Tag Archives: local

food!

oh lovely food…  Spring has finally arrived, and it is my favorite time of the year to shop for local food.  The farmers market is full of baby greens, flowers, swiss chard, broccoli rabe, young kale and a variety of lettuces… fresh cheeses aged through the winter, and meats from our local farms… I am excited about the cooking season and thought I would put together a photo blog of some of my creations and my favorite ingredients to add on to as the season progresses.  Soon it will be heirloom tomatoes (my favorite), onions, garlic and potatoes..pumpkins, squash… and then another winter will be upon us..

Enjoy the season, happy cooking!

~click on a picture to scroll through each image…

Wild Caught Meets Locally Grown.

It’s hunting season here in upstate NY, which means on any given morning if your up and out early enough, driving along any remote country road, you might be able to spot a bearded man with a neon orange cap heading into the woods…  Usually sporting a riffle or a bow.hunter

Personally, I have always had mixed feelings about the sport of hunting… I grew up with a father who hunted, and a grandfather that is primarily remembered for his woodsmen aptitude. As a child, I was accustomed to the sight of a deer hanging from the tree in our front yard each fall, and I remember very early on the first time I tasted venison.  My father prepared it with a simple flour, salt and pepper coat in a pan with butter and onion.  It was unlike any other meat, and once a year, for a brief time, we would have it in our home.  But years later,  I took a vow of vegetarianism…  For nearly eight years, I swore off any and all meat for no reason other than for my love of animals.  Now, in my 30’s, I include meat in my diet and have found a healthy balance for my love of nature and the food that it provides. Knowing just how food is processed, and where it comes from has become the key factor in my relationship with food.  In my opinion, It is a connection that too many people have lost touch with.

This year, a friend of mine and avid hunter,  offered me some venison to take home. Throughout the years, my friend and I have had many conversations about hunting and the mixed feelings I have always had about the sport.  We would talk about our mutual respect for animals and the relationship we have with them, in such opposing ways.  But through these conversations, I have come to realize that hunting is a kind and even necessary part of the life cycle, that the food the hunter brings home from the woods is the purest way to receive it, and that our mutual respect for the animal is more common than I knew.   After accepting the venison, I felt the need to honor the meal that this meat would provide my husband and I with the perfect selection of seasonal ingredients that I could find locally and as minimally processed as possible.

I found a farm store not too far from my house called The Berry Farm store.  This is a fully self-sustaining farm store that features locally made products from honey, candles, baked goods, and a grocery full of locally grown produce and meats.  It is also the home of a very friendly cat who can be seen roaming the grocer isles, napping in window boxes and greeting customers at the front door.

fat sleepy cat

fat sleepy cat

While shopping, I met a man named Joe who was overly interested in helping me find the things I was looking for.  Soon, I discovered that he was the owner of the store and before I knew it, he had offered to take me on a tour of his greenhouses.

tour of green houses

tour of green houses

As we walked through each hoop shaped green house, filled with a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers, he explained the energy they use to run the green houses and store…a combination of solar and geo-thermal energy supply this little market with more than enough power to be self-sustaining.  He talked about the struggles and benefits of being a small-scale, eco-consious farmer, just how frightening it is to be a farmer in todays agriculture, and how difficult it has become to work around the Monsanto label.  Here, in this rural little town, a man plays classical music all day long to a green house full of micro greens. He looks down at his seedlings with a smile and an obvious appreciation for this process of life, while somewhere else, a corporate industry (Monsanto) is trying to put a patent on our seeds and genetically modify our food.  I will continue to support Joe.

music for the seedlings...

music for the seedlings…

I finished my afternoon of shopping for the perfect ingredients and decided on what my menu would be for the evening…

A wild mushroom encrusted venison tenderloin, with a pomegranate cream sauce,  a winter greens gratin, and thyme roasted new potatoes….My sister in law had suggested the winter greens gratin a while ago, and I thought it would fit nicely with the venison.  A sweet pomegranate cream sauce with the wild mushroom crust sounded like the perfect pairing, and some simple roasted potatoes… I couldn’t wait to get started.

It was a lovely cooking process that my husband and I enjoyed together.  He told me stories of growing up with a grandfather who was also an avid woodsmen and we talked about the hunter, as if we were there with him, imagining what it must be like.  To wake before dawn, to sit in the cold crisp morning, listening for sounds, silent and still, searching for shadows, and finally taking aim on an unsuspecting animal…  We talked about the sadness of the life that is taken, and the necessity for it just the same, how some people can do it without a second thought, and others could just never.

And then, we celebrated our evening with food that was carefully and thoughtfully given to us, wild and locally produced.

Below is a collage of my shopping trip, a greenhouse tour, and the evening of cooking with these wonderful ingredients.  

miso hungry

Today, I share with you, a unique recipe that is worth giving a try…

Miso maple sweet potato tacos with caramelized onions & sweet chili coconut sauce

The champion of this dish is the Miso, a traditional Japanese staple made from fermented beans, rice or barley.  It is salty and savory, earthy, rich and briny, unlike any other describable flavor.  Commonly used as a soup base, it can also be used as a glaze or marinade for meats and vegetables.

South River Miso is an American Miso maker from Conway, Massachusetts that uses traditional Japanese methods to produce Miso.  I picked up a 3 year aged, red barley Miso from them and it is just wonderful.   Not only does this unique, flavorful food taste unlike anything else, it is also ridiculously good for you!  Packed with active cultures that help in the digestive process, essential amino acids, protein, minerals and vitamins… this super food has been studied for centuries.  If you have never cooked with Miso before, give it a try!

Ingredients you will need:

For the Marinade:

  • 2 tbsp Miso
  • 3 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar

For the Tacos:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 2 cups of chopped romaine lettuce, or any green you like
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • corn tortillas

For the Dressing:                                                     

  • 2 medium green chills
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup of fresh basil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • small amount of ginger root
  • two scallions, trimmed
  • dash of salt and pepper

Mix the Miso, the maple syrup and the apple cider vinegar together.  In a bowl, toss the chopped sweet potatoes and the miso, maple, vinegar mixture together.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

in a frying pan, heat the butter and olive oil together for several minutes.  Add the onions to the pan, cooking on medium heat until they are translucent and starting to brown (about ten minutes.)  Lower the heat to a med/low setting and sprinkle the sugar over the cooking onions, continue to cook them for several more minutes until the onions are coated in the sugar and caramelized.

Mix the caramelized onions in with the marinating sweet potatoes. Now, spread the potatoes and onions onto a baking sheet, put them into your 350 degree oven. Let them bake until the potatoes are fork tender and the miso marinade has browned the potatoes (about 1/2 hour)- you will want to toss the potatoes once while they are baking as not to burn the sugars in the marinade.

In the mean while, prepare the taco filling and chill coconut sauce. If you haven’t already, chop your lettuce and avocado and set aside.  In a food processor, toss in all of the ingredients in the “dressing” list and blend until it makes a smooth and creamy sauce.

When the potatoes are done, you can prepare your tacos! Place a couple scoops of the miso maple potatoes and caramelized onions onto a corn tortilla, a handful of lettuce and avocado, and top off with the sweet chill coconut sauce. These tacos are decadent, flavorful, and put quite a spin on a hum drum week of left overs and repeat meals.  Not to mention this is a 100% vegan meal with amazing healthy benefits! I served these tacos with some eggplant bites, tossed in panco breadcrumbs and olive oil, baked until crispy and golden brown.

unexpected afternoon

Today I had an early afternoon appointment, followed by a later obligation to pick my loving husband up from work.  Not knowing how much time I would have in-between, I left the house today unsure exactly what the day would bring. Turns out my appointment took all of 15 minutes… and there I was with nearly 4 hours to kill before I had to pick Colin up from work….  What to do?  Armed with my trusty iPhone and about 15 dollars in cash… I decided to venture around the small city of Troy NY for the afternoon.

I started with a boutique that features local artist’s work.  Some of the most amazing paper cut art I have ever seen!  Pottery, felted jewelry, framed ink drawings, handmade soap… everything that I love.

Next I stumbled upon a bakery… who can pass up a good bakery?  Local, organic food.. yes.  I ordered a three dollar bowl of black bean southwestern soup that came with a big hunk of whole wheat bread.  It was the perfect, spicy “warm me up” for a crisp fall afternoon walk.

Troy is a historical city with amazing victorian style architecture.  The buildings are quite impressive, with such detail and beauty.  I must have taken 100 pictures of where each building meets the blue sky (my favorite view.)

Antique shops, friendly owners, a beatnik vintage record store, conversations with strangers, a cuddly puppy that I spent a few minutes scratching behind the ear, local food, tea, lebanese hummus, old architecture, a riverside view, a vanilla bean cupcake, and trying on a vintage hot pink fur coat with a candy apple red hat… before I knew it, four hours had gone by and it was time to go pick up Colin.

I highly recommend spending an entire afternoon roaming, without a destination, around a near by city that you probably pass through fairly regularly but rarely stop to wander.  You will discover new things.

Here is a collage of my unexpected afternoon. Click on an image to view as a slide show.