MAKE AMERICA GRATE AGAIN
No, I did not misspell great, I meant grate. I saw that sign below another sign that said “Ban Pre-shredded Cheese.” This is as far as I am going to comment on the political season we are now in. This is a much better season, Spring.
This is the time to get out of the house, go to a farmers market, work in your garden and when you harvest the fruits of your labor, you will feel great.
Let’s start right off with dispelling another myth. You do not have to soak your dried beans before you cook them. Putting the beans in cold water and letting them soak will not improve their taste or their texture. You save some time in the cooking process but very little, unless the beans you are cooking have been in your pantry since Hurricane Katrina. Beans lose moisture over time and soaking them may reduce the cooking time from days to hours. But soaking does not reduce the gas production of the beans if you catch my drift. The only cure is to eat beans regularly. It has something to do with the microflora in your digestive system. No matter what, they are a good source of protein and fiber.
Dinner on the Grounds, this Sunday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, reflected the coming season. More vegetables than usual and a greater number of fresh salads were offered. As the harvesting of the fresh fruits and vegetables continues, Dinner on the Grounds at every church will reflect what is plentiful in gardens and farmers markets.
I know of three Farmers Markets in Montgomery County, Eastchase Farmers Market, Fairview Farmers Market and the Montgomery Curb Market. There is at least one Farmers Market in every county. Goggle will happily supply you with the locations and hours.
Looking at the chart from the Alabama Farmers Market Authority, May is at the beginning of most of the produce season. Greens are available, of course, strawberries, cauliflower, and spinach are available and in mid to late May, lettuce, beets, cabbage and onions will be plentiful. My favorite way of purchasing fruits is from an Upick Farm. But they don’t start operations usually until June.
FRESH FARMERS MARKET SPINACH
2 large bunches of spinach about 1 pound
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1. Cut off the dark stems of the spinach and discard. Clean the spinach by filling up a sink with water and soaking the spinach to loosen any sand or dirt. Drain the spinach and then repeat soaking and draining. (Remember this is fresh from the farm, not some manufacturing plant and from a plastic bag).
2. Put the spinach in a salad spinner to remove any excess moisture.
3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add garlic and saute for about 1 minute, until the garlic is just beginning to brown.
4. Add the spinach to the pan, packing it down a bit if you need to with your hand. Use a couple of spatulas to lift the spinach and turn it over in the pan so that you coat more of it with the olive oil and garlic. Do this a couple of times.
5. Cover the pan and cook 1 minute. Uncover and turn the spinach over again. Cover and cook for an additional minute.
6. The spinach should be completely wilted. Remove from heat. Drain any excess moisture from the pan. Add a little more oil and sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve immediately.
I have mentioned this before, and I will most likely mention it again, but you need to support local farming and local farmers. It is a win-win outcome when your hard earned money stays in the local economy. The produce is fresher and the environment wins because the produce is not shipped long distances.
I have also talked about living in a Food Desert. Goggle it. If you live in a rural county like I do, access to fresh produce or groceries in general, is a chore that takes planning and longer range goals then if you lived 2 blocks from locally owned Renfroe’s Foodland. You take fewer trips to the market but you stock up on staples. My skills at canning have dramatically improved since moving to Lowndes County. And my having 3 refrigerators and a chest freezer helps.
Since it is a long time between trips to obtain produce, I want to be sure that the veggies and fruits are the freshest they can be. I also know that melons, peaches, apples, avocados mangoes and pears will ripen after picking, so I want to get them in different stages of ripening so they all don’t ripen at the same time. I buy 6 peaches but want only two to be ready to eat. That is unless I want to make a pan of peach cobbler.
Since my last article, I have doing “food research”. I went to Ruidoso and did a “Cooking Class” on Argentine food. Argentina has many different immigrant influences and there local food varies from one part of the country to another as much as the United States. There are Spanish and Italian dishes with a local nuance in the Central Region and a Native Indian influence in the Northwest with recipes with corn and potatoes. The Patagonia region has seafood and sheep. So what you learn from eating foods for different countries like Argentina is, they eat the same food, just different cooking methods, and different spices. They were influenced by the same immigrants and the same native inhabitants as we were.
And then I went to Iowa for a week. It is very early for their spring, they were just planting the crops, and it depends on the demand for certain crops, like corn or soybeans, or rye and wheat on what they plant. The primary fruit here is apples. They also grow cabbage, cucumbers, and green beans. No farmers markets with local produce on sale yet. The restaurants have a wide variety of local favorites and one I fell in love with is Wisconsin Cheese Curds, breaded and fried to a golden brown and they melt in your mouth.
Two recipes that I like that use local produce and are easy to fix are Rosemary Roasted Beets and Carrots and another called Fresh Farmers Market Spinach.
You can these and other recipes and other information from http://www.fma.alabama.gov.
ROSEMARY ROASTED BEETS & CARROTS
1 pound Alabama beets peeled and cut into ½ inch wedges
1 pound Alabama carrots scrubbed and cut into 2 inch lengths, and halved lengthwise if large
¼ cup red vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 sprigs fresh garden raised rosemary
Salt and pepper
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees
2. Toss beets carrots, vinegar rosemary ¾ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon pepper on a rimmed baking sheet
3. Roast and toss once until vegetables are tender. 30 to 35 minutes