Hey, remember me? Sorry for the blogsilence but I don’t multi-task well under the best of circumstances, and lately blogging added just one chore too many for my beleaguered brain. Besides, I’ve barely cooked a thing for days and I haven’t read a food blog in months.
The “why” is Home Grown Indiana – finally signed, sealed and delivered in duplicate (with an electronic backup) to I.U. Press last Monday. My coauthor, Scott Hutcheson, and I managed to pull the finish off long distance – I was in Oregon on family business and he was in Lebanon, Indiana, sick as a dog, and between late night and early morning emails and a long drive for him down to Bloomington, we turned it in by the deadline (the third attempt at a deadline, I should add. One coauthor managed to miss the first two. The Fifth Amendment says I don’t have to tell you which one that was.)
Anyway, it is done and we are thrilled and pleased. The book is a compendium of information about eating local in Indiana. There are longish profiles of some very cool producers in the state who raise, grow or make every delicious thing you can think of (including beef, caviar, chickens, cider, cheese, lamb, potato chips, sausage, wine and much more) and of some of the chefs who use this local bounty in their restaurants. There are shorter profiles of lots of other food producers and lists galore, of restaurants, farmers markets, wineries, breweries, festivals. And there are information boxes that explain some of the hot trends (and sometimes controversial issues) that surround our homegrown food supply -- things like grassfed beef, raw milk, and pastured poultry.
This book won’t have the gorgeous food shots of Indiana Cooks! or any photos at all, for that matter. A coffee-table book it ain’t. Instead, it will be a book to keep in the glove compartment, for the times when you want to take a long drive in the country and find good food on the road; by the computer, so you can plan food hunting expeditions, farm visits, or days out with the kids (or just order local ingredients over the Internet); and in the kitchen so you can try the recipes contributed by top notch chefs around the state who go the extra mile to source a significant portion of their food locally. To keep it affordable it will be a paperback and we hope it turns out to be one of those books whose ratty, dog-eared appearance shows it to be well used and well loved.
So….now the production process begins. The book will be out as soon as IU Press can get it – look for it in early summer of 2008. I’ll keep you updated here and Scott and I plan a joint blog (stay tuned) to track the progress as well.
Meanwhile, I feel like a giant weight has lifted from my spirit – for the first time in months I don’t feel guilty for having so many things to do that I end up giving less than 100% to all of them. Still plenty to do, mind you, but I am going to enjoy the euphoria for a bit.
To celebrate my return to the world of the cooking, I signed Jer and me up for the CORE Farm winter CSA and we got our first basket of goodies yesterday. [CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, it is an arrangement between farmer and consumer where the consumers pay a set fee up front and then get a weekly basket or box of produce all summer – or winter – long. It helps offset the farmers’ costs up front, where they need it, and the customers have the fun of getting a surprise food package every week.]
We've belonged to a CSA before and we loved it, though cooking from ingredients you didn't choose or anticipate is always a challenge. Core Farm CSA is a joint effort between Teresa Birtles of Heartland Family Farm and Andy and Amy Hamilton of Musgrave Orchard, so there is a good mix of stuff (gorgeous produce, fresh-as-can-be eggs from happy chickens, cider pressed onsite, and other goodies.)
Yesterday’s basket contained peppers (many, many peppers), potatoes, squash, greens, basil, apples, cider and tomatillos. Try planning a dinner from that!
I couldn’t get it all into one meal, of course, but I came close. I sautéed some sliced onions and some of the less-hot peppers and some chopped garlic in olive oil. Added the greens (nice, chewy, bitter greens like kale and sprouting broccoli) and cooked them down. Splashed in some sweet vinegar and added lots of salt and pepper. Meanwhile I roasted the squash, scooped it out of its shell, diced it up, and added it to the pan of greens. Diced some potatoes and roasted them with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper until they were crispy. Kept them aside.
I let the greens and squash simmer a bit. The squash wasn’t as sweet as I’d thought it would be and it needed something. I dug around in the spice drawer and turned up a set of spice mixes created by a new chef in town, Daniel Orr, come to open FARMbloomington. I am doing some writing about him and he’s given me the spices to try out. Generally I am not one for pre-mixed spice combos, but Daniel’s interest me because he uses a flavor palate very different from mine and one I am not very adept with. So I opened each jar and sniffed, to see if any would go with my greens and squash mixture. When I got to his New Regime blend – coriander, star anise, ginger, mustard, pepper, and spices I thought I had a match, so I threw some in. Daniel says “don’t be afraid of flavor” so I threw in some more, mixed it all up with a dash of cayenne, and threw the crispy potatoes and some toasted pistachios on top for texture and crunch.
It turned out to be great –- warming and fragrant, a little sweet and slightly exotic. I made some pasta, added some of the cooking liquid to the sauce (and, following Mark Bittman, made sure there was lots more sauce than pasta) and tossed the whole thing together. Yum. I am having leftovers for breakfast right now.
Today’s challenge is to deal with the rest of the basket. Salsa verde for sure, but that leaves a lot of basil and all those chilies and more potatoes. The cider, however, is almost gone. An autumn dream all by itself, we got hooked on mixing it with some Traders Point Creamery kefir I got at market yesterday. The kefir is tart, and refreshing and incredibly healthy by itself; the cider gives it an apple-y sweetness, turning it into a creamy treat. Think I’ll go get some of that for breakfast too!