Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Is local food better for you ...?

Swept up by Michael Pollan's oratory about his completely local meal, and the neighborliness of supporting local producers at our farmer's market, I have been steadily narrowing my choices down to fresh local food and feeling good about it. Trust Tyler Cowen to burst that bubble for me with the following post, which explains that depending on how that kohlrabi was conveyed to market, it may or may not have a larger carbon footprint than the organic food from Chile.

Aargh. And now I recognize that the appeal of eating local was as much about solving my paradox of choice than anything else--I like the idea of cooking with what's available, what's cheap, and what's abundant instead of putting together menus from scratch, and that's pretty much all there is to it. It's convenient--because it cuts through the data smog. And perhaps that's all the reason I need for now. That is, until I read the next book on my list, which is Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle ....

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

As many people know, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It sings to me - a day to give thanks, a holiday that hasn't been corrupted by American consumerism, and a day (and in all honesty, it turns into days for me) of my favorite past time, cooking.

But this post really isn't about Thanksgiving. It's about sour cherries. Or rather, sour cherries is the reason I'm blogging about Thanksgiving in early July.

My first and regular contribution to the Thanksgiving meal started when I was young -- maybe 7 or 8 years old. I was in charge of the cherry pie, which I truly enjoyed constructing because of lattice work. While using canned pie filling (gasp), my mother did teach me a valuable skill having me make my own pastry crust. A skill I pride myself on these days (though I have yet to master Mari's whole wheat crust). As I evolved as a cook (coinciding with a competitive cooking streak between my father and I) and Thanksgiving became hugely gourmet at the Nelson household, the cherry pie went away. It was, afterall, made from a can and you know how I feel about overly starched syrupy fruit.

However, if Mari could obsess about rhubard, I am now obsessing about sour cherries -- and more importantly, access to sour cherries. They should be in season right now (in DC I would be making my blue berry sour cherry jam) and perfect for a real cherry pie, enhanced only by a touch of cinnamon. The cherries can of course be preserved, and stored for Thanksgiving, and I am a little more than excited to reintroduce the cherry pie.

But while cherries may be in season, they probably aren't ever going to make it Maine, and certainly not to our farmer's market. Quick aside on the farmer's market, I've been initially put off from our farmer's market because its lettuce lettuce and more lettuce. I complained about this to someone who said -- "its Maine; lettuce is the only thing in season until August." All the same, I don't think we grow cherries (rhubarb, peaches, pears, and apples.. but no cherries) and anticipating a dearth of my much needed fruit, my obsession is growing.

So.. question for this gang... anyone ever ordered fresh fruit directly from a distributor or whole saler and if so, could you provide me with some direction? If it turns out OK, I will in turn supply you with home made cherry pie filling.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Blogging by proxy: Mangue-Passion Framboise

So most of you on this blog don't know my friend Motome, who is going on to the advanced Cordon Bleu pastry course. If she weren't spending all her waking time attending classes, working full time, and being a parent, she would be blogging on this blog. So here's a post by proxy of a beaauuutiful cake.

"Attended the first lecture of the advanced CB course yesterday. Much of the first part is chocolates - culminating in the making of a fancy box out of chocolate for the chocolates and chocolate figurines.
Also candy-making, more fancy cakes, and finally, a wedding cake. The final exam this time is creating one's own recipe. All this will be hard work, but I think I feel pretty excited about it.
Just found a photo of one of the things I made last term that's pretty - called mangue-passion framboise. The stripey sponge cake is a lot of fun."

Cooking what you have ...

A neighbor of mine just recommended I look at this cookbook by a friend of his. I love the idea of riffing off of 5 spices--it really speaks to the way I cook, which is ingredient oriented. I like to go to the farmers market, pick up the things that look particularly good, and during the week I look at the refrigerator and my larder and figure out the menu for that evening. While I will occasionally put together a menu and go shopping for it, it has to be a pretty special occasion for me to do that.

Let me know if any of you test this out, or have a chance to browse at the bookstore. If it shows up at my favorite bookstore Candida's, I will pick it up.