Archive for the ‘sustainable family supper’ Category

Lemon Artichoke Risotto with Shrimp

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Facing an empty fridge upon our return home from vacation, I was in need of groceries and inspiration this past weekend. I happened to catch a mention on Twitter of food52‘s risotto party and was inspired to make a spring risotto. I knew I wanted to include lemon and mint, and had been intrigued by a raw artichoke and parmesan salad I’d read about in the April issue of Body + Soul. And I decided to add citrusy broiled shrimp, as in the food52 finalist’s recipe. There are few things more soothing than the fresh scent of mint and lemon zest, and this creamy risotto is a perfect supper to usher in spring.

Recipe: Lemon Artichoke Risotto with Shrimp

Ingredients:

for the risotto

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (1 teaspoon reserved for shrimp)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon (1 tablespoon zest reserved for shrimp)
  • 2 cups organic Arborio rice
  • 4 cups seafood stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fruity white wine
  • 1 6-ounce jar water-packed artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

for the shrimp

  • 1 pound wild U.S. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • reserved garlic and lemon zest from above
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper

Instructions:

Gently toss the shrimp with chopped garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, and a generous amount of sea salt and pepper. Let marinate at room temperature while preparing the risotto.

Bring seafood stock and water to simmer in a stock pot.

In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium low heat and cook garlic several minutes, until translucent. Increase heat to medium and add rice, stirring to coat with oil, and cook 4-5 minutes. Rice will turn translucent and begin to appear lightly toasted. Add lemon zest and juice. Pour in wine and cook 1 minute.

Begin ladling the stock, two ladles full at a time, into the risotto. Stir frequently after each addition until most of the liquid is absorbed, then add the next batch. The process of adding, stirring and absorbing liquid will take about 20-25 minutes. The rice will release its starch, resulting in a creamy white sauce. Taste periodically until the rice is al dente — still firm but no longer crunchy in the middle. When the desired texture is reached, gently fold in artichoke hearts, mint and parmesan cheese and remove from heat.

Under a broiler, cook shrimp about 2 minutes on each side, until pink and opaque. Serve atop risotto, and garnish with additional fresh mint and/or shaved parmesan. Makes 4-6 servings. Enjoy!

Note: You can replace the seafood stock with vegetable and omit the shrimp to serve the risotto alone for a vegetarian or Meatless Monday-friendly supper.

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Order Your Local Turkey Today!

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

@ South Mountain Creamery

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, it’s time to pre-order your local turkey! If you read a lot of food magazines (or blogs) to prepare for your Thanksgiving feast, you’ve probably seen a lot of talk about brining the turkey in recent years. Soaking the bird in a saltwater is supposed to add succulence to the meat. But here’s a secret: turkeys are naturally juicy. Conventional turkeys, like conventional chickens and other animals, are raised in confined quarters where they are stuffed full of grain (often genetically-modified, aka GMO) and antibiotics to grow rapidly. Turkeys who eat a natural diet of bugs, grubs and grasses will naturally produce meat that is juicier and more flavorful. And, birds who roam in fresh air lead happier, healthier lives.

What is a Heritage turkey? Today, 99% of all turkeys raised in the U.S. are the “Broadbreasted White” variety, which have been bred specifically to produce unnaturally large breasts. The breasts are so large, in fact, that these turkeys are unable to reproduce naturally! (Source: Sustainable Table/UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

free-ranging @ Fields of Athenry

free-ranging @ Fields of Athenry

Sustainable turkey farmers raise various traditional species of turkeys, Heritage breeds such as Narrangassett or Bourbon Red, to protect the genetic diversity and provide tastier options for your Thanksgiving table. Heritage birds take longer to reach market size — 24 to 30 weeks compared to 18 for supermarket turkeys — which is one reason why they more expensive. (Source: Heritage Turkey Foundation) The article on Sustainable Table has a more detailed explanation of the difference between heritage, organic and sustainable birds and questions to ask your farmers.

Wondering how to find a local, organic, free-range bird for your holiday meal? Here in the DC Metro area, organic turkeys are harder to find, but several local farmers and butchers provide heritage and/or free-range turkeys. Organic birds will be the most expensive, but they are fed only organic feed, not treated with antibiotics or hormones, and required to have access to the outdoors. Ask your farmer or butcher what their free-range turkeys are fed. Organic grain feed is less important if they are truly free-range, as turkeys prefer to eat bugs and grasses anyway. Where “all-natural” is used below, it means turkeys are not treated or fed with any antibiotics, steroids or hormones.

EcoFriendly Foods (Moneta, VA)
type: all-natural, free-range, Heritage and hybrid breeds, 12-20lbs.
price: n/a
order: order at Arlington Courthouse or Dupont Circle markets, $40 deposit required.

Fields of Athenry (Purcellville, VA)
type: all-natural, free-range, Heritage, 15-35lbs.
price: $7.25/lb.
order: download order form online and send $40 deposit; pick-up at farm only; likely to sell out early.

Let’s Meat on the Avenue (Alexandria, VA)
type: Amish-raised from Pennsylvania and Minnesota; organic from Fauquier County VA; all free-range, all-natural, fresh
price: $3.95/lb. for Amish turkeys
order: call 703-836-6328 or stop by the shop; orders will be accepted until about a week prior to Thanksgiving (or until sold out)

MOM’s Organic Market (VA and MD)
type: all-natural, free-range from Maple Lawn Farm (Fulton, MD) and Eberly’s Organic
price: $1.99/lb. Maple Lawn, $3.49/lb. Eberly Organic
order: call or visit store (locations in Alexandria, College Park, Columbia, Frederick and Rockville)

Smith Meadows Farm (Purcellville, VA)
type: all-natural, free-range turkeys, 10-12lbs. or 13-14lbs., frozen
price: $4.25/lb.
order: Place a $10 deposit at their markets, pick-up on Saturday 11/21 or Sunday 11/22 at the market where you place your order. Orders will be accepted until about mid-November. You can also call 877-955-4389 to place your order by phone.
markets: Arlington Courthouse, Del Ray, Falls Church and Chevy Chase on Saturdays; Takoma Park and Dupont Circle on Sundays

South Mountain Creamery / Hillside Farm (Thurmont, MD)
type: free-range, fresh
price: about $2.50/lb.
order: existing South Mountain delivery customers must reserve a turkey by Saturday, November 7; they will be delivered with your regular delivery the week prior to Thanksgiving.

If you don’t want to cook, The Butcher’s Block in Alexandria will have ready-to-go Thanksgiving meals available; visit the website for details.

To find a local, Heritage turkey in your area, search the listings at Local Harvest — or ask your favorite meat vendor at the farmers market!

Shared with Real Food Wednesday — visit the round-up @ Cheeseslave for more Real Food inspiration.

Free Range, Grass-Fed Beef (and Pork and Chicken)

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Part V of the Sustainable Family Supper series, and my submission to this week’s Fight Back Friday, hosted by the Food Renegade.

It’s probably obvious by now that we are not vegetarians by any means. I actually did abstain from red meat for nearly 5 years during my idealistic youth (high school and college) for “ethical” reasons, but was converted back during a Christmas visit to my Italian grandparents who served meat three times a day. My now husband, then friend, took me out for my first post-vegetarianism steak when I got back to college after the winter break. I was ecstatic to finally be able to order In-n-Out burgers with meat, and jumped back into omnivorism with barely a second thought. Fast forward nearly a decade, and my renewed interest in healthy, sustainable food led me to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’d already sampled local, grass-fed meats from local farmers markets on occasion, but wasn’t fully committed to paying the higher price on a regular basis. Pollan’s book and my subsequent research set the ball rolling and we now strive to eat only grass-fed, pastured, hormone-free and preferably organic (and GMO-feed free) meat. I still have a little omnivore’s guilt when eating lamb or veal (cue cute baby animal images), but I was inspired to hear local sustainable agriculture hero Bev Eggleston speak at a Slow Food dinner last year about his own conversion from Berkeley vegetarian to pig farmer. As he explained, to solve the problems of conventional meat production you have to participate in the process and use your dollars to vote for sustainable solutions.

grass-fed pastured beef cows

Why Grass-Fed, aka Pastured, Meat? Without getting into the complex and hotly-debated issue of whether grass-fed cows fart more than feedlot-cows (yes, there are real scientists researching that!), there are true health benefits to grass-fed meat. Plus, you avoid supporting “Confined Animal Feeding Operations” (CAFOs or feedlots), which are essentially concentration camps for animals and which I am sure you have heard about elsewhere. (If not, read this, this, and/or this.) Other benefits include:

  • Grass-fed meat is higher in vitamins, especially vitamin E and D, which only comes from exposure to sunlight.
  • Grass-fed red meat is leaner, lower in fat and calories than conventional, and higher in better fats (Omega-3s).
  • Grass-fed means no genetically-modified (GMO) corn or soy feed, reducing the amount of corn byproducts (pesticides, chemical fertilizers, etc.) you consume. (You have seen King Corn, haven’t you?) – health benefits via Eat Wild.

One thing to note about grass-fed meat is that in much of the U.S., it is a seasonal product. Alice Waters reportedly turned down EcoFriendly’s meat for her Inaugural dinner event because it was not available fresh in January. In the winter, animals can’t always graze outdoors so be sure to ask your local vendors what they’re feeding in the winter months — ideally, it will be organic feed they grow themselves. If it is entirely grass-fed, you’ll probably have to buy it frozen. Just defrost it gently in the refrigerator and be sure not to overcook (medium rare is ideal), as leaner grass-fed meat becomes tough if overcooked.

Where to find grass-fed meat: The first place to look for local, grass-fed meat is your local farmers markets. Visit localharvest.org to find a market or ranch near you; Eat Wild‘s state-by-state grass-fed directory can also help. At the grocery store, ignore the meaningless “all natural” label and choose organic if you can, but ask the butcher if they carry any grass-fed brands. (If not, ask them to consider it!)

Grass-fed Meat in DC/NoVA: Joel Salatin’s Polyface, featured in Omnivore’s Dilemma, is right here in Virginia, and you can purchase their meats through their buying clubs. Bev Eggleston’s EcoFriendly co-operative is created in the Polyface model (Bev worked with Joel before branching out on his own) and is the gold standard for family-farmed, pastured meat in the area, with many of DC’s and NYC’s top chefs relying on EcoFriendly meats (including Cathal Armstrong at Restaurant Eve and Todd Gray of Equinox). Other smaller, family-owned farms are represented at nearly all of our local farmers markets. I’ve personally sampled and recommend the following:

  • Babes in the Woods, (Dillwyn, VA); rare-breed, forest-fed pork; at Old Town Alexandria, Clarendon and Charlottesville Farmers Markets.
  • Cibola Farms (Culpeper, VA); buffalo, pork, beef, goat, chicken; available at Dupont, Penn Quarter, Mt. Pleasant, Kingstowne, Burke, Falls Church, Reston, Dale City, Mt. Vernon, Fredericksburg Farmers Markets.
  • EcoFriendly (Moneta, VA), beef, pork, lamb, poultry, rabbit, Arlington/Courthouse and Dupont Farmers Markets.
  • Fields of Athenry (Purcellville, VA); lamb, beef, poultry; see website for drop-off locations.
  • Hilldale Farm (Palmyra, VA); organic chicken; at West End Alexandria Farmers Market.
  • Smith Meadows Farm (Berryville, VA); beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, goat; at Chevy Chase, Courthouse, Columbia Pike, Del Ray, Dupont, Falls Church, Glover Park, Palisades, Takoma Park Farmers Markets.
  • Smith Family Farm, (Gainseville, VA); beef, pork, poultry; at Burke, Kingstowne, Occoquan, Palisades, Vienna Farmers Markets – and on Twitter!

Local (NoVA) Butchers:

And look for the Spring issue of Edible Chespeake, with a cover story on buying beef directly from the farmer.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Between our home-delivered farm-fresh milk and the cheese addiction my toddler shares, we consume a lot of (hormone-free) dairy products in our house. A favorite way to use up the assorted bits and ends of cheeses in our cheese drawer is my baked macaroni and cheese, with roasted red peppers. I don’t believe in hiding vegetables in food, but I do exploit the “better together” theory of adding vegetables to something the toddler is guaranteed to eat. He loves to look at different colored peppers, but rarely eats them. I find that roasting the peppers first gives them a velvety smooth texture that goes better in creamy pasta than crisp fresh vegetables, making them a little less objectionable to sensitive eaters.

Recipe: Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Red Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 2 roasted red peppers, cut in thin 1-2 inch slices
  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (favorite blend: cave-aged cheddar, smoked gouda, Wallaby)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiano (or similar, used Dry Jack recently)

Instructions:

Cook macaroni according to package instructions, but subtract 3 minutes from cooking time. While macaroni cooks, melt butter in saucepan over low heat. When melted, stir in flour, salt and mustard and cook until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and whisk in milk, stirring until lumps are dissolved. Return to high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until boiling. Boil and stir 1 minute, until sauce begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheese until melted and smooth.

Drain macaroni. Combine with red peppers and cheese sauce and pour into 2-quart casserole pan. Mix together breadcrumbs and parmigiano cheese and sprinkle over top. Bake 25-30 minutes, until topping is golden. Makes 6 servings. Enjoy!

Shared with Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by its founder, Ruth of Once Upon a Kitchen. Check out this week’s round-up for more yummy pasta inspiration!

Dope-Free Dairy

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Part IV in the Sustainable Family Supper series

dairy cow

What’s the matter with rBST? I’ve written before about how my path to natural and organic food began with a look at milk. When I became pregnant with my son, milk took on a renewed significance as I eliminated sodas and caffeinated beverages from my diet. I finally got around to reading up on bovine growth hormones, a.k.a. rBST or rBGH. You probably already know that they are artificial hormones designed to increase estrogen in female cows, thus increasing their milk production. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use in 1993, and like with so many other issues, refused to reexamine its safety despite growing consumer pressure and health concerns. The problem, or problems, are that the unnatural increase in production leads cows to develop infections at much greater rates, requiring them to be more heavily treated with antibiotics, which are passed on to milk consumers and flow out into soil and water with the cows’ waste. Then, there are studies linking rBST with increased breast, prostate and colon cancers in humans. The most galling part of the whole situation, in my opinion, is the ridiculous requirement by the FDA that requires dairy producers who label their milk rBST-free to include a disclaimer stating that “there is no difference between milk from cows treated with rBST and those who are not.” Actually, there are scientific studies showing that rBST is harmful and yet the burden is on the good actors to refrain from impugning the “good” name of the producers who continue to use rBST in the face of such studies.

Consumers Fight Back: The good news is that after repeatedly losing attempts in state legislatures to ban the use of rBST-free labels entirely (hello consumers’ right to know what they’re eating!), in the face of growing consumer pressure against the use of artificial hormones, its creator Monsanto actually sold off the product last year. Meanwhile, consumer campaigns targeting major dairy companies and grocers have successfully forced many companies to voluntarily reject the use of milk from cows treated with rBST. You can sign up to receive alerts from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to stay apprised of the latest. Food & Water Watch offers downloadable and mobile (iPhone/Blackberry) lists of rBST-free brands by state. Last month, Dannon and Yoplait joined the roster of major yogurt producers rejecting rBST milk (Stoneyfield has never used it). In the cheese world, Tillamook‘s farmer cooperative led the industry in adopting a rBST-free policy back in 2005. Cabot Creamery is the latest to get on the drug-free dairy bandwagon, announcing that they will finally stop accepting rBST-containing milk as of August 1, 2009. Even *some* Kraft cheese products (2% milk line) are rBST-free.

Next Stop, Schools: So if consumers won’t buy it, where’s rBST-treated cows milk going? Some is still in use commercially, and of course much winds up in schools. Food & Water Watch has a campaign underway, coinciding with this year’s reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, urging Congress to give schools the ability to let schools choose to use rBST-free and/or organic milk. According to Food & Water Watch, one out of five pints of the milk served to public schoolchildren may contain rBST. (Visit their School Milk action center to learn more.)

Better Yet, Drink Organic: If you already drink rBST-free milk, you might also want to consider organic. If you have to choose what to buy organic, organic milk and meat may be more beneficial than organic produce because the pesticides on cows’ feed are concentrated in their digestive system – and nonorganic feed includes genetically-modified (GMO) grain. And make sure that you’re choosing a brand that scores well on the Cornucopia Institute organic dairy study, because while organic certification guarantees that cows are fed GMO- and pesticide-free grain, it does not guarantee that the cows were allowed to graze on grass or treated humanely. Certain big-organic producers (Aurora and Horizon, notably) are only slightly better than conventional feedlot operations. (There’s a reason some store-brand “organic” milk is priced significantly lower – avoid Safeway, Giant, Publix and Costco store brands, which are sourced from Aurora Organics, a company found by the USDA to have “willfully” violated 14 criteria of the federal organic standard. Visit the Organic Consumer Association action page to sign a petition asking these company CEOs to boycott green-washing “organic” suppliers.)

We’re lucky to have a local, though not organic-certified, dairy delivery service, but when I have to buy milk between deliveries or on the road, I try to find Organic Valley. They are a co-operative of farms organized regionally, so the milk you buy may actually be fairly locally-produced, and they provide support to their farmers to make their farms more environmentally-friendly, such as helping their member farms obtain grants to place wind turbines on their farms. I attended a presentation by an Organic Valley farmer at last fall’s Green Festival and fell in love with the adorable pictures of his happy little cows and tale of how they prefer listening to rock music over classical. A recent study found that cows who are called by name (typically signifying a higher level of care) produce more milk, naturally. I may be a little idealistic, but shouldn’t every cow live like that?

What About Raw Milk? I haven’t read enough yet to take an informed opinion on the highly controversial issue of raw milk. Its sale is banned here in Maryland and Virginia (unless in a “cow share” program in VA), so I haven’t had the option of trying it. (At least not since I was a kid with cow-owning friends! Its true nothing else tastes like truly fresh milk.) On the one hand, I’m inclined to trust farmers who are praticing time-tested method,s and raw milk proponents insist that there are a wealth of health benefits to drinking raw. On the other hand, cows are naturally dirty animals! (That’s not a scientific argument, just an observation.) All the more reason to get to know your food’s producers, of course, whatever the product. At any rate, if you want to learn more, CheeseSlave has a great post on the reasons she chooses raw milk and links to more resources.