Thursday, December 4, 2008

Saving American Food: Part 1

American food has come a long way for better and for worse in the last 30 years or so. The way we cook has changed, the way we look at food has changed. I think this year it's time to take a look at food from the ground up.

If you are interested in getting to know more about your food and American Farms I recommend taking the time to look at the American Farmland Trust website. It's a good starting point.

You can also check out some of my articles on that deal with food and family.

Happy December.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Safe Havens: Food for thought

We all have places where we can go either figuratively or literally to feel safe. For some of us it is a place that's easily accessible and we live our day primarily in a safe place whereas for others it's only a state of mind or a brief moment that is not easy to get to. For many of us, food provides a sense of safety and security. That is what comfort food is all about. It is food that reminds us of a time or place, usually in our childhood, where we felt safe without knowing there was any other way to feel.

I am writing from a place of privelege. I'm a minority only by being a woman. I have shelter, a healthy family, a supportive and thriving extended family, and the means to provide well for them. However, I still feel like the world I present to my kids and my family isn't the right one. It's safe, but it is hectic.

We're living in a time and a culture of frenzy. I often feel like I was born in the wrong era. I think the hard hands-on work of being a pioneer woman is more "me". Yes, I wouldn't have modern medicine, a car and all the "luxuries" of my life. However, when I really look at those luxuries (except maybe modern medicine) I would happily trade them to be able to feel that I'm living my life. Instead I feel that my family has been tied to a horse and we're being dragged through our life. One luxury of pioneer times was their built in slow food movement.

Back to safe havens. We don't take into account that every family needs caretakers and it's not an "on the side" kind of job. Our grandparents and parents age and our children, in sickness and in health, need us as they grow. Not only are our families spread out across the nation and the globe, but our time is spent at work, thinking about work, getting to work, and unwinding from work. With the recent Safe Haven law in Nebraska catching everyone off guard, a spotlight has been placed on families who have abandoned children that they have raised for up to 17 years. On the news you hear how shocked and horrified people are that children (not infants) are being given up. But if you think about the personal cost of medical care in this country, the lack of support for families of children with special needs in many parts of the country, and the pressures of every day life, I don't think it would be too hard to imagine. Take your life and start stripping away some of the privileges you may have (health, a job, health insurance, a home, family/friends to support you, a car or public transportation, food for your family, self confidence, dignity)add a child or several children and perhaps one tragedy (loss, mental health problems, addiction, medical problem, ailing family members) and you can quickly see that a difficult life could become unbearable and one could conceiveably want more for one's children.

As I said before, I am writing from a place of privilege. My state allows me to be married to my husband. I have all I need, and more, for a good life, but still I don't think I provide a safe haven or the kind of safe haven I would like for my family to have. My needs and wants for my family are about balance and calm. This time of year, especially everyone gets into a frenzy with the holidays. I don't like that my children see their parents over-tired and worn out more often than not. It's ironic because it's their lack of sleep at the moment that is pushing the envelope on that front. I think we have to slow down and adjust our priorities a little bit. It's hard when the rest of the city and the rest of the country, and more and more the rest of the world is moving at hurricane speed around you, but I think it's important for me and for us to find a way to spend at least a good portion of our time in the eye of the storm. My goal this "holiday season" is to start trudging towards that calm still place. I'm going to try to bring as many people with me as I can, but I won't be able to do it alone. A meal is a good place to start. Sit down with someone, family, friend, daughter, son, neighbour and have a meal. Turn off your cell phone and set aside an hour (or if you must half an hour) to just be with the person you are with, enjoying food; feeding your self in the safe haven of uninterrupted time, nourishing food, conversation, and good company.
For more info: On Point with Tom AshbrookS

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pizza Night

I've never been a huge fan of scheduling meals for every day of the week. I like a little more sponteneity than that! Now, however, with two children, school, evening meals for the kids, the family and or just the adults I realize that a little routine isn't half bad. In fact, the reason I started having a bit more routine is that on Thursdays we pick up our farm share from Lindentree farms in Lincoln and I'd have to pack a picnic for the kids since we got back late, and my husband and I would be home with the kids dozing in their beds with maybe a bit of dirt still under their fingernails and an entire counter full of fresh farm vegetables.

One week when I was home alone with the kids our CSA farm-share partners said "Do you want me to prepare a protein for you when you get back from the farm." That is when a new plan took action. Of course, if I think ahead a bit I can have a protein ready to go (shrimp, fish, chicken, tofu -whatever you fancy) and then I can cook up any veggies I please to go with it! Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that?

So now, I have slowly developed a dinner repertoire for the family. There is the protein for farm days, we've added taco night into our list because who doesn't love tacos?, we have pizza night, fish/seafood night, Friday store bought roasted chicken and challah and some other menu I choose.

Today, we had no farm pick-up so after getting Isabelle from school she and I headed over to the Belmont Farmer's Market to check it out. It's not the biggest market, but they had a couple of fruit/vegetable stands, some bread, some honey, all the standards. Isabelle and I got some great eggplant from the Farm School and some purple peppers across the way (I couldn't see a farm name). Isabelle loves purple peppers in her lunch. She picks them out herself and they're a novelty since they're purple.

I took out one of our frozen pizza doughs last night and as I fed the kids, I grilled the eggplant, we had some spinach that I bought earlier in the week at Russo's. I always have grated cheese in the drawer (nachos, kids' snack, pizza, grilled cheese). In the fridge are leftovers from the kids' dinner last night meatballs in tomato sauce. So our pizza is a a meatball, eggplant, and spinach pizza. Everything is prepped, I take the kids to bed. Then my husband and I create a pizza to our liking and dinner is served.

It's fresh, it's cheap, it's quick and it's delicious. You can be so creative too. Sterling farm was at the Belmont market too. I bet they would have had some great goat cheese for the pizza.

Bon Appetit.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Food for Thought

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Delivery Fresh From The Farm

Getting local, farm fresh, fruit and veggies is relatively easy with the local CSA's, farmer's markets, and even grocery stores. Getting local fish and meat, however is a bit more difficult. I did, however, notice that the Davis Square Farmer's Market had wellfleet oysters this week (I never made it out there to get some for myself). I also stumbled upon this intriguing service: If the quality is good, then the prices seem fair for fresh local ingredients delivered.

I haven't tried it yet, but I do look forward to testing it out. Also, take a minute to browse their blog:

Friday, September 5, 2008


As we were collecting our vegetables at the CSA and comparing recipes, Megin mentioned this incredible recipe for Pizza with Tomatillos...okay yes it sounded a bit odd, but after having tasted it I have to say it's incredible. I must also mention that it should have a warning that it may be addictive.

The following was written by Katie Charner-Laird for Lindentree Farms CSA and beyond.

I brought my 5 year old son, Quinn, with me to do my last 2 hours of farm work this Saturday. He always loves the idea, and loves the first five minutes or so of doing the farm work, but his enthusiasm tends to peter out quickly. I’ve been trying to be conscious about what excites him about being at the farm, and keeping that at the forefront when we’re there. He doesn’t really eat any vegetables, but he does love to cook with us. This Saturday, when we asked Ari what our next job was, and he said it would be to pick the tomatillos, Quinn quickly remembered the Mexican Pizza we’ve been making from Everyday Greens, the cookbook by Annie Somerville (chef from the amazing Greens Restaurant in San Francisco). He picked up his pace as we headed out to the tomatillos, very excited to pick the vegetable that would adorn our pizza this week. In fact, he even decided that we needed to serve it at our Labor Day party, so he was eager to fill his bucket with bursting, ripe tomatillos.

I told him we’d share the recipe with all of you, so that you, too, could enjoy this fabulous, intriguing vegetable (or fruit??).

Mexican Pizza with Corn, Tomatillos, and Onions
Adapted from Everday Greens by Annie Somerville

1 ball of pizza dough (have to confess I don’t make my own)
1 ½ tablespoons of chipotle puree (I’m sure you could figure out a way to make this, but I just buy the stuff in the can).
1-2 onions—the sweet ones we sometimes get at Lindentree are PERFECT for this
½ cup of tomato sauce (make your own from farm tomatoes, or a simple marinara in a jar)
¼ lb. tomatillos, husked and cut in fourths (eighths if they’re really big)
2 ears of corn, shaved off the cob
¼ lb. cheddar cheese (1 ¼ cup grated)
2 oz. Monterey Jack cheese (3/4 cup grated)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Preheat the oven to 400.
Cut the onions into ½ inch rings, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and put them on a baking sheet in the oven for 15-20 minutes, tossing occasionally. They should be nice and soft.
Raise the temperature to 500.
Saute the corn in olive oil, salt and pepper for 1-2 minutes, then add ¼ cup of water and cook, covered for 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
Roll out the pizza dough (there are all kinds of tricks for pizza making, none of which I’ve mastered, so I won’t attempt to tell you how to make your pizza really behave like a pizza).
Mix together the chipotle puree and the tomato sauce, and spread it in on the pizza dough.
Mix together the two cheeses, and spread half on top of the tomato/chipotle mixture.
Now top the cheese with the onions, corn, and tomatillos.
Last layer is the rest of the cheese.
Now bake the pizza (I use a cookie sheet… I have a sense that a pizza stone is really the way to go) for 10-15 minutes. As soon as it comes out, sprinkle the cilantro on top.

Thank you Greens Restaurant and Thank you Quinn!
Submitted by member Katie Charner-Laird

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bring on the Pesto

This week is all about pesto. We have basil growing on the back porch. We have fresh garlic and bunches of basil from the farm, so it's all about the pesto.

Of course to make pesto you need olive oil and I feel like I'm in olive oil transition. I haven't found a reasonably price evoo that I like. I know there is one at the lebanese stores in Watertown that I got in the past, but I don't remember the name, so in the meantime I'm trying some other brands. I will try to report back.

New batch of pesto will be made as soon as I get the energy to do something other than sit at my computer at night and wonder how many times my sleep will be interrupted by my children.

Friday, July 18, 2008

City Mom Country Farm Hand

Yesterday, I completed the first of my 2 two hour work sessions at the farm. It was one of the hotter days this summer, but I felt more comfortable than most days. Something about the people, the plants -prickly pigweed and all, and having a simple focus kept me feeling cool inside and out, body and mind. Ari, "head" farmer and owner of Lindentree was so gracious and appreciative of my help. I, on the other hand, constantly feel that I should/could do so much more for the farm that provides my family with such a fabulous, fresh, cornucopia of vegetables and berries. If we lived closer, I think I would be there every day.

The time flew by. If it weren't for feeding my children and taking them to cool off at the watering hole I could have stayed another two hours.

I searched between the pig weed, which was a gentle reminder of how contaminant-free and "non-toxic" an environment our dinner was growing in for turnips and beets. I pulled off the dead or yellowed leaves and wound the rubber bands at the stem of each bunch making small vegetable bouquets to be picked up later that day. After a short ride in the back of the truck with some farmers and fellow members, we weighed the vegetables: chard, turnips, and beets and dumped them in the wash bins. My kids joined in, standing on some crates to help gently release some of the dirt.

At home as I prepared the beets for dinner, I was upset as I peeled the deep red and sunset orange to red skins off of the beets. I also need to learn how to use my beet greens. I've always thought that I should live on a farm so I could feed the pigs the scraps (I think it's a romantic idea from Charlotte's Web). I don't actually want to take care of farm animals -at most I could handle a vegetable patch.

I'm going to share two more favourite recipes from Patricia Wells. Perfect for this extremely hot humid weather.

From: Vegetable Harvest by Patricia Wells

The Red and The Gold : Grated Beet Salad
salade de betterave: le rouge et l'or

Make the dressing:

1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of imported French mustard ( I used 1/2 dijon and 1/2 grainy dijon-country)
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
pinch of sea salt

Separate the dressing into two bowls:

Grate the red beets into one bowl - Use the large holes of the box grater.
Grate the gold beets into the other bowl.

Mix and serve side by side.
Zucchini La Ponche

using a mandoline slice 4 small zucchini
using a vegetable peeler peel some Parmesan over the zukes
drizzle with balsamic vinegar
sprinkle with fleur de sel and pepper.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Salads not soup

It's been salad weather or at most chilled soup weather. I've been too busy/tired/frazzled/fried to make soups so for me it's salad weather.

We have some beautiful red cabbage from the farm and the 4th of July always brings the need for a barbecue with classic sides (at least for my American husband). We are not a fan of mayo so we usually go for the vinaigrette dressings, but sometimes you need a little more.

My favourite quick and easy dressing is from Patricia Wells. It's a dressing made with light cream and chives. I'm sure it could be made with other light, fresh herbs, but I love chives so I have no need to change it. It's a light creamy dressing that coats the veggies so perfectly without making anything heavy. Once you try it, it will become a staple in your fridge!

I'm not sure what the rules are for posting recipes so I'll just direct you to Martha Stewart's site that has permission, I'm sure to post the recipe.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

surrounded by goods

I look out around me and I see Bugaboos (which by definition is: 1: an imaginary object of fear) but in this case I mean the +$700 stroller. Babies adorn their parents in the latest and greatest Baby Bjorn's with the active back support, frame backpack carriers with sun canopies, and the latest versions of age-old cloth slings. Children stroll by and stop to explore puddles wearing some of the hottest fashions on the under-five's runway.

No, I'm not at the opening of the new Prudential Isis Maternity Center. I'm not on Newbury Street doing some people watching. I'm at the Farm. It's not a cool new "green" store in the Atrium Mall. I really mean the farm...Lindentree farm in Lincoln.

As I go to the fields to pick our 3 quarts of strawberries and 2 quarts of snap peas these are the people, babies and gear planted in the field, picking their share. At first I'm a bit vexed especially seeing the Bugaboo stroller it's bright orange canvas planted in a field like some surreal post-modern painting. Then I remind myself that this is what the CSA represents. No matter our gear, clothing, or shopping habits we're all outsider's on our farm. We don't live the farm life or even pretend to. What we do do is support our local farms. Enjoy the privilege of smelling the aroma floating off the strawberry field as you approach the path. We work a tiny amount of time on the farm to do our part. This we share in common and that's what matters.

We go home to our kitchen's of all shapes and sizes and enjoy the fruits of the real farmer's labour at Lindentree. Thanks!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Opening Day at the Farm

Opening day at the farm was a gorgeous sunny day. It is so good to be back! Crisp green lettuce and lacy arugula leaves from having shared it with a couple tiny farm friends. Sweetly spiced white juicy turnips and to top it all off warm strawberries taste tested in the field and then enjoyed at home by the bowlful!

From Wilson's Farm I overdosed on asparagus because it was so good. As I ate the sweet and slightly pungent stalks I wondered why I ever bought asparagus out of season. So long days of buying asparagus from's just not worth it.

From Belmont CSA fabulous carrots to crunch on for snack, to slice thinly over our farm's lettuce. Delish....

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Let Us Try Soup

The soup bowl is like a blank canvas, as is any plate for a chef I suppose. But a soup bowl is somehow less pretentious. A small child, a dad feeding the kids, a busy mom, a family at home on a rainy weekend, and a four star Michelin chef can all make a soup worthy of their time and efforts.

Right now I am re-visiting old favourite soups and also exploring some new recipes. I am tentatively approaching a new soup, because I see all these beautiful lettuce leaves growing in some of the Cambridge community gardens, and local farms. The idea of lettuce soup scares me for some reason. Lettuce seems so delicate and I love for it's crispness. Jacquie thinks it sounds delicious..I think she'll be the one to push me to try making and enjoying a lettuce soup. I will keep you all posted.

Now going down memory lane, I remember my father's dreadful looking soups when my mom was out of town. There's nothing like seeing a soup ladle dredge up a piece of broccoli the size of a small loaf of bread dripping with stock. Yes they tasted good, but dad...a little extra sous-chef time would have been appreciated.

Recently soups are being displayed in the media galleries of Television and Magazines.

Top Chef highlighted soup:

(I'll get the words from TiVo soon)

Bon Appetit highlighted the Parisian restaurant Zoe Bouillon.

Soup is in so many fairy tales. We love Stone Soup and of course there is Little Bear's birthday soup which is an early reader favourite.

Soup's on! Have a bowl, make a bowl, share a bowl.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Vive Le Printemps

Spring is...

...fiddleheads' tight little fists.
...rhubarb hiding under it's giant elephant ears.
...the snap of asparagus' smooth stalk and miniature knobbly point.

...bitter sorrel soup with a smooth velvety finish.
...zipping fingers along the edge of a pod to scoop up the sweet, sugary peas.
...the artichoke, rose of the vegetable patch with it's beautifully shaped "petals", it's unexpected "thorns" and the sweet meat of it's heart. sun and cool air.
...the smell of dirt soaked in rain.

Spring is an awakening of the senses.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Farms on The Horizon

Farms have always had a presence in my life. They are a visible, tangible, taste-able part of my community. I didn't grow up waking to a rooster's morning call, nor did I spend my college years with my hands in the dirt learning how best to grow alliums. Now that I have a family of my own, we aren't labouring day and night maintaining a large field or even a decent sized vegetable patch. Nonetheless, farms have always had a presence for me.
I grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. A small city with a couple of Universities and a large Mennonite community as our neighbours. I have fond memories of going to the farmer's market every Saturday with my parents. I vividly remember being in traffic behind a horse and buggy downtown. I envied the fact that the children had no school during the harvest season (little did I know how hard the work was and that it was perhaps more of a chore than an activity). I also spent two separate sabbatical years at the age of 7 and 12 in France and traveling with my family. We ate what was local and fresh and learned the real value of good, homegrown food.

In college in Montreal, I walked everywhere. I never took the Metro except for regular outings to the Jean Talon market. It was a therapeutic escape from life in little Portugal on the Plateau. The stalls of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and herbs was a refreshing contrast to my local grocery store Warshaws where the freezer section of vegetables and frozen breads ran parallel to some other non-functioning freezer chests full of notebooks with fairies and flowers printed on the cover.

With my family settled in Cambridge, I continue my life as a city dweller trying to keep one foot in the dirt. My daughter and I plant seeds to coax out of their little yoghurt containers full of 1/2 potting soil 1/2 compost from our little Cambridge city composter in the backyard. We visit local farms for our groceries and daily outings. We anxiously await the awakening of the fabulous crops at our Organic CSA Lindentree farms, Thursday evenings at the farm harvesting our share of cherry tomatoes, raspberries, flowers for the table, and picking up the share that was harvested for us that morning. I'm looking forward to having more hours at the farm working to do my part. Isabelle, my daughter, said to me the other day "I can't wait to pick our own beans soon.". Memories of walking with the kids across the fields in the hot sun to pull beans from their stalks in the dry mud. Henry, my son, still a wobbly toddler thoroughly dusted with mud from hair tuft to toe.