Newsletters: 31 Aug 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 31 Aug 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
Carrots come in many colors: orange, yellow, red, purple, white, and black. Known scientifically as Daucus carota, they belong to the belong to the apiaceae or umbelliferous family, along with parsnips, parsley, dill, and cumin. The carrot is a biennial, and will flower in the second year if it doesn’t get eaten first.

Carrots are rich in copper, calcium, potassium, manganese and phosphorus, vitamins B,C,D,E, and of course beta-carotene, which gives them that familiar orange color. The skin has the most nutrients, and a quick boil can make the nutrients, wherever they are, more available to the body. These are details, however — the best way to prepare any vegetable is, when it comes right down to it, the way you’re most likely to eat it. Carrots are good against cancer, eye trouble, heart disease, stroke, fat and age in general, and good for skin and teeth. Did you know the greens are edible? I think I’ve mentioned that before, but didn’t know that carrot greens are a good source of vitamin K, which the carrot root doesn’t provide.

It is actually posible to eat too many carrots, although most people can only accomplish it by drinking carrot juice. Carotenemia is the medical term for increased blood levels of the pigment carotene, and it can be recognized when the skin turns yellow or orange — it usually clears up in a few days if you lay off the carrots (do not confuse carotenemia with lycopenemia, which is caused by too many tomatoes and turns the skin red). Too much carotene can cause jaundice, a more serious problem, and too much vitamin A can damage the liver (note: polar bear liver is extremely high in vitamin A and can cause vitamin A poisoning, so arctic explorers are advised to avoid it).

In the kitchen
I love the smell of fennel, the beautiful delicate fronds… but once you get it home, then what? Here are some ideas from one of my old standby reference cookbooks, James Peterson’s Vegetables.

Grilled fennel
fennel bulbs, stalks removed
olive oil
Peel off any thick fibers from the outside of the bulb. If bulbs are thicker than 1.5 inches, split them down the middle; cut largest bulbs into 3-6 wedges. Toss with oil and grill 10-15 min. per side, until light brown.

Fennel mashed potatoes
1 bulb fennel
1.5 lb. potatoes, peeled and quartered
water
1/4 to 1/2 c milk (may use cooking liquid for some of this)
4-6 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
Remove stalks from the fennel and cut the bulb in half; thinly slice. Bring potatoes and fennel to a boil in enough water to cover halfway; reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 25 min. (well, check at 15 for local ones — ed.). Drain and mash the potatoes and fennel. Heat milk and melt the butter into it; add to potatoes and stir in. Season to taste and, if necessary, rewarm in the cooking pot.
Variation: if you have trouble with fennel lumps, cook it separately until very soft, puree in a blender and strain into the potatoes.

Italian-style cardoon and bean soup with garlic and fennel
1 small bulb fennel, stalks removed, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 c dried great northern, cannellini, or cranberry beans, soaked 3-5 hr. in warm water and drained
6 c broth or water, plus more as needed
1 bunch cardoons
4 med. tomatoes (or 24 oz. drained canned tomatoes) peeled, seeded, and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley or basil
grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Heat fennel, garlic, and onion in the oil. stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 10 min. Add beans and broth; simmer, partially covered, until beans are soft and not mealy when bitten, 1.5 hr. Remove and discard outer stalks of the cardoon; cut smaller stalks in half lengthwise and peel, then cut into 4-inch pieces. Gently simmer in 3 qt. water and a little lemon juice 15-20 min.; drain and slice into 1/4-inch pieces and freeze all but 2 c for later use. When the beans are cooked, add cardoons and tomatoes and simmer 5 min.; add water or broth to thin the soup if desired. Season; stir in parsley or basil and serve with Parmesan.

Cardoons, by the way, are related to the artichoke and thistle and can be a little hard to find. They grow well here but don’t usually show up in markets much (possibly because they can be a little aggressive. OK, invasive). I planted one in my front yard once, but my neighbor thought it was a giant thistle and very kindly cut it down for me. Sigh. I get the impression that celery might be a good substitute, perhaps with some adjustment of cooking times.

Thanks for your interest in our community and its market.

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Newsletters: 24 Aug 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 24 Aug 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
Tomatoes are native to central America and were cultivated by the Aztecs. They belong to the nightshade family, which also includes chili peppers, potatoes, and eggplants. This may be why people in some places and times have been leery of eating them. Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, manganese, and the anti-oxidant lycopene, which gives them their red color. Other flavinoid compounds in tomatoes are good for the eyes. Tomatoes are also helpful against urinary tract infections, skin ailments, diabetes, thrombosis (blood clots), inflammation, and hypertension. Cooking tomatoes actually makes the lycopene more accessible, especially when eaten with a little fat or oil — so it could be argued that spaghetti is a health food (I’ll take any excuse I can get).

In the kitchen
With much less fanfare than the carrots, apricots, and blueberries, the humble cabbage has arrived at the market. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing to do with cabbage is shred it and fry it up in bacon fat, but many people prefer to make it into cole slaw or sauerkraut.

Sweet and sour cole slaw
6 c (1 lb.) red or green cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt or 1 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. celery seed
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 c rice wine vinegar (use cider vinegar if making ahead)
pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients but oil, vinegar, and pepper; let stand in a colander 1-4 hours, until cabbage wilts. Discard drained liquid and remove to bowl; add oil and vinegar and toss to coat. Season to taste. May be refrigerated, covered, up to 2 days.
Variation: add 1 tsp. curry powder, 1 peeled, chopped apple, and 1/4 c raisins with the oil and vinegar.
From: The best recipe / by the editors of Cook’s illustrated. Boston Common Press, c1999.

Mixed pickles (aka Compost)
2 lb. mixed parsley roots, carrots, radishes, turnips, peeled, thinly sliced
1 lb. white cabbage, cored and shredded
1 lb. hard eating pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
6 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. saffron strands
2 c white wine vinegar, divided
2 oz. currants
2.5 c fruity white wine
6 Tbsp. clear honey
1 tsp. French mustard
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. anise seed
1/4 tsp. fennel seed
2 oz. white sugar
Slowly bring root vegetables and cabbage to a boil in a large pan of water; add pears. Cook until pears start to soften; drain and spread in a 2-inch layer in a shallow, non-metallic dish. Sprinkle with salt, ginger, saffron, and 4 Tbsp. vinegar. Cover and let sit 12 hours. Rinse well and add currants. Pack into sterilized jars, leaving at least 1 inch headspace. Bring wine and honey to a simmer; skim. Add remaining ingredients, including the rest of the vinegar. Reduce heat and stir without boiling until sugar dissolves. Return to a boil and pour over vegetables, covering them by 1/2 inch. Cover with vinegar-proof seals.
From: The medieval cookbook / Maggie Black. British Museum Press, c1992.

Cabbage the Athenian way
1 small white cabbage, finely sliced, washed, drained
2 heaped tsp. chopped fresh green coriander in oil
2 tsp. chopped fresh or dried rue
3 Tbsp. honey vinegar
2 pinches asafoetida powder
salt
Toss cabbage with coriander, rue, and honey vinegar. Sprinkle with asafeotida powder and salt.

Honey vinegar
1/2 c honey
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Bring honey to a boil and skim. Add vinegar; continue boiling until it reduces a little.
From: The classical cookbook / Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. J. Paul Getty Museum, c1996.

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Newsletters: 25 Aug 2010

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 25 Aug 2010. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

Cooking, and reading about cooking
When cucumbers start showing up at the market, it always makes me think of pickles. I’ve never had much success with them, but my mother made jars and jars of them every year. This is one of the recipes she used, perfect for the home gardener with room for just one or two cucumber vines. You can make them fresh as the cucumbers become ready, and we all know how important freshness is for good pickles.

I think Gerry Wilbert was one of my mother’s friends in Davenport (Wash.) in the 1960s.

Gerry Wilbert’s dill pickles
Wash the cucumbers and pack into quart jars with a sprig of dill and 1-2 cloves of garlic at the bottom, middle, and top of each jar. Pour in 1/3 to 1/2 cup white vinegar and 2 rounded tbsp. canning (pickling) salt; top off with cold water. Boil lids 10 minutes and seal the jars; place upside-down for 24 hours. Let cure for several weeks before using. Any jars that don’t seal should be kept refrigerated until used or the pickles will be soft.

Cantonese pickled vegetables
200 g Chinese turnips, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
1 cucumber
1/2 teaspoon salt
100 g sugar
100 ml clear rice vinegar
5 thin slices ginger, smashed with the flat side of a cleaver
Cut the turnip in half lengthways, then cut lengthways into thirds and diagonally cut into 2 cm pieces. Diagonally cut the carrots into 2 cm pieces. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, remove any seeds and cut lengthways into thirds. Diagonally cut into 2 cm pieces. Place the vegetables in a non-reactive bowl, add the salt, toss lightly, and leave for 1 hour. Dry thoroughly. Combine the sugar and vinegar and stir until the sugar has dissolved Add to the vegetables with the ginger and toss lightly to coat. Leave in the fridge for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

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Newsletters: 17 Feb, 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 17 Feb, 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

Leaf buds are beginning to show on the trees and sunny days make us long for the summer to come, but the calendar says there’s still a month to go before spring officially begins. There is still time for winter to get in a few last licks, and that sunshine means it’s cold out there (at my house we say “Gaia has kicked off the blankets” on sunny winter days).

One of the earliest signs of spring is the arrival of seed catalogs. This is a traditional time for planning the garden to come. We’ve had about all the long winter rest we can stand and begin to look out there and ask “Is the ground workable yet?” and “Can I possibly get away with planting something — a few peas, even?” The WSU Master Gardeners say you can plant bare-root roses and fruit trees on warmer February days, and even start broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower seedlings indoors if you give them extra light.

However, there is still plenty of time for snuggling up with a good book and a hot drink, filling the house with the aromas of rich stews and soups simmering on the stove, and watching the wind and rain from the warm side of the window.

About that food…
In winter we dream of hot drinks by a warm fire, images in shades of red and glowing gold (in summer the dreams turn cool blue and white, and we want ice in our drinks; it is the nature of humans to be dissatisfied). Here are a few alternatives to the standard cocoa, with or without marshmallows and a shot of something. You’re on your own for the firewood and quilt.

Bicerin
2 c whole milk
2 c hot strong brewed coffee
3 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste
1/4 t orange flower water, to taste (optional)
Bring milk just to a boil. Whisk coffee with chocolate and sugar until smooth, then whisk in hot milk and orange flower water. Adjust sugar.
From: The chocolate deck : 50 luscious indulgences / by Lori Longbotham. Chronicle Boks, c2005, which says this was a favorite drink of cafe society in Turin, Italy during the nineteenth century.

Hot spiced orange juice
1 can orange juice concentrate
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pour all ingredients into 5 cups of water. Bring to a slow boil. Serve hot.
From: 1st Traveler’s Choice Internet Cookbook.

Hot vanilla
1 c milk
1 tsp. honey
1 drop vanilla extract
pinch ground cinnamon
Heat milk without boiling; mix in remaining ingredients thoroughly. Serve immediately.
Source unknown.

Winter reading, winter dreaming
Seed catalogues / by the Smithsonian Institution. Zebra Pub., 2010.

The way we ate : Pacific Northwest cooking, 1843-1900 / by Jacqueline Williams. Washington State University, 1996.

Thanks for your interest in our community and its market.

Your Market correspondent,
Dana

One kind word can warm three winter months.
— Japanese proverb —

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
— Anne Bradstreet —

Winter is nature’s way of saying, “Up yours.”
— Robert Byrne —

There are many in this old world of ours who hold that things break about even for all of us. I have observed for example that we all get about the same amount of ice. The rich get it in the summertime and the poor get it in the winter.
— Bat Masterson —

The problem with winter sports is that – follow me closely here – they generally take place in winter.
— Dave Barry —

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Newsletters: 17 Aug 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 17 Aug 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
Broccoli is considered a superfood and is best known as a cancer fighter. It is packed with calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A and C. It is said to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and help in detoxification. It is also rich in chromium, which may help prevent adult-onset diabetes.

The Romans grew and enjoyed broccoli during the first century CE, having gotten it from the Etruscans. The name comes from the Latin “bracchium,” which means “strong arm or branch.” It was an obscure vegetable in the U.S. until the 20th century, but has been gaining in popularity, especially over the last thirty years or so.

The leaves and stalks are edible, but the leaves are rather bitter. The stalks have a tough skin and should be peeled before cooking. If you don’t much like broccoli but want to eat it for its wonderful health effects, try peeling, slicing, and cooking just the stalks — some people who are put off by the texture of the flowerheads find the milder, firmer stems much more enjoyable.

In the kitchen
I know I just did zucchini recipes a couple of weeks ago, but there are so many other kinds of summer squash, I think I can find a few more recipes. I like the little round patty-pan squash, because they look like bright yellow flying saucers, but these recipes mostly assume you’ve got the sausage-shaped kind.

Grilled whole summer squash
1.5-2 lb. small summer squash (about 4), washed and patted dry
4 T olive oil
chopped fresh parsley, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat grill with all burners on high, 10-15 min. Trim the tops and bottoms of the sqash and rub them with oil. Turn one burner off and the other(s) to medium. Place squash over the burner that is off, close the lid, and cook until easily pierced with a sharp knife, 12-20 min., turning as needed. Transfer to a cutting board and slice. Toss sliced with parsley and seasonings.
From: The gas grill gourmet : great grilled food for everyday meals and fantastic feasts / A. Cort Sinnes with John Puscheck. Harvard Common Press, c1996.

Wagon Wheels with Summer Squash and Mint
16 oz wagon-wheel or bow-tie pasta, cooked
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 lb. (about 6) mixed summer squash, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 c reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
Heat butter and olive oil over high heat. Add squash slices, garlic, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup chopped mint; cook until vegetables are just tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add chicken broth and Parmesan cheese; bring to a boil and cook 1 minute. Toss together vegetable mixture, pasta and remaining chopped mint.
From: goodhousekeeping.com

Summer Squash and Carrot Ribbons
1.25 lb. zucchini and summer squash
1/2 lb. carrots, peeled
24 large basil leaves, slivered
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp anise seed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Trim ends of zucchini and squash. Using a vegetable peeler, shave each squash into long, wide, very thin strips, avoiding the center of the squash where the seeds are. Shave the carrots in the same fashion. Toss zucchini, squash, and carrot ribbons with basil. Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, anise seeds, salt, and pepper together and drizzle over vegetable ribbons; toss.
From: goodhousekeeping.com

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Newsletters: 18 Aug 2010

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 18 Aug 2010. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

Cooking, and reading about cooking
A friend asked me about drying strawberries so I poked around a bit and here’s what I found:

How to dry strawberries
Choose ripe, high quality strawberries for drying. Wash by spraying with white vinegar and rinsing with water. Remove leaves and any bad spots. Cut the strawberries uniformly into 1/2 inch slices. Spread them out for drying, making sure they do not overlap. Choose a drying method:
-Place the strawberries in a sunny window on a warm day with temperatures near 100 degrees and low humidity.
-Place the strawberries in the oven at 130 degrees.
-Use a food dehydrator, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Check them periodically during drying. Strawberries are dried when almost crisp but still pliable. Pack strawberries in a moisture proof container. Vacuum packing strawberries will further prolong their shelf life, but storage in a glass, moisture proof container also works well. Use within a year.
From: eHow

Something about the whole drying concept got me thinking about my parents making fruit leather in a home-made dehydrator (kept in the basement and powered by light bulbs), back in the days before they started adding chemicals to it and calling it cutesy names. So here’s a recipe, or at least a general procedure, for that.

Fruit leather
Fresh fruit (apricots, peaches, plums, berries, apples, pears, grapes — 4 cups of fruit yield about one baking sheet of fruit leather)
Water
Lemon juice
Sugar (if needed)
Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)
Rinse the fruit and remove seeds, pits, stems, and blemishes; peel if desired. Place fruit in a large saucepan. Add a half cup of water for every 4 cups of chopped fruit. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the fruit is cooked through. Uncover and stir. Use a potato masher to mash the fruit in the pan. Taste to determine how much sugar, lemon juice, or spices to add. Make additions in small amounts (by tbsp for sugar, tsp for lemon juice, dashes for spices). Continue to simmer and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the fruit purée has thickened, about 5-10 minutes more.

Note: if you are working with grapes – strain the juice out of the mashed grapes to make grape juice. Force what is left behind, after straining, through a food mill, to make the purée for the next step.

Put the purée through a food mill or chinoise, or purée it thoroughly in a blender or food processor (less desirable). Taste again and adjust sugar/lemon/spices if necessary. The purée should be very smooth. Line a rimmed baking sheet with sturdy plastic wrap (I suggest waxed paper – dh). Pour out the purée into the lined baking sheet to about an 1/8 inch thickness. Place the baking sheet in the oven at about 140F, making sure the waxed paper does not fold back over onto fruit. If you have a convection setting, use it, it will speed up the process and help dry out the purée. Let dry in the oven like this for as long as it takes for the purée to dry out and become leathery; overnight is good. The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky.

May also be made in a food dehydrator, or a traditional way of making fruit leather was just to tent the tray with some cheesecloth and leave it outside in the sun on a hot day.

To store, roll up in plastic wrap or waxed paper and place in an airtight container. Will keep longest if refrigerated or frozen.
From: Simply Recipes

Books!
While we’re on the subject of preserving…

Independence days: a guide to sustainable food storage & preservation / by Sharon Astyk. New Society Publishers, c2009.

Preserving food without canning or freezing : traditional techniques using salt, oil, sugar, alcohol, vinegar, drying, cold storage, and lactic fermentation / the gardeners and farmers of Terre Vivante. Chelsea Green Pub. Co., 2007.

Thanks for your interest in our community and its market.

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Two recipes for two

Cauliflower Bisque with Brown Butter Croutons

1 c. whole milk
1 1/4 c. vegetable stock
approx. 1/2 lb. cauliflower florets
1/3 lb. (or a little over) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 sprigs thyme
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. heavy cream

garnish:
1 recipe Brown Butter Croutons (see below)
about 3 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds
chopped chives to taste

Combine milk, stock, cauliflower, potato, onion, garlic, and thyme in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer, partly covered, 18-20 min., until vegetables are very tender. Discard thyme sprigs. Working in batches, puree in a blender until smooth. Add cream and pulse to combine. Adjust seasonings; serve topped with croutons, pomegranate seeds, and chives.

Brown Butter Croutons

1 1/2 tbsp. butter (preferably unsalted)
1 1/2 c. ciabatta bread, cubed
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until golden brown, 2-4 minutes. Add bread and cook, stirring often, until toasted, 10-12 minutes. Season.

Adapted from Country Living

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Filet Mignon with Rich Balsamic Glaze

2 filet mignon steaks, about 4 oz each
black pepper to taste
salt to taste, optional
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dry red wine

Generously pepper both sides of each steak; salt to taste. Place in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brown about 1 minute on each side. Reduce heat to medium-low; add balsamic vinegar and red wine. Cover and cook for 4 minutes on each side, or until done, basting with sauce when turning. Remove to warmed plates and top each steak with a tablespoon of glaze; serve immediately.

Adapted from allrecipes.com

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Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.