Local Harvest Champions a Sustainable World

Local Harvest
real food, real farmers, real community

Local Harvest is a great resource for cooks and anyone interested in sourcing locally grown foods in their communities.  According to their website  you can find farmer’s markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

When you get to the home page of Local Harvest you can enter your zip code and get a listing of local farmer’s markets, farms, honey producers, produce stands, etc.  There are almost two million farms in the USA, and about 80% of those are small farms.  Many of these small farms are also family owned.  These farmers are not huge, government subsidized, agri-business farms, just regular people trying to grow the best product they can. These farmers sell their products through farmer’s markets, food co-ops, farm stands and CSA, which stand for Community Supported Agriculture.

With CSA you buy “shares”  or memberships from a local farmer, and you then receive a box of produce each week as it is harvested.  CSAs can also include the option for shareholders to buy shares of eggs, homemade bread, meat, cheese, fruit, flowers or other farm products along with their veggies. According to Local Harvest, the advantages of CSA include;

Advantages for farmers:

  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:

  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

Local Harvest also offers a store where you can buy products from farmers all over the USA, who also offer their wares to local customers.  These include produce, meat, soap and body care, flowers, pet products, honey, seeds, herbs, preserves, wool and fibers, gift baskets and so much more.

Local Harvest is a website that should be bookmarked by everyone interested in locally sourced products.  Buying locally saves on transportation costs, which is environmentally responsible.  Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold.  When you buy local your food will be fresher, and you will know exactly where it comes from.

http://www.localharvest.org/

Spring Lamb with Fresh Herb Rub

Spring is here, and nothing symbolizes this more than lamb.  You either love it or hate it, and I am a lover.  Sometimes I find it hard to reconcile the fact that I am eating that cute, furry animal, but then my taste buds take over, and I go into denial.  I haven’t eaten veal since I was a child and saw the small cage they kept those baby beef in at the county fair, yet I still persist in my love of lamb.

When I was an chef instructor in a culinary school, in one of the classes we had to break down an entire side of lamb into primal cuts.  One of my students was a vegan, and she almost passed out during the demonstration.  Needless to say, I excused her for the day.  I understood her pain, but I was still looking forward to eating that lamb.

As my toddler devoured her Easter dinner, I kept encouraging her to eat her lamb.  Then I remembered that her Godparents had given her a stuffed lamb for Easter, and wondered if she was putting two and two together.  Pink fuzzy lamb = tasty slices of meat in my mouth.  Hmmmm….nah, she’s only two!

I marinated some lamb loin chops in a fresh herb rub I made from herbs from my neighbor’s garden. The loin is a very tender cut, and care should be taken to not overcook them.

Fresh Herb Rub
Fresh Herb Rub

Fresh Herb Rub

2 TB chopped garlic, about 6 large cloves

1 TB chopped fresh oregano

1 TB chopped fresh rosemary

1 TB fine lemon zest (I use a microplane zester)

1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients.  Stir well, to distribute the salt.  The rub can be made a 2 days ahead of use.  I would suggest rubbing your meat with this marinade at least 6 hours, and up to 24 hours before cooking. The longer it marinates, the better.  I marinated my loin chops for 48 hours, which ensured the flavor was absorbed completely.

I decided to broil the loin chops, but I would also suggest grilling.  I place the chops on my trusty, crusty broiler pan which I had pre-heated in the broiler for a few minutes.

lamb loin chops on broiler pan
lamb loin chops on broiler pan

Broil the chops for 5 minutes, then turn over.  Cook an additional 4-5 minutes, until lamb is rare.  If you don’t like rare meat, cook an additional minute or two.  Let the chops rest for a moment to reabsorb their juices.

Broiled Lamb Loin Chops
Broiled Lamb Loin Chops

If you are not a lamb lover, the herb rub can be used with chicken, turkey or pork.  It will also be good tossed with potatoes before you roast them.

Cheryl D Lee on Foodista

Braised Oxtails – A Poor Man’s Meat That is Rich

Oxtails?  That is often how people react when I mention cooking oxtails.  What are they exactly?  An oxtail is actually the tail of a steer, which means they are beef. An oxtail has a large bone, and is very gelatinous,which makes them perfect for stewing or braising.  They are also often used for making stock.  Oxtails are eaten the world around, from China and Korea to Jamaica and the USA.

Although I call oxtails a poor man’s meat, they are no longer as inexpensive as they used to be.  I buy mine at Costco, which sells them for about $3.99 a pound.  Another place to find them is Asian  or Hispanic markets.  Oxtails are often sold in packages which weigh between 2-4 pounds.  Look for a mix of large and smaller oxtails, not just small, as these are almost all bone.

uncooked oxtails

This recipe for braised oxtails is simple.  Once the prep work is done, you just walk away from the stove and let them cook for a few hours.

Braised Oxtails

4-5 lbs oxtails

Kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 TB oilve oil

1/2 large onion, thinly sliced

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp dried thyme

1 cup red wine

4 cups beef or chicken broth

1 medium bay leaf

Season the oxtails with salt and pepper.  In a large, deep pot such as a dutch oven, heat oil.  Brown the oxtails in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan.

browing the oxtails

Once all the oxtails have been browned, saute the onion about 3 minutes, until softened.  Add the garlic and thyme, saute 1 minute, then add red wine to deglaze the pan.  Stirring constantly, scrape up any browned bits stuck to the pan while wine reduces by half.  Return oxtails to pan, add stock and bay leaf.  The stock should almost cover the oxtails.  Add more or less, as needed.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover pan.

Braising the oxtails

At this point you can walk away from your stove.  Check in with your oxtails every once in awhile, making sure they are happily simmering away.  After 1 1/2 hours of cooking, turn the oxtails over.  Cover the pan again, and walk away.  Cook for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until meat is very tender.  Remove the oxtails from the pan, and if necessary reduce the liquid until slightly thickened.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Braised Oxtails

I like to serve the braised oxtails with rice or mashed potatoes as a side dish, because they both soak up the braising liquid so well.  And like most braised or stewed dishes, it will taste even better the next day.

Cheryl D Lee on Foodista

Chicken drumstick or nature at its best

Pine cone Chicken Leg
Pine cone Chicken Leg

While casually walking through my toddlers play yard at her school, I glanced down at the ground.  Were my eyes deceiving me, or did I see a chicken leg on the ground?  A chicken leg on the ground at the preschool yard? Huh?

Upon closer inspection I realized it was a pine cone that had been strategically eaten by a squirrel, and it looked just like a chicken drumstick!

I am a lover of nature made food art, such as potato chips that look like Jesus, or peppers that have a face to them.  There are even websites devoted to nothing but nature made food art.

So in the spirit of April Fools day, I present you with my pine cone chicken leg.

Sweet and Savory Avocado Ice Cream

Avocado Ice Cream
Avocado Ice Cream

Avocado ice cream? Really?  An avocado is a fruit, so why not.  There is no written rule that says ice cream has to be sweet all the time, so why not try a more savory ice cream?

This idea came to me while tweeting with a fellow food writer, Erika Kerekes http://inerikaskitchen.blogspot.com/ about the overabundance of avocados from her tree.  She asked for a recipe, so I decided there was no time like the present to develop one.  We are in avocado season, so they are plentiful and easy to find.

This recipe is easy to make, although you will need an ice cream maker.  These days, many companies manufacture ice cream makers, which means the price is within reach of most people. I use a Cuisinart, which requires you to freeze the insert for about 24 hours before making the ice cream. Be sure to follow the instructions for your machine.

As you can see from the picture it looks like you’re are eating a big bowl of guacamole with a spoon ( not the there is anything wrong with that!), but the ice cream is rich and creamy, with a subtle hint of spice.

Avocado Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk

6 egg yolks

3/4 cup + 1 TB granulated sugar, divided

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 ripe avocados

2 oz lemon juice

1/2 tsp ancho chile powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Over medium heat, scald cream and milk.  Meanwhile, in large bowl, whisk together yolks, 3/4 cup of sugar, salt and vanilla until light and creamy.  Add small amount of hot cream to yolks, whisking quickly to temper the egg mixture.  Gradually whisk in remaining cream.  Place mixture over water bath, whisking constantly, until mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from water bath, place bowl immediately into ice bath. Stirring occasionally, cool mixture, then strain into another bowl.  Cover and chill for at least one hour.  This can be made up to two days ahead.

While custard is cooling, scoop the flesh of the avocados into food processor or blender. Add remaining 1 TB of sugar, lemon juice, ancho chile powder and cinnamon.  Process until very smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.  Place avocado mixture in refrigerator to chill along with the custard.

When ready to make the ice cream, stir the avocado and custard together, until well blended.  Following the instructions for your ice cream maker, freeze the ice cream.

The ice cream will be a soft serve consistensy when it comes out of the machine, so if desired place ice cream into freezer safe container and freeze for another hour or two.

Try it with a churro, or make your own cinnamon-sugar tortilla chips.

Enjoy!

Cheryl D Lee on Foodista