Thursday, October 15, 2009

Georgia Department of Agriculture Raids Unsubsidized Legal Market

Today, at Athens Locally Grown, "investigators" showed up and threatened Eric Wagoner about his sales of "raw milk". Hear tell, Eric was told "you know, you can't sell raw milk in Georgia". Horrors! Selling a commodity that people want! Not to mention that it was sold in South Carolina, not in Georgia. Crossing state lines to share legally pre-sold raw milk with people are willing and able to pay for is apparently a federal offense. Hmmmm, where is the free market in all of this? Fine, Georgia, bureaucrats, be more backwards than the government in South Carolina which allows the sale of raw milk. Do you want a prize for being more in the pocket of special interest than your more conservative cousin?

So, what is the problem you might ask? Well, raw milk has only been sustaining human populations since the neolithic. It's only been since the advent of industrial agriculture that we have really worried about killing off the bacteria in our milk through pasteurization. Of course, we can appreciate advances in sanitation, but confinement systems certainly do not offer that. If you can imagine(or have seen as I have) cows standing knee deep in shit, you might be really glad to know your milk it pasteurized. But, pastured cows don't live in those conditions, and tuberculosis and brucelosis are virtually non-existent in these systems. It's not difficult to imagine which lobby (um, milk processors who own expensive pasteurizing equipment and are few and far between, if you don't have a clue) is behind this excessive and inexplicable use of tax dollars to illegally harass the owner of a small, grass-roots and local market.

Approximately 0 percent of your tax dollars in the form of agricultural subsidies go to small scale dairies who pasture their cows and direct market raw milk,while 35% (to the tune of 2.8 billion dollars) goes to growing feed grains which go to your corn syrups and your beef cattle, which single handedly contribute to all the leading health problems in the United States, which include heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Approximately 3.2% of all subsidies go to peanut production (the lion's share in Georgia) and we all know how well the Department of Agriculture manages to keep pathogens, like salmonella, with their root in human and animal feces (and certainly not legumes like peanuts...) out of our food system. The self-importance of the "investigators" at our market today was hypocrisy at it's finest. Where were these people when children were dying from salmonella poisoning from eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches???!!!

No, they show up and harass the facilitator of a completely legal market selling a commodity people want earnestly to buy (for whatever crazy reason they might have). This country prides itself on the freedom of its markets, all the while it subsidizes dangerous commodities like beef and peanuts that actually kill people when they unknowingly and unwittingly consume those products. At least people who buy raw milk know the risk they are running. And take it willingly and apparently bravely, in the face of imminent death if we can believe the Georgia Department of Agriculture. If drinking milk fresh from the teat of a cow or a goat or sheep or horse or a camel or a llama killed people en masse, then the human species would be extinct by now. Let's not pretend that raw milk done right actually hurts people. I drank raw milk every day of my life, and I'm still here to talk about it.

Give me a break, GA DOA. We know what you're really about. You're in bed with milk processors who bottleneck our milk supply and control the price. Don't be so precious about protecting people. We know who you're protecting and we aren't going to buy their processed crap no matter how much you lie to us about health and safety. Give us a free market and let the consumers decide. Live up to your free market ideals already!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fig Gifts

During Ramadan, which has been observed for the last month and ends today, observers in central Asia often break the fast (iftar) at sundown with figs.

This week I observed a fast of sorts on Thursday. Under the influence of some absurd Midwestern work ethic, I went to work while sick with the flu, and of course, I didn't have the energy to pack a lunch. Not that I was hungry.

I picked up my order at Athens Locally Grown after work, en route to bed. My order included about 8 figs from McMullan farms, and I ate them in the car in the parking lot as the sun started to go down. Their sweetness was a revelation to my parched mouth and I swore they were a gift from god.

Avian Soup in a Can Influenza

I just survived more fatigue I ever thought was possible to endure. It was likely swine flu, although I didn't bother to go to the doctor to find out. I figured since I went to the doctor for my 121st diabetic checkup last week, and came down with this post-exposure to all the sick people in the waiting room, I probably would live (perhaps longer) not knowing whether I had regular old flu or some other allegedly more contagious kind of flu. In my opinion that falls under the category of too much information.

Other interesting symptoms of my flu included a salt craving that drove me just about crazy, and which I satisfied with garlic salt on toast and chicken soup from a can. Yes, dear reader, it was so bad I ate chicken soup from a can. I did buy organic and free range, yah da yah da yah da, chicken soup, two allegedly made by Wolfgang Puck. Yeah, right. This desperate act was necessary, however, because the very idea of cooking made me want to go fetal. The idea of doing anything but sleeping made me want to go fetal. I'd like to suggest a new name for this flu--the avian-soup-in-a-can-fetal-position-influenza.

Not only did I not want to cook, I also didn't want to eat. Not exactly nauseous, just not interested. Horrors! And for me, like most mammals I know, being off my feed is a pretty serious indication of illness. So, today, when a ferocious hunger started stalking me around 11 am, I figured I was probably gonna be alright. Whew.

Interestingly, I also ate the same thing for breakfast today (chicken soup from a can and crackers) and gave the same amount of insulin as I had for the last three awful days and *today*, I had a low blood sugar afterward, right around 11 am. When ill, the body releases stress hormones like cortisol that raise the blood sugar. In the diabetic body, which has no insulin to deal with this rise, the blood sugar stays inelastically high, which adds to the misery, have no fear. When my blood sugar finally came down, I took that as a bonefide indication of being back in the saddle--so to speak. (The real kind of getting back in the saddle will have to wait til tomorrow. Yaaaaaaaay!!).

So, what to eat, to break this influenza fast? I'm not much of a wheat-eater, but all I could think of was a big fat pizza--the quintessential comfort food. My good friends Amy and Jimmy Cox had given me some venison sausage a few weeks ago and I had lots of tomatoes and basil. Sometimes these combinations stick in my head like a tune, and I can't expunge them, except for to make them come to life. So, ole, ole, ole, come to life!

I cooked up some fast pizza sauce from my ripe Amish Paste and San Marzano tomatoes with some Sweet Nardello peppers from McMullen Farms and some super strong Inchelium Red garlic from Backyard Harvest with a little dried thyme from some huge garden I had in Pennsylvania in another life. I browned the sausage, and the gamey scent of it brought back memories of growing up in Minnesota. I piled the sauce and sausage high with onions from Cedar Grove farm, green pepper from my garden, more garlic and sweet nardello pepper, layered with heirloom tomatoes from Green Girl Gardens and basil from Roots Farm. Oh my. To make a kick-the-crap-out-of-influenza pizza it takes a whole county. Wolfgang Puck, eat your heart out!

More seriously, though, I would have really liked to have sourced the weat flour and mozzerella cheese locally, both of which I bought at the grocery and both of which have origins relatively unknown to me. I just made my students trace the ingredients of a favorite food, and I really should do this myself. Do I as say, not as I do, young ones! The King Arthur flour I know is processed in Vermont, but that's all I know, and it probably contains Bt wheat, which in a recent post, I just railed against. (Does it count that I had already bought it before I ranted against it?) The Sargento cheese is probably made from imported casein, and is likely to make me feel bad since I am lactose intolerant, and casein is usually made from a lactose-based waste product that is also used in cosmetics and paint. Yum, huh?

Ergo, my next big investment is going to be in a mozzarella cheese making kit. The next time you see a pizza, or it's facsimile, on this blog, it will include cheese made from milk from a dairy in Georgia and crafted by my ownself in my very own kitchen. I gotta think a bit harder about the wheat. In the meantime, I am soooooooooooooo happy to be cooking again!

Eat well, be well and love well.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

New Foods

So, tonight, I enjoyed "lamb bacon" at the National with Eric McDonald of UGA's School of Environment and Design, before taking in Food, Inc. at Cine (I saw it again, I am such a dork--and this time I took NOTES = super dork). While savoring the impossible scrumptiousness of (already amazingly delicious) pastured lamb turned into salted, smoked, crispy, juicy, fatty heaven, we discussed the idea of a comprehensive lists of foods, so that we can check off edibles when we eat them (like birders do when they see birds that are new to them) and so we can add novel items like lamb bacon to the list when we find them. I suggested that the possible combinations of foods are probably infinite (limited only by our ability to imagine those combinations), so you couldn't really have a comprehensive list, like lists of species, which are allegedly (at least on the scale of a human lifetime) finite.

Let's put Amy-the-arguer in cold storage for a second, and talk for awhile about what would be on that list. High fructose corn syrup? Mechanically separated chicken? Xylitol? The more I think about this, the more I warm up to the idea. It would be a great exercise for us all to examine the ingredients of our diet and be shocked to find that it distills into a rather short list of hyper-processed ingredients that have their origin in corn, wheat and soybeans. (The birding equivalent would be seeing a few variants on crows, starlings and vultures every time you went birding. This revolting scenario is more likely than you imagine if we keep up the status quo in our food system). The production of these commodities destroys our bodies, our environment, our communities and our democracy. This is an empirically proven and validated fact. (See the movie, do some reading and talk to people if you disagree. Then we'll talk.) There is no more important struggle on this earth than to free ourselves from this illusion of choice and freedom, and to put some checks and balances on the control of agricultural transnationals over our food system.

I go out on a limb, and argue for a global movement against transnationals, because today, in India, farmers (some of whom are poorer than the poorest person you can imagine--think about it for awhile...start with no toilets and go from there) take to the streets in peaceful protest for the resurrection of the Doha Round of the WTO. They just want another chance to farm on a fairer playing field. They just want to turn the blood, sweat and tears they put into growing food into enough money to feed their families. In India, almost 50% of all children suffer from such severe malnutrition that their growth is stunted. This is directly related to the fact that US farmers get paid to grow commodities below the cost of production. (As the step-daughter of such a farmer, I can say that I never ever worried about my next meal and I definitely had a toilet). The chance for Indian (or Sudanese or Laotian) kids to have some good eats like the rest of us, is not gonna happen until we start asking Congress to stop spending our precious tax dollars on growing the corn, wheat and soybeans that poison us and the ecology of our country. Our money that we trust our government with, goes directly (IN CASH!) to farmers so that they can buy patented seed and grow the next crop of genetically mofidifed commodities, some portion of which will be sold (or dumped) on international markets, and which will undermine some of the poorest people in the world who have ALREADY invested time, money and energy into growing crops that are now virtually worthless. No wonder they drink pesticides. I would too. In return, we in the "developed" world (with our well developed asses) deal with diseases like diabetes because carrots and broccoli are more expensive than Big Macs. That is CRAZY! Do something about this!

After watching Food, Inc. again, I am absolutely galvanized in my opposition to the incredibly stupid waste of our resources on the production of corn, wheat and soybeans. We are so duped into thinking that our trips to the grocery store allow us to participate in some kind of choice about our diet that we don't think to look any further for our food than that oasis of inefficiency, creative destruction and death. Call me a liberal, and a communist and a tree-hugger, and a feminist and a fascist and then sue me for veggie-libel, but dammit, figure out what is in your diet, understand what your food choices contribute to, (and, yes, spend some time dealing with feeling really bad about it) and then go find and buy and eat some food that didn't hurt somebody, something or someplace already. Enjoy that meal. And do it again.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fruit Calculus

So, part of my eating local "strategery" is to estimate how much food (in this case fruit) I might need to preserve or store for the part of the year that I can't buy it fresh, which is approximately 6 months/26 weeks between November/December and May in Georgia. I generally eat two cups of fruit each weekday morning (and go for the "works" on the weekend--bacon, eggs and fried potatoes). So, I estimate at the beginning of the fruiting season that I will need to put up X amount of this and X amount of that, which is all very fine and good, but then life happens and I just put up what I can on the weekends and in the odd, wonderful moments between work and play that usually characterize my relationship with my food.

Early this spring, with help from friends, I picked about a total of 12 gallons of strawberries ($10/gallon PYO) at Washington Farms in Watkinsvillege. In one big marathon, I froze about 20 pints. For the rest of strawberry season I ran over to Washington Farms after riding and picked the odd gallon (which took approximately 15 minutes) to eat for breakfast and froze the odd pint or so if they started to get too ripe. That didn't happen too often, though, since I am a stawberry eating machine. Then, blueberries started coming in, and I had the pleasure and privelege of picking blueberries at Covenant Grove Farm (where George lives) for free. Early in the season, after riding George I picked enough for breakfast and then when they really started coming in, I picked and froze about 6 gallons for the winter. Then it was peaches time! Yay! I bought about 24 peaches for $16 each week (for about 6 weeks) at Thomas orchard in Watkinsville. Generally I went on a Monday and a Friday morning after riding at the barn. The owner of the orchard and his father, who sits in a rocking chair by the peach table with his old dog, began to expect me after a while and always asked me if I'd had a good ride. I ate about three peaches a day and froze the ripest ones when they started to get soft. Then this last week, as peaches come to a close, I bought 4 buckets of peaches and canned 23 pints. Pears are just getting ripe now, and there are two trees at the barn that make offerings all night long. I pick a bucket of the not too badly damaged ones in the morning after my ride, and take them home for breakfast. I had accumulated about three buckets today and canned 17 pints.

In a lovely conclusion to my efforts at preserving this fruiting season, I just counted that I have 131 pints of fruit frozen and canned, which is exactly 26 weeks worth of fruit for my breakfasts, which is exactly what I need. I was not really keeping track, just hoping that my efforts would be adequate enough, and if not, I would supplement with fruit from god knows where. Who says the universe doesn't provide when your heart and your efforts are sincere? And for about $240 (plus the huge generosity of friends and my own time and energy) I am able to eat two cups of local fruit each day (some of it organically grown) for an entire year. Who says local is more expensive?

I think people are stopped from making efforts to eat locally because they are blocked by the idea that it can't be done, or that it will be too expensive. I think that it can be done quite handily, and my efforts prove that it isn't too expensive if you are willing to change your habits and patterns--your lifeworld, as it were--to do it. And what makes it all possible are the relationships that surround all these efforts--the Smiths especially who share their abundance for free and all the other farmers and orchardists who share it for very little money, and who come to know me and appreciate me, which is its own wonderful reward.

Eat well and be well! You can do it!


This afternoon, for the first time in a few years, I put up 23 pints of peaches and 17 pints of pears. I am quite pleased with my efforts even though I am now very tired. I picked the pears out of George's pasture this past week and let them ripen for a few days in the house. I bought the peaches from Thomas Orchard in Watkinsville, a family run operation that produces glorious golden globes of ginormous goodness. It rained this afternoon, and I was grateful for the cool breeze from outside as steam from the canner filled my kitchen. I don't use any sugar and sprinkle on a little lemon juice to preserve the color of the fruit before I pack it in hot water. I love the sounds of canning--the perking of the water in the canner, the slinging sound when I screw on the bands, the little cheerful pops when the jar seals. I also love the feels and smells of it all--hot, squeaky clean jars and the fragrance of fresh fruit, lightly cooked. But what I really love is the result, and I will enjoy it even more in January when I open up one of those jars and inhale the fragrance of pure, delicious summer.

Ever since I saw Food, Inc., I have been thinking a lot about how much impact we can have with simply changing our consumption habits (which if you haven't seen it, is the take home message of the film). My friends and colleagues (who won't let me stop thinking about it) point out that we are not all equal when it comes to our consuming power, and our food system is broken and corrupt in a way that only enrolls consumerism of any kind into its project (i.e., big organic). People aren't going to walk away from a movie with a good feeling (read, tell others to watch it) if the take-home message is YOU are fundamentally a part of the problem just because you exist and eat, so change your priorities, not just the store/market you frequent; shut off your TV; put some more effort into getting your food in your body; and take responsibility for the calories you consume that might come at the cost of someone else's freedom or health.

Of course, being a dedicated local eater, (with a blog no less) I can't really say in good faith that we shouldn't change our consumption habits. I think that what we ALSO need to do is change our individual and collective relationship to food and agriculture. Lots of people view eating as something simply necessary for living and thus their food choices reflect a desire for convenience and quick gratification, among other un-self-reflexive and subconscious desires. Food, in this consumer's view, is a means to an end, and it shouldn't get in the way of more important things. I think for this person, going to the farmer's market might be the beginning of a new way of relating to food. As lots of people have pointed out, we have to start somewhere. BUT we can't STOP there. Given how tired I feel, I am having a hard time sincerely advocating for doing more, especially along the lines of what I just did. But I think doing something like this, along with other kinds of action on a variety of scales is essential to changing our food system. Rethinking our relationship to food means prioritizing a different set of values and objectives. I value getting my food from people I know, and I also value tasty food. I have an objective of health, which is directly and negatively related to how much sugar I put in my body. I also don't believe in buying food from people I know or eating tasty food just for right now, when it's in season and easy.

So, I take a weekend afternoon (when I could be doing a lot of other things--shopping perhaps?) and spend some time getting hot, sweaty and a little frustrated, cuting up my hands and burning myself (not badly!) with scalding water. When I'm done, I have a cupboard full of sunshine and a lot more control over what I put in my body for a lot longer than the season when the trees in my world bear fruit. In an interesting twist of irony, the product I have made for myself is not available in any store (so I can't just change my shopping habits), since there doesn't seem to be a market for unsweetened canned fruit. I don't get it. I eat unsweetened fruit with plain unsweetened yogurt and don't feel deprived at all. But I digress.

I'm actually a little sad that canning is over, because nothing in the rest of my week is going to make me feel like I've done something as important as this for myself. And, I probably won't get the same kind of sensual pleasure, measurable result and sense of accomplishment out of writing a paper or preparing a lecture, either. Try it. You might like it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Shrimp and Grits

I have a new favorite food. I also have a fairly unhealthy habit of reading while eating. In the absence of human company, books have always sufficed, I guess. While eating my new favorite food today, however, I was not able to concentrate on what I was reading. Every bite I put in my mouth exploded like fireworks of flavor and distracted me from my reading. I'm not sure what more I can say about this, other than whoever thought of putting shrimp and grits together on one plate was a genius. I also want to thank the good folks at Athens Locally Grown for letting me overhear them talking about putting poblano peppers, corn and shrimp together last week. Right around 8 pm, when our sweaty fatigue hits a peak, we start fantasizing about food, even though not a single one of us is going home to cook with all the goodness we just gathered up. I usually go home and have a mojito. :) The shrimp comes from Tybee Island and the "shrimp guy" shows up at the market and sells fresh caught shrimp for an amazing $5/pound. I made this up yesterday and then went out to watch High Strung at the Terrapin Brewery in Athens. I finished it up today for lunch and it was even better. Apparently the flavors had a chance to do some dancing while they sat together over night.

Southern Girl Shrimp and Grits

Serves 2-4
Time: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon dried rosemary (if using fresh, add at the end)
1 clove garlic
1 medium poblano pepper (more or less depending on your taste for hot stuff)
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper chopped
2 ears sweet corn
2 larger or 3 medium paste tomatoes (San Marzanos if you got em)
1 pound shrimp
1 cup milk or cream
salt and pepper to taste

Sizzle the rosemary in the butter in a cast iron pan over high heat. When it turns brown around the edges, add the garlic and poblano pepper and cook, stirring constantly for a minute or so. Add the onion and red pepper and turn the heat to medium-low. Cover, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. When the onions are soft and releasing their juices, add the corn and tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes until the tomatoes get soft. Add the shrimp and cook until pink. Turn the heat down to low and stir in the milk. Be careful not to let it boil or it will seperate. Season with salt and pepper. Serve wtih grits and sauteed greens. Collards if you're a real southern girl...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Georgia Terroir

I've been looking for a good (mostly) local alternative to traditional pesto. Inspiration came from the Moosewood Lowfat Cookbook which recommends using tomatoes as a substitute for Parmesan cheese and olive oil. The flavors of basil and tomato are naturally complementary and are naturally growing together right out there in my garden. I added pecans because they are so ubiquitous here in Georgia it's a bit ridiculous. The only time I ever saw a pecan in Minnesota was in the pie at Thanksgiving if we were lucky and went to the neighbors who had more decadant tastes. At the barn where George (the horse) lives, there is a large pecan orchard with trees yielding nuts the size of limes, and the odd twenty or so pecan trees just growing around the place. Pecans litter the ground in the fall. I'm thinking I might go into the business of pecan pressing and start a little cottage industry around pecan oil, which could also replace the olive oil in this recipe--the only thing that isn't local. If you really want to go completely local you could skip the oil. It isn't really necessary, but gives the pesto a luscious mouthfeel. I love the taste of Sun Gold tomatoes (who doesn't?) and think they have the best complementary taste to the peppery bittery bite of basil. Pecans are also sweet and have a delicious caramelized taste and fragrance when lightly toasted. So, this pesto is a bit non-traditional in taste, but heck, we aren't living in Italy. We're living in Georgia, so who cares if it tastes a little bit more like Georgia than Italy?

Sun Gold Pecan Pesto

Yields about 2 1/2 cups of pesto

3 cups packed basil leaves
1 cup Sun Gold tomatoes
3/4 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 T olive oil (optional)

In a food processor, combine basil, tomatoes, garlic, pecans and salt and puree until smooth.

I regularly have this with sliced Cherokee Purple tomatoes and goat feta with some salad greens. It doesn't need much more than a grind of black pepper and some salt

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Butter Addendum

I made butter again this morning (while getting caffeinated). From my last experience, I learned to have something else to do while waiting for butter to happen. This time, I let the cream settle (maybe, rise?) for a couple days and was rewarded with *heavy* cream, which is lot easier to turn into butter. Duh. This time I also am going to let the buttermilk sour and at some point, maybe for supper, I am going to make blueberry buttermilk pancakes with fresh blueberries, blueberry syrup and fresh whipped butter. Oh my god.

Braised Chicken with Thyme and Tomatoes

Two days ago, I had some extra thyme and some very ripe plum tomatoes. There had been a generous yield in the garden and the market take of tomatoes was exceptional last week. Also, now free from work obligations for 6 weeks (for the first time in several years)--I did what most folks would naturally do with some extra free thyme (oh yes, pun intended) on their hands--I cleaned my freezer. While excavating, I found some chicken legs and thighs in the back. Grass-fed chicken (because the bird actually gets some exercise) tends to be a bit chewier than that anemic corn fed stuff called chicken in the grocery store, so it takes a little different kind of treatment, like marinating it in yogurt, garlic and pepper. Normally, this treatment also infuses the already tasty bird with some delicious flavors. I didn't have any yogurt at the moment--it was on the docket for the day and I only had enough left for starter, so I scratched my head (sipped a minty mojito) and looked around for inspiration. Next to my pile of thyme and tomatoes, I had some chicken stock thawing for braising vegetables, and I visualized a delicious mound of eggplant, kale and zucchini holding up a couple of braised chicken thighs and thought YUM! Braising (especially with tomatoes) tenderizes the meat with long, slow cooking, so marinading is not necessary. I made yogurt while this dish cooked. (yes I am the queen of the multi-task).

Thyme and tomato chicken (serves 2)

Oil, butter grease for the pan--2 T
2 of each chicken legs and thighs
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
7-10 plum tomatoes, very ripe
Large handful of thyme sprigs, coarsely chopped

Wash and dry the chicken and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the oil/grease/butter in the pan and add the chicken. Brown on all sides for several minutes, until the chicken starts releasing its juices (put a cover on the pan to avoid the splattering). Add the chicken stock, garlic, tomatoes and thyme and cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 45 minutes-1 hour, depending on your chicken and your preferences. Enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tomato paneer curry and sauteed kale

This is an excellent example of why I love local food. This is 100% local and 1000% yum. This is also why I made butter--so that I could make a curry without oil. Okay, so it has some non-local spices, but I'm working on it! This is a perfect light meal for a hot summer day. It's a bit spicy and the cumin is very fragrant and delicious. For lots of reasons I've stopped eating a great deal of carbohydrates for supper and I would eat this with a peach for dessert and maybe some yogurt raita on the side. You could cook up some potatoes in the kale if you want some starch to soak up the luscious juices.

Tomato Paneer Curry (serves 2-3)--From Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian Cookbook

2 T butter
1 tsp roasted cumin seeds
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
ground black pepper to taste
1 cup cubed paneer
2-3 T chopped cilantro

Melt the butter in a cast iron fry pan and sizzle the cumin seeds for a few minutes. Add the onions and saute until the edges are a bit brown and crisp. Add the tomatoes and cook until reduced, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices and paneer and cook for two more minutes. Turn off heat, add cilantro and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Sauteed Kale

1 T butter
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cups coarsely chopped kale

Melt butter and saute garlic and onion until they release their fragrant juices. Add the kale and cook over medium heat until kale turns a bright green and/or until done to your desired texture. I like mine crunchy.

Ricotta yogurt

My multi-tasking on Sunday yielded some interesting results with my yogurt. Instead of heating it to a boil and then letting it cool, I just took out the milk for yogurt when it heated to about 150 degrees and stirred in the yogurt cultures and let it sit (or rather forgot about it again...). The result is a rather strange, but delicious, mix of ricotta cheese-like curds and thick cream. It smells fine and there is no evidence of what to do? Well...when life gives you green velvet curtains, you make a green velvet dress...or so I hear women do here in the south. So for a decadent snack yesterday, I diced up some juicy peaches and ladeled the ricotta cheese over them and stirred in a good dollop of local honey. That was pretty close to heaven. Then I took a nap.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fast forward to butter

So, it's been awhile. Since I last posted I have started volunteering for Athens Locally Grown. There is a *line* for this volunteering gig, it's so good. For four hours of fondling beautiful produce and homegrown foodstuffs you get a $50 credit towards your purchase AND the take at the end of the night in case somebody forgot to come get their stuff. Yo, I did it once. See for more info on this cooler than cool system. Anyway, in the downtime between filling about a thousand orders, I get a chance to muse on the goods. So, I decided to try making butter out of the rich, yellow cream from Johnston Family Farms.

The reason I decided to do this is simple. It irritates me when I have to go to the grocery store. I went in the other day for the first time in a couple weeks and I felt a bit dizzy and sick to my stomach with all the lights and crazy processed garbage. My blood sugar jumped a couple of points just walking into the place I think. While I can get all the veggies I can dream of eating in a week at the farmers market, my garden, ALG, etc, etc, (and goddess I am thankful for it) grains, legumes and oils are hard to come by in most local food systems. Fruit is easy to come by, just not so much at the markets yet since they are pretty strict about organic standards. To get a good bucket of peaches at a price that lets me eat 4 a day, I have to go down the road to the local conventional orchard. Grains and the like require a lot of processing and are really hard to do without machinery. Ever try to shell beans to get enough for chili? It's about as tedious as making butter (as I found out).

So, I decided to reach for the packaged butter for the last time and make a commitment to cream, which I did a couple weeks ago and then just put it in my shade grown, fair-trade coffee from Ecuador ( and on my peaches. But today I got motivated again and had a bit of an impromptu dairy processing day. I had a full gallon of milk and a half gallon of cream. I've been making cheese (paneer) from the milk in addition to the yogurt and so I decided to do this all in one shot. Streamlining my efforts, I guess. So I threw the milk on to heat and researched making butter. This is a good site: (while it goes into *washing* butter, it's not so clear about *drying* butter...think about THAT for awhile)

Glad I decided to multi-task on this one. I am pretty sure what the seventh level of hell would be for me--being that girl who had to churn butter by hand for an entire family... After about 15 minutes of standing there with my hand on the mixer, and not seeing much but bubbly milk, I got a little worried and thought about how nice that bubbly milk would be on my ripe juicy peaches... But I persisted and expedited the process by ladling out the heavier creamier parts and processing them seperately. Presto! Butter. It is soooooooooooooo delicous. I just ate a wee bit on a chunk of rosemary and sea salt baguette from Luna Bakery. It takes a lot of milk to make a little bit of cheese and the same is even more true for butter, but it's totally worth it. I can't wait to fry my local free-range eggs in it tomorrow morning. Good lord.

Now, if I only had a cow. And a bull....