Monday, September 28, 2009

Whole Foods and Local Meat

I feel like there's a lot of hating on Whole Foods lately, between the CEO's editorial about health care reform, and me bitching about their non-local produce and craptastic fish.  So here I'll attempt to offer a more balanced perspective and highlight some things about that I do like about our neighborhood market.

Whole Foods Market (WFM) may suffer from the commercialization of local and organic foods (for example, organic peppers from overseas), but I believe these problems are because WFM is a national corporation. They are attempting to nationalize an idea that is inherently small and decentralized.  However, some great things are being done here on the local level. For example, WFM sponsors University of Maine Cooperative Extension's food preservation programming and therefore makes possible some great public education. WFM is also having a 5% day for the Cooperative Extension on October 20th. Five percent of all proceeds from the day will go to Extension programming.

Another great thing about WFM is that it makes local meats more readily available. I have trouble with meal planning, and in an area where the Farmers' Markets happen on Wednesday and Saturday, it takes a little planning to have a locally grown grass-fed burger on a Thursday night. So recently, when I had a craving for some burgers and wanted to ensure that my meat was humanely-raised, healthy, and eco-friendly, I was able to pop over to Whole Foods and pick up a pound of ground beef from Caldwell Farms in Turner, Maine. And for that, Whole Foods, I thank you. 

So what do you think?  Is the trade-off worth it? Ultimately, I'd prefer to have my dollars go directly to the farmers, without excess production costs and price mark-ups. But I have found that Whole Foods fills the role of a local co-op, in that you can stop by and shop when you want local or organic meat and produce. And while I'd rather have a local co-op, it seems that Whole Foods bought those up! 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Farmer's Cart Apple Pie Breakfast

I've been eyeing the Farmer's Cart at the Monument Square Farmers' Market, run by Daniel Price of Freedom Farm and Simon Frost of Thirty Acre Farms.  So I decided to have breakfast from their cart one morning and naturally went with apple pie!

This is a $4 slice of pie, and it was delicious, of course!  I expected no less.  The fillings wasn't cloyingly sweet, like so many pie fillings can be, and the crust was crunchy, flaky, and coated in a fine crispy layer of additional sugar.  I can't wait to sample some other fare from the Farmer's Cart.

If you are excited by the idea of hot food prepared with local ingredients at the farmers' market, maybe you should check out Simon and Daniel's food cart too.  They need your support, as it's no easy feat to get around all the red tape preventing food vendors from dishing out great prepared food at the market. Read more about the issue in Avery's column, Local Foodie.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"All Maine Cooking" Cookbook

After her visit to Baxter State Park, my friend Melanie stayed with me for a night and brought me a gift! Seems that she stopped in Bangor to stretch her legs, found a used bookstore, and in it, this cookbook.

The "All-Maine Cooking" cookbook was published in 1967 and is compiled of recipes submitted by Mainers, including the two Senators of the time.  The recipes are organized by county, although it seems that there is not necessarily a connection between either the submitter's residence or the recipe's origin.

The recipes are representative of a plainer style of American cooking; frequently recipes call for a can of cream of chicken soup or shredded American cheese.  But no doubt, some of the seafood recipes represent some fine Maine fare.

One Hancock County recipe, titled "Becky's Sloppy Hamburgers," is subtitled (Teen-age Specialty) and contains the note at the end of the recipe that, "Most teen-agers like to top the [Sloppy Joe] mixture with the other half of the bun and eat like a hamburger." Are we learning that the Sloppy Joe was invented in Maine?

But despite the recipes for Baked Pickled Tripe and Sunday Supper Casserole (comprised of potatoes, shredded American cheese, and deli lunch meat!), there are a lot of delicious sounding recipes for baked goods and seafood.  And you've gotta respect any cookbook that contains a recipe that starts with, "Put a good chunk of lard in the frying pan and let it get real hot."

Yes ma'am!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pre-Wedding Brunch

Our friends Ryan and Amanda became husband and wife on Saturday, at a kids camp out in Porter, Maine. Before M. and I packed up the car and drove west for the ceremony, we had to have a great Saturday morning, homemade brunch. And of course the idea evolved into Eggs Benedict - no surprise there.

We used rustic rolls from Whole Foods Bakery, and M bought Canadian Bacon, really wishing for some rashers, like he'd recently had in Ireland.  I whizzed up some Blender Hollandaise sauce, which I've already written about about (because I love Bennys so much!). 

And we made a fruit salad as a side, using preserved gingered pears, that I made in my canning class.  We preserved pear halves in a medium syrup and added knobs of fresh ginger.  After the fruit sits for a few weeks, the spiciness of the ginger is a great accompaniment to the sweetness of the pears. 

Congrats to Ryan and Amanda! 

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mostly-Local Tuna Salad Pitas

I was inspired by this post by the 99 Cent Chef out in L.A. I was like, hey I have all of those ingredients!

So I whipped up this yummy tuna salad for some lunches, and as I made it, I realized that most of the ingredients were local!

Salad greens: Summit Springs Farm
Eggs: Sumner Valley Farm
Onion: Fairwinds Farm
Pickles: My boss
Tomato: The office garden

OK, so there were olives, capers, tuna, mayo and pitas that weren't local, so maybe half and half local and non-local ingredients. But still, I'm lovin' this time of year!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

BBF Travels: Nick Tahou's Garbage Plate

Let me introduce you ladies and gentlemen to the Garbage Plate, a Rochester, New York specialty. And let me be clear - this is the original Garbage Plate, from Nick Tahou's. My plate was mac salad, french fries, two cheeseburgers with hot sauce, ketchup, and mustard (the original combo). Plates are also available with hot dogs and homefries. And, of course, it's meant to be consumed late at night, after some heavy drinking.

I'm still wondering how I woke up hungry!

But last weekend I was being a food masochist, because at the Arts & Crafts festival the next day, I jumped at the chance to have fair food. A gyro!

And this was the best gyro I've had (in America). This guy put cubed squash on it, fresh tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sliced onions, and a mix of beef and lamb. Of course, lots of tzatziki. Let me tell you, the car ride back to Maine was a little, um, fragrant.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Guest Pizza

This pizza is my favorite pizza! You wanna know why? Because I didn't cook it. My wonderful boyfriend did! After a late night of canning class, I returned home to see the hallway to our apartment filled with smoke. And while most people would be concerned, I simply knew that M. was cookin' up some dinner. (You know, dirty 400 degree ovens tend to be kinda smoky.)

Most of the veggies are local or homegrown (except for those stupid organic peppers from Israel that I bought at Whole Foods. Really, WF? Peppers from Israel? Couldn't find any colored peppers in MAINE?? And I know, I know, buying said peppers isn't exactly discouraging them. But I digress.)

The pizza was good! The pizza was great! As you can see, it's a sauceless pie on homemade Foccacia bread. Thanks, M.!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tortilla Soup

My tomatoes are slowly ripening, and so I decided to make use of some of them in this simple soup (or I'm in denial about it apparently being fall in Maine).

Is there a theory on why Mexican food is spicy? Does the heat of peppers, sweat breaking out across your brow, your lips starting to tingle actually cool you down in a hot climate? Here, you can see how I slow roasted a serrano pepper (only one!) and some garlic.

I pureed the hot pepper and sweet roasted garlic with four big red and yellow tomatoes (the recipe calls for a 28-oz. of canned tomatoes, but that seems silly in September when local tomatoes are so abundant).

And after a little saute with an onion and some thickening time over the heat, it was time to garnish the soup with cubed cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro, sour cream, and some crushed tortilla chips. I also added some chopped Swiss chard and cooked shredded chicken, as the Joy of Cooking recommended to 'hearty' up my soup.

If you like to cook Mexican food like I do, you probably already have all these simple ingredients on hand. This soup can be served as a stand-alone dish for a weeknight dinner or as an hors d'oeuvres.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Brunswick Stew

Maine, meet Brunswick Stew. Brunswick Stew is a Southern dish, usually cooked with squirrel meat (!!) and at times in a big, outdoor cast iron pot. I grew up on the stuff (don't worry, the canned version has chicken) and found it's best if you up the corn ante by adding a can or better still, some cut off the cob. Thanks Mom, for shipping up six cans of the stuff and satisfying my craving.