Dreaming of Vegetables.

I don’t know about you, but this time of year my fridge is completely bare. At the moment, I’ve got a sad, lonely egg sitting in there with a container of leftover slaw salad, a bottle of white wine and a whole bunch of half-filled dipping sauces.

Maybe it was the state of the fridge that brought me to one of my favorite moments in the sloppy, early spring thaw out: purchasing the CSA share. Hooking up Midnight Sun Farm with a big fat check means we’ll have a fridge full of green (and red, and yellow, and purple…) all summer long, and a pantry of potatoes in the fall. I can barely contain my excitement – seriously. Continue reading Dreaming of Vegetables.

Where Your Food (i.e., your turkey) Comes From

The food chain, by nature, is a brutish, nasty beast.

Bearing witness to it up close may not be something that is for everyone, but for me it was an important rite of passage.

I was a vegetarian for 10 years, vegan for 5, and, for me, I eat meat today for many of the same reasons that I stopped eating it in my late teens.

I will spare readers the soap box for now and make a long story short by saying that I’m delighted that this year’s turkey feast comes not from the Jewel down the road, but from my farmer friends Nick and Becky at Midnight Sun Organics.

I saw these guys while they were babies over the summer during a work-share shift, and since I haven’t been on the farm in several weeks I was slightly surprised to see fully mature turkeys following their master down the lane, like the Pied Piper.  Kids these days… they grow up so fast.

I agreed to help “dispatch” this flock because I feel a sense of obligation to participate in where my food comes from, and, for me, that extends beyond just vegetables if I eat more than just vegetables.  Knowing that these animals were cared for, had open space and real food, and were raised by my friends, means that they lived quality lives and, as my Mom put it, only have one really bad day.

While I wasn’t able to really help with *every* step of the process – a process I’m deliberately leaving out unless you ask me personally  – looking back on the day I’m most distraught about the fact that I’m not really distraught.  Honestly, it wasn’t that hard for me to desensitize from the whole thing and just get the job done.

But this is not really that unusual.  Everyone who eats meat is, to a certain extent, desensitized.  It’s just easier to do when you buy something in a florescent-lit showroom on a styrofoam platter.  When your meat doesn’t resemble what it used to be, it’s easier to not think about the violence that occurs before it ends up on your table.  Vegetarians make a habit of visualizing where meat really comes from and how it ends up on the plate, and this is often how I stayed diligent…. because, let’s be honest, meat is delicious.

The “alternative” activity for the day

Maybe for you this is not the way you’d choose to spend a Saturday afternoon: driving an hour to a farm to shuck garlic and slaughter turkeys. But the crisp, fresh air, time with friends, learning about my food, and 20 pounds of deliciousness in my freezer made for me, a perfect day.

Photos by Julie E. Ballard

What’s in the box… week two

Each time I visit Midnight Sun Farm my back hurts less.

Although, I have to say those ladies who spend all day long bent over in rice paddies must have hamstrings of steel.  My typically workload on farm this time of year consists of weeding…. lots and lots of weeding… and after a few minutes of bending over my legs start to bark and I’ve now started in on the “crawl on your hands and knees” technique.  Very elegant.

What really excites me, though, is when I see the things that I’ve weeded (and a few things I’ve harvested and washed) showing up in my CSA box.

In my box this week were:

  • getting the rainbow chard ready

    salad mix

  • two heads lettuce
  • one bulb fennel
  • green onions
  • rainbow swiss chard
  • Hakuri sweet turnips, and
  • spinach

So, what became of this random box of green goodness?

I made several salads and another stirfry, but the true prize of the week was Frittata Night with my friend Kelly.

I totally made this recipe up based on something I’d seen Chef Giada do on the food network….. this is not really at all close to the recipe, so, it’s a Lauren original, and delicious.

Lauren’s spinach and chard Frittata

Ingredients:

  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small onion, sliced or diced (depending how onion-y you like it)
  • 3 sweet turnips, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small bunch rainbow swiss chard
  • 1 small bunch spinach
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 C. half and half
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 – 4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • bacon bits (the real stuff, not Bacos, people)
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 4-6 sprigs fennel leaves

Directions:

Add 2 TB vegetable oil to a high sided saute pan and heat over medium heat.  Add potatoes and cook until slightly softened and translucent (maybe about 5-7 minutes… just prep the other stuff while you do this and check on them occasionally, turning down the heat if they are starting to brown).

wilty greens ready for the eggs

Meanwhile, separate the leaves of the chard from the woody stem and chop the stems.  Add chard stems, onions, and turnips to the pan and cook another 2-4 minutes.  Add the spinach and chard leaves by the handful, and mix until the greens become dark and wilty.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl with half and half and and salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and lower heat to low.  Cook about 5 minutes, covered, and add shredded cheese, bacon, fennel and green onions.  Return lid and cook until the cheese is melted and eggs are set.

I served this gorgeous thing with a side salad of spring mix, kidney and garbanzo beans, strawberries, sunflower seeds, leftover radishes and dried cranberries.  That, and about a bottle of red wine….

And it looked like this:

Lauren’s spinach and chard frittata with strawberry salad

This, friends, was a night to remember!

photos courtesy of Kelly Rose

What’s in the box… week one

Lauren’s first week as a work-share CSA member

This week was exciting for a number of reasons.  The weather in Chicago has been absolutely perfect, so I took my first of what I hope will be many summer jogs on the lakefront. I put in my first shift pulling weeds as a work-share at Midnight Sun Farm in Grayslake, and the resulting CSA box fed me all week long.

Throughout the summer I hope to give you a peak into what’s in my CSA box and the resulting gastronomical feats I achieve each week.  

The overall goals are:

  • To not let anything rot and have to go in the compost
  • To not buy produce from the grocery store all summer
  • To get that healthy glow that can only come from eating multitudes of fresh, local, seasonal produce all summer long

In my box this week were:

  • salad mix
  • one head lettuce
  • one head curly endive
  • asparagus
  • Carola spring potatoes
  • pea shoots
  • Prize bok choi
  • mixed radishes

So, what became of this random box of green goodness?

I used the potatoes to make a German Potato Salad with some leftover bacon, and substituted fresh arugula from my friend Ann’s garden in place of parsley.  I discovered about three days ago that it’s really delicious for breakfast with melted cheese on top.

Pea shoots and bok choi went into this stir fry with some sauteed tofu and onions, soy sauce, a slash of red wine vinegar, and a little bit of H20.

My favorite meal of the week has to be the grilled asparagus with black forest ham and pinapple skewers.  Ok, so I know pineapple didn’t exactly come from a farm in North Central Illinois….. In my defense I bought it a week ago before I got my first box and it was on its last leg.  The whole package deal of this meal, combined with my first time grilling and a glass of Cabernet made for a lovely, lovely dinner.

Lots of salad is in store for tonight and tomorrow to use up the greens and radishes, and then we do it all over again…