WND – Masquerading as SNDAugust 24, 2010
I’m seeing more and more restaurants that cite their locavore cred on their menus. I, personally, would be perfectly satisfied if restaurants gave a list of the local farms that source their food at the back of the menu, but the preferred method seems to be citing the source of each ingredient in a dish which can make for some long item descriptions. You no longer get watermelon salad, you get Drumlin Farm Arugula and Watermelon Salad with Red Onion, Toasted Pinenuts, Feta Cheese and Buttermilk Dressing. And rather than zucchini pizza you get Verrill Farm Zucchini, Carlos’ Roasted Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Sweet Onions, Chopped Garlic, EVOO and Basil. Frankly I’m only surprised that they don’t also tell you who pulled the mozzarella and grew the onions and basil (I say this with love – both of these menu items came from a restaurant I’m quite fond of).
On the one hand, I appreciate all the local sourcing that’s going on, and on the other hand I don’t really care which particular local farm the zucchini came from. To be completely contradictory, however, I do like it when menus tell me which local dairy the cheese came from because I like some local goat cheeses more than I like other local goat cheeses, although when it comes down to it all goat cheese is a good thing.
All this being true, I can name drop local farms with the best of them, and as a result of shopping at farmer’s markets downtown several days a week I do actually have preferences when it comes to where I buy what kind of fresh produce – tomatoes, corn and salads from Stillmans, but peaches and nectarines from Keown Orchards and I will actually now go out of my way to get freshly baked When Pigs Fly bread.
Verrill Farm – which is one of the better known local farms – had their annual Corn & Tomato Festival this weekend and because we’re those kind of people we took ourselves up there on Saturday to enjoy the bounty of summer. I’m always surprised by how very far you don’t have to go to find farm land in Massachusetts. Less than 20 miles from downtown Boston and you’re on a working farm with corn fields and tractor hay rides and feed stores by the side of the road.
We went up for lunch and sampled the 12 different kinds of tomatoes they had on offer, however by the time I went inside to buy produce for Dinner I’d more or less forgotten any distinct preferences I’d formed and bought a selection of tomatoes based entirely on their aesthetic qualities because in August there really are no bad tomatoes. Also, much like with vintage quilt patterns, I find I love the names almost as much as I love the taste – Aunt Ginny’s Purple, Black Prince, Brandywine, Garden Peach (actually slightly fuzzy), Lemon Boy, Mr. Stripy.
They were also cooking up five or six varieties of corn in a huge cast iron cauldron carefully balanced on top of a roaring open fire. We liked the wood smoke, but felt bad for whoever got stuck manning the corn stand in hot sunshine. Corn isn’t something I usually think of as having heirloom varietals, although obviously it does like every other vegetable. I tend to think of corn in binary terms – regular corn for livestock, and sweet corn for people. The Verrill Farm selection proves that there is in fact a surprising range of flavors and starchiness on offer even just in sweet corn varietals, and while I didn’t buy any corn this weekend we all agreed that the White Out corn was our favorite.
Having gorged ourselves on the undressed corn and tomatoes we moved on to the prepared food stands showcasing what you could do with corn and tomatoes should you feel the need to do anything to them beyond serve them on a plate in all their simple glory. And I’ll be honest, I love things made with fresh corn and tomatoes but I always have a hard time convincing myself to do anything to mute their natural flavors because at the height of the season they’re just so good as is. Be that as it may, we cheerfully sampled corn and tomato soup, gazpacho, corn and tomato frittata, corn-zucchini pancakes, corn risotto and a raw corn salad.
On our way out we stopped by the small petting zoo and admired the disconcertingly zen rabbits, the fascinatingly weirdly feathered heirloom hens the goats who were putting up with being groomed by many small children with remarkable patience, and a duck so relaxed I’m still convinced it was high. Then we got back in our car, drove 20 minutes down Rte-2 and emerged into the heart of suburbia and did all the suburban yuppie things like stop for additional infusions of coffee and buy bagels for Sunday morning.
Creamy Dreamy Lemon Popsicles
Chocolate Bourbon Popsicles
Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen, and designed to be served at room temperature. The air drying of the meat, the spice rub and the high heat that you bake it at all combine to give the chicken a lovely crispy skin, and a moist juicy interior.
Also, making the chicken confirmed my love for our new fridge because I put an entire sheet pan of chicken on a shelf in the fridge and still had room for everything else without having to play fridge Tetris to make it all fit.
5 lb bone-in skin-on chicken pieces (if you’re using chicken breasts cut them in half so they cook at the same speed as everything else)
2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp sweet Paprika
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp chili powder
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne (depending on how much kick you want in your chicken)
2 tsp black pepper
Mix the spice rub together.
Pat your chicken pieces dry with paper towels and then lightly score the skin a few times, making sure not to cut all the way through the skin.
Rub the spice rub into the chicken, gently lifting up the skin to rub directly onto the meat when possible. Arrange the chicken on a wire rack set on a baking sheet and tent lightly with foil. Allow to rest/air dry in the fridge for at least 6 hours, but not more than 24 hours (less than 6 and the spice rub doesn’t have time to do much, more than 24 hours and the meat starts to get a strange texture).
Heat your oven to 425. Roast the chicken until a meat thermometer reads 140 (about 20 minutes). Raise the temperature to 500 and continue to cook until breast meat registers 160 (about 5-10 minutes), and leg/thigh meat registers between 170 and 175 (about 10-15 minutes).
Remove from oven and allow to cool. You can serve the meat hot from the oven, or allow to cool to room temperature and serve. Chicken can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in a tightly sealed container in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.
It did feel a little sacrilegious to open a can of sweet corn after having spent the morning eating fresh heirloom corn on the cob, but corn pudding just isn’t one of those things that would be improved by fresh corn, or homemade creamed corn. Also, out of town friend we only see twice a year (which is why Dinner got rearranged to Saturday evening) requested it, and it’s not like everyone else (me included) wasn’t super excited about it too.
Recipe previously given: Corn Pudding & Other Gateway Drugs
Because when was the last time I didn’t serve tomatoes with Dinner?
There was an enormous bin at Verrill Farms filled with watermelons with a sign above it listing all the varieties available, but they were all jumbled together so you sort of picked one that was the size you wanted and figured they’d all taste good. I ended up with a yellow watermelon which I hadn’t quite expected, but was very tasty and looked like sunshine.
Creamy Dreamy Lemon Popsicles
(makes 6 3-oz popsicles)
My grandmother used to mix buttermilk with her regular milk to drink, and my father has stories of baffling board meetings at a large (Dutch) bank where the board members would order out for cheese sandwiches and buttermilk in the middle of the day, but I’ve never been tempted to try drinking buttermilk straight. However, this was one of those recipes I saw everywhere and I finally caved and tried it, and everyone was right, it’s lovely. The buttermilk is the perfect combination of creamy and tangy against the lemon flavor.
2 Tbsp lemon zest (I just use the zest of 2 lemons and don’t measure beyond that)
5 Tbsp lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 2/3 cup buttermilk
Whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved – this will take a few minutes. Whisk in the buttermilk. Pour into 6 popsicle molds and freeze until frozen.
Chocolate Bourbon Popsicles
(makes 8 3-oz popsicles)
It’s just a little bit of bourbon, but it packs a punch.
½ cup sugar
3 ½ oz bittersweet chocolate (70% to 72%), chopped
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups water
2 Tbsp good-quality bourbon
Place all ingredients except the bourbon in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Transfer to a 4-cup glass measure (or any container with a spout for easy pouring). Let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Stir in the bourbon and divide the mixture among eight 3-oz. pop molds. Freeze until frozen.
If you don’t have popsicle molds (or if your popsicle molds don’t come with reusable sticks), not to worry. Any small bowl you’re willing to put in the freezer will work. Fill your mold of choice and then place in the freezer for 2-3 hours (depending on the zealousness of your freezer and how much liquid you’re freezing). When the mixture has frozen enough for a wooden popsicle stick to stand upright in it, but is still soft enough that you can push a popsicle stick into it, add the popsicle sticks and continue to freeze until solid.
Unmold by dipping the mold in hot water until the edges loosen and the popsicle slides out. It will also be easier if you spray your molds with a little cooking spray before you pour in your popsicle mixture.