Blue Heron Local Cuisine

Cooking, Eating, and Drinking on the North Shore (and beyond)

Tradition! July 30, 2008

Filed under: food culture,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 11:12 am
Tags: , , , ,

Try not to break into “Fiddler on the Roof” at this title; however, I’ve spent a lot of time with my family recently, which has me thinking about food traditions. I grew up within the culinary limitations of a southern college town (pork and beer, y’all). My mother learned to cook in New England and Texas as a newlywed, although she grew up in a German Jewish family in northern California. I like to think of her cooking as as home-style regional fusion with a strong German influence.

 

We ate stews, Polish pork chops, pumpernickel bread, and Spanish rice. My mother took me to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. She made her own bread and pie crust, but claimed she could never make biscuits. I grew up thinking that cake mixes were an abomination, store-bought pie crusts were for the weak, and jar tomato sauce was not mentioned in polite company.

 

(thanks, pickyourown.org!)

(thanks, pickyourown.org!)

All was not blackberry-picking in the mountains for my native food culture, however. For each homemade jar of jam, there was Uncle Ben’s Rice and Campbell’s soup. As I grew up and learned how to eat and cook for myself, I discovered basmati rice, cilantro, and green peppers. I continued going to farmers markets on Saturday mornings and try to make my own pie crust, with varied success.

 

For me, growing up was a process of choosing food cultures to keep and to reject. (If I never eat aspic again, it will be too soon.) Here are a few simple recipes from my mother (below the line).

  (more…)

Advertisements
 

Rhubarb Custard Pie July 28, 2008

Filed under: In Season,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 2:46 pm
Tags: ,

[Ed note: This is a guest post from my friend Susan, who is a fabulous baker in the DC area. Follow her recipes and gain many friends.]

(thanks, worldcommunitycookbook.org

(thanks, worldcommunitycookbook.org!)

I’m not local to you folks, but I do have some nice seasonal recipes that you might not have heard of. Rhubarb, the weird red-pink stalk, is out and available now and it isn’t used enough, as far as I’m concerned. It makes a wonderful pie, with sour rhubarb on top of sweet custard. This crust is flaky and pairs really nicely with the filling. It’s worth the trouble:

  (more…)

 

Shocking Laziness July 23, 2008

Filed under: gardening — blueheronlocal @ 7:56 pm
(thanks, NYT, Peter DaSilva, for photo!)

(thanks, NYT, Peter DaSilva, for photo!)

According to the New York Times, all those people who make masses of money are reverting to the last century: paid kitchen gardeners.  The article claims that there is a trend for rich folk to pay a professional gardener to not just plant a vegetable garden in their backyard, but also to pick the fruits and vegetables and leave them in picturesque baskets on their back porch.

 
My reaction: cheaters!  immediately followed by, well, at least they aren’t spraying awful chemicals on ugly monoculture swaths of grass edged with boring shrubbery.  Nevertheless, I’m a bit concerned the whole physical connection to the land ideal is replaced by a watching your servant muck around in the dirt.

 
Think it pays well? Maybe I’ll become a gardener for the nouveau rich when I grow up…
 

-groundcherry

 

Weeds. It’s What’s for Dinner July 21, 2008

Filed under: Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 1:01 pm
Tags: , , ,
(thanks, wildliferanger.com!)

(thanks, wildliferanger.com!)

What’s a weed?  Everyone who’s ever had so much as a row of radishes knows that weeds are every gardener’s foe.  Weeds—those plants you are not trying to grow—even more than weather, neighbors who burn their brush pile under your black walnut tree, marauding deer, hedgehogs, and rabbits, are always a gardener’s problem.  They appear even if you haven’t had rain in three weeks, you’ve mulched heavily, or if your garden is simply a large mud puddle.  You, as the gardener, then feel guilty for not removing them or else grouchy from having spent 4 hours on your knees pulling them up.  Twice.  In the past week.  How can a gardener stay sane?

 

Unfortunately, a recent New York Times Magazine article kindly pointed out to us that the weeds are only going to get worse with increasing climate change. This does not bode well for gardens in the future, but there is one way to turn this twist of climate to your favor.  Two summers ago, my battle with weeds changed shape.  I started eating them.  If I was going to spend that much time dealing with them, I thought we’d better be getting something from it.  Most people know a few classic weeds are edible, but don’t bother separating them out.  I suggest that you do, particularly early in the season.  Here are a few options:

(more…)

 

The Zucchini Wars July 17, 2008

Filed under: In Season — blueheronlocal @ 4:34 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Back when I lived with roommates in JP, we split our local CSA three ways. Usually this worked out very well: when we got only two tomatoes, one roommate would use hers in dahl and the other  would use hers in a sandwich, they kindly saved me the bulk of the arugula (my love for arugula knows no bounds). However, in mid July we sometimes fought over zucchini. We got a lot of zucchini and there are only so many ways three women can eat zucchini. We began to keep track. Tempers ran high.
      “I used two last week, it’s your turn!” said one roommate out of frustration one day.
      “Don’t look at me” I said “I put zucchini in my stir fry yesterday.”

 

(thanks, vegetarianceliac.blogspot.com)

(thanks, vegetarianceliac.blogspot.com)

When you start quantifying zucchini consumption, you know you have problems. I made spaghetti sauce with some one week and felt virtuous, but there were still five left in the refrigerator drawer. One roommate made chilled curried zucchini soup. She used three zucchinis, but none of us loved the recipe. I sliced a fourth one very thin for sandwiches (fresh mozzarella, herbs, vinaigrette, and thinly sliced zucchini is surprisingly good). That lasted all week. One zucchini to go and then it was Saturday when we picked up our CSA share and got six more zucchinis. Our household survived zucchini season intact, but after it was over, none of us voluntarily brought zucchini into the house until late February.

 

Zucchini grows well on the North Shore too. My neighbor just gave me a zucchini the size of my arm. What will I do with it? Zucchini fritters? Stuffed zucchini? I’ll let you know.

 

-goldlentil

 

Eating Local on the Road July 15, 2008

Filed under: Farmers market — blueheronlocal @ 2:23 pm
Tags: , , ,
photo by no egrets

photo by no egrets

I just want to give a quick shout out to the Mass Pike farmers’ market program. I’ve been on the road a lot recently, eating lots of local food from barbeque to bagels, and Sunday night I was speeding toward the North Shore, looking forward to being home, but also thinking about my empty refrigerator, knowing I was way too tired (and cranky) to deal with the Big Chain Republican Grocery Store near my house. However, at the Lee service plaza, I found a farmers’ market and was able to buy fresh corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and squash. I came home across the river and made a beautiful Massachusetts-grown tomato sauce with zucchini, adding rosemary and thyme from my (very happy) garden.

 

-goldlentil

 

Not in My Cookies! July 14, 2008

Filed under: Ethical Eating — blueheronlocal @ 3:37 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,
(thanks, theperfectpantry.com, for the image!)

(thanks, theperfectpantry.com!)

Flour was a staple of my childhood—huge bags of whole wheat organic bread flour were almost always in the center of the kitchen. It was vital, literally the base of our diet, but also invisible because it was so available and familiar. Unlike the seasonal apples or the labor–intensive black walnuts, flour was a given that required no work and was always there. I didn’t even think about it until well into college, when I had one obsessive vegan in my life, which meant that there were fewer titillating topics at 3 am other than flour + fake butter + tofu (organic & local) + peanut butter (organic) + maple syrup (local) = ethical anti-establishment cookies.

 

What establishment? you ask. Well, to begin with, the industrial food complex, the corporitization of food, agribusiness, consolidation, vertical/horizontal integration, transnational takeovers… To most localvore types, these phrases sound dangerous, cues that our food system has moved far from the place where it was 200, 100, and even 50 years ago. Some of the structural changes have benefited society. More have not. Today I offer a superficial look at a few structural issues seen through my ethical adventures in buying flour.

  (more…)