Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CSA's and Sustainability

“CSA” Community Supported Agriculture
(from localharvest.org)

Thinking about signing up for a CSA but want to learn more about the idea before you commit? Read on. Over the last 20 years, CSA’s has become the popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a ‘share’ (or a subscription) and in return receive a box (or crate, basket etc) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. The arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. For more information visit localharvest.org, click the “CSA” tab. Localharvest.org also allows you to query for CSA’s nationally, search for farmer’s markets across the nation and locate local farms in your own neighborhood.

Why Buy Local?
(from localharvest.org)
Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.

We can only afford to do this now because of the artificially low energy prices that we currently enjoy, and by externalizing the environmental costs of such a wasteful food system. We do this also to the detriment of small farmers by subsidizing large scale, agribusiness-oriented agriculture with government handouts and artificially cheap energy.

Cheap oil will not last forever though. World oil production has already peaked, according to some estimates, and while demand for energy continues to grow, supply will soon start dwindling, sending the price of energy through the roof. We'll be forced then to reevaluate our food systems and place more emphasis on energy efficient agricultural methods, like smaller-scale organic agriculture, and on local production wherever possible.

Cheap energy and agricultural subsidies facilitate a type of agriculture that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening our communities, and concentrating wealth and power into a few hands. It is also threatening the security of our food systems, as demonstrated by the continued e-Coli, GMO-contamination, and other health scares that are often seen nowadays on the news.

These large-scale, agribusiness-oriented food systems are bound to fail on the long term, sunk by their own unsustainability. But why wait until we're forced by circumstance to abandon our destructive patterns of consumption? We can start now by buying locally grown food whenever possible. By doing so you'll be helping preserve the environment, and you'll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home. Only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen. Cut them out of the picture and buy your food directly from your local farmer.

One more tomato recipe .... Gazpacho !

This post taken from my cousin Karin's blog, a recipe for Gazpacho from cousin Karin's mother, Eva. Eva is pictured in the last photo on this blog, above the photo of me in my chef's coat. In the photo, Eva is separating eggs to bake popovers! Thanks for the great summer tomato recipe Karin and Eva!

(from Ivarenefarmer.blogspot.com)
This recipe is my mother Eva's recipe. She would make this on hot summer days. Using as many fresh ingredients from her garden as was possible. It's delicious!


4 cups tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 T red wine vinegar
1T Olive Oil

Put above ingredients in a Cuisinart or blender and pulse for 5 seconds.

1 Yellow onion
1 Large green pepper
2 Large or 4 medium stalks celery
1 Large peeled cucumber

Add to the tomato,broth,vinegar and oil mixture salt and pepper to taste.

Chill and top with a spoonful of yoghurt, slice of avocado and a sprig of cilantro.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Upcoming Redlands Daily Facts Culinary Column

I am pleased to tell you that I will be writing a new culinary column for the local Redlands Daily Facts newspaper. A similar column will appear on RedlandsDailyFacts.com but will include additional content (i.e. recipes, cooks tips, etc). Plans are to make the on-line portion interactive (i.e. ask the chef, equipment questions, etc) First article will appear early September! Stay tuned, more details soon!

Looking for food-safe eggs???

My friend Abby of the fabulous Three Sisters Farm turned me on to a new local source for farm fresh eggs (and another reason to visit the wonderful Redlands Farmers Market). Abby tells me that "Joe's Eggs" is new to the Redlands Farmers Market, and now we can all purchase farm fresh food-safe eggs from the Redlands Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. Thanks for the tip, Abby!

Monday, August 23, 2010

How 'bout Tomato Pie !!????

Sounds absolutely yummy...
(Thank you, simply recipes.com!)


Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese

For a refreshing summertime appetizer, fill bite-size cherry tomatoes, round or pear shaped, with a savory mixture of goat cheese flavored with basil. Minced tarragon or chervil can be used in place of the basil.

24 cherry tomatoes, a mixture of red and yellow
1/4 lb. fresh goat cheese (chèvre)
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Cut the top off each cherry tomato. Using a small spoon, scoop out the pulp to make a hollow yet sturdy shell. Drain off any juice that accumulates in the shells.

In a bowl, combine the cheese, basil, salt and pepper. Mix with a fork until well blended.

Using the small spoon, fill each tomato with about 1 tsp. of the cheese mixture. Arrange the filled tomatoes on a platter to serve.
Serves 4.

Tomatoes: Some of What I've Learned...

Once feared as poisonous and then considered a possible aphrodisiac, the “love apple” now adds its vivid color and delicious flesh to innumerable dishes. Like the potato, this fruit (which is generally treated as a vegetable) is a member of the nightshade family and is native to South America.
After finally gaining acceptance as a food in Europe and the United States, tomatoes became an inextricable part of many cuisines, especially those of the Mediterranean. In Italy, they are used to make sauce for pasta, pizza, and many other dishes. Sliced tomatoes are served with fresh mozzarella, basil leaves and balsamic vinegar to make a Caprese Salad (see “Earth Day Caprese Salad” recipe on this blogspot). Other recipes that depend on tomatoes for their character include minestrone, gazpacho, ratatouille, Greek salad and tomato soup. And, of course, tomatoes are a staple of New World cuisine from the American South’s fried green tomatoes to Texas’s chili con carne, from Latin America’s salsa cruda to (a personal favorite of mine) the “BLT”: bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

Today’s health conscious cooks know that, far from being poisonous, the tomato is high in vitamin C and cancer-fighting antioxidants. The tomato comes in a wide range of sizes, from tiny currant tomatoes no bigger than blueberries to fat beefsteaks up to 5 inches in diameter. The colors are varied, too, from white to purple black to reddish black, with green-striped zebra tomatoes. Dedicated gardeners have traced and reintroduced a number of heirloom tomatoes. Look for heirloom tomatoes in a wide variety of colors, size and other attributes.

Storing tomatoes: Most tomatoes, if left whole, should not be stored in a refrigerator. Store ripe, uncut tomatoes at room temperature for several days and the will ripen further. Although whole fresh tomatoes should not be refrigerated, cut tomatoes should be wrapped in plastic wrap or wax paper and then refrigerated.

Another Tomato Recipe ("Re-cycled" from prior post!)

Oven Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese Salsa

For oven dried tomatoes:
Preheat oven to 150. Cut tomatoes in half and spread on a cook sheet. Let dry in oven for 5 hours.

For salsa

12 oven dried roma tomatoes (see above)
1/3 cup goat cheese
20 leaves of fresh basil
2 tsp chipotle peppers
salt and pepper to taste

In food processor, pulse tomatoes, goat cheese, basil, chipotle peppers, salt, and pepper to make a chunky salsa. Serve on toasted french baguette slices or with white corn chips.

Got More Tomatoes ?? !

Here's five other uses for your surplus of tomatoes:

1. Make Bruschetta (6-7 tomatoes, 2 cloves minced garlic, evoo, balsamic vinegar, 6-8 fresh basil leaves- minced, salt and pepper to taste). Serve Bruschetta on crustinis.
2. Make Caprese Salad (see recipe this blog)
3. Make Tomato Tepenade (similar to bruschetta but add ½ c to 1 c chopped olives). Serve on crustinis.
4. Make “Oven Roasted Tomatoes” (see recipe this blog)
5. Make fresh tomato sauce.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Got Tomatoes ????

Everyone seems to be asking for tomato recipes. If you have a surplus of tomatoes, try one of these recipes to nicely feature fresh summer tomatoes at their peak!

Tomatoes, Pecans, Peaches, Blue Cheese and Basil Salad
Makes 6 servings

1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar (if no white is available, ok to use dark brown)
1 garlic clove, minced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large fresh peach, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade
2-3 lb. sliced heirloom tomatoes
3oz crumbled blue cheese (substitute with goat or feta if you prefer)
½-3/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk together balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, olive oil, and salt. Stir in diced peaches into mixture Place single layer of sliced tomatoes on serving platter. (I usually overlap one edge of tomatoes for a nice presentation) Spoon out peach/balsamic/olive oil mixture over tomatoes. Then sprinkle crumbled cheese, chopped toasted pecans on top of tomatoes. Next sprinkle chiffonade of basil on top. Finally, sprinkle freshly ground pepper to taste. (If you prefer, top with additional sea salt. I prefer to skip this step but I’ve been accused of “under-salting”!)

Grilled Tomatoes with Basil Vinaigrette
Makes 6 servings

3 yellow tomatoes
3 red tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Garnish: fresh basil sprigs

Clean and preheat grill. (You may also prepare this recipe indoors using a grill pan on the stovetop). Soak skewers submerged in water for at least ½ hr. Cut tomatoes in half; thread onto skewers, alternating colors. Brush with 1-2 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill, covered with grill lid, over medium heat (300° to 350°) 10 minutes, turning skewers often. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar, and basil; drizzle over kabobs. Garnish with fresh basil, chiffonade cut.

Roasted Tomatoes with Feta and Basil
Makes 6 servings

6 plum tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup Italian dressing
Handful fresh basil, chiffonade cut


Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise, and place, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper to taste, Italian seasoning, and feta cheese. Drizzle evenly with 1/4 cup Italian dressing. Broil 3 inches from heat 2 to 3 minutes or just until cheese starts to brown.

Herb-Tomato Crostini

Makes about 20 appetizer servings

1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 (8.5-oz.) French bread baguette, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt (large pinch or two small)
1/8 teaspoon pepper (or ‘small pinch’)
1 large tomato, finely chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Tip: This is a great ‘make ahead’ recipe. If you make this mixture the night before and allow to sit in refrig in a bowl, the flavors will be greatly enhanced when you serve them the next day. Don’t top the bread until just before serving. (to prevent bread from becoming soggy). Another idea is to serve the topping in a bowl and serve cut bread in basket to side. That way guests can assemble themselves!

Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together olive oil and garlic; brush on 1 side of each bread slice. Place bread slices, garlic sides up, on a baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly toasted. Whisk together lemon juice and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Add tomato and next 3 ingredients; gently toss to coat. Top each bread slice with tomato mixture (about 2 rounded teaspoonfuls each). Sprinkle with cheese.

Green Tomato-Fresh Herb Crostini: Substitute 1 finely chopped large green tomato for red tomato. Proceed with recipe as directed.