Monthly Archives: May 2011

Farm to Trailer

The word ‘organic’ gets tossed around a lot these days, but what does it really mean for consumers who are looking to eat well, but not spend a lot of money?

Farm To Trailer, a new documentary from local film producer Christian Remde highlights the award-winning Odd Duck food trailer in Austin, Texas and chef Bryce Gilmore’s use of only locally-grown, organic food for their menu. The film also examines the Farm To Table movement, how it’s effecting the Austin food scene and the benefits for consumers.

The film was really cool for me to watch, as it honors some of the very people and causes that I’ve come  depend upon for my own nourishment (indeed, it is where most of the food on this blog comes from).  Thank you, Christian!  Thank you, Austin!

BBQ Beans with Burnt Ends, Jalapeño Corn Muffins and Guajillo Honey

Getting a healthy, delicious dinner on the table every day is hard enough as it is.  Kids, work, school.. you know how it is.  Add in a bad economy and a generally broken food system, though, and it becomes well nigh impossible.

Inspired by the Hunger Awareness Blog Project between the Capitol Area Food Bank and the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance, I put this BBQ Beans with Burnt Ends dish together with an eye towards simplicity, flavor, nutritional density and cost.. no exotic ingredients, equipment or technique are necessary.

Meet the deep, rich and smoky flavors of BBQ Beans with Burnt ends..

BBQ Beans with Burnt Ends, Jalapeño Corn Muffins and Guajillo Honey

For the Beans

1/2 pound (8oz) dried pinto beans (substitute 2 15oz cans)
1/2 pound burnt ends (smoked brisket, flank steak or whatever you can get your hands on), chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups filtered water (less if using canned beans)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon lard (try Dai Due in Austin, or use bacon grease (optional, but not as good without)
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped (substitute 1 small can chopped tomatoes)
1 tablespoon whole cumin
1-1/2 cups Texas-style BBQ sauce (homemade, Stubb’s, Salt Lick, or whatever you like)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 fresh jalapeños, chopped (can use less or none at all if serving to little kids or scaredy cats)
1 tablespoon chili powder

Soak dried beans overnight in a quart of cool, clean water.  Drain the beans, rinse and place into a large saucepan with 4 cups of fresh water (or the liquid from 2 cans plus 1-1/2 cups fresh water).  Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Add everything except the tomatoes, cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Add the tomatoes, taste for salt and continue to simmer until both the beans and meat are tender, about another hour.

For the Corn Muffins

5 oz cornmeal
2 oz organic, all-purpose flour
1 oz stone-ground yellow corn grits (adds a nice texture; if not available, simply increase the cornmeal by 1 oz)
1 oz piloncillo or honey (optional)
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh milk
2 large eggs
4 oz butter (1 stick), melted
1/2 cup corn kernels (optional)
1 or 2 jalapeños, seeded and diced (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Combine the cornmeal, flour, grits, piloncillo, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.  In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and butter.  Slowly whisk the flour mixture into the milk mixture until just combined.  Fold in the corn, jalapeños and cilantro if using.

Pour the batter into a greased muffin tin, cast iron skillet or bread pan and bake in a 350 degree oven to the usual golden brown/toothpick state, about 25-30 minutes for muffins, longer for skillet or bread pan.

Guajillo Butter

1/2 stick butter, softened
1 tablespoon guajillo, local wild flower or just plain honey

Stir honey into softened butter (add a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter), then chill until ready to use.

To Serve

Transfer cooked beans to a cazuela or casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees until a crust forms (about 20 minutes; this is an optional but recommended step).  Spoon the beans into individual serving dishes and top with minced onion and cilantro if you like. Serve with hot corn muffins and honey butter.

Enjoy!

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Chile Molido-Grilled Lamb Chops with Toasted Cumin, Coriander and Xoconostle Gastrique

Extra thick, locally pastured lamb loin chops are marinated for half a day in a mixture of olive oil, chile molido, fresh garlic and toasted cumin & coriander before being grilled over a wood fire and served with a gastrique of xoconostle (prickly pear fruit from Hidalgo), caramelized pilloncillo and raw cider vinegar.  Accompanied by roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh peppers and garnished with fresh chopped Mexican mint marigold..

Chile Molido-Grilled Lamb Chops / Toasted Cumin, Coriander & Xoconostle Gastrique

Hummus with Harissa Oil, Parsley and Toasted Pita

I don’t keep ready-to-eat products at home, but hummus is a high-protein, healthy (and delicious) exception to that rule.  Made from easily-sourced, individually inexpensive ingredients, hummus is nonetheless becoming expensive to buy already made.  My solution of course, is to make it at home to my own taste..

Hummus with Harissa Oil, Parsley and Toasted Pita

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
3 cups filtered water
2-3 garlic cloves
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
1 tablespoon harissa (a Tunisian hot chilli sauce, optional)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup organic white sesame seeds
1/3 cup olive oil, divided

Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium-low heat (about 15 minutes).  Allow to cool to room temperature, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Pulse repeatedly until broken up, then begin to drizzle in up to 1/4 cup of olive oil while still processing, resulting in a paste with the consistency of thin peanut butter.  This is tahini paste, a component of hummus.  Scrape the tahini into a clean container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Discard any chickpeas that are floating along with the soaking water.  Place the chickpeas in a saucepan and cover with the fresh, filtered water.  Bring to a full boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until just tender, about 1 hour.  Set aside to cool.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked chickpeas to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add the garlic, lemon juice, tahini and remaining olive oil and process until smooth, adding a little of the chickpea cooking liquid along the way.

Transfer the hummus to a serving bow, drizzle with olive oil mixed with harissa and serve with toasted pita bread.  Leftover hummus will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.  Stir a little olive oil into it if it gets dry.

The earliest known recipes for something similar to hummus bi tahini date to 13th century Egypt as a cold purée of chickpeas with vinegar and pickled lemons with herbs, spices, and oil, but no tahini or garlic…

The earliest known documentation of hummus (حمّص) itself comes from 18th-century Damascus;  it appears that it was unknown elsewhere at that timeHummus is high in iron and vitamin C and also has significant amounts of folate and vitamin B6. The chickpeas make it a good source of protein and dietary fiber; the tahini (طحينه) is an excellent source of the amino acid methionine, complementing the proteins in the chickpeas.  Hummus is useful in vegetarian and vegan diets; like other combinations of grains and pulses, it serves as a complete protein when eaten with bread.  –Wikipedia

Action Alert: Texas HB 2084 and HB 3387

Call your Texas state legislator to support important local food bills today!

Right now, anyone who wants to bake a few pies or make a few jars of jam to sell to their friends and neighbors must have a commercial kitchen and be inspected by the state.  The regulatory requirements can cost over ten thousand dollars, hurting small businesses and preventing start-ups from having a chance.

HB 2084, the local and “cottage foods” bill, would allow small-scale producers selling low-risk foods — baked goods, jams, and dried herbs — directly to consumers to do so without these expenses.  The bill benefits local economies and small businesses by removing unnecessary regulatory burdens and promoting local food production.  HB 2084 recognizes that food produced on a small-scale and sold directly to consumers is different than food produced by the massive industrialized system in which the major food safety problems have occurred.

Additionally, HB 2084 helps local foods even more by calling for legislative hearings on issues such as the regulatory fees imposed on artisan cheesemakers, the barriers to food stamp beneficiaries being able to buy fresh produce at farmers markets, and the property tax problems faced by community gardens, urban farms, and sustainable farmers.

Another local foods bill, HB 3387, would establish clear, reasonable standards for farmers’ markets and protect against some unduly burdensome regulations.

HB 2084 and HB 3387 provide vital support for the local foods movement in Texas.  Please help us get these wonderful bills passed!  The deadline for the Texas House to approve House Bills is this week, so we need your calls in support as soon as possible.

TAKE ACTION
1) Call your State Representative and urge him or her to vote YES on HB 2084 and HB 3387.

You can call the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630 and ask to be connected to your Representative’s office, or you can look up who represents you online at http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/374?akid=315.45122.vqCcCQ&t=2

The legislators are working long hours, so you can call at any time of the day.  If you get their voice mail, leave a message saying: “Hi, my name is ____.   I am a constituent.  I urge Representative ______ to vote Yes on both HB 2084 and HB 3387.  Thank you.”

2) Call your State Senator (find them at the same link above) and ask him or her to sponsor HB 2084 and HB 3387 and support them in the Senate.  “Hi, my name is ____.   I am a constituent.  I urge you to support both HB 2084 and HB 3387.  Thank you.”

MORE INFORMATION

You can read the full text of HB 2084 and HB 3387 on the Texas legislative website

Under current law, anyone who prepares any food for sale must have a commercial kitchen license.  The cost of a commercial kitchen can be prohibitive for start-up businesses and small-scale producers.

HB 2084 would allow small-scale producers selling specific low-risk foods directly to consumers to do so without the expense and burdens of the current commercial kitchen requirements. The listed foods are baked goods, jams, jellies, and dried herbs, all of which are recognized as non-hazardous by FDA. Individuals selling less than $50,000 of these foods directly to consumers either from their own home or at a farmers market would be exempt from regulation.

At least eighteen other states have similar laws already on the books: Alabama, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.

HB 2084 was unanimously approved by the Public Health Committee. Over 150 people and organizations registered in support, including Slow Food Austin, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Sustainable Food Center, Texas Impact, and Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

HB 2084 also helps local foods by calling for legislative hearings on the following issues:

*  Helping small-scale cheesemakers: Due to a 2007 bill, fees on small-scale cheesemakers and dairy producers have gone up from as little as $52/yr to as much as $600/yr, depending on the size of the producer and their source of milk.  These fees threaten to drive small producers out of business.

*  Improving access to healthy, local foods for low-income individuals: The SNAP program (formerly Food Stamps) is administered at the state level using Electronic Benefits Transfer (“EBT”), similar to debit cards. The state provides EBT terminals to retailers, but these wired terminals are not practical for outdoor farmers’ markets. Farmers markets provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables in “food deserts” and underserved communities with less overhead expense and construction time as compared to establishing a supermarket or grocery store.

*  Providing for fair property tax treatment: Under Section 23.51 of the Tax Code, “qualified open space land” includes land “devoted principally to agricultural use to the degree of intensity generally accepted in the area.” But community gardens, urban farms, family farms raising fruits and vegetables, and sustainable livestock farms have often been denied fair property tax valuations under the claim that they are not truly “agricultural” uses.  If the land is being used primarily to produce food to feed people, it should be valued as such.

HB 3387, the “farmers’ market bill,” sets clear, reasonable standards for sampling foods at farmers markets; clarifies that permits can be granted to prepare food on-site year-round, without limitations on the number of days; and bars unnecessary and burdensome regulations that require mechanical refrigeration to keep foods cold.

From raw milk to farmers markets, local farmers and consumers face regulatory barriers that limit access to high quality foods unnecessarily burden producers. Several bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature to help local farmers and consumers, but they haven’t been set for a hearing yet.

We need your help to move these bills forward before it’s too late!

For more information, please visit our friends at www.FarmAndRanchFreedom.org  or www.fooddemocracynow.org

Thank you to Food Democracy Now for the above text to help us organize our efforts to affect legislation.

Fried Asian Sea Bass with Ginger-Lemongrass Curry, Scallion Scapes and Edamame

Skinless Pla Krapong (Asian sea bass, ปลากระพง) filets are dipped in beaten egg, then dusted in a seasoned mixture of 65% organic rice flour and 35% organic corn flour, then shallow-fried in 1/4-inch of raw coconut oil until light golden brown and flaky.

Served over a curry of coconut milk, lemongrass, fresh ginger, galangal, red and green chilies, kaffir lime peel and coriander seed, with crispy scallion scapes, edamame and fresh Thai basil..

Fried Sea Bass with Ginger Lemongrass Curry, Scallion Scapes and Edamame

Generally mercury and PCP-free, the mild-tasting, high-protein Asian sea bass (barramundi in Australia) contains roughly 800mg of omega-3s per serving.  With a texture similar to wild Alaskan cod, the Asian sea bass is suitable for frying, grilling and broiling.