Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wish You Were Here!

I'm going on vacation and I'll be back next week as soon as the next CSA shipment arrives. Have a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a joyous, healthy, delicious, tropical Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve

I've been sick and busy getting ready for Christmas this week, so it hasn't been a good week for writing about local food.

When I get sick I don't like to eat or think about food, but I get really thirsty. Luckily we had a gigantic grapefruit in our CSA box last week, so I got some much needed, Vitamin C packed juice from it.

As this is cold and flu season, I feel very lucky to live in Florida, where all the citrus is in season. I can't get enough of it and it's really making me feel better. This year, for the first time that I've seen, local Cara Cara oranges are in all the stores. Cara Caras are a mutant variety of navel oranges from Venezuela and they are pink! We've already been through how much I love pink food, so I won't gush about the color too much. Cara Caras are not to be mistaken for blood oranges though. They're quite different. Blood oranges are wine colored with an almost bitter flavor, whereas Cara Caras are light pink inside like a grapefruit, with the usual orange rind outside. They taste orangey with a hint of rose petal. I love them. They make a pretty pink juice.

The other thing I like to eat when I'm sick like this is Thai coconut soup. It contains chicken, coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro and hot peppers. When I eat it, my sinuses clear and I feel instantly better. Of course, it's easy to make and all the ingredients grow in our climate. However, when I'm sick the last thing I want to do is scout ingredients or cook, so I cheat and get takeout. There are also a few mixes that you can buy at the grocery store.

Once Christmas is done and I'm feeling better, I'll be back with a more extensive post on the Cara Caras.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

CSA This Week

I have been ridiculously busy this week. It's a combination of finals week at two schools, plus general holiday madness. I did want to update you on what I've been doing with my CSA delivery from last Saturday. This was a lucky week. When I opened my box I literally went "OOOHHH!" in delight. I got more of my favorite green beans, an eggplant, basil, cherry tomatoes, a cucumber, a pepper, chard and some betel leaf. Everything that I love and one weird thing. Perfect.

First I made a stir fry and included last week's bok choy and the pepper.

Yesterday I made eggplant parmesan, using the eggplant and basil and some leftover, wilted tomatoes I had from before. One eggplant made a large pan and it wasn't even a bit acidic or bitter. I did salt and rinse the slices beforehand though, so maybe that helped, or maybe these were just really good eggplants. I now have so much eggplant parm that I'm giving it away and last night, as I breaded and fried individual discs of eggplant, I realized exactly why I haven't made eggplant parm in seven years. It makes a mess in the kitchen and takes forever.

Once the eggplant was finished baking, I steamed the green beans. I find that steamed green beans are a lighter and healthier accompaniment than pasta and go well with anything tomato-y. Now I have a big container of leftovers to snack on all week when I don't have time to cook.

I love to eat steamed green beans cold. When I was little, I had a friend whose mom made them for us as a snack with curry dip and my friend and I would just eat bunches and bunches of cold green beans because we loved the dip so much. I still make the dip as an adult and plan to make some for myself tonight. It's very simple and you really don't need to measure. Just mix plain, greek yogurt with curry powder to taste, a little grated ginger, a squirt of honey or agave, a little zing of lemon juice and if you want it spicy, you can add some hot sauce. It would also be good with minced garlic, a little sesame oil or even some chutney stirred in. Then just dip cold, steamed green beans (or any veggie you like) in it 'til your heart's content.

This evening, I think I'll sautee my chard in my simple, go-to greens recipe (olive oil, salt, garlic and red peppers). I could eat chard endlessly. I guarantee you, I will eat the entire bunch alone in one sitting. I may make some brown rice to go with it. After last night's breaded, fried extravaganza, I think I need to detox.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Salad

I'm glad that lettuce grows well down here otherwise I'd probably move. Last weekend I got two heads of romaine in my CSA box and I was overjoyed. They really made up for the whole dandelion green mess. I know I'm boring. We've established that already, but romaine lettuce is good and you just can't argue with that. As soon as I got the lettuce home, I cleaned it well (produce from the farm is way dirtier than the grocery store, factory kind) and then rolled it up in a bag. Now, the CSA newsletter said not to do this, but I am rebellious and did it anyway. I find that because my schedule is so hectic, that I will actually eat and use my produce if I take the time to clean it, cut it all up and store it nicely. If I don't do this, I will often let it go bad and then feel like a horrible, wasteful person and the guilt will almost kill me. The newsletter said that veggies don't keep as well if you wash and cut them in advance and that you should only wash and cut them right when you're going to use them. I haven't had any issues and having the already ready lettuce in a bag in my fridge made my week a whole lot easier. In fact, it pretty much made my week because this was a pretty crappy week for me.

The high point of my week was "The Salad." All week I've been enjoying the salad and today I finally remembered to take a picture of it. My sister and I invented this salad last summer and it's addictive. We just call it "The Salad" and I could pretty much eat it every day. The recipe is flexible. Modify as you please. You just use lettuce, feta cheese, roasted peppers, some kind of nut, dried fruit, tomato, avocado if you have some, any leftover meat (optional obviously), cucumber, beans if you've got some, hearts of palm if you have those, fresh herbs if you have some lying around, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil with a splash of vinegar. It's so easy and you can get pretty much all of the ingredients locally, even the feta. I cheat with the nuts. I've been using walnuts. I haven't had a lot of luck finding locally grown nuts around here, but I'm researching. Back when we went to Possum Trot, we learned that macadamias love it here, but the squirrels steal them all. Anyway,as I said, the recipe is extremely flexible. Add in something else, leave a few things out, whatever. It's going to be good. How can it be bad? I had to leave the avocado out. In the background of the picture you can see my scaly looking Monroe avocado. It isn't ripe yet. It still needs a couple days. Today I used my last leaves of romaine, so I hope this Saturday there's more.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Speaking of Bitter and Horrible

This week in our CSA box we received a bunch of red stemmed dandelion greens. I've never had such a thing, although as a child I frequently added dandelions picked in the yard to my mud soups. I found they imparted a lovely yellow hue. Those dandelions aren't the same though. This kind of dandelion green is very popular in Italy so I went to my Italian friend for help. We chopped them up, blanched them and cooked them in sauteed onions and garlic with lots of olive oil, salt and crushed red pepper. I find this a winning combo with most veggies (I usually leave out the onion part though). You can pretty much make any green vegetable taste really good by sauteeing it in olive oil, crushed red pepper, salt and garlic. I'm sad to report that the dandelion greens were one of the most horrible things that I have ever eaten in my entire life. Admittedly, sometimes I have the palate of a toddler and would rather eat macaroni and cheese over pretty much anything else, but still. I eat arugula. I eat collards and callaloo without incident. I've been known to take a nibble of broccoli rabe here and there, but this was out of the question. Dandelion greens are really bitter. In a very bad way.

I decided to pawn them off on my dad. He loves bitter food. I asked him how he liked them.

"Umm. They are on the strong side," he replied.

So there. If my dad thought it was strong, it was strong.

Bleck. At least I can say I tried them. Alas, I took no pictures, but cooked down, greens aren't so pretty.

Next time, the dandelion greens are going in the extras box.

If you like dandelion greens, here are some creative and varied recipes for them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

More Precious Than Rubies

This morning I had the most exquisite breakfast - my first ruby red grapefruit of the season. Maybe it's because I haven't had grapefruit in ages or maybe it's because I was really hungry, but this grapefruit was the best I have ever eaten. Purchased at Whole Foods and certified both local and organically grown, this grapefruit was ugly on the outside. It was mottled with black freckles; a bit shriveled. I didn't expect a tremendous amount from it, but my, was I fooled. I didn't even know I liked grapefruit this much. Now I can't wait to get my hands on several more.

Its brazen redness shocked me. This was a very, deep red grapefruit, maybe only a blush or two away from a blood orange, and it was fragrant. Slicing through the zest released a fiesta of perfumed oils and I just love the smell of citrus. It's so bright and uplifting. So is the flavor.

Each time I take my first taste of a grapefruit I cringe a little inside, in anticipation of some imagined, awful bitterness I think it might possess. This is a leftover reflex from my childhood. I remember my grandfather, lover of all bitter, horrible foods from black licorice to mince pie, being a huge fan of white grapefruits. He always tried to get me to eat them and my mouth automatically puckers and stings thinking about how they tasted - hard, sour and bitter as cough medicine. I couldn't stand them even with a snowdrift of white sugar on top. As I grew up I came to like (with a lingering apprehension) the occasional pink grapefruit. The pink varieties are sweeter and honestly, I just like things that are pink. How can you not like pink food? Pink is pretty.

Today's grapefruit was not so much pink as ruby. It was sweet and rich, perfumed and with a hint of bitterness at the end which was pleasant instead of medicinal. Think arugula. Bitter for amateurs. Enough to add balance and depth but not enough to overpower the other flavors.

I loved this grapefruit. It was so perfect, so seasonal, so right here and now. While I ate it, I was glad to be right where I am, here in Florida at the beginning of December, the start of citrus season. I loved its simplicity. Who needs a $45.00 brunch with Belgian waffles and omelet stations when you can have a fruit, pulled off a tree and sliced in half?

Run to the store and take advantage of our beautiful Florida citrus. Be careful if you're on medication though. There are several medications that specify that you must not eat grapefruit while on them. Grapefruit has something mysterious in it that interacts dangerously with some medicines.

Here is a list of some lovely, sophisticated recipes using grapefruit. I notice that many of them pair grapefruit and avocado and I find this intriguing. I can see how they would go perfectly together. How do you like to eat grapefruit?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chestnuts Roasting

It's officially the Christmas Season and by now you've probably heard these lyrics somewhere: "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." I've always associated chestnuts with the holidays and I have many memories of being in New York City and Philadelphia, bundled up to the point where I could barely walk, rushing to get where I was going to get in from the cold, and smelling the roasty smoke of chestnuts on the grills of street vendors. It was a beautiful smell. Even the thought of that chestnut smoke makes my heart ache to visit Herald Square in December. Chestnuts are an "Up-North" thing, I thought.

My dad likes chestnuts a lot. He can't wait until they appear in the grocery stores and doesn't mind where they come from. He painstakingly carves little x's into the shells of each one before charring them on his BBQ grill. We always have them on Christmas and I admit they are the absolute last thing I ever thought would remotely be considered a local product. I almost fainted in Whole Foods this afternoon when I saw an enormous bin filled with Florida chestnuts.

But that's why I'm so glad I started this project. Writing this blog makes me keep my eyes open for the unexpected. It makes me try things and think about my food and the world in new ways. I learn things like this. Chestnuts come from Florida. Well, some of them do anyway. Right next to these homegrown chestnuts were red mesh bags of chestnuts imported all the way from Italy. There were also canned versions and a jarred chestnut cream that looked fancy and french.

I didn't buy any chestnuts today. The only reason why not is because chestnuts are quite perishable and must be refrigerated. I'm busy this week and won't be able to get to my parents' house to use their grill until next weekend. I would rather buy the chestnuts closer to when I plan to eat them in order to avoid waste and cluttering up my small refrigerator. I also want time to research some chestnut recipes. I've only ever had chestnuts roasted, but there are a million things you can do with them that are more creative than that. They are hugely popular in France and show up in the oddest of dishes where they are called marrons (also the name for the color of my hair). I think when I visited Paris a few years ago I recall seeing some sort of elaborate meringuey, chocolatey, chestnutty torte of some sort that was intriguing. In addition to desserts, chestnuts can be used in savory dishes. They are extremely versatile, so I want to see what I can come up with, but in the end I may just opt for plain. Plain is good. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

As I researched Florida Chestnuts, I found two growers who also take online orders, though it seems like the season is just closing up. I guess I discovered these a little too late. If you want some, they have plenty at the Fort Lauderdale Whole Foods.

Shamrock Square, in Monticello, Florida has an extremely informative website that will tell you all about Florida chestnuts. There are also some recipes and an interesting history. Turns out that American Chestnuts were once a staple of our diet and were common in American forests. Many people and animals depended on these trees for food and shelter until a blight caused by an invasive species wiped them all out. Finally, growers like Shamrock Square are helping the species make a comeback. Yet another important reason to eat local!

You can also order from Hillcrest Chestnuts in Lake City.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pompano Beach Green Market

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, there is no CSA delivery this week and I decided to make a visit to the Pompano Beach Green Market, which is located at Atlantic Boulevard and Dixie Highway in Pompano. Last year and the year before that I went once, so one could consider today my annual visit. Each year I hope it will get better, so I go, optimistic, and leave a little disappointed.

I think it's great that Pompano Beach has a green market at all. I really do. The market is in a very old section of Pompano, right along the train tracks, and it's appealingly quaint and picturesque. I like the atmosphere. When you visit the Pompano Green Market you really do get a sense of community spirit and I love that.

The market is tiny, but it tries. There is a live band playing and vendors selling homemade soaps, skin creams, a small selection of plants, crafts, books and one booth selling stone crabs, seafood and fish dip. Today, there were only two tents of fresh produce and of course (you know what I'm going to say) the majority of it was not from anywhere around here. This saddens me.

While there wasn't a lot of Florida produce there was some, which is a start. A friend of mine had recommended the booth run by the Indian lady. She has a larger variety of fruits and vegetables than the other produce vendor and more of her items are from around here. At certain points later in the season she will probably sell some items that she grows herself. Today she had local peppers, squash, zucchini, eggplant, green beans, okra and bok choy. I bought all of the above except okra, and she even threw in several free yellow squash for me. This vendor's wares looked fresh and were nicely displayed, even the ones from Honduras and Costa Rica (grumble grumble). While some of her fruits and vegetables were shipped from elsewhere, at least they were all tropical. She had a big pile of boniato which appeared to be of a much higher quality than that in the grocery store.

The other produce vendor was different. This vendor had a couple of the same items, but also had several Northern-style items like russet potatoes, a few, very standard varieties of apple and pears. I find better local variety than that at Whole Foods. I was disappointed in produce vendor two, although on a more positive note, produce vendor two did have some local tomatoes, but none of them were ripe. I'd rather have no tomato than a pink tomato. I can wait a few more weeks and I still have some cherry tomatoes left from last week's CSA box.

It took me less than ten minutes to zip through the Pompano Green Market. I liked the Indian lady's stand the best and was pleased that she offered some locally grown vegetables at extremely inexpensive prices. She told me they came from the Boynton area, so that's really close. I also liked the service she provided and I will be back later in the season to see what else she might have. Next time, I would also like to ask the seafood vendor about the origins of some of his seafood. If he makes his own smoked fish spread, I'll try some of that too. Unfortunately with smoked fish dip, a lot of places use a pre-made food service brand and try to pass it off as their own. Beware of this dirty trick.

The Pompano Green Market has a pleasant atmosphere and is a good place for a short, morning outing. There are locally grown items, but they are outnumbered by things grown out of state and out of the country, so you have to really pay attention to what you're buying and ask the vendors specific questions. While there are better farmer's markets much further south, the Pompano Green Market is a good start and Broward County's best, current option.

The Pompano Green Market runs until April 24th, every Saturday morning from 8am until 1pm.

Pompano Green Market Official Page on the Pompano Historical Society Site

Pompano Green Market on Local Harvest

The Pompano Historical Society Site - some really interesting info on local history in blog form. I really enjoyed this site and found it worth checking out, especially if you like learning about the unique culture and diversity of old Florida.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you all have a beautiful Thanksgiving holiday. Celebrate the harvest, the land, the farmers and the animals which provided your feast. May you eat everyday with compassion, mindfulness and gratitude. May every day be a day of thanks.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Finished Roselle Tonic

I'm in love with the color. It's such a nice Autumny, holiday red.

Roselle Tonic

I've had roselle on my mind for a long time. I have had hibiscus tea before (remember Red Zinger?) and I am particularly fond of a Latin drink called Agua Fresca de Jamaica. In fact, that's the only name I've known it by and I get very excited when I find it on the menu in Mexican restaurants. I love Jamaica (pronounced Ha-MY-cuh, not like the island). It's a bit like fruit punch and maybe a little like cranberry juice. It's sweet-tart and refreshing. I knew that Jamaica came from the roselle hibiscus flower which grows well in tropical climates all over the world, but I didn't know where I could get any fresh. In Latin markets you can often find the dried calyces but they aren't local.

I was so excited last weekend when, included in my first CSA delivery, there was a bag of fresh roselle calyces, and a recipe for making roselle tonic, which is essentially a tisane made from the roselle and some spices with a little sweetener. I decided to make my own version and luckily I had the recipe to go by because I had no idea that you had to pull the sepals off of the seed ball. With all these calyces, sepals and seed balls I almost feel like I'm back in 10th grade biology again. The sepals are like hard petals. You can see in the picture above. Once you pull them off the green seed ball, you toss them in a pot of boiling water. I also included a few chunks of crystallized ginger and a cinnamon stick. I also decided to make use of one of my lemongrass stalks by chopping it up and throwing it in the pot too. The roselle and the lemongrass complement one another very nicely. I brought the whole thing to a boil and then turned off the heat and let it sit for about an hour. While it was steeping I stirred in some brown sugar. Last, I strained it into a glass pitcher and let it chill overnight in the refrigerator. This morning I poured a glass and it was wonderful - light and refreshing, sweet, tart, spicy and lemony. It tasted more like iced tea than the Agua Fresca de Jamaica I am familiar with. I'm almost certain they either make that from a mix or from larger amounts of the dried calyces, resulting in a more concentrated drink. I think I actually prefer my lighter version and it's such a lovely ruddy color.

Apparently roselle tonic is a popular Christmas drink all over the Caribbean, so it was perfect for this festive time of year. I think it will be lovely on my Thanksgiving table. Roselle is also a diuretic and may lower cholesterol. How exciting! I love when I find something that is healthy that actually tastes good and is pretty too. I read up on roselle and you can make syrups and jellies with it too. Maybe if I get more of it in the future, I'll try something else.

Here is roselle's Wikipedia entry.

A very detailed site all about roselle.

Monday, November 23, 2009

CSA So Far

Well I made a big Sunday dinner yesterday which included some of my share. I have to admit to you that I did nothing wild, exciting, daring or original with my produce yet. I didn't even make the tomato stewed green beans. You know what I did? I steamed them. And I made corn on the cob. How boring am I? But sometimes I like my vegetables plain, so they taste like themselves and local, organic veggies have more flavor and depth than their wilted, limp cousins in the grocery store. It's been a while since I've had a just-picked anything so I've been relishing the vegetables in their purest, most unadorned states so far. This morning I actually ate leftover, cold green beans out of the container while standing in front of the open fridge. I also popped a cherry tomato into my mouth as if it were a doughnut hole. I didn't take pictures. You've all seen a steamed green bean before.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My First Delivery!

Yesterday I received my first delivery and look at what a bounty it is. All I need is a cornucopia! Can you believe this is only a half share? (CSA shares come in half or full.) Since it's just me and my husband a half share is more than enough. We get a huge amount of vegetables and other goodies each week during the growing season. This week we got a mixture of strange and familiar, though mostly familiar and I tend to really love when they include unusual items that challenge my palate and cooking skills. In our box we got (clockwise from left): cherry tomatoes, red leaf lettuce, corn, callaloo, lemongrass, green beans, a red flower that has many names but which I call Jamaica (more on that later), and an avocado which I am determined to enjoy when it gets ripe. There is also some dill hiding in there too. I plan to make a big salad with a buttermilk dill dressing. I'll definitely do some coconut callaloo rice and my imagination is all awhir about what I can do with lemongrass. So far, I've been cracking open the stalks and smelling them. Lemongrass makes for great aromatherapy. It kind of smells like Pledge, but I mean that in a good way. It also reminds me of the lemon lollipops I used to get at the bank when I was little. The items I was happiest to receive were the green beans and tomatoes. I stew the green beans in a lemony tomato sauce and eat them as a meal on their own. It's a middle eastern recipe I learned from my family. I'll show you how to make it too. I'm just happy to get some tomatoes with flavor. Last summer, when tomatoes weren't in season down here so much, there was a tomato blight up north. The tomatoes in the grocery store were scarce and the ones they did manage to import from God knows where, were hard, tasteless and pink; not fit to eat. I didn't think it was worth it, so I haven't had a good tomato since I was in the Chesapeake region in August and got some of their local crop which hadn't been harmed by the blight. I think I'll probably eat these tomatoes raw like little candies, although my mother mentioned to me that she had some excellent cherry tomatoes in Napa last summer which were stir fried in olive oil and balsamic syrup. That sounds tempting too. We'll see. Luckily I have plenty!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I'm Still Here

Tomorrow is the start of CSA season! Tomorrow afternoon I will go pick up my first box of locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, roots and fungi. I list all of those things because you just never know what you're going to get each week and the last CSA season in which I participated, I received all of the above. For me, the waiting for the deliveries to start feels like waiting for Christmas. I guess that makes today Christmas Eve! I'm absolutely beside myself with excitement because I plan to use whatever is in my box tomorrow to create some exciting dishes for Thanksgiving and it's been far too long since I've gorged myself on fresh Swiss Chard. I'm hoping for some of that, but any fresh greens make me happy.

Once I get home and get everything sorted out, I will photograph the contents of this week's delivery. Then I will post and explain everything, including how a CSA works for those of you who may not be familiar with what it is.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Martha Stewart is a Temperist

I am mildly outraged. This afternoon I was watching Martha Stewart, who has had several farmers and culinary artisans on her program in the past year touting the local food movement. Today Martha's guest was Liz Thorpe of Murray's Cheese in New York City. Ms. Thorpe has recently written a book called The Cheese Chronicles which discusses cheeses from all over America. I plan on ordering the book immediately to see what it says about our fair state. As Ms. Thorpe mentioned that wonderful and unique cheeses are now produced in all fifty states Martha Stewart recoiled and said: "EVEN IN FLORIDA????"

No, she did not just say that, I thought to myself. How dare Martha Stewart?! Why on earth would she say something like that? What did her reaction imply? Why didn't she say "Even in South Dakota???" What does Martha think we are down here? A bunch of Kraft Singles eating culinary heathens? Come on Martha. Get with it. Why wouldn't cheese be made in Florida? Of course artisan cheese is made in Florida and while Martha Stewart may be shocked to hear this, I think South Florida in particular has one of the most diverse, exciting and thriving local food communities in the country. Locavores down here, as I'm learning, have a wider variety of edible resources and actually have more options than their counterparts in temperate climates. And pfft, we get more fresh mangoes and mahi-mahi than we even know what to do with and yes, Martha we do have local cheese.

Winter Park Dairy in Winter Park produces an artisan bleu cheese, which is available for order. I know I'll be ordering some immediately. You can see it in the photograph above, which I borrowed from their thorough and detailed website.

You can also order freshly made, local, artisan goat cheese from Redland Mediterranean Organics. I've had it and I know how fantastic it is. They make several varieties of cheese.

Those are but two examples of Florida cheeses.

Martha Stewart, stop privileging the temperate climate and dissing Florida. The tropics are where it's at.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I really like Callaloo. It might be the name - it sounds a bit silly and a bit like a howl. The first time I ever had it, I was in Jamaica. In Jamaica, Callaloo is practically the national dish, right after Jerk and the leafy green is extremely popular all over the Caribbean where it is cooked in a stew of the same name. Most people who eat Callaloo enjoy it in stew form or mixed into coconut rice. Both recipes are delicious. Until two years ago when I joined my CSA, I had never seen fresh Callaloo outside of Jamaica. Here in Florida we have a robust and thriving population of people from all of what we call "The Islands." These people do a good job of maintaining their rich and diverse cultures here in South Florida and our grocery stores do a fair job at stocking products from the Bahamas, Jamaica and other islands. I enjoy the Jamaican section of Publix where one can find all sorts of interesting, imported products. They sell Callaloo in cans. Canned Callaloo is as disgusting as canned spinach. I wouldn't eat it if you paid me. I have never understood why, if we have such a big population of people from the Island nations living in our area, we can't sell fresh Callaloo in the grocery stores. What's even more ridiculous is that Callaloo is a hearty crop and grows very well here. It's nutritious, keeps well and tastes good, so why is it so hard to find?

As I anxiously await the return of my CSA box in less than a month, one of the things I most look forward to is Callaloo. I like it better than collards, turnip greens, mustard greens and kale. It cooks faster and has a better flavor than most other greens I've tried. It's only a little bitter. I would describe it as a cross between spinach and collard greens. I prefer it sauteed in olive oil, fresh garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. I either enjoy it plain or I stir it into rice cooked in coconut milk.

Last week I finally got my Callaloo fix from the Bee Heaven Farm booth at the Edible Garden Festival. I can't tell you how excited I was. Since I hadn't had it in almost two years, I opted for the simple sautee. It was instant gratification.

First I pulled off all the leaves (you can eat the stems, but I don't like them as much). Then rinse them very well in a tub of water. I rinse them a few times because I find a lot of bugs and dirt in fresh greens. Then you just heat up a swirl of olive oil and throw the wet leaves in. Stir them and add some chunks of fresh garlic, sea salt and pepper to taste and some hot peppers. I have dried, but a little fresh scotch bonnet would be really good if you can manage the heat. Stiry fry until the leaves wilt and then add in about a 1/2 cup (or a little more) of water. Cook the leaves in the water for about ten minutes (stirring) or until the water cooks away. I find ten minutes is the best amount of time because the leaves get tender but not overcooked and they still retain their emerald sheen. A lot of people cook Callaloo much, much longer, but I don't like to eat food the color of Army pants. When it's done, check for seasonings and eat it up. I have to warn you though. Callaloo suffers from major shrinkage, so a gigantic bundle of raw greens will only make about one or two servings once it's cooked.

I think we should start a petition to make Publix carry fresh Callaloo. I also think the plant would make a good addition to home gardens, though I searched and searched and found it almost impossible to find Callaloo seeds for sale. Maybe Farmer Margie can tell us where she gets her seeds and give us some advice on growing it in our yards.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Florida Sel

Sea Salt has become this year's bacon. It's in everything now, from caramels to Campbell's soup. People are crazy about it and there are several varieties from several different seas, all with different properties, colors (there's even pink salt) and minerals which alter the salt's flavor. Some people believe that sea salt is a much healthier alternative to table salt, while others just like the taste and crunchy texture of sea salt. One of the best sea salts in the world comes from France and is called "Fleur de Sel" which means "Flower of Salt." I love that name. This is because I just love anything that sounds french and involves flowers. Fleur de Sel is expensive though. I brought some back from France and I've been conserving it for the past three years trying to make it last. Then I had an idea. I should make my own. Last summer when I read the book Plenty, I was fascinated, when at the end, the authors harvested their own sea salt. All they did was gather some seawater and boil it down until nothing but salt remained. I could do that! How hadn't I thought of that before? Surely it couldn't be that difficult and living a mile from the beach, I have access to as much seawater as I want. I began to have visions of salt harvesting. I planned to call it "Florida Sel." Get it? How can you not love that name? Come on! Admit how clever that is. I had to harvest my own sea salt.

The first step to harvesting your own sea salt is to go collect some seawater. This proved very easy for me. I went to the beach with a pitcher with a tight fitting lid. All you have to do is take the pitcher, wade into the water about thigh deep and scoop up some water. Ignore the stares of your fellow beach goers who think you're a crazy person. Pretend not to hear the child nearby asking his mother what that crazy lady is doing leaving the beach with a pitcher of seawater that she just took a picture of. Instead, take a moment to admire South Florida's beautiful beaches and thank the Universe for the generous resource that is our ocean.

The best way to transport a pitcher of seawater in a car is to rest the pitcher inside of a gigantic stock pot. I had imagined all sorts of disasters that involved soaking the floor of my car, but nothing transpired. The pot caught all of the spill-over. Just make sure you don't drive like a maniac. When transporting seawater in a pitcher inside of a stockpot it is best to drive as if you are ninety. On the way you should congratulate yourself heartily at how clever you are for thinking up the name "Florida Sel" and you should begin planning on giving big, tastefully packaged jars of your own, homemade sea salt to everyone you know for the holidays.

Before I made it home a friend called me and asked what I was doing. I said that I was making my own sea salt, to which my friend replied in horror:


She then proceeded to list terrible things like diseases, contaminants, tar and poop. If you have a friend like this, at this stage in the salt making processes, it is best to ignore her. After all, the water looks clear. But in all seriousness, if you're going to harvest your own sea salt you probably shouldn't do as I did and naively go to a public beach in the "Yachting Capital of the World." You should always make sure that the seawater you collect is clean. I decided to flagrantly ignore this precaution because DUH! Florida Sel, people. I did it for the name.

But concerned friends aside, the next step in making your own sea salt is to strain it and boil it. Read on to see how I made my own "Florida Sel"...

Florida Sel - The Strain

You have to make sure that your seawater is free of sand, sticks, sea creatures, krill or whatever is in seawater. I poured it from the pitcher I collected it in through a sieve lined with about four layers of cheesecloth. I have one of those sieves that hooks onto the edge of a pot or a bowl, so this made it easier. Make sure you don't skip this step because my cheesecloth caught some unidentifiable black specks. You don't want black specks in your salt. Once you've done this step, set the big pot of sea water on the stove, turn on the stove and wait for it to boil. You should also rinse and save the cheesecloth because it can't possibly get very dirty only having some seawater poured through it once.

Florida Sel - The Water Has to Go Somewhere

After about a half an hour, go check on the sea water which has been boiling exuberantly. Observe now that the sea water in the pot has not so much boiled away, but has instead just moved out of the pot and onto your ceiling and is now dripping on your kitchen floor. The sea water is also covering your microwave, entire stove top and your apartment now resembles a sauna. A salty sauna. It is now time to take protective measures because you remember the corrosive properties of salt water. Fashion a suit of armor for your microwave door with sheets of aluminum foil, Secure them with scotch tape because that's all you have, though the steam from the boiling pot will quickly cause these to wilt. Replace scotch tape every few minutes in a last ditch effort to save the finish of your microwave door. Consider for the first time that harvesting your own sea salt might not be as quaint, charming and earth-goddess of an activity as the books made it sound.

Florida Sel - The Explosion

After boiling for a little over an hour, your pot of sea water will suddenly explode and by explode I mean, literally. Explode. All over your kitchen. It will explode with such force that your cat will flee beneath your bed, her tail puffed in terror so that it resembles a squirrel's. You will have hot, salty water all over your entire, very small kitchen. It will not be pretty. Your ears will ring from the sound of the explosion. Carefully turn off the stove, avoiding the pot. Note that when you slide the pot off the burner, it will explode again. If you get the brilliant idea to pour the remaining, clearly volatile water into a bowl and put it in the microwave, it will explode in the microwave too, adding to the things in your kitchen that you will have to scrub. At this point, it is best to just give up, leave the water in the pot and go watch Access Hollywood.

Florida Sel - The Conclusion

Finally, once you've cleaned your kitchen, pour the remaining cloudy, explosive water into a glass bowl and let it sit beside your kitchen sink for a good two weeks until it finally evaporates, leaving a fine, glittering film of what has to be salt (or sewage crystals?). Glance at it with disdain each day as you wash dishes and finally, when it looks dry, use a spoon to scrape it out of the bowl and into a suitable container. For a gallon of seawater, a suitable sized container for holding your homemade, self-harvested sea salt would be a thimble. I only exaggerate slightly, folks. I measured it and I only got a tablespoon of salt from the gallon of water, which really doesn't seem all that efficient or cost effective at all. Or practical. So now I have this tablespoon of real Florida sea salt and I'm scared to even eat it because of the sewage, e coli, cruise ship fuel, industrial waste and all that mercury that somehow gets into fish. Also, I still haven't gotten all the salt crud off my stove top. Maybe I just need to move to the Puget Sound. Nah, I'd miss the mangoes.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Edible Garden Festival Pictures

Here are some shots from yesterday's Edible Garden Festival at Fairchild. Yes, teachers still get in for free with ID, so I was pretty happy about saving the 20$ admission fee. The afternoon was humid and partly sunny and this festival definitely lacked the heavy turnout that I despaired over at this past summer's Mango festival. I was pleased with the smaller crowds and easier parking. The festival itself was smaller though, with many of the same vendors as other festivals. There were quite a few good things to eat, a scarecrow display, clever bats fashioned from fallen palm bark, and several decorated pumpkins. I saw a box garden display (above), met some students who are creating a community garden on the University of Miami campus and bought a ton of fresh, local veggies at the Bee Heaven Farm booth. Best of all, I finally got to meet Margie, whom I've emailed with for a couple years and never met in person. I bought an unruly bouquet of callaloo, organic corn on the cob, crookneck squash and zucchini, a four pack of those addictive smoked eggs and a jar of Antidesma (maoberry) butter. They also had heirloom tomato seedlings and baby red choi for sale. Fairchild itself had a booth selling fruits and honey grown in its own edible garden. They had quite an interesting variety with two different kinds of avocado, tamarind pods, mamey, carambola and to my surprise, persimmons. I didn't know persimmons grew here. For some reason I associated persimmons with chilly climates. I know they're popular in the Midwest in the Fall and there were several wild persimmons growing in Delaware when I was growing up, but I've never seen persimmons down here. In all, the festival was small and pleasant and a good way to pick up some early harvests before CSA begins next month. It was the perfect, tropical style event to replace the corn mazes and cider mills of fall that so many Floridians long for this time of year. The Edible Garden Festival really made me excited for the first harvests and I left uplifted, feeling like celebrating the season as it manifests in the place where I live.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fairchild Edible Garden Festival This Weekend!

Fairchild's Edible Garden Festival is this weekend and I can't wait. I've already gotten an email from Redland Organics letting me know that they will have produce, eggs, honey and seedlings for sale. You have to try the smoked eggs. They would make the best egg salad in the world. There will also be a display of the scarecrows from the scarecrow contest and several lectures, tours and demonstrations. I am beside myself with excitement and will be going on Saturday. I plan on doing some serious spending because they always have a ton of neat stuff to buy and because I am going to attempt a container garden on my parents' patio and want some heirloom tomato seedlings. The last time I tried that the stupid iguanas devoured my plants, so we'll see what happens this time. On one visit to Fairchild, they told me that teachers get in free with teacher ID cards, so keep that in mind. Hopefully it's still true. Here is the schedule of events where there is a five dollar off admission coupon that you can print out as well.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Long Five Weeks..

It's only five weeks until my CSA shares from Redland Organics begin being delivered. I can not wait. I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas. Being a member of a CSA though, is like getting to have Christmas every single week! Imagine this - every Saturday you go pick up a big box filled with fruits and veggies, all grown and harvested nearby and you never know what is going to be in the box! This excites me beyond belief. I love the element of surprise. It keeps me on my toes and it keeps me out of ruts of dull eating. It gets my imagination simmering and I definitely eat more nutritious meals because I have to use up what I've been given. The CSA makes me a better cook and much better eater and it forces me to try new things, which are usually items they don't sell in the grocery store. I'll be honest though. I don't always like everything I try and that's ok with me. Sometimes I'll find vegetables or fruits in the box that I can't stand. When that happens I either try new methods of preparation or I give them away. I can always find someone else who is happy to have my rejects and I enjoy being generous.

I just got an email from Redland Organics. Every season it seems they add more and more options. You can buy egg shares or honey shares. Two years ago I bought an egg share and every week I got four to six, lovely, bluish-greenish-grey or caramel colored eggs. I didn't buy the honey because I don't eat enough of it to justify that and one week I got a free jar of honey in my box anyway. It lasted me the whole season.

This year they're offering two new add-ons. You can buy a goat cheese share or a Mediterranean share. I think this is so exciting. If you buy the goat cheese share, every week you get a different kind of goat cheese, all made right here. I wonder if they have to call it "pet food." I say this because in the 90s I lived in another state and worked at a Waldorf school. There was a nearby Biodynamic farm that produced goat cheese, but for some reason it was illegal and they had to call it pet food, just like with the raw milk. We all ate it and didn't die. But I digress. I am considering the goat cheese share this year because I love goat cheese and I've been wanting to explore local cheese options to write about. We'll see how I can work it into my budget. I'd also like to mention that I tried the goat cheese at the Possum Trot brunch and I've been wishing I could get my hands on more of it ever since. The one we had there was kind of dry, mild and crumbly. It was harder than a feta with a more delicate taste. It was addictive.

This year you can also purchase a Mediterranean share as well. That means that every week you can get a Mediterranean salad like hummus, baba ghanoush etc. I think it's a great idea, but I'll opt out of that one. My family is partly Middle Eastern anyway, therefore I have this stuff coming out of my ears. You would not believe the vat of smoked eggplant my grandmother foisted on me the other day, so I clearly do not need to be purchasing something I already know how to make and have on hand already. But for people who are not related to my eggplant and tahina obsessed grandmother, the Mediterranean share is a good idea.

Uggh, did I say it was five weeks away? Hurry up and grow, plants!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stone Crab Season 2009!

It's finally here and you know you've been waiting for it since May! Stone Crab Season begins today! I happen to love the mild, sweet taste of stone crabs. I think they taste fresh and light like the sea and many people I know are completely addicted to them in spite of their often exorbitant cost. Last year was a bad year for the stone crab industry so they were cheaper, but this year promises to be better for the crabbers, so I'm guessing the prices will continue to rise. You can read more about the subject in this article. The Miami New Times Short Order food blog also has an excellent and informative post which will tell you everything you always wanted to know about the crustaceans. Stone crabs are probably the most loved and best known Florida food so they're pretty easy to find in fish markets and restaurants. I usually purchase mine at the Fish Peddler East in Fort Lauderdale because the restaurants are so expensive. The Sun-Sentinel's Thursday food section also has an interesting article about the stone crabs at Trulucks.I was surprised to learn that the restaurant has its own fleet of crabbers over on the west coast. They'll start serving them tomorrow and according to the article Trulucks is running an All You Can Eat Stone Crab Special for $49.00 every Monday. I've never been to Trulucks, but a new location just opened up in the Fort Lauderdale Galleria, so I may have to give them a try soon. Also today, the venerable institution that started it all, Joe's Stone Crab, opens up for a new season.

A couple years ago I wrote a much longer, humorous essay all about Stone Crabs which was published in the book Hungry? Thirsty? Miami. I think the editor did a fantastic job on the book and I highly recommend it, and not just because I want you to read my Stone Crab essay.

If anyone has any suggestions about where to find the best, most reasonably priced Stone Crabs please let me know in the comments section.

Happy Cracking!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Almost Time...

It's almost here! The Pompano Beach Green Market reopens for the season on Halloween, Saturday October 31st. I will definitely be there, although I have been in past years and I admit that I was a little disappointed. Do I even have to tell you why? Of course not. I've said it about 300 times before. Like many other farmer's markets in Florida, they sell the same things you can get at Publix, which are not local. But some stuff is local and I hope this year there will be even more products for sale that are grown around here. A friend of mine who has since moved away particularly liked one vendor - an Indian woman who grew several of the items she sold in her own yard. Of particular interest to me is her purslane. I've never had purslane and I hear it grows well here. My friend liked it. If you don't know what purslane is, well, neither do I. It's a type of green with thick leaves and yellow flowers, but beyond that I know little else. Hopefully she's growing it this year and it will find its way into a future post.

I wish Halloween would hurry up and get here already!

Here is the Pompano Beach Green Market's website with further information about the opening and how you can be a volunteer. Of course I considered volunteering, but I have enough stuff to do already that I can't get done, so one more thing would be too much. I'll be happy just shopping at the market instead of working there, although I'm sure volunteering would be a lovely experience.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sour Oranges

My most interesting local find this week were some Florida grown Sour Oranges at Whole Foods. I was surprised to see them because citrus fruits don't come in season for approximately another two months, but these are different. Sour Oranges were new to me. Their mottled, orange and green camouflage-pattern rinds attracted my interest immediately. I picked one up and smelled it, finding the Sour Orange to be wonderfully fragrant. If you nick the peel with your fingernail you can smell the aromatic oils which will remind you of natural cleaning products. In fact, many of these scents really come from Sour Orange oil, so that makes a lot of sense. I bought some sour oranges, having no idea what to do with them, and came home to do a little research. Remember, my local eating project has a lot to do with expanding my picky palate. I want to try lots of new things.

Here's what I found out: Sour Oranges are so tart and acidic that you can't eat them. They have to be used like lemons and limes and sweetened depending on the recipe. I also found out that Sour Orange juice is the basis for Mojo, the quintessential Cuban marinade of which I am a gigantic fan. You can also make marmalade (but I'll wait for more calamondins this winter) and Sour Oranges can be used to make curd or pie filling (a la Key Lime). Truly, the last thing I need to eat is pie, so I'm opting for the savory route and plan to soon make a big batch of homemade Mojo, which I shall use to marinate grilled chicken. I am currently toying with ideas and when I make the Mojo I will post all about it. Besides not needing to eat pie, the main reason I decided to use the Sour Oranges for Mojo was that I wanted to not only highlight local fruit, I wanted to celebrate local culture (Cuban) because South Florida's diversity is part of what makes this part of the world such a fun and unusual place to live.

One thing I have to mention here is that if you look in the picture, the sign that Whole Foods has advertising the Sour Oranges is really ridiculous. It says something to the effect that local fruit is good for lunches or ready to go or some such nonsense. Someone who doesn't know what this fruit is would think it was like a regular orange and meant for eating out of hand. Imagine this person's utter horror when taking a bite! Sour Oranges are not good for lunchboxes Whole Foods. Not unless you want to play a dirty trick on someone.

Here is some more info on Sour Oranges.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Raw Milk and Whole Foods

A few weeks ago I was in the Boca Whole Foods scouting out local products. I was very surprised to find Raw Milk from Golden Fleece Dairy, located in Northern Florida. I had never seen raw milk sold in a grocery store before. Of course it was labeled as "pet food" with lots of winking and nodding involved. Apparently, because of safety and sanitation concerns, in Florida raw milk must be sold as "pet food" and not for human consumption, though I can not imagine who would use really expensive milk as a pet food. I mean, I know cats kind of like milk... Well anyway, everyone knows it's not really for pets. It annoys me that it's clearly for people, but just has to be called "pet food." I don't like when people use words deceptively, whether it's to subtly deceive consumers or to get around laws whether or not one believes those laws are fair. I just don't like words used in that way. I don't think just calling something by a different name truly changes its meaning. As an English teacher, I tell my students to always and only use words for the highest good. I don't think this qualifies. But anyway. That is not what this post is about. I just got off on a ranting tangent about semantics. This post is about local raw milk in Florida and how now, just a few weeks after I snapped the pictures above, Whole Foods has stopped selling it. And I didn't even get a chance to try it!

As of September 30th, Whole Foods stopped selling the raw milk. There is now a petition to get them to bring it back.

Clearly, the raw cow milk was very popular because when I was at the store, they were completely sold out of it. The raw goat's milk wasn't nearly as popular. Had there been some cow's milk, I would have bought and tried it. I don't like goat's milk, so I opted to save my $7.99.

Some people believe that raw milk is dangerous. Some people believe that pasteurized, commercially produced milk is equally as dangerous but in a different way. Some raw milk supporters attribute practically magical healing properties to the raw milk that is produced in a safe, clean environment. The debates about raw milk can get very heated and I have absolutely no desire to get involved in one with either side. I'd like to stay neutral here.

I will disclose two things though. First, I have consumed raw milk on a Biodynamic Farm in New York, some of which came from another Biodynamic Farm in Massachusetts. I lived to tell about it. At the same time that I lived to tell of the experience, I also did not experience any magical healing properties of the raw milk and I got the same upset stomach from it that I get from other milk, although everyone around me said it wouldn't aggravate any lactose intolerance. It did, however, taste spectacular because it was full of cream and lumps of butterfat. It was far superior in taste to any other milk I have ever had.

Second, my grandmother, her mother and siblings almost died from drinking raw milk and my grandmother has told me this story about three hundred times. I've told you that I come from some rugged farm folk. My grandmother, one of twelve siblings, was the daughter of a real sharecropper and grew up on farms. All they had to drink was raw milk. It was their way of life. There was no other option. One time the milk got contaminated, everyone drank it and everyone got sick. My great-grandmother lived only by a miracle. The cow even died from whatever it was. My grandmother informed me that this was not all that uncommon and that she knew of several children who got sick and/or died when she was growing up because the milk was bad. This however, was 80 years ago. These people were poor and uneducated. They didn't know about sanitation and they didn't have the same technology, medicines etc. that we have now. I can speculate that if raw milk comes from a knowledgable farmer who is meticulously clean and takes good care of his or her cows, that raw milk is a lot safer than what my grandmother grew up on. I will add though, that after everyone got better from the tainted milk, my grandmother never drank it again and that growing up, no one ever gave me milk.

I have never once, ever in my entire life, ever drank a glass of milk. To me, milk is an ingredient, not a beverage. I mix it in things. Lord knows, I eat plenty of dairy products. I live for cheese. I put half and half in my coffee and I really need to cut back on my ice cream intake. I just don't drink glasses of milk. Yuck. But deep down, I feel like I shouldn't be eating any dairy products, raw or pasteurized. I wish I could give up dairy. I probably won't because I like it so much, but I wish I could. When I think about it logically, it doesn't make sense to me that we'd need it in our diets. Why are humans drinking another animal's milk? I can't think of any other animals who drink another animal's milk (unless humans give it to them). I also can't think of any animals who drink milk as adults. So why do we even need it at all? Do we need it at all? I don't really know.

Here's what I think. I think you should make your own decision about what you want to eat and that it's not really anyone else's business. If you are against raw milk then don't drink it. If you feel like raw milk is the right choice for you, then you should sign the petition to bring it back to Whole Foods. If you are a vegan and don't drink milk at all, well...I'm a little jealous.

Here is an article about Whole Foods not selling raw milk anymore.

Here is the petition to bring it back if you are a supporter of raw milk.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Local Find of the Week - Calabaza or West Indian Pumpkin

It's officially October now and October means pumpkins. In temperate climates no October is complete without a visit to the pumpkin patch, but here we don't have pumpkin patches or Pumpkin U-Picks. No, we have a tent by the side of the road where some carnies sell pumpkins they've hauled down from Up North. Once the pumpkins run out they return with Christmas trees. In July they return and fill the very same tent with fireworks. Not exactly the pumpkin picking scene I remember from my childhood. Does that mean then that pumpkins don't grow here? Of course not. We have our own kind of pumpkin in the tropics and it's known as the Calabaza or West Indian pumpkin. It's my local find of the week.

I've never had it before, this Calabaza. Until today, I didn't even really know what it was, but now I'm quite familiar. The Calabaza is eaten all over the Caribbean in curries, soups, stews and sopped up with roti. It's shell is so tough that it's rarely sold whole. Instead you can find it like I did, hacked into easy to manage chunks. My Calabaza came from Whole Foods in Fort Lauderdale by way of Paradise Farms.

The hunk I purchased was very reasonably priced (I thought) at $1.21. It was large enough to serve about three people, I would say, or two very fanatical and starving ones. I really had no clue what to do with it. I'm not a huge pumpkin or squash eating fan. I like them in soups or the occasional Thanksgiving pie, but I'm not very enthusiastic beyond that. Normally I find the squash family to be grainy, stringy and bland. But still, I decided to give the Calabaza a try. I drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled it with coarse salt and set it to roast. First I had the oven at 425 because I was making a pizza. Then I had to turn it down to 350 to bake a pan of brownies. The Calabaza didn't mind. In all, I cooked it a little over an hour, until a fork sunk in without putting up a big fight and the top had begun to caramelize nicely. Then I took it out and tried a bite. Wow!! This is no bitter acorn squash or disappointing sugar pumpkin. The Calabaza means business. Its flavor (it HAD flavor) was roasty, sweet and had some body to it. The Calabaza would make a mean local pumpkin pie or flan. I liked it plain though, but imagine how good it would be with a squiggle of saw palmetto honey and a scatter of crushed allspice berries. It would be impressive as an Autumn side dish. I think I'd like it mashed as a bed for some freshly caught, roasted fish too. I'm already thinking of a million uses for it. Jack 'o' Lantern though, is not one of them.

More information about the Calabaza or West Indian Pumpkin.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Possum Trot End of Summer Brunch Photos

Thank you Robert, for feeding us so well and for inviting us to visit your unique and beautiful property. It was a wonderful morning.

Possum Trot End of Summer Brunch Photos

Possum Trot End of Summer Brunch Photos

Here's the delicious and unusual meal Chef Robert cooked for us. The brunch was served Bento style. Clockwise from the left bottom corner we have: allspice muffins, tropical fruit salad heavy on the banana and star fruit, honeyed goat labneh (yogurt), avocado stuffed with betel leaf seasoned eggs and goat cheese, a smoked egg and boiled salted jackfruit seeds, followed by callaloo, and a medley of roasted root vegetables like beets and potatoes.

Possum Trot End of Summer Brunch Photos

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

National Coffee Day

In honor of National Coffee Day today, I'd like to give you a sneak preview of two stories I'm working on.

First of all, the one thing that all Locavores around the US complain about the most (except the ones in Hawaii) is the lack of local coffee. It just doesn't really grow well in most American climates. The only American coffee we have is Kona from Hawaii, which is good, but expensive and comes from so far that it may as well come from another continent. It sort of doesn't count. The other closest coffee is Blue Mountain from Jamaica - another country yes, but good coffee that's only about an hour flight away, as opposed to a thirteen hour flight to Hawaii.

Lament no more Florida Locavores. We have local coffee. We are the luckiest locavores in America! Yes, you heard me. Coffee is grown and roasted right here in Davie, Florida. I'm not kidding you. There's not a lot of it, but you can get your hands on it. Right now the only place that sells the Davie coffee, from a company called Wagon Wheel Coffee Roaster, is at a small fruit stand in Fort Lauderdale on McNab off of Cypress (in the Pine Crest area) called "By Their Fruits" (I'm writing about them soon too).

I was in By Their Fruits a few weeks ago when I happened on the coffee. I had heard of it before, and had attempted to contact the coffee farmer himself, but to no avail. He didn't answer my emails or phone calls. The owner of By Their Fruits knows him and sells his coffee. She assured me that his experimental coffee crops had been a success and that the coffee in the bags was indeed grown right here from local beans and not simply roasted here with imported beans. I told her I had tried to contact the farmer and she took my information to pass on to him, but as yet, I still haven't heard from him. Maybe he'll read this and call or write. I really want to visit his farm and see his plants and roasting equipment.

The bag I bought pictured above cost me only $7.99 and it's delicious! It works for me and I've definitely enjoyed it. I'm enjoying it right now in honor of National Coffee Day!

Wagon Wheel Coffee Roasters in Davie

By Their Fruits Produce

Non-Local Tomatillos??

Yesterday someone left a comment saying that no tomatillos are currently growing in Homestead and that I should check the label to see if they came from a distributor in Homestead rather than a grower. I hope I haven't been duped again like I was with the non-Florida blackberries with the Florida label that I accidentally bought earlier in the summer. I bought the tomatillos and peppers at Whole Foods. Whole Foods is really good about labeling all of their locally produced wares and the produce I purchased had the orange sign under it. I was under the impression that Whole Foods labels its produce according to where it is grown and not where it's distributed. You can see the sign here. I tried to google "Southern Specialties" to see what kind of a company they are but there was no website and no information available. I could call the produce manager at Whole Foods and inquire and I may do that later, because if these tomatillos were not grown in Florida they should not be falsely labeled as such. It's deceptive advertisting to cash in on people like me who want to buy things grown nearby and that's just wrong. Or, maybe there really are some tomatillos growing somewhere in Homestead right now and not a lot of people know about them. Let's hope. Whatever their origins, the tomatillos made a delicious salsa which I served on some grilled dolphin and I know that really was caught just offshore here.

Monday, September 28, 2009


The brunch yesterday morning at Possum Trot was, in my opinion, a great success and I had a lovely time. The food was unexpected and delicious and Robert was generous enough to give us a tour around his property which contains hundreds of unique species of plant life and about 13,000 terrifying banana spiders. I honestly wish I had taken a notepad to write everything down because there was just too much information to take in. Still, I learned an enormous amount and I got to try foods which never would have been available to me otherwise.

I'd like to state for the record that I have now officially lived because I've had farm fresh bananas. And wow. Yes, they really are that good. This is coming from someone who doesn't like bananas much outside of bread. To be exact, they were Orinoco Bananas. Kind of reminds me of that old Enya song from forever ago "Orinoco Flow" except my new version would be "Eat Away, Eat Away, Eat Away" instead of "Sail Away." I know, I'm corny.

Also, boiled salted jackfruit seeds are yum. They sort of reminded me of chestnuts, in theory. I'll write more on the food later.

I took so many pictures yesterday and as I'm working today (having lunch right now) I'll have to get them off the camera and all formatted nicely before I can show you some.

In the meantime, I'd like you all to know that a tiny little piece I wrote regarding my passion for home canning can be found on page 40 of the October issue of Real Simple magazine. The piece describes an experience I had around mid-summer where I raided my pantry and stood there and ate almost an entire jar of my friend's homemade apple butter with an iced tea spoon. My friend lives in Asheville where apples are local and like me, she's really into preserving her own fruits. When she came down she brought me some jars of pickles, jellies, chutneys and apple butter. Everyone needs a friend like this.

Also, it's Yom Kippur today, so it's probably best that I refrain from writing about food any more. If you celebrate this solemn holiday, I wish you an easy fast and a wonderful year to come.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How to Make a Tomatillo Salsa - Local Style

You'll need a pound of tomatillos for a small dish of salsa. I had ten, but one was rotten inside, so I ended up with nine. The world did not end and the salsa was perfect. This is such a flexible sort of dish. I didn't even use a recipe. You don't have to measure anything. You just add as much or as little as you like. Tomatillos are not, by the way, little green tomatoes at all, but their own independent kind of fruit that is related to the tomato, yet not a tomato. I like how they wear a lovely lacy petticoat to protect their pretty green skin. This is formed by the calyx of the plant's flower and it has to be removed before the tomatillos are cooked an eaten. As you husk them, you will find that the tomatillos are extremely sticky and the sap will get all over your fingers. It's harmless and rinses right off. Other ingredients you will need if you want to make this salsa are: tomatillos, jalapenos, white onion, oil, salt and pepper, a lime, garlic to taste, a little bit of red onion and a handful of cilantro if you like it. Some people are genetically wired to despise cilantro. It tastes funny to them. I am not one of these people. I can't get enough of the stuff, so I used a big handful.
Now that you've husked all of your tomatillos, you need to rinse them off because they're sticky and attract all sorts of dust and dirt and black stuff which you can see on one of mine in this colander. Then get an oiled roasting pan and make sure your oven is preheated to 400 degrees.

Cut everything up and throw it in an oiled roasting pan. I halved the tomatillos because it seemed like it would make life easier once they were roasted and needed to go into the food processor. I was right. Also in the pan is one, cut up white onion and a jalapeno which has been seeded and rid of its white pith. You should always test your jalapenos before adding them to recipe. I take a little taste and I do this because all jalapenos are different. Some aren't hot at all while others will singe your eyebrows off. This will determine how much jalapeno you should add to your recipe. This particular one was so hot I started choking and needed some chips to cool my tongue, so I only added one and it was plenty. The end result was still a pretty picante salsa verde. Removing the seeds and white part also helps to ease the heat, but it didn't do that much in this case. Somewhere I heard that chiles are hotter in the fall. This appears to be the case.
Well, I left them in the oven a little too long because I was lobster-wrestling (just don't even ask and no I'm not kidding). They should have roasted for fifteen minutes at 400, but these were in more like 25 minutes. Not to worry though. Salsa verde is a very forgiving thing and no harm was done. Except to the lobster.

Once it cooled off I put it in the food processor. The tomatillos had shrunk enough that I was able to use the mini-prep without hauling out the heavy artillery of the Cuisinart. I also added a minced clove of garlic, juice of half a lime, some red onion and a hanfdul of cilantro with salt and pepper to taste. It seemed a tad acidic so I threw in a dash of agave nectar too. Then I whizzed it around.

Tomatillo Salsa - Local Style

The finished product: roasted tomatillo and jalapeno salsa, made with tomatillos and jalapenos grown in Homestead at Southern Specialties and purchased at the Whole Foods in Fort Lauderdale.