Sunday, April 22, 2007

Notes from the Pantry: Farmer's Markets and Vegetable Stock

I am a suburban forager.

Saturday: Caltrained to the Ferry Building for goodies. I arrived too late to snag a Spring Hill Organic butter (drat!), but I was able to secure a dozen Marin Sun Farms pasture-raised eggs. At $7, these are the most expensive eggs I have ever purchased, so I hope these chickens live like kings.

After filling my grocery tote, I grabbed a cappuccino from Blue Bottle Roasting Co (a local roaster). Good coffee, lovely cappuccino art, and friendly (attractive) baristas. :-> I also bought a lamb sausage from Prather Ranch Meat Co., another purveyor of sustainable, humanely-raised animal products. Served on a fresh Acme bun with mint sauce...divinity.

I forgot to pick up local olive oil for the week, and I used this excuse to visit Mountain View's Sunday farmer's market. The only olive oil supplier was Adams Ranch, which offered reasonably priced organic oil which I found wonderfully flavorful. Strong, buttery Mission olives dominate -- definately a finishing oil. Jenny picked out a bottle of mildly-flavored Napa Valley olive oil at Country Sun on our way home, so between the two we will have our olive oiling bases covered. Mmm. Country Sun also stocks Spring Hill butter -- not as fresh as from the farmer's market, but at least I get local cred.

My culinary plan for the week: using my fancy-pants eggs, remaining creme fraiche, and frou-frou butter, I will make a Tartine Bakery cookbook quiche. I picked up leeks, fennel, and potatoes at the Ferry Building, so a rich soup is in order. And a Synergy lemon, Mountain View shallots, and crisp local greens will join forces for a simple side salad. I expect my excessive leftovers to last a few days, and my other purchases (chard, celery, carrots, eggplant spread, Spring Hill sage cheddar, etc) will sate my Bay Area-loving palate.

Revision on rules for this week: I've been reading up/thinking on local fooding, and I aim for 80/20 locavore. That is to say, if I can get 80% of my food locally, and 20% from other sources, I get a pat on the back. I cannot, for example, purchase flour, coffee, or (gulp) chocolate from local sources; and although I could abstain from these imported fares, the point of this exercise is to become familiar with local providers of staple items. It is not a low-carb, no-caffeine diet.

Besides, mindful purchasing is a bigger than prioritizing local, or organic, or whatever. Some items, like butter or strawberries, have local sources, and buying these confers benefits to me and my community. Other items, like rice, can be sourced through California, but because grain production in this region is water and petroleum-intensive, purchasing rice from Bangladesh actually creates a smaller eco-footprint. Gah! So many details! I want a food ethics litmus test -- four legs good, two legs bad!

Food ethics make for a complicated calculus -- any over-simplified metric becomes an exercise in purity rather than values. I am enjoying the excuse to try, say, new local olive oils and visit nearby farmer's markets. But dammit, I need my caffeine.

Using some otherwise unappealing vegetable bits (celery hearts, leek tops, etc), I made a gallon (!) of 99% local fresh veggie stock (peppercorns from whoknowswhere). Crazy easy. I'm now officially swearing off storebought stocks alltogether. If you have random veggie bits and can boil water, you can too!

Basic Vegetable Stock

4 cups chopped mixed vegetables (I used: 2 cups leek tops, 1 cup carrots, 1 cup celery hearts; onions work here too)
18 cups water
6-8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
8 branches parsley
10-14 pepper corns
salt (to taste)
olive oil (splash to taste)

Bring everything to a boil for one hour. Strain out solids. Voila! Refrigerate all the stock you can use in 3-5 days, and freeze the rest.

Quiche and soup to come!

P.S. I've been craving raw oyster; or rather, never having eaten raw oyster, I've roused the desire to do so. Today, at a fishmonger's suggestion, I downed a fresh Kumomoto. I loved it. It was sweeter and milder than I expected, and the texture was delightful. I could see myself eating a plate of these -- which is unfortunate, given their price.


Kit said...

I'm jealous. I've never had a Kumomoto oyster myself. Go to the link for pictures of this delectable treat.

Reminds me of the scene from Tampopo where the young diver kisses the blood off this man' lip, then cuts the oyster out of the shell and places it in her hand for the man to eat.

Seriously hot.

I'm going to try making your veggie broth at home. But I think I might add some mushrooms (personal love).

Kit said...

what color was your broth?

Monica said...

Green, like pondwater green. But it was super tasty!

Monica said...

Oh, and PS, I'm going to have to see this Tampopo of which you speak. Maybe a whole food-movie marathon. Bella Marta, Like Water for Chocolate, Chocolat, Sideways (sortof)...anything else?

Kit said...

eat drink man woman (honestly, I really just watch it for the food moments. You can kind of skip the rest)

Babette's Feast (haven't seen it...)
Vatel (also haven't seen it)

Victoria said...

I love making veggie broth. Try using peelings from beets to deepen the flavor and create beautiful color. If you want "beefy" looking broth, use both beet and carrot peels to produce deep brown broth with subtle, earthy sweetness.

Also, check out Sweet Earth Chocolates from San Luis Obispo. The owner goes all over the world working with coco farmers and selecting beans, then makes the chocolate here in California. It is superb! Not locally grown, but organic Fair Trade beans producing locally made chocolate.