Tag Archives: family

Breaking down a Local, Organic Chicken

26 Sep

Stephanie Backer-Bertsch, NOFA-NY Registration Coordinator, gives us a very real look at her way of celebrating local, organic poultry.  She learned how to butcher a chicken to be able to take full advantage of this well-raised and high-value food.  Note: pictures of raw chicken and meat are part of this post.  They are not bloody or particularly graphic, and show the animal being used in the most celebratory and respectful way possible.  However, we understand not everyone eats meat, and some may choose not to read on.  For those who do eat meat, learning to work with direct-from-farmer meats couldn’t be more in line with the Locavore Challenge.  Thus we present Stephanie’s adventure with the images.

Hello Locavores! In celebration of Locavore month, I decided to document breaking down a whole chicken for you all. I recently took a knife skills class at the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY and thought this would be a great opportunity to showcase what I had learned—and see whether or not I was paying attention.

It started with a bird. Not just any bird, mind you, but a gorgeous 4lb local AND organic chicken from Lakestone Family Farm located in Shortsville, NY. My plan was to break the chicken down into 8 pieces. I wasn’t sure yet what I wanted to do with the bird but the goal was to put the entire chicken to use. Since this was my first stint at this I thought it best to find an environment free of feline distraction—my parents’ house! I also secretly hoped my dad would act as a poultry advisor of some sort. The man has handled a chicken or two and is a culinary wizard in my book. Everything was coming together nicely.

Dad and me, blurry but appropriately fashioned for our chicken party.

Dad and me, blurry but appropriately fashioned for our chicken party. 

[Editor’s two cents: remember how the right tools and a special outfit make your locavore cooking adventures a bit more fun? Looks like Stephanie and her dad are on to that technique, too].

It’s important to have a good, sharp knife.  A chef’s knife is all you need, in fact.

Celebrating a beautiful bird!

Pausing in celebration of a beautiful bird!

First, I eyed the gams. I pulled the right drumstick away from the body to stretch the skin taught. There was a line of fat and I followed my knife along that keeping the incision shallow and only cutting through the skin.

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Tada!

Next, I twisted the leg in a downward motion away from the body to pop the ball joint out of the socket. I cut through the exposed joint with my sharp chef’s knife and, voila! I had the leg consisting of the drumstick and thigh! I repeated this on the other side.

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Next, I removed the backside of the bird, or the spine, by positioning the chicken vertically with the butt up. I ran the knife through the skin and cartilage between the breasts and the backside of the chicken. Cutting through the ribs proved to be a bit tricky but if you have a good sharp knife and brute strength (which it seems I do), it’s no biggie. In the spirit of not wasting, and thus capitalizing on each way the bird could feed me, I saved the backbone and made a nice stock for some homemade chicken soup down the road.  If I weren’t butchering the bird myself, think of what deliciousness I’d be missing out on!

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Splitting the breast was up next. I separated the breasts by cutting through the center and cracking the sternum with my knife. Now I had 4 very handsome cuts before me.  Amid the chicken mess (albeit an organic and local chicken mess) that was now taking over the kitchen and my electronics, I was really enjoying myself!

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To separate the chicken and thigh, I found the ball joint and cut through it for two pieces of bird yielding dark meat (my favorite!)

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I separated the wings from the breast next. Again, cutting through a joint was involved but I was so in the zone at this point I’m not sure I remember the details! The process became very intuitive as I became more intimate with the chicken’s anatomy.

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While I fixated on my butchering process my dad whisked away the chicken’s heart and liver for his breakfast the following day. He also decided we would make Chicken Fricassee featuring all the broken down parts—a favorite of my childhood. Yum! [Try this very locavore-adaptable version of a Chicken Fricassee, if you’re game.]

My dad browning the meat that had been seasoned and lightly dusted with flour!

My dad browning the meat that had been seasoned and lightly dusted with flour!

The final result:

 

Holy deliciousness!

Holy deliciousness!

In the end, I felt very accomplished to have tackled my chicken butchering goal and very grateful my Locavore challenge resulted in a fantastic meal with my family.

 

I did it all on my own!

I did it all on my own!

Thanks so much for sharing, Stephanie!  For a few more meat-prep how-to’s, we recommend the following books:

Good Meat by Deborah Krasner

Long Way on a Little and Grassfed Gourmet by Shannon Hayes

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Locavore Equinox: Balancing Out and Celebrating Each Moment

22 Sep

The last stretch of the Locavore challenge comes after the equinox.  That means it’s officially fall, but the balance of daylength and nighttime have symbolic power for the locavore.  The last week on the blog will focus on celebrating the delicious food and the truly awesome organic landscapes around us.  This is a week for us to show off a bit, with the celebrate the harvest dinners you might be planning for the weekend, but also to reflect on ways to work the locavore joy into our lives for the long term.  You’ve likely tried activities that you wouldn’t keep up all year round, simply because you can’t (think of berry picking in February–it’s just not possible in New York) or because you realize that the activity is a bit of a reach for you to do daily or weekly (not everyone wants to bake bread for their family every week).  The theme of balance that comes with the equinox (night and day are the same length) reminds us to think about the ways to pull back from the mania of checking off all the different locavore activities, to slow down after summer, to savor those locavore moments that really bring us happiness.  Sure, the abundance of September also encourages certain obsessions and the drive to put up lots of tomato sauce and salsa while we still can, but in the spirit of the equinox, let’s approach the last few weeks of overflowing market tables with a calm mindset.  Let’s not forget the joy this food (and the sound farming practices that got it to market) brings us and the local food it permits us to eat into the winter.

How to celebrate AND have balance?  This part of the challenge can be the point when you:

  • Decide to become a NOFA-NY member, because you know that this helps sustain farms in New York over the long term;
  • finally pick up a book related to food, farming, agricultural history, food justice, etc. because reading about farming is a different way to engage with your locavore brain;
  • take one last you-pick farm trip
  • engage the photographer or artist within yourself to create a lasting image that will remind you about how important farms are to our culture and communities
  • invite friends over to celebrate bounty (just don’t let it stress you out);
  • decide to patronize a locavore restaurant, because going out to eat is indeed part of your lifestyle and having a locavore option captures that balance that you’ll embrace as a locavore in the next 11 months (until September 2014).

Do whatever means most to you!

Last week, we heard from some of you on Facebook and Twitter about some of the celebrations of local food and farming.

On Facebook, Lynn Clow Burko told us “[I] resolved to purchase only local meats for my family and stuck to it. It can be done!”  Well done–sounds like you challenged yourself to do something new, and realized it was something you might work into your lives year-round.  A great example of stretching your assumptions and then realizing this fit into the balance of your budget and meal planning anyways!

Sarah’s family update for the week also exemplifies the concept of the change of seasons and inserting some slowing-down and balancing-out joy in her locavore activities. “With our CSA shares coming to an end and the vegetables taking a bit longer to grow and ripen in our garden, we have begun thinking about the fall season. Basil  has been plentiful in our CSA shares and garden this summer, and our final CSA share this week came with a basic recipe for pesto, so we’re making and preserving pesto for the final Locavore activity for my kids’ Locavore journals. It’s really the perfect recipe for my kids, simple and easy. Plus, we have a manual hand pump food processor that makes the whole process take a bit longer, letting us savor the work a bit more than with an electric processor. My kids help me cook often, but I suspect that making pesto will bring together a lot of our conversations and activities from this past month, making it a bit more of a memorable cooking experience for them. I also like the idea that through food preservation my kids will learn to avoid letting food go to waste and to think ahead when it comes to food and taking care of themselves.

A few Facebook friends shared their culinary endeavors with us.  Shannon Sodano told us that her potluck included, “homemade applesauce, stuffed tomatoes, sweet potato and leek soup, pumpkin apple and sage soup, beet salad with pistachios apple and arugula and homemade ice cream and watermelon and peach pie for dessert.”

A locavore potluck in Brooklyn.  Photo credit--Shannon Sodano, Sept. 2013.

A locavore potluck in Brooklyn. Photo credit: Shannon Sodano, Sept. 2013.

MaryBeth Anderson, also via Facebook, shared this image of a panzanella salad with us.  The local produce, herbs and homemade bread were balanced out with some special ingredients like olive oil and garbanzo beans.  A great example of finding the locavore option that works within her lifestyle.

MaryBeth Anderson local panzanella

MaryBeth Anderson’s local panzanella salad.

As for yours truly, I plan to visit the longer articles I’ve bookmarked for myself to read about our food system, to gain a more internal appreciation of the work we’ve been doing at NOFA-NY.  I won’t promise to finish the agrarian landscape-setting books I have checked out from the library, but I’m excited to make some forward progress this week, as the preserving projects take less of my time (I’ve called the end of my tomato-canning season since I have run out of pantry shelf space) and the new chilly fall weather encourages me to curl up in bed a little earlier each night.  On my list (still): Wendell Berry’s work, Turn Here Sweet Corn and A Thousand Acres.  I’m also planning to soak up more of the beauty of the farming landscape as I travel for one final on-farm work trip before frost settles in.

Let’s conclude this long read with something more powerful than words about balance and celebration.  This image of a sheep farmer (who is also our dedicated NOFA-NY board president) at dawn exemplifies the patience and passion of those who care for our land and for our bodies.  We celebrate these farmers every time we choose local and organic food.  Having this food available depends on all of us (don’t forget the ways you chose to take action), keeping a balance of locavore-positive moments all year.

Maryrose Livingston of Northland Sheep Dairy walks her pasture at dawn. (Photo credit: Liz Henderson, Sept. 2013)

Maryrose Livingston of Northland Sheep Dairy walks her pasture at dawn. (Photo credit: Liz Henderson, Sept. 2013)

Gathering Around a Locavore Table: Tips for the best food event you can throw!

13 Sep

Today’s post is from Annie Levay-Krausse, writer of The Land of Peapodriot, a blog “Focused on seasonally, organically, locally and ethically sourced dishes; this blog is interspersed with posts on gardening, seed saving, soap making and Food Ethics.” She’s also the founder of SOLE of Buffalo, “a burgeoning food movement that connects people with Seasonal, Organic, Local and Ethical resources and information.”  She’s sharing her wealth of experience in planning great food-based events with us today.  These are the hot locavore tips, folks!

Congratulations! You took on NOFA-NY’s Locavore Challenge and are so excited about it that you’re planning a local food get-together.  Maybe it’s one of the Harvest Dinners–and you think you have a great chance at winning one of the prizes–maybe it’s a community event, a potluck, or an extra-special meal you’re planning on hosting for friends (like that all-one-ingredient party mentioned in Sunday’s Long Read).  Local food lovers are all starting to talk about these events and so should you!  They give you the opportunity to connect with a community of people who come from all walks of life but agree that food should be experiential and exciting and engaging and local.

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If you are eager to host an event this September, take the time to plan. It doesn’t have to cost you anything, but it will take time and patience to do it well. There are so many ways to make your event a success. These ten tips are ones I’ve developed over the last 12 years of hosting my International Dinners and a couple end-of-challenge potlucks, and will help eliminate the majority of your headaches, whether your party is four or one hundred and four.

  • Location: Pick a location that can handle changeable weather. It’s the end of September and New York is known for anything and everything weather. Snow squalls, thundershowers, 90 degrees and sultry, windy and icy cold? We’ve seen weather that can make your toes curl, and wouldn’t you know? It always seems to make an appearance just as your party gets started. So choose a place where you and your guests can dine in comfort. If it’s not your home, make sure you get permission and secure it on a calendar. A tailgater and potluck and baby shower happening in one location? Yes, and I’ve been there because I didn’t plan ahead. If it’s in a park, you will need a permit, which are inexpensive and very easy to secure.
  • Invitations: Paper invitations are quite lovely, but also consider your audience and the way you’re gathering information.  Either follow up with an e-mail or send an online invitation to start off.  This is an easy way to keep track of the head count. If you’re hosting a potluck, have the guests indicate which dish they’ll be bringing. This is a great way for both you and your guests to see what is being offered and what is still needed. It’s also a fantastic way of quickly answering questions, offering suggestions, and often can include a map and directions.
  • Food safety: Food can spoil fast. Consider chafers for hot foods and ice for cold foods. If you’re hosting a potluck, encourage your guests to bring dishes that do not need either. Otherwise, make sure you have enough space set aside in your kitchen, an oven or microwave, and plenty of refrigerator space.
  • Prep Ahead: Encourage your guests to prepare their dishes before they arrive so you don’t have to worry about providing cooking space.
  • Sharing: Have each of your guests bring enough of a dish for at least eight servings.  Request that they write a label with the name of the food and its ingredients so be set up with the food.  This is also a great way to have people display local-food pride!  They can label when something is a generations-old recipe, or when the main ingredients are organic and local!  Ask guests to bring more side dishes than desserts, and be sure at least one of the guests brings a salad.  For smaller parties, not everyone needs to bring a filling food.  Some extra-special pickles, condiments or sauces that complement the other dishes are quite welcome, and ensure that people leave feeling (slightly) less over-full.
  • Setting Up: Get an estimate at least three days before the party. Plan to rent, borrow, or ask guests to bring a few extra chairs and maybe even tables for your larger gatherings.
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Getting set up at a recent NOFA-NY staff potluck. A collection of dishes that we could serve at room temperature, and our collection of serving utensils at the end. We also boiled a big pot of water and enjoyed corn on the cob fresh from a staff member’s organic farm!

  • Serving and Layout: You can bet most of your guests will not remember to bring a serving spoon to go with their dish, I almost never remember and I’m always asking the host. Keep extras on hand. Organize the food layout with a definite beginning and ending. Set the plates, napkins and utensils at one end of the table near the food, so guests know where to line up. Start with the main dishes, then sides, then breads, and finally desserts. I recommend keeping beverages and glasses on a separate table.  If possible, set up a traffic flow that allows people to move down both sides of a table and still access the majority of foods.  If you’re serving a sit-down meal or a more intimate gathering, maybe keep a table to the side where extra dishes are to be kept.

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  • Glassware, Plates, and Silverware: Consider biodegradable and recyclable. Don’t forget you will need napkins, plates, spoons and forks. Guests tend to fill up whatever size plate they have, be it small or large. Go with a smaller plate (8 to 9 inches) so guests don’t overfill and waste food. They can always go back for seconds if they are hungry for more. [Editor’s two cents: We have a set of real plates that we use for NOFA-NY monthly staff potlucks and the occasional field day where we’ll serve food.  Our collection is entirely from thrift stores, which usually have very good prices on lightweight but durable sets of dishes and cutlery.  This is a worthwhile small investment for anyone who wants to regularly host meals, no last-minute trip to the store for biodegradable plates, which are probably more expensive than second-hand dishes after a few parties.  Cloth napkins also add an element of luxury to a meal, but that really depends on the size of your party.]SAMSUNG
  • Beverages and ice chests: So many others would ask their guests to bring a beverage along with their dish, but I can assure you, that’s a nightmare! Unless that’s their offering to the event, be sure to have water, teas, coffee on hand, and plenty of ice. All the other “stuff” can be an extra bonus. You do not want to have nothing but Kool-Aid like drinks because everyone left their organic ice tea or juices they made on their kitchen counter at home.
  • Cleanup: No one wants to clean up after a party, much less a big dinner, but it’s just as important as the prep was. Have plenty of trashcans and recycling bins available during the event, and plan some time at the end of the event to allow for cleanup. Make it a group effort. The fastest “cleaner-upper” could earn a prize of some sort, besides your adoration. [Editor’s tip: If someone is a last-minute guest or someone you know won’t have time to bring an edible contribution, they’ll probably welcome the chance to contribute by being the clean-up captain]

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Editor’s Ideas: While filling bellies is the main activity at an event like this, and though conversations will naturally flow once people sit together, don’t waste the potential of your event to really get people talking and building great locavore-positive moments.  Since this week’s theme is all about sharing stories, making friends and building community, perhaps you’ll think about a way to have people engage around locavorism at your event.  

  • As the host, make sure you introduce people with similar interests or roles within the food world.
  • Have some conversation-starters ready in case you need to break the ice.
  • Think of a quick introduction activity (could be as simple as having extra-large nametags and asking people to write their name AND their favorite September local food).
  • Print out some Locavore Challenge worksheets or interesting short articles on our food system and place them on tables, just in case people need a prop to start conversation.
  • Set up a photo-taking spot with some props and a backdrop (a bedsheet or some streamers will do).  Or do like Think Local Geneseo is doing with a laminated sign and dry-erase markers, where people write why they’re locavores.

Enjoy your Locavore party!  Thanks for being an example of local eating in your community!

The “C” and the “S” in CSA

12 Sep

As we work our locavore muscles to strengthen our community, it only made sense to have a reflection from Nicky Dennis, Community Program Coordinator at NOFA-NY.  Here, she shares her reasons for committing to Commmunity Supported Agriculture, and what that has meant during the 2013 season.

One of my favorite things about the Locavore Challenge is the invitation to grow closer to the community of locavores, to get to know your farmers and food producers, and to inspire others to join in on the fun.  When my boyfriend Nick and I were shopping for a CSA, community was a critical element in our choice.  We were looking for the opportunity to get to know the other shareholders and spend time on the farm, getting to know the farmers and their operation.  When we met Jolene from Morse Family Farm at the Canandaigua CSA Fair, we were enamored by the way she spoke so lovingly of her crops and the excitement she had for every step of their growing process, from selecting heirloom seed to the thickness of the plastic they use for their greenhouses.  She also realized we’d be eating the food, so when she talked about making a stock from mizuna and how they select varieties for taste and nutrition, my chef boyfriend was sold.  We had so much hope, on that snowy February day, for all the goodness that was to come in spring, summer and fall.  Farmers that passionate and involved in their growing process couldn’t fail, it seemed.  Who could have known what intense weather was coming up for 2013’s growing season, affecting so many farmers in the northeast?

First share

Our first week’s food from Morse Family Farm

We received several gorgeous shares of from Morse Family Farm in the spring.  Then Jolene told us that the farm would have to take a break from distributions for about a month.  She explained how the incessant rain had compacted soil on top of their newly planted seeds (they might not germinate, and weren’t guaranteed to produce enough food in the coming months) and had made it impossible to bring tractors on the muddy fields to transplant crops (again, adding uncertainty to the land’s ability to produce even after the rains were hopefully going to let the fields dry out enough).  So many farms were experiencing similar struggles that it immediately brought to mind the community role in Community Supported Agriculture.  Nick and I reminded each other, that CSA is about sharing the risk when situations like this, which are beyond anyone’s control and happen despite careful planning, result in drastic loss.

Jolene was amazing with communication through all of the farm’s tribulations.  That really helped us keep up a positive relationship through the time period we weren’t receiving shares.  We felt that they were including us in the farm, which was, after all, why we wanted to join a CSA.  So the “S” in CSA didn’t just come from us to the farm; it came from the farm back to us as they wanted to tell us what was happening.  We felt supported by their understanding that we weren’t receiving what we and they had hoped for.

I sympathized with their frustrations and loss and hoped that spending a day on the farm, putting in some sweat equity, would reinforce that they had our support through thick and thin.  For me, being a locavore means that I will weather the storm alongside the farmers and delight in delayed gratification.

high tunnel cukes

Cucumbers protected by much of the troublesome weather inside a high tunnel structure at Morse Family Farm.

I headed out to the farm for a day of work in August.  Jolene and I spent the morning weeding the onion plot and chatting about brewing beer, our families, and how we both came to love farming.  Jolene grew up in Alaska where her dad was an organic farmer, supplying to local restaurants.  She met her partner Joe while they were both working (and training to be farmers) at Fellenz Family Farm, an organic CSA and pick-your-own farm in the area.  There is nothing that makes me swoon more than farmers who fall in love on a farm.  It’s easy to see how such passionate people bond when you see how much of themselves they put into their work.   The day I worked at the farm, their five kids were milling about the farm, totally embodying the farm-family lifestyle.  After a family lunch, we got to work reconstructing a high tunnel that was destroyed last winter (see photo below).  I went home covered in dirt and sweat and in an exhausted heap.  I felt proud that my body was up for the challenge.  I was grateful for the opportunity to see the farm, get my hands dirty, and for time spent getting to know the people who devotedly grow my food.

MFF apple orchard

The apple orchards on the farm.

Besides their wonderful family and dedication to producing quality food in the best way, I also respect Morse Family Farm’s dedication to natural resource conservation, low-impact materials use and whole-farm sustainability.  A lot of the implements and infrastructure (the non-plant elements of the land and farm) are repurposed, reused, or “hacked” to fit the needs of the farm.  A really cool thing I learned is that they have set up rain barrels underground, which are fed by farm drain tiles.  Normally, farm drain tiles are used to keep water from drowning the fields, though unfortunately this year’s rains were too much for even that normally functional system of crop protection.  Instead of the rainwater draining into a stream, the barrels collect the excess rainwater, which is then pumped into the farm’s irrigation system.

farm drain tile undrained and drained

To me, Morse Family Farm exemplifies principles of our Farmer’s Pledge program, from serving the health of the land and people to using ethical business practices.  To see three generations working together on the farm reminds me that I’m in it for the long haul.  I’m weathering the storm with them through this season because I know there will be bounty of food and community in the future.  The hope that I have now, as part of my farm’s and CSA’s community, is so much stronger than the excitement I had about receiving good food.  Now it’s about the people behind the food–I know they’re responsible farmers and real people I’ll know and engage in CSA with for years.

MFF family

Joe (dad, farmer, beekeeper), Jacob (son, farm worker), Jolene (mom, farmer), and Gary (grandpa, farmer, business partner, tool and equipment hacking specialist)

Wednesday Worksheet #2: Spread the Word!

11 Sep

In a new move for this blog, we’ve come up with four printable worksheets, which we’ll post on Wednesdays this month.  We all need a little back-to-school type fun this month, right?  So download, print and enjoy!  If you feel so inclined, snap a photo of yourself and your worksheet and share with us on Facebook and Twitter!  Make sure you tag, tag, tag!

locavore tags

This week we are providing you with a worksheet that is very near to our hearts at NOFA-NY.  As we are constantly interacting with people who are new to our organization, we’ve learned the value of concise messaging about the our mission, vision and any program we run.  Similarly, you’ll be able to talk with confidence about the Locavore Challenge if you’ve crafted sort of an elevator pitch to explain why you just refused the boxed (and not from a source you’re including in your local-foods diet) cookies at your staff meeting.

Week 2 Worksheet: Activity Week 2 LC 2013

Missed week 1? That’s this worksheet: Activity Week 1 LC 2013

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Reach Out: Your #Locavore Friends are Waiting!

8 Sep

As we begin week 2 of the Locavore challenge, we’re thinking of the ways that food brings us together.  Most shared meals have this effect, but consider how eating locally offers the chance to make friendships, build new bonds, and keep your community and environment a place to live well.  Perhaps you don’t count farmers as regular dinner guests (but invite them, they may really appreciate someone cooking for them after a day of harvesting winter squash), but going out to a farmers market, buying their food, then treating it with interest and eating it with appreciation all go into building community with local food.  Imagine if nobody did that–what would happen to the farmer, the farmland, and your surroundings?  Now, imagine a brighter future.  What would happen if everyone who went to the farmers market convinced ONE friend, co-worker, or acquaintance to meet them at the farmers market.  How many more farmers would be supported?  How much more food would be available?  How much stronger would the local economy be?  (If you’re interested in some studies on the impact of small local farms, including how they tend to purchase more of their inputs from local sources, check out studies from the Dyson School of Agriculture Economics and Marketing at Cornell and the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems).

local-ingredient cornbread (made with honey and butter, not sugar and oil) and garden-to-table vegetable soup

local-ingredient cornbread (made with honey and butter, not sugar and oil) and garden-to-table vegetable soup

So, what happened in week one?  We saw a big uptick in blog visitors, some action on Facebook and Twitter.  One Twitter user, Amy Reinink, tweeted us photos her yogurt-in-progress.

She even strained it to make it Greek-style and posted about the challenge on her blog!  Way to go, Amy!

Our summer intern Maddy (you’ll read a post from her in a few weeks) has been working to engage community and bringing them to action through Think Local Geneseo.  Here some reasons those people gave why they’re taking the Locavore Challenge:

“I care about local farmers and their families”

“It tastes better”

“Factory farming is wasteful”

“I trust local produce”

“It makes sense”

See all the great reasons on their Facebook photo album.

Many locavores spent a few days last week sharing in traditional foods and activities of Rosh Hashanah.  They were brought into community through shared symbols, faith and for those who saw the connection, through local food-sharing.  It was indeed possible to have a very sweet Locavore Rosh Hashanah, with local apples and honey representing the sweetness anticipated for the new year.  We loved reading blogger Leah’s latest post at Noshing Confessions.  What inspiration, as usual, on good food and making the most of the seasonal bounty in the context of age-old traditions.

Some of us have families that give us instant community, and we can share the locavore challenge with them.  Sarah Raymond, Membership and Development Coordinator, is going through her first Locavore Challenge with NOFA-NY.  Here’s how her first week went:

“This September, as part of my Locavore Challenge, I plan to bring more dialogue into and emphasis on our food activities as a family.  As the month rolls on, I will help my kids keep their own Locavore journals, full of drawings, photographs, recipes we used together, stickers, stories, and most likely, a few smudged food marks. I think it can turn out to be a nice little family tradition every September. We began this week by going to our local farmer’s market. The kids picked out some peaches and blueberries to savor and share while exploring the market. Sure enough, not long after the first few bites, a group of kids had congregated together, each investigating and sharing each other’s food, with their parent’s approval of course. That’s one of the great things about food, it brings people together. For my kids, I want them to know that sharing healthy food is a way to show others their love and respect for them. In toddler terms, we like to give people healthy foods to eat because we care about them and want them be healthy so they can have fun.”

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Others among staff were impressed that a few words spoken to some fairly new friends (“I’m eating local foods as much as possible this month”) had a noticeable impact on those friends’ food-buying habits.  At a recent Labor Day dinner, the hosts were very excited to tell Rachel, Beginning Farmer Coordinator, that the tomatoes were from HER farmer (one she’d pointed out to them upon a chance encounter at the Brighton Farmer’s Market).  Everyone at the party agreed they were some of the meatiest, most delicious tomatoes they’d ever tasted.  True, when someone hears you’re trying to eat mostly local foods this month, you may have to convince them why you think it’s important (it may not be an instant sell).  But if you talk about the challenge in the right way, you can indeed effect change.   More on that later this week! Wednesday’s worksheet will help you come up with a Locavore Sales Pitch, so start thinking about why you are taking the challenge so you can tell others about it.

Let’s end this rumination turning the locavore challenge into a community-builer with some kitchen ideas that take a spin on one of our classic locavore activities.  That activity, appropriate to Grandparent’s Day (today), is to interview a relative about a food tradition.  That’s always a fun one, as some of our past blog posts show.  Decades ago, locavore eating was the only eating, and our grandparents (or great-great-grandparents) might not think of this challenge as anything but normal.  That’s where traditional foods and regional cuisine comes from–what used to be the best things to eat in that place and time.  If you’re low on inspiration from traditions, culture or passed-down recipes, try to make some new ones to repeat.  First think, “What are my local foods?  What’s available (farm-fresh) to cook with today?”  Work backwards to find a recipe that uses that food.  We have plenty of ideas collected on Pinterest.

One more crazy idea (and if you e-mail us a picture, we might just post it here next week) to share with friends and family.  Pick one ingredient.  A fruit or vegetable will be easiest.  Obtain a lot of it (perhaps in various varieties, from different farmers).  Then make a feast out of it.  Don’t just cook one dish with it.  See how many different ways you can play with that one ingredient.  Chances are that next year, whomever you invited to your Broccoli Brunch, your Carrot Circus, your Pepper Potluck Party, your Eggplant Eating Extravaganza, your Tomato Tournament or your Zucchini Zone will want to join in the fun again!  Voila! A Locavore tradition!  Try a variety of dishes, some cold, some hot, some raw, some not, to marvel over that one ingredient’s flavor and texture in all its forms.

lots of kinds of zucchini to test out!

Zucchini "Carpaccio"

raw zucchini salad (Martha Stewart)

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grilled zucchini and tomato salad (the kitchn)

zucchini ricotta galette (smitten kitchen)

zucchini ricotta galette (smitten kitchen)

ugly and therefore tasty zucchini chips

zucchini parmesan chips (smitten kitchen)

Pickle Recipe

quick zucchini pickle on toast with cheese (101 cookbooks)

zucchini ice cream (flavor of italy)

Essay Contest Runner Up: Connecting the Pieces by Melissa Brody

8 Aug

Another runner-up essay from our Locavore Challenge writing contest – enjoy! These essays do not necessarily represent the opinions of NOFA-NY, its staff, or any of its certified organic or farmers pledge farms.  We hope they give you plenty to think about and discuss!

My mom opened the fridge, searching for options. I had barely arrived and she already wanted to fill me with food. She turned and proudly announced she had bought brown eggs. She didn’t want to feel judged. “Where did they come from,” I asked. She stared at me in disbelief, then huffed, “Where did this obsession with local come from? You were never like this before.” She was right.

Growing up, I didn’t think twice about where my food came from; food was just there. While I was in college, a trip to McDonalds occurred at least once a week, and although we cooked, we opted for the exotics—mangoes, avocados, pineapples. They made us feel fancy. Yet somewhere along the way things changed, rapidly. My curiosity awoke and suddenly I wanted, no, needed, to know exactly what I was consuming and where it came from.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Brody

Photo courtesy of Melissa Brody

I traded exotic delicacies for local produce. My senses became alive to the touch, smell, sight, and taste of local food. The first time I tasted an heirloom tomato, I wondered why I spent so many years forcing flavorless supermarket tomatoes down my throat. I became aware of the thick layers of wax that coated far-traveled cucumbers. For the first time I saw baby carrots for what they really were, and considered the labor and waste that went into making those perfectly petit creations.

I became jaded at first, angry about what people bought. Why sell California strawberries in June when they’re growing practically at our feet? Asparagus in December no longer seemed natural. But through my adventure into local, I found so much more than food. Eating local brought me community. We joined a co-op. I no longer dreaded food shopping because I now had a say not just in what I was eating, but what the store carried. We joined a CSA and found neighbors we never knew we had. We visited farms and farmers markets, learning not just where but how our food grew.

Food now had a face. Picking up a fava bean brings me back to the farm stand where the farmer took time to explain how to peel the beans and his favorite way to prepare them. A spoonful of applesauce reminds me of the unseasonably warm September weekend we spent picking apples upstate, then bringing the fruit home to can. An omelet transports me to my first visit to Stone Barns where I collected eggs while chickens pecked at my sneakers.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Brody

Photo courtesy of Melissa Brody

My journey as a locavore has affected my life in ways I could never have imagined. I look at the world differently. I have yet to pinpoint the moment in my life when everything changed. I’m not sure who or what convinced me to question why raspberries, peas, and butternut squash are always available all year long. But I’ve learned to connect the pieces—to understand my impact on this earth, to realize the labor that goes into the meal that sits in front of me and to savor each bite that enters my mouth.

About the author: Melissa Brody is a marketing professional by day, food blogger by night. She is an advocate of the local food movement and founding member of the Bay Ridge Food Co-op. Melissa’s blog, Brooklyn Locavore (bklynlocavore.com) features seasonal original and adapted recipes and locavore finds.

Local Organic Passover and Easter

24 Mar

Feast days are great days to show your friends and family how simply you can incorporate local, seasonal and organic foods into your routine (and not-so-routine) eating.  If you aren’t so confident, especially in these winter-into-spring days, here’s some inspiration for your Passover and Holy Week gatherings.

Eggs and certain meats play heavily into a lot of these celebrations.  Luckily for you and your farmer, eggs are often available (thanks to the hens) year round, and provide some valuable income for those farmers who don’t have an abundance of vegetable and fruit crops.  For this and plenty of other reasons (note: we can’t verify how scientific the linked studies are, but seem to be well-accepted; we do notice a real taste and quality difference at the table, though), we urge you to buy your eggs from a farmer!  With eggs, you can make food for your suddenly-vegetarian cousin, nephew, whomever.  These dishes help stretch out your food dollar as well.  Try your hand at a frittata, a quiche, a savory bread pudding, or a Spanish tortilla filled with NY cheese, herbs, onion, any spring greens you’re fortunate to find locally-grown, and of course our workhorse, the potato.  And as for the meat (and dairy if you’re using it this holiday), we urge you to research how hormones and pesticides accumulate in animal tissues.  When making something like schmaltz, do you want to be concentrating untold contaminants into this rendered fat?  Besides, that chicken probably cost you a bit more than the supermarket chicken, don’t let the extra bits go to waste, make that schmaltz! The simple recipe for rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) from an NPR article tells you all you need to know.  How proud would you be if your schmaltz was local and organic schmaltz?

Spring means still-chilly weather and a feeling like we need to take a little of the heaviness out of our diet.  Perfect for broth-y spring soups that could care less that the long-stored veggies look a little less pristine and plump these days.  The classic Matzoh ball soup is locavore makeover-ready.  Find as many of the ingredients local and organic, (chicken, garlic, herbs, carrots, perhaps some other veggies too) and you’ve done a great thing without overriding your traditions.  If you’re not tied to a particular holiday soup, work with any local vegetables you can find, add plenty of chopped or crushed herbs for brightness, and you’re mostly there!  Dice up that last butternut squash or bag of potatoes and add them into the soup pot for a dainty treatment of these hefty winter staple vegetables.

Fresh recipes aside, did you preserve anything this summer or fall?  If spring holidays aren’t the right time to open those jars, is there any hope for this world?  Even I, stingy and apocalypse-ready, will be opening some jars preserves and pickles at this time of year, and cooking down the last of the frozen strawberries into something heavenly.

Honey also plays into a lot of our recipes this time of year.  While it’s definitely too cold for any new honey, there’s often a farmer or beekeeper who still has some honey from the last year.  Just like eggs, this is a crucial economic helper for the farmer in this season of transition from storage foods to fresh growth.  Of course, there are plenty of food-safety and -quality issues that would also drive you to find local honey (not to mention eggs and meats).  Can you make your charoset with local apples and honey?  We bet you can!

If you’re more flexible on your celebration dishes, may we suggest:

Carrot and beet salad with honey dressing–more beautiful than easter eggs!

Roasted carrots (instead of baby carrots in the linked recipe, just cut down regular carrots into uniform sticks or spears); find some local butter and herbs to enhance!

Dilled potato gratin (ok, the opposite of the spring broth soup idea, but filling for a crowd!)

Egg bread can use local flour and eggs (I just realized it may seem strange that I’m used to eating a Jewish traditional celebration bread for celebrations during the time of year when my Jewish friends can’t eat flour…sorry guys!)

NY wines!  Don’t forget (if you don’t need Kosher for Passover wine) to drink local if you drink with your celebrations.

Organic Matzoh? Easter chocolate/candy?  Probably can’t get these locally, but you KNOW there are fair-trade, organic options that are mighty tasty, right?  Check a natural foods store for that sort of thing.

 

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