Archive for June, 2009
Father’s Day is a big grilling day; I guess there’s just something about it that appeals to our masculine instincts. I plan on staying around the house, spending time with the family and fire up my grill for some great local grass fed steaks. The variety of produce in the farmers markets is great right now also, in central Kentucky we are in a transitional period with both spring and early summer produce at the market.
This week I even found great tasting, local, heirloom tomatoes! Around here tomatoes don’t come in around here until July but Mr. Heirloom Tomato himself, Bill Best from Berea, KY is growing some varieties in a “high tunnel” this year, which is basically an unheated greenhouse where the plants are grown in the ground. He gets about a month jump on the season this way.
We also still have strawberries and asparagus which is really late for them but I’m thankful nonetheless, my boys will almost eat their weight in strawberries if allowed. There are also lots of lettuces, spring onions, greens of all description including one of my favorites Rainbow Swiss Chard.
Like any green you can braise chard really quickly and spike it with some vinegar, but what I like to do is make rice pilaf with it. You pull the leaves from the stems and use the stems as you would celery with spring onions and carrots cooking them in a little olive oil. Add you rice and stock and season, then just place the chopped chard leaves on top and let them steam as the rice cooks. When it is done, just stir in the leaves and enjoy. Those deep green leaves have lots of vitamins and a pilaf is a great way to incorporate them into something easy to make. Chard stems have a very mild flavor and you can use them in place of celery in lots of dishes, don’t throw them away!
Rainbow Chard Rice Pilaf
1 small bunch of rainbow chard, leaves and stems separated and chopped
2 small early onions, chopped
1 bunch small carrots, chopped
1 cup rice, regular or basmati
2 cups water or chicken stock
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a sauce pan place the olive oil, chard stems, onion and carrot and lightly sauté until the onions are clear.
Add the rice and stir to coat all the kernels with oil.
Add the water or stock, salt, stir well and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat, add the chopped chard leaves, cover the pot and allow to simmer 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat, allow to stand 5 minutes, stir the chard leaves into the rice and enjoy
The most common mistake people make cooking rice is to stir it. After it comes to a boil and you get it covered and simmering, do not stir it again. It will take exactly 20 minutes to cook and be perfect if you let it be.
This is the time of year when the local farms are harvesting their first batch of chickens, and they are absolutely fabulous. They’ve been outside enjoying the spring weather just like us, and eating the really tender early grasses that are sweet, and the early tender bugs. While eating bugs doesn’t sound very appetizing to most, I’m guessing the chickens would disagree. It is a great source of protein for them and it helps to keep the bug population down too.
The way factory chickens are raised is really disgusting, and a major source of water pollution. Not only that, but eating the chckens can be dangerous too. I just read an article on how researchers in Arkansas found that they could greatly reduce E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella in chicken breast meat by infusing combinations of organic acids — acetic, citric, lactic, malic and tartaric — into the meat. It is coming down to a choice of the risk of food poisoning or having chemicals in your food with many things for sale at food retailers.
I would rather have local free range chicken, but a lot of people balk at the price of chickens in the farmers markets. They are more expensive compared to the commodity chickens but not compared to what they actually cost to raise and process for the farmers, they don’t make a lot of profit on them.
The key is making a chicken and your money go the farthest. Two people should be able to eat well at least four times from a chicken; a family of four could eat at least twice. I like to roast a whole chicken or put it on the rotisserie, then pull it apart and slice up the meat. If you serve it already sliced you will take less on your plate than just putting a whole piece on there. If you put a whole piece of chicken or a whole steak on my plate, I’m going to eat it all; I have no willpower for good food.
This is in keeping with the Michael Pollan mantra of “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”, and a little chicken with a lot of veggie side dishes on your plate is the way to go, it is very satisfying.
You may have enough left to have a second meal either as leftovers, a stir fry, chicken salad and then with the bones and scraps make a great chicken stock that can be the base for a great soup with tons of veggies. That is really making your local food dollar stretch.
In a stock pot place all the bones & skin of a leftover chicken and:
2 carrots and 2 celery rib cut into ½” sections
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
Cover with water and bring to a boil, skim off any foam then turn down to a simmer
½ cup white wine (optional)
1 bay leaf
A few whole peppercorns
Fresh herbs (stem and all) of your choice
Simmer for 2 hours and strain for use
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