Thursday, May 17, 2007

The squeaky wheel gets the oil.....

Is that the saying? I know it's something like that. Well, actually, I guess I just sort of suspect it. I really don't know much at all right now as I'm merely a sip into the first coffee of the day. I may know more later. In the meantime, please consider that it's something near enough like that to give the idea.

What I'm trying to say through this fog of uncaffeinated ignorance is that I think Full Circle Farms is making ripples in the local grocery. The other day I coupled the joy of our greenflighted boxes of organic, sustainably farmed produce with a(n) (albeit mild) complaint about the local absence of hormone-free milk. (OK, I also complained - albeit mildly - about having to pay $30 for a gallon-and-a-half of laundry detergent, but that was funny -right?) Funny or not, mild or not, there is no dispute that within a few days of that post.......Well, check out what I found at the local A.C. grocery store yesterday:

Isn't that pretty? Hormone-free milk! At the A.C.! So pretty, in fact, I think it warrants a high-tech close-up:

Alas, my cartwheel of glee is a little restrained. It's a little pricey. Someone check my measurements and math, but doesn't it come out to around $15 a gallon? That's almost the cost of orange juice! Though I love to see it there, it just seems a bit steep....even for the privilege of freedom from artificial bovine hormones!

Of course, I wouldn't write a whole post just to announce the local availability of hormone-free milk. Well, actually, I would. But I didn't, in this case. I am also writing to share a rather .... hmmmm, [how do I describe this mildly] interesting tundra-island trick that I recently learned about from a neighbor. Apparantly, the thing to do is to wait until the expiration date, when the A.C. will sometimes sell them at half-price, and buy-out all the remaining gallons of milk. When he told me this trick, he was buying only one gallon of the expired milk. And was quite excited about the savings. Obviously, I questioned the penny-saving thought about buying milk that you would have to throw out. One person couldn't drink a whole gallon of it before it started to smell, could they? and they certainly couldn't drink multiple gallons of it! But what I learned - though have never actually followed-up with any type of confirming experiments of my own - is that you freeze it. Frozen, expired milk. Hmmm. It makes the hormone-free stuff sound all the more worth foregoing the orange juice!

Since I'm blogging about the local grocery store, here's a few more snapshots just in case Genevieve is feeling any nostaglia for the good ol' AC........

[In a world of utopian cartwheels, my friends, I'd find a way to persuade blogspot to play Paul Basile's "You Can Get Anything You Want at the A.C. Superstore" while you read this entry. Alas, I can't. But here are some songs that will always remind me of one good coffeeshop and how great a winter Saturday night can be. For those that didn't make it to a Saturday night @ the Coffeeshop, I have no qualms recommending the c.d. for "Montana Sleeps" alone.]

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Flying Fava Beans

Four years ago, if I had time and gumption to blog, I probably would have waxed ecstactic and verbose about the Union Square Greenmarket. I loved Union Square. I loved its greenmarket. Luckily, I lived just a mere two blocks away. So it was a love with daily nurturing. It was, maybe, even a love of desperation. Call me melodramatic, but during that Manhattan lifetime and all the various social and professional frenzies that epitomized it, there was always a lingering and consistent suspicion that the very survival of my life-earned personality required lots of time at Union Square. It's just a very good place (generally) and greenmarket (more specifically). (As an even more specific side-thought, it was also an excellent place for stalking ornery, [organic], turnip growers, the independence and gumption of whom I so admired, that I was too shy to ever actually approach lest I end up a frightful spectacle of wretched finance lawyer gushing all sorts of requests to a stranger for advice on how to reverse the embalming of my soul....or perhaps I was simply avoiding the answer I knew but just wasn't yet ready yet to accept....hmmm....)

I tried, after moving to Anchorage, to re-create some of that greenmarket habit. During the summer, there is a Saturday Market in downtown Anchorage - and I could walk to it! Alas, it is a bit touristry. And though there were occassionally some vegetables and herbs, I guess there just weren't enough of them consistently to nudge away from my mind all the "Gruntin' Grizzlies," cruise passengers and incense stands that I had to walk past to get to them. There was also a separate Farmer's Market, which was certainly more local and produce-driven. But I had to drive to it. I never quite got over that. In the end, I adopted the New Sagaya Market as my local stand-in greenmarket. I walked there just about every day. I loved it there. It wasn't necessarily outdoors, but the whole front of the store is made of garage-style doors that roll up and disappear. And they'd put out all these tables and chairs that, though not picnic tables, did allow me to spread out newspapers and be anonymous socially. There were organic vegetables, and seasonal vegetables, and hormone-free milk and meats, and cheese. But, best yet, the cashiers loved Puck. Seriously, loved him. They took turns watching each other's registers to come out and play with him. And I was happy.

And then, quite happily, I moved here. And I do love it here too. But organic vegetables, let alone hormone-free milks, are not really an option outside of the 3-month /summer-gardening/do-it-yourself season. And though I do spend a lot of time at the table and chairs inside the local A.C. grocery store, and love catching up both with the people sitting beside me and the people who are passing through, and I really have no complaints about the local A.C. grocery store other than the fact that laundery detergent is ridiculously priced on sale at $30.00 for a gallon and a half and....ok, this isn't a venue for just isn't a greenmarket.

But, joy of joys, glee of glees, jubilations indeed! - we have a new grocery option! Full Circle Farms, a 260 acre family-owned farm in Washington State, has started doing a weekly, delivered organic CSA. It's not a Greenmarket. It's a Greenflight. Every Thursday, the afternoon jet comes flying into town bearing boxes of organic produce. And there is a whole burgeoning sub-group of town that spends the week practically giddy in anticipation. Granted, I don't get to stalk turnip growers. But I get to eat organic vegetables from family-owned farms practicing sustainable agriculture whilst living in a community full of characters stubborn with principles. I'm sure that the Ornery Turnip Grower of the Union Square Greenmarket would approve.

The first week of Greenflight, I thought I'd explode with the gift of it. Seriously. I could have been all of seven years old again, and hoping hoping hoping to find an E.T. doll and a Members Only Jacket under the Christmas tree. In this case, alas, I didn't find fava beans and rhubarb. (Let's leave for another time whether I may someday be so inundated with fava beans and rhubarb as to hasten a mature disdain for them, as sadly happened years ago with E.T. and Members Only). But - oh! - did I love taking delicious strawberries down to the sea wall as a snack whilst listening to the ice crack. And the leeks and bok choy! I suppose I'll grow old reminiscing about how much fun I had that first week carousing through cookbooks collecting ideas for the artichokes. The salad! The tomatoes! (Don't hate me because they aren't yet seasonal - they were delicious!) It was, folks, exhillerating. Oh goodness....the radishes! So crisp! I ate them the very first night, with a bit of Tillamook butter and a crackling of sea salt. And I swooned.

The second week, we weren't here. I gifted the gift to a friend who loves to cook, and asked him to pick it up and enjoy it. But I did learn a gift - apparantly Full Circle lets you supplement your delivery with specific available items that you might have stalked a greenmarket for, had one been available.

By the third week - this week - I was an old hand at this Greenflighting business. My standard box was supplemented - and not just with fava beans and rhubarb. There was also the supplement of free-range eggs, fresh herbs, fresh garlic that isn't whithered into yellow husks or blooming into green shoots, sweet onions, asparagus......Puffed up with pride though my chest may be, I could - here among friends - perhaps concede that I wasn't such an old hand after all. Perhaps I was actually more of an enthusiastic one. Because when I went to pick up my Full Circle box, I was - I admit - a little surprised, and alarmed, that I actually had three of them waiting for me.

I had ordered, my friends, three boxes worth of glee!

This picture doesn't do it justice. Seriously, produce everywhere. It took a little maneouvering with the fridge, and a drop-off or two to share the surplus with neighbors, but eventually everything found a space. And once it did, what a delight it was to spend the evening, roasting asparagus.....

and shelling fava beans......

all whilst reading about Genevieve's bounty of 250 pounds of Aleutian pollock, cod and salmon and Molly's gorgeous description of her meals in Lyon's bouchons with an affectionately attentive Puck nested at my feet.

Please don't be surprised....I ate the radishes first! I love spring radishes!

Braised Fava Beans and Baby Zucchini with Rosemary and Vermouth
(adapted from Alice Water's recipe for Fava Beans with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Rosemary in Chez Panisse Cooking)

Remove the fava beans from the pods. Parboil them and drain them in a colander. Allow to cool. (Alice Waters calls for you to run them under cold water, but my tap water is orange and my potable water is $3/gallon on sale, and so I don't generally use water as a cooling agent.) Using your fingernail, break the outer skin of the beans and squeeze out the beans. Warm some olive oil in a pan, with some fresh (FRESH !!!!) rosemary and coarsely chopped (FRESH !!!!) garlic. Add some chunks of (FRESH !!!!) baby zucchini, the shucked beans, some water (keeping in mind the goal is not to have soup but rather to soften flavors and textures and then evaporate), salt and pepper. Bring to a low simmer and cook until the vegetables are slightly softened and the water evaporated. (This should take about 20 or 25 minutes.) Right before serving, add a squirt of lemon juice to freshen the tastes. Serve it with salad, roasted asparagus, and hard-boiled free-range eggs. For the Iowa fiance, supplement the joy with a hunk of fried ham.