Monthly Archives: June 2015

Fourth of July

When I was growing up, the Fourth of July meant park parties, slip ‘n slides, watermelon, grilling out, fireworks, and playing outside all day long. As I’ve gotten older, I look back on those days with fondness, and am still trying to decide on traditions I want to carry throughout my life. It seems to me that celebrating freedom must also include being aware of our own freedoms and working to extend that to others. As Nelson Mandela so beautifully said: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” So when we celebrate freedom and independence what does that truly mean? We celebrate our own freedom as well as our ability to help those who do not have what we have, we celebrate the beautiful land in which we live, we celebrate the abundance it provides, we celebrate the community we are a part of, and I’m sure we each have our own specific freedoms we celebrate each year. Our country is not just an abstract idea that was born in 1776, but it is our neighborhood, our family, our food, our rivers, and the list goes on. This is a day to remember the beauty we live among, to remember what others have done for us and what we can do for others, to recognize and appreciate how truly lucky we are and to not take that for granted. We have not gotten here alone. So when we celebrate, we feast, and we are lucky enough to live in an area where so much delicious food is in season! What better way to celebrate our home than to eat the food it provides?

The Fourth is a day for grilling out – an area of cooking I enjoy but know very little about, so I’ll leave that part up to you. I’m sure you have your favorite recipe for brats or chicken or burgers, but what is Fourth of July without the sides? I experimented a little bit this weekend with some delicious sides that will brighten up your holiday.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Ingredients:
1 can black beanscorn and blackbean salad
5 ears of corn
1 pint grape tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
fresh basil
2 T olive oil
garlic salt
pepper
cayenne pepper (optional)

Preparation:
Roast the corn in the oven at 350 for 25 minutes in the husk. Shuck the corn, cut it off the cob, and add all the other ingredients. Season to your desired taste and let chill in the refrigerator.

Squash and Quinoa Fritters

squash and quiona frittersThese fritters are delicious on their own as a side or snack or you can stack your choice of grilled meat on top of them. I put pan-fried salmon on top with a bechamel sauce, but any grilled meat would be delicious—even a burger for those who don’t want to eat a bun!

Ingredients:
2 eggs
2/3 cup flour (for gluten free version, use multi-purpose gluten-free King Arthur flour)
2 cups yellow squash, grated
2 cups quinoa, cooked
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
¼ cup fresh spinach, finely chopped (OPTIONAL)
1/2 teaspoon salt
For garnish:
2 green onions, chopped
dollop of sour cream or Greek Yogurt

Preparation:
Mix all the ingredients together very well in a mixing bowl. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet until very hot. Drop a spoonful of fritter mixture into the skillet, use a spatula to flatten and round out the fritter, and allow it to cook and brown on the bottom. Once the bottom is crispy enough, flip the fritter and cook the other side. Take off heat and add salt if needed.

Note: Fritters are all about texture, if the first one doesn’t quite stay together or sticks to the pan, don’t be afraid to add a little more moisture or a little more flour. Fritters are similar to pancakes in that the first few are the ugliest until you figure out the right consistency and cook time. Don’t be discouraged! They’re worth it, I promise.

The recipe I adapted this from calls for spaghetti squash, but I used grated yellow squash. You can really use any vegetable you can grate: zucchini, beets, potatoes, carrots, etc. Experiment away!

Blueberry Lemonade Cooler

What is the Fourth of July without lemonade? But even better, lemonade complimented with local blueberries and mint? One of our customers, Treisha Hall, is a local chef, and she came up with this amazing recipe to feature our blueberries and mint in a delightful, refreshing way.

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh blueberries
20 fresh mint leaves
1 (12 ounce) can frozen concentrated lemonade
4 cups Sprite
1 lemon, sliced 

11406876_10152803482366246_2394485094937640150_nPreparation:
In a large pitcher, combine all ingredients and stir. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Serve in a chilled glass. Enjoy!

For all the adults out there, this drink would be especially delicious spiked with gin or vodka. Enjoy (and drink responsibly)!

Meet Your Farmer: LL Urban Farms

farmstand3

LL Urban Farms has come to fruition through a series of surprisingly fortuitous events and plenty of hard work. When you pull up to the farm stand on Holly Springs Road, its beautiful, reclaimed wood and organized décor make you want to buy all the local food you can fit in your car—that is after you go meet the chickens around back. Jim Loy and Glen Lang both come from business backgrounds; Loy was a tennis professional in Florida and Glen was the mayor of Cary from 1999-2003. When Loy and his family moved up to North Carolina, his daughter met Lang’s son at Athen’s Drive High School and the rest is history. The emphasis on family has remained and even those members who do not live in the area have helped and influenced the farm and its growth. When I went to visit the farm Lang was out of town, but I got the grand tour and the full story from Loy.

farm stand 1

Loy and Lang will have been farming for three years in July on their .99 acre plot in Holly Springs. When they first started out it was all an experiment, they bought the property on a whim and went from there. They grow their crops using a hydroponic system, which was Lang’s idea. Lang’s son studied Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University and worked withfarmstand2 them to make the farm more sustainable. They took a two-day seminar with Crop King, a company that specializes in hydroponic growing systems, and jumped in headfirst. According to Loy, when they first started they didn’t know enough to be afraid. A saying that they like to use around the farm when it gets overwhelming is: “Well how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” This simple approach to farming seems to have served them well. They now have a fully functioning hydroponic system that recirculates water, measures it for nutrients, and adds the nutrients as they are needed. They have two greenhouses and three different tomato patches, several different crops planted along the fence-line, a chicken coop, a barn, and a beautiful farm stand. They have proven something that many people question when the small-scale agriculture argument comes up: a farm can be financially viable on one acre of land.

tomatoes2tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LL Urban’s way of farming is innovative and always adapting. They have six different types of heirloom tomatoes including Cherokee Purple, Early Girl, and Mortgage Lifter, all of which have been grafted. Grafting tomatoes is a method where you use the roots of heartier, more disease-resistant plants to grow plants with desirable fruit. This creates a stronger, healthier plant that produces fruit that is both delicious and more traditional. These grafted heirlooms grow in beta boxes with a watering system that runs beneath the pots and the ground is covered in black fabric to protect the plants from the many diseases that live in the soil. Alongside thislettuce3edit forest of tomatoes grow zucchini, squash, cucumbers, and peppers. Then come the two greenhouses where the bib lettuce is grown–fully equipped with a hydroponic system where the lettuce plants are sitting in hollow tubes and the water runs through the tube and is recirculated throughout. Along one wall of the greenhouse is a panel, that looks similar to an air filter, made from cardboard and dripping water, which creates cold air. Fans on the other side of the greenhouse pull the cool air across the plants. It is hard to grow lettuce during the summer in the piedmont, even inside, but LL Urban has perfected it.

lettuce2edit

Loy’s favorite part of farming is figuring out how to fix whatever breaks (because on a farm something is always broken) and constantly learning how to farm better and more efficiently. There are so many facets to this farm that it does not surprise me one bit that he finds this enjoyable, I imagine that he is always looking for more to do or a new system to implement. He takes such pride in every aspejim loyct of the farm and has a story behind each building and each project. Another side project they have taken on is growing green beans for stinkbugs. A business called Ag Biome is studying a colony of stinkbugs and buys all of LL Urban’s green beans, along with fresh produce from other farmers, to feed their bugs (the most well fed stinkbugs of all time). Finally, the farm stand is a production all on its own; along with selling their own produce, LL Urban sells many other local products from farms such as milk, honey, cheese, salsa, meat, and other local vegetables and fruit that they don’t grow on their own farm. Loy and Lang knew that they needed the farm stand to provide more than just their produce to make a business, and opted to build relationships and support with those around them doing similarly good work. This is a very old-fashioned approach the the farming tradition, a salute to an agrarian society, it reveals a true understanding that we have to work together to feed our communities and support the other farmers and food artisans around us. It takes away the competition and spreads the wealth so that good food can become more abundant for everyone. LL Urban is proud of what they grow and proud of what their friends grow. You can practically feel the excitement pouring from every surface and through every vegetable–and trust me, you can taste a difference.

chickens

Summer Produce Storage Tips

Summer, the time of year we all dream about during winter once our toes don’t quite remember how to fully thaw before we go back outside, we begin to think of hot beaches and sunburn. Finally summer arrives and with it comes humidity that smothers your skin and mosquitoes that have taken quite a liking to you this year. But who can really be too upset about those things when the sun is out, the birds are singing, and the earth is truly bursting with generosity? The first day of summer this year is June 21, which is also International Yoga Day for all you yogis out there, and the veggies are beginning to tumble in. Many cultures have celebrated the Summer Solstice in different ways: The Egyptians celebrated their New Year at the Summer Solstice which coincided with the rise of the Nile and lead to annual flooding; the Irish would cut hazel branches on the even of the summer solstice that were then used to search for gold, water, and precious jewels. There are not many modern celebrations of the summer solstice, so I guess we can all make our own traditions. But with all of the vegetables coming our way, we can feast and learn how to store the summer produce so that it stays fresh for longer.

PICKLING CUKES 11Cucumbers: Cucumbers should be refrigerated and kept relatively dry. Over exposure to moisture can cause premature deterioration through mold. You can check the life of a cucumber by squeezing the ends. The ends generally turn squishy before the rest of the cucumber, so if they feel soft or start to look wrinkled, the cucumber is coming to the end of its storage life.

 

Growing tomatoesTomatoes: Tomatoes are best stored at room temperature. Refrigerating causes them to become mealy and lose much of their flavor. Check tomatoes occasionally for softening, and use softest tomatoes first. Softness is a sign of ripeness. In good condition, tomatoes will keep for 2+ weeks, but keep an eye on any bruised or dinged spots, as these will deteriorate faster than the rest of the tomato.

 

 

 

Fresh produceSummer Squashes: Summer squashes include a wide variety of squash like zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan squash, and eight ball squash. Summer squashes live close to the ground, and as such can get a little dinged up or scratched. It’s important to keep summer squash relatively dry, or mold may take form in any small damaged areas of the squash. Summer squash are relatively hardy, but should be stored in the refrigerator for best results.

 

 

Fresh colorful paprika isolatedBell Peppers: Bell peppers come in many varieties and colors. Most bell peppers start out green on the vine, then turn red, yellow, orange, etc. as they ripen. They can be picked early as green bell peppers, or they can be left on the vine and turn color. Since green bell peppers are picked at an earlier stage, they tend to keep longer than do colored peppers. Since colored peppers are left on the vine longer, they tend to have a sweeter more mature flavor than green bell peppers. Bell Peppers should be stored in the refrigerator, and kept dry to prevent mold growth.

 

cornCorn: Corn is best eaten soon after picking, when it will be at its sweetest. Corn slowly loses sweetness after picking, as the sugars begin to convert to starch. If you cannot consume immediately, store corn in the refrigerator, unshucked. Wait until you are ready to use sweet corn before shucking, as this will increase storage life. As the corn season wears on and temperatures rise, you may see evidence of corn ear worm in NC corn. This is a pest that all local growers have to deal with, and eventually takes over entire fields of corn. The corn ear worm generally enters through the top of the corn and stays in that area, so if you find worm damage, you can usually just cut off the top 1-2 inches, and still have a full ear of corn.

Blueberry backgroundBlueberries: Of all berries, blueberries tend to keep the longest. First check for any damaged or squashed berries, and remove those from the container, as they will accelerate deterioration of other berries if they are left in. Blueberries should be stored in the refrigerator, or also take very well to freezing for longer-term storage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeaches: It wouldn’t be summer in NC without fresh, tree-ripened peaches. Peaches are extremely delicate fruits, and sometimes only keep for a few days before going bad. This is why they are best purchased locally, as out of state peaches have to be picked unripe in order to survive the rigors of shipping, which means that they have not developed full sweetness on the tree.   Allow peaches to ripen on the counter, you will know they are ripe when the flesh starts to turn slightly soft, giving under light pressure. Once ripe, it is best to consume immediately, or to store them in the refrigerator. Allow refrigerated peaches to come to room temperature before eating, for optimal juice and flavor.

GREENBEANS66Green Beans: Green Beans are a southern staple, best eaten fresh right after harvest. There are many different varieties grown on a bush or a climbing vine. Once they arrive in your care be sure to store them in the refrigerator and eat within one week for maximum crispness and flavor.

 

okraOkra: Okra are best known for their presence in gumbo or the crispy, fried okra you can get at most southern restaurants (or your grandmother’s kitchen). The biggest complaint about okra is its slimy texture, this can be remedied by soaking chopped okra in white vinegar for half an hour before cooking. Make sure to store okra in the refrigerator and eat within 5 days before it starts to brown and deteriorate.

 

 

Eggplants.Eggplant: Eggplants are in the same family as tomatoes, the nightshade family. So the best way to store eggplant is similar to storage for tomatoes: it does not like being cold, storing in the refrigerator causes it to lose its flavor and texture. The best place to store eggplant is in a cool place on your kitchen counter where it will remain fresh for about a week. Eggplant is delicious fried or sautéed with other vegetables, especially when paired with tomatoes!

 

 

“Eat a tomato and you’ll turn red
(I don’t think that’s really so);
Eat a carrot and you’ll turn orange
(Still and all, you never know);
Eat some spinach and you’ll turn green
(I’m not saying that it’s true
But that’s what I heard, and so
I thought I’d pass it on to you).”

–Shel Silverstein

Find A Little Peas In Your Life

At the sudden appearance of different kinds of peas on the order page this week, my curiosity peaked. Last week we were graced with the presence of Butter Beans, Dixie Field Peas, and English Peas; this week we have Pink Eye Purple Hull, White Acre Peas, and Butter Beans. Peas are a southern staple and are incredibly versatile, not to mention how many different varieties we have to work with: Dixie, Crowder, Black Eyed, Zipper, White Acre, Pink Eye, etc. All of these peas can be dried to preserve but they are best when fresh–we have come into the season of fresh peas! So what are all these different kinds of peas and how can we use them?

There are several basic categories of peas (which are technically beans):

Black-eyed. These are white or beige with a black circular “eye” in the inner curve. Colored eyes also may be pink, brown or tan.

Crowder. Starchy and hardy in texture, crowder peas are so named because they are crowded in the pod. The close spacing blunts the ends of the peas and gives them a squarish shape. They cook up darker, too.

Cream. Smaller, light-colored peas that cook up light. These peas have a more delicate, buttery flavor and creamier texture.

Field pea. Robust and small, they produce a dark liquid when cooked.

You can use a lot of these peas in very similar ways, it just depends on what texture you’re going for. The lighter, more creamy peas (such as butter beans) will be softer and more delicate. Field and crowder peas are generally heartier and darker. Honestly, when in doubt, just throw the peas in with some tomatoes, other vegetables, and spices, and you can’t go wrong!

I grew up with a very southern grandmother who made elaborate “Sunday Dinners” that often included butter beans. As a child I was addicted to butter beans, and have carried this love into adulthood; but I didn’t know until recently that there were other ways to cook them besides boiling them with butter and salt. As delicious as this traditional southern staple is, you can get as creative with peas/beans as you want to! I took home some Dixie Field Peas to experiment with and found an amazing recipe for Smoky Black Eyed Peas with Fried Green Tomatoes. My love of fried green tomatoes convinced me that it was ok to substitute the black eyed peas with Dixie peas, and I was correct! As strange as it may sound, this turned out to be one of the best dishes I have made in a while. The smoky flavor of the peas complemented the fried green tomato—and who doesn’t like peas cooked in beer? The consistency of the peas reminded me of baked beans without the smushy texture or the sweetness. Top with fresh cilantro and feta cheese and your taste buds will be in heaven!

Ingredients
1 cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups fresh black-eyed peas
2 Smoked Ham Hocks or purchased smoked ham hocks
1 (12-oz.) bottle amber beer
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 (7-oz.) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup plain white cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 large firm green tomatoes, each cut into 4 slices
Canola oil
3 large ripe red tomatoes, each cut into 4 slices
1/2 cup crumbled feta or Cotija cheese
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Hot sauce  

Preparation

  1. Sauté onions in 3 Tbsp. hot oil in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in peas, next 4 ingredients, 3 1/2 cups water, and 2 Tbsp. adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers. (Reserve peppers for another use.) Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes or until peas are tender. Discard bay leaf. Remove hocks. Remove ham from bones; discard bones. Chop ham; stir into peas. Add salt to taste; cover and keep warm over low heat.
  2. Stir together 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a shallow dish. Whisk together cornmeal, ground chipotle chile, and remaining 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a second shallow dish. Whisk together eggs and buttermilk in a third shallow dish.
  3. Dredge green tomatoes, 1 slice at a time, in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Dip in egg mixture, and dredge in cornmeal mixture.
  4. Pour oil to depth of 1 inch in a cast-iron skillet. Heat over medium-high heat to 375°. Fry green tomato slices, in batches, in hot oil 3 minutes on each side or until crisp. Drain on a wire rack over paper towels. (Let oil temperature return to 375° between batches.)
  5. Divide peas among 6 plates. Top each with 1 red tomato slice and 1 fried green tomato slice. Repeat tomato layers once. Sprinkle cheese and cilantro over tomatoes. Serve with hot sauce.

green tomatoes

peas fgt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made a few alterations to the recipe: I didn’t use meat at all for flavoring the peas and when I made the fried green tomatoes I used some magical tips a friend gave me. Firstly, if you don’t have buttermilk you can make it easily with regular milk and apple cider vinegar. Simply put about a capful of apple cider vinegar into a cup of milk, stir, let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and voila—buttermilk! Secondly, I usually just use cornmeal with spices (garlic salt, pepper, cayenne pepper) for the breading because it fries really nicely and, if you have any kind of gluten-aversion, it is gluten-free. Finally, if you are looking for the perfect breading on a fried tomato, the secret is double dunking—dip the tomato in your milk, then in your cornmeal mixture, back in the milk, and then finally in the cornmeal mixture one more time and then drop (carefully) into your hot pan. Cooking fried green tomatoes is by far one of the most enjoyable southern dishes to prepare, and it tastes so fresh you almost forget that it’s fried! But back to the peas…

It was a bit harder to find an interesting recipe for butter beans–everyone loves the traditional way so much! But I discovered a recipe for Italian butter beans that looks simple and delicious. The only alteration to this recipe calls for canned butter beans so fresh ones will have to cook for a bit longer. I haven’t gotten to try this one out yet, but it is going to be my next meal!

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
2 x 400g tins butter beans, rinsed and drained
small bunch basil, chopped

Method
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Fry the garlic for 1 min, then add the tomatoes, sugar and some seasoning. Tip in the beans and a splash of water. Cover and simmer for 5 mins, then stir in the basil and serve.

So get adventurous, it is the perfect time of year! The traditional Southern dishes of Hoppin’ John and Succotash are always a great place to start. If you need some inspiration Southern Living has a great article called ’21 Ways With Summer-Fresh Field Peas.’ As the summer continues we will get to experience many different varieties of peas and I challenge you to welcome them into your kitchen with an army of cookbooks, a good sense of humor, and your favorite kind of wine.

Meet Your Farmer: Contrarian Farm (And Its Contrarian Farmer)

brittany and bunnyBrittany Kordick of Contrarian Farm is perfectly happy to admit that both herself and her farm are indeed contrarian. She has to do things her own way, and this drive has produced a farm that is wildly and chaotically organized, a beautiful extension of herself. In addition to the produce we partake in through Papa Spud’s, Brittany has goats and rabbits for milk and meat for herself. Her mother (who is the woman behind the Malus Hill Apple Eighths) owns the land and commutes to work in her orchards and Contrarian Farm is nestled among the trees. They sit on about 75 acres of land about an hour north of Winston Salem, right on the Virginia line in the breathtaking foothills.

road

Brittany has been farming for eight years in total, five years in her location now. She first started farming in Chatham County along with a partner until the owner of the land they were leasing wanted to sell. So her mother invited her and her partner to farm on her land. Brittany has been rufieldnning the operation entirely on her own for about two years and truly making it her own. She went to school at Elon for Writing and Philosophy originally and realized that she didn’t want to make a career out of what she was studying, so she dropped out to pursue farming. She then went to Central Carolina Community College for Sustainable Agriculture and after getting through the basic classes, she decided she wanted to farm for real. She and her partner left school and started farming and she has been going ever since.

dogs and buns

Brittany might be what you would call an idealist, except she determinedly puts her ideals into motion. When she moved to the location where she is now, she discovered that the soil was terrible. It was once a large monoculture of tobacco, corn, or soybeans and the fumigant that the farmer used on the fields completely destroyed the soil. They spent the first year of farming realizing that everything that they had learned didn’t work. Brittany has spent the past five years nourishing the soil back to life. On top of this she is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Sauratown Mountains, which is a beautiful sight but it creates a lot of wind. After a year of being at the farm, there was a windstorm that completely tore apart their hoop house. She is learning to work with the land she has and use her knowledge and experience in conjunction with understanding the challenges her farm faces. This is the first year that she is really beginning to notice a difference, the soil is beginning to improve and her plants are healthier. She grows spinach, arugula, tomatoes, peppers, squash, potatoes, and many different flowers. Her favorite vegetablepeppers2 to grow are peppers, when I asked where they were planted she pointed, smiled, and said “here is the pepper paradise!” She is growing red, yellow, green bell peppers, and poblano peppers. She explained with excitement that she finds delight in harvesting peppers and finding that perfect one that is completely unblemished. Knowing that she can grow the perfect pepper and have the satisfaction of picking it herself brings her so much joy. I asked her what her favorite part of farming is and she said: “just being able to do it.” It is challenging and relentless, but it is the lifestyle she has grown to love and she can’t imagine living otherwise. “I haven’t figured it out yet, but I can’t give it up”.

goatses

She also works as a line cook at a restaurant in Winston Salem and has found that working in a kitchen is incredibly valuable. She used to be a vegetarian, brittany and goatsand during that time she didn’t really like vegetables. She would grow them and not eat them, but was so in love with the actual farming that she kept with it. Once she began to learn how to cook what she was growing and enjoy the food she sold, she could talk to customers about the best ways to cook certain things. Also, she now knows what chefs are looking for and why, and she can grow with that market in mind. It looks like Contrarian Farm has found its home and its roots grow deep. She can’t imagine moving again, her blood, sweat, and tears are in this land. She has plans for blueberry bushes and an asparagus patch in the future. She started with a blank slate of soil and has created a farm that is building and growing every year. Not only has she changed the land, her mentality has completely shifted as she has learned to work with the challenges. Contrarian Farm’s unique methods have lead to an evolving farm that will continue to flourish. Brittany’s love and hard work have gone into every single vegetable you eat from her farm, and you can taste the quality in each bite.

hill

 

“I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my
inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission
to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it.
I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,
and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,
and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven’s favor,
in spite of the best advice…”
–The Contrariness Of The Mad Farmer, Wendell Berry