if i knew that you were coming i'd a baked a cake.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

the new ...slowly she turned, II

Please visit me at the new place at slowlysheturned.net.

I really mean it this time. Sorry for the confusion!

This blog will remain for archival purposes for the time being.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Eat Local Challenge Summary

I thought I'd give a quick summary of what I learned from my Eat Local Challenge this past month, then (thankfully!) move on to other subjects (or not!)

Biggest challenge: Definitely eating out. There are precious few options for eating local food in restaurants. In fact, I have found that restaurant staff are genuinely puzzled by the question. The good news? Masoud and Annah Awartani have re-opened Zaytoon, a Mediterranean restaurant that serves delicious local and organic foods from 7:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. M-F. It's at 301 N. Elm Street. Phone: 336-373-0211. You may know them from the curb market - they are serving the crowd lined up at the Dough Re Mi booth.

Biggest thrill: Harvesting my first artichokes, that I grew from seed, beginning last winter.

Biggest disappointment: Not having the energy and/or time to try more new things, such as making my own pasta, or to bake bread.

Most fun: Eating rabbit stew and mulberry parfait at Bistro Sofia.

Greatest discovery: Lamb's quarters are the best weeds ever. Much tastier than spinach, free, and easy to prepare.

Greatest discovery II: Making your own mayonnaise is really easy with a blender. And it makes a great base for dips, dressings, and sauces.

Biggest accomplishment: Breaking the Pepsi One habit.

Dish I made for the first time ever: Carrot cake.

Food I liked best: Lamb's quarters and navy beans.

Food I liked least: The first salad dressing I made, and several of the salads were on the bitter side.

What I missed most: I didn't eat any tomatoes at all. Period. I decided to be strict on this one. Dark chocolate. But then, I always miss dark chocolate, every minute of every day that I'm not eating it.

What I ate when I fell off the wagon: Chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate cake, and crab/cream cheese dip on crackers at an evening work reception when I was stressed out and starved. Mama's chicken tetrazzini and Vidalia onion/cream cheese pie on Mother's Day weekend. Collard greens, grits, and salad at a restaurant that I thought served local produce, but didn't respond to my questions then or later. More crackers. A spoonful of ice cream. Pimento cheese sandwich at another restaurant that told me it served local food, but didn't. Sour cream. Sampled wine and cheeses at a local wine shop tasting (Zeto). But I didn't eat as many of my exemptions as I thought I would.

What I learned: It wasn't that hard, as long as I could do my shopping at the Farmers' Market. I didn't have to do a lot of complicated cooking. It didn't break my budget. The variety of food available at the market is remarkable. But if I had had to rely on regular grocery stores and restaurants for local food, I would be quite a few pounds lighter right now.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

ELC Days Thirty and Thirty-One

Today I received my 15 minutes of celebri-tay at the News and Record, our regional newspaper. Katie Reetz and Jerry Wolford did a terrific job on the article and photographs, which appeared on the front of the "Savor" section. Jerry even braved the mosquitoes in the shady morning back forty to take a great photo of a very camera-shy blogger.

I summed up things somewhat at the Eat Local Challenge blog early this morning. I may do a better summary tomorrow here, but right now I'm just too beat to think straight!

As for my food diary, I won't be sorry that it is ending. During the week it became kind of tiresome, especially when I was just eating leftovers and salad. But I won't end eating locally. If you've been reading my blog, you already know that it has become a way of life for me. I'll just open it back up to foods that I don't want to eliminate, such as wild salmon, olives, tomatoes, and luscious stinky cheeses. I'll still cite sources in my recipes.

So for the final record, day 30 included egg salad on pita crisps, strawberries, salad, and a Red Oak draft. Today I had leftovers from the weekend, and baked marinated chicken from Back Woods Family Farm. The eggs were from them too. I was sorry that Back Woods Family Farm didn't make the list of my favorite farms in the newspaper, because I buy more food from them than any other farm, and they are definitely on my online list. I think that it was because there wasn't an address on their web site, and that seems to be what they were looking for.

I want to say thank you to my mentor and friend, Charlie Headington. He has been a source of incredible support, knowledge, and friendship. If I can inspire even one person the way that he has inspired me, my life will have been well worth the trip. Thanks, Charlie.

Monday, May 29, 2006

ELC Day Twenty-Nine

A long, hot day.

Lunch: a green salad with tennis-ball, spotted aleppo, and green-leaf lettuces, spinach, radishes, and peas from my garden, topped with my homemade green goddess dressing. Sliced strawberries. Pita crisps with marinated goat cheese. Leftover field peas and red potatoes.

Dinner: Pita crisps with egg salad, made with herb mayonnaise and quince chutney.

Pita bread: Dough Re Mi
Sesame seeds, olive oil: Deep Roots Market
Goat cheese: Goat Lady Dairy
Eggs: Back Woods Family Farm
Herb Mayonnaise: homemade
Mustard: Eden organic, from Earth Fare
Quinces for the chutney came from the next-door neighbor's tree last fall.
Herbs for the dressing, salad fixings: My back yard
Field peas: frozen from last year's garden
Red potatoes: Gann Farm

Sunday, May 28, 2006

ELC Day Twenty-Eight

I couldn't have tried harder to mess up these barbecued pork chops. First I put them on low to simmer while I went to water the community garden row. When I got back, they were burnt on the bottom. So I flipped them and removed the pan from the heat. Then I turned up the heat on a pot of field peas that I had cooked earlier today, and went out to water the back forty. Except I didn't turn the heat up under the field peas, I turned it up under the pork chops and burnt the other side of them.

Maybe multi-tasking isn't my forte.

Other than that, we'll have new red potatoes cooked in chicken stock made from soup bones that I buy from Back Woods Family Farm and vegetable trimmings that I store in a bag in my freezer.

At lunch we had pancakes with fresh strawberries, butter, and a little maple syrup.

I made some pita crisps from some organic whole wheat pita that I purchased from Dough Re Mi and put into the freezer. I cut them into slices, split them apart, brushed the rough sides with olive oil, sprinkled sesame seeds on top, and put them under the broiler for a minute or so, per instructions in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. This is to resolve the cracker cravings, and to make nice little vehicles for egg salad tomorrow. I boiled the eggs today, and I'll make the egg salad when I come home for lunch tomorrow.

Pork chops, chicken soup bones, and eggs: Back Woods Family Farms
Sticky Fingers BBQ Sauce: Charleston, SC (Harris Teeter)
Field peas: My garden via freezer
Pita: Dough Re Mi
Strawberries: Vendor at Greensboro Farmer's Curb Market
Olive oil, canola oil, sesame seeds, maple syrup: Deep Roots Market
Butter: Homeland Creamery
Pancake mix (bulk): Earth Fare

Saturday, May 27, 2006

ELC Day Twenty-Seven

Today has been a great day, and it's not over yet!

I went to the Greensboro Farmer's Curb Market as I do every Saturday morning except this time there was one difference. A photographer from the News and Record went around with me while I shopped.

My first stop was at the Molners' booth, where I bought some extra-sharp cheddar cheese that they get from their Amish brethren in Ohio. This is great stuff that will spoil you. Then I bought some baby Japanese turnips from my friends Pat and Brian Bush of Handance Farm.

On my way to Back Woods Family Farm's table, where I bought chicken breasts and soup bones, I noticed that Donna of Epicourier had spelt flour from the Old Mill of Guilford for sale. This is not a regular item for her so I picked up a bag.

strawberriesI found my strawberry fellow from McLeansville and bought a large container from him. As I was giving him my money, another woman walked up and said, "I heard that you don't spray your strawberries." See, word gets around. Look, do they look any worse for not spraying chemicals on them? They are incredibly sweet now and I hulled and froze half of them whole and sliced the others to munch on all week long from the refrigerator. I may follow Sarah's simple recipe for preparing them.

The last stop has become a regular one for me - the friendly lady at Rocking F Farm who sold me two pounds of frozen grass-fed, home-raised hamburger for $5.

harvest 5-27-06Then I came home, and cut my first two artichokes from my garden! I steamed them, and I made Green Goddess dressing to dip the leaves and heart in. I may have dealt the final death blow to my Oster immersion blender. I believe that I may follow Farmgirl's advice and spend a little extra money on a Kitchen Aid next time. But what a way for it to go out! I used the rest of my olive oil based herb mayonnaise, a little buttermilk, sour cream, more parsley, tarragon, and chives, garlic, and a little salt. This is the salad dressing that I set out to make from the beginning. Now if I can just figure out exactly how I got here...

That's the appetizer. We will also have salad from the garden, and then sauteed shrimp and snow peas. The shrimp are the North Carolina wild-caught that I bought at the market last Saturday and froze. The snow peas are from my garden, and I nearly let them get too full to eat. They were next to the artichokes, who were stealing all the attention.

I like a marinade called Hot and Spicy Allegro Creole Marinade on just about everything I've tried. I decided to try to make my own from reading the ingredients off the bottle. It is mostly soy sauce, and I added lemon juice, dried Kung Pao peppers from last year's garden (I snipped these with kitchen scissors), dried onions, and fresh minced garlic. The shrimp are soaking in it. (Update: I added some five-spice powder to the saute.)

Okay, gotta go cook and eat now. I hope tomorrow is just as fun and relaxing as today was, since I have to work on Memorial Day.

Friday, May 26, 2006

ELC Days Twenty-five and Twenty-Six

Day 25: Not much happened food-wise. I went to the chiropractor for the first time in six years for a very sore and stiff neck, and I just didn't feel like eating. I munched a little on leftovers and some marinated Goat Lady Dairy cheese. The good news is that my neck felt a lot better this morning, and my appetite was definitely back!

After work I went to Harris Teeter for beer and cat food, where I bought a 12-pack of Carolina Blonde for the hot holiday weekend ahead, and a 6-pack of Cottonwood Low-Down Brown Ale, made by the same company. I usually prefer a brown ale, but when the temperatures start hitting the high 80s and it's muggy, I'd rather drink a pilsner. I really liked the Carolina Blonde that I tried last week, and I wanted to try a new North Carolina beer for this week, thus the Cottonwood purchase. I will be buying both of these again. Leave it to a bunch of lake (Norman) bums to know how to brew a fine summertime beer.

Day 26: I woke up hungry this morning, so I hit Tate Street Coffee House for an apple danish, baked for them by Spring Garden Bakery, one of the five local bakeries I decided to support during the challenge. The others are Simple Kneads, Dough Re Mi, Nora Glanz, and Ninth Street Bakery.

Then, when my co-worker asked me what I was doing for lunch, I just didn't want to go home and eat leftovers AGAIN. So I made a phone call to a very nice little restaurant that is on our Slow Food list (yet unpublished, but hopefully coming soon) of restaurants that serve local food.

"Hi, I was wondering if you have any foods from North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia on your menu for lunch today."

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"Are you serving any local foods at lunch today?"

"Excuse me." (Off-phone) "Hey, this woman is on the phone asking about local food and I don't know what she is talking about."

New Person: "Hi, my name is ****, and I'm not sure we understood you. Did you have a question?"

"Thank you, ****. I am on an Eat Local diet this month and I'm eating only foods that are from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. I wanted to check to see if you were serving any today at lunch before I came out there. I write about this on the Internet and there's going to be a newspaper article pointing back to it, so I want to make sure that I can eat there."

"Oh yes, almost all our food comes from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, except for lettuce, which I think comes from California. But the chicken, deli meat, all that is local."

"That's great! Can someone tell me which foods are local when I come out there?"


So we show up, and the poor waitress has no clue what we're talking about. She scrambles to figure it out, and runs back and forth to the chef several times. "Oh yes, we buy all our food locally, but I don't know about whether it is PRODUCED by local farms. But everything we serve is fresh!"


He meant that they bought their food through a food distributor based in town. A very good food distributor that most of the good restaurants in town get their food from, but the food doesn't qualify as local food.

The waitress comes back. "The chef says that the chicken is from North Carolina."

"Oh, that's great! Is it free-range?"

She comes back. "He only knows that it is from North Carolina."

If it's free-range, they know. Believe me.

She comes back. "The chef says that the grouper we serve at dinner is from North Carolina, and he would be glad to prepare it and sell it to you at the lunch entree price."

"Uh, no, I'm sorry, I can't do grouper. I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be difficult, but I write a food diary on the Internet and I need this to be correct. How about the bread - do you get your bread from a local bakery?" I knew that their bread was really good.

She comes back. "The bread is commercial, but the chef has a really good pimento cheese recipe from his grandmother that everybody loves, and he can make you a lightly grilled sandwich with the pimento cheese..."

At this point, I just can't torture this poor waitress any more. Really, she was going way beyond the call of duty. I don't know what clairvoyant abilities the chef had to know that I had a real weakness for lightly grilled pimento cheese sandwiches, and I hadn't had one for a lo-o-o-ng time. I ordered pasta salad as the side, since pasta is one of my exemptions. So it was a real carb and cheese fest for me at lunch. And the sandwich was great.

My realization for this month: Even people that work at very nice restaurants don't seem to know what "local food" means. Food advocates know, and we zero in on all the publicity that the Slow Food and local food movements are getting nowadays and crow about the progress we've made, which is admirable, to be sure. But most restaurant folks, the ultimate foodies, the ones we expect to know about it, did not get the memo about local food.

One of the big problems I see with this is that I was about to put together the second installment of our convivium's Local Food Guide, which was to cover restaurants that serve local food. I did not gather this data. Now I wonder how many other restaurants on our list told the surveyers that they bought local food, when they meant they bought through this particular local food distributor. The other restaurant on the list that I wrote about previously never answered my email questions about local food. There seems to be a basic misunderstanding about what local food is. This is where we need to get the word out to make a major difference in this region's foodshed.

Now I think that the way to go about this is to ask what specific producers and farms do you buy your local food from? If they answer a particular distributor, then we'll know to dig a little deeper. Some, such as growers' marketing cooperatives, carry North Carolina produced foods. Most others do not. If the restaurant does not carry food from local producers, then at least it will get a little hint that this is a subject of growing interest, and it might benefit their business to check into some local food sources and publicize it when they use them.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

ELC Days Twenty-Three and Twenty-Four

Ladies and Gentlemen, in that corner, we had the mustard-based "Sticky Fingers Carolina Classic Barbecue Sauce", hailing from Charleston, S.C. In this corner, from the pork chops a couple of weeks back, our returning champion, tomato-based "Lip Lickin' Sweet & Smoky BBQ Sauce," hailing from Greensboro, N.C.

In Lip Lickin's favor, it was bought at Earth Fare, a medium-sized and growing chain of grocery stores that emphasizes organic foods, and of course it has the hometown advantage. However, Lip Lickin' is not organic.

In Sticky Fingers' favor, although bought at Harris Teeter and it has that prohibitive and scary "high-fructose corn syrup" as the second ingredient, the missus of the house loves mustard. However, the HFCS is a prohibited substance in this household, and so this bottle was the last to fight in this arena.

Both were served over a chicken leg quarter and wing each, from Back Woods Family Farm, last night.

The winner - the hometown "natural," Lip Lickin' Sweet & Smoky BBQ Sauce! Sticky Fingers was a contender, especially with the hot and spicy surprise, but it was not mustardy enough to overcome the other sweet and spicy flavors, which might have won the lady's heart.

Yesterday and today, lunch was leftover frittata, which Sandy would not even taste, so I am left with it all. However, it is surprisingly good even on the third day. I added a little Louisiana Hot Sauce today.

Tonight I mixed chopped up leftover chicken, short-grain brown rice, and cooked lamb's quarters. Again, this was good with Louisiana Hot Sauce. I seem to have a need for peppery goodness today.

I do intend to try out Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice from South Carolina, as a few folks have suggested. However, I have a good stock of rice in the pantry, and the Anson Mills rice will have to be ordered by mail.

We visited Zeto Wines for a wine and cheese tasting after work. I will have to admit that I didn't even think about it being off my challenge until I got there, but hey, I've been good. We didn't buy any wine, but the cheeses were fantastic! It seems that whenever I go really nuts over a particular cheese, it turns out to be from Spain. Sandy bought a wedge of Valdeón, which I will save longingly for June 1. Here's the description on the label:

"Best Blue Cheese in Spain's 2003 national competition! A rich, creamy, intensely flavored semi-soft cow/goat milk blue. Saltier than Stilton. Made in Spain's remote Valdeón Valley (northern region of Asturias) Valdeón gets its distinctive appearance from being wrapped in Sycamore leaves. The leaves add to its complex flavor. Pair with wines made from the gamay grape, lighter more fruit-forward Pinot Noirs, and with Muscat."

Yum, yum, yum. I've been eating mighty fine lately, and the future looks purty good, too.

Monday, May 22, 2006

ELC Day Twenty-Two - Yada Yada Frittata

Every time I turn around, somebody is suggesting that I make a frittata. It's so easy. It's so versatile. It's the perfect dish for spring. Yada yada yada.

Oh, all right!

I've always been a quiche baker - it is my standard potluck dish. But omelets - no way. They always end up as fancy scrambled eggs. So I've always been scared off from frittatas because of the comparison to omelets. I shall fear no more. The frittata has been tried, baked, and declared a success.

You can use any type of cooked vegetables with this, so it is great for seasonal cooking. You can also mix in cooked pasta, or rice, or potatoes before you add the eggs. You don't have to use cheese. You can beat milk or cream or shredded cheese in with the eggs. The fact is, everyone has got a different method, making this a dish that would be difficult even for an omelet-mangler like me to screw up.

The recipe below is loosely taken from Mollie Katzen's recipe in The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Amounts should not be taken literally and should be liberally adjusted. I used what I had.

yada yada frittataYada Yada Frittata

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper
1-2 tsp each of minced fresh parsley, rosemary, and thyme
1 tsp dried basil
2 c chopped broccoli
2 c mixed diced greens (kale and collards)
4 chopped mushrooms
5 well-beaten extra-large eggs
Cheddar cheese
Parmesano-Reggiano cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 350. In a cast iron skillet, cook the onion and garlic with the herbs in the butter and olive oil for a few minutes. Add broccoli and cook a few minutes more. Add greens and mushrooms and cook a few minutes more. Turn the heat up high briefly so that the pan is very hot when you pour the beaten eggs over the top of the cooked veggies. Turn the heat down and lift the edges of the eggs as they set to let the uncooked egg run underneath. When the whole thing is pretty well set, lay thin slices of cheddar and grated Parmesano-Reggiano on top. Put the whole pan in the oven for 12 minutes.

Organic olive oil - Deep Roots Market
Butter - Homeland Creamery
Onion - Faucette Farm
Garlic - Cornerstone Garlic Farm
Broccoli - Weatherhand Farm
Herbs, kale, and collards - My back yard
Mushrooms - Gann Farm
Eggs - Back Woods Family Farm
Cheddar cheese - Ashe County, N.C. (from farmer's market)
Parmesano-Reggiano cheese - Earth Fare

Sunday, May 21, 2006

ELC Day Twenty-one - Bistro Sofia

Local Foods Luncheon at Bistro Sofia, May 21, 2006

Today was a special day of my Eat Local Challenge. Bistro Sofia and Slow Food Piedmont Triad co-hosted a local seasonal lunch that featured food and wine from many local farms. A few of the farmers joined us. Two of them are friends - Steve Tate from the Goat Lady Dairy, and Deb Bettini, who has been in a couple of food-related classes with me and is now supplying Bistro Sofia with salad greens, mushrooms, and other products from her farm. Bistro Sofia also has its own garden behind the restaurant.

Just like the last Slow Food tasting lunch, we had a fabulous meal AND entertaining conversation with dinner companions. I hope that I will see the people I met today again at Slow Food events.

Sandy and I don't know a lot about wine, but we enjoyed both wine selections and everyone else seemed to as well. We bought a bottle of the Rockhouse Vineyard Cabernet Franc to go. I really wanted the Chardonnay but I'll visit Zeto Wines later and get some.

Rabbit thyme stew with herb baked polentaI have eaten rabbit before at Williamsburg and loved it, but I was feeling a bit skittish about it this time. Let's just call it remnants of Watership Down bouncing around the corners of my brain. I decided that I would just have to try not to think of it as a living animal - however, the rest of the table decided to trade rabbit stories! But I enjoyed it anyway. It was really delicious, and reminded me of the last time I ate it, when it was served in a pie.

Someone made a joke about people who didn't like grits liking polenta, when both are just basically cornmeal. (It's all in the way you cook grits, trust me. Plain grits are awful, but you can do wonders with them when you add cheese and herbs and spices. I prefer yellow grits, with garlic and sharp cheddar cheese.) To me the polenta reminded me of my mother's cornbread dressing, especially combined with the gravy from the rabbit stew. There's not much higher compliment than comparison to Mama's cornbread dressing.

I learned something about mulberries. I wondered how they would deal with the stems - the stems do not come off the berries easily. That turned out to be simple - the stems were left on and I wouldn't have even noticed if I hadn't been paying attention to it. And it was exquisite.

I think that everyone learned something about local foods and the wide availability of them here in the Piedmont Triad, and so it was a real success for "the cause."

Mulberry parfait at Bistro Sofia, May 21, 20061st Course:
Uwharrie Farms (Larry McPherson) tomato herb mousse, Bettini Farms (Deb & Randy Bettini) salad greens, sweet tomato vinaigrette
2nd Course:
Local rabbit (J&S Farms, John and Sue Marshall) and thyme stew, herb baked polenta (Old Mill of Guilford cornmeal)
3rd course:
Bettini Farms mulberry parfait, crème chantilly (Homeland Creamery Heavy Cream)
4th Course:
Goat Lady Dairy Providence cheese (Taleggio-style), walnut biscotti

Round Peak Vineyard Chardonnay 2004, Mount Airy, N.C. (Curry Martin)
Rockhouse Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2004, Tryon, N.C.

Web sites:
  • Bistro Sofia
  • Bettini Farms
  • Goat Lady Dairy
  • Homeland Creamery
  • Old Mill at Guilford
  • Round Peak Vineyards
  • Uwharrie Farm
    Garden at Bistro Sofia, May 21, 2006
  • Saturday, May 20, 2006

    ELC Day Twenty

    The only hard part of the Eat Local Challenge has been not being able to find local food when eating out. I enjoy going out to lunch with my co-workers and we can't afford to go to a fine restaurant so often. So I've had to get used to eating lunch at home, alone. (Cue violins here...)

    This is going to sound schizophrenic after my post from yesterday, but so be it. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that a seafood vendor has set up at the Greensboro Farmer's Curb Market, with iced seafood in coolers that he brings from the North Carolina coast. He had quite a variety, and I bought some of the biggest bay scallops I've ever seen and some shrimp to freeze for later. Yes, it is twice the price of the shrimp in the grocery store, but food raised in sewage is not worth it at any price to me.

    The fact is, I'm not ready to give up shrimp. I know that harvesting the wild caught shrimp tears up the ocean bottoms, and I'll have to consider that. I'll buy U.S. farmed shrimp at the grocery when I shop there, and will probably go for the organic label even though I know that it's not reliable. And I'll never buy the cheap black tiger shrimp again, bleh!

    Now that I have a garden that produces quite a bit of seasonal food, I've found that my shopping trips to the farmer's market often do not involve buying vegetables. There is such a variety of foods offered there now, I could probably pass on ever shopping at a conventional grocery store again.

    Today at the market I bought:
  • bottom round beef roast from Rocking F Farm (for pot roast next weekend)
  • shrimp (for the freezer) and bay scallops from Paul Nelson
  • chicken breasts from Back Woods Family Farm
  • garlic from Cornerstone Garlic Farm
  • white mushrooms and new red potatoes from Gann Farm
  • broccoli from WeatherHand Farm
  • roasted peanuts and a tomato from Faucette Farms (Sandy complains if I don't buy him a tomato! He's not as picky as I am. A tomato out of season is pointless to me, even if it is greenhouse grown.)
  • a blue cheese/leek mini-quiche from Nora Glanz, who told me today that she uses local goat cheese in her tarts now. Probably not this one, though.
  • a couple of cucumber plants from Handance Farm

    Lunch today: leftover navy beans, lamb's quarters, hamburger, onion, and garlic, all mixed together with dried basil and called "hash."

    Dinner tonight will be: bay scallops marinated in lemon juice and olive oil, sauteed with broccoli, spring onions, garlic, and maybe mushrooms, served over organic linguini and topped with freshly grated parmesano-reggiano cheese. I'll also add feta cheese from Sleepy Goat Farm if there is any at Deep Roots Market today. (Note: if you bought their feta cheese right around the time of the Taste Fair, you may have found it too salty. I talked to the cheesemaker and she said that the next batch has less salt, so try it again!)
  • Friday, May 19, 2006

    ELC Days Eighteen and Nineteen

    Yesterday I ate a cheese sandwich and strawberries for lunch, and leftover chicken and navy beans/lamb's quarters for dinner. The cheese was hoop cheddar, purchased from a vendor at the Greensboro Farmer's Curb Market, who told me that it is produced in Ashe County, North Carolina. The seven-grain bread was from Ninth St. Bakery in Durham, N.C. and I bought it at Harris Teeter, one of the few local products I could find as I trolled the grocery store earlier this week. The herb mayonnaise was my homemade stuff, and the crisp tennis ball lettuce from my garden made a tasty alternative to boring old iceberg lettuce. The strawberries from the curb market were sliced and tossed with a bit of non-local organic sugar, one of my exemptions.

    Today, I had a slice of Nora Glanz's spinach quiche, bought from Tate Street Coffee House. Nora sells her tarts and quiches at the Greensboro Farmer's Curb Market, and last Saturday she told me that she buys her ingredients from the other farmers at the market whenever they are available. And I had some salad from my garden with homemade dressing.

    For liquid refreshment this week, iced tea with mint from my garden, organic fair-trade Bolivian coffee from Tate Street Coffee House, and Carolina Blonde beer, produced in Mooresville, N.C.

    Tonight, I have to do something with this Carolina white shrimp I bought at Harris Teeter Tuesday afternoon! Yikes, I forgot about it and it is way too expensive to waste. I admit that it doesn't smell too wonderful, but I soaked it in organic tamari sauce and lemon juice (both exemptions) at lunch in the hope of redemption. If it's edible, I'll stir-fry it with some snow peas and carrots from the garden.

    Speaking of seafood, I did not have my handy-dandy wallet-sized seafood watch guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium the other night when I was at Bert's Seafood Grille. As I wrote before, the waiter said that the local choices were flounder or grouper. I checked Oceans Alive today and discovered that neither are good environmental choices. I managed to make one of the worst ones - grouper - and Sandy paid a lot for it! Not only that, I found that the extra money I spent on this wild caught Carolina white shrimp would have been better spent (ecologically speaking) on U.S. farmed shrimp. Most farmed fish (such as salmon) and imported shrimp are produced in shocking, filthy conditions - the facts about them would eliminate your appetite for them forever. But not all wild caught seafood is best. And according to reports I've seen, "organic" means nothing when it comes to seafood.

    Vegetables, fruit, dairy, poultry, and livestock are pretty easy to make decisions about, but seafood is very, very complicated. It changes according to the method of harvesting, country and the type of fish or shellfish. It's lucky that we have these guides available to us. So I'm not going to be as concerned about local seafood from now on. I think that it is more important to make the most sustainable choice.

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    ELC Days Sixteen and Seventeen

    Yesterday I had leftover hamburger casserole for lunch, and I finished it off today at lunch. Good comfort food, and I seem to need that this week. It's just been stressful all the way round, but not necessarily awful.

    Yesterday afternoon a friend called to wish us a happy anniversary. "Oh my God," I said. "Thank you for reminding me."

    Sandy came in from work.

    "Honey, did you forget that it was our anniversary?" I asked.

    He looked like a deer caught in the headlights. "Oh my God. I'm sorry," he said.

    I could've had some fun with this, but I decided to be kind.

    So we went to Bert's to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. We usually go to Bert's for special occasions, although we did not for the last two birthdays. My only problem with Bert's is that it is so hard to choose from the huge menu of seafood dishes. And they have other entrees now, like elk.

    I had remembered that Bert's had a card on the tables about a farm that they bought their veggies from, but I'm not sure of my memory now, because the waiter did not know. I asked him what seafood came from either North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia - I was ready for some shellfish. But I was disappointed, because he came back with the answer flounder and grouper, fishes that I don't particularly care for. I ordered the grilled feta cheese and leek grouper with a roasted red pepper relish, and I chose sides that I thought might have a chance of being local - green salad, collard greens, and cheesy grits.

    I wrote Bert's an email today and I hope that they will send me some information about their local and regional buying connections, now or in the near future. I'll write about it if they answer my questions. Bert's is a favorite of mine and I suspect that maybe the waiter was wrong or there's a reason for them not having local food right now.

    Tonight, it is another late dinner. I am waiting for my baked lemon chicken breasts to cool down. Remember that lemons were one of my exemptions. I used the leftover olive oil and honey wine vinegar salad dressing from the first week over the chicken, plus lemon juice, lemon zest, and dried basil. Side dish is navy beans and lamb's quarters again. Not very original, but damn, they were good and I was ready for them again.

    Chicken - Back Woods Family Farm
    Honey Wine Vinegar - Quaker Acres Apiaries
    Olive Oil and Lemon - Deep Roots Market
    Basil - My back yard
    Navy Beans - Faucette Farms
    Lamb's Quarters - "weeds" from the community garden

    Monday, May 15, 2006

    ELC Day Fifteen

    Lunch today was late because I was too stressed out to eat, but once I did I had a salad with lettuce, spinach, radishes, and carrots from the back forty, strawberries from my front porch pots, sprouts from Snow Creek Family Organic Farm, and homemade dressing made with an egg from Back Woods Family Farm, olive oil, buttermilk from Homestead Creamery, and herbs from the back forty. I snacked on roasted peanuts from Faucette Farms.

    Dinner is coming out in a few minutes. I was tired of eating rabbit food, so I made a basic peasant dish - a layered hamburger and potato casserole. I used to make casseroles with cream of mushroom soup, but for the past year or so I've been making a thick white sauce with chopped mushrooms to substitute for that. It makes an ordinary dish seem like a gourmet meal. Well, I don't think anything could make this dish seem gourmet, but it sure is good.

    Hamburger - Rocking F Farm
    Onion - Faucette Farm
    Elephant Garlic - My back yard
    Red potatoes and white mushrooms - Gann Farm
    Milk - Homestead Creamery
    Butter - Homeland Creamery
    Flour - Old Mill of Guilford
    Extra-sharp cheddar cheese - the Molners at the Curb Market - technically not made by them, it is Amish cheese that they get from Ohio. I can't find a local source of sharp cheddar, and life is not worth living with only regular cheddar. And Ohio is not so far away...

    Part of the problem with this time of year is that I spend the remaining daylight hours in the garden, and then I end up cooking very late, if at all. Normally I would cook a few big dishes on the weekend to get us through most of the week, but again, this time of year is full of things that keep me out of the kitchen on the weekend.

    We need more restaurants that make an effort to buy food from local farmers. We have some, such as Lucky 32, Green Valley Grill, Bistro Sofia, and Bert's, to name a few, but we need more on the lower end too, such as breakfast places that serve local sausage, bread, and pasture-raised eggs. I was in a place in Asheville that charged a little extra for free-range organic eggs. I would happily do that if I had a choice here in Greensboro.

    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    ELC Days Thirteen and Fourteen - Mother's Day

    Yesterday I headed to the Greensboro Farmer's Curb Market with the major goal of buying my mother a present. Soap was out because last year I bought her soap and she said, "Everybody gives me soap. Do I smell?"

    So I bought some soap for us, and for her, a nice hanging basket of flowers.

    I also picked up some red new potatoes, a tomato (special request from Sandy), and a very small bunch of oyster mushrooms from Gann Farm's booth. He's really getting into the mushrooms. Many people are selling shiitakes now, but he has shiitake, white, portobello, and now oyster mushrooms.

    Because I like to snack, I bought a bag of roasted peanuts from Faucette Farms. That should help me stay away from the vending machine at work.

    I spent the rest of my money on pepper plants from Handance Farm and WeatherHand Farm. I bought 11 different kinds:

    Red Bell (WH)
    Serrano (WH)
    Sweet Banana (WH)
    Lipstick (HD)
    Gourmet (HD)
    Doe Hill (HD)
    Golden Bell (HD)
    Chocolate Bell (HD)
    Ruby (HD)
    Valencia (HD)
    Joe's Round (HD)

    Then I nursed a migraine until I was well enough to drive down east to Mama's house. I knew that the Eat Local Challenge was going to be seriously challenged once I got there. For one thing, I was going to offer to take her out to eat like we usually do, and there are not many options near Marietta, N.C. But Mama had already cooked dinner, and didn't really want to eat out.

    Sidenote: The food news from down home is that there is now a Chinese restaurant in Lake View, South Carolina. You have to be from there to understand how absolutely amazing this is. The last step in this exotic direction was pizza at the restaurant in the convenience store.

    So we had chicken tetrazini, which had nothing local or organic in it, fruit salad, which had some strawberries from one of the local farms, and field peas and silver queen corn from Mama's freezer from her garden last year. She baked this Vidalia onion/cream cheese pie that was incredible. I have the recipe - it's from Cooking Light or I'd post it. For dessert, strawberry angel food cake. The cake was from a mix, but the strawberries were local.

    Not bad, considering she had no warning. But that's pretty normal eating for her. We had the leftovers for lunch today.

    After I explained the Eat Local Challenge to her last night, she made blueberry muffins for us this morning. The blueberries are from her bushes. And those muffins were so delicate and delicious!

    Late that afternoon, I went over to the farm where there is a house built in 1820. The chimney had fallen down and I wanted some of the bricks. They were in a pile of dirt and my brother and I picked the whole ones out of the top of it. Apparently the chimney had been mortared with mud. The bricks are probably too soft and crumbly to walk on, but I'm going to stack them up, lay some old landscape ties across the tops, and use the shelves against the south side of my house for container plants.

    I was guilted into attending Mama's church with her this morning, which I swore off forever after a horrendous homophobic and just plain stupid sermon on Mother's Day two years ago. But Mama knew that she was going to be the oldest mother there this year, and she would be recognized. We offered to hire a hit man last year when she was the next-oldest mother, but fortunately it turned out not to be necessary.

    To my relief, the sermon was not offensive and I enjoyed it. It was about Hagar, and I was just waiting for him to launch some right-wing denouncement of Islam, but he actually pulled an interesting message from it about not knowing God's plan when one feels abandoned and talked about helping single mothers.

    Mama's gardenMy brother had plowed Mama's garden twice this week. Every year she says that she will not be able to have a garden again next year. But then she complains that no one will plow her garden for her. Mama is 82 and although she is in great shape for her age, she was diagnosed with osteoporosis and it is hard for her to stoop and plant and pick now. She really does want a garden - she has never NOT had a garden. By the time I got there she already had a huge garden planted with seeds coming up in every row except a small area she saved for my tomatoes. I planted a couple of Brandywines, Romas, and one Amish Paste tomatoes in two different spots. The spot she saved for them had a tomato virus in the soil so I talked her into trying them in a different area as well. That soil looks really worn out. She'll put one of the Brandywines into a pot.

    So I've had a big weekend. I don't know what I'll do for dinner, but it will be light and probably involve strawberries, cheese, and/or salad. Right now I'm enjoying a New River Pale Ale, "brewed and bottled in Ashburn, Virginia."