Archive for July, 2010
By Leigh Lockhart
I have planted a garden every season for 13 years. The first few were motivated by a simple desire to grow some of my own food. I rented a farmhouse in Hartsburg and just started digging. I still remember how it felt (and tasted!) to eat that first radish I had grown myself. As any gardener can attest, some seasons were better than others, but regardless, I was hooked. The physical labor, being outdoors, the delicious rewards all made gardening a labor of love.
When I opened Main Squeeze in 1998 I tried to grow at least some of the produce we served at the café. I concentrated on the things I did well: tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, zucchini, beans. I bought a house in town and began tearing up more and more backyard to dedicate to garden space. When I tell a customer that the produce they are enjoying came from my garden, grown in the café’s composted food waste, well, that’s just the best, best feeling.
In 2008 my gardening efforts turned more serious as the economy worsened. I planned that season’s garden more carefully, fearing that for the first time, the garden HAD TO PRODUCE. With the help of friends that summer we had a great garden, even had enough tomatoes to sell extras at the cafe. We love to support local farmers, but providing produce from my garden helped the bottom line so I began planning for the following season, bigger and better than ever.
When my dad died suddenly in December 2008 and the economy had my business teetering on the brink, I considered my next garden. I didn’t even want to do it. Growing $500 worth of tomatoes wasn’t going to save Main Squeeze and frankly, after losing dad, I couldn’t see the point in the labors of gardening, or much else. All winter I paged unenthusiastically thru seed catalogs, but failed to order any. Or do anything else to prepare for the upcoming season. With the help of friends I managed to put in tomatoes, cucumbers and beans, but most of it rotted on the vine, a metaphor for how I felt about losing dad. I couldn’t envision the day when I would want to garden again.
As a hospital chaplain and grief counselor Daddy knew how to offer the deepest kind of compassion and comfort, the kind that really healed people. So I relied on his words to help pull me out. “Time, tears and talking” he would say, and by this spring I was buying seeds. I spent many solitary hours digging in the dirt this spring and it seemed with every new bed built, every seed planted, every plant staked and trellised, every tomato harvested, I felt more and more my old self. As the plants grew taller I could feel myself healing, even having moments of joy, like the warm June evening when a neighbor played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. I felt Daddy right there beside me in the dirt and it was magical.
You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt, that’s for sure. Next year I will grow beets. Lots and lots of beets because these were his favorite. I will roast them, top them with Goatsbeard Farm Moniteau Blue Cheese, maybe some crushed walnuts and lemon. I will serve them with ice cold buttermilk, cornbread and tomatoes. Closer to daddy and heaven never will I be.
Leigh is a culinary wonder and owner of Main Squeeze Natural Foods Cafe in Downtown Columbia
Visit Main Squeeze Here!
This spring was not kind to my radishes. I harvested a few, but noticed they grew most quickly above ground without creating much of anything “radish” wise. I pouted briefly, before realizing I had used all my heirloom seeds and would need more. So wild and crazy went my radish patch. I had no idea what I was getting into. Seemingly suddenly my cute tame garden entry was taken over by enormous stalks with flowers going every which way.
I admit it was pretty, despite the chaos. There were vibrant purple flowers along with crisp whites. The flowers were almost as pretty as those cute little radishes I had expected. They were also tall, much taller than I expected. In time those flowers faded and the seed pods took over. I had expected a few pods per radish, a dozen at most really. Not that I had any basis for my expectations, it was all random guesswork and preconceived notions. I was certainly not prepared for the onslaught. One radish seed turned into a powerhouse that could reseed the patch for a couple years.
The vast quantity sent me to my computer where I started searching the internet for info on harvesting and preserving the seeds. My first search sent me on an entirely new tangent. The pods are edible! Why did I not think of that? Why are the market tables not flooded with the gorgeous, prolific pods? I wonder if I have been glossing over the tables thinking they are something else or if the radishes are just more marketable with all their color.
I started calling people and looking for recipes. I gathered a pod and forced my husband to taste it. He was tentative but seemed happily surprised. These slightly alien looking things taste like radishes. The seeds have a pop of juice and extra heat, but there is no questioning their origin.
My son and I gathered the tangled mess of radish plants and took them to a comfortable shady spot to start gathering. We gave some away. We blanched and froze some. We munched on a couple with slight winces (neither of us can handle much raw heat). We set aside a bowl of finger snacks for my husband. Then we got to cooking with the rest. We made a delicate radish pod soup. We made stir fry. Then we made plans next year to set half the radish section of the garden aside for pods only. Apparently there is a whole variety of “rat tail” radishes that are bred just for pods!
So next time you see your favorite vendor, who recently was selling those gorgeous bundles of radishes, give a little nudge and a little wink. Find out if they will be bringing any pods to market!
For those who find the treasure and feel experimental toss a handful of chopped pods in to water for soup. We added a sliced “normal” radish, a garlic scape, some cubed tofu and some vegetable broth powder. It went great with grilled cheese and fresh local tomato sandwiches.
Rules: Made to Be Broken
The best thing about pesto is that there are no rules. As an expert rule breaker, I enjoy any recipe that essentially tells me to do whatever I want. I’ve listed the traditional pesto recipe below; however, I’ve been known to throw any number of fresh herbs, toasted nuts into a blender with olive oil and garlic and produced phenomenal results. If you really want to be daring, use artichoke hearts or kalamata olives or lemon. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Second best thing about pesto: you can do anything with it. Our dinner consisted of linguine mixed with farmer’s market tomatoes and zucchini topped with chicken breasts stuffed with pesto and goat cheese. I have, however, been known to put pesto on sandwiches, mix with assorted vinegars for salad dressing and tossed with roasted fingerling potatoes. The message is: simple pesto +anything=good
2+ cups of basil leaves
½ cup olive oil
½ cup toasted pine nuts
2-3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
NOTE: You may notice the glaring omission of parmesan or romano from this recipe. Because I tend to put cheese in, on and around everything, I omit it from my pesto. It is a bit lighter and less full, but also a bit healthier, which is nice when everything else is coated in some form of cheese. Also, adjust the nut and garlic at will, I tend to like a lot of both.
Sarah Ratermann Beahan is a Rural Sociology graduate student, a freelance writer, a foodie, a runner and a wino, not necessarily in that order.
You can find her at http://www.onerealthing.wordpress.com/
By Dan Kuebler
Grass seems to be the major crop these days at the farm due to the continued rains. However, our rain gauge only had 1.5 inches over the last seven days or so, compared to Columbia where we’ve heard reports of over 3 inches just this past Wednesday afternoon.
Little need for irrigation except in our one tall tunnel which houses our forty or so Heirloom tomato plants. The plants are looking good so far and we’ve picked close to 50 pounds this past two weeks. We did have plastic over both our tall tunnels but the wind blew the plastic off from our south tunnel three weeks ago. We didn’t really mind this since the plastic was going on its sixth year and it’s usual longevity is four years. It tore it off very neatly on each end and one side and flipped it onto the ground so I could easily cut the last side off and fold it up for handling. I appreciate Mother Nature when she helps me out like that.
The hairy vetch cover crops have been mowed down several weeks ago and over the past several days tilled into the soil. This week we will broadcast buckwheat into these plots as a summer cover crop and pull an old bedspring over it with the tractor to lightly cover the seeds. The buckwheat loves the heat of the summer, very quickly germinates and does an excellent job of keeping weeds out of the plot. Later this summer we will mow it down, incorporate the organic matter into the soil and then follow that with a winter cover crop probably of oats.
We also tilled in a cover of white clover on a plot of about 4,000 sq. ft. We are preparing to erect a new movable tall tunnel on this area. We have wanted to have a movable tunnel since 1990 when we first read of them. Ours will be 30’ x 48’ and it will have the capacity to be moved over three areas during the year for spring, summer and winter crops. We will be picking up this structure in the next week or two and then begin the process of putting it together and laying out the track that it will roll on. We will keep you posted every month on how this goes and will have pictures to share of our experiences. Later this fall we plan to have a field day in conjunction with the Small Farm Today Trade Show the first weekend in November. Any one who reads this is invited to come out, so be looking for more information later this fall.
In the next BLOG for August be looking for an update on our repair work on the re-wiring of the solar pump (pesky muskrats).
Good croissants are what bring people in, is the philosophy of the chef at the Belgium bakery where I am passing this summer as an apprentice. The art of making croissants is rapidly disappearing. Instead, industrialized frozen croissants are replacing the daily staple of fresh croissants in Belgium. The extensive process of making croissants is considered time consuming and costly, so the knowledge of how to make artisanal croissants from scratch is becoming a lost skill, barely surviving in culinary schools, where only a single lesson is reserved for making croissants.
Nothing makes my chef happier than an opportunity to give his sermon on the necessity of high quality base ingredients. In his bakery you will never find margarine (cheaper than butter), premade anything (tarts, pastry cream, pie fillings), and though you will probably find strawberries in his shop in the dead of winter, his pastry offerings change with the seasons. My favorite cake, a strawberry triple layered cake, is the in thing to make now since the strawberries are in the height of season here. The chef loves telling me time after time that the butter, milk and cream he uses comes from a local farmer whose cows eat grass in the summer and hay in the winter, which flavors everything completely differently from season to season.
I have learned a lot during my internship–from how not to cover yourself head to toe in strawberry goo to how to make the perfect mousse, but the most important thing I will take away is that time, love and quality is what makes good pastries. Viva good croissants.
Claire is a sophomore at the university of Missouri majoring in soil science and sustainable agriculture. After attending pastry school in Belgium, Claire has become passionate for French pastries and now has a small catering service on the side. You can check out her Facebook site at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Columbia-Missouri/Claires-Pastries/233597586573?ref=ts
We are extremely proud to announce the results from the Skills USA Awards Ceremony at the National Contest in Kansas City held June 25.
Rock Bridge 2010 Graduate Rachel Koppelman placed first in the national contest for Culinary Arts. This is the first time that Missouri has ever had a National Champion in Culinary Arts. By becoming the National Champion Rachel receives a full ride scholarship to her choice of schools; The Culinary Institute of America, Johnson and Wales University, New England Culinary Institute, or Le Cordon Bleu Schools of North America.
Soon-to-be Rock Bridge Senior Meghan Hardman placed second in the national contest for Commercial Baking. This is the highest place ever awarded to a Missouri student in Commercial Baking. By placing second she also receives a partial scholarship to many post secondary culinary schools.
Rachel, Meghan and the Chef Instructors would like to thank everyone for their support throughout the road to Nationals. We would not be able fund the practices and make the trip without the Culinary Programs many supporters.
Thank you for your help,
Brook Harlan, Carri Risner, and Jeff Rayl
Chef Instructors, Columbia Area Career Center
James Saracini is a freelance journalist and has a local farm right across the river from Columbia in Moniteau County. He just graduated from MU with a degree in Journalism and one in English and has an internship this summer gathering new video and photographic content for the rebuild of the Mo. State Parks’ website. Check out his blog at SaltotEarth.wordpress.com and hit him up on twitter @jameslsaracini.
MY OH MY! BLUEBERRY PIE!
4 Cups Whole Fresh (ONLY FRESH) BLueberries (About 2 pints)
3/4 Cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1 tsp. butter (DONT SUBSTITUTE)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
9″ baked pastry shell
1 egg white, whipped up a bit with 1/8 cup sugar and 2 Tbsp. water.(Eggwash)
To start with…The pie shell. Use a Pillsbury “unfolded” type shell, you only need
half the package. Let it sit till it’s at room temp. Then, fit it to your pie pan, and
pinch the curst around the edges of the pie pan. Then, take your fork and prick it all
over, sides and bottom. Go ahead and bake it for the 10 or 12 minutes till it starts
to get a little brown. Take it out of the oven and now brush it all with a pastry
brush with the eggwhite/sugar mixture, and put it back in the oven to set, and then
do it again. This makes the crust VERY crisp/tender and the sugar/egg wash makes
the crust golden, glossy and sweet.
Let the crust rest, and get cool. It doesn’t take long, so you go on ahead and fix the
filling at this point.
Now. This blueberry filling is SO simple! But, you will agree that it’s
one of the most delicious idea’s you’ve tasted in a long time. Trust me on this one
friends…this one is a “Keeper” for sure. Combine sugar, salt, water, and cornstarch in a
medium sized sauce pan, mix it up well, then stir in 1/2 of the blueberries and cook over
medium heat until bubbling and the berries start to pop. Stir to prevent the stuff from
stickin to the bottom of the pan. Remove it from the stove and stir in the butter and lemon
juice. Then let it all sit and cool a bit. Now, take the other 1/2 of the FRESH blueberries and
scatter’em in the fresh baked pie shell, smooth ‘em out nice and even. Then, take the
cooked blueberry stuff and pour it over the fresh berries in the pie shell. Smooth it
all over and then set it in the fridge for at least two hours, but it’s better to leave it
for four hours.
Ohhhhhhh. Now. Slice a piece of this. The crust holds together like nothing you
ever sliced, and the bluberries and such stay right in place. You gotta put a scoop
of ‘nilla ice cream on this dish. Watch out! The flavor of this will send you to the
moon. Promise ya’ll on this one! Blueberry season has just started, so I do hope
ya’ll print this out and TRY it. I give you my word on this. You won’t be sorry on
this one friends!
by Peter Meng