the water from the can) till you get the consistency you want.  Taste and adjust as needed.

Aqua de Melon
Half a cantaloupe cut into chunks
About 4 cups of water - divided
1/4 cup of sugar or to your taste

The cut up cantaloupe went into the food processor with about a cup of water and 1/4 cup sugar.  Let it whiz around till you have basically made cantaloupe juice concentrate.  Put it into a pitcher and add the rest of the water.  You can make it thicker or thinner depending on how much water you add.

We discovered that this aqua de melon makes an excellent replacement for orange juice in a mimosa thanks to one of my friends bringing a bottle of champagne.


Almost everything was gone by the end of brunching.  Everyone seemed very happy and full... and my fridge was empty (well, just not as full) and ready for the next week's CSA box of produce.  Looks like there maybe many brunches in my future.

Ess Eppis!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My New Trick - A Quick Post

TA DA!  I flipped my malawach without dropping it on the floor, stove, or myself!

Malawach isn't Yiddish, it is Hebrew מלווח.  It's a pan fried layer flat bread that is a staple of the Yemenite Jew.  It is very delicious and is a great base for hummus, baba ganoush and other dips and spreads that has made up many of my Shabbat dinners.
Ess Eppis!