Monday, June 29, 2009

Recipe File: Grilled Vegetable Po' Boy

from Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook
by Poppy Tooker
marketumbrella.org, 2009.

The po' boy (or poor boy) has been the iconoclastic sandwich of New Orleans since the 1927 streetcar strikes. Martin's Grocers, a popular grocery and food emporium across from the old French Market, posted notices across New Orleans guaranteeing those "poor boys" (the striking streetcar drivers) a free meal at Martin's every day til the strike was settled. To stretch the free meal for their hungry families, Mr. Martin sat down with his French bread baker, John Gendusa, and together they sketched out on a piece of brown paper the length that a single sandwich on a loaf would have to measure in order to feed a whole family. That is how the po' boy sandwich came to be. Usually served brimming with fried seafood or dripping with roast beef and gravy, this is a rare po' boy idea, perfect for the hungry vegetarian... but imagine what a little roast beef gravy could do.

Grilled vegetable marinade

* 1 cup olive oil/vegetable oil mix
* 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
* 1/4 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
* 1/4 teaspoons salt
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Roasted garlic spread

* 1/4 cup roasted garlic
* 1/4 cup mayonnaise
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/3 teaspoon black pepper

Vegetables

* 1/2 pound Japanese eggplant, half peeled so eggplant looks “striped”, cut into 1/2 inch slices
* 1/2 pound red onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
* 1 red bell pepper
* 1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
* 1 cup grilled vegetable marinade

* 4 6-inch po’ boy loaves, cut in half horizontally
* 1 cup roasted garlic spread
* tomato slices
* lettuce, julienned
* 6 ounces fontina cheese, sliced

To prepare Grilled Vegetable Marinade: Combine all ingredients—oil, vinegar, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper—in blender container. Purée.

To prepare Roasted Garlic Spread: Combine all ingredients—garlic, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper—in blender container. Purée.

To prepare Vegetables: Combine eggplant, onion, zucchini, and marinade; mix well. Set aside to marinate for 20 minutes.

Grill vegetables over hot coals until tender, turning frequently. Do not char. Peel the pepper and slice.

To serve, spread both halves of po’ boy loaves with roasted garlic spread. Place tomato and lettuce on bottom halves, then top with grilled vegetables and fontina cheese. Top with loaf tops. Slice each po’ boy in half and serve.

Serves 4.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Book Stall Review: Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook

Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook
by Poppy Tooker
marketumbrella.org, 2009

New Orleans native Poppy Tooker, a prolific food writer, TV producer and local foods promoter, is an apt author for this cookbook with a story, the story being the 400-year market tradition of the Crescent City and the history of its namesake farmers market.

"During our thirteen year history, over one hundred different farmers and food producers have participated in one or more of the weekly markets. In this book we profile everyone currently selling at the market, and also include many whom we hope will return one day, after overcoming continued difficulties relating to the devastating storms of 2005," Tooker explains.

Many of the vendor profiles are interspersed with recipes featuring the ingredients they produce. Over 125 recipes are included, ranging from appetizers like Cajun Caviar and soups such as Louisiana Oyster Chowder and salads like Fava Beans and Shrimp. Main dishes include Kale Jambalaya, Chiles Rellenos, Shrimp Creole and Wonder Hash. Recipes for side and sauces like Cucuzza Squash and Corn Macque Choux are featured along with Zucchini Bread and Sweet Potato Pecan Muffins as well as desserts, including Cushaw Pie, Cuccidati, and Pralines.

Both a history and a celebratory cookbook, this attractive volume offers an authentic taste of New Orleans by those who know its palate best.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Haye You Tried.... Birch Sap?

As its name implies, birch sap is the sap extracted from birch trees such as the North American Sweet Birch and the Silver Birch.

It is a slightly sweet, thin and watery syrup made up of sugars, proteins, amino acids, and enzymes. The refreshing liquid is consumed as a tonic and traditional beverage in many northern European countries such as Poland, Russia, Lithuania, and Finland and as well as parts of northern China and Korea.

Birch sap may be consumed both fresh and naturally fermented. It has also been made into wine and vodka. In Russia, malic and citric acid are added to birsh sap to produce a juice much like apple juice.

Birch sap is usually collected at the end of winter and the beginning of spring when the sap is moving up the tree. A bottle is tied to the tree and a hole is drilled into its trunk. A plastic tube leads the sap that drips out to the bottle.

Each mature tree will produce about a gallon of birch sap each day for 10 to 20 dasy during a season that only lasts about a month. Birch sap must be collected before any green leaves have appeared in the spring, otherwise it becomes bitter.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Selling Points: Social Networking for Farmers Market Vendors

With hundreds of millions of users worldwide, social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook present an opportunity for farmers market vendors to connect with new customers, both locally and around the globe.

Whether they grow tomatoes or craft birdhouses or raise emus or make soaps, vendors can profit from social marketing with an investment of time online, but very little cashflow.

To get started, vendors should visit the following sites and look for those that seem best suited to their products. Search the sites for products by name and see what kind of conversations and networking they currently offer.
Once accounts are opened, vendors should build profile pages with links to their Farmer's Market Online Booths, websites, email addresses, blogs, or other online presences. Make it easy for people to make contact by including invitations to social networking pages with each email sent.

Add photos, logos and links that best promote the product.

Crosslink with as many petinent contacts as possible, whether they be customers or colleagues or friends or neighbors. As with a busy open air market, the larger the circle of online contacts the more opportunity there will b for conversations and sales.

Vendors should use their social networking pages to announce new products, events, sales, bonuses, giveaways, contests and more.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bites: Turmeric Inhibits Weight Gain

Dietary curcumin in the form of curry and turmeric appears to inhibit weight gain and body fat, according to results from a new animal model study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-funded scientists and colleagues.

The study found that supplementing a high-fat diet with curcumin reduced weight gain and total body fat. Animals with curcumin in their diets had less blood vessel growth in fat tissue and lower blood glucose, triglyceride, fatty acid, cholesterol and liver fat than test animals in control groups.

In the study, 18 mice were assigned to three groups of six mice each. For 12 weeks, the mice were fed special diets. A “control” group’s mix contained 4 percent fat, a “high fat” group’s mix contained 22 percent fat, and another group was fed the same “high fat” diet supplemented with curcumin. A mouse typically eats about 3,000 to 3,500 milligrams (the weight of about six or seven paper clips) daily, so the curcumin-supplemented mice would have consumed about 1.5 to 1.75 milligrams of curcumin daily--a relatively small amount.

The researchers recorded the body weight and food consumption of the mice twice each week. At the end of the 12-week period, their total body weight and fat distribution were measured.

Researchers theorize that dietary curcumin could stall the spread of fat-tissue by inhibiting new blood vessel growth, called angiogenesis, which is necessary to build fat tissue.

Curcumin is a bioactive component in curry and turmeric that has been consumed daily in Asian countries for centuries without reported toxic effects.

It is not known whether the amount of curcumin normally present in food dishes prepared with turmeric is sufficient to inhibit complex fat-tissue secretions that are involved in recruiting new blood vessel growth. The researchers’ next step is to determine the effectiveness of dietary intake of curcumin in reducing weight in humans.

Selling Points: Changing eBay

Although it remains an omnipresent force in the world of online commerce, eBay is making changes as the number of buyers on the site is declining and many sellers are going out of business or finding other ways to market their goods.

David Port of Entrepreneur.com reports in PC World that eBay's decision to allow big-box retailers broader access to its site could endanger small sellers and fosters a bias toward fixed-price sales.

"Rumors that eBay is positioning itself to eventually do away with auctions or auction categories are unfounded, assures (eBay's senior manager of seller advocacy, Jim) Griffith, who says the company has "absolutely no intention" of doing so."

Griffith told Port that he understood why some sellers fault eBay for introducing "unnecessary complexity" to the auction marketplace. "Our mission today is to make things simpler through streamlining and consolidation."

Selling Points

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rural Delivery: For the Love of Tractors

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.

Many old-timers came of age in the seat of an Allis-Chalmers, a Farmall or even a Poppin' Johhny. Wisconsin folk historian Jerry Apps' first tractor was a homemade contraption sculpted from the remains of old trucks, spare parts and down-home know-how.

Apps was only eight years old at the time and the tractor was the creation of a local welder-blacksmith, Jim Colligan, who fashioned it from an old Model A Ford truck.

"He shortened the truck's frame. In place of regular truck tires, he acquired a pair of huge old tires that the county discarded from one of its snowplows," Apps recalls. "Colligan bolted these tires to the truck wheels and left them flat, to provide more traction for the tractor. With some sheet metal, he fashioned a hood to cover the engine, and he made a seat for the operator to sit on. He covered the whole thing with aluminum paint and drove it out to the farm one summer day in 1942."

In a memoir published in "100 Years of Vintage Farm Tractors," Apps describes how the makeshift tractor had an immediate and positive impact on his father's farm, despite shortcomings like mechanical brakes that took enormous effort to engage and a truck transmission that was only usable in dual low.

"Pa laid down the law early. 'Whoever drives this tractor will never, ever, put it in high gear. You'll kill yourself and probably somebody else.' At the moment, he was talking to himself since he was the only person on the farm who knew how to drive this new invention."

It wasn't long before the youngster would have his chance behind the wheel, however. During the October potato harvest he was gathering freshly dug spuds and loading them into wooden boxes strung out across a 20-acre field when his father told him it was time he learned to drive the tractor.

After some coaching on how to use a clutch, the 8-year-old successfully drove the tractor with a wagon in tow the full length of the field. And after navigating a wide turn he brought the tractor to a gradual stop, shifting into neutral and leaving it idling. For the first time in his life he felt like a man, and it was "a fine feeling."

That wasn't the end of his tractor driving that day, however, as his father asked him to drive back across the field while his brother and father loaded the potato boxes into the wagon. Soon he mastered the knack of using the clutch and was making smooth stops beside each set of boxes.

But after climbing to the top of a rise and starting down a rather steep grade the tractor began gaining speed and his father yelled "Whoa!" just as he used to yell to his work horses.

"I confidently pushed in the clutch and, rather than stop, the tractor began gaining speed," Apps remembers.

When his father told him to push on the brake he tried with all his might but the tractor, pushed by the heavily loaded wagon, began moving even faster.

"I looked up to see the right front tractor wheel hit the first wooden box dead center. I heard a sickening, splintering sound as the wood broke. I saw potatoes rolling down the hill.

"Then, before I could recover, I hit the next box, and the next, and the next, and somehow missed the last one on the hillside. At the bottom of the hill, I let out the clutch and killed the engine."

Though he expected a tongue lashing, the boy was not rebuked or punished. His father told him to help clean up the mess and get back behind the wheel. By the end of the season, he was driving the tractor everywhere.

Apps' story is one of 14 tractor tales collected in the "100 Years of Vintage Farm Tractors" anthology, which includes a fictional story of super tractor salesman Alexander Botts and the Earthworm Tractor, a humorous account of acquiring a new tractor from a farm wife's point of view, and an eulogy on the agonies and ecstasies of tractor seats.

Even Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Bob Feller contributes an essay on his early memories of the Cat Twenty he drove on his family's farm in Iowa.

Not everyone shares, or understands, the passions of tractor enthusiasts, and that may be due to how they were raised, or where. "I know there are people who love their cars," explains tractor writer Roger Welsch. "But I sure haven't ever felt the kind of affection for an automobile that I feel for tractors, nor have I ever met an owner who feels about a work-a-day car the way many of us feel about a thoroughly utilitarian tractor... I don't like my cars very much. But I love my tractors."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rural Delivery: Sunday Drive

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.

A Sunday Drive usually begins after breakfast, but before lunch, and often just after church when the sun is still laying shadows across the fields. It can happen unexpectedly, like one of those soft summer showers that seem to emerge magically from a clear sky, or it can be a planned outing with a picnic carefully packed in the trunk.

Sometimes whole families will take a Sunday Drive, just like they used to back when gas was cheap and travel was recreation. More often, though, it's just a couple or a lone driver who decide for no particular reason to go wandering.

You see these folks driving station wagons and pickups and even little red sportscars. They keep to the backroads and country lanes, mostly, where traffic is thin and tempers calm. They travel slower than normal and may stop suddenly.

Folks on a Sunday Drive count livestock, assess crop conditions and take notice of wildflowers. They pause for rainbows, old weathered barns and small animals crossing the road. And they're likely to stop at any yard sale, flea market or roadside fruit stand

You'll know these folks by their sun-bronzed forearms resting atop drawn-down windows and their willingness to wave at passersby. Sometimes they'll be stopped side by side in the middle of the road facing opposite directions and jawing at each other across the center line.

Most Sunday Drives have no map or destination to guide their course. They begin on a whim and follow chance more than design. Someone says, "What's down that road?" and a new track is taken.

If you plan your route or plot the direction of your travel then you are preparing for a tour, not a Sunday Drive.

How can you set a course for coincidence? Who can schedule the trill of a meadowlark on a warm breeze through an open window? What guidebook shows the way to wild huckleberries in the wayside or a flock of sandhill cranes on a meadow? Can you plan for the cast of sunshine across the land or the chance meeting of an old friend along the way?

Despite its name, a Sunday Drive can happen any day of the week and in any season of the year. Some even occur at night, especially when the moon is full and the crickets are singing. The only requirements are a vehicle, a calm hand at the wheel and a thirst for adventure.

"...light-hearted I take to the open road," wrote a wandering Walt Whitman setting forth on a 19th century equivalent of a Sunday Drive.
"Healthy, free, the world before me,
"The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rural Delivery: Ascent of Man

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved.

However old I age or whatever career goals I pursue, it seems, I still remain a little boy watching for Daddy to come home.

My father was a working man of the 1960s, responsible for the gross household income, and for him that meant days and weeks on the road selling heating and air conditioning equipment. His father and his father's father were raised on family farms and orchards where the day's work ended at a communal dinner table. He was the first father in his line to take his dinners alone at motel restaurants in far-off cities while his family ate at home before his empty chair.

No one told us this was unusual. No one warned us how we would miss him then, and for years and years to come.

Mom was essential to my physical well-being, fixing meals and attending wounds, but Dad's attention had a direct line to my soul. Mom's praise and encouragement were important, but Dad's approval was a gift of grace.

I see this same hunger for acceptance in my own son, now just a toddler with a handful of words and a fragile understanding of the world. I see him glancing at me from his play, gauging my moods and opinions.

He follows my movements. He memorizes my words and intonations. He smiles when I smile, frowns when I frown, and takes an interest in whatever I do with my hands. It is still a shock to see my thoughts and actions reflected in a one-year-old's behavior.

There are tougher jobs than parenting. Longshoremen lift far heavier weights and ocean-going fishermen endure much greater discomfort. City police on night patrol face more stress and emergency medical teams have to deal with more terrible traumas. But no man's job is more dangerous to him on a personal level than fatherhood. No other occupation threatens as much heartbreak or deeper wounds. The loss of no other livelihood can cost a man not only his life, but his place in eternity.

For my little boy's well-being, I realized early on, there is little I would not suffer. His hurts pain me ten times more than my own. His laughter makes me happier than my own.

If I could spare my son the bumps and bruises and senseless injustices of life then I could save myself the grief of having to see his disillusion. If his spirit survives intact then my heart can go on unbroken.

When I call him to my arms or cheer his first steps I hear the voice of my father and my father's father. In his eyes I catch a glimpse of myself looking back at Dad. In his fingers I feel tomorrow grasping at the present.

My immortality breathes inside that little chest. The only afterlife I can be sure of watches for my return. Coming home, I bring back all the fathers before me.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Whole Red Snapper from Clearwater Beach, Florida

Whole Red Snapper is being offered direct from Clearwater Beach, Florida by Fresh From the Boat Seafood in the Seafood section of Farmer's Market Online.

Red snapper fillets are pinkish white and flaky when cooked. They have very light fish taste with a sweet flavor and can be served fried, blackened or broiled.

Look for links to Fresh From the Boat Seafood on the Red Snapper page in Seafood as well as on the Buy Direct Directory for Florida.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Book Stall Review: North American Mushrooms

North American Mushrooms: A Field Guide to Edible and Inedible Fungi
by Dr. Orson K. Miller Jr.
Falcon, 2006

Although nicely illustrated with color photos and densely packed with descriptions and identification keys, this field guide only covers some 600 out of several thousand North American mushroom species. It is not a definitive reference and should not be solely relied on for identifying edible wild mushrooms.

Dr. Orson K. Miller Jr, a prominent mycologist, cautions readers that there are no simple guidelines for distinguishing the edible from the poinsonous in mushrooms and "when in doubt, throw it out." Yet, he also suggests that his guide, one of the most recently published, can be used to locate and identify edible wild mushrooms. "The only safe way to eat wild mushrooms is to learn to identify the edible species as well as the poisonous species," he explains.

Unfortunately, accurate identification requires spore printing, which involves removing the fruiting body or picking the mushroom.

While most mushroom hunters pursue the edible and hallucinogenic species, this sturdy guide will appeal to anyone with an interest in mushroom identification, professional or otherwise, covering all the basics and providing up-to-date information. Common names of mushrooms species are rarely used, however, and the index is primarily based on scientific names.