La Cucina Stagionale

Blog for A Posto Personal Chef Services LLC in Newport, Oregon

Archive for the tag “local produce”

What’s in Your CSA?

We invested in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year with a local farm in Toledo: Sitka Springs Farm.  The way it works (for those who do not know) is that you pay the farmer up front, usually in early Spring, for a share in the produce they grow during a specified time-period, usually Summer and Fall.  The farmer uses the funding they receive to plant the produce the shareholder will receive; it’s like having your own personal farmer!  Once the season begins, the shareholder receives a container full of fresh produce every week.  The upside is that you get freshly picked produce every week and the downside is that you get freshly picked produce every week.  A typical selection might be onions, garlic, shallots, kale, chard, collard greens, mustard greens, zucchini, peppers, potatoes, radishes, cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli and various other items.  One week we got artichokes; another, chanterelle mushrooms; and another, a beautiful blue squash called an Oregon Sweet.

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Our challenge has been to keep up with what we get.  Onions, shallots and garlic keep well, so there is no problem there.  Hardy greens can sit in the fridge for a few days or a week or so with no harm, but others have a short shelf life.  Zucchini is always a prolific vegetable and this year I got very creative with it.  I made chocolate zucchini muffins, Korean zucchini pancakes, zucchini tarts, stuffed zucchini, grilled zucchini and the ubiquitous zucchini bread (but with pistachios—yum).  Peppers were also bountiful, and are not on readily eaten here as Bruce doesn’t like them—especially green bells.  I had to process the peppers in ways that they were hidden from both sight and flavor. I made pepper jam, pepper salsa, pepper enchilada sauce, roasted pepper tarts and added them to the Korean zucchini pancakes.  Smile

I’ve made the traditional kind of sauerkraut and a Mexican variation called Cortido with cabbage; I’ve preserved sour cherries; I’ve fermented carrots and beets, and yesterday, a rutabaga that was the size of a small child!

fermented rutabaga

What I love about my produce challenge every week is that I am learning new ways to  prepare various vegetables as well as how to preserve them for later use through fermentation, pickling, or other techniques.  We all get into cooking ruts, and even though I do my best to challenge myself with new techniques as often as I can, it’s easy to just whip up a vegetable dish I’ve been making for years.  For example, I love roasted greens, any greens, be they spinach, kale, chard, mustard greens, bok choy, tatsoi, mizuna or others.  I have a tendency to want to roast every bunch of greens I receive because it’s easy to do and they taste really good.  However, I have challenged myself to do different things with the greens this year. I simmered some kale and chard in coconut milk and Indian spices a few weeks ago.  I made an Asian noodle soup with chopped greens, tofu, and fish sauce that was delicious; I grilled chard and kale one beautiful afternoon and ate them with olive oil, lemon juice and anchovies.  I have chard, kale, and collards waiting for me tonight; I’m making grilled duck breast, so am thinking I’ll treat them like cabbage and make a warm salad with vinegar and onions.

steak!

In the picture above, I roasted the greens and topped them with sliced Spanish olives.  The red sauce on the steak is Romesco and was delicious with everything on that plate!

I’m going to miss my CSA when it ends on October 22nd.  I will have to go back to scrounging for nice produce from our local coop and the various grocery stores here, but I’ll be first in line come next year when our local farms begin offering shares for purchase.  I’ll be ready for those zucchini, peppers and that huge rutabaga—bring it on!

For more information on CSA’s and how you can get involved with a local farm, click here

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cucina bene; mangia bene (shop your local farmers’ markets)

The local farmers’ markets have opened here in Lincoln County.  We have several to choose from: Lincoln City, Newport, Toledo, Waldport, and Yachats.  Bruce & I have been faithful shoppers of the Newport farmers’ market since we moved here almost 14 years ago.  Before that, we were faithful shoppers of the markets in San Francisco.  Why do we shop at the farmers’ markets, you may ask?  There are several reasons: we like to support our local economy, we like to know where our food comes from, we have developed relationships over the years, the food is more nutritious, and it tastes better.  I made a salad last summer for a client who asked me if I grew my own carrots; my answer was no, the carrots had come from the Newport Farmers’ Market.  The client’s answer was: ‘wow, these taste like real carrots’.   It’s unfortunate that most of the produce available for sale in the grocery stores is not flavorful.  The reasons are many: picked too soon, traveled too far, genetically modified, sprayed with chemicals, or dyed a different color.  None of these reasons have anything to do with the flavor or nutritional value of the actual fruit or vegetable; it has everything to do with marketability, shelf life, and profit.

farmers markets1

One of the things I love about going to the farmers’ market each week is the slow build up of the amount of produce available each week.  In the beginning, there isn’t much: a few different types of greens, radishes, potatoes, etc.  Each week, new things appear: the first strawberries of the season, spring onions, fava beans, and peas (if you’re lucky to get some).  As the season progresses, more berries arrive, along with peaches, eggplant, peppers, corn, and tomatoes!  I wait all season to buy fresh tomatoes from the farmers’ market and I buy them mainly from Dominique Jumel who grows the best tasting tomato I have ever had!  I never do any menu planning ahead of time; I always wait to see what I will find at the market first.  We have created some amazing meals from our forays every Saturday morning.

Grilled Caesar Salad with Shrimp & Roasted Tomato Soup

Of course, there is more than just fruits and vegetables available at the farmers’ markets; you can buy plants, planters, handcrafted yard & home décor,  artwork, jewelry, soap, breads and pastries, and clothing.  Whatever it is, it is certain to be unique, hand-made, and definitely local.

Here is a recipe for roasted tomatoes which can be made into sauce or soup, but most definitely requires good quality fresh tomatoes from your local farmers’ market…..buon appetito!

Ingredients:

Fresh tomatoes (about 5 lbs.)

garlic
onion
olive oil
salt & pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F.
Wash and core tomatoes and place in an oiled roasting pan.  Fit as many tomatoes as you can in the pan(squeeze a few if you have to).  Scatter coarsely chopped onion and whole, unpeeled garlic cloves over the tops of the tomatoes.  Season generously with salt and pepper and then drizzle olive oil over the top.  Roast the tomatoes for approximately 2-3 hours or until they begin to flatten and blacken.  The key is to roast as much of the water out of the tomato as you can to concentrate the flavor.
Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let cool completely.  Run through a food mill to separate the skins, seeds, garlic and onion.

To make sauce, cook the tomatoes for about 1-2 hours or until the sauce thickens and gets darker.  For soup, just heat and top with your favorite toppings such as chopped green onions, fresh basil, crème fraiche.  Just add a little cream for a cream of tomato soup….serve with a salad or a toasted cheese sandwich.

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