Saturday, November 12, 2011

Independence Days 2011-12: Slowing Down

Here it is, almost mid-November, and I feel like the last two months of the year are going to speed by in a blink at this rate. I still need to finish cleaning up the garden for the year and harvest a little more, but uff da, I am tired and just not finding the time to do it justice, especially with other events and holiday celebrations starting to fill the calendar.

I'm also having to shift the way I eat -- cutting a number of old favorites out of my meals for the foreseeable future -- and that means approaching my food with more mindfulness and more creativity. I am very thankful that there's still a wide variety of fresh vegetables at Local Roots, despite the end of the season, because I have been eating a lot of greens, brassicas, and potatoes. (And you all know I loves me some tatties.)

So I'm still thinking a lot about food, even if I'm not so focused on the growing or preserving at this point. This will be a slim update for Independence Days, but ideas and plans are still simmering:

1. Plant something: Chesnok Red garlic at the Southern Belle's and German Extra Hardy at the Renaissance Man's

2. Harvest something: chard and carrots from the Southern Belle's garden; turnips from the Renaissance Man's; I've really got to get out and pick more before the harder frosts come!

3. Preserve something: dried lemon verbena, ground cherries, tomatoes

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): finally turned the compost pile at the Renaissance Man's and amended the garden with some of the good stuff at the bottom, along with shredded paper and straw (ahhhh, sheet mulching, I love you!); tucked some chard stems and other vegetable scraps into the freezer for making stock; turned chicken bones from my roasted chicken into 3 1/2 quarts of stock; saved leftover garlic pesto from garlic class for use in baking; saved pie dough scraps from a maple hickory pie for market and filled three mini tart pans (put two in the freezer for future use)

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): restocked cheeses, flour, honey, maple syrup for baking; wrapped last squash in newspaper and put them in cold storage; restocked flavored syrups

6. Build local food systems: baked for market and cafe; donated pita bread and cornmeal bread for a friend to use in her hummus samplings at Local Roots; bartered bread for produce; co-taught garlic class with the Delighted Gardener; worked on Local Roots newsletter; attended meeting for market bakers; took the Renaissance Man to the local orchard to pick up pecks of apples so he could make applesauce and I could bake; shared empty canning jars with the Renaissance Man for his applesauce-making binge; published a book review at The Ethicurean and submitted an article and three book reviews to Farming Magazine; baked for the Inn; baked for a Training for Transition workshop and supplied other food for the weekend

7. Eat the food: mini quiche with greens; roasted Brussels sprouts; hash browns with greens, egg, cheese; chili with homegrown Jacob's Cattle beans; celery and peanut butter (locally roasted); much more

Well, the gardens might be slowing down, but apparently I'm not!

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

You Go, Garlic!

I did not think I would take so readily to teaching cooking classes. I mean, I love the one-on-one teaching I've given former students, friends, and My Adorable Nephews over the years because it gives me the chance to share my knowledge and take pride in their learning. But to teach a class? I always thought I'd be nervous and clumsy and not really a satisfying instructor.

The classes I've taught so far at Today's Kitchen Store this year have proved me wrong. Sure, I'm still a little nervous when I talk in front of a crowd, which can make me ramble and say silly things. And despite my fearsome prep and planning for classes -- and I am darn good in that respect -- I still make mistakes when I'm in front of the class and have to work and explain my way out of them.

But so far, the people who have attended my classes have seemed pretty well entertained, well fed, and well satisfied with the experience.

Last evening I teamed up with the Delighted Gardener to give a "Gourmet Garlic" class. She grows 16 varieties of garlic and so could talk about the different kinds of garlic, how to grow and harvest and store them, as well as how to use garlic medicinally. I then interspersed all her information with cooking, showing how to use garlic in simple ways to enhance flavors and meals.

I started by preparing several bulbs of garlic for roasting, trimming off the tops, drizzling them with oil, and wrapping them with foil to do their work. Later in the evening, I added some of those roasted cloves to mashed potatoes for a spruced-up old favorite.

Since the Delighted Gardener pointed out that at different times of the year, garlic can be used in different ways, I took some garlic scapes from the freezer and made a simple pesto with them. Participants were able to sample the pesto raw on some of my bread or crackers, but I also baked a garlic pesto flatbread so that they could taste how the flavors mellowed with cooking.

I also showed off a recipe that is fairly new to me but rapidly becoming a favorite. Gremolata is an Italian condiment that combines garlic, lemon peel and juice, fresh parsley (or other herbs), and salt into a paste. In testing the recipe at home, I had smeared it on a roasted chicken for heavenly results, but in the class I simply made a pan of roasted seasonal vegetables, mixed the gremolata into the pan, and let everyone have a sample of those earthy flavors brightened by the zip of citrus and the power of garlic.

The other recipe I showcased was my garlic-shallot jam, a long-time favorite. No photos from the prep there, but as with previous classes at TKS, the owner, Rick Davis, took photos of both our work and the results.

We had 11 people sign up for the class -- my biggest class yet! -- and they all seemed very enthusiastic and delighted with the food. One lady mentioned that this had been the most garlic she had ever eaten in her entire life! Others purchased some of the Delighted Gardener's seed garlic in order to plant their own, so we both felt it was a good evening for us both, business-wise.

I've signed up to teach more classes at TKS this winter -- a holiday yeast breads class next month and a two-part whole grain baking series in January. It's a good extension of my baking business: not only does it bring in a little money and get more people to sample and crave my baked goods, but it forces me to stretch my own knowledge a little further as well as to learn from the experiences of others. So I'm really looking forward to the next round.

And in the meantime, I've got a lot of garlic to enjoy!

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