Tag Archives: meals

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)

Advertisements

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.

potluck2

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.
locavore spread staff inservice

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.

image_10

  • 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]

cleanplates

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!

On Finding Balance: 5 Strategies for Happy Locavore Times

3 Sep

Lea Kone, a Rochester local who’s worked in the organic farming advocacy world since 2008, writes in today.  Read on for an in-depth look at how she works Locavore principles into her life year round.

Five years ago, I went on a relaxing Caribbean vacation with two books packed for beach reading–Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I am not entirely sure what inspired the local-foods themed picks, but I do know this: After that vacation, my life was never the same. I flew through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver’s prized non-fiction account of her family’s year-long attempt to eat only food that they grew themselves or could obtain locally. Everything about the book – from Kingsolver’s exquisite writing, to the recipes, and even the facts and figures in the footers– drew me in and made me want to do what they were doing.  I was hungry and ready to become a local foods “disciple” and to spread the word about how eating local and organic could save the world.  And that was when I became a believer. I quit my job, moved back to New York and began a career in the organic farming and advocacy field. You’re thinking “she did all that just from reading two books?” – the answer is yes.

I was terrified for my first day of work in the organic farming advocacy sector, not because it was a new job, or because it was a new “field” to me.  I had no idea what to anticipate for those things, but my actual panic was about what to pack for lunch.  I was in the process of moving into a new apartment, I hadn’t unpacked a single kitchen utensil and had zero idea how I was I going to whip up some amazing local, organic, and seasonally appropriate dish to bring for lunch.  Would my coworkers ask where the grain from my bread was grown? Was my cheese local, organic or both? Was it better to bring a vegetarian meal or show my commitment to pastured protein sources? I thought that being committed to “the good food revolution,” and working within the field meant that I must become the ULTIMATE LOCAVORE immediately.  I did not encounter sideways looks or a shunning based on my lunch choices.  I have since learned that the community of locavores is encouraging, but most of the pressure to perform comes from within.  During the Locavore Challenge, we have a chance to put more focus on our habits and what more we can do, and this is a good thing.  In those first few days of wanting to be the best possible locavore, I had some lessons to learn about what really mattered to me in that department.

wheattasting 077

Eating locally and organically can be (but doesn’t have to be) over-thought and stressful. The truth is that this change to local and organic is supposed to be a good, healthy and happy change in your life, but forcing yourself to become The Ultimate Locavore is too much.  It’s too much change, too fast, and too absolute.  Now that I think about it, that’s a good life lesson in general, but it’s an imperative lesson when becoming a Locavore, and more importantly, a Locavore who still sees their friends. [Editor’s note: don’t forget that you can engage your friends and find new ones through the locavore challenge, though Lea certainly has a point here about not creating Locavore-colored walls around yourself].

When I participated in the very first Locavore Challenge in 2010, I tried to approach it like an Iron Man Challenge. I stripped my cabinets bare of any imported pastas, oils, sugars, and regionally un-identifiable canned beans and vegetables. I trained like I was a future Olympian as well, pre-preparing tomato sauces, chicken broths, crackers, breads and soups.  I made local, organic ice creams and plum upside down cakes for desserts, became a connoisseur of fine sustainable New York State Rieslings and turned my nose up at people with bananas or peanut butter.

locavore pig

So, “Fine,” you might grumble, “You’re great at being a Locavore.  What’s the problem?” Well, attempting the Locavore Challenge with too much force, as an obsession and with an all-or-nothing approach rather than a passionate pursuit with some self-forgiveness and flexibility built in, will probably wear you out.  Going “cold (organic) turkey” is a tough approach for anything.  You’ll know if you’ve taken it too far, because the next thing you know you’re 20 days (or 2 days) into the challenge and hiding in a dark corner of your local bar on a Wednesday night inhaling a piece of pizza made with ingredients from who-knows-where, contemplating a non-organic, not-lovingly-prepared, not-local chicken wing, and rationalizing it all because you are drinking a Peak Organic NY Local Series Beer and muttering incoherently under your breath “at least I know where my hops come from.”   For the record, Peak Organic is brewed in Maine, but that particular brew is produced with all NY state ingredients.  Take it a little easier than the perfection approach, find the areas in which you can sanely and reasonably challenge yourself to do more, and you’ll find yourself increasing your Locavore lifestyle without that binge effect.

Top 5 List for Becoming a Locavore Living and still LIVING

5. Identify your breakfast options right away. It is the most important meal of the day, and if you start your day as a grumpy, hungry, unprepared Locavore, you are going to be sitting in Dunkin’ Donuts sulking and ashamed by Day 3.

My Breakfast Go-To: Fritttata (that’s EASY EGG DISH in Italian)

A frittata is as good, if not better, cold than hot and great for lunch or dinner too. Start by sauteeing local veggies, bacon (if desired) and potatoes. Add beaten eggs, cheese, and seasoning. Heat until set and then finish under the broiler.

4. Discover local grains. Wheat berries, freekeh, rolled oats, cornmeal and local wheat flours are going to change your world. Open your arms to them.
Grains (photo: John-Paul Sliva)

My Local Grain Go-To: Polenta (that’s CORN MUSH in Italian)

It is easy to make, super versatile, and is good for any meal of the day. Try it with a poached egg and salsa in the morning, or with cheese, sausage and roasted veggies for lunch of dinner.

IMAG0078

3. Commit to one afternoon or evening in the kitchen. It’s no surprise that a little advance planning and preparation
can make a world of difference. Pick one day, either the same day or shortly after a market or CSA day and go nuts in the kitchen.

My Day: Sunday

My market of choice is Sunday morning, and for me, it just makes sense to shop, come home and wash and prep all of my market bounty [Lea’s not the only one hip to this plan]. I like to start by roasting a whole chicken, and then turn that into a soup that I can enjoy well into the week.

My Chicken Soup: Shredded chicken with homemade broth, and chock full of the extra roasted veggies from the roasted chicken. My favorites: carrots, onions, fennel, parsnips and potatoes. This becomes a hearty stew like soup that embraces all of the flavors of late summer and early fall.

John-Paul Sliva 021

Cut up and roast a big pan of root vegetables on your in-the-kitchen day. You’ll have food for now and the start of hearty salads and sides later in the week.

2. Set realistic goals. Will you choose a few non-local items that you must have: coffee, tea, peanut butter and eat 100% local otherwise? Will you just eat local at home? Or will you try and replace certain items in your cupboards or refrigerators with local alternatives?

My Goal: To eat 90% local and organic.

This is really my goal all year, and its really my aim for it to be as close to 100% as possible, but I believe that setting reasonable and achievable goals is always better than setting oneself up for failure. This season is bountiful with local products, so I start by stocking my fridge exclusively with local and organic fruits and vegetables. I choose local grains, beans, meats and dairy products as well, and allow myself to add small amounts of non-local oils, seasonings and accents (like the occasional lemon or Parmesan cheese). That sets me up for being nearly 100% at home, and allows me to be open for what options I may have before me while eating with friends or family.

Locavore home cooking: sauteed okra, herbs and corn fritters.

Locavore home cooking: sauteed okra, herbs and corn fritters.

1. Be real. Let yourself be human, and don’t aim for perfection. Even the most committed local and organic food experts have occasions when they eat chocolate and bananas and drink coffee and tea. Of course, they prefer Equal Exchange, Fair Trade and Organic to Dole, Nestle and Folgers, but you get the gist. This isn’t the Organic Olympics or the Sustainability Seminary. Give yourself a break and just focus on enjoying the delicious food.

A Month of Locavore-Positive Action!

1 Sep

Today is day one of this year’s NOFA-NY Locavore Challenge!  It seemed appropriate to write our first long read on the topic of the choice to have a whole (long) month, again, to focus on supporting local and organic farms through our food, activity, and advocacy choices.  We at NOFA-NY are not expecting that everyone comes to the Locavore idea from the same experience, or even with as much enthusiasm as we do.  On the other hand, we don’t use the word “challenge” to make you worried that each decision will be hard.  “Locavore Focus Month” or “Locavore Encouragement Month” just don’t have that same ring and excitement to them as “Locavore Challenge.”

website

Really, “challenge” is a verb here.  We’re challenging you to meet September’s potential by seeing your decisions from a Locavore perspective.  You can choose your own adventure, which is made up of many moments and decisions.    How many of them can you make into Locavore-positive moments?  When you add up your Locavore-positive decisions at the end of the month, you may even realize that it would have seemed a monumental task to take on if you’d made a to-do list at the outset.  It’s good to have your own rules, guidelines, and a to-try list.  That’s definitely what this month is for… motivating yourself  to support local, organic and farmer’s-pledge farms, your local economy, and perhaps your health (assuming you don’t use the Locavore prerogative to subsist on local cheeses, ice cream and wine for all of September).

grain on sieveLet’s talk about the opportunities a month-long challenge presents in terms of the small decisions we each make regularly.  Eating breakfast (and yes you should, especially with so many local goodies for this mealtime), think about what goes into it.  Each component presents a decision.  What do you normally eat, and what could you trade up for a locally-produced food?  No, don’t over-think it.  But think about it a little bit.  You can put brown sugar (not local) or maple syrup (the local stuff) on your (maybe local) bowl of oats or cooked-grain cereal.  And while you’re considering breakfast cereals, have you ever tried cooked and cooled wheat berries as a healthy breakfast cereal? They’ll never get soggy like dry cereals, and you can keep plenty of cooked grain on hand for a fast morning breakfast.  Look for locally-grown wheat, spelt, rye grains (called berries) or Freekeh (which is a roasted green spelt grain with a nutty and smoky flavor–great for bacon lovers).  Your choice, but we recommend you try it as part of the challenge.  You could eat yogurt produced by a local food artisan or a farmer themselves, or you could eat local HOMEMADE yogurt, and you could add in ONLY locally-grown fruits, put some local honey on top, and chew it all slowly while thinking appreciative thoughts about the farmers who moved fencing every 12 hours to keep the cows on fresh grass, and then who milked the cows, kept the milk clean and sanitary through its journey from cow to yogurt making to market to your breakfast bowl (wait, is that breakfast bowl made by a local potter? Okay, just kidding).

Spotted at NOFA-NY HQ: wheat berries, homemade yogurt and local fruit for an on-the-go breakfast.

Spotted at NOFA-NY HQ: wheat berries, homemade yogurt and local fruit for an on-the-go breakfast.

What other decision points are there?  Too many to name!  You probably don’t eat in the house every day.  What food do you take with you to your sit-down job?  That’s a decision and you can challenge yourself to remember to pack a local-foods-focused meal each day.  Maybe your decision is to cook extra of that recipe that uses local chicken, and you bring that for part of your lunch one or two days.  Maybe that local organic chicken is a bit out of your price range for a double recipe, so you decide that those local organic potatoes and carrots, so flavorful at the end of September, would bulk up that dish and give you enough for leftovers.  And maybe your hand hovers around your go-to-makes-everything-taste-better bottled spice blend, and then you remember you impulse-bought a blend of dried herbs from that sweet hippie at the farmers market two weeks ago.  In September, go for the local decision.

Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, NY

Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, NY

You just packed a whole lot of Locavore-positive decisions into one meal, one moment, and you build some great habits.  You can do that, and you can do more!  You have a whole month!  What do you normally take with you when you’ve overslept and feel a time crunch getting where you need to go?  Make a local-positive choice in September.  Locally-grown apples (maybe you picked them yourself) are just as portable as a banana.  Bananas don’t grow in New York; apples definitely do.  Why only grab one apple from your stockpile?  Take several, and keep them at work, and then that one decision will have a multiplier effect.  No need to scrounge up a granola bar or a bag of chips when you have an apple at arm’s length!  You’ll slowly train yourself to take the small steps that allow you to make the good decisions, and it really starts with simply examining some of your actions and eating decisions.

Some of our decisions fall into that presence-of-mind category and aren’t entirely visible.  These are decisions that make the food you’re eating matter a bit more, as you actually pay attention to it.  What’s the point of a great locally-sourced meal that you kind of ignore while you watch TV?  You can decide to turn off the technology that generally accompanies your morning, just try it on Tuesdays to start (turn-off Tuesdays, as a way to remember), and focus in on how thankful you are for those who crouched over the melon vines, and then found the energy to keep each melon from bursting (they’re very fragile when they’re picked ripe) in the back of a truck on the way to your farmers market.  You can even let yourself feel a little smug for passing over that plastic clamshell package of nonlocal berries in favor of that melon, even though you really wanted to make the delicious-looking strawberry shortcake recipe trending on Pinterest (don’t those pinners know what’s in season?).

A lot else, besides eating, happens in any given month, of course!  It’s easy to get Locavore-foodie fatigue, or feel like all you’re talking about is food.  When that happens, maybe you shift focus to a Locavore experience, to researching ways you can conserve farmland in New York, or to calling up a friend you haven’t seen in a while to go apple picking (the movies and coffee dates are for non-September months; picking fruit or strolling a local-focused event are September outings).  You’ve decided to do something Locavore-positive with that time, so nice work!  Soon enough (maybe not that same day), you’ll be excited to tackle that recipe substitution project to convert Aunt Sally’s famous chicken pot pie recipe into a local-foods-heavy family favorite, because your earlier activities remind you how food choices are facilitated by ALL the ways you support local food and farming.  And that connection lets you appreciate that you (okay, begrudgingly, because you wanted to watch TV) spent a drizzly, humid morning with your kids, trying to keep their hands from sneaking those berries at the farm stand (scolding them but silently grateful they’re developing a taste for fruit and not artificial flavors) while you loaded up on sweet corn that you’d eventually teach your berry-stained-fingered kids to shuck in the front yard.  If you’re making Locavore-positive decisions, and creating experiences around them, you’re doing the Locavore Challenge!

YayForFarming_ErinBullock

Don’t forget to share with us–each Sunday we plan to highlight interesting comments, tweets, Facebook posts and photos from the previous week.  Yes, you also make decisions about what you share, and we challenge you to spread the Locavore love whenever you can!

Liking Salad

5 Sep

No, the Locavore Challenge isn’t a conspiracy to force you or your loved ones to eat vegetables or become a plant-based eater (formerly known as vegetarian or vegan).  However, vegetables and fruits are some of the most dynamic and dramatic local foods, with such obvious peak seasons and a “height of readiness” that is hard to stall (hence we can, dry, freeze and over-consume these when they are abundant and cheap, as Leda Meredith has helpfully reminded us).  And you can get REALLY into these foods and make great salads.  Or you can make terrible salads.  As NOFA-NY’s resident salad addict (um, I have a Tumblr on the topic) I decided I’d quickly run down some of my favorite “corrections” for common salad-averse individuals and the resources that taught me to improve my game with salad.  Tomorrow’s “food of the day” is greens, so of course I wanted to post this a day in advance to get you really craving some vitamin-packed leafy greatness.  HAVE FUN AND EAT YUMMY! –Rachel

My top two authority reference materials for building a salad: The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen (see page 36–I’m probably accidentally copying her, word for word, since I used this book so much when learning to cook) and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison (pp. 134 and up).  I hate to reneg on my earlier point about accidental or subliminal vegetarian indoctrination, but the vegetarians do have the salad-making instructions down pat.  Many vegetarian cookbooks take time to explain these tips in the beginning of their salad chapter.  Or maybe it’s that I just own a whole mess of vegetarian cookbooks and don’t much bother with full-spectrum ones, being a lifelong vegetarian.  In any case, look at the beginning of a salad chapter in any big cookbook, and there are bound to be pointers.

Common issue  #1: “It’s just not fun to eat a salad.”

  • Translation: you’ve got a texture issue and you’re chewing something that makes you feel a little too much like a cow or a rabbit.  Learn the art of the massaged salad.  With tough greens and leaves like kale and cabbage, sprinkle some salt over your shredded/finely chopped leaves and massage it in for a few minutes.  Then leave those leaves (yikes) in a colander or strainer for 20 minutes (chop the rest of your salad), rinse them and drain them and dry them and then add to your marvelous creation.  Update for 2013: kale salad got big this year.  We’ve all learned that you can make this the star of your salad, and I’ll stand by the technique, despite whatever else is out there, that you should finely chop the leaves, massage in salt, pepper, oil and acid components, and let it sit for a while, unless you like a jaw workout. Then continue.
  • For tender greens, lettuce and baby mixes, dress them separately before you add anything else.  Add a tiny amount of oil (sunflower and squash seed are both great dressing options) and salt and pepper and gently mix with your hands, two wooden spoons or salad tongs.  Then splash on some of your finished dressing (this is the ideal extra-fussy step…at least oil and salt separately)
  • With hard vegetables, it’s important to get them broken down a bit by changing their physical structure.  Adding too-large chunks of carrot or cucumber to a nice bowl of lettuce would be like trying to lie on a bed with incorrect sized sheets and odd pillows.  Right elements, wrong sizes and shapes to be effective.  Use a vegetable peeler to make fine ribbons of almost anything: carrots, zucchini (yep, eat it raw when it’s a young one), kohlrabi; invest in a nice shredder (mine cost just $20 and I rarely waste food by creating a mass of raw slaw about once a week and eating through that for my lunches), it makes quick work of cabbage (use the flat blade, not the grater), beets, radishes, anything!
  • Combine the greens and prepared veggies in a ratio that doesn’t weigh down the greens so much.  You might have leftovers (use them in tomorrow’s salad!).
  • Only toss in watery vegetables like tomatoes at the last second, after you’ve dressed and mixed the rest of your salad.  Salt, pepper and dress your tomato wedges or slices separately and then lay them on top your salad.  Whole cherry tomatoes are fine to toss.
  • Cook some of those veggies!  If you+raw____ does not = love, don’t sweat it.  I love to add odds and ends of cooked sweet potatoes, leftover stir-fry and steamed vegetables to my mixtures.  It’s all salad if you ask me.
  • Mix in some non-vegetable matter, plant-based or otherwise for a creamy or crunchy texture.  Tip #3 will give some ideas.

Common issue #2: Strong mustard/earthy/bitter flavor from the raw veggies

  • Beets are a common bitterness culprit here, as are over-ripe cucumbers.  On the earthy/mustardy complaint: that’s your brassica family, namely raw broccoli, cauliflower, full-grown kale and cabbage.  Chopping small, pre-cooking, salting all help out with the strong flavors.
  • Add in something sweet and fresh like thinly-sliced sweet apple, melon or even berries and grapes.  Also, learn the balance of a good salad dressing.
  • My frequent mistakes/corrections: forgetting to add sweet (have you ever added honey to a dressing over bitter vegetables? such a game-changer), needing to brighten up with fresh herbs or citrus juice (but that’s not local! try tomato juice for some acid).
  • Here’s a favorite not-too-simple salad dressing recipe, but if you have a cookbook, you likely have a recipe.  Focus on ingredient ratios and substitute what you have in terms of local oils, acids and herbs/spices.  Nut butter and yogurt can really correct all manner of evils in salad dressing, as would a dab of mustard or a drop of soy sauce.  Don’t forget to add salt and pepper, no matter what you do!

Common issue #3: A salad just doesn’t “do it.”

Ok, add some protein and/or grains.  Here are some awesome favorites you may or may not have in your Locavore pantry:

  • Cooked grains (wheat berries, farro)
  • Corn cut from the cob (and if you’ve never tried extra-fresh corn raw, DO)
  • Cooked beans
  • Leftover meats
  • Tofu–cooked or raw (teach yourself to make baked tofu and never have a boring salad again!)
  • Hard-boiled egg, or leftover omelette or scrambled eggs
  • Shaved hard cheese, shredded or cubed softer cheeses, smears of very soft (like goat) cheese
  • Sprouts
  • Any leftovers, actually.  Next time you roast or grill veggies, try your hardest to keep some to the side for tomorrow’s salad.  A good idea is to further chop these down once cooled.
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola (or home-made granola from local grains)
  • Chopped pickles or other brined/fermented food

Is your salad boring still?  Add chopped herbs: parsley, chives, cilantro, basil, lovage, tarragon, thyme.  Go easy at first, but if you’re blessed to have a bunch of herbs lying around, they can be really fantastic additions.

Yes, salads of this sort take longer to put together, but undressed (i.e. chopped but not salted or oiled/vinegared) vegetables will keep several days, so you can prep once and keep trying different combinations and dressing throughout the week.  Kale salad, minus tender greens, gets better overnight.

Chopped red pepper, raw broccoli, arugula, massaged slaw of cabbage, carrot and beets. Drizzled some squash seed oil and spicy cider vinegar on top, and to complete the meal ate some homemade bread with nut butter and jam.

More salad/raw foods eye candy (no Locavore promises here…but it will get you hungry):

NY Times Health: Summer Salads

Food 52 salad category

101Cookbooks salad category

Splendid Table Salads

%d bloggers like this: