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There is no such thing as a little garlic. — A. Baer

Ramp it up!

Ramp Pesto

I bumped into two fellow foragers gathering ramps two miles from my house. Even from my car, I could see the woods were lousy with ramps as well as the red flowers topping endangered trillium. I scissored a large bowlful of ramp leaves, leaving their roots to regenerate next year’s crop, but also because I prefer the greens solo in ramp pesto.

A tad spicy and bright green with a slight edge of the wild, ramp pesto has become a forager’s classic. It’s extremely versatile, and freezes well in ice cube trays for later use, which is a good thing, because I’m just out of last season’s tomatillo salsa. 

Tips: If you can’t forage for ramps, many early farmers markets and hi-brow produce stores sell them. If you can, but live in an where there are ticks, take a shower and throw your clothes in the wash after your harvest. Lyme disease isn’t fun, but ramps are worth a walk in the woods. No ramps near you?  Some early farmers markets and high-brow produce departments sell them.

Makes about 2-1/4 cups

2 handfuls local nuts, walnuts or pecans halves or blanched almonds
2-1/2 ounces Parmesan or similar cheese, local if you can get it
2 very generous handfuls of ramp leaves (and some bulbs if you wish)
About 1/3 cup of olive oil
About 1/4 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, or to taste

1-Toast the nuts in a dry skillet, over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until lightly aromatic. (Bend over them and take a whiff. They should smell toasted.) Don’t go too far, as nuts burn easily. Pulse in a food processor until well chopped but not blended. Set aside.

2-Throw the cheese into the food processor. Pulse until it is finely chopped. (If the cheese is already grated, skip this step.) Add to the nuts.

3-Puree the leaves together with the oil, stopping and scraping down the bowl as necessary to combine. (Work in two batches if you have a small food processor.) Add to the bowl and stir to combine with the salt.

Note: If you don’t have a food processor,  prepare by blending the chopped and grated ingredients in a mortar and pestle.

***

How do I identify ramps in the wild?
Ramps, which are wild leeks, are easy to identify. Look for them in mixed  hardwood forests. The root is scallion-like bulb, topped with two broad green leaves that may be slightly purplish at their base. Before harvesting, crush them to make sure they omit an oniony smell. They often, but not always, grow near Trout Lilies, Blue Cohosh, Dutchman’s Breeches or Squirrel Corn.

How do you use this ramp pesto?
You are only limited by your imagination, but here are some ideas. Add a dollop to a vegetable or potato based soup. Spread on a sandwich or wrap. Toss to taste on warm pasta, adding a little water, oil or melted butter, as needed to thin it. Drizzle the thinned pesto (or spread it) on grilled meat, fish, chicken or vegetables. Stir a little into a local goat fresh cheese or dairy-based dip. Spread on toasted French bread rounds then top with sautéed shiitakes….

What else can you do with ramps?
If you pull them up by their roots, they’re great with a touch of olive oil and a pinch of salt, either wokked up or covered with foil and smoked on the grill. Chef Matthew Schweizer, at Haven, in Lenox, Massachusetts, pickles them, which I’m sure is super in sandwiches. The leaves are lovely slivered into omelets or risotto.I love them layered into Pommes Anna, a rich potato dish, but that’s for another post.

My old pal, Naomi Alson — acupuncturist and expert in both Chinese and Western herbs — serves a Vichyssoise, using the ramps instead of cultivated leeks. (Cook the bulbs with the potatoes, then add the chopped leaves towards the end of cooking.) Naomi also conducts eye-opening nature walks to identify edible and medicinal plants in the wild. So, if you live in the Berkshires, grab a group of 2 or more and use her! (naomifalson@yahoo.com)

Ramp Pesto (ramps wild and with roots below)

Hot week for sustainability talk in my neck of the woods
On Monday, I got to hear from Cheryl King Fischer, Executive Director of the terrific New England Grassroots Environment Fund about the ground-breaking work being done in Hardwick, Vermont to develop a vigorous local food system model. (The Town that Food Saved)

Tuesday, The Darrow School gave a Sustainabilty Symposium, where classes were held in topics ranging from local food (me) to radical simplicity (Jim Merkel). Students were empowered to consider how sustainable work that resonated with them could fit into a better future. Great work Darrow!

And last but not least, on Wednesday, Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA, gave a talk at Williams about farm to school work and held a tasty Slow Food Western Massachusetts powwow at The Nutrition Center in Great Barrington, where they also have a Wednesday farmers market all summer. At the meeting, members took a look at the direction of Slow Food USA as well as the local food system here in the Berkshires.

On the calendar?
Talk and signing on April 29, 7 PM
at Haston Free Public Library in North Brookfield. Part of a statewide community reading initiative, North Brookfield’s is titled: READ!, GROW!, EAT! – a celebration of Local Food, Farms and Gardens.

Ramps in the wild Please don’t ever over harvest!
We need to leave some for the next generation.

Cleaned ramps with their roots

Oysters on the Half Shell with Apple Mignonnette

Pair oysters, long considered an aphrodisiac, with the sexy chocolate truffles on this blog for Valentine’s day. Or, for a playful winter feast, invite over a few fellow oyster lovers — only the most passionate. Shuck, giggle and slurp oysters from their shells, with your reserve nestled in bowl of snow. Long live live food!

Serve oysters with a choice of toppings — lemon wedges (my favorite), cocktail sauce  (ketchup, horseradish and lemon juice) and a mignonnette, which is a vinegar-shallot combo. Here, I drummed up a locavore’s apple mignonnette, a New England riff on the classic. Be sure to accompany it all plenty of sliced baguettes with sweet butter and your favorite bubbly, such as a regional sparkling  hard cider. A good time guaranteed.  This recipe is for at least 2 dozen oysters, if you use the mignonette on each. (We each easily ate 12 each.)

1/4 cup apple cider (not too sweet)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2-3 tablespoons finely diced apple (I used Northern Spy)
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
Pinches ground black pepper, or more to taste (I used 1/8 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons chopped parsley, optional
2 dozen of your favorite oysters or more, well rinsed

1. Mix all the ingredients but the oysters in a small bowl.

2. Shuck the oysters. It’s not difficult, but be patient. Think of the shucking as part of the fun. Set them in a bowl of snow if you have it on hand, crushed ice if you don’t or eat as you shuck.

3. Top each with a little of the mignonnette or another topping or eat straight. Eat immediately.

Where did I find my oysters?
We’re lucky to have some of the best oysters in the world in the Northeast, and you can pick them up almost anywhere.  I especially favor those from Wellfleet, which are as local as I can get in the landlocked Berkshires, but it’s fun to taste varieties and compare.  For my party, I ordered  Wellfleets, but they weren’t around, and so we shucked fabulous Maine Beausoleil, Winter Points, Norumbega , as well as Novia Scotias, which were small and especially glorious.

Shockingly, the oysters in my local supermarket were from California. But any good fish market should stock regional oysters. For our little Berkshire party, I ordered an assortment from Rubiner’s in Great Barrington. Each Monday, they email a list of available fish and seafood. You respond by Wednesday and pick up your order Friday. The price is high, but so is the quality, and the staff knowledgeable. I bought an excellent assortment that was well labeled. Regional oysters are also available at Guido’s.

Locavore Bites

Eliot Coleman’s perspective on the power of the small farm.

Watch Yes Men stick it to Archer Daniels Midland

Connie's Apple Coffee Cake

 

(Going, going, almost gone. One classic coffee cake, nutty and moist with apples.)

Last of apples!

Connie, my pal Eileen’s mom, may be gone, but her recipe is not. What better way to conjure her to join our intimate celebration than to bake her fabulous apple cake?

Plenty of local ingredients can be used here — apples, eggs, butter, yogurt, and if you are in the south, pecans. Connie’s delicious cake used the classic combo of walnuts and 2 teaspoons cinnamon, but feel free to improvise with ingredients for equally tasty results. I did, using walnuts for pecans and playing with the spices. Next try? A fall cake with roasted almonds, almond extract and local pears.

Serves 8-10

Spiced Nut Mix
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground allspice

Cake
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt, whole milk or low fat
2 large tart apples, peeled and sliced thinly

1- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the ingredients in the Spiced Nut Mix. Generously grease a 9 inch angel food cake pan with a removable bottom.

2- Beat butter until creamy, gradually add sugar while beating until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla extract.

3-Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat into butter and egg mixture alternately with the yogurt until blended.

4-Spread 1/2 the batter in the pan and layer with the apples. Sprinkle with half the Spiced Nut Mix. Top with the rest of the batter and sprinkle on the remaining Spiced Nut Mix.

5-Bake 40 minutes, then let the cake rest for 30 minutes. Run a knife or spatula around the sides of the cake. Remove the tube with the cake attached and let it cool completely before you remove it from the tube with two knives or spatulas.

 

April Bites

2-mex field lettuce

I dream of green.

A few bites of this and that….

Lasagna Gardening
I date myself when I admit that my gardening pre-date the now widely popularized no-till gardening. I’ve always hand-tilled my sloppy garden,which for a long time was 9 4X4 raised beds. This year, I’m short on time and working a small (10 X 20) community plot. So I’m gonna try lasagna gardening in some of it, which is new to me, double digging the rest, or so I hope. What do you think of lasagna gardening? Love the idea of not tilling….. Here for more.

Anyone heard of gutter gardening?
This looks cool, but I worry about the plastic. Does it leach? Had anyone tried it? Pictures here

Italian DJ fights to keep culinary traditions
Count me in and bring on that Italian food. Why don’t we put up more of a fight? Are our traditions too varied? Are we too young a nation? Read the article here.

Oh Caesar…
Remember the grape boycott? More here.

Apple-Cheddar Pie
This may be plugged as a fall recipe, but apples and cheddar are 2 local foods left time of year. Looks great. Recipe here.

Egg Salad Remoulade Wrap
No produce left, but there are local eggs! This old-fashioned recipe is better than ever with fresh eggs, eaten still a tad warm. I made these into a wrap cause they’re from my book, Wrap it up! But you could just as easily chop all the ingredients and serve it as a sandwich on toast.

3 large eggs
1/3 cup store bought or homemade mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 whole wheat mountain bread
12 spinach leaves
2/3 cup coarsely chopped red onion
3 tablespoons dill
6 cornishon or gherkin pickles, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

l. Place 3 eggs in a small pot and cover with l inch of cold water. Cook over high heat, and bring just to until it starts to boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pan, and let sit for 15 minutes. Run under cold water ( or let side in ice cold water until well chilled) Peel. Slice.

2. Mix the mayonnaise and mustard in a medium bowl.

3. To assemble: Heat the mountain bread, one at a time, in a large cast iron skillet or directly over a gas flame, turning frequently, until warm and pliable, for 15-20 seconds each. Spread each with about l tablespoon of the mustard mayonnaise. Toss the egg into the bowl and mix. Top each bread with 4 spinach leaves spread out evenly, then top the center with about l/3 of the egg mixture, red onion, dill and cornishon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the sides and roll.

IMG_3277Blog subscriber Terri Brennan sent this picture of lasagna gardening. It works!

Beer Braised Brisket with Onion Sauce

In this issue
(in order)
Brisket Recipe for Passover  (or whenever!)
Alternatives to Brisket from Roving Butcher Jake Levin.
Sustainable Meat Primer — the works


My Grandma Rose didn’t like to cook much, but she made a mean holiday brisket that’s better than it sounds — foil wrapped and braised tender with a package of Lipton’s soup and a diced green pepper. Times have changed and so has my palette, but the principle remains: slow cooked brisket with lots of onions, in this case real.

This version also includes guilt-free organic beef from McEnroe Organic farm in Millerton, New York and beer from the Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. (And if you have it, use home dried thyme from the fall and the first of the garden chives.) This year, as I moved to Northampton, MA,  I’m buying my brisket from the new “clean meat” butcher, Sutters’s Meat Market. Serves 8

Tips: Cook at least the day before it’s eaten, but it’s tasty prepared up to 3 days beforehand. Serve with mashed or boiled potatoes, plain or lightly buttered.

1 5 or so pound brisket, first cut if possible
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried)
A generous amount of freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup beer, dark is great, but any good beer will do
1 cup beef or chicken broth
10 garlic cloves, chopped
2 pounds onions, preferably large sweet onions, chopped
1 tablespoon dark unsulphured molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, or to taste

Optional garnish:
2 cups diced root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips
1 tablespoons first of the season chives, chopped

1-Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Trim brisket but leave some fat on.

2-Rub the meat with the salt, thyme, pepper and flour. In wide pot or large skillet with sides, sear the meat in hot oil over medium-high heat until well browned, about 5 minutes each side. (If you don’t have a large enough pot, just cut the meat in half.) Remove the meat to a plate.

3- Add the broth to deglaze the pot, scraping up any browned goodies from the bottom. Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the beer and 1 teaspoon molasses. Add the meat back to the pot with the garlic and onions, plastering them on top of the meat. Turn the heat up to boil the liquid, then turn it off.

4-Immediately cover the meat and liquid thoroughly with parchment paper, pressing down to completely cover both. Place the lid on top. Cook in the oven, turning about once an hour, and making sure the meat and liquid are very well covered with the parchment. Remove from the oven when the meat is fork tender, about 3 hours but up to 4. Remove the meat from the pot and refrigerate separately from the gravy overnight or for up to 3 days.

5- About 1 hour before eating: Skim the fat off the top of the gravy and reheat in the pot until hot but not boiling. Season with the cider and remaining 2 teaspoons of molasses. (Taste. If needed, adjust the seasonings with more cider, molasses and salt.) If you are using the vegetables, remove about 1 ladle’s worth of gravy to a small pot. Bring to a boil and add the carrots and turnips. Reduce to a simmer and cover until the vegetables are well cooked, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the meat thinly across the grain.

6-Shingle the meat on an oven proof platter with a sides. Cover with the gravy, pouring the onions over the meat. Cover very well and heat in the oven for 30 minutes or up to an hour. (If you don’t have an oven proof platter with sides, heat the meat in the gravy together over low heat, then arrange on the platter with the gravy before serving.) If you are using them, right before serving, spoon the warmed vegetables and their juices over the meat. If you like, garnish with garden fresh chives.

The Veggies

It isn’t essential, but I’ve topped this tasty dish with local root vegetables. Use what you can find; celery root and parsnips would work well too. Here, I steamed the last of my produce from Farm at Miller’s Crossing, carrots and turnips from their end of season sale last November. They were stored on the farm all winter long, a great service, but I should have picked them up earlier, because they had sprouted. Still, I count Katie and Chris’s wintered produce as a blessing. Early spring has always been hard in the north country, a season with no crops to harvest and larders running low. But these vegetables are organic, local and tasty enough, especially the turnips. And stored in their flavor is the memory of fall, and of rosy cheeked Katie hanging outside the storage barn with a couple of dogs bounding around her.

Alternatives to Passover Brisket from The Roving Butcher, Jake Levin.

“Brisket is still an option when considering local grass-fed meat. Others great braising cuts are short ribs, chuck roast, and beef shank.

In my family we always roast a leg of lamb as it seems more symbolically appropriate for the pascal holiday; plus we are always sick of braised meat by this time of year.” (Lucky Jake, says I.)

“I tend to buy meat directly from farmers. For lamb I like to go to Kinderhook farm, and for my beef I usually go to North Plain Farm. But, of course, meat bought directly from farms are almost always frozen. If you are looking for some well cut local and pasture raised meat I would go to the Meat Market in Great Barrington, MA or Sutter Meats in Northhampton.”

butcher jake leven_24Jake Levin of the Roving Butcher

Sustainable Meat Primer

Conventionally raised beef consumes enormous resources to produce, as well as staining the earth with endless toxins. That’s why many locavores who are carnivores, including myself, try to lower our meat intake. When we do eat meat, we try to eat animals that are raised humanely and sustainably. (Replenishing rather than depleting our resources.) Happily, this relatively guilt-free brisket was make with certified organic grass fed and grain finished beef from McEnroe’s Organic Farm in Millerton New York. (Link above)

What’s the Story with Grass Fed Meat?

When people ask what grass fed-and-finished meat tastes like, Keith Swanson of Thundering Hooves meat buying club tells them it’s stronger and richer tasting, that most people like it, but that it isn’t for everyone. “It’s real beef flavor,” he says. It takes skill to raise tender grass-fed meat. Farmers raising animals on pasture have to be patient because more time is needed to fatten them on grass than grain, and fattened animals produce tender meat. The end results depend on factors consumers can’t control, like the breed and age of the cow, method of slaughtering, and importantly, the quality of the grass (which is why many ranchers who raise cattle this way call themselves “grass farmers”).

The bottom line is that the farmers have to know what they are doing and set high standards for their grass-fed meat, or the meat will be tough. While grass-fed-and-finished beef can be world class and eye opening when it comes to taste, it doesn’t have the same kind of marbleized fat many of us are used to and so requires more attention during cooking. Less plentiful tender cuts, like filet, should be seared and served rare or medium-rare. Less tender cuts are better braised or roasted slowly. Burger can be cooked as usual, and grass-fed burger is extremely flavorful, delicious, and distinctive. Note that many farms finish pasture-raised animals on a little to a lot of grain for a more familiar flavor and to increase marbleized fat for tenderness. So if you can’t find grass-fed-and-finished meat, look for pasture-raised meat that’s finished minimally on local grain and,when possible, sustainably raised.

Where do you find sustainably raised meat?

Look for sustainably raised meat at farmers markets, farm stands and coops. Check your local farm advocacy group or try Ethicurean, which lists some regional meat buying clubs (also called meat CSAs) and have a video about meat, The Meatrix.

Create your own meat buying club, splitting animals with a group on a regular basis, or form an ad-hoc club, as I’ve done many times by contacting a farmer and getting friends together to split a pig, lamb or cow. You pick it up cut, packaged and frozen.

Last year, I bought beef from Billie Best in Alford. There, I learned where my food comes from first hand, starting when I heard the shot and saw her cow drop. (My heart stopped.) The experience isn’t for everyone, but the cow, Lisa, was fed on local grass and grain, treated well and killed humanely.

Juggling Supply and Demand

Demand for sustainably raised meat is growing. But, there simply aren’t enough meat processing plants, especially in the Northeast. That’s making it hard for small sustainable farmers to get their meat to market, slowing up supply. The concern that demand would outpace supply has concerned me for a long time. It’s not as sexy a problem to solve as increasing demand, but it’s essential and heating up fast.  Our system is built for huge industrial farms, but it needs to be scaled down to support small eco-friendly regional food sheds. Start by working to make your community farm friendly.

3 Forums That Rock Western Mass.....

red fire farm  novemeber

Remember the green? It’s coming!

All on farming and sustainable food issues —

Good Food and Good Jobs in Pioneer Valley
April 10, Holyoke, MA
Pioneer Valley Grows presents a spring symposium this Thursday in Holyoke, MA that addresses the critical issue of justice in the food system. How can we ensure that the development of our local food system provides farm and food workers with fair pay, quality working conditions and a voice in the workplace? Learn what “good food jobs” are and what you can do to support their creation. (See you there.)

Pioneer Valley Grows is a collaborative network of organizations dedicated to enhancing the ecological and economic sustainability and vitality of the Pioneer Valley food system. Learn more and register here.

Farmland Access in the Berkshires
April 12th, Pittsfield
, MA
I’m exhilarated to see this critical forum, which examines farmer access to land, often a barrier to new and even to existing farmers. Berkshire Grown and Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires are convening this conversation among people and organizations working in the Berkshires to put more farmers on the land and more land into farming — an exciting challenge we need to meet. Read more and register here.

Simon’s Rock Thinkfood Conference
April 19th, Great Barrington
, MA
Interested in the local food movement? Three diverse panels of academics, foodies, farmers, school administrators, chefs, media experts and more discuss varying topics, including a well-grounded look at the farm to cafeteria movement through some of its key players. Brought to you by the Nutrition Center and the newly established Center For Food Studies at Simon’s Rock. Learn more and register here

Spring Fling

Wild Watercress

Here’s 3 for April….

Spring Toss:
Vibrant green watercress is back in the rapidly running icy cold stream behind my house.

Ramp it Up
Today I saw wild leeks, called ramps, in the woods around the corner. (Please don’t over harvest, as we have to leave some for the next generation!) Stay vigilant, as they’ll be up soon and ready to blend into a fabulous pesto.

Fresh Chive Noodles with Early Spring Things
The chives are up too and superb in homemade noodles made with with freshly laid eggs.

Not forgotten

I know I’ve been gone awhile, but I haven’t forgotten you. It’s just that I’m knee deep in two exciting projects, both of which are in keeping with The Locavore Way. One involves developing farm fresh recipes in a school kitchen for a state-wide cookbook. (Last time it was Massachusetts; now it’s Missouri.)

You’ll hear more about both projects on this blog, although postings are likely to be more infrequent for at least several months. But I promise to keep you abreast and deliver delicious local recipes and news tidbits when I can….

Italian Spring Celebration Class

stuffed peach(This is a stuffed peach. We’re going to do the same thing with pears. Fabulous.)

Let’s celebrate the thaw of spring with this menu inspired by the flavors of Italy. Join me in a hands-on workshop using Italy’s signature flavors in dishes that will quickly become family favorites as the new season unfolds and all these ingredients are readily available — peas (soon), pancetta or bacon (any  time) herbs for green sauce (soon), rosemary roasted vegetables (now), lemon-olive oil cake (use local yogurt now).

Where? At the Different Drummer in Northampton
When? Join our waiting list for the April 23 class (6:15-8:45), as they may run a second class!
How do I sign up? Go here

Menu

Risotto with Pancetta and Peas
A trademark of spring

Chicken Breasts with Piquant Italian Green Sauce
A tangy addition to any repertoire

Rosemary Roasted Vegetables
A vegetable favorite with seasonal vegetables

Olive Oil-Lemon Cake
Who knew this could be so good?

Baked Pears with Chocolate
Almond Filling Only the Italians would think of this one

 Instructor:  Amy Cotler

Fee: $65.00

CSAs & Running-on-Empty White Bean Soup with Local Wheatberries

What’s Below

What is a CSA?
How to find one near you
New(ish) Berkshire CSA
A little background
The Recipe: Delicious Running-on-Empty Tuscan White Bean Soup


Happy Brithday to Me!

Seed time!
(Picture from Berkshire Food Journal)

In March and April, as local food runs low, I face the bleak facts and have to eat more food from far afield.  Traditionally, this is the starving season, when cold storage foods run low and the pantry is wanting.

North country locavores like me are happy to have a few root vegetables around, boosted by tasty cheeses, yogurt, milk eggs, meat, freshly made maple syrup and the last of August’s jam. Real fresh food is a distant memory, sadly imitated by the hollow taste of produce from distant climes.

But cheer up, there is so much to dream about — garden planning, seed shopping and, yes, joining a local CSA.

It’s CSA time!

For the ultimate locavore experience, join a CSA, which is a Community Agriculture Farm. It’s the most direct way to connect with a regional farmer, nature and the flow of fresh, sustainably raised food right through the season.

What’s A CSA?

“CSA” stands for community supported agriculture. Although it denotes a kind of farming, the term has also come to mean the farm itself. CSA members, sometimes called shareholders, agree to support an environmentally responsible farm and farmer by paying upfront costs before the growing season.

Join a CSA and get a grocery bag or so of sustainably raised farm fresh food on a regular basis, usually once a week. Many CSAs also include a pick your own option on high labor crops, such as berries or cherry tomatoes. Pick-up days are especially satisfying if you can visit the farm, but even city slickers look forward to their weekly bag of startlingly fresh produce, and many visit the farm at least once a season. My book, The Locavore Way, has lots of information on CSAS — from how to decide if CSA membership is right for you to how to cook with CSA goodies.

How do you find a CSA near you?

Search for a CSA near you at the Robyn Van En Center. Or, if you live in NYC, use Just Food. In the Berkshires, where I live in Western Massachusetts, use Berkshire Grown. A new Berkshire CSA in Stockbridge is accepting 30 first-year members. Contact Katherine Vause at Solid Rock Farm.  (413) 298-4500.

Background

I was already a chef who understood fresh when Robyn Van En, who co-founded the CSA movement in North America initiated me into the local food movement. Robyn’s Indian Line Farm was one of the first two CSAs in this country. She spread the word through talks and a $4 pamphlet that taught farmers around the county how to start CSAs on their own.

Robyn has since died, her farm Indian Line Farm is still going strong. The CSA center at Wilson College which bears her name, estimates there are close to 2000 CSAs in North America. Here’s a good article about the CSAs and their history if you want more.

The Recipe

Running on Empty Soup: Tuscan White Bean Soup with Wheatberries


Nothing in the house? I made this delicious soup out of what seemed like nothing, adding two locavore ingredients — dried sprigs of rosemary from last year’s garden and wheatberries from last year’s grain CSA shareServes about 6.

1 pound the biggest white beans you can find (cannelini or butter beans)
2 sprigs of dried rosemary
1 large or 1-1/2 small garlic bulbs
1/2 cup wheatberries
1 small can tomato paste
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
cayenne or quality hot sauce to taste
salt to taste
2 tablespoons whatever green is in the house, chopped (optional)

1- Soak the beans overnight. Drain. Cover beans by about 2 inches of water. Add the rosemary and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Skim off any foam that floats to the top. While the beans are cooking, separate the garlic cloves. Peel and throw them into the pot. (Peeling can be done two ways: Smash them with the heel of your hand onto a flat side of a thick knife. Peel. Or you can cut off the end of the bulb and plunge them into boiling water for about 20 seconds then rinse under cold water. Peel.)

2-While the beans are cooking, bring 2 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil and add the wheat berries. Boil until they are soft enough to eat, about 45 minutes. (They will still be a little firm but not raw.) Drain when done.

3-When the beans are almost soft, about 45 minutes or so,  spoon in the tomato paste and continue to simmer until they are very soft, about 1 hour or more, adding water if necessary just to cover. Puree the soup thoroughly in a food processor until very smooth. Return to the pot. Season with the vinegar, a touch of cayenne pepper or hot sauce and a generous amount of salt to taste.

4-Equally divide the soup among the bowls with the wheatberries in the center. (Let diners stir the wheatberries in.) Sprinkle with the greens if you are using them.

Bites

images-2Bites from Facebook?
For those of you who aren’t on my Locavore Way facebook page, where I post more frequently, I’ve selected some recipes, tidbits and links from last month’s posts. (And I admire you for staying out of the Fray:)

Links to articles are orange.

Share foods you hated but now love
Tastes change. As a kid I HATED broccoli. I can still remember its sewage scent wafting towards the dinner table as it greyed on the stove. (But I now adore its bright green flavor.)

My mom served anchovies with garlic and oil on thin spaghetti, which made me gag. (These days I love anchovies on everything but cheesecake.)

Strong cheese forced me to flee the room. (And my dad was no help with his directive to “reach for its rotten flavor.”) I now understand his point.

Even as a young adult I hated cilantro, which tasted like bleach. So, I taught myself to savor its fresh flavor while traveling in Mexico, where I’d go hungry if I didn’t eat it. (I now use it so much that one editor told me to stop putting it in so many recipes.)

Tell us about foods you hated but now love for any reason at all. You grew into them, had them cooked well, they became popular so you gave them another chance, or…?

(Fun article here.)

Round Carrots posted by Red Fire Farm. Who knew?
Parisian Carrots (55 days)…A great little round carrot that is a nineteenth-century French heirloom. It “excels in clay or rocky soil where other carrots have problems developing properly”. They say it works great for containers. — with Afifeh Afi Tajbakhsh, Gina Alzate, Alba Lopez Corona and 20 others.

Is it affordable for us to feed our kids health school lunches?
Good piece here.

Learn more about how to produce clean meat. It ain’t easy…
CISA workshop here.

Chevre recipes from Susan Sellew of Rawson Brook Farm
(and for your best local cheese!)  Here is also a talk with her on the fabulous Berkshire Food Journal.

Leek or Onion Tarte
Line a 10” pie plate with favorite crust.
Put in:
6 leeks or 4 onions, chopped and sautéed
gently in 4Tbsp. butter 20 min +/-
Mix together and pour over leek/onions:
7 oz chevre, 3 eggs, ½ c milk, ¼ tsp. thyme
Bake 400°, 30 min. or until set and browned.

Marinated Chevre
Unmold a 7 oz. Monterey Chevre onto plate. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the top. Adorn with fresh herbs, pepper, edible flowers etc. Allow at least 1 hr. before serving.

Chevre Mayonnaise
(for grilled fish, chicken, elegant sandwiches)
In food processor or blender, blend:
1 egg yolk
1 –7oz. cup chives and garlic chevre
1 tsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. hot mustard optional
¼ cup oil ..drizzle in while blending.

Baked Chevre
Form any variety Monterey Chevre into ¼” thick patties, dip in extra virgin olive oil then in bread crumbs. Bake 350° for 15-45 minutes. The longer the time, the drier and more brown the result.