Posts Tagged ‘thyme’

How a Locavore hosts a party

January 20, 2009

How does a locavore host a party?  I had the fun of answering that question last weekend.  In the winter, I can’t simply go to the farmers market and buy more food.  What we have is what we have.  Party vegetables – the kind you can eat as finger food with dip – are in short supply in the winter.  We have plenty of carrots, but I was feeling a bit selfish about my one celeriac and one (albeit Florida) pepper.  Given the constraints, I got as close as I could.

I spent a lot of time wandering around my grocery store looking at labels.  Apple cider was easy, and we served it both hot (mulled with spices) and cold.  As usual, it was from Carlson Orchards in Harvard, MA (about 30 miles away).  One of the ways I could identify other local foods was by the KVH kashrut symbol they bear.  In many parts of the country, there are local organizations that certify local factories as kosher. If you’re in another part of the country, you might find a local kosher symbol in this list.

We served pita triangles with hommus to dip, both made by Joseph’s Middle East Bakery, based in Lawrence, MA (25 miles away).  We served a selection of cheddar cheeses from Cabot, VT (190 miles) with organic crackers from Whole Foods.  We shredded some of the cheddar and baked it between corn tortillas from Cinco de Mayo bakery in Chelsea, MA (5 miles) to make large batches of quesadillas, which we cut into quarters and served fresh from the oven with organic salsa from Whole Foods.  Our guests really liked those!  We also put out a few varieties of River Queen nuts processed in Everett, MA (5 miles).

I also bought, but never put out, chocolate candies from NECCO (New England Confectionary Company) now in Revere, MA (10 miles), and Madeleine cookies from Superior Cake Product in Southbridge, MA (60 miles).  That was because we were too busy eating Hood ice cream from Lynnfield, MA (15 miles) with cake baked and brought by a friend.  Another friend brought a delicious strawberry cordial, homemade with strawberries she picked last summer.

Because the party spanned supper time, we offered guests a choice of two soups, both pureed and incidentally both vegan:  a bright squash-pumpkin-apple soup seasoned with curry and other spices and a creamy white cannelini-potato-turnip soup loaded with thyme.  Recipes are below.  Using our bread machine, we made a choice of breads, too:  a whole wheat (well, half whole wheat, half white bread flour) and a garlic and herb white bread.  As always, the whole wheat flour was Whole Foods organic, and the white bread flour was King Arthur, from Norwich, VT (130 miles away).  To make the garlic bread, I added lots of chopped garlic, some garlic powder, and dried herbs like rosemary, oregano, and parsley to the bread machine after the water and before the flour.  I also doubled the amount of oil to 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) up from the usual 2 tablespoons.

The squash soup used the good parts of three butternut squash and one pumpkin that were all showing rotten spots.  Because squash is so dense, it’s very easy to cut away the bad part and be left with good.  I think the three squashes had good parts equivalent to two whole squashes.  The pumpkin was nearly all good.  I seeded, peeled, and chunked them, and tossed them into a stock pot.  Six apples, cored and chunked, also went into the pot.  An onion would have been good in there, but I never trust myself to cook them well enough for me to be able to eat them.  I put in enough water to nearly fill the pot, but in retrospect I should have just covered the vegetables to end up with a thicker soup.  I spiced the soup with curry, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, and ginger, and of course salt.  Maybe something else I’m forgetting, too.  I pureed the whole thing before serving.

I was particularly pleased with how the cannelini-potato-turnip soup came out.  I started with dried cannelini.  After soaking 1 1/2 cups of them overnight, they had swelled to about 4 cups.  Those went into a saucepan with half a bulb of garlic (4 cloves, each cut up) more than enough water to cover.  After the beans had simmered for more than half an hour before I added 5 small turnips (5 ounces) and 8 small potatoes (16 ounces), all chunked.  In the process, I discovered that worms and rot had destroyed another 5 turnips, which had to go straight out to compost.  Between soup and compost, the last of the turnips we harvested ourselves this fall (at our summer CSA farm) are gone.  But back to the soup, because wormy, rotten vegetables are gross.  The soup was an excuse to use up the rest of the thyme we had gotten from our winter CSA.  It worked.  The only other seasoning I added was salt (one rounded tablespoon) and pepper (about 10 grinds).  When I pureed the soup, it seemed too thin.  Then it sat in the refrigerator overnight.  Even after it was reheated, it wasn’t too thin.  It was thick, creamy, delicious, filling, vegan, and used up both turnips and thyme.  I’ve found a winner!

Belatedly, I know, here are photos we took on the farm on the day in November when we picked those turnips, and brought home those squash as well.

Farm fields, after harvest

Greenhouses

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Week 29: December 8 – 14

December 16, 2008

We haven’t been cooking very much.

We made enchilada verde casserole again.  It didn’t work as well as last time. I think we didn’t use enough cheese, salsa, or salt.  The casserole is easy to make.  It’s layered, like lasagne:  first corn tortillas, then a layer of mashed beans with some cheese and spices, then another layer of tortillas, then homemade tomatillo salsa and shredded cheddar cheese.  The tortillas are Cinco de Mayo, from Chelsea, MA.  The cheese is Cabot, from Cabot, VT.  The salsa verde came out of our freezer.  It was made with tomatillos, garlic, cilantro, and hot peppers.  We started with dried beans, which use much less energy to transport than canned beans, and soaked and simmered them in lots of water, which is from the Quabbin Reservoir, MA.  We baked sweet potatoes to eat with the casserole. 

I made a big pot of split pea soup, with big chunks of turnips, potatoes, and carrots.  I should have used some of the fresh thyme, but I forgot about it until too late. 

I used some frozen kale in a quick supper because I was too lazy to prep the fresh.  The meal itself was uninspiring, but the ease of getting just a bit of kale was notable.  We had frozen it as flat as possible in a gallon zip-lock bag.  That made it easy to break off a corner, since I was only heating up food for myself. 

The biggest meal of the week was with the friends we’re sharing our winter CSA share with.  They invited us to stay for dinner after we brought over the week’s vegetables.  The entree they made was a delicious casserole of six layered root vegetables under a bechamel sauce.  Our share for the new week included one bunch of arugula, one cucumber, one pepper, and a box of grape tomatoes.  Rather than try to divvy that up, we made a salad that we all ate together.   The arugula was from a Massachusetts greenhouse.  The cucumber, pepper, and tomatoes were from Florida.  I’m having some trouble with this whole-coast CSA idea.

We also got kale, cabbage, and apples from Massachusetts; garlic, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes from North Carolina; and oranges and corn from Florida.  (There was also a squash and some onions from Massachusetts, but we left all of those with our friends.)   Next week we anticipate some holiday extras:  cranberries and pecans. 

It’s time to make applesauce again, but I used the big pot for split-pea soup.  On days that we haven’t had oranges, we’ve had homemade McIntosh apple rings with lunch.  They are delicious!

Week 28: December 1 – 7

December 6, 2008

This was the first week of our winter CSA.  We’ve done a summer CSA for years with the same farm, so we know pretty much what to expect for that.  The winter CSA is new to us.  What we got was kind of what I was expecting.  Amazingly, there was no squash this week! 

We’re splitting a large share with another couple who did a different summer CSA.  Some of their end-of-season surplus is different from ours, and that helped to determine who got what this week.  For example, they still have lots of sweet potatoes left, but our summer CSA doesn’t grow them at all.  So, we got all of the sweet potatoes in this week’s winter share.  Conversely, we still have lots of carrots, so the other couple got all of the carrots in this week’s share.  I can’t eat onions, so the other couple got all the onions, which I guess is why we got the one large turnip, because both couples still have turnips from our summer CSAs.  We also got the only cabbage.     Other things were split more obviously:  there were two kinds of kale so we got one and they got one.  They got the arugula and we got the mustard greens.  We split the apples and oranges, and also the thyme

Yes, we got oranges because they have some relationship with organic growers in Florida.  Some of them had stickers on them, which felt very odd coming from a CSA.  It’s less farm-direct than I’m accustomed to.  Also odd, the thyme was in a plastic box. 

Some of the produce is from their own farm (the greens), and, aside from the oranges, everything else was from farms in our region.  I wonder if they’d tell us where?  Maybe they’re getting odds and ends from lots of farms that are done for the season, and amassing enough to give some to all CSA members. 

What does one do with thyme?  It’s an herb I almost never cook with.  I’ve certainly never used it fresh.  Even splitting it with another couple, there’s an awful lot of it. 

Of the new CSA items, all we’ve eaten so far was some of the fruit and the mustard greens.  As usual, the mustard greens became curried mustard greens and chickpeas from Joy of Cooking.  We used a two-cup-lump of stewed tomatoes from our freezer.  We also added carrots because we have lots.  They worked well, adding a nice bit of color and a sweet flavor.  The key was to not over-cook them.

I noticed that some moisture was accumulating in the crisper drawer that has all the root vegetables we saved from summer.  That meant it was time to sort through and cull the ones that were soft, damp, or a bit moldy.  They got cleaned up (well trimmed), cut up, and oven roasted.  Before roasting I cut them into bite-sized pieces of varying shapes – wedges of beets and turnips, rounds of carrots and parsnips, and halves of radishes.  I tossed them with oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a blend of herbs de provence from the Herb Lyceum in Groton, MA.  The result was a colorful and tasty accompaniment to Thanksgiving leftovers.