Cooking Fresh Food From The Union Square Farmers’ Market

Union Square Farmers' MarketI can’t keep using my tiny NY apartment kitchen as an excuse for not cooking. It’s not ideal, but it’s not the worst I’ve seen in the city either. One great thing about New York is that while most living quarters may be smaller than the rest of the world, just about everything else is bigger, this includes farmers’ markets such as the Union Square Farmers’ Market.

The selection can be overwhelming. I spent Monday meandering through the different stalls wondering what to pick up to cook for dinner. I was lucky enough to come across a stall where they were cooking some of their vegetables for people to taste. In New York you need hustle and showmanship and as a result they won my purchase of garlic, sweet peppers and purslane, an ingredient I was not familiar with.

Purslane

Aside from being exposed to new ingredients and supporting the local community, a key benefit to shopping local and at a farmers’ market is that you can talk to the farmers themselves and also learn about how they grow their crops.

Clean Food

At home I tested out cooking the purslane as I had seen demonstrated through a quick sauté in olive oil, along with garlic, onion and the peppers, a little salt and black pepper. The garlic from the farmers’ market is very different from that which you find in the supermarket. This one in particular was sweeter and had a more delicate flavor.Purslane, Peppers, Garlic

I was pretty happy with the result, a repeated this on Tuesday, cooking the purslane a bit longer to get a softer result.Cooked Purslane, Peppers, Garlic, Onion

Wednesday’s farmers’ market in Union Square allowed me to get a fresh zucchini and some cherry tomatoes.Fresh Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

I happily cooked these down in olive oil over low heat with some salt and pepper and garlic.

Fresh Cooking Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

IMG_5838

When cooked through I added this to some penne pasta for a late pasta primavera style (it’s summer) meal.

Pasta Primavera, Fresh Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

I feel bad that I used boxed pasta and hope that I can make some from scratch next time. I’m lucky to work so close to the farmers’ market and will make it a point to try out new ingredients as much as I can.

Continue Reading

Food and the Media

Last night Michael Pollan held a live video webcast on Facebook. I had just picked up my CSA meat share and stopped by my parents’ for dinner just in time to tune in. The purpose of the webcast was for Michael to take and respond to people’s questions regarding his recent film Food Inc. and about food in general.

Seizing the opportunity to to participate, I asked Michael about his thoughts regarding major media like the Food Network and their responsibility in promoting healthy food. Fortunately he remarked that it was a very good question and cited examples of TV shows on the Food Network where the shows and hosts promoted food that is woefully unhealthy for people to eat and also without any real consideration where the food came from and how it was processed. He believed that the media could do a better job at promoting healthy eating habits while still being true to their mission.

This isn’t to say that food television shows or the Food Network for that matter should change format and start preaching better eating habits. They have great television and feature shows that are entertaining and instructive showing viewers what they want to see. Individuals have their own responsibility when it comes to food choices and how they live their lives.

The webcast did make me think about this very question and its answer. The media has great influence over what we think about and how we view our food. Viewers often imitate what they see in an effort to recreate recipes or make dishes of their own. The good news is that Americans are becoming more concerned about where their food comes from and its impact on the environment and society and their health. Overtime media will evolve to reflect this and it will be easier to broadcast TV shows promoting healthier eating. The question is, should they be more proactive and try to affect change?

Continue Reading

Supporting Your Local Farmer Through CSAs

Be A Local Here, Buy Locally Grown
Be A Local Here, Buy Locally Grown

I was about to leave work now when I received an email from Chestnut Farms, a local farm in Massachusetts, welcoming me into their meat CSA. This is really exciting news. I learned about them and their meat CSA a few weeks ago at lunch with my friend Erik. He is part of the program and after hearing about it I knew I wanted to join.

CSAs as they are referred to stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The idea is that members contribute contribute to a share of a farming program in return for locally grown meat and/or vegetables depending on the farm. It’s great both farmers and consumers as it it allows for both to connect. Farmers also get the added benefit of a guaranteed demand for their livestock or produce while consumers gain a better awareness of where their food comes from in addition to a fresher and healthier product. A sustainable farm shares a limited amount of shares as the farm must be able to sustain it’s livestock or vegetables by utilizing the land that they have instead of buying feed or chemical fertilizer from outside sources. This requires the changing of grazing areas and the rotation of crops on a regular basis, just as nature intended.

Most of us buy our meat from the supermarket or butcher. It comes wrapped in a package and is practically indistinguishable from its live form, often treated with chemicals or dyes to make it look fresh. While I’ll be picking my meat up at a distribution site once a month, the farm encourages share members to visit and see where their food comes from. I like the idea that I can drive to the farm, see how the animals are treated and cared for. I k now I will feel confident that the food I will be eating is as healthy as it can be and that the animals have been treated and slaughtered humanely.

I signed up for the lowest share to start which provides me with 10 pounds of meat a month consisting of pork, beef, chicken, turkey and lamb. I’m really excited about getting meat from a local farm that is grown without the use of hormones or other artificial means.  The commitment for each share lasts 6 months and is available for pick-up at many different locations in surrounding towns; I chose a pick-up site in the town that I grew up in.

At the moment I see three drawbacks of joining a program like this. The first and obvious one is price. It does cost a bit more to buy the meat through the CSA than at the supermarket, but when I think about about what I am getting I am ok with this. Secondly, I have to pick it up at a certain time and place each month whether I need it or not. This means that I have to keep that day free for my pickup or ask my parents to help me out if they are around. It also means that I could run out of meat and have to buy it at the supermarket anyway or that I could have leftover meat which I have to store in my freezer. The other thing which is not really a drawback but a change is the lack of choice in meat. Depending on the time of year and the availability on the farm, my meat share contents will change each month. This actually makes sense and is more natural as not all meat is “in season” all year round. Being able to eat meat or pork any day of the year is only a modern phenomenon which draws gasps of disbelief when pointed out. My share starts in June and I’ll provide updates as I make my pickups

Continue Reading