Archive | May, 2012

Food Revolution Day in the Nation’s Capital

23 May

After weeks of planning, the first-ever Food Revolution Day arrived last Saturday. Food Revolution Day is a global call to action for people to stand up for real food sponsored by Jamie Oliver. Jamie’s been very active in food reform in America — the show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution really got the ball rolling for me in scrutinizing the way that we eat in this country. My foodie friend (who I met while volunteering weekly last year with Brainfood–a culinary-skills program aimed at building confidence for DC high schoolers) and I were chosen as the two ambassadors for Food Revolution Day in DC. This meant that we were tasked with galvanizing the entire city and rallying the troops if you will. We had big ideas and even thought we’d meet the First Lady…

We spent time brainstorming ideas to get restaurants that support local sustainable agriculture involved, wrote letters to Michelle and Jill (we are on a first-name basis now), and worked with our friends at FreshFarm Markets, but really just used our planning sessions as an excuse to get together and eat well. Discussing ideas over dinner at Little Serow and Palena is hardly an effort.

In the end, while our grandiose plans ended up being slightly less grand, we had a fabulously successful Food Revolution Day at the H St. NE FreshFarm Market. The weather was perfect, we had delicious samples of a strawberry sauce with yogurt and granola, a super cool veggie scavenger hunt for kids (with an awesome prize — “I ❤ farmers” temporary tattoos), and an insanely talented balloon animal artist. I even made people at the market promise me that they would cook something that evening in support of Food Revolution Day.

Here is a picture of how bustling and crowded the market was on this perfect Saturday morning.

We had some of Jamie Oliver’s easy recipes printed off for people to get ideas for things to cook in support of the revolution.

The farmers seemed to really enjoy the scavenger hunt. We had the kids take around a passport, pictured above on the bottom left, with pictures of seasonal fruits and veggies. When they found one, the farmers crossed off the item. When all items were checked off, we gave them the tat.

Did someone say they couldn’t find strawberries?

The balloon artist captured all kids’ attention — young and old. And by old, I mean 26. I could have watched him make giraffes for hours. And did.

This special birthday girl got to go home with a balloon doll of herself — a pretty pink ballerina.

All in all, it was a great day and I can’t wait until Food Revolution Day 2013. Here’s to meeting Lady O. next year!

xoxo,
the happenstance gourmande

Advertisements

Grass-Fed Glory and a Day in the Country — Clear Spring Creamery Visit

7 May

After getting sunburned at the farmers market on Saturday morning, my friend and I decided to head out to the country that afternoon. On Friday, I saw on my Facebook newsfeed that Clear Spring Creamery was having an open house on Saturday afternoon, and my friend and I were in. I picked up some provisions at the market — a delicious baguette from Atwaters and some awesome cheese from Keswick Creamery and we hit the road. The weather was gorgeous and just perfect for a drive out west. After only an hour and a half, we were out in the rolling hills and mountains of western Maryland near the Pennsylvania border. It was absolutely gorgeous.

After getting a bit lost (and finally finding our way courtesy of my newly gifted car’s navigation), we finally arrived at Clear Spring  Creamery.

There was a group of about 10 people and after sampling some of the delicious raw milk cheeses, Mark and Clare Seibert (farm owners) graciously led us on a tour of the farm.

free-range birds

picking all of the fresh eggs out of the coop

We got to see where the chickens roam freely, pecking at the grass and laying eggs. But most importantly, since Clear Spring is a dairy farm primarily, we saw all of the cows — eating grass of course!

baby calves

cow moos loudly to signal her young to return home

baby nurses from his mom

 

my favorite cow has a bow-shaped marking on her head!

It was so interesting to learn how the cows are fed particular kinds of grass and how that affects the flavor of the milk, how the cows are led via minimal fencing to graze specific parts of the pasture, and what eggs can look like at the end of a hen’s laying cycle.

Our afternoon at Clear Spring ended with a tour of the milking facility and a peek into where they pasteurize the milk at a minimal temperature (which I really think helps to lock in the great flavor — along with the non-homogenization) and a sample of their chocolate milk. Dairy heaven! If you are ever at the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market, you have got to try some of Clear Spring’s awesome products (like my favorite sippable yogurt)!

one last shot of my favorite ribbon cow posing in the pasture

xoxo,
the happenstance gourmande

So Ya Wanna Make Perfect Asparagus? Recipe: Asparagus with Spring Garlic and Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette

3 May

Working at the H St. NE farmers market has taught me one thing (among others): Spring opening days bring an ABUNDANCE of delicious asparagus. When I was younger, asparagus was on my worst-hated foods list (along with canned frosting). I, like so many other people, tried it overcooked once and never wished to relive the horror. Luckily, I stalked down asparagus perfection and now I am here to allay your fears of the stringy, mushy, fibrous myths that surround these blades of glory. (Canned frosting is still hated.)

You’ll want to be sure to get asparagus in season that seems stiff and snappable. If you bent it in half it would snap rather than bend into submission. Toss your limp stalks in the soup or to the dogs…or maybe the compost pile. The supplies you will need are a large pot, a skillet (non-stick or seasoned cast iron), and a large bowl filled with ice water.

First, you’ll need to rinse your asparagus in cold water and cut of the woody ends. If you have ever bitten into a stalk of asparagus only to find that your chewing is getting you nowhere and it is stringy and inedible — chances are that it is either OLD or the woody end was not properly cut.

In this picture, you can see approximately what I cut off to ensure that the woody part is removed. The top is asparagus that are cut and the left bunch still has the woody ends.

Next, I like to cut my asparagus into bite-sized pieces. You can opt to keep your stalks long or cut them smaller but just be sure that they fit comfortably into your pot of water.

Fill a pot with cold water and put in 3 large pinches of salt. I would guess that I use about 2-3 tbsp of kosher salt. Salting the cooking water helps to flavor the asparagus so that it is perfectly seasoned when it’s time to eat. Bring water to a boil and add the cut asparagus and stir frequently for about 4 minutes. I would start testing it at 3 minutes if you have cut smaller pieces and leave it in no more that 5 minutes. The asparagus should be perfectly tender and to the tooth.

Once your asparagus has reached its al dente point, immediately use tongs to place the asparagus into a bowl of ice water. This will shock in the bright green color and also stop it from cooking to preserve the perfect texture. 

Next, cut up the bottoms of four sprigs of spring garlic and a quarter of a large shallot.

spring garlic has a milder garlic flavor combined with green onion flavor

In a large skillet, heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic.

Drain the asparagus from the cold water in a colander and pour it into the hot pan with shallot and garlic infused olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch more of salt and turn it in the pan for a minute or until glossy with the oil.

 

Pour the finished asparagus onto a plate and now it’s time to make the sauce. In a bowl, whisk together a tsp of dijon mustard and 1.5 tbsp. of sherry vinegar. Drizzle in about 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and whisk together until emulsified. Pour over the asparagus and enjoy!

As you can see, I served mine with a piece of baked salmon and a kale and red pepper stir fry and some left over Bhutanese red rice that I’d had in the freezer. An easily delicious Wednesday evening.

And for dessert, I made banana “ice cream” with a little bit of cherry jam, chocolate chips, and peanut butter mixed in.

xoxo,
the happenstance gourmande