Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Late Summer Harvest Pasta Recipe

Onions! Sweet onions. I grew Alisa Craig's this year after getting them in our Maple Creek Farm CSA box in the past. They are sweet and are meant to be eaten right away. For storage, I grew Copra's and Red Spanish. I still had some left in March from the summer before.

The heat and humidity have really kicked my garden in gear. Fresh garlic, kohlrabi, cabbage and broccoli on the table at the at the top of the photo. In the bowl, green beans, cucumber, various peppers, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, large slicing tomato and ground cherries. Ground cherries are small yellow fruits with a papery skin that you remove before eating. This is a new item for us. They are sweet with the consistency of a tomato.

A favorite tomato to eat right out of the garden. These little cherry tomatoes are sugar sweet.

My eggplant did not do too well this year. I started them from seed them put them in pots but I think they needed more room. Better luck next year. Lucky for us, Farmers Randy and Shirley of Hampshire Farms sell beautiful, organically grown eggplant at Eastern Market. The Grown in Detroit table had some, too.

Here is the recipe for one of our favorite summer supppers. Enjoy!

Summer Pasta Sauce

1 onion, chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1" pieces

2 large zucchini, cut into 1" pieces

3 sweet peppers, cut into 1" pieces (I used green, yellow and red ones)

About 4 lbs. tomatoes, cut up (I use whatever I have on hand from the garden)

A couple of handfuls of fresh herbs-- Basil, Oregano and Thyme

Olive oil

Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Add the peppers and saute for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes. Let cook for about 10 minutes, then add the herbs. Simmer the sauce for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve over pasta of your choice.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

We Bought A Cow!

Her name is Amy and she lives in Kington, Michigan at Hampshire Farms, a family owned, certified organic farm in Kingston, MI. (The photo at the left is not at Hampshire Farms, but it was the only one I had of us with cows in it.) We met Randy and Shirley Hampshire several years ago when they began selling their certified organic grains, flours, cornmeal, beans, popcorn, bread, eggs and other products at Eastern Market. In June 2009, we were among the first families to invest in their cow share program. We had been thinking about switching from organic to raw milk for some time and when the Hampshire's started their program, we knew they were the people we wanted to invest with. Check out their website at and be sure to stop by their stall at Eastern Market in Shed Three.

My family and I have been on a journey that started for me, in 2000 when my older son joined our family. I was a vegetarian for three years and started eating meat again when I was dating my now former husband. I made my son's baby food and started my own backyard garden in 2004. We have made a concerted effort in the past six years to be more thoughtful about what we eat... leaning toward local, in-season food. When I adopted my second son, I did a lot of reading about traditional diets. The Weston A. Price Foundation and the local Healthy Traditions Network have provided a lot of information to consider. Their website is

Some of their strongest recommendations are related to animal products-- grass fed meat, unprocessed (raw, real) dairy. etc. Unfortunately, in Michigan as in many other states, it is illegal for farmers to sell unpasteurized dairy products directly to consumers. So, we bought a share in a cow. We pay a monthly maintenance fee that covers Amy's room and board and every week we pick up a gallon of milk at Eastern Market from the farmers.

This past week, I made a soft cheese with our milk. This is a cheese that my mom (and Situe and other members of our family) made on a regular basis when I was a child. It is unbelievably simple and even more delicious with raw milk.

Here is how it is made:

Put 1 gallon of milk in a stainless steel pot and add 1 teaspoon rennet. I use vegetable rennet purchased online from

Heat the milk over medium heat. As the curds form, push them down into the milk. Once the liquid is cloudy, scoop the curds into a small strainer and press the whey out of the cheese back into the pot. One gallon of milk should yield about 6-8 patties of cheese.

Sprinkle the cheese with salt and add about 1 teaspoon salt to 4 cups of the whey (remaining liquid). Place the cheese and the whey in separate glass containers and chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Store the cheese and whey together once both are chilled.

We enjoy our cheese with calamata olives and pita bread.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Grandpa Ed was right...

My maternal grandmother's name was Dessie Mae Tucker. My grandfather's name was Ed Hall. She was tall and raw boned and plain spoken- some would say ornery. He was tall and thin, quiet and patient. They lived in Paris, Tennessee so we only saw them for about 10 days in the summer when we were kids. I always think of my grandparents this time of year when my garden really gets going and I start thinking about the process of canning, drying and freezing produce for the winter.

Every summer, my family would drive down in the family's station wagon to spend a couple of weeks with my grandparents. My sister and I would always sleep in the back bedroom when we would visit them. The double bed was against the wall so when the sun rose, the light would come in the window behind us. The opposite wall was lined with canned goods from their farm-- tomatoes, green beans, pickles, beets, carrots, pickled watermelon rind, corn, okra. It had a certain smell that I now recognize whenever I can my own garden surplus.

Their farm was considerably smaller by the time we were born but still way bigger than anything we ever saw in Detroit. At one time, my grandpa raised animals as well as vegetables and fruit. What are now called "heirloom" tomatoes were the same ordinary, sliced tomatoes that my grandmother served at every supper, still warm from the garden. We always loved going out to the garden after the evening meal where Grandpa showed us how to pick a ripe watermelon. (It falls off the vine when you tap it.) There was nothing like it!

It's amazing what has happened to our country's food system in the last 50 years. I remember hearing Grandpa Ed talk about the dangers of pesticides and herbicides, factory farming and genetic engineering (I seem to remember his saying something like "I reckon them scientists think they can tinker with nature") back in the 1980's. At the time, I didn't really understand the scope of the issues or the impending disaster but I certainly got the message that Grandpa thought it was a bad idea. I am sure that he would not be happy to see how our environment, our economy and yes, our national security, is being destroyed.

So, what can we do about it? First, we have to recognize that the current food system is broken. And, many of us do. There are more and more informed consumers making the choice to buy locally produced food that is raised in an environmentally responsible way. From this position of engaged consumer, we need to become enraged activists. This is a little tougher but we don't have to sell our stuff and move to a commune (now called intentional communities, more on that at some other time) or handcuff ourselves to the gates of Monsanto Corporation. But, we can do more than Know your food, Know your Farmer as the slogan goes ... in other words, go beyond shopping at the Farmer's Market and growing our own food.

A couple of organizations that I support are:

Organic Consumer's Association. The link to their website is They work to keep organic standards from being watered down and will help you keep up-to-date on federal and state legislation affecting our food system. They send email action alerts when legislation is being considered with clear ways to make our voices heard.

The Farm to Consumers Legal Defense Fund. They actively support family farms and work on policy issues related to our right to purchase raw milk and other nutrient dense foods directly from farmers. In the State of Michigan and in many other states around the country, it is illegal for farmers to sell unpasteurized milk. My family has owned a share in a dairy cow for more than a year now as a way to get access to real milk. The milk is wonderful and it is our way of being both an engaged consumer and an enraged activist. The corporate food companies feel so threatened by these farmers that they have launched aggressive campaigns to defeat any legislation that would loosen the current restrictions. Their website is

So, from my little corner of the world, we will keep gardening, shopping at the Farmer's Market, canning, freezing and drying our own food. I will also write letters and emails to our elected officials, spread the word to friends and family, donate money to organizations like OCA and Farm to Consumers Legal Defense Fund and pray that the changes will be made.