The Box Meal Plan
Hello local foodies,
As we come to the end of the month of this challenge, I thought it seemed appropriate that I share with you a few of my methods of preservation so you can continue to enjoy some of these foods beyond their season. Last night I made pesto, pickled pepperoncini and okra and dehydrated some blueberries. But first I made sangria to sip on while I did my preserving.
By Leslie Gilman
After college, I decided to join the Peace Corps and was whisked away with twenty-some-odd other young idealists to a magical land called Georgia. (No, not the state.) This is the famed land of Jason and the Argonauts, a place known to locals as “God’s land” that is as abundant in fruits and vegetables as it is to towering mountains, sunflowered fields and roaring rivers. It’s part Hawaii and part Montana, and its lovely beyond words.
As I settled into my new home there and began to make friends, curious townspeople would invariably ask me questions about my hobbies and interests, and I always proudly announced that I liked to cook. So, of course they wanted me to cook them up something “American”. But I had a problem. First of all, what was “American” food? I couldn’t make Italian dishes because canned tomato sauce – or even tomato paste - wasn’t available. I couldn’t make Mexican dishes because they didn’t have that little yellow spice packet for which to make taco meat. They didn’t have cream of mushroom soup for my mom’s famous chicken dish, and they didn’t have the cans of pinto and black beans I needed for my favorite tortilla soup. They didn’t even have hamburger buns – or ketchup – for a good old fashioned barbeque. All they had was a market, in the center of town, open every day of the year, that sold seasonal, local, organic produce at ridiculously low prices. And I had no idea how to use it.
Apparently, the American food that I knew how to “cook” required someone else (in a factory, far away) to do all the heavy lifting for me. They put the Alfredo sauce in the jar, and my job as the “cook” was to open that jar, heat it up, and dump it on some noodles – also premade. So, I wasn’t so much a cook as a jar opener. But now, being faced with the raw ingredients alone, I had to learn an ancient art that the people of most non-western societies had learned from childhood: how to cook good, healthful, simple food using time tested techniques. Hands were used for measuring, pinching, pulling, testing, knocking and kneading, and they held a vast amount of wisdom in them. There were no cookbooks – just a visceral knowledge of how to cook good – really, really good – food with what was available at the market on that particular day. The two years I spent there were a lesson not only in culture and fortitude, but also in fruits and vegetables, nuts and cheeses, flours and herbs. I had to learn how to use them by making daily use of the beloved market that was the heartbeat of our town, and I had to use what was available during each passing season.
And so slowly, my friends and colleagues began to teach me, as though I were a child, the very basics. “Bread dough feels like this – but dumpling dough feels like that.” I stuck my hand in and tried to come up with words to describe the difference, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t a cerebral exercise. When I got out my tattered notebook to write out the steps to their recipes, they would give me instructions like this: “Add enough water to the beans.” But how much was “enough?” I finally got out my ruler and determined that two inches above the beans was “enough,” which has been my rule of thumb since. To try to learn what they just felt and knew intrinsically – was a challenge that I’m still trying to overcome by figuring out how to cook with my eyes, ears, nose, mouth and hands instead of tuning out and dutifully following package instructions. Try it sometime. Listen to how a mushroom sounds when it’s sautéed over high heat, compared to an onion. They are vastly different.
In America, we have become so accustomed to getting what we want, when we want it. Which, at first glance, sounds amazing. But there is a great loss in not having to wait for something – like strawberries, for instance. Strawberries, all over the world, are a huge reason to celebrate. They are the first fruit of the summer season (no, rhubarb, you don’t count), the harbingers of all of the bounty that is to come. When they first show their cheery faces on a spring day, amidst all of the potatoes and onions and cabbage, its enough to make a girl cry. Eating seasonal produce grown at a local market brings an unexpected joy – the joy of anticipating the turn of each season and the food that comes with it. Each season is ushered in with a specific fruit or vegetable at its side, appearing in every recipe in one great big flurry, and then vanishing again until the following year. Strawberries are eaten in juicy handfuls for dinner after a long, meat-laden winter. Figs, sitting with a friend behind a fence, juice dripping from your chin in the heat of August. A shiny gold persimmon is for the first day of school. And mandarins, sitting around a fire and throwing the peels in as you read a book. To eat watermelon in February, just because you can, is missing the point.
Each daily or weekly visit to your local farmers market is showing up to witness this miracle.
Last night I was invited to my friend Sarah’s for a locavore dinner. She lent me a cookbook of seasonal dishes called Kitchen Express by Mark Bittman. Mark writes his recipes for all seasons, in a style that cooks can relate to; a simple uncomplicated free form that leaves lots of room for self expression. As a cook who never measures a thing, this style intrigued me and I decided to try it for myself. Below is the beet salad that I contributed to the dinner.
Hollygrove Market & Farm
Yogurt with Fresh Fruit and Local Honey
Ryals Dairy goat yogurt (or homemade if you make your own) combined with Jay Martin’s raw honey, blueberries and nectarine slices. Top with local pecans if desired.
Sloppy Janes with Tomatoes, Herbs and Patty Pan Squash.
Saute onion, garlic, cubed patty pan squash and ground beef until brown. Add heirloom tomatoes, fresh herbs of choice (basil, thyme, sage, oregano, chives, garlic chives, purple basil, rosemary) and Avery Island salt to taste. Simmer until tomatoes cook down a bit and flavors marry.
Roasted Beet Salad with Spring Onions, Pecans and Pepperland Peach Habanero Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette.
Roast beets in a 400 degree oven until you can get a fork through them fairly easily. Cool and peel beets then thinly slice them and arrange on a small plate. Top with thinly sliced spring onions, and whole pecans. Make a vinaigrette with pecan oil, Steen’s cane vinegar, a large spoonful of peach or pineapple pepper jelly, a dab of local honey and a few thinly sliced spearmint leaves. Whisk together and drizzle on top of salad.
(Here is my adapted version of one of Mark Bittman’s recipes)
Summertime Shrimp Salad
Toss shelled Louisiana shrimp in pecan or Texas Olive Ranch olive oil, and Avery Island salt, and grill or broil until cooked through. Zest a lemon (optional) and combine with pecan or olive oil, chopped sweet or lemon basil, and salt. Add diced spring onion, chopped cucumber and chunks of ripe peaches, plums, nectarines or melon. Serve the shrimp on top or chop it up and mix it right in the salad.
A little bit more than a month a Elizabeth Shephard, Chief Sustainability Officer at LifeCity, stopped over at Hollygrove Market & Farm to do a in-person "green audit" for lack of a better word. For those of you who don't know about LifeCity, here's a little bit about them:
LifeCity is a membership-based organization that supports the development of green businesses, while educating consumers about green products and services. It’s a win-win situation: consumers receive discounts to green products and services through our membership card, and certified LifeCity businesses receive greater visibility and support of LifeCity members. Together, we help keep Louisiana beautiful – now and later.
As an urban farm, local produce market, and a community garden space, we're all about green & sustainable and keeping our environmental impact to a minimum. Problem is, since everyone on staff is on-board with the green philosophy from the get go its very easy to overlook some of simple things you can do to reduce your environmental impact. That's were LifeCity came in. While they acknowledged we were doing many things right, they had plenty of reccomendtions of how we could improve our operations. We only received 2 out of a possible 5 stars, so we look forward to working on implementing LifeCity's suggestions in the coming months, with the hope that we will eventually get all 5.
Best of all, being certified green can save you money at Hollygrove Market & Farm. How's that you ask? All you have to do is purchase a Green Card from LifeCity. It only costs $20 and entitles you to discounts at a number of green certified businesses around New Orleans. It's definitely worth it, as I've already seen one customer save $20 with their Green Card just by shopping at the market.
To check out Hollygrove Market & Farm's Asssessment Summary, click here.
As you can see from the recipes, I'm a huge fan of fresh garden herbs, especially basil. If you don't have an herb garden, I suggest you plant one or just start a few herbs on your patio in pots. Basil seems to love New Orleans as I've been growing it for years and I've never seen bigger plants than the ones that grow here! Purple basil varieties are a little trickier because they aren't quite as heat resistant. Mine have survived so far in full sun but they look a little stressed. I recommend you put them in an area where they get a little break from the solar planet. Or, when you stop by the Hollygrove Market, feel free to ask one of the staff members to cut you some fresh herbs from the Farm. The Market gardeners will be happy to sell you some culinary herbs and edible flowers to season your savory dish. Here are a few simple recipes you can prepare using the Hollygrove Market & Farm Weekly Produce box. Enjoy!
Hollygrove Market & Farm
Every week Hollygrove Market blogger Leslie Gilman highlights some of the less popular, but equally delicious items here at the market & farm. She wants to make sure all the box items get put to good use, so she tosses in some simple and quick recipes for you convenience.
If you're just starting to dabble in the wide green world of eating leafy vegetables outside the realm of lettuce, let me introduce you to a personal favorite: kale.
Kale is a beauty to behold in all its varieties - of which there are dozens. There is Purple Kale with its delicate, violet tinged leaves curling up at the edges (my favorite); stout, blue-ish green Siberian kale, and even Dinosaur kale, whose skin is rough, tough and crinkly - much like what you'd expect if you were to reach out and give a Tyrannosaurs Rex a little pat on the head. Kale is so lovely, in fact, that it has recently enjoyed some years posing as an ornamental shrub - but please, don't do this to it. It can do so much more for your dinners and your health than it could ever do for your driveway hedge.
Kale, a descendent of wild cabbage, is one of those notorious cruciferous vegetables. If you aren't familiar with this family, allow me to illuminate: cruciferous veggies are among the most widely studied vegetables for their anti-cancer properties. They are the superheroes of vegetables and make greens like Iceberg Lettuce blush in shame. Their leaves are positively turgid with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, as well as anti-cancer nutrients known as glusinolates. The nutrients found in kale aid in detoxification, lower cholesterol, provide cardiovascular support, and are high in fiber. And it has barely has a calorie to call its own.
You'd think, that for all that it boasts in the good-for-you department, it might be lacking in taste. And yet, it's wonderful. Kale is one of those vegetables you should always have on hand to throw into whatever else you are making-- adding color, a delicate and earthy texture, and a bucket full of vitamins to your meals.
To prepare: Choose kale that is deep in color (not yellow) and moist but hardy (not wilted.) After you wash the leaves, pull the long stems up and off the spines of the leaves and either discard or chop the stems finely into 1/4" pieces. Coarsely chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces - unless you will be doing so anyways after boiling. The last thing you want your dinner guest to worry about it is how to gracefully slurp a dangling leaf off of his or her chin. An easy way to cut big leaves like kale and chard is to pile a bunch of them together, roll them up, and chop them into ribbons.
To cook: Cruciferous vegetables, like kale and its cousins chard and collard green, are bitter to the taste when consumed raw. You'll want to boil or steam them down for a few minutes before adding them to other dishes. (As always, steaming best preserves vitamins.) For most kale varieties, 5 to 6 minutes of boiling will do the trick. Tasting is always the key - just try a bit and see if it has lost its bitterness and roughness.
When the kale is done, drain it in a colander and allow it to cool. If you're in a pinch for time, go ahead and dunk it in cold water on it to speed up the cooling process. Now, squeeze the kale between your hands and press out as much excess water as you can muster. Chop the kale and spread it on a sandwich, throw on a pizza, toss on a salad, add it to a soup or stew, spoon it on top of eggs, or mix it with a wonderful grain - such as quinoa or wild rice for a hearty lunch. Even better, add some almonds, sesame seeds or currants and a light dressing of olive oil, lemon or tamari - and some salt and pepper. Voila! It's delicious. It is also wonderful served as a side dish - blanched and flash-cooked in olive oil and then seasoned. Kale is one of those indispensable vegetables that you should always have in your refrigerator. It can be added to almost anything, lending its generous helping of vitamins and earthy subtleness to any meal.
Click here for kale recipes
Caldo Verde, a delicious kale soup
Stop on by every Thursday at 10am for an hour long "Relax the Back" yoga session with TriYoga of New Orleans. Only $5 for the class, beginner welcome. Please remember to bring your own mat or towel. Learn more about TriYoga by going to www.triyoganeworleans.com
Join Rachael Reeves and Jen Stovall of Maypop Community Herb Shop in a medicinal plant walk at Hollygrove Market this Saturday between 10:30 and 11 am. We will be taking a stroll around the Hollygrove gardens and discussing ways to use the culinary garden as your personal medicine cabinet. Come learn how to use your food as medicine and different uses for plant friends that you already have or might be thinking about growing. Please bring a hat and water since we will be out in the sun, and paper and pen to jot down notes. $4 suggested donation.
To find out more about the store and the classes that they offer, check them out at www.maypopherbshop.com or on Facebook. Maypop will also begin selling their herbal tea blends and culinary spices at Hollygrove Market, beginning this Saturday. Look for their shelf near the front door.
Last week's unfornate shooting of Boucherie chef & owner Nathanial Zimet shows that no one is immune to current rash of random acts of violence in New Orleans. Boucherie a weekly patron of Hollygrove Market and recently donated there time and resources at Hollygrove's Party in the Garden by bringing out their big purple truck "the Que Crawl". More importantly, Nathanial is a member of the local food community here in NOLA so we want to make sure we do anything we can to help him out in his time of need. To that end, we want to get the word out about the Nathanial Zimet Fund which was set up to help him out with his medical bills and long road to recovery. You can learn more about the fund and other restaurants who donating some of the proceeds from their restaurants by going to http://benefit4nathanial.wordpress.com/.
We would like to thank all of the wonderful sponsors and people who helped to make our Party in the Garden a great success and a lot of fun! We celebrated the importance of Locally Grown Seasonal Produce, Local Businesses and Local People. And you all spoke about how important this to you by fully supporting us with your presence! We look forward to seeing you at our markets and future events.
To our Community Gardeners, Master Gardeners and the Grow Dat Youth Farmers all of Hollygrove Market & Farm for keeping our gardens flowing with fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers.
A very special thank you to Louisiana fresh, for the kind donation that kick started our fundraiser!
The Staff at Hollygrove Market & Farm
Our Fundraiser Committee
Friends In Need - for the silent auction
The Live Auctioneer John Calhoun and his band, Trey Ledford, Steve Walkup, Marcus Bronson
All of our Great Volunteers, too many to mention
Bill Ryal's Goat Dairy - www.rockingrboers.com/goat-dairy.html
Covey Rise Farms - www.coveyriselodge.com/farm.php
Mississippi Natural Products
Lauren Smith of Harmony Farms for her blueberries
Jay Martin for his Raw Honey
Stuart Gardner for his grass fed beef
www.ecoproductsstore.com gave us a great discount please support them for your compostable needs
Live Music by Los Po-Boy-Citos & the Swamp Lilies
Quigley Construction Company
And of course all the great chefs and fine restaurants of NOLA!