Monthly Archives: May 2012

Local, seasonal, organic, natural….

Local, organic, seasonal, natural…oh my! There is a lot of verbiage used to describe our food these days and it can be hard to interpret what it all means and what you should really be looking for.

My priority is always local. By eating local I end up eating seasonally as well and I support my local market and my local farmers. Eating seasonally is not necessarily eating local. A strawberry in May from Wal-mart is not the same as a strawberry in May from the farm down the road. When I buy from the farmers at the market I get to hear about Eileen the cow that produced the milk for my butter from Bonnie Blue Farms and Sherry from Sheerlark Farms saves garlic scapes for me. It’s important for me to know that the people producing my food do so with good intentions and care about it as much as I do.

In Chattanooga, you can look for the Harvested Here logo to know you are buying from local vendor

Natural or organic is my next priority. I want my food to come from down the road and I want it in the most natural state it can be. Don’t get hung up on organic. Many smaller farms use organic principles but the organic certification is prohibitive due to their size. There are also other certifications that are equally as worthy as the certified organic such as certified naturally grown. Ask your farmer about their practices. They should be happy to tell you how they farm and why they utilize certain practices. The Environmental Working Group analyzes pesticide use and absorption by fruits and veggies and each year publishes a list of the most important produce to buy organic if possible to limit your pesticide exposure. You can read the most recent list here.

In the end, you have to decide your own priorities and what works best for your family and your food budget. The “it costs more to eat healthy” argument is for tomorrow…


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Strawberry Sorbet

Strawberries are here!! Strawberries are one of the things that I pretty much refuse to eat out of season so when they arrive, I’m very happy. (Really, why would you eat a berry that was picked under ripe and shipped half way across the country?? They almost taste even better when you know that the season is fleeting and your should eat your weight in berries now before they disappear)

They aren’t the first spring produce to show up in the market but when they arrive they seem to say with authority that winter is over and it is time for grilling and porch sitting and sorbet!

You can make sorbet with fresh berries, certainly, but I’m usually too busy shoving them in my mouth to get around to that. So, I clean and hull them and toss them in the freezer. Thaw them out before you are ready to make the sorbet. This sorbet was made with berries from both Tidwell Berry Farm and Flat Top Mountain.

I use the berry sorbet recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. It’s the first one I ever tried and it worked like a charm so I’ve stuck with it.

Add 3 cups of hulled and cleaned berries to the food processor with 1 cup sugar and a pinch of salt. Process for about 15 pulses. Then, while the machine is running, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (freshly squeezed) and 1 tablespoon vodka. No, the vodka doesn’t give you boozy berry sorbet :), but it does raise the freezing temperature of the sorbet just a bit and prevents ice crystals from forming. Let all of that process for about a minute total.

At this point the original recipe suggests straining the strawberry puree to remove the tiny seeds. I don’t strain it, however. I like the texture the seeds leave and I like the way it looks. Whatever you prefer is fine.

Strained or not, poor into a chilled bowl and place in the freezer to chill for about 30 minutes. Then, pour into your ice cream maker and follow the directions for your specific machine for sorbet. I have the ice cream attachment for the Kitchen Aid mixer and I really, really like it. It’s great to not have to mess with salt and ice and I just keep it in the freezer all the time so its ready to go at a moments notice.

Let it freeze for about 4 hours and its done!


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Beer braised lamb with collards

Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini by Elizabeth Schneider is a great veggie reference and it has some wonderful recipes to accompany the descriptions and history of each vegetable. We discovered this recipe while browsing for inspiration this week. It actually calls for pork but we had this wonderful lamb from Sequatchie Cove Farm so we decided to change it up a bit. Add some fresh collards from Signal Mountain Farm and you’ve got the makings of a great dish!

Start by browning your lamb. You may want to do this in batches so the lamb browns and does not steam.

Remove the lamb to a plate and add some onions and garlic to the pot

Add your chopped collards and cook them down just a bit

Deglaze the pan with orange juice, beer, lamb stock and a pinch of brown sugar.  Add the lamb back to the pot and cook for about an hour and a half. Braising is great for tougher cuts of meat as the long, slow cook helps break down the meat and make it more tender.

Serve over rice


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Broccoli in the wok

Broccoli cooked in the wok is probably one of my favorite ways to cook broccoli and, even better, its quick and simple. This lovely broccoli is from Sheerlark Farms.

Cook your chopped broccoli with some onions and garlic until it just begins to get soft.


Add a splash of soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar. Any vinegar will work here, really.


Add 1/4 cup of liquid (water or stock) and cover for 2-3 minutes. The broccoli will steam a bit but still remains just crisp enough.  Simple, simple!


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Swiss Chard Tart with Amaranth Crust

This Swiss Chard Tart from Joy of Cooking was the first dish we ever made with chard and it is still one of the favorites! The original recipe calls for a typical pastry crust but this amaranth and oat crust from Whole Grains Every Day is quick and really adds an interesting flavor to the tart. The Swiss chard here is from Signal Mountain Farm

Start by browning a 1/2 cup of amaranth. Keep an eye on the amaranth, it browns quickly! Amaranth has a wonderful toasty aroma as it browns.


Let the amaranth cool and in the interim, grind a 1/2 cup of oats into a fine flour


Grind the amaranth into a flour once it is cooled and combine with the oats. Whisk in 3 tablesppons of melted butter and enough cold water so the mixture holds its shape when pressed together


Press this into a buttered pie plate


Cook the crust for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush with an egg white and let cool while you prepare the tart filling.

Start by whisking 3 eggs, 3/4 cup of half and half and some cheese together. We used Gruyère here.


Cook the chard with some onion and add it to the egg mixture


Bake until set


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Cabbage and Kale Gratin with Sausage

This is an adaptation of a NY Times recipe for Cabbage and Kale gratin. The original dish is actually a great side dish but we decided to add some sausage from Sequatchie Cove Farm to make it a main dish. There are some many wonderful greens available this time of year I like to get them all in while I can! We used Napa Cabbage and Kale from Signal Mountain Farm in this dish.

Start by whisking 2 eggs and add a half cup cooked rice



Brown your pork, onions, and garlic


Add the pork and onions to the egg mixture and then cook the chopped kale. Add that to the egg mixture


Cook the cabbage next. We used Napa cabbage here. After you cook the cabbage for a few minutes, add some liquid to steam it just a bit. You can use water or stock. We had apple cider and that seemed like a good flavor to compliment the pork so, in it went!


Add the cabbage to the bowl with the kale and eggs and mix well. Spread that into a casserole and top with breadcrumbs



Bake for around 45 minutes and until the top is golden


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Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang is on the menu tonight! This was a feature from Fine Cooking a few months back and seemed like a fun project to tackle. Beef Rendang is a Malaysian dish that is typically served at celebrations. Considering the number of ingredients and the time involved, I understand why! This was, however, absolutely, fabulously delicious. It was amazingly sweet and spicy and tangy all at once. Of the Southeast Asian dishes we’ve prepared I think this is the best. It’s definitely not a weeknight meal but it’s so worth the time and prep work involved.

The recipe is built on several flavor and spice bases. Start by cooking the whole spice blend of cloves, cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick (there should also be some star anise here but, even with multiple trips to the store, we forgot it.)

Next, add the ground spice blend of coriander, cumin, fennel, turmeric and black pepper. If necessary, add a bit of oil to keep the spices from burning.

For the final flavor base, add a puree of chiles, onion, garlic, and ginger. There should be some galangal in this but we couldn’t find any. We used to have some from a wonderful spice packet Neal brought back from Thailand but its all gone. sad face!

This cooks for about 10 minutes and starts to smell fabulous!! The color will darken a good bit as well. Stir in the beef (this was a sirloin tip from Sequatchie Cove Farm)

Add coconut milk, lemongrass, and tamarind concentrate. Again, as well stocked as the Asian grocery here is we couldn’t find any tamarind concentrate. A substitute I found was to use brown sugar and lime juice. Of course, it didn’t have any proportions referenced so I had to wing that! The recipe called for 1/4 cup of tamarind concentrate so I used 1/4 cup of lime juice and about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.

Stir this around and add a bit of salt and palm sugar

At this point, allow the dish to cook for about an hour. Beef Rendang is not a traditional curry; it is cooked until the liquid has almost completely evaporated and you are just left with beef with a delicious coating of spice and flavor. We decided to not be terribly authentic at this point and didn’t quite cook it until dry so we could savor some of the sauce. When it has cooked to the point of your liking, stir in some toasted coconut and serve over rice.


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Roasted Potatoes

Oven roasted potatoes take a bit of time in the oven but the hands on time is virtually nil and you can adapt the flavors easily to match your main dish.

Simply dice your potatoes, toss with olive oil, salt, and herbs of choice (I used rosemary here), spread them on a baking pan and roast at 425 degrees for 45 minutes. Turn the broiler on low for a minute or so to brown the tops.


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Stir fry greens

Sometimes the hardest part of the menu planning is deciding what the side dishes will be. You know you need a vegetable to accompany the protein but what will it be?? When you are putting a lot of effort into the main dish it helps to have some quick, delicious veggie sides. Otherwise, you might end up like someone I know (who shall remain nameless to protect his innocence) who ended up eating potatoes and pasta. In his defense, he was a poor, hungry college student. 🙂 And, to his credit, he was cooking! In college!

I digress….greens are quick and easy, especially when you stir fry them in a cast iron wok (We like cast iron around here!). We used kale here from Signal Mountain Farm but any green you have on hand will work.

Chop up some onion and get it started in the wok

Add the chopped up greens. You may have to add them in batches as they cook down

Add a splash of vinegar and soy sauce

Cook the greens until they wilt to your liking and you’re done!


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Sunday Market! 5-20

Strawberries – Tidwell Berry Farm – I’m pretty sure these are the best strawberries I’ve ever had!

Broccoli – Sheerlark Farms

Napa Cabbage, Kale, and Swiss Chard – Signal Mountain Farm


The theme for the market this week was Strawberry Festival but, I think the theme for my basket was greens! The phrase “grocery budget” seems to cease to exist to me when I get to the market and see all the lovely produce. I suppose there are worse vices 🙂

The menu for the week:

Beef Rendang

Braised Lamb and Collards

Chard Tart with broccoli

Kale and Cabbage Gratin with Sausage


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