Posts Tagged ‘cranberry’

Week 30: December 15 – 21

December 22, 2008

We’ve gotten a lot of snow over the past few days.  Shoveling has been a pain – sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively.  The snow has interfered with school and with holiday celebrations.   I like weather, though.  Especially in the city, it’s a reminder that we are subject to the vagaries of nature.  Before I became a locavore, weather was how I understood the seasons.  Now I have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of how many changes come with every season.

My nearly-all-local meal of the week (in the spirit of the Dark Days challenge) was very much a seasonal meal.  We made latkes tonight for the first night of Hanukkah from potatoes that we dug ourselves, and ate them with homemade applesauce.  If the weather hadn’t been so bad, we would have had local eggs to make the latkes with.  Instead we used my mother’s generic grocery store eggs.  They might be local, I suppose.  We drank local apple cider (the non-alcoholic kind) with our meal, and my brother gave me a pack of Harpoon hard apple cider because he found out that they use local apples, and he knew I would like that!

It was a good week for cooking with kale.  At the beginning of the week, we cooked wide-leaf Dinosaur kale (Massachusetts grown, from our winter CSA in week 29) in a style we learned from Green Cafe in Bethlehem, PA.  They use it for collards and that’s our favorite green to do it with, but it works well for pretty much every kind of strong-flavored leafy green, including the ones nobody writes recipes for, like radish greens.    At Green Cafe, they cook the beans separately, but we like to make a one pot meal.  As we have adapted it, here’s the recipe:

  1. In a large skillet, heat lots of minced or pressed garlic in a generous amount of olive oil.
  2. Add black beans (either dried beans that have been soaked/simmered until soft or canned beans).
  3. While the beans heat through, add dried dried basil, cumin, and a bit of cayenne.  If the beans were dried, add a generous amount of salt, too.
  4. Add chopped greens to the skillet. 
  5. Sprinkle the greens with more basil, cumin, cayenne, and salt.  Drizzle them with more olive oil.
  6. Mix the beans and greens together.  Keep cooking until the greens wilt to the texture you like.
  7. Serve over rice.

Later in the week, we used older curly leaf kale (also Massachusetts grown, from our winter CSA in week 28) to make soup.  Wilted vegetables make good soup.  Particularly wilted vegetables make good pureed soups.

To make lentil-kale soup, I simmer about a cup of lentils (preferably organic French green, from bulk bins at a natural foods store) in about two quarts of water.  When they start to break down, I add a couple of cloves of fresh garlic (pressed or minced) one or two teaspoons of garam masala (an Indian sweet-and-savory spice mix), salt to taste, and about half a cup of lemon juice.  Shortly before serving, I add one bunch of kale, chopped.  The exact quantities vary every time I make the soup.   We ate it with baked circles of sweet potatoes, sort of oven fries in a different shape.  I mixed honey (local) and brown mustard (not) to make a dipping sauce.

Soup is especially easy to adjust seasonings in while cooking.  One of the joys of being vegetarian is that you can taste as you go.  No salmonella to worry about, especially with foods coming from local farms.

It was also a week for cooking pumpkin. One of them we cooked to freeze.  My husband baked it, because that doesn’t require peeling, so it’s relatively minimal labor.  After he scooped out the flesh, I whirred it in a miniprep.  It didn’t actually puree, because it’s a bit too stringy, but it’s all tiny bits and will be good for baking.  We seasoned and baked the seeds, as we always do.  Those were for eating right away.  We’ve baked enough squash seeds this season that we finally know how much salt and how much spice to put on (usually garlic, maybe cumin and a bit of cayenne). 

The other pumpkin had to be eaten right away.  The reason we cooked it was that it had spots of rot.  It looked like a cartoon of Swiss cheese when my husband was done peeling it and cutting out the bad spots.  That one got boiled.  It got very soft, not at all stringy, but quite waterlogged.  I drained it as well as I could, and mashed it with a potato masher.  I learned the hard way that pumpkins should only get sweet seasonings, not savory.  Butternut squash is good with maple syrup (with or without butter and salt); with butter and sage (better with chunks, not mashed); or with cumin, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt.  Pumpkin is decidedly not.  We usually finish what we make.  We were not able to finish the Tex-Mex spiced pumpkin. 

On a completely different note, our CSA share this week included:  apples, cranberries, onions, acorn squash, carrots, celeriac, thyme, and lettuce from Massachusetts; red potatoes that might be from Massachusetts or might be from Vermont; garlic, kale, and pecans from North Carolina; collard greens that are probably from North Carolina but they didn’t actually tell us; and peppers and oranges from Florida.

Sharing a share means sometimes we get lucky and what we like better they like less, and vice versa.  We split the oranges, cranberries, pecans, carrots, garlic, sweet potatoes, and red potatoes half-and-half.  We each got one pepper.  We split the one head of lettuce half-and-half with a knife.  Both couples ate lettuce-and-pepper salads that night, and it was delicious.  We have so many apples that the other couple took all the ones in good enough shape to eat straight, and I took the few that were good only for making applesauce.  We have so much squash from our summer CSA that we took the tiny acorn squash and the other couple took the large one.  One of them doesn’t like celeriac but both of us do, and there was only the one root, so we scored that.  We still haven’t cooked with any of the thyme we got before, so when we got more thyme, the other couple got it.  They got all the onions, too, because I can’t eat them.  I was excited by collard greens and un-excited by yet more kale, and the other couple felt exactly the opposite, so it was easy to decide who got which greens.  The collard greens were a much bigger bunch than the kale, so that helped to balance out quantities, too.

I feel like we need a winter CSA for January through April rather than December through March.  We still have so many storage vegetables from our summer CSA and from careful shopping at the end of the farmers market season.  When the squash has all been eaten or gone rotten, and the potatoes have all been eaten or turned green and sprung shoots, and the cabbage has been eaten or grown mold, then it will be time for fresh vegetables from elsewhere.  We have a long way to go.

Week 27: November 23 – 30

November 30, 2008

This week included Thanksgiving, the biggest harvest holiday in the United States. All the foods it celebrates are in season and local here in the Boston area: pumpkins, squash, potatoes, cranberries, turkey. Stuffing, well, then we’re back to the problem that wheat (the bread type from which most stuffing is made around here) is no longer grown in New England.

Because we traveled to be with relatives, we weren’t in much position to infuse the meals with food that was actually local.  Our contribution was homemade Baldwin applesauce.  Other than that, I focused on enjoying the act of sitting down with extended family (all of whom I love – I know not everyone can say that) to enjoy a generous meal. 

While at home earlier in the week, we continued our usual pattern of eating local.  A one-pot-meal included pinto beans, couscous, cheese, Mexican seasonings, and green peppers from the freezer.  We enjoyed a stir-fry with bok choy from last week’s farmers market, the last greens of the farmers market season.  There was a smaller farmers market this week where we bought 20 pounds of Baldwin apples for sauce-making for only $15.  In case you’re counting, that was 5 pounds for Thanksgiving, 15 pounds for us.

Tonight we ate leftover vegetarian “holiday loaf” with little dumpling squash that were baked until they were meltingly soft.  Delicious!  They didn’t need the butter or maple syrup that I put on, but that didn’t stop me.  We made a batch of cranberry-apple sauce before supper, and ate some of that with our meal, too.  We spiced it with cardamom, ginger, and a bit of cinnamon.  (We never add any sweetner.  The apples are plenty sweet enough.)  We made the sauce to pack with lunches, because apples are now too soft to enjoy eating whole. 

We also baked, scooped, mashed, and froze a butternut squash.  When served, I might mash in butter and maple syrup, in classic Thanksgiving style.  Or I might mash in garlic powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt.  In that case, I might serve it with black beans and corn tortillas, making a sort of tostada.  If it were cubed, it could be cooked with butter and sage, and tossed with pasta.  Butternut squash is remarkably versatile, which is a good thing given how many we have from our summer CSA, and how many more we are likely to get from our winter CSA.

Week 26: November 16 – 22

November 21, 2008

I’m a bit of a supermarket voyeur.  While I’m waiting in the checkout line, I look at what other people have in their carts and I make assumptions about what I see.  Today I was in line behind a woman whose cart was loaded with produce.  I thought about what she must think of me, if she was looking into my cart.  It was piled high with starches (all whole-grain, of course), some legumes, plenty of dairy.  The only produce I bought was a gallon of local cider and four pounds of cranberries.  I wonder if a stranger looking at my cart would assume (incorrectly) that I simply didn’t eat produce, or if they would assume (correctly) that my produce comes from elsewhere.

The cranberries might be local or might not.  The Ocean Spray grower’s cooperative now includes farmers in Wisconsin and Washington.  My bags of cranberries said they might have been packed in any of those places.  Simply because of the economics of shipping, though, I’m confident that my cranberries are local.

The Eat Local Challenge mentality has stuck with me.  I particularly noticed it in the fruit section, when I had to divert my gaze from juicy, delicious looking citrus and stay focused on finding cranberries.  They were next to the celery, of course.  It seemed to me a bizarre spot, but now that I think about it, maybe not so.  Celery was a fad food at the same time (1830s, give or take) that Thanksgiving was gaining prominence and becoming a national holiday.  So celery sticks have remained a Thanksgiving food, as have cranberries. 

Week 26 means we’re halfway through our challenge year.  We got our last mid-week farmers market vegetables this week (two bunches of bok choy).  The easy part is over.  Our regular sources of fresh vegetables (CSA and farmers market) are both over for the year.  Taking stock, we’re in decent shape.  We have plenty of fresh squash sitting around, and potatoes and turnips.  Inside our refrigerator are lots of carrots, parsnips, and beets.  Our freezer is full of an incredible variety of vegetables.  We have apples fresh, as frozen sauce, and as dried slices.   We need to process other things soon.  Some of the apples are developing rotten spots, as are some of the squashes.  We cut the rotten end off a butternut squash a few days ago, and baked the rest of it, and it’s just fine, especially mashed with butter and maple syrup.

The bok choy and a bit of lettuce are the only greens left in our refrigerator.  We recently ate the fennel from week 20, baked with paremesan cheese and rosemary.  Rosemary goes well with fennel, but it’s easy to use too much and overpower the flavor of the fennel itself.  It was the only way we’ve prepared fennel that we really liked, and it was easy.  The mustard greens that we picked ourselves and had intended to freeze never did get frozen.  Earlier this week, I picked through them and tossed about a third of the leaves because they had yellowed or developed too many brown spots.  The rest of it went into curried mustard greens and chickpeas (Joy of Cooking recipe), made with a hockey puck of frozen diced tomatoes

We couldn’t make it until next harvest season begins on only the vegetables we already have.  I think the plan was to see how long we could go.  As the local food movement grows, though, more options become available.  We joined our CSA the first year it operated.  (Our farmer previously grew for farmers markets and restaurants.)  We’re getting to repeat the process now as one of our farmers market growers is starting up a winter CSA.  I’m sure we’ll get yet more squash from them, because part of the CSA will be storage vegetables.  They also have greenouses, so we’ll be among the lucky few to savor fresh, local greens this winter.  In addition, they’ve arranged with other farmers and growers along the Atlantic Seaboard to get things like Florida oranges for us–not quite local food.  It’s still all from smaller farms that are important parts of their community and are mostly certified organic.  I certainly want to support that!

Weeks 24-25: November 2 – 15

November 13, 2008

At the end of the CSA season, our farmer likes to invite shareholders out to the farm to do a bit of picking our own produce.  We went the first weekend in November.  It was a beautiful day to be outside.  We pulled turnips, saving the good greens, and leaving the brown or bug-eaten ones to compost in the field.  We cut tatsoi, mustard greens, and kale to freeze, and a bit of mizuna to cook fresh.  We dug potatoes, which was fun, because my husband had never seen the above-ground part of a potato, and it had been a few years since I’d last dug potatoes, so neither of us was quite sure what we were looking for.  Between my memory and our farmer’s directions (telling us where in his fields to look for what) we were successful enough.  There were also lots of squashes already picked for us, and we chose mostly butternut to take home, because I know more ways to cook it.  We also took a few Little Dumpling, because there’s something fun about one squash = one serving.  Unlike last year, when most of our haul was carrots and parsnips, we pulled neither this year.  The carrots were all gone, and the parsnips were in a different field.

We didn’t think turnip greens would freeze well, especially because we like the crunch of the stems, so we planned to eat them fresh while freezing the other greens from our CSA.  We made a turnip, greens, and tofu stir-fry shortly after our visit to the farm.  It was too hard to get the cooking times right, so the turnips ended up too soft (mush, even) before the greens were wilted enough. 

With the rest of the greens, after they’d had another week to wilt in the fridge, I pureed them into soup.  Wilted greens pureed into soup are wonderful.  I chopped, boiled, and then pureed together a few potatoes, a turnip, the remaining turnip greens, in a broth of water (1 to 2 cups per potato), salt, pepper, garlic powder, hot pepper, and smoked paprika.  Choosing the right spices for a vegetable makes such a difference. 

We’ve been eating some squash, too.  Buttercup squash is a lot like acorn squash.  It works, but is boring, baked and served with butter and maple syrup in the cavity.  Been there, ate that, lots more squash left.  At least all those are local foods.  My mother gave us a pineapple (very much not a local food) but we forgot to eat it while it was really fresh.  So we cut up the pineapple and filled buttercup squash cavities with pineapple chunks, plus a bit of water, and sprinkled the whole thing generously with a Jamaican spice mix, then baked the squash.  Jamaican pineapple squash is a delicious combination, well worth repeating. 

Pineapple isn’t the only fruit I’ve been playing with.  I made oatmeal this weekend (steel-cut, not rolled) studded with cranberries and chunks of apple (both local, of course), sweetened with maple syrup (local again), and spiced with cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  Delicious!

We finally started eating from our freezer.  With dough from a local pizza place, we made our own pizza.  (We should have planned ahead and made our own dough in our bread machine.  We have yet to do that, but sooner or later we will.)  Everything we put on the pizza was local:  tomato sauce from the summer before last, fresh mozzarella from the farmers market, and vegetables from our freezer.  One one pizza we used large-diced green bell peppers, and on the other cubed eggplant.  Both vegetables had very good flavor and texture after being frozen and then baked.  Hooray!

We’ve supplemented our CSA veggies with apples, napa cabbage, and lettuce from the farmers market.  for later.  Apple report:  the Baldwins are still incredible, the Mutsus are still crisp and juicy, and the Northern Spy apples that have been sitting in a bag on my kitchen floor for weeks are still pleasant to eat (whereas McIntosh would have gone mushy or mealy ages ago). 

Also at the farmers market we got heads of green cabbage, as a storage vegetable.  I was inspired by the red cabbage from this summer that we ate 3 months after receiving it.  (We got it in week 10 and ate it in week 22.) 

Our kitchen is still overflowing with apples, squash, and pumpkin.  I want to make applesauce, curried squash-and-pumpkin soup, cubed squash, mashed squash, pumpkin puree…  But our freezer is full.  So we bought a chest freezer.  We’ve been talking about doing this since last winter, when we decided to go up to the large share.  Instead of eating a small share’s worth of veggies and freezing the rest, we’ve been eating more veggies, leaving us fewer to freeze.  Finally, in the fall, we got inundated with more than we could eat.  That’s a good thing, because we’re planning to keep eating our vegetables this winter. 

We realized that we only need another freezer about as big as the one on our refrigerator.  At first, we thought we’d find a freezer on Craigslist, but those were mostly much bigger.  They’re also older, and much less energy efficient.  We looked at a few stores to get a sense or how big the freezers are, and how the space inside is arranged and accessed.  For each, we wanted to know about price and energy rating.  Nobody had an EnergyStar freezer for sale.  Finally, we got onto the EnergyStar website, and found that for small freezers the standard is much stricter than for large ones.  Instead of being at least 10% more efficient than the industry average, they have to be at least 20% more efficient.  Only one freezer currently has that rating.  And it’s sold only at one store.  And that store is Walmart.  I’ve never set foot in Walmart.  I abhor their labor policies, and the way they intentionally drive their competitors out of business.  At the same time, they’re a real leader when it comes to the environment, both for how they run their stores and what products they demand from their suppliers.  The long and the short of it is that I still haven’t set food in a Walmart store, and don’t ever plan to, but, thanks to mail-order, I’ve now done business with them, to save about 50 kilowatt-hours per year.

Week 23: October 27 – November 2

October 30, 2008

As the Eat Local Challenge month comes to a close, I’ve been thinking about how my food patterns have and have not changed, and which changes will become permanent.

We had already made the biggest change in our commitment to eschew supermarket vegetables for the year.  Just a few weeks in, supermarket fruit got added to that list.  (My cranberries do come from the supermarket, but I’m able to get local ones there and not at the farmers market.) 

That has made me more conscious of the sources of my other foods.  I’ve been choosing local for at the grocery store for quite a while: local milk, cheese, bread flour, hommus, tortillas, peanut butter…  But some local foods aren’t available at the grocery store.  Spurred by the Eat Local Challenge, I found shops where I can buy local tofu and local eggs. 

The Eat Local Challenge pushed me to go a step farther, and simply go without those foods that are not locally available.  Orange juice is my best example.  We’ve switched to drinking local apple cider (bought at either a farmers market or the grocery store).  When cider is no longer available, I don’t know what we’ll do.  Maybe we’ll drink milk and water. 

I have also realized just how many foods are no longer grown in New England.  Local grains just don’t exist.  Local legumes are few and far between.  My honey and maple syrup are local, but I still sometimes need sugar.  Local herbal tea is nice, but there’s no substitute for Earl Grey or English Breakfast.  I could do the Eat Local Challenge all year and say I have one exclusion:  dry goods. 

That won’t work, because I need oils and vinegars, lemon juice and soy sauce. 

And then there’s the challenge of Halloween.  We love our neighborhood, and want to be good neighbors, so we have to give out treats on Halloween.  It did occur to me that now, after two years in our house, we know the neighborhood kids and their parents well enough that we could probably get away with baking some sort of treats.  The parents would trust that we’re not poisoning their kids.  But the kids would be disappointed, and understandably so.  We broke down and big-corporation, corn-syrup-laden, over-packaged candies have entered our home.  And our stomachs.  It’s only fair to the children, of course, that we make sure the candies are yummy enough.

A grocery shopping trip this week brought the season’s first cranberries (along with Halloween candy).  I like to eat cranberries raw.  Once you learn to expect just how sour they are, they’re a refreshing fruit that’s fun to eat.  A whole berry is very firm in the mouth.  Then the first bite makes a satisfying pop.  Then comes the pucker, as you enjoy a fresh berry taste for the first time in months. 

If you buy a bag and discover that you don’t like eating them raw, put the rest into applesauce.  One bag of cranberries into about ten pounds of apples is a nice ratio.  We like to use a different group of spices when we do that, but I can’t remember what they are.  I’ll write down the recipe when we make applesauce again.  Right now we just don’t have space for it in our freezer.

Although our CSA is over, we’re not lacking in vegetables.  We’re overflowing with squash and pumpkins.  We have plenty of potatoes.  We still have greens from last week’s farmers market.  But I couldn’t resist buying more lettuce this week, and also a bunch of dandelion greens to try.  We also have apples everywhere, but they’re McIntosh, Cortland, and Northern Spy, so I couldn’t resist buying more Baldwins. 

Dandelion greens are nutritionally packed when eaten raw.  By volume, they were much less expensive than the other salad greens.  The sign on them said they’re bitter, so I bought them to treat like arugula, and make a salad with apples and cheddar, under a balsamic vinaigrette.

The farmer that had the lettuce and dandelion greens is planning to start offering a winter CSA this year.   It’s tempting, because I love having CSA vegetables coming to us weekly.  But when I look around my kitchen, I know that we’ve done a good job of storing up for the winter ahead.  We’ll be thoroughly tired of squash by the time the first arugula gets me wildly excited in the spring.  That’s a sensation I never had before joining a CSA turned me into a seasonal eater.  I can’t imagine going back.

Week 1: May 25-31

June 22, 2008

Our first chance at local veggies came just before Memorial Day when one of the local farmers markets opened.  When I went grocery shopping a few days before, I carefully didn’t buy any veggies.  In fact, for a couple of weeks prior, we’d been eating down our supply of veggies.  On a hot day in May, we ate a very wintry meal of scalloped parsnips (like scalloped potatoes) and cranberry-apple sauce. 

The parsnips were from our CSA.  When the drop-off season ended, the farmer invited all the shareholders out to his farm to pick anything remaining.  We dug a lot of carrots and parsnips.  At first, we stored them in a cabinet in the coldest corner of our kitchen.  We lost a few to rot, but we had so many we didn’t care.  Eventually, there were few enough left (and they were sad enough looking) that we scrubbed the remaining ones and moved them to the refrigerator.  The last of our November-dug parsnips went into a casserole of scalloped parsnips in May – a veggie storage success!  The apples in the sauce came from a farmers market.  Toward the end of the season, one of the farmers started selling 10 lb bags of past-prime apples for $7 and we bought a bag a week for a month.  The cranberries came from my local supermarket, but are Massachusetts grown, so still local food.  I’ve never seen cranberries at a farmers market. 

On the market’s opening day, there were lots of half-grown plants for sale, a vegetable garden started in someone else’s greenhouse.  There was meat, cheese, maple sugar products, bread from local bakeries, but almost no vegetables.  One farmer had brought some arugula, but it sold out hours before I got to the market.  So I bought what there was:  radishes and rhubarb.  The radishes went, with some supermarket organic celery and carrots, into tabbouleh.  Local parsley, frozen in ice cube trays last fall, went in, too.  The rhubarb, macerated in sugar and then stewed, became a pretty pink compote.  When I made the same compote last year my stalks weren’t as red and the compote came out gross-out-goo green.