Category Archives: Locavore

Zucchini soup – Morgan & York’s Pure de Calabacin

This rich and creamy tasting yet completely vegan soup is a great dish to make with frozen summer squash and zucchini.

Morgan & York has been a terrific help to Locavorious by providing us with a convenient and friendly share pick-up spot, so I’d like to start by shouting out a big thank you! As you might imagine, I pop in and out of the store rather frequently dropping off shares, etc. One can’t help but notice their extraordinary wine and cheese selection and eye-popping variety of artisan and local beers. Fortunately for M&Y and unfortunately for my pocketbook I have discovered that it’s also a great place to get a bite to eat. Not only does their deli counter make my favorite sandwiches in town – high quality ingredients on Café Japon baguettes – try the Tasso beet – but they also makes this fabulous zucchini soup. They shared the recipe, which I adapted to fit with the Locavorious frozen summer squash blend. It’s so rich and creamy tasting I was surprised to learn there is no milk or cream in the recipe. According to Simone Jenkins, owner of the store with husband Matt Morgan and friend Tommy York, the key to this soup is to use a high quality, flavorful olive oil. She recommends Koroneiki olive oil.

Quality ingredients and local veggies make this simple, elegant soup quite delicious. Frozen zucchini and summer squash are not amenable to just re-heating and eating because of their high water content. They do, however, retain their wonderful summer flavor when frozen and that flavor shines when cooked into a soup. Even this late in the fall, onions, potatoes, carrots and parsley are all still available at the farmers market, Tantre Farm sent around a note that they will be there on Saturday December 5th. So with my apologies to the purist locavores, this mostly local soup recipe is worth borrowing 1 or 2 tablespoons of imported olive oil.

Ingredients:

1 ½ – 2 T really good extra virgin first cold pressed olive oil

1 large or 2 small yellow onions, chopped

16 oz frozen Locavorious summer squash

1 or 2 Yukon potatoes (½– ¾ lb), peeled and chopped

2-3 large carrots (I used ~ 6 smaller ones), peeled and chopped

Parsley springs or carrot greens

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

2 1/3 cups water

Garnishes recommended by Morgan & York: 1/3 lb Jamon Serrano, diced into little cubes, or 1/3 lb Manchego cheese, diced into little cubes.

Preparation:

Put oil in a small soup pot on medium heat. Sweat down the chopped onions until they are uniformly soft and translucent. Add everything to the pot – chopped potatoes, carrots, parsley, salt, water and frozen squash. There is no need to thaw the squash first! Put a lid on the pot, turn heat to high and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, break up the frozen squash, stir, replace lid and turn heat down to medium low. With the lid on, let everything simmer ~ 45 minutes or until everything is fully cooked and soft. Remove pot from heat and let cool ~ 1 hour.

Blend to a fully consistent creamy texture with a stick blender (or transfer cooled soup to a blender to puree it.) Add a little water if it’s too thick for your liking. When ready to eat, gently heat the soup back up to ~ 140 degrees, stirring a bit. Garnish with either little diced ham or cheese cubes. If you don’t have Manchego, tiny cubes or shavings of parmesan work too.

A Garden Variety Beet-Veggie Soup….aka Borscht

Beet-cabbage-vegetable soup…also known as borscht. For years whenever I’d say how much I like beets, folks would then ask, “So, you make borscht?” And for years I would have to fess up that not only did I not make it, I’d never even tasted it. Borscht is a soup that I thought one needed a secret family recipe from your mama’s bubbie’s bubbie from deep in the Russian or Baltic or Ukrainian or, at the very least, Eastern European heartland. No such luck in our family. I vaguely remember my maternal Bubbie tossing together canned pickled beets and sourcream and sitting down to eat that scarily vibrant pink concoction after everyone else had left the table. Now that I think about it, that’s always when Bubbie ate, so maybe it didn’t have anything to do with the borscht. In any case, I assumed that neon pink stuff from a can was not of any interest.

Flash forward to this past summer when the garden and the farm share were yielding beets, beets, root veggies, beets and cabbage and more beets. While hungry and “complaining” about the bounty after playing ultimate one evening, a young guy (i.e. a guy younger than me) commenced eye-rolling, “Come one, just make borscht, it’s so easy. Even on a weeknight.” HUH? What did he say? He rattled off a generic recipe formula….”My wife and I love it in the summer; we just cook down some cabbage and onions, carrots or whatever else is around, add some water and beets; plop on some sourcream when the veggies are soft. It’s delicious hot, warm or cold.” WHAT? My head was spinning with challenges to my long held assumptions:

  1. Borscht is not just for Bubbies.
  2. Using canned beets is not required.
  3. Some long kept secret family recipe is not required.
  4. Some young, punky ultimate-playing guy can make this unusual old world soup.
  5. Same guy can whip it up on a weeknight in spite of having 2 young tots.
  6. It’s delicious. Really? OK, well I had to give it a try.

So now I am here to testify – borscht is delicious! You cook down some cabbage and onions slowly, almost caramelizing them; you add root veggies full of natural sugars. What’s not to like? OK, maybe this soup needs a better sounding name, however, even the ever skeptical chef Jeff was won over. Our summer’s bounty was transformed into various batches of borscht (or let’s call it veggie-beet soup), the leftovers now safely snuggled into the freezer for winter consumption. But don’t think of borscht as just a summer-time cold soup. Most of these ingredients are still available at the farmers market through the fall, and it’s a hearty, healthy vegetarian soup great served hot in this cold weather. I prefer it hot. Borscht is also a perfect use of frozen whole or stewed tomatoes too, putting back in a touch of that fresh summer flavor.

Instead of relying on Bubbie’s secret recipe I use Debra Madison’s the “The Ultimate Root Soup: Borscht” from Local Flavors as my guiding light. This soup is very amenable to substitutions – no leeks? Use extra white onion. No turnips? Use parsnips. Want a vegan version? Skip the sour cream. And on a weeknight…use canned broth. Full disclosure – I typically use canned broth, but for the Slow Food Huron Valley Harvest Cook-off a couple weeks ago, I made the stock from scratch. It was the soup/appetizer winner, so maybe I should call this particular version Blue Ribbon Borscht. Hard-core Ann Arbivores & Michivores will love this soup too, as you can source everything but the pepper and bay leaves from our local food shed. For this version all the vegetables except the celery came from Tantre Farm.

Ingredients:

2 russet and 2 purple potatoes, peeled

4 carrots, peeled

5 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 large red onion

2 small white onions, one diced and one quartered

1 bunch baby turnips, scrubbed and trimmed

½ large green cabbage (equates to about 4 cups when shredded)

2 T butter

Salt and pepper

3 bay leaves

1 ¼ lbs of beets, peeled

1 package Locavorious frozen stewed tomatoes, or frozen whole tomatoes

1 T sugar

8 cups vegetable stock (recipe below), water, or some combination

6-10 sprigs parsley, half chopped, half whole

1 T red wine vinegar

½ cup sour cream

1 T horseradish

1 celery stalk

½ kohlrabi, chopped

2 Shiitake mushrooms

 

Preparation

  1. Vegetable stock: Wash/scrub the soup vegetables.  Place peels from the carrots, beets, and two potatoes in a pot with three of the garlic cloves, two bay leaves, two teaspoons of salt, celery, kohlrabi, some parsley sprigs, the quartered white onion, and the Shiitake mushrooms.  Other combinations of vegetable trimmings will work too.  Cover with 10 cups of water; bring to a boil, then simmer while you prep the vegetables, ~ 45 minutes.

        2.     Chop these vegetables: onions, carrots, turnips, potatoes, cabbage, and the rest of the garlic.

3.     Melt butter in a large soup pot.  Add onions, carrots, turnips, potatoes, cabbage, and garlic.  Toss with 1 T of salt, cover and cook over medium heat until the vegetables have wilted, ~ 25 minutes.

4.     Meanwhile, dice the beets.  Defrost the frozen stewed tomatoes enough to get them out of the container. If using frozen whole tomatoes, no need to defrost.

5.     When the onions, cabbage, etc. are soft, add the beets, frozen tomatoes and 1 bay leaf.  Keep the heat on medium and gently break up the tomatoes.  Strain the stock and add it to the soup plus enough water to equal about 6 cups.  Once the soup is boiling again, reduce heat to a simmer and cook an additional 25-30 minutes or just until the beets are tender.

6.     Add salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 T vinegar.  Sprinkle chopped parsley on top. Can also use chopped fresh dill.

7.     Combine the sour cream and horseradish.  Serve soup hot, warm or cold with a spoonful of the sour cream-horseradish on top.

Try this at home – preserving fall crops

Brrr…..in case there was any doubt the weather confirms – autumn is really here! Hope you are all still enjoying the Michigan harvest. At the Locavorious kitchen we are still enjoying preserving fall’s bounty! What? What’s that you say? Is there still Michigan farm fresh food around to preserve? Yes, there is, and yes you can do this at home! Now is still a great time to buy fresh veggies in season and put some up for winter.

Here are some of the vegetables that are still available at the Ann Arbor Farmers market that freeze well: spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, squash, pumpkin, green beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and even a few tomatoes for sauce.

Greens like kale, collards and swiss chard are simply awesome right now and will be available well into next month from the local farms. To freeze them for use in hearty winter meals – wash the leaves, remove the thick woody stems, and chop. An easy way to quickly chop them is to roll a handful of leaves loosely together and then cut strips. Green vegetables need to be blanched before freezing – either in boiling water or steaming. I recommend steaming for 3 minutes and then quenching the kale in a bowl of ice water. Drain, pack and freeze. At Locavorious we pack kale and swiss chard into 16 oz heavy weight deli-type containers, but you can use any sort of freezer bag, freezer-ready jar or plastic container. It’s now recipe-ready for you in your freezer.

This week we preserved a blend of 3 types of kale from Frog Holler Organic Farm – curly, Red Russian, and Lacinato (also known as cavolo nero, black kale or dinosaur kale). This winter one could add such a lovely organic kale medley to stews, or make braised greens or southern style greens (cooked in a pot forever with a ham hock or chunk of smoked meat.) Kale pairs well with strong flavors like smoked meats, tamari, hot peppers, garlic, peanuts, and sweet peppers. Last week I made Debra Madison’s White Beans with Black Kale and Savoy Cabbage recipe with our kale medley, and it was just the thing for cool autumn evening.

Crops from the brassica genus freeze really well too – especially cauliflower, broccoli, and Romanesco , that funky fractal-Christmas tree-like vegetable you know you want to try. For these veggies, wash, chop or break into florets, and blanch in steam for 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can blanch in boiling water for 2 – 3 minutes before cooling in the ice water bath.

This year Locavorious put up some brilliant orange cauliflower as well as the traditional white. All of our cauliflower came from Wilczewski’s in Howell. Kurt and Karen Wilczewski grow the biggest and the most colorful cauliflower I’ve ever seen. Kurt says he cannot taste the difference between the colors, but he’s heard people say orange cauliflower has a more “buttery” flavor. In the kitchen we thought the orange had more of a buttery smell after blanching, but I too thought they tasted the same – both delicious. Frozen cauliflower works well in casseroles, soups and curries, and pairs well with many flavors – cheeses, garlic, curry, ginger, soy sauce, lemon, and butter, just to name a few. If someone has a good recipe for Aloo Gobi, please share it!

For more information on how to preserve food at home via freezing, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation website – http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze.html, or some of my favorite books: Preserving the Harvest, So Easy to Preserve or Preserving Summer’s Bounty.

Some pix: Tantre Farm’s market table on Wednesday, October 14.

Swiss chard, lacinato and curly kale waiting for you at Tantre’s table.

A lovely organic kale medley from Frog Holler Organic Farm about to get blanched.

Karen Wilczewski and her big, colorful cauliflower at the Ann Arbor Market.

Dawn, a strong member of the Locavorious kitchen crew, lifts a Wilczewski cauliflower.

Announcing the Long Winter Kitchen

Brrr here arrives autumn.  When I picked up produce from Tantre Farm’s market stand on Wednesday, Richard Andres just smiled and quoted Percy Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind

O WILD West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being

Fortunately the rock stars in our Locavorious kitchen crew have preserved an amazing amount of food this year…so not only are we enjoying the wild west wind of autumn….we are ready for winter!   And speaking of the long winter in front of us…..I wanted to share with everyone yet another great local food business designed around helping people eat locally in these coming cold winter months. 

An all new prepared meals winter CSA called the Long Winter Kitchen has launched in Ann Arbor. The Long Winter Kitchen is a four month CSA that prepares your meals from virtually all local ingredients, primarily local produce preserved by us in the Locavorious community freezer and local meat from Old Pine Farm.   Talk about high quality ingredients!   

Each month The Long Winter Kitchen chefs (including Mary Wessel Walker of Community Farm Kitchen fame) will transform humanely raised organic beef, chicken, pork, eggs and bison from Old Pine Farm and local produce harvested at peak flavor and preserved by Locavorious, into healthy and hearty winter meals.  The menus they’ve planned include dishes such as pork roast stuffed with apples and cranberries, Beef Wellington, chicken chili and a special quiche of the month.   Whole shares are $1200 for the four months.  This equates to less than $10 per person, per meal for delicious, local home-style food. For information please contact Mary Wessel Walker @ 734-395-7782 or email info@communityfarmkitchen.com

Back to the future – cooking with frozen fruits and vegetables

Or maybe I should call this “confessions of a foodie-locavore-come-lately:” I haven’t cooked with frozen produce very much over the years.  Well, except for frozen peas, corn, and in recent years, edamame. Why cook with anything else frozen?  Whatever it is you feel like cooking this week, it’s all there in any mid-to-upscale grocery store all year round!  And then I discovered farmers markets.  I could write an Ode to Farmers Markets.  I was flabbergasted the first time a friend took me to a *small* farmers market in Menlo Park, CA back in the early 90s.  I had never set eyes on a persimmon before, let alone tasted one, and lo and behold there were SEVEN varieties of persimmons heaped on the tables, and purple carrots, and striped beets, and all sorts of green things and root things that I could not even begin to identify.  OMG.  Oh gorgeous bounty. We cooked an enormous and sumptuous meal, all with ingredients from this little farmers market.

Well, here we are years later, and numerous eye-opening books about the industrialized food system later, and in snowy midwest Michigan…and guess what?  All summer & autumn we too can sing that same ode to gorgeous bounty, even at the *small* Ann Arbor Farmers Market – yellow raspberries, gooseberries, purple cauliflower and purple beans, kohlrabi, and multiple varieties of plums, peaches, apples, and fabulous green leafy things.  It’s truly amazing.  And the taste of this fresh produce is so phenomenal that I start SCOFFING at grocery store, genetically modified, shelf-stable, under-ripe and over-waxed produce.  You call that lettuce?  THAT is not a tomato.  I meet my husband’s challenge (multiple times) to blind taste test and pick which fruits come from the market vs. a store. HA! I TOLD YOU SO!

But then comes winter.

So here we are with Locavorious…an attempt to capture that wonderful Michigan farm fresh taste and keep if for ourselves to eat locavoriously in the winter.  2500 lbs of frozen fruits and veggies our first year.  That’s more than a ton a food we do not need to have shipped from China or South America or trucked from California this winter.  What should we cook first??  And how??  And how to keep it tasting great??  I’ve had to teach myself new ways to cook, so I’ve started keeping a list of recommendations, picked up from great cooks and old cookbooks and our farmers (thank you Deb Lenz & Lynn Meissner!)  Anyone else have tips to share?  This winter I’ll continue to update the Tips & Tricks page.  The best rules of thumb for veggies: 1) cook them directly from their frozen state, i.e. do not thaw them first, and 2) cook them 1/3rd to ½ as long as you would cook a fresh colander full. The best rule of thumb for frozen berries: just eat them, frozen or slightly thawed.
Bring on the winter.