Locavore

now browsing by category

If your food has more stamps on it’s passport than you do, you have a problem.

 

Great Plates: The Brunch Underground

On Sunday Ian, Deb and Bob were fortunate enough to score reservations at a local "pop up" brunch club in Metro Detroit called "The Brunch Underground". The locally sourced (and well executed) menu:

--Bloody Mary bar featuring McClure's Mix & Pickles -- An open-faced duck eggs benedict entree, one with crispy pork belly, another with house-made tempeh and sauteed greens with a lightly dressed sprout salad and house made vegetarian kimchi. -- A petite scoop of house-made, locally grown, organic raspberry-ginger sorbet. -- Chazzano coffee

-///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Small Scale Farming

Some of the tomatoes in pots from last year's garden.

As somebody who enjoys good food and cooking, I know that my finished product is only as good as the ingredients that I put into it.  This is especially true when it comes to fresh produce, as so much of the conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are now grown for shipping hardiness, rather than actual flavor.  A sad waste, in my book!  True, we can now get almost any sort of produce, grown anywhere, at any time of the year, but is it actually worth buying?  In the case of tomatoes, I have to say no. I remember growing up with tomatoes, real tomatoes, that came fresh from the garden.  They were a focal point on our BLTs. They were sliced and lightly pickled with vinegar and onions.  They were tossed with fresh mozzarella and basil.  They were broiled with herbs and Parmesan on top.  Best of all, they horrified my early fall lunch mates in school when I would pull one out and eat it like an apple, juice dripping everywhere.  They were bright red, acidic, and had names like Big Boy, Early Girl and Rutgers.  These tomatoes were picked very ripe and traveled no further than to a neighbors house.  Is it any wonder that I find today's hard pink supermarket tomatoes to be somewhat lacking? I decided to take matters into my own hands.  Two summers ago, for the first time, I decided to try planting some cherry tomatoes.  We put a few pots out back, had 3 or 4 plants, plus 2 of jalapenos.  Last year I decided to expand, so had 10 or so cherry tomato plants, as well as a patio tomato and several pepper plants, not to mention branching out to herbs.  There were some success, some failures, and some really wet weather.  A total success it was not, but there were enough successes that I fully planned to do the same again this year. You know how sometimes, when you get a crazy idea, it just builds.  Then you can't shake the idea, and it becomes just a big encompassing desire to go nuts with your idea?  Yeah, that was me and my garden this year.  Why start with pre-bought plants?  I can start from seed!  I purchased a mixed packet of tomato seeds from Heirloom Solutions, got my seedling pots ready, and planted them, along with some onion and green onion seeds.  I quickly decided that my tiny patio out back was really not enough space, and had already proven to be not quite enough sun, so I figured that I could sneak a few plants out front.  We had a garden up against the house that was already in place when we moved in, that was stunning.  Years of neglect by us has met that it's been taken over by bug-ridden hollyhocks, and a Rose of Sharon that has spawned hundreds of mini-bushes from root shoots.   Last weekend, I took a hoe to that garden, and out everything came.  Over the next couple of weeks, multiple bags of peat soil will be added, mixed in to what is already there, in an attempt to get the soil a little more healthy.  A tiller will be rented to help chop up the roots left from that blasted Rose of Sharon, and a bag or two of manure will be mixed in.  I have blood meal on hand for later fertilizing, and am planning on placing a soaker hose in for the summer.  The plan is to keep these tomatoes healthy and organic, and hope like crazy that the birds don't love them as much as I do. Is everything going perfectly to plan?  Of course not!  My seeds, since it never occurred to me that they would need a grow light and not just a room with sunlight, got a bad start, and are currently very leggy, and are just now starting to sprout their tomato plant leaves.  For the first three weeks, they looked like tall stalks with 2 oval leaves....in other words, nothing like a tomato, and totally indistinguishable from every other seedling in the world.  I panicked a bit, consulted some friends, did some looking on the web, and decided to hit them with the Ott Light I use for crafting.  A few days of that, and little bitty baby sprout leaves started to appear!  My hopes are high again, and soon I will replant a bunch of them into slightly larger containers, to continue growing until they can go into the ground in another month or so.  The plan is to have a good dozen plants out front, some cherry tomatoes out back, along with another plant or two from this seedling bunch in containers, and to plant some at a couple of places in our neighborhood where we know the people won't mind us stealing a couple of their tomatoes if they got a type we did not.

This year's seedlings, just starting to show their real tomato leaves.

Is all of this more work than swinging by the store, and grabbing a tomato from the bin?  Of course.  Especially with having to start from total scratch this year, it's a ton of work, hassle, and a bit of an investment.  Is it worth it?  Considering the fact that I will get tomatoes that will have amazing flavor, that I know have never been sprayed or chemically enhanced, whose seeds did not start out as part of some lab project?  Absolutely.

Great Plates: Michigan Asparagus

'Tis the season.

Can you Asparagus?

 
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Great Plates: Sunday Morning Market Breakfast

Sunday morning's market fresh breakfast. THIS is real eating.

With much appreciation to our friends, the producers and vendors at Detroit's Eastern Market for this great plate: Beer bread from Avalon Breads, Blackberry Ginger Jam from Slow Jams, Eggs from Holtz Farm, Raw Milk and Maple Bacon from Oliver Farms. For those in other parts of the world - while you may not have direct access to the amazing foods being created in Michigan, it's still worth your while to seek out your local farmers markets and artisanal producers and vendors to bring the very best to your table. Here are some web resources that can help: Local Harvest market locator USDA Farm Market Search And cool apps for Android and iphone such as: Locavore Farmers Market Finder   With spring coming early, it's going to be a fantastic season! Get out there and buy real food from real people and we'll show you great ways to prepare it here at The Rogue Estate.  Got a favorite Farm / food website or app? Share it with us in the comments.   -///  
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Location, Location, Location!

Raw ingredients for the soup. In the case of the cheeses, raw milk cheeses to be exact...

At the same Chef's Night that yielded the previous two recipes posted below, my offering was this Cheddar/Ale soup made almost entirely from ingredients that are made within an hours drive from where we cooked. The focus of the evening was warming winter foods with an extra emphasis on locally made ingredients. We tend to look for local whenever possible to begin with, but this night the focus on Michigan bounty was even more intense than usual. There was a professional photographer and fellow food blogger/obsessive present, Joe Hakim of The Hungry Dudes, so we had to bring the A game and swing for the bleachers. I think we accomplished our goal. Links to the photo galleries and printed article spawned from this evenings culinary melee at the end. Recipe for Michigan Cheddar/Ale soup: Ingredients for 4 servings: 1/2 medium size yellow onion diced 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced 2 large jalapenos seeded and diced 1 Tablespoons fresh garlic, peeled and crushed 2 bottles Mad Hatter IPA (New Holland Brewing Company) 1 pint chicken stock 1 pint Guernsey Farms heavy whipping cream 1/2 pound bacon diced (home made by a friend of the Estate, so local as well) 1/2 pound Rosewood Products raw milk cheddar shredded 1/4 pound or 2 oz. Rosewood Products raw milk goat cheddar shredded 1/4 pound or 2 oz. Oliver Farms sharp cheddar curds 1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup flour 1 Tablespoon Chicken Soup base ("Better Than Bouillon" brand paste) Fresh ground black pepper to taste Zingermans pretzel bread made into croutons, or crushed pretzels Procedure:

Don't stop stirring! Burnt cheese does not taste good! Well... at least not in this case.

Mince the diced onion and peppers in a food processor until almost a paste. Brown the diced bacon in a pot over medium heat and add the minced veggies. Cook slowly for 25 minutes, or until most of the moisture is gone. At the same time melt the butter in a small pan and add the flour, cook for 15-20 minutes on low heat, stirring continuously, and refrigerate. Turn the heat on the soup pot up to high and add the garlic. Stir continuously until the garlic smell is very strong, 30 seconds or so. Add 1.5 bottles of Mad Hatter, and boil until only 1/3 of the volume is left. Add the chicken stock and cream and bring back to a simmer. Once back to a simmer add the cheeses and stir constantly until dissolved over medium heat. Or add bit by bit until it's all been incorporated, but the central theme here is do NOT stop stirring until all the cheese is melted! If you stop stirring during this part of the process, the cheese will just sink to the bottom and burn. Once dissolved, and back to a simmer, add the last half bottle of Mad Hatter and the chilled butter and flour mixture a little at a time until the soup is thickened to your liking. Stir in the chicken soup base a little at a time, tasting between each addition to make sure you don't over salt, and add as much fresh ground black pepper as you wish to your own tastes. Taste for seasoning, and bowl, using the pretzel croutons for garnish and a few turns on the pepper mill for added contrast and aroma.

Warming, cheesy, peppery, pretzelly goodness! Perfect for a midwest winter night!

I tried to go as simply as possible with this recipe, as there was a chance it would be published in a local magazine, so I wanted it to be accessible to the home cook. It's come to my attention that I'm not always very good at that though. I guess 20 years cooking professionally has somewhat disconnected me from what the term “home cook” implies. That aside, this recipe is very adaptable, you can substitute any local or even non-local variant of any ingredient included and still have one hell of a soup at the end of it.   Live well, and eat better!   -Jack Gallery from Joe Hakim of The Hungry Dudes blog Rogue Estate Facebook Gallery Real Detroit Weekly's article on the meal in question