Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reading for a good laugh: Monsanto wants carte blanch for Roundup Ready alfalfa.

I mean it.

Monsanto wants "unregulated" status from the USDA for its Roundup Ready alfalfa. Read the EIS (environmental impact statement) required as per court order here. It's HYSTERICAL!

I feel like this should be on that Saturday Night Live Weekend Update sketch "Really?!? with Seth and Amy".

Basically, Monsanto wants it's genetically modified alfalfa to be unregulated by the USDA. No biggie, right? The plant is pretty benign. The threshold question is whether it poses any risk to plant pests or not. Well, the crop itself probably doesn't. Except loss of biodiveristy, but that's another ball of wax.

The problem is the spraying of Roundup across miles and miles of alfalfa fields (literally as alfalfa is grown in 48 of the 50 states). Well, guess what? The USDA doesn't regulate the use of herbicides. The EPA does. The USDA only regulates the use genetically modifed crops. So, at the end of the day, we can debate the hazards of herbicides and pesticides on our water supply, other plants and animals, and in our food all we want to the USDA. They can't do a damn thing. It all seems like an academic exercise. Just another example of the ridiculousness of regulatory scheme of a substance that each human being needs to survive: food.

By the way, the main use for most of the alfalfa grown in the US? Food for dairy cows. Dare I ask what happens to alfalfa that has residue of Roundup on it when it's eaten by a dairy cow? Well, Monsanto assures us (I and TOTALLY trust them...) that it is excreted through urine and feces, not milk, in lactating animals. Can you hear Amy Poler exclaiming "Really!?!" in the background?

Nonetheless, anyone reading this should still comment. The public comment periods runs until February 16, 2010. Here's where you comment. For more information, check out Civil Eats' article here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from Delicious Potager!

What a fabulous Christmas! Packed full of family, food and presents. Lots of wonderful presents. But notice I listed family first. I'm not totally superficial, after all.

I must've been a very good girl this year. Or everyone is tired of hearing me go on and on about my gardening and canning and cooking. I got a tiller, a pressure canner, a hot water canning kit, two packages of jars and lids, and a kitchen scale. Next year, more people will get these recession-proof gifts from me.

The pressure canner and hot water canning kit will make the Tigress' Can Jam a cinch. And, since I have an abundance of pears and oranges laying around, I'll probably "put those up" before the can jam gets rolling. And, I had already sketched out my garden for next spring, but I can't wait to get the tiller out now and get started.

Dark Days Challenge Week 6

Sweet Potato Quesadillas ... mmm.

When I was eating this for dinner on Monday, it seemed like something that would be on the menu at a trendy bistro or something. Very edgy. But, really, really simple. You know what I mean... those local eateries (every town has at least one) where they make delicious, simple food. That happens to be local and organic. Because that's what's in vogue now. Here in Charleston we have sister restaurants, Tricky Fish and Bluegrass Kitchen. It's awesome how more and more people are thinking about where their food comes from and what they're eating. I think we can thank the recession for that, but that's a whole 'nother blog entry.

This recipe is from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle.

2 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp basil
1 tsp cumin
chili powder to taste
extra virgin olive oil for saute
4 flour tortillas
soft cheese such as brie
winter greens such as kale

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Prick sweet potatoes and microwave 5 minutes (more if not soft). Let cool and peel. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Finely mince garlic and add to skillet. Add onion. Saute about 5 minutes until onion turns translucent and softens a bit. Add spices and sweet potato mixture and mix well. Keep warm. Oil a large cookie sheet and place tortillas on it to lightly oil one side. Spread the sweet potato mixture on half of the inside of each tortilla. Top with brie and chard and fold to close. Bake until browned, about 15 minutes. Cut into wedges for serving.

My sweet potatoes, onions and garlic are from the Monroe Market. The oil and spices, of course, weren't local. Neither were the tortillas or cheese. I used goat cheese, by the way, because it's what I had in the fridge. And I didn't have any winter greens, so I skipped that.

I served the quesadillas with polenta, made with butter and a dab of milk. The cornmeal was also from Reed's Mill Flour, sold by the Monroe Market. Check out this news piece about the mill. It's pretty fascinating. When I did the Eat Local Challenge, I had ordered some flour from them, and I called to see where they get the grains from. They actually grow their own wheat and corn. It's basically this one guy, and he is the nicest guy ever. He talked to me for a good while, and I guess was just happy to be able to talk shop with a stranger who was interested. The butter and milk in the polenta were from Homestead Creamery, where I get as much dairy as I can. I am waiting for them to expand to cottage cheese and sour cream, but I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What gardening foodies do in the winter

We watch read books and watch movies about gardening and drool on seed catalogs.

It's the dead of winter around here. Saturday pretty much confirmed it when we got 7 inches of snow and I made a big pot of french onion soup for lunch.

Last week, the library finally received its copy of Food, Inc. on DVD. I was the first person to check it out. I should get a sticker or something for being such a geek. Go get this movie and watch it. Un-freakin'-believable. Although, it wasn't much of a shocker for me since I read The Omnivore's Dilema and Chew On This this fall. And, checked out Fast Food Nation from the library. BTW, did you know that you can check out DVDs from the library? For free? It's good stuff. Anyway...

Oddly enough, Friday in the mail, I got a seed catalog that was mistakenly addressed to the former owner of my house. Right in the front of the catalog in big bold letters is "All our seed is non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented. We DO NOT buy seed from Monsanto-owned Seminis."

I'm sold. If this doesn't mean anything to you, like I said, go watch Food, Inc.

So, all weekend, while the snow fell. And fell. And fell. I poured over exotic heirlooms and dreamed about all the tasty stuff that'll come out of my garden this summer. I'm officially a geek, and it's really funny, cause when I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle last spring, I thought the same thing about Barbara Kingsolver when I read the part about how she snuggled up with a seed catalog on a snowy afternoon and flagged pages with seeds she was interrested in. Like Barbara, we'll see who's the geek when I'm serving caprese made from tomatoes from my garden that are still warm from the sun. I can almost taste it right now.

By the way, here's the link for the seed catalog I got in the mail: http://www.rareseeds.com/. Never heard of them before, but I'll probably be placing an order in the next few months.
Anybody else have a reputable source for seeds or seedlings? Give me a shout out.

Dark Days Challenge Week 5: Cabbage soup that will knock your socks off!

After an unseasonably warm fall, the air finally has a chill to it, and we've been building fires in our fireplace the last week or so. Puts me in the mood for soup. I freakin' love soup. Probably because I like being warm and cozy, and nothing makes you quite as cozy as a hot bowl of soup. This week, I've made both cabbage soup and yesterday, in the middle of the snow storm that slammed the Mid-Atlantic, I whipped up some French Onion soup. But, the cabbage soup really hit it out of the park.

The recipe is from my Jamie at Home cookbook. I love it because it is organized by season, and he provides gardening tips for the featured vegetables.

The stock I used was a combination of stock I made from my Thanksgiving turkey from White Oak Ridge Farm, and some Wolfgang Puck organic free-range chicken stock. Instead of savoy cabbage, I bought an organic head of white cabbage. The kale, garlic, and rosemary came from the Monroe Farm Market. The bacon also came from White Oak Ridge Farm (when I picked up my turkey, I took a cooler and stocked up). The butter was from Homestead Creamery. The fontina, parmesean and anchovies were whatever I could find at the grocery store. The bread was frozen leftover bread from loaves of bread I buy throughout the year. I hate the heels of bread, or when it's been in the fridge a while (yes, I always keep my bread in the fridge) it gets dried out. I just throw it in the freezer and use it for stuffing or croutons or whatever.

I made this soup last winter with red cabbage, and the soup turned purple. It tasted fine, but it wasn't very appetizing. Speaking of tasting just "fine", last year, I used turkey bacon (this was before I was in the "know" about eating local) and here's another reason to eat local: this soup will blow you away if you use real bacon instead of turkey bacon. And, if you're gonna buy real bacon over the lower fat turkey bacon, you might as well make sure the pig was fed a natural diet with no hormones or antibiotics and didn't have it's tail cut off or was not weened too early, nor lived in crate, for that matter. The taste is like night and day, too, by the way.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dark Days Challenge: Week 4 (Martha Washington would be proud.)

This summer, I went to a conference for work in Philadelphia. One of the highlights of the week was dinner one evening at The City Tavern. If you're not a history buff, don't worry, the food is still awesome. But if you are, this place is really neat.

The notable thing about The City Tavern is that, in a city filled with so much history, this is another facet. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, all dined here. Regularly. It became the unofficial happy hour, if you will, to the Constitutional Convention. In the earliest days of our nation's history, it was the most famous restaurant in on of the most famous cities.

So, when you eat at The City Tavern, the menu is the same as it was when it opened in 1773, the staff not only dresses the part, but knows all the nuances. And, I had such a good time, I bought the cookbook they were peddling when I was leaving. I probably bought the cookbook because of the venison. I had venison at the restaurant. There's half a dozen venison recipes in the cookbook. I have a freezer full of venison. That's how I roll.

The venison was local (yay, hubs). I substituted local onions for the shallots and leeks, local garlic, rosemary and butter. In the demi-glace, the flour. butter, tomato paste (I didn't use a roma tomato), and onion was local. And the mushrooms and barley weren't local, but organic. Basically everything was either local or organic except the wine and bourbon and spices.
Pan Seared Venison Medallions

1 1/2 pounds venison tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin
2 cups red Burgundy wine (I actually used Shiraz)
3 medium shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves pulled
2 tsp. dried rubbed sage
2 tsp. unsalted butter
1 medium leek (white part only) well-rinsed and cut into 2-inch lengths and julienned
1 1/2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1/2 cup bourbon
2 cups demi-glace (see below)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the venison into 1/4 inch thick medallions (about 3 oz. each). Place medallions in a medium shallow dish and add wine, shallots, garlic, rosemary and sage. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator 8 hours to overnight. Remove venison from the marinade and discard marinade. Pat the venison dry with paper towels. Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat, add the venison, and cook for 3 minutes on each side (for medium rare), until brown. Remove the venison and keep warm. Add the leek to the pan pan and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute about 3 minutes, until soft. Add bourbon to deglaze the pan, loosening any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the demi-glace, reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 3 minutes, until the demi-glace comes to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked barley or egg noodles.

Demi-glace (makes 3 1/2 cups)

1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup sliced white button mushrooms
2 Tb. tomato paste
1 1/2 c. full-bodied red wine
3 1/2 c. beef stock
1 roma tomato, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped leek
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
3 Tb. all-purpose flour

Melt 2 tb. butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until translucent, about 2 or 3 minutes. Toss in mushrooms and saute until any liquid they release has evaporated. Stir in tomato paste, then add 1/2 cup wine to deglaze, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits on the bottom. Simmer until almost dry, then deglaze with another 1/2 cup of the wine. Simmer until almost dry again. Add the rest of the wine, stock, tomatoes, leek and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. In a medium-size bowl, knead together the flour and remaining butter to form a paste. Whisk the paste into the demi-glace and simmer 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is smooth and velvetly. Strain through a sieve and cool te demi-glace in an ice bath. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dark Days Challenge: Week 3

It really was a challenge this week to cook one local meal. Especially, since I didn't really cook a meal this week. The closest I came was putting some pinto beans in the crockpot on Tuesday with some local bacon, and throwing together a pan of cornbread with local eggs. Not local enough to count for the challenge.

I planned on making a meal out of a spaghetti squash I ordered from the Monroe Market a few weeks ago. But, we ate on Thanksgiving leftovers two nights, grabbed dinner on the way to Jeremy's parents' house one night, and Saturday night got invited to go out to dinner with my brother and his girlfriend. Saturday night, I roasted the spaghetti squash and put it in the fridge.

I've never had spaghetti squash before, and for my first attempt, I took the Paula Deen approach. You can't go wrong on trying a new food with copious amounts of butter. Also, a spash of white wine leftover from Thanksgiving, parmesean cheese, garlic, and a bit olive oil.

Maybe you noticed the pasta and bread. That's called Plan B: a frozen Bertolli Mediterranean Skillet Meal. The hubs was not willing to commit to a meal of spaghetti squash in case it turned out we just didn't like spaghetti squash. Actually, it wasn't too bad!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

1 2-lb. spaghetti squash
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice squash down the middle length-wise. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 mintues.

Let squash cool until cool enough to handle. Scape flesh out into a bowl with a fork to make long strands.

At this point, you can flavor the squash with whatever you like. I tasted it plain, and decided it would lend itself easier to a savory dish, but if you're creative, you could do a creamy sweet sauce. It doesn't get mushy like spaghetti noodles, so the sky's the limit with sauces. I added 2 Tb. local unsalted butter, 1 Tb. extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 c. of grated parmesean, 3 cloves (yes, I love garlic) of local garlic, and dash of salt, some dried parsely, and a splash of non-local chardonay leftover from Thanksgiving dinner. I think I would make it again. It would make a fabulous side dish to fish or chicken.