Friday, August 21, 2009

Peppers

The late blight may have gotten my tomatoes, but I still have plenty of peppers. I stuff them, add them to skewers, saute them with sausage . . . our pepper needs are definitely being met.

I have both cubanelle peppers - the long, sweet, light green ones - and bell peppers.

I stuff my cubanelles the way my mother-in-law does because my husband loves them (and so do I). Here's how:

Peppers Stuffed with Bread Crumbs

4 cubanelle peppers
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup raisins (soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and then drained)

Combine bread crumbs, cheese, olive oil and raisins. Remove tops and seeds from peppers. Stuff peppers with mixture and place in a greased baking dish. Bake at 325° F for one hour. (If you want to cut baking time, you can parboil the peppers for 5 minutes and then stuff and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes).

Other ideas for using up all that zucchini

The recipe that I will share here is one I developed years ago and is modeled after a dish that was served at Trinity restaurant in Harrision, NY when I worked there.

Zucchini over Pasta

2 cups cubed zucchini
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste (if you like it, be generous on the black pepper - it makes the dish)
Pinch of crushed red pepper

1 package powdered cream sauce (I like to use packaged alfredo sauce or "Parma Rosa" by Knorr)

Heat olive oil in saute pan and caramelize onion. Add zucchini and saute until soft. In separate pan, follow package directions for sauce mix. Add sauce to zucchini mixture. Serve over your favorite pasta such as bowties, penne or spaghetti and top with generous amounts of your favorite grated cheese - pecorino romano or parmesan.

Zucchini Bread

Although I have my best garden ever this year, I didn't have room for zucchini so my mother-in-law grew some. She gave me one of the first of the season - one that "got away from her" and was so big that I was able to make four zucchini breads and a pasta dish from it. Here is the zucchini bread recipe my mother-in-law gave me from a farm stand cookbook. She has cut the sugar from 2 1/4 cups to 1 1/2 cups.

Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
3 cups flour
1 cup vegetable oil
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Walnuts and raisins (optional)

Mix all ingredients together into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.

I grated the zucchini very fine so my kids didn't know it was in there. I put the batter into two loaf pans.

My sister Robin's church cookbook from the Zion Fellowship in Canandaigua, NY has a similar recipe but uses only two cups flour but 1 whole tsp. baking powder and a tsp. vanilla. That recipe also makes two loaves.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kitchen Gardeners International

From Kitchen Gardeners International:

Dear Kitchen Gardener,

I feel like I say this nearly every year, but what is up with the weather? Here in Maine, USA, the rainfall for June and July was the most for those two months combined since records have been kept, totaling nearly 20 inches. All that wet created a perfect storm of conditions for the spread of late blight which is wiping organic tomato production off the map across the Northeast, my own backyard crop included. Record rains are also pummeling crops and gardens in parts of the south, creating flash flood conditions.

Meanwhile, places that are normally temperate and moist like the American Northwest are breaking records of their own for heat and drought. And in India, the monsoon season, the main source of irrigation for the country’s 235 million farmers, may be the weakest in recent memory and has already sent global sugar prices to 28-year highs. Organic kitchen gardeners are usually hopeful types, but it's hard to find a silver lining in all the climate chaos out there.

I have found some cause for hope this year and in unlikely places: the actions of our elected officials. You, more than any other group, are aware of the important role the White House kitchen garden in playing in changing mindsets about what good food is, where it comes from and who is capable of producing it. In a recent interview on NPR, author Michael Pollan credits the White House kitchen garden as being the most important food and agriculture initiative the Obama administration has taken to date. First Lady Michelle Obama decision to dig it is has helped start a kitchen garden revival which is rippling across the globe, from places as diverse as downtown Provo, Utah to Buckingham Palace. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently added to the momentum by declaring the last week of August "National Community Gardening Week."

Even more hopeful was the news coming out of the UK government yesterday in the form of "Food 2030," an ambitious process to create not merely a home-grown week, but indeed an entire home-grown generation. While Food 2030 focuses on the role that British citizens, farmers, and food producers can play in boosting their own country's food production, the forces driving the initiative are global. The United Nations has estimated that we will need to increase world production by 70% by the year 2050 if we are to keep up with population growth. Put in another, more sobering way, we will need to grow more food over the course of the next 40 years than we have produced over the course of the past 10,000 years combined. To add to the challenge, we'll need to grow all this new food in an increasingly unstable and unpredictable climate using a greatly depleted natural resource base. Even Pentagon officials, not known normally for their tree-hugging or kale-nibbling habits, are starting to recognize global climate change as a gathering national security threat.

The good news is that we will have an abundance of two natural resources to help us meet the world's food security challenge: sunshine (in theory) and people. Getting these people to work in partnership with sun to grow healthy food is where we the kitchen gardeners of the world have a role to play. More than just doing it ourselves (which often seems sufficiently heroic on its own), we need to be thinking about how we can share our resources, our knowledge and our passion to help others - both near and far - to achieve greater levels of food self-reliance and food security.

... One easy thing you can do on your own is to invite people into your own garden to see what's growing on and a great day for doing that for many of us in temperate, northern climates is August 23rd, Kitchen Garden Day. Please consider opening up your own garden to friends, family, neighbors and other interested people. Websites and online communities are great, but they can't replace the real-time exchange of information that happens when people get together in person over a healthy bed of cabbage.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Nasty Agribiz Aftertaste"

From Eating Liberally - New York City [nyc@eatingliberally.org]

Are you sick of our sickening food system? Ready to revolt against revolting food? Eager to purge your palate of that nasty Agribiz aftertaste? Then come hear the progressive foodie blogosphere's own Jill Richardson, of La Vida Locavoreaka Daily Kos's orangeclouds115tell us how we, the people, can overthrow the cornarchy and re-localize our broken food chain!

What: Jill Richardson and her new book, "Recipe For America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do To Fix It"
When: TONIGHT! 6:30-8 pm
Where: The Tank (354 West 45th St. btwn 8th & 9th Avenues)
How Much: FREE

Come to listen, talk, and eat. We hope to see you all there tonight!

The new rules of food

This article appeared on Forecast Earth, a Weather Channel site.


The new rules of food
by Alan Mammoser

(Originally from Eartheasy.com) - Concerned citizens, farmers and others are starting to work on a new set of rules for the food system. These rules or standards would ensure sufficient incomes for family farmers, fair treatment of farm workers, proper care of farm animals and conservation of the environment.

What if you knew the story behind everything you ate, such as where the food came from, who grew it and how? Imagine the landscape from which it came, perhaps a thriving collection of family farms. What if you knew the people that grew the food, knew that they got a fair price for it and that they actively worked to protect the landscape?

How differently would we eat if we got to know our food better?

Basic knowledge of where food comes from and how it is produced is lost on many Americans today and with it a trust in the food supply that sustains us.

With the rise of a highly industrialized society, an industrial farming system has developed along with it. Farms have become ever more mechanized, specialized and distant from most of the population. The federal government has contributed to the trend through legislation, with consecutive farm bills that favor big concentrated commodity growers -- sometimes known as "factory farms" -- while nearly ignoring local growers with smaller operations, sometimes collectively called "family farmers."

Now, when you walk into your local grocery, you see shelves chock full of all the marvels of our food system, with colorful packaging and displays. But do you know where it comes from? Do you trust it? In most cases, there is no information beyond the basic government approvals and ingredient lists. But for a growing number of people, particularly in the age of food safety scares, the lack of information is unacceptable.

Many Americans want to get to know their food, and the story behind it, better.

A new food movement is growing out of these concerns. Concerned citizens, farmers and others are starting to work on a new set of rules for the food system. These rules or standards would ensure sufficient incomes for family farmers, fair treatment of farm workers, proper care of farm animals and conservation of the environment. While some are working on the specific rules, others are figuring out how to communicate about the issue and efforts to others. They're devising ways to convey the stories behind food, so grocery shoppers know more about a cut of meat or a bag of beans and can use this information to make better choices.

This food and farming conversation is gathering force, appropriately, in the Midwest. Many leading thinkers are gathering in March at the Family Farmed Expo (familyfarmed.org), a two-day event in Chicago that contains events for the general public. Local experts on the subject will be on hand as well.

"When national organic food standards were adopted in the early 90s, there was a choice," says Jim Slama of Sustain USA, a Chicago-based non-profit that works on food and farming issues. "At that time, the feds chose to emphasize environmental standards in the strictest sense, to certify whether the food production system avoided artificial fertilizers and chemicals. But they chose to ignore other values related to producing and selling food, values that many people care about."

Slama and his colleagues are at the forefront of a "food convergence." Previously, food-related issues were addressed separately as individual groups focused on organics, local production, fair trade or family farm issues. Today, these groups are coming together to look at food from all angles with the belief that collectively, they can have far greater impact.

Four key topics of discussion include certifying family farms; fair trade standards; organics and beyond; and local food and flavor.

Certifying Family Farms
Fred Kirschenmann has watched with alarm as the number of independent family farms decline across the Midwest. The North Dakota farmer and senior fellow at Iowa State University's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture noted that this tragic disappearance was occurring even as demand was growing for specialty food products.

"New markets are opening," says Kirschenmann. "In many cases, markets for organic foods, but they really take organic to another level. They come from peoples' rising desire to buy food that protects the land and animals, supports farm families and farm workers. These markets demand food products that independent family farmers can, by their very nature, best provide."

This new demand for food can be summed up in three things food must convey: memory, story and relationship. People want food that carries the land's qualities and nutrients to their tables -- that's its memory. They want to know where it came from and follow it to its source -- that's its story. And they want to enjoy a trusting relationship through real communication with the producer.

Kirschenmann joined like-minded rural advocates and food activists to form the Association of Family Farms (AFF). The organization's goal is to differentiate themselves in the marketplace by forming cooperatives and creating their own unique brands, which they will certify with a special seal.

Like the ubiquitous "UL" (Underwriters Laboratories) label on household goods, the AFF seal will appear on food products from meat to wheat. It will certify food in three ways: 1) environmental stewardship on the farm; 2) social standards, such as fair treatment of farm workers; and 3) fair business practices including fair compensation for family farmers.

AFF is composed of farmers from local marketing organizations and co-ops and is gradually expanding through regional committees. In addition to the AFF seal, Kirschenmann foresees an interactive website that will provide detailed information about the food, and the farmers and practices used to produce it.

Fair Trade Standards
For AFF to work, it needs solid rules and agreed-upon standards by which to judge whether a food item deserves the seal. The group is drawing upon the Portland-based Food Alliance, whose certification programs support sustainable agriculture. Their standards are comprehensive and touch on every aspect of the farm economy and call upon farmers and ranchers for the following:

Provide safe and fair conditions for workers
Ensure healthy and humane care for livestock
Avoid use of hormones or related antibiotics
Avoid genetically modified crops or livestock
Reduce their use of pesticides and other toxins
Actively conserve soil and water resources
Protect wildlife habitat
Plan for continuous improvement

Michael Sligh of the North Carolina-based Rural Advancement Foundation is working to adapt international fair trade standards, such as those well-recognized for coffee, to the domestic food market. "The standards are tools to help small farmers make a claim, to make their products more unique and more valuable," Sligh says.

Organic and Beyond
Organic Valley is a LaFarge, Wisconsin-based cooperative that is owned by 900 independent farmers, most with small to mid-sized family farms. The Organic Valley label provides a powerful seal that guarantees social justice and environmental care. Now, the company is moving toward adopting some form of fair trade standard.

"Organic and beyond," is how the company's CEO, George Siemon, describes it, signaling Organic Valley's desire to reach buyers who care about a wide range of values in their food.

Erin Ford, a project coordinator at the company, notes that good standards require good metrics. "To create useful standards, we need to answer basic questions, such as "what is a family farm?'" she says. "Another is, "what is local food?'"

Organic Valley has done much to provide answers, just through the guidelines it has established for its members. "We've got good working definitions, based upon our experience as a national brand working through a regional business model," says Ford.

For example, to define a family farm, the company sets out certain thresholds, such as the number of heads of cattle (the maximum allowed for members is 500 without special approval, although their farmer average is 65). Their local milk is seen in a broad yet well-defined regional context, with seven major trade areas across the country broken up into the following regions: Pacific Northwest, California, Rocky Mountain, Texas, Midwest, Northeast and New England. Their goal is to ship within their regions, so the milk in the stores comes from relatively local producers.

Local Food and Flavor
To tell the food story, to convey trust, means food must become more local, in both a real and a figurative sense. The food buyer must come to know the landscape, the scene of the harvest, whether it be across the continent or in the buyer's own region. Locality plays a big role in any new standards for food.

The creation, or restoration, of local food systems goes to the heart of what people love most about food, namely, flavor. The international Slow Food movement sees this instinctively, placing the concern for good flavor into broader agendas for land conservation and the survival of diverse plant and animal varieties. Slow Food brings the discussion of fair trade down to where it really matters most: the plate.

"The universal aspect of food is pleasure," says Erika Lesser of Slow Food USA. "It's not gluttony. It's just the reality of how food motivates people. It's like doing good by eating well."

This appeal to taste could bring huge numbers of people into the fair trade fold, by getting them to look for good -- and good-tasting -- meals. Slow Food projects bring producers together around agreed-upon standards for special heritage varieties, such as raw milk cheese, Gravenstein apples or other high value or unique foods.

There is still a lot of work ahead to make the "memories, stories and relationships" of food accessible to most city folk who live far away from farms and food production. The evolving conversation -- with new farmer-oriented standards, seals and methods to communicate food stories -- may create a growing swell that will shake our food system, and our ways of interacting with it, to its very roots.

Alan Mammoser is a Chicago-based writer and regional planner.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Suffern Farmers' Market Vendor of the Week - GBC Style by Gloria Collins



Gloria Collins, President of the Suffern Farmers' Market is a woman of many talents and interests. One of her passions is finding unique local items that make wonderful gifts and/or home decorations and other accessories. She offers them through her business venture, GBC Style... "just a little something."

Here are some photos of GBC Style at the Suffern Farmers' Market on Saturday, August 1, 2009. Gloria can be reached at gbcstyle@hotmail.com.

embracing a sustainable lifestyle as a Locavore ... using locally grown and produced ingredients whenever possible ...

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