Thursday, May 6, 2010

Midsummer tastes, local in early Spring

but this is not because of global warming, it's the result of our latest trend: blending the remains of what we froze last summer with this spring's early bloomers.  Put all of that on the grill, and it's a (nearly) all-local midsummer in May.  And, with typical Spring exuberance, we're pushing into distant memory our unfortunate first experience with local CSA meat and opening our arms to more dripping hunks of whatever fresh cuts come our way...as soon as we get off the waiting list at Chestnut Farms (http://www.chestnutfarms.org/).  This time, we checked in with our neighbor Kim who has a long-term membership at Chestnut Farms and not only did we get her good opinion, she shared a pound of ground chuck that was good and nicely packed.  Once we get in, we'll be sure to share our reviews.  For this meal, we got the meat from butchers at Whole Foods.  And I have to say I'm conflicted about the choice to leave them for the meat CSA.  On the one hand, Whole Foods is not a local business, in fact it's a major nationwide chain, and when we buy from Whole Foods we support the middle-maning that distances us from the real source of our food.  I think that knowing the cows you eat allows for the most responsible kind of carnivory, and knowing the farmer who raised them allows for the best kind of community and the surest understanding of what exactly went into the cow before it goes into you.  Only a meat CSA provides that.  On the other hand, Whole Foods sells local meat.  And that means that it represents the investment of a national chain in local farming.  I want to support that.  I want the Whole Food execs wherever they may be to look at their sales numbers each week and see that the local meat moved twice as fast as the non-local meat, so that's where they should do more buying.  I want Market Basket and Shaws to do market research and realize that Whole Food's labeling of local meat and produce is a strategy that they should adopt.  There's one other thing that Whole Foods offers: the butcher him or her self.  This is someone who not only is a key player in my food chain, it's a person with knowledge and goods: I want to be able to talk to the butcher about how to best cook this or that cut, to request that he butterfly the chicken breasts for me, or to get a few extra bags of gizzards for stock.  Well, as long as I eat enough meat, I can get it from both the CSA and Whole Foods!  This recipe serves 3-4 adults plus 3-4 kids.

GRILLED STEAK
Stir together:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs oregano (overwinters well in New England in pots or the ground), leaves chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced

Pour the marinade over 2 1-lb steaks in a plastic bag, seal, and let sit for at least an hour (if it's an hour, leave it out; if longer, refrigerate).  Grill over medium-high heat 3 minutes per side for medium-rare.  Tent with foil for 5 minutes, then serve.

GRILLED SALMON COLLARS
There are many sources of Atlantic Salmon (the Atlantic is a big ocean) and much controversy about certain salmon farming methods as well as concern about the survival of the species in the wild, but Atlantic Salmon is indeed native to the Atlantic, and fish conservation efforts often successfully pair the work of environmentalists and fishermen.  In New England, there are projects underway to regrow Atlantic Salmon populations in the Penebscot River in Maine, and the Connecticut River.  If you get your fish from New Deal, you can get good information about the exact source of your salmon.  You can also get great information about salmon parts - when Renee went in yesterday she learned that salmon collars have some of the best meat on the fish, but are sold quite cheaply because they also have a lot of bone and skin.  But the bone at that part of the fish is not the little pricky things you have to be so careful with, it's more like the bone in a bone-in steak.  So we marinated and grilled them, to perfection.  They are a bit messy to eat, but the need to wash hands is more than made up for by the fun of pulling flesh from bone and eating with fingers.

Blend:
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
2 T tamari
2 T rice vinegar

Marinate 1/2 pound salmon collars in the mix for 30 minutes.  Grill over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, turning frequently.  Serve immediately, as an appetizer.

TOMATO HERB SALAD WITH LEMON VINAIGRETTE

1 cup roughly chopped parsley (amazingly, this too overwinters in the ground!)
1 small bunch roughly chopped chives (mine are starting to bud, you can just chop the buds right in with the rest)
3 large tomatoes, chopped into small cubes

Toss, about 30 minutes before serving, with lemon vinaigrette made of:
juice of 1/2 lemon
equal volume olive oil
1/2 tsp. mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. ground pepper

LOCAL ROOT FRIES
Whole Foods still has a nice selection of local root vegetables that someone has stored very well!  We used 1 large red beet, 1 large golden beet, 1 white turnip, and 2 potatoes in our oven fries recipe.

PEACHY VANILLA ICE CREAM

2 vanilla beans
3 cups 1/2 and 1/2
3/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks, stirred smooth
1 cup peaches, fresh or frozen (we're down to our last bag from last Fall!), cut into rough chunks (1/4-1/2")

Split vanilla beans in half lengthwise.  Use a spoon to scrape seeds out.  Put beans and seeds into a large, heavy saucepan.  And 1/2 and 1/2 and heat over medium-low until warm.  Add sugar, stir until it is dissolved and the mixture is hot but NOT boiling.  Drizzle in the egg, whisking constantly.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until thick, stirring constantly and NOT allowing to boil.  You will know it's thick enough when you can dip and wooden spoon into the mixture, then pull it out and run your finger across it and see the line that your finger makes stay).  Remove from heat and add peaches.  Removed vanilla pods (you can rinse them and reserve them for another use).  Put in a cold water bath until cool.  Then chill and finally freeze according to machine instructions.

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