Summer’s Days


The end of July and already so much has happened in the world of food since my last entry.  So little rain, for one, has struck many a farm in the upper midwest.  The quantity and even the quality of a few crops has been affected substantially.  What else?  It is warm again, but not like our last summer, and we’ve been enjoying lately local green beans, broccoli, fingerlings,summer squash, cabbage, peas, berries still, and greens.  Tonight I’m going to do something I’ve been doing a lot lately, and that is rummaging through the refrigerator compiling foods for a stir fry.  I know we’ve some broccoli, beans, tiny summer squash, and cippolini onions.  Let’s just toss all of that together, toss in a few backyard herbs (sage, mint, thyme, fennel, basil, and a single sprig of cilantro), some olive oil, and cook up a pot of brown rice.  Why am I rummaging so much lately?  Food is creeping up in cost, like so much else these days, and I’m practicing more than ever the salvaging techniques I was trained to perform.  Are you doing the same? 

What else?  I’ve noticed so many articles lately in my morning read of The New York Times on the local food eating movement.  What’s this?  Is eating well really working its way into the culture; ah, what better trend to set?  Makes me sparkle with pride.  I’ve read a few articles on how the Slow Food organization is expanding even as it sighs about it.  An alternative organization like Slow Food is now sailing into the mainstream and growing significantly.  Also, there have been recent articles on the concept of the CSA farm and a report on how that is becoming a more widespread trend as well.  Fabulous.  It’s fascinating to watch changes happening like this in the world of real food, and I have watched them hurry up over the past few years. 

Since I last wrote I’ve been making and feeding my 9 month old daughter, Riley, the gammet of local and seasonal food.  I’ve said all along that I want the first food to penetrate her lips to be at its best.  That means peaches and nectarines last month when they were drop dead yummy.  And now peas and beets and melon.  She loves my super sour, whole milk, plain organic yogurt; I love to witness her face twisting with the sourness but then smiling when it gulps down.  I am making batches of this and that for her and then just freezing them in my ice cube trays.  I can’t forsee any baby food jars round the house any time soon. 

Coming up for Farm to Fork is that I may be teaching some classes at Cooks of Crocus Hill this fall, but there are no details on that as of yet.  My idea is to teach a class on how to cook from your CSA box, but we shall see.  I will certainly let you know when I’ve more information on that.  Also, I’m trying to get through a pile of new cookbooks in the next few weeks and I’ll let you know if any strike me as wonderful.  I can say that I have been extremely impressed with The Splendid Table’s  How to Eat Supper cookbook by our local gourmand and radio personality Lynne Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift.  It’s a strange and wonderful hodgepodge of recipes and anecdotes and advice.  And I’ve checked out again from our library Baking by Dorie Greenspan, one of my favorite hefty baking books in the last few years.  Perhaps I’ll leave you with one of her recipes:

Gingered Carrot Cookies (makes about 32 cookies)

2 cups all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp ginger, pinch of nutmeg, 1 1/2 sticks (12 tbs) unsalted butter (at room temperature), 2/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar, 1 large egg, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 cup shredded carrots (about three, peeled and trimmed), 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, 1 cup moist and plump raisins (dark or golden), 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (preferrably toasted)

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, and nutmeg.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth.  Add the sugars and beat for 2 minutes or so, then add the egg and beat for another minute.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the vanilla.  Continuing on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 2 or 3 batches and beat only until they just disappear into the mix.  You’ll have a very thick dough, and you might be tempted to overbeat it to incorporate the flour–don’t.  Mix in the carrots, coconut, raisins, and pecans.

Spoon the dough onto the baking sheets in heaping tablespoonfuls, leaving about an inch of space between them; these don’t spread much.  Bake for 16-18 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point.  The cookies should be light brown and only just firm on top.  Carefully transfer the cookies to racks to cool to room temperature.