Tuesday, August 9, 2011


...the concept of eating locally is hardly a new one.
You can’t pick up a cooking magazine or read a food blog without bumping in to the word “locavore” or “localvore.”  Wikepedia claims that the word was coined by Jessica Prentice in connection with Earth Day celebration in 2005.  That fact may very well be true, but the concept of eating locally is hardly a new one.
...they would be both amused and amazed…
In fact, I find my thoughts returning to my grandparents and their gardens some 50 years ago.  I think they would be both amused and amazed by both the word locavore and the foodie movement in general.  Not that it means that they would disapprove; it’s just that except for certain staples (sugar, flour, salt, pepper, coffee, tea, etc.) most of their fresh food was by definition, local.
…clever parents enlisted our enthusiasm…
I remember with great fondness harvest times at my grandfather’s farm located in the Kennedale community between Ft. Worth and Dallas, Texas.  The actual labor was hard, hot and sweaty, but clever parents enlisted our enthusiasm with promises of “going to the country, how much fun we would have and how delicious the food would be”, and we did and it was.  I’m quite sure that the kids were never overworked and we did have fun and even now the memories of the food can make my mouth water.
…cold sweet watermelons equaled survival.
Although there probably were other crops, I primarily remember green beans, black-eyed peas, corn, tomatoes, onions, peppers, okra, cantaloupes, peaches, blackberries and watermelons.  Oh, those watermelons!  In the raging heat of Texas summers cold sweet watermelons equaled survival.
I learned to drive in that old Caddy…
Spending the night at my grandfather’s farm meant rising with him in the wee hours just before sunrise, which seemed an exciting adventure (as long as I didn’t have to do it on a regular basis, of course).  We would then ride to the watermelon patch on his tractor or in his old beat up fishin’ Cadillac.  I learned to drive in that old Caddy bouncing around in his cow pastures.
I also still swear by the thumping method of judging ripeness…
At that early hour the Texas sun had not yet heated up the acres of watermelons.  I would walk down the rows with my grandfather where he taught me how to judge the ripeness of the melon by the sound of the thump of his big fingers.  When he found one that was just right he would lift it up a few feet and drop it.  We would then each eat a piece of the sweet heart out of the broken melon for breakfast. They would still be cool from the night and even if it is just in my memory, they were the best melons that I ever tasted.  I also still swear by the thumping method of judging ripeness although not everyone agrees.
…they just enjoyed good eating from their own fields.   
In our last post I mentioned that for many of us the term “farm to table” is not just a modern culinary catch phrase, but simply describes our experiences at our parents or grandparent’s tables long ago.  Meatless meals were completely common place when the bounties of summertime garden vegetables were available.  For the most part those old farmers were not necessarily interested in a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, they just enjoyed good eating from their own fields.
(Well, it was the 60s)
There was a time when I was a young adult that I ate very little meat, although in truth I was never a strict vegetarian.  I did however learn how tasty simple clean food could be.  Lots of brown rice (well, it was the 60s); beans, grains and fresh vegetables were at the heart of my diet.  Very few animal products were involved, partially by choice and partially by economics.  I found “commercial meat substitutes” to be tasteless, lifeless choices that seemed to me to be completely pointless, although in the ensuing 40 something years those products have improved. Thanks to my family’s attitude toward eating out of our garden, I was (and remain) perfectly happy with an all vegetable repast
…a perfect time to offer one of our cooking classes featuring vegetables.
Here in our home in the southern Appalachian foothills it is high summer and our gardens and the local farmers’ markets are brimming with delicious healthful choices.  We thought that it was a perfect time to offer one of our La Technique cooking classes featuring vegetables.   
…we just visited a couple of farmers’ markets…
We prepared for this class in the easiest most straight forward way possible – we just visited a couple of farmers’ markets and then based our menu on what looked appealing.  The important element (besides the fresh vegetables) at this class was technique.  If you have a few basic knife skills and cooking techniques, your kitchen experience will be much easier, more efficient and fun.  Take a look at this sampling of our class menu.
*Denotes Avanti Savoia products.
Roulades of Seared Japanese Eggplant filled with Herbed Goat Cheese
This is a simple and delicious recipe courtesy of Texas catering Chef David Lowery.
8 Japanese eggplants
Small amount of Sea salt*and cooking olive oil*
6 to 8 ounces goat cheese, softened
2 teaspoons tarragon*
1 teaspoon thyme*
½ teaspoon white pepper, ground*
Sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg*
  1. Slice eggplants lengthwise and sprinkle with a little salt.  Allow to set 15 minutes, rinse and pat dry.
  2. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper, arrange eggplant slices flat and brush lightly with olive oil.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes and cool.
  3. Combine goat cheese and seasoning; spread on cooked eggplant.  Roll up and skew with wooden pics.
Fresh Vegetable Platter
Yes, everyone is completely unimpressed with everyday platters of stale and unappetizing carrots and celery sticks but a few simple changes can make that old boring standby pop.  Employ the technique of lightly blanching and refreshing your cruciferous vegetables to bring out the color and flavor.  Serve your veggies with our Thai Style Spicy Chili Sauce*. 
Chef Karen’s Quick Pickled Root Vegetables
A fast way to add some zest to your vegetable or relish tray, this recipe is a combination of root vegetables dressed in a savory pickling mixture of water, sugar, good vinegar, minced garlic, fresh basil, freshly ground Black Peppercorn*, Salish Alder Wood Smoked Sea Salt*.  Combine all ingredients and chill for a short time before serving.
Easy Smeasy Caprese Salad
This is a famous and delicious method of serving tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.  The salad can be stacked, fanned or served on skewers.  Traditionally it is seasoned with sea salt, pepper and olive oil.  We will make ours really special with Colonna Granverde Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Lemons*.  Combine the ingredients in a salad bowl and dress at the last moment for a simple, non fussy version.
“Frenched” Green Beans with Provencale Butter
“Frenching” is a kitchen term for slicing green beans for cooking.  Remove strings and cut beans on the bias into 2 or 3 pieces – two or three inches long, depending on the size of the beans.  For 1 pound of beans: bring about 3 cups of water and the juice of ½ lemon to a rapid boil.  Add “frenched” beans and cook 8 to 10 minutes (or to taste).  Immerse hot beans in ice water to stop cooking process.  Drain and set aside until ready to be heated with Provencale Butter.
Provencale Butter
Yields about 1 ¼ cups
1 cup butter
2 shallots or green onions, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced and mashed
½ cup parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons white wine
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated*
Sea salt* and white pepper* to taste
  1. Soften butter and combine with all ingredients.  Blend by hand or in a food processor and heat with beans as described above.
Sautéed Cucumbers
Peel desired number of cucumbers and remove the seeds by scraping them out lengthwise with the tip of a spoon.  Chop into quarter inch slices and sauté with olive oil, salt, pepper and a generous amount of tarragon.  Cook only until the cucumbers are just tender.  This way of preparing cucumbers is surprising to many Americans, but it is so easy and delicious it could become one of your favorites.
Baked Stuffed Pattypan Squash
This can be a beautiful meatless entrée. Select small tender squash for this dish.  Using a paring knife and a melon baller; remove a portion of squash from the middle making sure you do not cut all the way through to the bottom.  Save the squash that you remove for stuffing or another dish.  Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add salt and boil or steam squash for a few minutes – just until barely tender, remove from water and drain.

Prepare stuffing by finely chopping reserved squash and sautéing it in a bit of olive oil and chopped onion and garlic.  Mix squash mixture with herbs of choice, and a little egg and grated cheese, if desired. Lightly oil reserved hollowed squash and stuff each with prepared filling. Sprinkle with a little grated cheese on top and bake in a baking dish at 375 degrees until done, depending upon size of squash.
Bon Appetit Y’all.