The browned cheese on the top and soft cornmeal on the bottom sandwich a custard studded with corn. Use an 8 inch square pan for a creamy texture or a larger pan for a firmer result. The accompanying salsa is also a favorite with chips (so double or triple it, if you like.) It leaves the canned stuff in the dust! (From my first book, now out of print, One Pot Vegetarian Dishes) Serves 4 entrees with salad or 6 side servings
1/2 cup cornmeal, preferably stone ground and local
¼ cup shallots (or onions), chopped, whatever is local
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
l tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 pinch dried oregano or ¾ teaspoons fresh
2 tablespoons butter, local if possible
2 cups local milk
1-1/2 cups fresh local corn kernels
3 local eggs
1/2 cup local cheddar or Monterey jack
The Tomato Salsa
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1-1-2 tablespoons chopped shallots or onions
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
l to 2 jalapenos, to taste, seeded and minced, or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
l. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter an 8 by 8 inch or gratin dish.
2. Combine dry ingredients: In a large bowl combine the cornmeal, shallots, baking powder, sugar, salt, cayenne, mustard, and oregano.
3.Combine wet ingredients: In a pot, heat the butter until mostly melted, about l minute. Add the milk, and heat until the milk is hot and the butter completely melted, about 2 minutes.
4. Mix wet and dry ingredients: Gradually pour into the cornmeal mixture, whisking to remove lumps. Stir in the corn, egg, and remaining tablespoon of cilantro.
5. Pour into the baking pan and bake until the top is starting to firm, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle the cheddar on top. Turn the oven to 375˚F, and bake until the pudding is set, about 15 minutes.
6. Serve: Accompany with the salsa, which should be made while the pudding is cooking by simply mixing the ingredients in a bowl.
Even after several months of warmer weather, I still find myself swooning at the sight of all this green. Most years, even into late April, my young daughter has been known to yell “Look….. the ground!,” as our car speeds past small greenish patches surrounded by snow.
For the salad lover, the taste of spring greens are like those bare patches in the snow, the first proof that the long winter is behind us. Young salad mixes are one of the first edibles to rear up from the ground. From gentle Bibb lettuce to peppery arugula, they’re all full of flavor that comes naturally to greens in this cool climate. (Some farmers claim that cool nights and lousy soil give the greens a better bite!)
From now, sometimes until Thanksgiving (or almost), greens mixes, called mesclun, are available from gardens, farm stands, CSAs, farmers’ markets, restaurants and stores. Many local restaurants, are now serving house salads that feature a blend of local organic lettuces. (Be sure to ask: “Is this local?”, so you can enjoy the best while supporting your local farms.)
A typical mix might include greens like romaine, curly endive, butterhead (or Boston), and curly green leaf, and reds like salad bowl, red sails ( a flat multicolored leaf), la rossa ( a frilly leaf), red oak (a pretty lettuce vaguely shaped like an oak leaf), and red romaine. The rest is made up of more exotic greens or “bits” as they known are in the business, including: red chard, sweet baby spinach, red and green mustard, mizuna (a mildly spicy Asian mustard), bok choy (n the cabbage family), Hon Tsai Tai (an Asian green with a yellow edible flower), maruba santoh (a very light green), the peppery Italian arugala , and a surprisingly tender baby red Russian kale.
What are the secrets to dressing your fresh local greens? I suggest keeping it simple, because these spunky local greens taste so great on their own, you’ll want their flavor to shine through. (That’s why the first dressing, which isn’t even a recipe, is my favorite with young spring greens.)
Mesclun Tossed 3 Ways
As a rule of thumb, 1/2 a pound serves 4-6 people; a large handful is about 2 ounces.
Amy’s Favorite dressing
The original Italian dressing is so simple it isn’t really a recipe, but it may also be the best salad dressing there is, so I can’t leave it out! The only catch is that you can’t really skimp on lousy ingredients, which should be no problem if you use fresh local greens, tasty olive oil and fresh lemon juice or a good vinegar.
Local mesclun (a generous handful a person)
Your best olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Fresh lemon or your best vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, only if the mesclun isn’t peppery
1-Toss greens in olive oil (hopefully one that smells of olives) and a generous pinch of kosher or sea salt just to coat.
2-Think of your salad like a dry martini. The oil is the gin. The lemon juice (or vinegar) is the Vermouth, don’t add much, just add a touch. Toss again. That’s it.
3-Taste a leaf. Adjust with extra salt if needed, but don’t add pepper unless there are no peppery greens in the mix.
Classic Vinaigrette in a Jar
The flavor is classic but the technique is All-American: just add and shake. This mild salad dressing lets the mesclun shine through. The recipe makes enough vinaigrette to dress a large salad (1 to 1-1/4 pounds) for 8-10 servings. For smaller salads, add enough just to lightly coat the leaves. Always shake well before use to re-emulsify the dressing. Leftover dressing is great to keep on hand for quality salads in a flash. Or enjoy left- over dressed salad on a baguette with fresh local tomatoes. A soggy delight!
l/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
about l small shallot minced (2 tablespoons)
l teaspoon Dijon vinegar
l/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Add all the ingredients to a jar and shake vigorously. Use about a scant tablespoon per serving, or just to coat. Always shake before using.
Serious Garlic Dressing
This will very dress about l/2 pound of mesclun, serving 4-6, and is best used right after it is made. It is also tasty on bitter greens, like escarole.
4 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
l tablespoon balsamic
2-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
l. Using a fork, very coarsely mash the kosher salt together on a small plate. Stir in the vinegar and then the oil.
2. Add the mesclun to a salad bowl. Pour the dressing over the greens, using the fork to prevent the garlic from falling in.
Toss the first of spring watercress with the fall of the apples.
I lived in my 1810 house for 20 years before I had the sense to look down at the spring behind it and recognize fresh watercress. There it was, looking just like the store-bought stuff, but younger and fresher.
If you live near very fresh running water, likely you’ll find it too. Harvesting requires leak proof boots, a long reach, or the willingness to get muddy. If you can’t find it, use the first of the spring greens.
I tossed the cress with the first of the garden’s chives and the last of the storage apples, Northern Spy, an heirloom variety from Bartlett’s Orchard, which still has some character and crunch left. The resulting combo needs no recipe really, but tastes of spring.
For each serving:
A handful of wild watercress or other spring herbs
1/4 of a big apple, skin on, diced
1-2 generous pinches of chopped chives
1 pinch kosher or sea salt
Vinegar, cider, white or red wine
1-Wash the watercress well in cold water, picking out any weeds or roots clinging to it. Spin dry. Toss with the chives and apple to combine.
2-Toss once with a pinch of salt and just enough olive oil to coat. Then toss a second time with just a tiny drizzle of vinegar to taste. Serve immediately.
Photos of the Oaxacan market: Just reinserted the memory card into my camera and there were the market pictures from my recent trip to Oaxaca. Click the link here, then check them all out, from fried grasshoppers to chilies galore. Below is the wild watercress in my backyard.
Local vs. Organic
When buying the apples used in this recipe or when shopping for any food at all, how do you decide which is better: Local or organic?
From the perspective of this locavore: Local organic and local sustainably produced foods are best. Understanding the meaning behind this answer will help you make good decisions when you shop.
Let’s start with organic, which may or may not be local. Food labeled organic is required to be grown, raised, or produced using federally mandated rules. These standards outline allowable and forbidden materials and practices, which makes good sense. But they don’t stress the integrated nature of farming, including the biological cycles necessary to healthy farming over the long haul. The organic label is also supported by strong agribusiness lobbies, which push for regulations to make their life easy (and our food not quite as safe).
Simultaneously, many of our local farmers are using safe, sustainable methods, which are the equivalent of or even better than established organic methods. (Their farms also boost our local economies and preserve our working landscape.)
They may or may not decide to become certified organic. If they opt out, it may be because their clients know and trust them, making certification unnecessary. Or perhaps they don’t approve of its bias toward big agribusiness; they can’t afford to follow the rules, which don’t encourage small farms; they use another accredited system, such as Certified Naturally Grown (see below); or they prefer to use their own, ecofriendly methods.
So again, that makes local organic and local sustainably raised both the best choices when you shopping. And, of course, knowing and trusting your farmer means you can ask questions about how they raise your food.
Digging Deeper — Naturally Grown? Two Meanings The term naturally grown is used two ways and so needs some clarification for the smart shopper looking to decipher labels. As mentioned above, it is an alternative certification to organic used by many environmentally conscious growers who have decided not to go for organic certification.
Indian Line farmer Elizabeth Keen,who uses the Naturally Grown certification says, Our certification process requires an application, a declaration of intent, a small fee, an inspection and the possibility of random tissue testing of produce. We are required to follow the written USDA standards but aren’t required to do the amount of paperwork involved and the fees are less…. We value our certification as it is an outside perspective on our growing methods that can make the consumer feel confident in how we grow our produce.
That is clear enough, but naturally grown is often bandied about more casually, such as in the You Tube talk about organic coffee that I attached to one of the last posts. There and elsewhere it is frequently used more generally to refer to crops that are grown using eco-friendly methods. Like the word “gourmet” it is vague and in no way a legal term, but is only as trustworthy a term as its source.
Now that goodies are popping out of the ground in rapid succession, it’s time to lather toasted baguettes with everything local. So disobey your mom and play with your food. Fool with anything farm fresh, from goat cheese and sun-ripened berries in June to roasted butternut squash puree with fresh sage in October.
I made these three tasty variations with what was on hand here — sweet radishes and young arugula from the market, rhubarb from my garden and goat cheese from Rawson Brook Farm. (Undoubtably you have a goat cheese farm in your region.)
Serve these either solo or as a trio with drinks after work to stave off hunger pangs until a late supper. We savored them outside on a lazy spring evening, surrounded by greenery and buoyed by the late evening sun.
Each recipe makes about 12 bruschette, serving 2-4 before dinner.
Goat Cheese & Rhubarb Chutney Bruschette
There were two old rhubarb patches in the backyard of my old home when I bought it 30 years ago. So, I was always looking for things to do with my tangy crop. I often made tons of simple chutney and froze it in ice cube trays to enjoy as a condiment with cheese. Delicious.
About 1 cup finely diced rhubarb (1-2 stalks)
1-1/2 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or onion
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarsely grated ginger, packed
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
pinch of kosher or sea salt
12 slices of baguette
1/3-1/2 cup fresh goat cheese, room temperature
1-Slice rhubarb lengthwise 2-4 times, depending on its thickness, then across its length into a small dice. Measure 1 cup. Toss into a 2 cup glass measuring cup or small pot with the shallot or onions, sugar and ginger. Microwave or cook in a small pot over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until the rhubarb is soft, 1-2 minutes. (It’s nice if it still holds it shape, but don’t worry if it doesn’t.) Stir in the cider vinegar and salt. Set aside at room temperature or chill. (This can be made several days ahead of time if you wish.) If the chutney is watery, spoon off extra liquid.
2-Assemble just before serving: Toast 12 baguette rounds in a toaster or the broiler, turning once, until slightly crisp. Spread with goat cheese and top with the chutney. Serve immediately.
Spring Radish & Anchovy Butter Bruschette
This spring I seem to be tasting the classic combo of radishes and butter everywhere I go. The rich butter and crisp, slightly tangy radish complement each other perfectly. Spring radishes are ideal for this, as they can be overpowering and even bitter when it gets hot. And the anchovy gives it some salty style.
About 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 anchovies, preferably salt-cured, rinsed and finely chopped or 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
12 slices of baguette
1 teaspoon chopped chives
1-Thinly slice radishes and soak in ice water. Mix the butter and the anchovies or anchovy paste in a small bowl to combine.
2-Assemble just before serving: Toast the baguette rounds in a toaster or the broiler, turning once, until slightly crisp. Spread each with the anchovy butter. Blot the radishes dry. Top each bruschetta with a radish round or two. Sprinkle with the chives. Serve immediately.
Arugula Pesto & Egg Bruschette
Enjoy the yin yang both in color and flavor — gentle farm eggs top the alert taste of arugula pesto. You can often find local eggs in the usual spots, like your local coop, farm stand or farmers market. Look in unlikely places too. I’ve spotted them in a bookstore and gas station. These local eggs were a happy surprise from my walk-away store, Serio’s Market in Northampton.
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
Pinch salt or to taste
Very generous handful of fresh arugula leaves
3 tablespoons oil, or more to taste
2 tablespoons whole unblanched almonds
1 ounce hard Parmesan style grating cheese
12 slices of baguette
1-Chop the eggs by hand or pulse briefly in the food processor. Add a touch of salt to taste.
2-Add the arugula and oil to a food processor and pulse until well chopped. Add the almonds and cheese. (If the cheese is already grated, stir it later.) Pulse them all until coarsely chopped. Add salt to taste, if needed.
3-Assemble just before serving: Toast the baguette rounds in a toaster or the broiler, turning once, until slightly crisp. Spread the pesto on the bread. Top each round with a spoonful of egg. Serve immediately.
No Farms, No Food
Losing Farmland, State by State
Every minute of every day we lose two acres of farm and ranch land to development. Updated information on farmland loss during the last 25 years is in—with Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey and Massachusetts topping the list of states losing the greatest percentage of prime farmland. Find out more about protecting our farmland at The American Farmland Trust.
One way to work on making your town farm friendly in Massachusetts is to join insure your town has a “right to farm” provision and to support your town’s agricultural commission. For more information contact Peter Westover: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shipping container Grocery Store as Farm… Still mostly an idea, but an extraordinary one. Check it our here.
Slow Food Youth Network
Dogfish Kale Ravioli? Watch the sports of the local food movement to highlight our fish and seafood crisis and to encourage chefs to cook eco-friendly fish before there is no more fish left. Click here to watch.
Compostable Building Made of Mushroom Bricks?
Check it out here.
Happy Belated Mother’s Day
I may have lived a life in food, but my mom taught me more about cooking than all my years behind the stove. We snapped endless green beans at the counter, chatting about food (and life) We drove to a distant town to pick out perfect peaches at the farm stand.
In the summer, as the sky darkened, I watched her through our large kitchen window, grilling salmon teriyaki and smoking summer vegetables to serve with lamb kebabs. And she pulled off an Indonesian Rijsttafel.
Before she become a ceramicist, she got out her sculptural ya-yas by assembling multi-layered ice cream cakes. I can still taste one made with thin Famous chocolate cookies, coffee ice cream, Sarah Lee pound cake and chocolate syrup. And I remember her rushing into the kitchen to bring souffles out to her guests.
Wow, could she put on a party..
What did your mom teach you about food? Below: 1954, Entertaining right after my parents had our house built. My mom often gave dinner parties for 8-12. But thing again, she didn’t work outside the home. Sigh…..
My kind of supermarket Five business join forces for a fabulous new “good food” market in Dalton, MA on the former Burgner Farm — all under the roof of Berkshire Organics. (More here.) The emphasis is on local and organic food when possible, and the offerings are wonderfully wide.
Here is the list: Anchor business Berkshire Organics, already well-respected for retailing and delivering local/organic food; Cricket Creek Farm, a familiar face at many farmers markets, also providing world-class local cheese from their farm store in Williamstown; Red Apple Butcher, a much needed new business selling “clean” meat; Naturally Catering and Take Out, a new enterprise from Aura Whitman, owner of the now closed but extremely popular Reva’s Café in Pittsfield; and sugary treats from Bake Me Pretty. Lots of excitement and energy over this new business. Could this be the future?
Spring soups anyone?Here. If you have chervil peaking out of your garden, this green soup will fit the bill, but there are plenty more to choose from.
New airport farm store?
Berkshire Farm and Table and Berkshire Farms Market meet Logan Airport in new farm store here.
Why American apples are banned in Europehere.
(or more great news about our food system.)Italian Spring Celebration class at the Different Drummer was full this week. Although spring’s late, it got us in the mood. For the main course: Risotto with Pancetta, Fresh Peas, Walnuts and Fried Sage; Chicken with Piquant Italian Green Sauce; Roasted Veggies (Asparagus are just around the corner.) The idea is to teach the techniques so students can use variations with whatever is in season…. (Join me on Monday, May 19th for a Mexican Feast class!)
New Vegetable Cookbook Verdure: Vegetable Recipes from the Kitchen of the American Academy in Rome, Rome Sustainable Food Project. Looks delicious.
Farmers Markets opening everywhere.
My Tuesday Northampton market opened this week, so I bought lot of greens, the rest of the roots and a slice of smokey wood oven cooked pizza. What are you buying at your market?
On Sunday, my 8-year old niece, Sadie, and I popped over to my neighbor Ruth’s place to visit her parrot and chickens and pick up a dozen fresh eggs. Black and white with deep red beaks, Ruth’s hens pecked grain out of Sadie’s small hands, while the rooster crowed and pranced about in this blue-black feathers. Now that her birds are outside in the Spring, foraging as well as eating locally grown grains, their eggs taste even better, more distinctive, with their rich orange yolks.
At home, we made egg pasta with garden chives, Sadie giggling as the wide flat noodles magically rolled out of my hand-cracked pasta machine. She wolfed down hers tossed with butter and cheese, pronouncing them, “the best pasta ever.” (No doubt, her pleasure was enhanced by their back story and a cook’s pride.) I tossed mine with fiddleheads and Equinox Farm’s baby arugula for a more adult version, but I liked them both ways equally. See more variations below. Serves about 4, easily halved
2 large eggs
About 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil, optional
1 tablespoon chives
Just to coat
Butter and a grated hard or fresh cheese
Olive oil with a little garlic simmered in it
Early spring things, variations below
1-Add the flour and eggs to the food processor, with the optional olive oil, if you are using it. Pulse JUST until it combines into a ball, but not more. Turn onto lightly floured work surface and knead for about 3-5 minutes, until smooth and elastic, adding a touch of flour if needed only to prevent sticking. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Making the pasta dough with fresh flour and eggs in the food processor
2-Cut dough into 4 equal pieces. Cover each well. Set pasta machine to widest setting. Flatten 1 dough piece into rectangle; run through machine, adding flour if necessary to prevent sticking. Fold in 3rds, press down with finger tips, and run through again, open side first. Do this 8 times.
3- Work with one piece at a time, feeding it through, adjusting machine to narrower settings, and dusting with flour as needed to keep from sticking, at the lowest setting. (Or next to lowest if you prefer a more rustic pasta.) Place each sheet on very lightly floured work surface or towel, covered with a cloth. Repeat with remaining pasta pieces.
The rolled out chive egg pasta before it was cut into noodles.
4. Uncover sheets and let stand until slightly dry but still pliable, about 20 minutes. Fit machine with the thick noodle sized cutter and run sheets through, dusting with flour to keep from sticking if needed only. Cut noodles into desired lengths. With lightly floured hands, toss strands to separate; spread out on towels. (If needed, you can let these dry.)
5- Decide which variation you are using. Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Toss with butter and grated hard cheese or fresh cheese, freshly ground pepper, just to coat OR with garlic oil (anchovies optional), just to coat. Salt and pepper to taste.
*Cleaned fiddleheads thrown in during the 1-1/2 minutes of boiling
*Baby arugula tossed with warm noodles to wilt slightly.
*Fresh peas thrown in during the last 30 seconds of boiling.
*Pea variation with chopped crisp bacon or pancetta
* Asparagus tips and diagonally sliced stems added to the boiling pasta. Add fresh lemon juice to the toss.
* Slivered or chopped young braising greens, to the water right before draining the pasta
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has helped wake America up to the tragedy of school lunches. If your school has lousy food, Oliver’s site, Renegade Lunch Lady Ann Coopers’ site, and my book, Massachusetts from to School Cookbook, which can be downloaded free from the lower right side of this link, are all great tools to improve school meals. And now it looks like Oliver wants to add farm fresh local food to his healthy food agenda, because last week his consultants called to my ask permission to use my recipes and link to my book. Cool.
Haston Free Public Library in North Brookfield, Massachusetts. Reading and signing of my new book, The Locavore Way. Part of a statewide community reading initiative, North Brookfield’s is titled: READ!, GROW!, EAT! – a celebration of Local Food, Farms and Gardens.
* Home at last
Above picture is from the fabulous Grow Food Northampton: Welcome home. Crimson & Clover farmers have just purchased the original Bean Family farmhouse, so they finally able to live on the farm/ Congratulations Jen, Nate and baby Noah. Isn’t this house almost timeless?
* Fabulous tools for farm to school programs and their advocates here
* Vermont on its way to banning GMOshere. (The coolest state or what?)
* Lunch anyone?
A lunch from the riches of Mexico. Organic tomatoes from Maya Monzies at the organic Saturday market tossed with black beans a handful of cilantro leaves from Rancho Toyan, along with Mexican oil oil, balsamic vinegar and plenty of salt. Cubed papaya and jicama,doused in fresh lime juice. All atop spinach and endive leaves, from Toyan and the market once more. It’s the kind of simple lunch that puts the froufrou stuff to shame…
Above: Me, sucking down a perfect oyster.
Below: Big Rock farmed oysters and wild clams
For more about the oyster festival and oystering in general, see this post here. Oyster recipe here.
Great oysters, but you’d have to a be an oyster nut to spend yesterday as we did and love it.
And we did.
We began our day with a 2-1/4 hour drive to the small town of Wareham MA — gateway to Cape Cod. Fueled by our in-the-car rock ‘n roll mix, but shivering in the miserably damp 42 degrees, we chose to look on the bright side: the rain had stopped.
After parking, we marched past the sweet craft vendors and non-profit tabling tents to the oyster parking lot, which featured two oyster farmers and their employees, shucking. Both were good, but the Big Rock Oysters ROCKED our world. So we sucked down 2 dozen, mostly standing up with a number of other food fanatics. (They get me high, how about you?)
Big Rock Oyster owner-oyster farmer Aaron Brochu, who I interviewed in an earlier post here, tells no lies. His oyster farm produces shockingly clean tasting oysters with just the perfect brininess. (Even better or at least equal to Wellfleet oysters.) But sadly we had to get in from the cold.
So, we walked past the kinda hot band and fragrant seafood bisque tent, which was almost impossible to resist, continuing on our way to the edge of tiny downtown Wareham. Really, it’s kind of Richard Russo setting by the sea. I mean that affectionately, as he does, meaning it’s small working class town peopled with characters that likely have known each other for years, each with an interconnected story.
We arrived, chilled, at Narrow’s Crossing Restaurant, which is right on the water. It’s more of a bar really, so we got Americana’d up, sitting two big sports-playing TVs, welcomed by sweet-as-hell waitress. We shared a plate of standard fries with superb fried oysters — hot and crunchy on the outside, soft with a taste of the sea inside. Wow.
Fixings for one of many kinds of mole. (Recipe here.) This recipe, which I prepared in Mexico, was assembled using a combination of market mole paste and fresh ingredients. In class we’ll easily make it all from scratch.
Different Drummer Cooking School Northampton Monday, May 19, 2014 6:15-8:45 PM Sign up here Fee: $69 including full meal
You’ll love my take on the flavors of Mexico featured in the full class meal. Inspired by my frequent travels south of the border, I’ll be sharing dishes you’ll want to make again and again — from Shrimp Quesadillas to the king of Mexican sauces, mole.
Fresh Tomatillo Salsa Seasonal tomatillos make a classic Mexican green sauce that will become a household staple, served with chips.
Shrimp Quesadillas with Cilantro Pesto Cilantro, pecans, cheese, shrimp, chilies and more in tortillas, baked or sautéed until crisp.
Chicken Mole with Mexicali Rice Traditional mole sauce has many variations and a wonderfully complex flavor with ingredients ranging from chili to chocolate.
Authentic Caesar Salad Made right in the bowl, this Caesar will blow away the Caesar dressings you’ve been savoring.
Chocolate Smooches Learn to make your own tin of imported chocolate treats, spiked with a touch of Mexico.