Saturday, January 29, 2011

Quick Simple Recipe For Spring Chopped Salad With Mint, Avocado, and Fennel

I love to find one of my recipes on someone else's blog. posted this salad dish, which is from my book Quick Simple Food, which is still available from Amazon (hint, hint). Click here to see a photo, the recipe and a review.

Quick and Easy Recipe For Spring Chopped Salad With Mint, Avocado, and Fennel: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Creative Loafing: How to make meatloaf better than your mom

Turkish-spiced meatloaf

This is a story I did for Real Eats, a new food digital thingy you can read on your iPad, Smartphone, laptop or whatever else you may have that I don't. There's lots of great food writing and recipes in Real Eats so definitely check it out. This is a bit of a longish post but if you're into meatloaf it may keep your attention.
The Turkish Meatloaf is from my cookbook, Quick Simple Food and it's one of those recipes I still make all the time as my friends keep asking for it. Here's the story. My friend Mark Bittman contributed a recipe that's a little bit of a falafel with bulgur and lots of parsley that I really want to try with lamb.
I’m all about meatloaf. Good, tender, juicy meatloaf made simply and without affectation. It ‘s a three-day event, meatloaf. On the first day you serve it hot, in a thick slab, alongside mashed potatoes with a green veg on the side just like the Blue-Plate Special at Mayberry’s Bluebird Cafe. The next day it’s the simple thought of a meatloaf sandwich that gets me out of bed. They’re actually great served open-face on toast for breakfast. But for lunch it has to be sliced cold and sandwiched between 9-grain with mustard, mayo, with lots of lettuce, blissfully paired with a bowl of cream of tomato soup and a crunchy dill pickle.
 Now some people would stop there. Not me. On the third day there is a wedding of leftover meatloaf crumbs, rice and diced whatnot that I stuff into steamed cabbage leaves and cover with a can of pureed stewed tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil. At this point the loaf has pretty much had its day(s) and I’m fixed for a couple of weeks until I’m ready to get my loaf on again.
 Meatloaf hasn’t always been something stone-cold foodies talk about wistfully on Saturday morning NPR programming. Before the comfort food craze of the ‘90s, meatloaf was considered a blue-collar staple food magazines (back when there was more than just a couple), were down-right snobby about them. Most of us though have always been sentimental about our meatloaf – whether it was good or not -- as it speaks of home and hearth, and the memory of someone we love making it.
 It’s the meatloaf’s misfortune that it never attained a French or Italian name hence its absence from the top-shelf food encyclopedias such as Larousse Gastronomique. According to The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson (1999, Oxford University Press), the first mention of meatloaf in print in the United States was in 1899, in Britain, not until 1939, though it doubtless existed in some form before that. The creation of dishes in this period -- in poor, upcoming America, that is – were predicated by the need to find palatable ways to use up a whole carcass, celebrity chefs and their licensed products being unavailable in the pre-adolescent Industrial Age (oh, for the good old days).
A Few Tips for a Perfect Loaf:
I have made a lot of meatloaf in my time and given it some thought. Probably too much thought. But there are a few techniques for a mo’ betta loaf, if you will. It’s important to add some fat or use a fatty ground meat in order to make your loaf juicy and tender. So if you use lean towards using lean ground beef, or a combo of lower fat meats like turkey or chicken, you’re apt to end up with one tough log.  According to author Marion Cunningham, the best meatloaf is made from cuts you have ground to order. Say, a chuck roast or pork chops encircled with a bit of fat.  I like to add a good drizzle of extra virgin for good measure as you can never have too much. Once a meatloaf has rested and reabsorbed the meat juices you can always pour off the extra fat. 
Meatloaf “binders” range from bread and cracker crumbs, oats, and even uncooked grits. It’s fun to experiment with these, perhaps adding some interesting grain like quinoa, but I’d have to go with sturdy white bread crumbs along with some milk and eggs, which I think gives it the perfect texture.
 Then there’s the issue of the top. Traditionally meatloaf was covered with ketchup (I happen to like Heinz chili sauce), bacon strips, and even a ‘frosting’ of mashed potatoes, all of which help keep it moist and adds a fun layer of flavor.
 I think the most important step in meatloaf making is to not over-mix the ingredients. I know it’s fun to get in there and squish the ground meat between your fingers but keep the mix step quick and loose and avoid packing it down too heavily in the loaf pan.  Remove from the oven when the loaf has pulled away from the sides but juices are still a little pink: it will keep cooking in the pan as it rests.
Here are some interesting meatloaf recipes with a range of flavors, ingredients and techniques. Among them is Cunningham’s “American Meatloaf” recipe, which to me is just the ne plus ultra of the classic meatloaf.

American Meatloaf

From The Supper Book, by Marion Cunningham
Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef (chuck or round)
2 boneless pork chops (about 1/2 pound), ground
3 cloves garlic, minced or put through garlic press
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
Salt, at least 1 teaspoon, or to taste
Pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
2/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and over medium-low heat cook until softened, stirring often, about 6 to 6 minutes.

In a large bowl, put the beef and pork, sautéed vegetables, garlic, bead crumbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, tomato ketchup, and water. Mix thoroughly with your bands. Gently pat the meatloaf into an oval-shaped mound in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish. (If pressed together too firmly, the meatloaf won’t remain moist and tender.) Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Feel free to surround your meatloaf with small whole onions and/or carrots and small new potatoes.

Turkish Meat Loaf

From Quick Simple Food, by Susie Quick
Makes 4 to 6 sevings

3/4 pound ground turkey or veal
3/4 pound ground lamb, pork, or mild sausage
1 cup grated carrots
1 small onion, grated on large holes of a 4-sided grater
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg, beaten
2 teaspoons garam masala or curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large hard-cooked eggs, shells removed
4 to 5 thick bacon slices

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place all ingredients except the hard-cooked eggs in a large bowl and use you hands to mix everything thoroughly (not too much!). Place half the meat mixture in a 9x5x3-inch glass or metal loaf pan.

Center the eggs, end-to-end, on top of the meat. Cover the eggs with the remaining meat mixture and gently pat to form a loaf. Cover the top with the bacon slices. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the loaf pulls away from the side of the pan and the juices are mostly clear. Allow to rest in the pan 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Meat-and-Grain Loaf, Burgers, or Balls

From The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman
Makes: 6 to 8 servings, or more for appetizers

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound spinach or other tender greens, washed and drained
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken or turkey thighs, beef chuck or sirloin, or pork or lamb shoulder, excess fat removed; or use ground meat
1 small onion or 2 shallots, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon ground cumin or 1 tablespoon chili powder
Black pepper
1 large egg
2 cups cooked, drained bulgur or any other cooked grain   

Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease a loaf pan, rimmed baking sheet, or large roasting pan with 2 tablespoons oil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it; fill a large bowl with ice water. Wilt the spinach in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Drain and immediately plunge into the ice water. Drain, squeeze tightly to dry thoroughly, and roughly chop. Put the spinach in a bowl. If you’re using ground meat, add it to the spinach and skip to Step 3.

If you’re using whole pieces of meat, cut them into large chunks and put in a food processor. Pulse several times to process until ground but not puréed, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides if necessary. Transfer to the bowl with the spinach.

Add the onion, garlic, and spices, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir. Add the egg and bulgur and mix until thoroughly combined using a rubber spatula or your hands. Transfer the mixture to the loaf pan or shape into a free-form loaf, burgers, or balls, and put on the baking sheet or in the roasting pan. Transfer to the oven and roast until firm and browned all over. A loaf will take about 50 minutes; burgers and balls with take 20 to 30, depending on their size (carefully turn them once or twice for even cooking).
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Organic vs. Conventional Milk, Organic Wins

An interesting study testing the consistency of nutrients and fatty acids in conventional and organic milk was just published in the UK. Guess which milk turned out to be the healthiest?

According to study author, Gillian Butler: "Organic dairying standards prescribe a reliance on forage, especially grazing, and, in the absence of nitrogen fertiliser, tend to encourage swards of red and white clover, which have been shown to alter the fatty acid intake and composition of milk."

While protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and some mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids in milk are considered beneficial, saturated fatty acids are believed to have a negative effect on human health.

“We’re always being told to cut down on the saturated fat we consume and switching to organic milk and dairy products provides a natural way to increase our intake of nutritionally desirable fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants without increasing our intake of less desirable fatty acids,” said Mrs Butler.

“By choosing organic milk you can cut saturated fats by 30-50 percent and still get the same intake of beneficial fatty acids, as the omega-3 levels are higher but omega-6 is not, which helps to improve the crucial ratio between the two.”
Read more here: Press Releases - - Newcastle University

- Sent using Google Toolbar"
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Talking CSAs

This is the time of year to sign up for a spring-summer CSA (Community Support Agriculture). I really enjoyed participating in and running my own CSA in the past. But it's not for everyone. And by that I mean, regimented eaters who aren't open to the new varieties and variables in food off the farm. You need to be open to trying foods, maybe even some you thought you didn't like. And an adventurous cook who likes to try new recipes.
I think the rewards are obvious. You're getting the freshest, and probably the healthiest, produce and products available (especially when you consider that supermarket broccoli can be 3 months old and eggs a 3 weeks old). Usually the food from the CSA was picked the day before or even that morning . You're helping to preserve farmland by supporting a small farmer, reducing food miles traveled and reducing your food dollars by paying in advance. All these are upright, admirable things. But mostly, you're getting some of the best tasting food around.
Here's a great video with CSA members and farmers discussing the farm subscription program and its benefits. To find a CSA near you just go to and plug in your zip code.
What to expect when you join a CSA

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Monday, January 24, 2011

The Mud Maiden of Heligan Gardens

Planet Green has a story on five of the world's most beautiful gardens. The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, UK would be first on my list. I want to recreate a "Mud Maiden" next to the spring on the farm.

"The magnificent Heligan Gardens are designed in what is known as the "gardenesque" style, which means that different parts of the garden have entirely different moods and focuses. The gardens include several very old rhododendrons and camellias, an Italian-style garden, a large vegetable garden, Europe's only productive pineapple pit, and "The Jungle,"which is filled with sub-tropical tree ferns. The gardens are now open to the public, and the "Mud Maiden," above, has become one of the garden's most beloved features."
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A Farm School for Women

This sounds like a great program and I only wish they offered a scholarship (*hint*). North Carolina really made good use of the Tobacco Settlement Funds by establishing farmers markets and providing a stimulus to tobacco farmers to switch to food crops. (I only wish Kentucky has followed this model.)

Here's a bit of the discussion about the Farm School for Women that will take place this spring:
"Female farmers are the fastest growing population buying and operating small farms nationwide. For the past twenty-five years, the big traditional farms have been in decline; however, during that same period the number of farms run by women has increased 86%. Currently, there are approximately a quarter million women-owned farms in the United States, and our numbers are increasing.
Today's female farmer is a different breed with a different philosophy and approach: holistic, environmentally sensitive, sustainable and small. In fact, small-scale farming is the hallmark of female farmers. It's a kinder, gentler method of agricultural production involving all the senses— living in the moment even as you prepare for the next day, next week or next season." Read more here: NC Women of the Land Agricultural Network (NCWOLAN): "- Sent using Google Toolbar"
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Honest, greener food choices can help prevent precocious puberty

When I was an editor for several womens' magazines the studies about precocious puberty in children made us all shudder. It was difficult - even 10 years ago - to find experts (researchers or pediatric clinicians), to talk much about what might cause this or even propose a theory. However, there were a few brave enough to go on the record and point to the food supply of milk and beef and their added hormones. Following some studies showing the estrogenic effects of plastic (from water bottles, food containers, baby bottles, and canned food liners), this became a hot topic in regards to hormone-related cancers. The American Plastics Council is not happy about that! Here's an article about precocious puberty, which is the premature development of children, from
In it Dr. Luigi Garibaldi, a professor of pediatrics and clinical director of pediatric endocrinology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, explains that a 'greener' lifestyle and healthier food choices can help prevent it. I think what he means is a diet that is more plant based and includes things like organic milk, 100% grass-fed and organic beef, local pasture-raised poultry and other animal protein, and probably avoiding plastic bottled water and other drinks and fast-food burgers.

Precocious puberty strikes more 7-year-old girls - Health - Kids and parenting - "- Sent using Google Toolbar"
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Amish Cabbage Noodle Casserole

I've learned a lot about thrift, simple ways, food and farming from my Amish friends. I’ve talked about my Amish friend Ellen and her family over on the website. I visited with her recently and her teenage daughter Suzy was putting together a supper dish with some cabbage and onions they had in cold storage. Ellen’s ‘cold storage’ is actually the back end of a refrigerator truck that runs on a diesel generator. They recently created a freezer section and sealed it off so they now have ice cream all the time, which makes all the kids still living at home very happy, as well as visitors. Especially when Ellen has made one of her apple pies.
But back to the cabbage-noodle casserole. I’ve always loved cooked cabbage and I’ve had it every which way, including a similar dish my Hungarian grandmother used to make. Like a lot of Amish people Ellen’s heritage is Pennsylvania Dutch and they cook many traditional dishes – along with the occasional pineapple pizza (!) -- and Ellen sometimes adds some homemade sausage or bacon to it. She wrote down the recipe for me and I added a few things (yeah, the parsley and the crumb top), as the foodie in me can’t resist. I served it as a New Year’s dish. It’s a great winter dish and like a lot of Amish cooking, knows how to stretch a food dollar.

Amish Cabbage Noodle Casserole
Serves 6 to 81 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley or fresh dill
Half a (16-ounce) package egg noodles (kluski or Amish brand noodles are best)
1 cup sour cream
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup coarse bread crumbs (you can use Panko)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the cabbage, onion and garlic until the cabbage is wilted but still bright green (browning it a bit adds flavor). Remove from heat and stir in the parsley. Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and toss in a large bowl with the cabbage. Beat the sour cream with the egg and stir into the noodle-cabbage mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer the noodle-cabbage mixture to a greased 9x13x2-inch baking dish. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and combine with the bread crumbs and Parmesan. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking 10 to 15 minutes until the casserole is bubbly and the top is golden brown.
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Friday, January 21, 2011

The New Official Farm Dog

This is Roscoe, the Treeing Walker Coonhound. Yes, that's an official breed. Roscoe had been living at the Woodford Humane Society for about a year. At first I 'fostered' him, which is a total scam as you nearly ALWAYS adopt the foster. And with a face like this, how could you not? That's Minnie the cat. As you can see, they made friends quickly.
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My favorite Oven-Fried Chicken Recipe

I've done a lot of experimenting to come up with this recipe, which is very close to fried chicken only with less fat involved. Start with good quality chicken (preferably local) or organic/free range from the market. The best way to make is to prep the chicken the day before, allowing it to marinate overnight. However, it's still a really good recipe if you skip the marinating altogether and go straight to battering and flouring.

I prefer seasoned flour to breadcrumbs as it's more southern and less like 'shake and bake.' I actually use local eggs and a local flour (Weisenberger's) in this recipe and onions from the garden for the marinade. Serve with mashed potatoes, green beans and/or corn on the cob when it's in season. Lately it's been with some spinach from the garden, quickly sauteed in a little butter and garlic.

Oven Fried Chicken
Serves 4 to 6
about 4 pounds chicken, cut up, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels

1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
Egg Batter Mixture:
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter
Seasoned Flour Mixture:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dried marjoram, crumbled
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Using a heavy sharp knife, cut the chicken breasts in half crosswise. In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mustard, onion, and 2 teaspoons salt. Add the chicken and turn to coat; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Lightly grease a large baking sheet with sides. Position the rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 375°.
In a medium bowl, beat together the batter mixture. Whisk together the flour mixture then place it in a large pie plate or wide shallow bowl. Wipe marinade from chicken and place on a plate. Dip the chicken pieces into the egg mixture until it's just coated (let excess drip off). Immediately roll in the seasoned flour. Place the chicken on baking sheet. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown and crispy. Chicken juices should run clear when pierced deeply with a fork.
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Recipe for Beggar's Linguine

My friend Dorie, author of Around my French Table, has a recipe for the fantastic looking pasta dish called Beggar's Linguine, which has butter, pistachios, chopped dried figs and Parmesan. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
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Snow falling on Pin Oaks

Don't hate me because I live in a beautiful place. Sure, there are downsides to rural life - coyotes who party on your deck, chickens that eat all your tomatoes, no Chinese delivery. But it's lovely to drive twenty miles without running into a strip mall or a McDonald's. This is Woodford County, land of thoroughbred racehorses, mineral-rich springs and greener than green pastures. I'll be snowed in for a day or so but it's worth it. I drove by the big house on the farm (aka as Tara), to check on things. And no, sadly, I do not live here. But golly, isn't it gorgeous?

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Men and their Truck (add ons)

Can you tell I live in rural Kentucky just from looking at this? And yes, I was in a Walmart parking lot. People of Walmart, I salute you.
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Stringless Sugarsnap Peas - Genius!

I'm really stoked about these stringless(!) sugarsnap peas  - Sugar Spring - from Johnny's Seeds. I'm a huge fan of Johnny's. They have the best varieties and awesome tools and products for all your organic growing needs. I'm just getting the seed catalogs and making my lists of interesting new veg, herbs and flowers. Can't wait to start diggin.

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How to fight climate change on the home front

Until governments decide what to do about global warming, we can take matters into our own hands. Here a UK writer says we can learn lessons from the wartime generation about conserving energy and rationing (but not restricting choices) of food. Growing a 'Victory Garden' and gathering scraps to feed livestock or composting to amend soil, are simple - and enjoyable - steps in reducing carbon emissions and combating rising food and fuel costs.

Mobilising the 'home front' to fight climate change | Caroline Lucas | Environment | "- Sent using Google Toolbar"
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Swine Dining: Going Whole Hog for Heritage Pork

Know what a Mangalitsa Hog is?  Well then, this story from Real Eats is for you. I'm offering a taste but you can read the whole dadgum thing by signing up for an absolutely free, no obligation trial. The writers get to use big words, talk food and a little politics, and there's some terrific recipes. Here's some excerpts from the article that's in the third issue:

Here’s a true bedtime story to relay to the kids: Back before the health-conscious ’60s and the advent of Wesson corn oil, pork was prized for its, well, piggyness. In those days, the more obese the pig the better. Not only did the animals provide tasty meat, but they also yielded copious amounts of lard, which was used in everything from French fries to pie crust to cakes.
These bygone hogs were raised outdoors, where they naturally developed a thick layer of fatback that helped protect them in harsh climates. Common on the diverse farm-scapes of yesteryear, pigs noshed on bugs and acorns, helped deal with much of the farm waste (discarded vegetables, kitchen scraps, etc.), and rooted around in mineral-rich soils, literally plowing through fields, helping to keep the ground soft and fertile.
At the end of the year, these four-legged garbage disposals would provide a delicious bonus to farm families by way of cured bacon, heavily marbled chops and roasts, ham and buckets of lard, which would sustain them through the winter months  ... [snip]
Thankfully, the locavore movement has provided increased support for small farmers who are focused on doing it the Old Way: Raising livestock in pastures on farms with healthy soils, and treating their hogs as humanely as possible from birth to slaughter, allowing them to generally muck around, reproduce and just be pigs. Many farmers are embracing heritage hog breeds like the popular and beloved Berkshire hogs, and the Red Wattle, an at-risk breed that has dark red, marbleized meat. (A heritage breed is one that dates back at least a hundred years – think heirloom tomatoes) ... [snip]
Leading the trend for sustainably raised heritage breed pork is a cadre of chefs from the farm-to-table ranks. Five years ago, I had the good fortune to taste a whole-pig, multi-course dinner prepared by Hiro Sone at Terra in St. Helena, Calif. Sone’s Japan-meets-Southern-France feast began with Kurobuta pork belly from Snake River Farms in Boise, Idaho (“Kakuni” served with fried Miyagi oysters and a black vinegar sauce); followed by crispy pig trotter with lobster salad and sauce gribiche; a carpaccio of spice-roasted Kurobuta pork jowl with string bean salad and tonnato sauce; ending with an almost creamy slow-cooked pork cheek on wild mushroom risotto with a red wine sauce. Talk about Hog Heaven ... [snip]
Some miles south, at the appropriately named Animal restaurant in West Hollywood, Niman Ranch pork is prepared by bad-boy chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, who showcase a tour de force of swine from snout to tail. The restauranteurs were once chided by an LA food critic for using too much bacon, but their philosophy, according to Chef Shook, is: “It’s all good.” Pork pickin’s at Animal include a thick slab of house-made head cheese with pickled ramp vinaigrette and cornbread; “LA friendly” brined and braised pig tails “buffalo style” with a fiery sauce, celery, and ranch dressing (think oxtail with a twist); and a slow food specialty, pig ears, which are boiled 30 hours before a quick trip to the fryer. The crispy triangles are dressed in a chili-lime sauce and served with a pan-fried egg. Hog Heaven Part Deux!

If you really want to impress your foodie friends, order the next hot old/newcomer heritage pork known for its seriously heavy known for its seriously heavy marbling, the longhaired Hungarian Mangalitsa. Pronounced MON-go-leet-sa, this lard-type breed can be traced back to early 1900s Hungary. At La Provence restaurant in southern Louisiana (part of Chef John Besh’s restaurant group), the chefs actually help rear these special hogs before they become dinner. La Provence is located on farmland in Lacombe, where the restaurant staff also raises vegetables, herbs and other livestock for use in Besh’s various establishments.
La Provence’s Chef de Cuisine, Erick Loos IV, first researched the Mangalitsas to see how they’d fare in the hot and humid South before he made a road trip to Seattle to bring 10 of them home. The rare breed has been worth all the effort. “They’re like the Kobe beef of pork,” says Loos. “The sheer volume of fat is what they’re known for.”
According to Loos, the fat from the Mangalitsa hogs is mostly unsaturated due to a diet that consists primarily of wheat, barley and alfalfa (typically, hogs are fed corn and soy beans and alfalfa). The unique fat has a cleaner taste, says Loos: “You don’t get that over-stuffed full sensation when you eat it.”
The high-fat hogs, generally slaughtered at a whopping 350 pounds, take almost twice as long to raise as commercial animals do. La Provence and its sister restaurants have no problem dealing with a size XXXL pig. They use it all “from head to toe,” says Loos. Having their own Having their own smokehouse and curing room helps. In addition to making cured sausages, bacon and ham, the chefs use the head for headcheese, turn the tongue and brains into pâté, and incorporate the lard into chicken liver mousse and a pureed apple butter, which is served with house-made pretzels at restaurant Lüke in New Orleans. Unlike some of his peers, Chef Loos has yet to try his hand at whipping lard into high peaks like cream for fluffy garnish. Hopefully when he does, the end product will come with a portable defib.
To read the entire story, go see Real Eats at Nomad Editions. 
Photo credit: by David Cornwell, courtesy of Niman Ranch

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Where to find Heritage Pork

First off, to be as local and carbon-reducing as possible, search “heritage pork” with your zip code at Or venture to your farmer’s market in search of a pork farmer. Who knows, there may be some Old Spot pork chops with your name on them.

Mail-Order Sources Include: This site sells Mangalitsa pork cuts and lard via mail order. Additional products and hams are available in New York, San Francisco and Seattle (see for more information). Heritage Foods is the marketing arm for Slow Food USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to regional cuisines and products. Heritage Foods USA processes about 150 antibiotic-free and pasture-raised pigs each week, from 20 farmers that hail from the Midwest and Virginia. They have weekly specials and good prices on heritage pork products, including a variety of cuts, hams and cured products. Niman Ranch is probably the largest distribution network of independent farmers in the U.S., producing antibiotic-free meat products that are served at high-end restaurants like Thomas Keller’s Per Se in Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York. Niman has a network of more than 500 family hog farmers. They carry many all-natural pork cuts, including chops, ribs, roasts, sausages and cured hams. Located in Burke County, North Carolina, their animals are raised on 390 acres of pasture and woodland without antibiotics, hormones or the use of petroleum-based fertilizers. Farmer Pride Sasser raises Large Blacks, Gloucestershire Old Spots and Berkshire hogs, along with other heritage breed animals. The farm’s USDA-inspected meats are sold locally and via mail order.

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Secrets of a local food system

I've just discovered this great new blog by Jane Black. She's writing a book about Huntington, WV's efforts to change the way it eats. As a West Virginia native I've been watching this as well as the Appalachian region's disease and obesity statistic are one of the highest. Check out her blog here: Secrets of a local food system. Next time I head to Charleston to visit my folks I may take a side trip to Athens, Ohio.
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Potato pancake recipe

Action shot!

Oh for a crisp potato pancake. I grew up with them and really looked forward to breakfast (or dinner) the day after we had mashed potatoes. In the UK this type of pancake -- using leftover potatoes along with cooked cabbage or kale -- is known as Bubble and Squeak. I had some leftover mashed potatoes and creamed spinach today and turned them into this a terrific, stick-to-your-ribs lunch. Here's a rough recipe:

Potato and Spinach Pancake
You can use any cooked green veg but make sure
you've squeezed out most of the moisture by wrapping
it in a strong paper towel first. This makes 1 large,
6-inch pancake or 2 smaller ones.

2 to 3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 cup creamed spinach (or other green)
1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and pepper

Place the oil in a medium, heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat. In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, potatoes and flour until well blended.Place additional flour on a plate for dredging along with some freshly groundpepper (but no salt yet; salting after the pancake is cooked will make it crisp,salting before makes it sad).

Form the potato mixture into a large patty, about 1/2-inch thick. Dredge it in the flour and transfer to the hot skillet. Cook, without moving it 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown. Turn with a large spatula and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and top with coarse kosher salt to taste. Serve piping hot!
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Winter Farmer's Markets: Inside-Outside USA!

Note: Here's a story I did for Real Eats a couple of months ago and wanted to share. It's a great new iPad app, but also works on any smartphone. You can check it out and sign up for a free trial at
I was blown away when fall crept in that first year manning my table at the farmer’s market. In spring, people would crowd the table, ravenous for fresh fare, as if the strawberries, greens and lettuces were marked-down Manolo Blahniks. And I stood behind the table in my apron, dispensing recipes and gardening advice like a human kiosk, tallying up sales and making change in a routine that continued through the summer months. Once the heirloom tomato and corn season began I was jamming bills in my 501s as fast as a two-bit stripper, selling out of veg and berry before high noon. Then, as the first leaves scattered across the parking lot, I realized I was making perhaps a quarter of the $500 an hour I was grossing just a few weeks earlier.
Daaaaang,” the farmer next to me said as he broke down his tent. Dang is right.
Although many farmers have wisely added winter CSA (community-supported agriculture) subscriptions that carry them through the spare months, subscription-free shoppers may not be aware of the bounty available and where to get it. In the past, a lot of farmers I know have simply thrown in the towel and stopped growing fall crops. But the situation is changing for the better in some parts of the country. What’s new these days are late-season and indoor farmers’ markets that provide farmers with year-round opportunities to sell their produce and farm products. Although they’re mostly located in larger cities, small-town markets can easily adopt the model, setting up inside churches, malls and other public spaces from the California coast to Manhattan Island; up, down, and in between. 
In Chicago two interfaith organizations, the Churches' Center for Land and People (CCLP) and Faith in Place, sponsor the indoor Winter Farmers Markets offering local producers a venue to extend their income beyond the regular growing season. Held in parish halls of congregations of several denominations, these markets are open from November to April, offering customers an opportunity to purchase cheese, grass-fed beef and pastured poultry, bread, honey, vinegars, dried fruits, milled flours, sauces and salsas, preserves, cider and fresh produce as available. In some locations, farmers offer prepared meals in a café setting. There’s no fee to farmers though they are asked to donate 10 percent of sales (above a threshold amount) to an Illinois farm crisis fund that provides up to $1,000 to farmers in crisis due to illness or unexpected expenses. Which is a very nice incentive for shoppers if you ask me.
Coastside Farmers' Markets operates two markets along the glorious California coastline in Pacifica (on Wednesdays), and in Half Moon Bay (on Saturdays) from April through the second and third weeks of December, respectively. With a long growing season locals can enjoy a diverse collection of green and root vegetables, fall raspberries, artisanal goat cheese and fresh seasonal seafood such as halibut, cod, rockfish, sardines and November’s crab catch, courtesy of Half Moon Bay fishermen. The market enjoys the support of several outstanding restaurants that boast farm products on their menus, among them Navio (located at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay), which bases several dishes on Giusti Farms’ globe artichokes and Brussels sprouts, among others.
Because of its local support , San Mateo County actually has more farmers now (by five percent) than it did five years ago, according to market founder and manager Erin Tormey.
“We have been a magnet for a lot of young, first-generation farmers who decided to take a risk with their life and doing something difficult,” says Tormey. “With guidance from older farmers, there are all these tiny little farms that have found their niche by doing a few things really well.”
Never at a loss for great shopping experiences, New Yorkers can select from 18 of the Greenmarkets that stay open year-round in Manhattan. Area farmers (from upstate New York, Long Island, New Jersey and beyond) offer plenty of options for the full-season locavore. Hudson Valley’s Migliorelli Farm brings its homegrown preserved, frozen corn and strawberries, and Evolutionary Organics sells their frozen tomatoes for a burst of summer flavor to brighten those short winter days. On the fresh side, several farmers sell an array of fall cole crops along with winter squash, potatoes, apples, root vegetables and onions. The Greenmarkets’ cheese and milk vendors are out at market even on the coldest days, though milk bottles have to be stored in vans once the temperature drops below a certain point to avoid shattering. “The "off-season" months are really the time for proteins to shine,’ says market manager Jeanne Hodesh. “And our meat and egg vendors do terrific business selling everything from lard for holiday pie crusts to Thanksgiving turkeys and bones for soup and stock-making.”
In addition, says Hodesh, the Greenmarkets entice customers by hosting Educated Eater panels, which draw crowds interested in learning more about sustainable seafood, local grains and multi-generational farms, along with recipes from guest chefs. 
During fall and winter the true test of your locavore fortitude will be to fill your pantry with some of the freshest and tastiest food for miles. To find a fall or winter market near you — or just a friendly neighborhood farmer — check out the listings at Local Harvest.
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