locavore

7 Tips For Finding the Right CSA

by Anne Maxfield on April 16, 2018

Accidental Locavore CSA LettuceThis is the time of year when we all start yearning for anything fresh.

A CSA or Community Sponsored Agriculture share is a great way to support local farmers and put plenty of great produce on your table.

While a few years ago, this was a pretty new concept, now there are CSAs for almost everything from fruits and vegetables to coffees and breads.

How do you pick the best CSA for you?

Accidental Locavore CSAThese were my criteria for picking one and while yours will probably be different, here are 7 tips:

  1. A convenient pick-up place, day and time. You need to think about where and when you want to have an abundance of produce. Do you cook and entertain during the weekends? Or will you use it mostly during the week? When will you have time to wash/prep stuff? Do you have fridge space?
  2. A reasonable share for the number of people in your household. If you hate wasting food and sometimes feel like the kitchen version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice–cooking as fast as you can, only to have a whole new box show up, you might want to split a share with a neighbor or friend. Some CSAs offer half shares or will match you up with other members who are looking to share the bounty.
  3. For some, organic is important; I’m more into sustainable practices, but if organic matters, only look for those farmers.
  4. A farmer/farm referral. Like most business relationships, it’s all about doing business with people you know and like. We originally joined Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s CSA because a woman farmer I knew was working there and I liked her and her agricultural point of view.
  5. Choice. One of the things I love most about PFP is the ability to choose from about a dozen or more weekly offerings. I can get carrots when I want them and skip the beets. They also have pick-your-own options which add herbs, berries and flowers to your share if you’re willing to go out in the fields. Over the years they’ve added the options to add a fruit share, coffee, meat and even a winter share to get you through the dark months.
  6. What foodstuffs you’re looking for (and can use up). When we joined, we were looking mostly for produce. However, there are many CSAs that offer meat, poultry, bread, eggs and other foods. A few minutes on the Internet should find you just what you need.
  7. Giving back to the community. This is more of an extra credit thing, but Poughkeepsie Farm Project is in the middle of an urban area and gives back through education and by providing produce to local families.

Accidental Locavore CSA shareWhatever you decide, a CSA is a great way of exploring new foods, while supporting farmers.

But act soon, many of the most popular may be sold out for the season!

 

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MeOhMy Cookies: The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie?

by Anne Maxfield on March 5, 2018

For a while, I’d given up my quest for the best chocolate chip cookie. All the ones I’d made were acceptable, and we ate them, but nothing had come up to the gold standard set a few years ago at a lunch for Blue Star Ranges.

However, that was about to change and right in my backyard, so to speak.

In the back of Jeanie Beans, our favorite lunch spot, there’s a whole cookie making operation going on.

Little did I know that Deb, the founder and creator of MeOhMy cookies, was turning out her delicious treats 10’ away from Jeanie’s delicious fish and chips.

I’d seen the bags of cookies there and almost grabbed one the other day in my search for chocolate chip nirvana (because, trust me, it’s not coming from my kitchen).

Hers are thin and crispy which, after much consideration, is how I like them. If you’re the thick and chunky tifosi, you can probably skip the rest of this piece (or just comment about how wrong I am).

She makes them in small batches, with local ingredients whenever possible. Besides the chocolate chip, there’s an oatmeal raisin crunch, a lemon sugar snap and a toffee almond with coconut.

Accidental Locavore MeOhMy Cookie The chocolate chip are my favorite and a Hudson Valley Best of winner. They’re thin with crunchy buttery edges, a perfect ratio of (good—Callibut) chocolate chips and a buttery goodness.

Supposedly, there is a hack on the Internet for warming up chocolate chip cookies in the microwave. Deb tried it at Jeanie Beans in her old and weak microwave for a minute and it was great (hey, what’s better than a warm chocolate chip cookie?). I tried it at home and in 33 seconds had a roaring fire burning in my microwave (and one less cookie). When Deb said she had tried it at home with the same results, I decided that they were fine just out of the bag!

Oatmeal raisin cookies are one of those cookies that have to prove themselves to me. Normally, I don’t like raisins sneaking around in things, but they’re called oatmeal raisin for a reason, so they get a pass. These might also vault up to the top of my list for oatmeal raisin. There’s something in them that does give you nice crunchy bits, along with the softer centers, a crispy edge and just enough raisins. That is of the two I managed to sneak away from my husband who after the first cookie, commandeered the rest of the bag.

The last of the ones I’ve tried are the lemon sugar snap. It’s the thickest of the three, with a nice buttery shortbread quality and a hint of lemon that enhances but doesn’t overwhelm the cookie. Deb says on her website that they’re “a perfect treat at the end of the day with a cup of tea” but why wait for the end of the day?

While the toffee almond with coconut sounds like it would be a true contender with the chocolate chip, sadly I’ve not tasted them because of an old nut allergy. Better safe than sorry, but they do look delicious!

You can order MeOhMy cookies on her website. If you go for the 4-bag assortment, you can mix and match to your heart’s content. There are also a number of stores in and around the Hudson Valley that carry them. Click here for a list of retailers.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Adventures With Fish Sauce

by Anne Maxfield on February 26, 2018

Accidental Locavore Fish Sauce Do you use fish sauce?

If you think about what goes into it, you might never use it, but you’d be missing out on an important ingredient in a lot of Thai and Vietnamese dishes to name a few. It’s that umami flavor you get that you can never quite figure out.

It’s made from fish, left out in the hot tropical sun to ferment—sounds yummy right? FYI, it smells pretty much like it tastes, so you don’t want to be inhaling a lot of it. Just sprinkle on whatever you’re making and enjoy (it’s surprisingly good on Brussels sprouts).

There are lots of different types, Red Boat being one of my favorites, but it’s hard to find in this area, so I ordered it from Amazon. No big deal.

Except…

I got a notice in my post office box that there was a package and some damage. Since it was before the holidays, I was terrified that my cousin’s box of incredible homemade jams had broken.

But this was worse.

Much worse.

Suddenly all the really terrific ladies at the post office, were not looking happy.

And I was beginning to feel like Public Enemy #1.

One of them, went to get my “damaged” package. Coming back, she was trying to hold it as far from her face as she could. As she approached, I immediately understood why. This package was wet and dripping into a plastic bag. And it stank!

Really stank. Like fish left out in a tropical sun.

Oops. My fish sauce. Oh s**t.

Somehow, somewhere, someone thought the best way to ship a glass bottle of fish sauce was to put it in a cardboard Priority Mail envelope and (literally) toss it in the mail.

I gathered up my courage, (and the future of all my mail) apologized profusely and asked if I could refuse the package.  I also promised never to order any more fish sauce by mail, so she reluctantly took it to the back room—as far from patrons as possible and said it would go back.

They said it took most of the day to get the stink out of their office once the package had been sent back. I went on Amazon and complained and got my money back, but the damage was done.

I’ve promised June and Pattie no more stinky stuff by mail and we’re back to being friends again.

Oh, and the bottle of Red Boat? I bought it at Kalustyan’s and took it home on the train.

 

 

 

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Accidental Locavore Sheet Pan ChickenThis sheet pan chicken dinner came about because I was stuck in the house on a snowy day, and come across a recipe (this from the NY Times Cooking) for something that sounds perfect for dinner and…

I had all the ingredients!!

Bonus points because it all got prepped in the time it took to thaw out the chicken thighs and clean off a car.

Sheet Pan Chicken with Potatoes, Arugula and Garlic Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 ½ pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • 1 ¼ pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, halved and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons harissa (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 ½ tablespoons olive oil, more as needed
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest (from 1/2 lemon)
  • ⅓ cup plain yogurt (do not use Greek yogurt)
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 2 ounces baby arugula
  • Chopped fresh dill, as needed
  • Lemon juice, as needed

Accidental Locavore Chicken Sheet Pan MakingsCombine chicken and potatoes in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together harissa, cumin and 3 tablespoons oil. Pour over chicken and potatoes and toss to combine. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine leeks, lemon zest, a pinch of salt and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil.

Heat oven to 425°. Arrange chicken and potatoes on a large rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast 15 minutes. Toss potatoes lightly. Scatter leeks over pan. Roast until chicken and potatoes are cooked through and everything is golden and slightly crisped, 25 to 30 minutes longer.

While chicken cooks, place yogurt in a small bowl. Grate garlic over yogurt and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon yogurt over chicken and vegetables in the pan. Scatter arugula and dill over mixture. Drizzle with oil and lemon juice, serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Sheet Pan ChickenMy verdict: Like I said in the intro, miraculously all the ingredients were in the house! I did all the prep and made the yogurt sauce (adding about ½ teaspoon of lemon juice) while the thighs were thawing. Then, all I needed to do was pop it on a sheet pan (which I’ve taken to lining with parchment to make cleaning up easier) and bake it.

It was delicious! The potatoes were amazing, and the chicken was great! We’ll definitely be having this again.

A few comments from readers who had made it, taught me to keep the potatoes on the outside perimeter to help them crisp and try to put the leeks under the chicken and potatoes so they wouldn’t singe. Both worked well. The next time, I might slice the leeks a little thicker, it wouldn’t hurt the cooking time, and there would be less chance of singeing them.

The third helpful comment was to put the arugula on the plates and then plate the chicken and potatoes on top, so the arugula doesn’t get too warm and wilted. Also, a good idea.

If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you might want to go easy on the harissa. My favorite brand is spicy and flavorful, but not killer.

The dill is probably optional, if you have it great, if not cilantro might even be better. I added lemon juice to the yogurt, so went a little easy with it on the chicken.

You’ve got lots of options here and any of them will make an easy, tasty dinner.

 

 

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