Sunday, August 29, 2010

Guilt and the CSA

So, I’m lying in bed on a Saturday morning, thinking how nice it is not to have to get up at the crack of dawn. Suddenly, this little voice inside my head starts whispering,

“The cabbage is wilting! The kale is limp! Don’t let them go bad. Get up! Get up!”

So much for sleeping late. Soon, I am padding through the kitchen chopping kale and shredding cabbage. The sun is barely up.

I’ve heard of Catholic Guilt, Jewish Guilt, and Protestant Guilt (can we assume that guilt is largely non-denominational?). But, I actually suffer from CSA Guilt.

I’ve seen what it requires to plant and nurture the seedlings. At times, I’ve even worked in the fields. I know what it takes to grow good food. So if it rots - because I was lazy or let it go to waste - I feel the pain.

I did cook the turnips, but somehow, they've now migrated to the back of the refrigerator. I barely manage to save the newly-harvested garlic from a creepy mold attack …

The greens – like Kale – are particularly problematic. “Nutrition guilt” is perhaps even more ruthless. “I can’t let the Kale rot. It’s good for me.”
The digital pressure cooker is a pretty good guilt buster.
A full bunch of kale can go from guilt laden …
…to cooked and ready to be frozen, in about 6 minutes (not counting chopping). No guilt there. I’ll dine on greens all winter.

I am particularly proud of how quickly I deal with the Japanese Eggplant.

I mean, what do you do with these things?

But, within thirty minutes, I’ve managed to dice these suckers into uniform disks …

Pop it all into the pressure cooker …

And, ZAM!!!! Instant Ratatouille! It's almost like an episode of Bewitched (Sam is late preparing dinner and has to resort to witchcraft to put the Ratatouille on the table). There are plenty of servings for lunch so I don’t have to feel guilty about spending a fortune for a salad in New York City.

So, thanks to the lightening-quick pressure cooker, my conscience feels a little lighter when it comes to the produce from Restoration Farm.
Although, I have to admit, I still don’t call my parents enough…
©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blackberries in Contrast

Blackberries are the chameleon of summer fruit. At Restoration Farm, they ripen from fire-engine red to inky black. Depending on the sunlight, the ripe berries can vary from shades of burgundy to deep blue to ebony.
So how best to showcase this multi-faceted jewel of the summer? A tart, silky, Buttermilk Panna Cotta offers a perfect, stark-white canvas to accentuate the dramatic good looks of the blackberry.
To make a fruit sauce to surround the panna cotta, sprinkle two cups of fresh blackberries with ¼ cup of sugar and crush some of the fruit. Leave at room temperature for one hour, stir occasionally, and a luxurious, plummy purple sauce gathers.
It is yet another distinctive mood for summer’s darkest and sweetest temptation.
©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tomatoes, At Last

It’s been a long wait. Nary an heirloom tomato to be found on the East Coast last year, due to the awful tomato blight. While the recent spate of hot weather may have been oppressive, it seems to have coaxed the tomatoes out of their great recession at Restoration Farm.

We are greeted at distribution with Slicers, Juliet tomatoes and a variety of red and gold cherry tomatoes that are as sweet as penny candy.

It is a joyful reunion! How did we manage last summer without these blushing shades of red, orange, pink and gold on the plate? How long since we dabbed that tart juice from our lips?

The debut tomato recipe of the summer of 2010 is an aromatic Mixed Tomato Salad with black olives, dressed with warm toasted garlic and oregano oil. Used as a relish over pan broiled beef tenderloin steaks, it delivers a brilliant burst of savory sunshine.

It is a welcomed homecoming, indeed!

©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Beach Party

There’s no question we were dumped. With no warning, Mad Me-Shell decides to skip town and move to Chicago. I mean, what is she thinking? Chicago probably has – what - only one food truck? What is she going to eat for lunch? I predict she will starve.

Having now been downsized to a dynamic duo, Zany and I decide to drown our sorrows in chowder.

We return to the site of our recent crime, the Beacon Restaurant & Bar on 56th, where Mr. Pink continues to do a brisk lunch business of double hot dogs. This time, the occasion is Beacon’s annual “Chowder Fest” that starts at 6:30PM. Evening dining is kind of a new thing for us. It feels very grown up. So does eating indoors. At a table.

Inside, the Beacon looks like a Beach Boys single come to life. Our friend Katie from the Side Door is greeting guests and she’s decked out like Annette Funicello in one of those beach blanket movies. Okay, maybe more like Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

Beach Baby
We get these neat little white paper hats to wear. A guy at another table has written “Everybody Loves Fish” on his paper hat. New Yorkers have turned out in droves, but there is not a Speedo in sight.

Katie has seated us at “the fun table” where we meet the guys from Brooklyn Brewery who have supplied the beverages for the evening. There is also a guy who calls himself “Chowder Mark.” He works in the art work and rides motor cycles.

Chowder Mark
After finding our seats, we push our way to the chowder bar. We have a choice of New England Clam Chowder, Manhattan Clam Chowder, Grilled Corn and Potato Chowder and Fulton Street Seafood Chowder. We politely request one of each.

We love the thick, chunky clam flavor of the New England Chowder and the sultry smokiness of the Fulton Street Seafood Chowder.
The staff is passing some spunky fried clam rolls. With these, we are at serious risk of spoiling our appetites.

Zany is getting into the spirit. I note that she has shed her street shoes and is now wearing flip flops. I ask her about her worst beach experience ever.
“When I got splinters on both feet on the boardwalk at Atlantic City and had to listen to my mother’s “I told you so” speech,” she says. “My best beach experience was discovering fried Oreos under the boardwalk at Atlantic City.”
You gotta love her.
Next we’re served an entire bed of oysters, clams and mussels, wood roasted and served in broth and on the half shell.

Within minutes, there are 25 or more empty shells scattered in front of us. We collect them in a beach pail. Zany takes a deep breath.
“And now for the rest of the dinner,” she says.
At this moment, we are joined by two Johns from Staten Island who took the scenic route and arrived late. They are from a bar in Staten Island called The Wild Goose Pub. John #1 has the title Head Goose on his card. John #2 doesn’t like most seafood. Is he at the right party?

John #1 From Staten Island
“They come from Brooklyn, they come from Staten Island,” says Zany. “Chowder Fest is an International Affair.”
Chowder Mark and the Johns decide to engage in a variety of Fish Tales, like the hazards of eating goldfish and infamous shark attacks. Just as it’s all getting a little sordid, the fried chicken arrives at the table. Someone asks, “When was the last time you saw chicken in an ocean?”
“I did see a rooster in Key West,” says Zany. “That counts.”
What’s most important is that the chicken is crispy, spicy and delicious and John #2 has something to eat. “At Chowder Fest there are no rules,” notes John #1.
Chowder Mark and John #1 skillfully pitch in to hold the food as I take pictures. They could get work as hand models.

Zany and I speculate that Mad Me-Shell – who is now on the road to Chicago – is probably eating at some sorry Interstate rest stop.
Next comes the Lobster Invasion. “I think this could make me get over the Burger Truck,” says Zany who is nearly salivating.
“Do you think the lobster is local?” I ask.

“Define local,” says Zany. “If it was caught anywhere east of 56th Street, I consider it local.” She prepares to attack.
We stab our forks into succulent roasted lobster meat that is drenched in basil butter.

Having made mince meat of the lobster, I note that I am now wearing most of Chowder Fest.
“It takes all five senses to experience Chowder Fest,” says John #1. He’s become the philosopher in our group.
We finish things off with about a dozen Whoopee Pies and chocolate chip cookies. The two Johns and Chowder Mark decide to call it a night. We suggest that the two Johns take the Staten Island Ferry home as it’s the most direct route.
Zany and I are pretty happy (although Zany would have liked to have seen Mr. Pink). We’ve made some new friends, and we’ve stuffed our faces. What could be better? Maybe a summer cookout on the beach? But, wait – we did that – and we didn’t even have to leave Manhattan!
The last thing I remember is a beach ball flying over our heads, and the sound of the Beach Boys drowning out the free-flowing Brooklyn Beer.
Poor Mad Me-Shell. She’s going to miss New York.
©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Sunflowers of Restoration Farm

As the summer ripens, the landscape is always evolving at Restoration Farm. Sunflowers immediately catch the eye as you turn the corner from the wooded path out into the first open field.

Sunflowers were first cultivated in Mexico and Peru, perhaps as early as 2600 BC.

The yellow bursts of sunshine are a glorious start to the day. It’s like a little patch of Godlight kissing the Earth.

©2010 T.W. Barritt all Rights Reserved