Youth team for TheGreenHub.ca
Community green news, views, features, video, and photos
Erin Hutton is a freelance writer, home cook, and environmental advocate.
Her specialty is cooking with local, real, sustainable ingredients for the
health of our bodies and our planet. She provides recipes and tips for
budget friendly, local food.
email: Erin.Anne.Hutton@gmail.com website: http://communitycucina.wordpress.com
Lamb with rhubarb-infused sauce
Monday, June 13, 2011
I'm moving in two weeks and so clearing out the freezer and trying to keep the grocery shopping to a minimum. I'm not going far, I'm moving within Pittsburgh, but I still don't like to move a lot of food if I don't have to. And, out of a need to clear out, I discovered the delectable combination of lamb and rhubarb. My rhubarb was starting to go limp and needed to be eaten that day. The lamb was calling to me more loudly than the chicken so both had to be cooked. I consulted Google and found that lamb and rhubarb is the base of a Persian stew.
Usually the stew is flavored with mint and perhaps saffron and/or turmeric. I didn't have any of these spices on hand so I had to go a bit of a different way, but I think it came out well and was tasty over a bed of rice. It's one of those stew-like dishes that isn't soup but more of a meat cooked in it's own gravy and therefore perfect over rice.Without the mint and saffron I'm hesitant to call my dish Persian even though it's based on that idea, but either way I'm looking forward to the last serving for dinner tonight.
Lamb with rhubarb-infused sauce
Adapted from Stevie Parle's Slow-cooked lamb with rhubarb.
2 pounds lamb stew meat
3 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 – 1 inch pieces
8 scallions, sliced fine
1 tsp. salt
2 teaspoons of each of the following:
Toss all ingredients well in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve over rice.
Today's local ingredients:
Lamb, JL Kennedy Meat Stand at Farmers' Market Cooperative of East Liberty
Rhubarb, Penn's Corner CSA
Scallions, Penn's Corner CSA
Meatless Monday: A celebration of ramps
Monday, June 6, 2011
I'm posting this a bit late. Ramp season is almost over if it hasn't ended already, but ramps are a beautiful vegetable and deserve their fifteen minutes of Community Cucina fame.
Ramps have been the "it food" of seasonal cooking for the past few years. Chefs snap them up directly from the farms and serve them simply but deliciously in their restaurants. You won't find them at a big box grocery store. You have to have a CSA, go to the farmers market (early, they sell fast), know a farmer, or be a farmer.
I both love and hate the short season and limited availability of these little wild leeks. They taste like a hybrid of garlic and onions and even the little ones pack a lot of flavor into their bulbs and leaves. If you eat them, make sure anyone you live with eats them too or is at least very tolerant of garlic smell. I'm not kidding when I say these are pungent. You'll probably have the worst garlic breath you've ever had after eating them, but it will be worth it.
I got my last bunch in my CSA a few weeks ago and took them to New York so my family could try them. I made this pesto first for my brother and his girlfriend and we put it on pizza with some fresh mozzarella. They liked the pesto so much I made it again for my whole family, but instead of pizza I tossed it with angel hair.
1/2 share ramps, minced fine
1/4 cup basil leaves, minced fine
1/3 cup crushed pine nuts (we ground ours to just before the paste stage in a coffee grinder)
1/2 cup pecorino romano
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
Combine ramps, basil leaves, pine nuts, pecorino romano and 1/4 of olive oil to make a paste. Add additional olive oil as necessary to reach desired consistency.
Today's local ingredients:
Ramps via Penn's Corner CSA
Basil leaves, local plant my brother bought somewhere near Poughkeepsie
CSA Week 8
Friday, June 3, 2011
The Cabin Fever Share is over! I picked up my last box on Wednesday. At Penn's Corner, it is now time for the Harvest Share to begin. In a way, this marks the start of summer. Many of the farmers' markets have opened up and local berries are here! It was also well over 90 degrees for the first few days of this week.
Let's recap my week 7 box and what happened to it:
apple cider – I've just been drinking it. It was surprisingly refreshing straight from the fridge on hot days. I always think of cider as a warm, autumn drink, but I'm starting to love it chilled as well.
fresh pasta – It's gone. I had it for several different meals throughout the week: pasta with pesto, pasta with a fried egg, pasta with herbs and olive oil. I just like pasta.
rhubarb – I made muffins! Grain-free muffins at that.
chevre – I used it to top the mini onion biscuits I made and also had some on plain crackers.
eggs – Some went in the muffins. Some went on pasta.
hydroponic tomatoes – These were afternoon snacks. Slice, salt, enjoy.
butterhead lettuce – Made a salad for a friend that came to visit.
baby onions – These went in my onion biscuits along with the onions I got at Eden Hall.
potatoes – Potato salad! It really is summer! (Even though the calendar says it doesn't start for a few more weeks.)
CSA Week 8 (the last box for me this year)
Another good box! I've already been at the strawberries, made a strawberry smoothie with a touch of basil.
Tonight, I think I'm going to make a version of Rachael Ray's smothered kale and mushrooms, but instead of using it as a side I'm going to toss it with some pasta and cheese.
No plans for the potatoes as yet, but I've got time to figure that out.
Today's local ingredients:
Contents of my CSA box!
Happy Birthday Rachel Carson!
Friday, May 27, 2011
Rachel Carson is a hero for many. Nowhere have I seen this more prominently than at Chatham University, of which I am a recent alum. (I love that!) Rachel Carson is Chatham College for Women class of 1929 and our most famous alumna. She was born on May 27, 1907. She lived to be only 56. She succumbed to breast cancer in 1964.
Carson is best known for her book Silent Spring, which brought the consequences of synthetic chemical pesticides to the public eye. Her book was a turning point moment for the environmental movement, particularly in terms of health and the food chain.
One of the salient points of Silent Spring is the affect of DDT on our health. DDT is a powerful chemical with the ability to kill a wide variety of pests. In its wake, DDT can kill plants that are not pests and leaves residue on plants and animals in the area it is sprayed. When humans or other animals eat these plants or animals, DDT is ingested with the food. Eating one meal laced with DDT is not a big deal (but it's not good either, avoid it if possible). Our bodies are equipped to flush out toxins. The bigger problem is the widespread use of the chemical to get rid of pests. When we continually eat foods contaminated by chemicals like DDT, the chemicals accumulate in our bodies and cause more and more problems over time.
DDT use was banned in the United States in 1972. Since then, the accumulation of DDT in the environment has decreased but we are still at risk from diseases from previous use of DDT and DDT use in other countries. Unfortunately, DDT is still used in other parts of the world and has the ability to travel long distances in the atmosphere. Most countries do not use DDT in the agricultural sector. The most common use of DDT today is to control the population of Malaria-carrying mosquitos in Africa.
Thanks, Rachel Carson! Without you, we might not be speaking as loudly about chemical-free, real food in the terms we are now. We might not have as many options for chemical free food, which, when you look at the chemicals that are currently embedded in our food chain, would make for a sad state of affairs. Think of all the diseases among us today that might have environmental causes: some cancers (including breast), Crohn's disease, infertility, some birth defects, and others. What could we be facing without the regulations we have put in place since Silent Spring? There is much more work to be done, but we have Rachel Carson to thank for getting us started down the right path.
This is why I like to eat organic or chemical free foods when I can. It is good for the body. You won't find farmers using DDT today (legally at least), but there are many other harmful chemicals out there. Many small farms don't use them even if they aren't Certified Organic farms (certification is expensive). Ask at the farmers market, read labels, etc. I'm not going to lecture anymore.
Tonight, I'm making potato salad with potatoes from Clarion River Organics to go with leftover capon raised locally without antibiotics.
Tomorrow, I am going to Chatham's Eden Hall Farm to work in the garden, which operates on the principles of a clean environment with clean food and water that Rachel Carson advocated.
For further reading on DDT and/or Rachel Carson, try these links:
Rachel Carson Homestead
EPA page on DDT
Chatham's Eden Hall Campus
CSA Week 7
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
So, I haven't made much of a dent in week 6 yet. But let's do the rundown anyway, minus what I gave away, just for funsies.
portabello mushrooms – I've been sauteeing these in butter and eating them with my capon and rice. Deliciousness!
green garlic – Some went into pesto and I've got some left.
pea shoots – Pesto! With green garlic and oregano.
parsley plant – Trying not to kill this one. I have no luck with herb plants.
asparagus – Haven't touched it yet. Must do soon.
oregano – Some went into the pesto, some on the mushrooms, and there's still some left!!
And now, the haul from this week:
I'm excited for the fresh cut pasta! I almost had it for dinner tonight, but went for cold leftover capon instead. It's hot today!
The potatoes mean potato salad in this weather!! I'll make my Mom's recipe (you can't have it) and probably bring some to a potluck on Friday.
The rhubarb is going into muffins because I've been craving a sweet breakfast treat. I'm so excited for this!
I made some apple cider gelatin tonight and I'm thinking about mini cider popsicles (really cider ice cubes with toothpicks). Can you tell my apartment is warm?
I might make a salad this week, got all the fixin's! Onions, tomatoes, and lettuce!
I already ate one of the tomatoes with dabs of chevre on top sprinkled with salt and balsamic vinegar. There are more of those in my future.
I can't believe that my next box is my last one! It's a bit sad, but I'm also excited to be starting gardening for the Eden Hall Work and Pick Program through Chatham and to be able to shop at farmers' markets this summer!!
Today's local ingredients:
The contents of my CSA box!
CSA Week 6
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
So, this post is amazingly late. I get my box for week 7 tomorrow. Oops. I was away so I got the box after I got home because a friend picked it up for me. (Thanks Adrienne!) And then I had this crazy weekend trying to get back of the groove in being in Pittsburgh again. And I didn't blog at all! There are still more Hudson Valley posts to come. My family is full of foodies!
But, let's get down to it.
I finally tried the pickled turnips from week 4. They were a HUGE hit at home. We ate them as a side with my Dad's homemade pastrami and my Mom's potato salad.
Here's what happened to the box from week 5:
wheat berries – still haven't touched them. I did see several ideas for warm wheat berry salads while watching the Cooking Channel.
butterhead lettuce – Left this with my parents. Bet Mom made a chopped salad.
spinach – Left this with my bro. I'm sure it was destined for a salad or an omelet.
pea shoots – I don't remember what happened to the pea shoots. Must have left them in my parents' fridge.
ramps – I made ramp pesto. Recipe coming soon!
green garlic – I used it in a tomato bread salad.
1/2 dozen eggs – Ate 'em all over the weekend. Scrambled for dinner and breakfast.
My week 6 box contains:
red butterhead lettuce
I gave the radishes, arugula and red butterhead to Adrienne for picking up my box and taking care of it for me. I think I'm going to make a pesto with green garlic, pea shoots, and oregano (so completely not traditional at all). The portabellos could end up in omelets, sauteed in butter and eaten on their own for a snack, or made into soup. I'm not sure how I'll cook the asparagus, but it will probably be a side dish with the leftover capon that I have.
Yes, I have leftover capon lying around. Capon sounds like a fancy word, but it isn't. A capon is a castrated rooster. Because of the lack of sexual hormones after castration, the rooster is more mild tempered and easy to handle. The flesh also becomes less gamey-tasting than that of a sexually mature rooster. They were on special at JL Kennedy Meat Stand a few weeks ago so I picked one up and stuck it in the freezer. It was another of my "ooh, I've never had that before AND it's on sale" impulse purchases.
In the kitchen, you can treat a capon like a hen but end up with a far superior meal. A small capon is about 8 pounds and much of that is breast meat. The breast is ENORMOUS. I have so much meat. Pretty much everything from the CSA will be a side dish to go with the leftover capon. I'd heard that capon tastes chickenier than chicken. I was skeptical, but it's true. I'm not sure why, but the flavor is intense. If you think chicken is bland, try a capon, the flavor is much richer. I cooked my capon simply. I used Stephanie O'Dea's recipe for Rotisserie-Style Chicken in the slow cooker.
The juices leaked out of the meat to partially steam and partially boil the capon. It was so tender and moist that I couldn't lift the capon out whole, it split right in half on my first try. I separated the meat from the bones and while the juices from the capon were still hot I put the bones back in along with the neck, a splash of cider vinegar, and water to fill my 6 quart crock. In the morning, I had capon broth. I'm having a mug right now. It is delightfully rich and warming.
Today's local ingredients:
Contents of my CSA box
Capon, JL Kennedy Meat Stand at the Farmers' Market Cooperative of East Liberty
In which I teach Kevin to make focaccia…
Friday, May 6, 2011
This weekend I got Kevin in the kitchen to help me make focaccia. He made the mistake of placating a bad mood last week by getting me to teach him to make the mushroom soup I posted about the other day. I took this as an open invitation to teach him to cook. I mean, he does cook, he makes a great venison steak and some kickin' sloppy joes, but that's about it unless it comes from a box.
Focaccia is a pretty easy bread to make, just time consuming as all yeast breads are. This focaccia is very untraditional. It's whole wheat for starters and then topped with ramps and feta. Not items that make you think of Italy. But it is delicious. Just make sure you eat this alone or that everyone in your household eats it because the ramps are pungent. Whew! But so yummy.
If you have a stand mixer, the dough will come together really quickly and with just a few dishes. Kevin and I made the dough, set it to rest for awhile and went for a walk in the park. When we came back, Kevin got to do what I think was his favorite part: punching down the dough. That was always my favorite part of breadmaking as a kid, anyway. That and licking the dough hook.
This was a really good use for some ramps. If you've ever enjoyed a pizza or focaccia with scallions or garlic bread (with or without cheese), you would like this recipe. I served it with leftover mushroom soup so we'd have some left but I think we could've just eaten the whole focaccia straight out of the oven.
But before I get to the recipe, just what are ramps? They are wild leeks. They come up in the springtime and taste like garlic and onions. They are very flavorful and a little goes a long way. You can put them in eggs, toss them with pasta, scatter them across a salad, use them in a soup, or make focaccia! If you don't have ramps you could substitute scallions in this recipe.
Whole wheat focaccia with ramps and feta
1 cup warm water
1 packet active dry yeast
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt (plus more for sprinkling)
1/4 cup olive oil (plus more for oiling the pan, drizzling on top of bread, and prepping the ramps)
2 oz. feta cheese
Combine warm water and yeast. Let stand 10 minutes to dissolve the yeast. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine olive oil, salt, flour, and yeast mixture. Mix ingredients at low speed with the paddle attachment. Once ingredients are combined, switch to dough hook and turn mixer to medium for about 7 minutes (or knead dough on a floured surface). Fold dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let stand in a warm place for about an hour and a half. Dough should double in size. Punch down dough. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet. Press dough out onto cookie sheet as close to the edges as possible. Allow to rest and rise for another half an hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and can prep the toppings during this time. Slice the ramps into small pieces keeping the bulbs and leaves separate. Heat some oil in a skillet. Saute the ramp bulbs until starting to soften (about 3-4 minutes). Add ramp leaves and cook until just wilted. Set aside until dough is ready. After dough has rested, sprinkle ramps and feta across the top. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt if desired (taste the feta, sometimes feta is very salty and if it is, additional salt should be omitted). Bake for 15-20 minutes until bread is firm but springy to the touch.
Note: This is best eaten right out of the oven or soon after, but if you store it, put it in the fridge because of the cheese on top.
Today's local ingredients:
Whole wheat flour, Clarion River Organics via Penn's Corner CSA
Wild ramps, Nu Way Farm via Penn's Corner CSA
Goat's milk feta, River View Dairy via Penn's Corner CSA
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