Archive for ‘Food Memories’

November 1, 2012

Our Slow Slide Into Eating Local

When did the local eating – which now seems entirely normal –  begin? Was it our time in Bolivia, when local was mostly the only  food we had? Was it with that first North Carolina peach eagerly awaited and lovingly described by my then fiance (and now husband) as we drove from Chicago to Ocracoke, and then consumed in one delicious minute? Was it when we lived in Southern California and bags of oranges awaited us at the weekly market? Who knows? All of these experiences, and many others, feed our now routine local habit.

Since we have returned to Northern Virginia, we have slowly but surely replaced much of what we eat with locally sourced food.

We started out with the farmer’s market. Produce and bread were our main purchases. Berries, apples, asparagus, and peaches were eagerly anticipated and rapidly consumed.

This initial entre was accompanied by a vegetable and herb garden of our own. Tomatoes were the primary focus here.

We began to purchase bacon at the market and slowly purchased more and more of our meat from the market.

Next up was the CSA. Weekly produce deliveries of what was most bountiful. After an underwhelming start, we now rely on the CSA from June through November. The CSA has expanded our produce comsumption and we now look forward to garlic scapes, butternut squash, and bok choy!

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September 2, 2012

The Eldest Cooks Now and Then

As a little boy, the eldest loved to help out in the kitchen. Especially when helping meant that he could be part of the cooking itself. I was browsing through pictures this afternoon and found two pictures that captured his favorite type of participation.

Making Dinner Then

Dad stirs.

The Eldest adds corn to the wok.

What is wonderful is that his comfort in and love of the kitchen continues to this day.  He spent the past year working in the kitchen of our local beer garden and deli, and has had the opportunity to work closely with professional chefs. Best of all is that we now get to benefit from his expertise and ease in the kitchen.

Returning home from a visit to my mom the other day, the Eldest and I were talking about what to make for dinner.

“What,” he asks, “do we have in the kitchen?”

“Hmm…” I said, “we have some ground pork from South Mountain that I’d to use.”

“Okay,” he said, “any veggies?”

“I think we have some red peppers, tomatoes, and onions from the CSA.”

“I know,” he said, “I can cook all that up, and add them to some pasta, and we’ll be good to go.”

At this point, I am sure that I looked over at him with a huge grin.  He’s not headed to college for another year yet, but I know that he’ll be able to cook for himself…although I believe the reputation of college cafeterias remains a key component of his decision to apply to some colleges over others!

Making Dinner Now

We got home, and he got right to work.

First, he cooked the ground pork.

While the pork was cooking, he chopped the peppers, and got the water boiling for the pasta.

Then, he exhibited some professional kitchen skills (at least they looked that way to me). He moved the pork to one side of the frying pan, and added the peppers in so that they could sautee (and the meat stay warm).

Meat to the side of the skillet, peppers cookin’ up!

Meanwhile, he found some parsley in the fridge, and chopped that up nice and fine while the peppers cooked.

Check out the excellent chopping form

Then he mixed up the peppers and pork, and added the parsley, 

Mixing them up

and some wonderful cherry tomatoes to the mix.

It’s more fun when you can “flip” the tomatoes.

To finish it up, stir in the rotini.

Ta da!

Pork Pepper Pasta a la Eldest

Besides no longer needing to stand on chairs to cook, the main difference these days is that doing the dishes doesn’t have quite the same draw that it used to.

Doing the dishes used to be fun!

Happy Sunday all!

June 18, 2012

SSFC Week 3: Garden Greens Vichyssiose

or, what to do with all that lettuce in your fridge.

It is week 3 of the Southern SOLE Food Challenge. To see what everyone is up to, just click on the picture.

In our house, we have had a bit of an unstructured week – with a mom not running on a 100%, a family getting the Eldest ready for Spain, all three kids trying to get  through the end-of-school exams and shenanigans, and the Man of the House engaged in two conferences over the last 5 days, there’s not been a lot of time for cooking.

So when I opened the fridge tonight after piano, and realized that our CSA pick up is tomorrow, I know that whatever I made tonight needed to feature lots and lots of produce.

Fortunately, my go-to recipe guru, Mark Bittman, had written an article in the NY Times magazine on June 3rd, that was stuck up on my cork board, just waiting for me. As those of you who read our blog know, we like vichyssiose – even the Picky Eater. So, the “garden greens vichyssiose” recipe caught my eye. Especially when I saw that it featured substituting “other greens” and “peeled and cubed zucchini” for the leeks.  These I had in my fridge…ready to be put into the soup….!

To make it, here’s what you do:

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot.

Add 3 peeled and cubed potatoes, 2 cups “other greens”, and 1 or 2 peeled and cubed zucchini (we actually double the recipe given what we had in the fridge/pantry).

Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring, until softened.

Add 4 cups stock (we used the stock we made from the veggie ends that was just hangin’ out in our freezer waiting for its’ turn). And we probably used about 6-7 cups, given that we were just about doubling the recipe.

Boil, cover, lower the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Puree, he says. An excuse for using the immersion blender!

Then he recommends cooling. We were hungry, so we just stirred in some milk (as opposed to cream), and put out a variety of garnishes — lemons, parmesan, and hot sauce.  Accompanied by Atwater’s bread, a lovely end to a busy day.

And that, my friends, is one of the local meals that we have enjoyed this week! Bon appetit!


September 16, 2011

Eating Local on the Road

Last month, it was summer, and we were on the road. Driving north with three hungry kids (a teen and two pretty darn close to teens), food was a primary topic of conversation.  Not so much when are we going to eat… but where are we going to eat…. Since the Family Foodie parental units are also invested in food, and local food to boot, eating was one of a shared focus of the journey.  Let me share with you some of the highlights of our journey.

Fish from Lake Erie.

We do not prepare seafood often at home. But while on our boat tour of Lake Erie from Presque Isle, our race car driving, engineering student, ice fishing narrator told us all that the best Erie perch and walleye was to be found at Syd’s Place.  Although we had packed hamburgers from the Farmer’s Market by our house to grill at the park, it was raining by nightfall, and we thought that maybe we should try Syd’s.  So, we drove over to Syd’s, and were greeted by a rainbow fish (picture taken the following sun-filled morning), and aromas of the sea.

And the fish was incredibly fresh and mouth-wateringly delicious.  The man of the house had his walleye blackened, I had mine lemon peppered, and Zeke had his perch fried.  Our tour guide was right and it set us off on a wonderful food journey. (Just, FYI…the Picky Eater had chicken nuggets, and the Eldest had veal….not in the local space…).

Farmland on the shores of Lake Erie.

As we drove along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail through upstate New York on our way to Niagara, we saw many vineyards and orchards…

but since the plan was to head up to Canada, we didn’t purchase any wine or fruit on the way….we just took in the vistas….

and goose eggs (we think)…

St. Lawrence Market, Toronto.

When in Toronto, you will eat well.  Another blog will need to take you through the restaurants we visited, but let me share with you images of the St. Lawrence market where you can find all kinds of local foods.  The St. Lawrence Market was our first stop, and I will say that if we lived in Toronto, I would absolutely find a way to go to this market weekly. In fact, we enjoyed our stop there on Weekend 1 so much that we returned on Weekend 2 to purchase more deliciousness to bring home.

You can buy meat,

and cheese,

and fish,

and fruits,

(Okay so the bananas can’t possibly be local….)

and veggies,

and crepes!

How can you go wrong?

And if you’re going to take a ferry to the Islands to visit Lake Ontario, you can buy some sausage rolls and latkes and Ontario peaches for lunch….

And you can be very very content….

November 25, 2010

Pumpkin Muffins with Crystallized Ginger

After we got married, my husband and I hosted Thanksgiving in our apartment in Chicago.  We were in graduate school, and traveling home wasn’t in the cards. But we wanted the opportunity to make our own Thanksgiving traditions, and I dove into the newspaper and magazines and cookbooks to find ideas for our meal.  One of the recipes had a mysterious ingredient, crystallized ginger, and that was the deciding factor.  We added it to our menu, found crystallized ginger, and it has remained a central part of all Thanksgivings, no matter where we are celebrating the holiday. They are our Thanksgiving morning meal, and much anticipation awaits their annual preparation.  And then, restraint has to be exhibited so that there is enough room for dinner!

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September 20, 2010

Frontier Culture Museum – Farming in the Valley of Virginia

Over summer vacation (which seems like a million years ago after two weeks of school), we took the kids to the Frontier Culture Museum.  Located in Staunton, Virginia, it is definitely worth a visit.  A living museum, it tells the story of immigrants to Colonial America from England, Ireland, Germany, and West Africa. Many of these families worked on farms or as craftsman, and the museum has recreated farms from the  countries’ homelands, and illustrated how these different farming and cultural heritages intertwined in America. 

The farms are worked throughout the year, and so we got to learn all about colonial farming techniques, how they differed by country of origin, and how they blended in the Valley of Virginia.  It’s really neat – and we all had a great time. Dad learned about different gardening techniques; the twins learned about making homemade cheese, grinding oats for porridge, that pigs are smelly and that chickens come in many different shapes and sizes; and the eldest was excited to learn about the tradition of primogeniture in 17th century England (from which our ancestors were escaping!)….

For your viewing pleasure, food and farming-related images are below.  P.S.  The West African farm wasn’t open yet when we were there, so no pictures from that venue.

We began on a 17th century English farm,

where we learned how to make cheese,

using a cheese press,

After a quick visit to the shared garden (between the English and the Irish, I believe) – note the raised beds for those of you interested in square foot gardening,

we meandered over to the Irish farm,

where there were pigs,

and chickens,

eggs from his harem,

and The Picky Eater learned how to grind her own oats (maybe for granola bars?!?).

Next up, the German farm,

where there are funny-looking chickens,

a fig tree,

and a garden with the necessary ingredients for sauerkraut,

Then we wandered over to the American side of the living museum, where we witnessed how these different heritages influenced farming, gardening, and eating in their new homeland – the Valley of Virginia.

The garden,

A teenager who doesn’t quite understand the work entailed in using a scythe on a farm,

For those of you looking for a fun place to take the family – this one should be on your list!

May 19, 2010

Our Story of Tomatoes

Our garden always includes tomatoes.  Most years the garden will include more produce, but there are always tomatoes.  To explain why requires just a bit of my husband’s family history. The narrative is below.

We didn’t have a vegetable garden until we moved back to Arlington after 20 or so years living in various apartments and cities and foreign lands….basil, sure, cilantro, sometimes, but for reasons that require more explaining that we have room for in our blog, we didn’t find/make time for gardening in any serious way until we moved back home.  Perhaps one reason is that growing food has early roots in my husband’s family, and moving back to where he grew up made the vegetable garden something that had to happen. His mother grew up on the top story of a deli, and since he was a little boy, she gardened. She gardened with a dear family friend in a garden apartment complex, and they appropriated ground that really belonged to the apartment owners as a vegetable garden. From the very beginning, it was a vegetable garden. Why? As a kid, he had no idea.  But thinking back to the late 60s/early 70s when this was happening, it’s quite likely that the family budget needed to be stretched.  Many things were planted, including tomatoes, but they weren’t the central theme, but the first tomato always merited a photograph!  But she grew all kinds of vegetables – including carrots, kohlrabi, things quite impractical from a kid’s point of view.  When the family bought their first small house in Arlington, his mother gardened in that small house – and the new garden included both flowers and veggies. As a kid, he took no particular note of this. It was to be expected. When his mother died at a very early age, this garden was a fundamental part of the household, and needed to be maintained. His dad took it over once she was no longer able to garden, and has taken over the role with great enthusiasm. The garden has grown, and will need to be discussed in another entry.  But today, we are thinking about tomatoes.  Tomatoes, notwithstanding the first tomato picture, were only a small part of the garden in the “old days.”

As a kid, my husband hated tomatoes, because the ones featured on the “daily menu” were the pink peaky tomatoes that came from Safeway. An early memory is asserting, “I will never ever like tomatoes.”  Even though he held the first tomato high for his mother, he managed to get into young adulthood not liking tomatoes.  But there was a moment when the early dislike was transformed. While in Greece, in a summer during college, the first true Greek salad marked the beginning of new relationship with tomatoes.  After a day hiking with little money to his name, he ordered a Greek salad and a beer, and the rest of the story is legend. Meanwhile, his dad moved to a house with more property, and now has a garden where tomatoes are a central focus.  He grows at least twenty different varieties of tomatoes plants each year, and has a fancy irrigation system of his own creation to ensure that they grow as they should.  It is in this context, and with this historical framing, that tomato gardening has become a focus of our vegetable garden.  A little patch of land next to our kitchen has enough room for 8 tomato plants, and every spring, a trip to DeBaggio’s Herb Farm & Nursery is mandatory.

The tomatoes available at DeBaggio’s are the foundations of legends, and there are hundreds of varieties to choose from.  Plants both heritage and not, hybrids or not, of all shapes and sizes, and plants of many colors (maroon, red, pink, yellow, green, green striped, brown) greet the customer. You could get a gigantic beefeater tomato plant for your burger, or you could purchase a red brandywine, or you could simply read the fantastical names, and histories, and geneaologies of the plants, and pick the ones that strike your fancy.

Over the eight years that we’ve been regular customers at DeBaggio’s, we’ve become increasingly in favor of cherry tomatoes as opposed to the larger varieties.  We get better yield from those plants, less loss to squirrels and other varmints, ALL family members love them, and they are the best for salads…

So this year, we are growing  two large varieties: the Mortgage Lifter, a plant developed during the Great Depression with good yield, that seemed particularly apropos this year, and the German Giant, similar to the Brandywine, but more prolific.  And then, we eagerly anticipate the fruit of our six cherry tomato plants: two Black Plums, one Sweet Baby Girl, one Sun Gold, one Tommy Toe, and one Red Sun Gold.  Our plants went into the garden about two weeks ago, and are thrilled with the cool wet week we’re having.  We’re looking forward to the first harvest in early June!!!

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