Tag Archives: cooking

A “Live with the Parents” Locavore Musing

29 Sep

A guest blog post by our intern Kim:

I’m not extraordinarily proud of it, but like many college graduates these days (or so I tell myself), I have moved back home with my parents. Moving home certainly wasn’t my first choice, but after obtaining an unpaid internship at the NOFA-NY headquarters near my Rochester-suburb hometown of Honeoye Falls, moving home seemed like a good option. And, come to think of it, the only real downfall has been the reentrance of sister-clothes-sharing-related problems into my life.

The upsides to living at home are many. Most notably, free food. And, since the beginning of this month, a definite upside has been sharing the Locavore experience with my family. I’d say we’ve always been about middle of the road when it comes to family meals- we eat together several nights a week, but certainly don’t stick around for a family game night. However, the combination of locavore month and my guilt about living parasitically off of my family without pitching in financially has led me to help out by taking the reins when it comes to cooking dinner.

I never cooked much before college, or even thought about food much for that matter. But when I began to learn about the food system in various courses, anything relating to food, organics, health, and agriculture really began to catch my attention. And, I met some great people in college who could really cook. Like most people, I could always make a few simple things, but I never really got to experiment with cooking until I moved back home this summer.

Having more local ingredients in the house and ingredients from our garden has basically led to a large increase in the number of fresh vegetables we have laying around at any time. This has changed the way I cook because it has allowed me to tryout dishes that I would never have thought of cooking from scratch before. For example, one of my favorite comfort foods is grilled cheese and tomato soup. I’ve always used the typical canned Campbell’s tomato soup for this. However, when I was craving it last week, we were basically drowning in tomatoes from our garden, so I decided to make home-made tomato soup- which I really had no idea how to make, but it ended up being delicious!! I added ingredients that I liked, and some things from our garden- like green peppers and chives- and a lot more onion than the recipe called for. The difference from a can of Campbell’s soup was extraordinary. I liked my soup because it was unique!

I have four sisters, and it is definitely nice to be known now as ‘the one who can cook.’ And, I love the feeling of cooking for my family- especially when they enjoy it, which they most often do!


Corn Cob Stock and Corn Soup Recipe

6 Sep

[From Rachel]: I’d been hearing about boiling corn cobs down to make some soup, so I checked out a recipe for corn soup that would use a corn stock.  The one I found needed some locavore edits, and I’m pretty bad at following recipes anyways.  Here is the original ingredients list:

Yield: 6 servings

  • 3 large or 4 small ears fresh sweet corn
  • 1 small red or other thin-skinned potato
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water, plus 2 cups more water
  • 1 tsp. salt (1/2 tsp. if using canned broth)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1 leek
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 tsp. dried
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 1-2 tsp. dry white wine, or 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2-4 tablespoons heavy cream, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro or finely slivered sweet basil leaves

I had or could obtain everything locally except cilantro, the bay leaf and the acid (wine or lemon juice).  I haven’t given up salt and pepper, so that stayed.  I’m not one to normally make creamy soups, but I guess you could keep in the cream…high-quality local organic dairy wouldn’t be hard for me to get around here, but I just don’t use that much cream.  Since I’m on a major thai-basil kick, I decided to sub in a few thai basil leaves in the corn-cob stock-making process.  So here’s how it went after:

Yield: 6 servings

  • 3 large or 4 small ears fresh sweet corn: used 5 ears because I figured more is better when you are a Pennsylvania native who is known to eat 6 ears of corn in a sitting
  • 1 small red or other thin-skinned potato: didn’t use it, but could have gotten a local potato
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water, plus 2 cups more water: corn stock instead
  • 1 tsp. salt (1/2 tsp. if using canned broth)
  • 1 bay leaf: 4 fresh thai basil leaves from my garden
  • 1 Tbs. butter: easy enough
  • 1 leek: local farm sold through my natural foods co-op
  • 1 onion: my CSA
  • 1 stalk celery: found one sitting in fridge, definitely from a local farm but who knows which, and i forgot to add it in anyways
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeds removed: most of a thai chili pepper from a local farm
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 tsp. dried: felt like parsley instead
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped fine: CSA
  • Salt and white pepper: cheats/givens
  • 1-2 tsp. dry white wine, or 1 tsp. lemon juice I’m sure acid would be nice, but not sweating this one
  • (2-4 tablespoons heavy cream, to taste)
  • 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro or finely slivered sweet basil leaves: my garden
  • Lots more basil and herbs: my garden
  • Green pepper

The stock was simple–I just cut off the kernels and threw the cobs in a pot with water to cover them by an inch or so.  I let that simmer for an hour.  Meanwhile, I chopped other veggies and managed to make a pesto with local sheep’s milk cheese, local oil, and not-local-but-maybe-one-day-would-be sunflower seeds.  The apartment smelled great.  You know what else I did?  While cleaning up from dinner, I figured I’d taste one of the boiled cobs too.  Yup, I slurped up a little warm broth straight out of that cob…nothing was going to waste.

Corn broth and sauteed local delights topped with almost-local pesto.

Anyways, I used my basic soup-making technique for this light and summery soup (this ALWAYS works).  I sautéed the aromatic veggies (onion, leek, garlic, pepper) till they started to brown, then added in the celebrity vegetable: corn (and it’s not really a vegetable either).  I actually realized that I had a lot of kernels, so I put some into the freezer.  Not enough for winter, but if I do that a few more times, I’ll really make some progress on being a locavore in the winter.  Once they started to cook and smell sweet, I ladled in the broth and some water.  I threw in the herbs, didn’t end up adding any salt or pepper.  I was hungry, so I let it cook for about 15 minutes.  I ended up with a very light and refreshing broth-with-veggies (I think to be a soup it would need to meld together longer), and I was pleased.  I topped it with some stir-fried SoyBoy tempeh and farmers’ market veggies…since corn is a grain, not a veggie, to me.  And some of that aspires-to-be-local pesto.

Imported binge/Challenge your default cooking habits

31 Aug

From Rachel:

We were discussing a bit in the office the past few days whether we should binge on the obviously non-local foods that we will do our best to avoid starting MIDNIGHT tonight!  I, somewhat randomly, did not have my morning coffee on Monday, and decided maybe I should take a day off from the imported wake-up juice.  Then yesterday I also avoided it, just to see.  I was planning on treating myself to some after a doctor’s appointment, but then it seemed the wrong time.  This morning I woke up and decided I was already off the coffee (since I was getting a withdraw headache).  Thus, the decision was made that I have given up coffee for as long into September as seems logical.  Not going to lie, I might go back especially given the wonderful local roasters we have, and given the long car trips that I’ll be taking to some field days mid-month.  Lea was mentioning how she felt like she should inhale some greasy Asian take-out food tonight (but I’d be surprised if she really did given the wonderful food she has stocked up on).  Interestingly, you could make local ingredients into the same food, minus the rice, but that take-out food is just magically comforting the way it is.  Stephanie, our Administrative Assistant, is tearing up a little at the thought that avocados will never be local (and we all agree there; perhaps we need to endorse a very cold-hardy avocado breeding program).  Kate, our Executive Director, treated us to some of our favorite cookies from a Rochester restaurant.  They’re curry and chocolate–one of my personal favorite flavor combinations.  I am planning to avoid chocolate, but I’m still debating spices.  So I indulged in some obvious no-no-for-September cookies, but I know that the bad/good thing about our imported food system is that I can always go BACK to eating curry and chocolate.  But once the fall is over, it’s going to be a lot harder to find thai basil (current location: 1.5 miles from my apartment, and also on my counter) from my garden or eggplant straight off the tables at our area farmers’ markets (under 50 miles, often less).  Sure, spices enhance those ingredients, but why not (ahem) challenge your culinary defaults?  You know you cooking tastes good with the spices and imported characters, but how good can you make that recipe without local ingredients?  For example, last night I made amazing and 100%-local veggie burgers with thai basil, chili pepper, NY soy sauce and veggies and soybean pulp leftover from my soymilk brewing (more on that later).  It didn’t really need the ginger, cumin, thai curry paste from a jar, etc. that I might normally throw in by default–they were left out and that food still tasted interesting, flavorful and a little exotic (man, I just love that musky, anise-y flavor of thai basil).

We already have so many wonderful ingredients hanging around, it might take more effort to binge on non-local foods than to just glide gently into a mostly-local habit anyways!  I know I’m not going 100% 250-miles-or-less all month.  I’ve written about my justifications and my cheats before (I’m nuts over nuts, for example).  However, I’m going to push myself to highlight what’s locally available first and recognize my cooking defaults.  I’m giving them a little vacation back on those exotic islands and cloud-forest hillsides whence they came.  Instead of starting cooking dinner by going to the spice cabinet, I’ll go to my garden, my market basket or my counter tops which always have jars of herbs this time of year.  I’ll see if I can maximize those flavors to the point that I don’t need that extra dash of curry powder and cumin.  And I probably won’t binge tonight, since that would be giving too much attention to the things I’m (not really) going to miss this month.  I’m starting my local-foods binge early.  My bread, local nut butter and jam, and all the veggies I want to eat (haven’t bought from a store in who knows how long).  Dessert = peach-apple sauce.  That’s foodie heaven, no visitors from foreign lands, and all I really need tonight.  But check in with me on a week on that coffee promise.

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