Monday February 08, 2010
Last summer I decided it was time to really know the farmer. And that farmer was me. (On a very small scale of course.) I wanted to raise our own meat chickens for a variety of reason. I wanted to be in control of everything they ate - all organic feed, fresh spring water, grass, worms and bugs!! I wanted them to be truly pasture-raised. And I wanted to see if I could eat those adorable day-old chicks once they were ready to be harvested. Well the answer to that question is a resounding YES. Those birds were bred to grow. We jokingly called them the oven-stuffer-roasters. They were eating machines and preferred to eat, then sit.
Once they were fully-grown we brought the birds to real farmer friends, Sean Stanton and his brother Jeremy to be "harvested." Our birds weighed about 7-8 pounds and can feed a family of six, no problem!!
I just roasted one of the chickens for dinner on Saturday.
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs of rosemary, minced
1-2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Mix together to form a paste and infuse under the skin. Rub any leftover on the skin of the chicken. Cut up an onion and lemon and place in cavity. Bake in oven at 375 for an hour or so - I use an instant read thermometer to be certain it is done. I roasted sweet and russett potatoes and onions along side the chicken and served some steamed broccoli as well. A yummy and delightful meal.
What's best, however, is that I have gotten more than one meal out of the big bird! For lunch the next day, I chopped up the white meat and mixed it with some chopped shallots and a dab of mayo and served it on a baguette with a spinach salad.
And today, the soup was on!! I put the carcass in a large stock pot with 8-10 organic carrots, chopped, 2-3 onions, chopped, celeriac, peeled and chopped, 2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste and a can of diced Muir Glen tomatoes.
I added some cooked rice and it was the perfect hearty soup for a cold winter weeknight meal. And best of all - there's plenty for lunch tomorrow.
Thank you BIG BIRD!!
Wednesday January 27, 2010
Berkshire Grown's mission is to support our local farmers and promote locally grown food, which results in strengthening our local economy and preserving open spaces. It's a winning mission and one that I support whole-heartedly!
Last night I hosted the newly formed Development Committee for Berkshire Grown.
Our goal is to make Berkshire Grown "sustainable" without state funding. In 2010 we have to do without a $50,000 state grant. And personally, I think that is OK. We just need to do and think differently.
Our goals are to run events that are meaningful and in line with our objectives of helping farmers connect with food buyers - both restaurants through the farm to table program; and people through farmers markets and CSA's. We need to reach out to the community and build membership, and pursue corporate sponsors who want to align with our message. Restaurants play a key role for Berkshire Grown. Their commitment to buying local ingredients and serving them is critical to the sustainability of our local small farms and our local economies. If you are a local or own a second home in the Berkshires, please consider sending a donation to preserve the connection between farmers and eating. I do. I do it through my membership to Berkshire Grown (www.berkshiregrown.org), my membership to 2 CSA's (www.indianlinefarm.com and www.farmgirlfarm.com), raising my own chickens for meat and eggs, and using my land to raise Scottish Highland Cattle for grass fed beef for my family's consumption and ultimately for sale.
Food glorious food! Don't we all live for that? Don't we all want to put what's best in our bodies and lower our carbon footprint? If you answer YES - then support Berkshire Grown or support your local farmers wherever you live - DO IT TODAY!!
And, yes I did serve food. Our meal consisted of organic rice, chicken breast with chick peas and tomatoes and a green salad. Laura Meister (Farm Girl Farm) brought chocolate chip cookies and local ice cream.
Chicken with Chick Peas and Tomatoes
2 whole boneless chicken breast, cut into 8 pieces
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 cup minced cilantro
1 cup plain yogurt (I like 2% greek but any will do!)
1 can chick peas
1 can of diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix the garlic, oil, paprika,cumin, red pepper flakes. Spoon 1 tablespoon in the yogurt and set aside. Place chicken in a baking dish and spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the spice mixture on the chicken. In a bowl, mix the chick peas, tomatoes, remaining spice mixture and 1/2 cup cilantro. Pour over chicken. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Serve over rice with a dollup or two of yogurt and sprinkle with cilantro. Enjoy!!
Sunday August 30, 2009
I have exciting news!! As many of you know I am on the board of Berkshire Grown. (http://www.berkshiregrown.org). Berkshire Grown has designated the month of September to "preserving the bounty" and many of the restaurant members and myself agreed to host workshops. My workshop is on September 17th and we'll be making corn and black bean salsa and, warm bath preserving kale or other fall greens. As part of the promotion, Channel 13, the NBC Albany affiliate, will be doing 2 segments. And, here's the news, I will be doing a 4-5 minute demo on air this coming Saturday, September 5th at 8 am.
I am gearing up and trying to hone in what I will do on the segment. I am most comfortable with tomato canning and was reminiscing about last year's tomato harvest and my jars of tomato sauce, salsa and ketchup so I thought I would share my tomato sauce recipe for old times sake:
Nana's Basic Tomato Sauce
Rule of thumb - 5lbs of tomatoes yields one quart of sauce.
Other tools: boiling water canner,canning jars, canning funnel, rubber spatula, jar lifter and/or tongs, fine sieve or food mill
Citric Acid (available where you buy canning supplies)
Wash and cut up tomatoes, place in stainless steel saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Using a slotted spoon crush tomatoes to release juices. Boil until tomatoes are soft and then remove from heat. In batches, press tomatoes through a fine sieve (what my grandmother used) or a food mill (what I use) which removes the seeds and skin. Return the skinless, seedless tomatoes to the saucepan over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid is reduced to 1/2 for a nice medium thick sauce.
Meanwhile, you can be getting your cans ready - place cans on rack of boiling water canner, add water to until the pint jars are about 2/3rds full. Cover and bring to a simmer. This process kills any bacteria. In a small saucepan, place the lids - the flat, round piece, cover and bring to a simmer. The screw bands do not need to sterilized.
Now you are ready to start canning your sauce. One jar at a time, remove from canner, pouring hot water back into canner, place jar on flat heat-resistant surface. For a quart, add 1/2 tsp citric acid, then place funnel in jar, ladle sauce into jar leaving about a half inch of headspace, wipe the rim and threads with a paper towel. ( This is important to make sure vacuum seal can occur). Lift a hot lid with your tongs and place on jar and then screw the lid with your fingertips until tight. Place back in canner with tongs. Repeat until done.
Cover all jars with additional water by an inch or so. Cover canner and bring to a boil. The boiling must be continuous and rapid for 40 minutes. Remove lid, let sit for about 5 minutes or so. Remove jars without tilting, place jars on a towel in a draft-free spot and allow to cool for 24 hours. Store in a cool dark place for up to a year.
Invite friends as the process is fun but laborious. My grandmother used to say many hands make for light work. We didn't add seasoning as my grandmother liked to use the basic sauce as her blank canvas to embellish as she used it for different dishes.
....but what shall I do for the demo - beets? raspberries? Stay tuned!!
Sunday May 17, 2009
I am not a movie critic. What I am is a home cook and a consumer of food. As you get to know me, you will learn that my childhood upbringing has deeply impacted my attitudes about food. My grandfather was a butcher in the 1940's and 1950's. I remember the McDonalds jingle, "McDonalds is my kind of place, it's such a happy place" and their plea to look for the golden arches. As kids we so wanted to go to McDonalds. But my grandfather did not allow us to eat McDonalds (and we felt like outcasts). He said with a distasteful look on his face, "It's not real meat - it's worse than horse meat." How lucky I was to have him!! What a sage man. He knew. He witnessed how the meat industry had changed. He was no longer connected to the farmers that provided meat to his shop so he closed his shop. He knew.
So, as I sat through the movie, in tears at times, enraged and disgusted at other times, I knew I wanted to write about it. It hit many of my pet peeves like "there are no seasons" in the grocery store and tomatoes are ripened with ethylene gas, not the sun. Monoculture factory farms are horrifying and the treatment of the animals and the laborers beyond words. It made me feel happy and proud about my choices to be a member of 2 CSA's (community supported agriculture), grow a vegetable garden, can and preserve the local harvest, buy local grass fed beef and lamb from farmers that I know on land where I can see their livestock graze.
It has also made my conviction about Heirloom Meals even stronger. The US may not have a food culture but most of us had/have a food culture handed down to us through the generations. Dust off those recipes, talk to your grandparents, great aunts and uncles, parents. Let's get back to the home cooked meal with real ingredients. Let's demand that food stores provide those choices. I agree with Gary Hirshberg of Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt - we should all vote with our purchases at the grocery store. Choose organic or locally grown. Choose healthy eating and sharing meals. And demand to know your farmer!!
Please see this movie. You can see the trailer here