Saturday, September 12, 2009

eating local: amateur style

When I stumbled across this post by Cathy [Not Eating Out in NY], I knew I had to do it. Not only have I dreamed of getting tickets for that event, but it's cooking, and cooking local. That's what I do. At the same time, I have a ton happening this week. Today is Twestival! This week has been crazy, with little time to actually cook. I picked up my CSA share for the week on Thursday; lots of tomatoes, lots of greens, some corn, among other things. Once I saw these items, some ideas started floating around, out of my control. I decided to take a riff on a dish I had at one of my favorite restaurants. A brunch dish in a casserole style, with greens, and egg and polenta, along with a bit of tomato sauce, I took it my direction.

I created a fresh corn "polenta", garlicky greens, homemade tomato sauce, topped with a fried egg. I personally love the runniness of yolk more than I like baked or scrambled eggs, and as for the "polenta"? Well, it's fresh grated corn; the best way to take something semi-healthy (vegetable) and turn it into a comforting, satisfying dish.

Fresh Corn "Polenta"

6 ears of corn, or about 2 cups final corn grate/juice (see above picture!)
Milk, water, or whey (leftover from homemade "ricotta")
Salt, pepper to taste
Rendered bacon (optional)

Either with a large box grater or a mandoline with the julienne blade in, grate the corn into a bowl. Basically grate as much as you can, getting all the juice/milk out. Once ears are grated, go back over the ears of corn with the back of the knife to get all the juice and guts out. (It's good stuff!) Put the corn into a pot on the stove and add enough liquid to basically thin it out a bit. I eyeballed, maybe had 1/2 cup? Salt, pepper to taste, and I threw in some rendered bacon to cook with it. Obviously completely optional, but if you're making the whole meal, it's a nice addition. Cook on low, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, or more if you're patient. I have a feeling you could also bake this in the oven, if you so desired. I winged the whole thing, so who knows.

Garlicky Greens
2 slices thick cut bacon (or 3 if it's the thin, wimpy stuff)
4-6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
lots of greens, your choice
red pepper flakes, salt to taste

Cube and render the bacon, low and slow. Once done, remove bacon from pan and keep the fat in. Keeping the pan on low, add the garlic and let it slow roast in the oil for a few minutes. You want to infuse the fat with the garlic flavor, along with letting the garlic soften. Toss in your greens and cook quick. Salt, and quickly remove from pan. [Personally, I'd much rather have underdone greens than mushy ones, and the heat will keep cooking.] Toss with red pepper flakes, and adjust if needs more salt.

Homemade Tomato Sauce
I used:
6 cups peeled, large diced fresh tomatoes, juice, seeds, everything
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic
big pinch dried basil, oregano, red pepper flakes
1/3 cup fresh basil, rough chop/chiffonade
~1/3 cup? parsley, rough chop
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onion until translucent, and add the garlic. Cook another 30 sec to a minute, and then add the tomatoes, dried herbs and red pepper and half of the fresh basil. Bring to a boil, and then let simmer. Mine probably simmered for about an hour, but 30-40 minutes is minimum for thickening. Add the parsley and rest of the basil, turn off the heat.

My egg was fried on low, because I was aiming almost for more of a poached consistency than the crispy fried egg. Either is delicious.

In a bowl, spoon 'polenta' [corn pudding is more appropriate, methinks]. Add a layer of greens, then the egg, and a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce. Hearty, warm, filling, and, ok, it's a lot of ingredients and steps, but was actually not too hard to make. Break into the yolk and take a big bite, as I did!

Being an overachiever, I decided to make a simple, delicious dessert. By no means original recipes, but still good! Sauted apples and homemade ricotta.

4 cups milk
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt

Slowly bring milk and salt to a rolling boil in a heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes or so. Line fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth, and add the ricotta to drain. I let it drain in the sieve about 15 minutes, then wrapped it up in the cloth with a twist tie and sat it in the fridge (still in the sieve, above a bowl).

I used the whey above in the fresh polenta; I've also read it can be used basically like milk. In crepes, etc.

Glazed Apples
Cubed apples (I used a honeycrisp; tarter than I expected for the name)
Cinnamon, nutmeg
Teeny bit of butter or oil

I put a bit of oil (tiny) in the pan, and heated it up. I added honey, enough to thinly coat the small pan, and a pinch of both spices. Heating the honey up a minute before adding the apples creates a nice glaze. Cook just long enough to get the apples warm and possibly brown. [Mine did not brown, but I didn't want to overcook the fruit or burn the honey.] Spoon the apples and glaze into a bowl, and add the fresh ricotta on top. Drizzle a bit more honey and dig in.

Ok, so where did these ingredients come from? Well, I'm a CSA member, as stated up top, and my CSA, Prince George, uses Norwich Meadows Farm, a certified organic farm [which I just realized while researching this] and is in Chenango County near Binghamton, New York. The CSA items I used were the greens, corn and tomatoes.

Everything else is from the Union Square Greenmarket. I love greenmarkets, I love the whole feeling. I'm a browser - I like to take my time, check out all the stalls, and then decide. Usually, Fridays at the market are packed with farmers. Unfortunately, yesterday was incredibly rainy, windy and cold, so my browsing options were limited.

The first stall I bought from is Samascott Orchards, from Kinderhook, NY. Searching for basic onions and garlic can be a semi-difficult thing at the market, at times, but Samascott had what I needed. They also had the "fresh picked" Honeycrisp apples. Those caught my eye and gave me the idea to do a dessert. I had never tried these apples before, and fortunately I found out today they were tart and perfect for a sweeter dessert.

From there, I went searching for milk since I had in mind to make ricotta. Milk Thistle Dairy, in Columbia County, NY, was one of the few (only?) people there with milk, and thus I made my way on.

Migorelli's, another large seller, out of Dutchess County, NY, is where I got the parsley for the sauce.

Tremblay Apiaries, Chemung County, NY, is a great seller of honey - the man at the stall yesterday was friendly, knowledgeable, and he had four varieties of honey. Tasting the most floral one, I knew I had found the right honey for the job. Full of flavor and simply delicious!

One of the last stops was the hypnotic bacon. Yes, bacon was optional in this dish, but once I saw the sign, I knew I had to stop. Tamarack Hollow Farms, which I just discovered is based in Vermont. When I saw their chalk sign regarding hypnotic bacon, and bacon love, I had to stop. A younger guy ran their stall, and was knowedgeable, friendly without being overbearing. While I'm not used to $11 bacon, it was definitely worth it.

As similar with milk, because the weather was so bad it was quite difficult to find eggs on Friday. I found another pig farmer, which I had missed, who was selling eggs, and again, very friendly. Flying Pigs Farm, in Washington County, NY, has great [chicken] eggs along with delicious looking chops, cutlets, bacon and other pork products.

On a side note, Central Valley Farm, usually out there on Fridays, not only sells good eggs, but the cutest little old man works the stand. Ask him the difference between jumbo and large eggs, please do. He tells the cutest story of how "Let me tell you, older does not mean better." (Jumbo eggs are from older chickens.)

Oh, a few other items! Basil is directly from my window herb garden, and the plant was bought at the greenmarket early in the summer. The only two things I can't claim are "local" is the teeny bit of oil and about 1/2 a lemon's worth of juice for the ricotta.

So... there it is. My best recipes, my not-so-great photography, and some great local farmers, products, and generally delicious food.

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