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Friday, August 17, 2012

Local Produce: A day dedicated to fresh food









Recently I have been overwhelmed by how much I would rather be cooking than doing almost anything else. But alas, I have a job and other obligations to attend to. However, whenever I get the chance I dedicate my time to exploring new food aspects. A few weeks ago I decided that I would skip buying produce at the store and take a trip out east to gather my usual essentials from the many farms that populate Long Island. I wish I could easily do this every week, but the time commitment makes it difficult.

My cousin, Lauren, came along and we drove until we hit Harbes Farm. I have been there a few times before, mostly to drink their wine. I love everything about it there. They have a diverse farm stand and a berry stand across the street, as well as a food stand that sells fresh corn, salads, fresh lemonade and cider donuts. Lauren and I each got a freshly squeezed strawberry lemonade and browsed the produce with wide eyes. I had to pace myself because I knew the point of the trip was to visit a few stands, not just one. I wound up buying a lot anyway. I left with two limes, four peaches, lettuce, an onion, a shallot and grapes. Then we ran across the street and I bought two bundles of blueberries and two bundles of strawberries. I am obsessed with blueberries and religiously eat them in the morning with my cereal. My plan for the strawberries was to make a jam with them, since I had made a fig butter the night before and am now currently obsessed with jams and jarring. I also bought fresh honey, which I have been using in shakes that I bring to work, which keep me full for hours.

Plants and herbs at Sang Lee Farms

I was also determined to buy some fresh herbs. My boyfriend and I had grown basil and I used it all the time, but unfortunately we lost some plants when the heat wave hit. To buy organic basil in the store it costs almost $4 and it goes bad quickly, especially in the summer. I prefer fresh herbs because they taste better and are more cost effective. I drove until I spotted a certified organic farm, Sang Lee Farms, and frantically cut the wheel of my car so we didn't miss it. I bought oregano, mint and basil for a total of $10 and I will have a constant supply for whenever I need it.

My cousin Lauren, browsing the merchandise
By this point, we were starving. We kept heading east until we hit Greenport, where we strolled along the water, grabbed some pizza and kept with the local theme by visiting the Greenport Brewing Company for a tasting. I wound up bonding with a woman over my license picture, in which I'm sporting a perm, as the result of a bad break up. Apparently she had made the same brilliant decision. I guess bad break ups sometime equate to bad hair as well. Lauren and I enjoyed the beer, people and the wood work that decorated the walls and then I wound up leaving with a jug of their Triton beer.

The trip made me feel refreshed and excited to use all of my local products. The next morning when I threw the blueberries in my cereal, my taste buds became very excited. The taste of fresh produce is in no way comparable to produce that has been grown, picked, packaged, shipped, unloaded and stocked. For the next week I used the things I bought for some nutritious creations. Below are my recipes for a great salad, a filling smoothie and a fresh strawberry jam.

Fattoush Salad


I created this salad based on a recipe I found on the blog Eat, Live, Run. I used the lettuce that I bought at the market to create it. It is a deceivingly light salad with a lot of filling ingredients. I used Tzatziki instead of Tahini the first time I had the salad and the second time I mixed together olive oil and lemon for a lighter dressing.

Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

8 cups spring mix (about 2 10-oz packages)
10 oz cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
2 whole wheat pitas, cut into thin strips (easiest way to do this is with a scissors)
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon (more or less to taste)
small pinch of salt (to taste)
Tahini for serving

Preparation:

1. Place the pita strips in a small skillet on the stove over medium high heat. Toast, tossing often, until pita strips are very crisp. This will take about four to five minutes. Don’t let the strips burn! When crisp, remove from heat and set aside.
2. Toss together the spring mix, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, feta crumbles, cilantro and chickpeas in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Add the toasted pita strips and toss again.
3. Finish salad by drizzling a spoonful of tahini over top just before serving.

Peach and Honey Smoothie

I found this recipe in the book "Homemade" by Clodagh McKenna. It is a simple creation that I have started making a few times a week, alternating with a mint mango smoothie that I love. It keeps me really full for up to four hours and gives me energy at work when I start to feel sluggish. McKenna's recipe calls for plain yogurt but I have been using soy yogurt instead. Although I do not like to eat a lot of soy, the dairy substitute works well and I do not have to worry about getting a stomach ache later on. I used the peaches and the honey that I bought at Harbes Farm to make my smoothies for the week.

Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh peeled and sliced peaches
1/2 banana
2 teaspoons honey
generous 3/4 cup plain yogurt
4 ice cups

Preparation:

Simple. Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.


Strawberry Jam
I am just getting familiar with jam making and as of yet, I do not have a jarring kit, so this was a bit of an experiment. I took the simplest recipe that I could find and threw it together. To my surprise it came out really well! I also learned an interesting trick. If you want to know if your jam is ready, place some on a cool plate. If it thickens and stays put it is ready, if it slides on the plate, it needs more time to cook. This recipe is from the blog Rumbly in My Tumbly. This recipe and some others, say to only cook the ingredients for 8 minutes. I found that I needed at least a half hour. I have been enjoying this jam with Earth Balance Coconut Butter on a piece of Ezekiel Bread. Mmmmm.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Ingredients:

2 cups of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water
1 tsp fresh lemon zest

Preparation:

1. Wash, hull, and slice your strawberries.
2. Put them into a saucepan with the water, lemon zest, and sugar.
3. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until jam thickens and reduces. Mash with a potato masher while cooking to break up big chunks.
4. Pour into a heat resistant jar and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.




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