Labor Day Sauce Fest

  • September 4, 2011 9:20 pm

I’ve been trying to post recipes most weekends, but have been derailed lately. The weekend before hurricane Irene I was down on the Jersey shore with extended family. We had a blast smoking whole fish–even using pine branches from the yard–and I was eager to write up the recipe. Instead I evacuated the barrier island we were on, leaving the smoker behind.

This week’s recipe was almost derailed by Irene, too. My mother’s birthday falls every year on/around Labor Day weekend and we tend to spend it happily laboring over sauces that will sustain us through the winter–batches of pesto and jars of several types of tomato sauce. It’s a good (tipsy) time in her kitchen. The process helps ease the pain of summer ending, and I think of the silliness all fall/winter/spring long when we defrost the glass jars of sauce for meals.

But this year it was really hard to find a box of plum tomatoes; curiously the farm stands we normally rely on didn’t have any. The day before we wanted to make sauce I started to hear stories–mainly from my CSA farmer–that the FDA was saying no produce that had been under floodwaters was allowed to be sold. Irene hit the farmland in and around the Hudson Valley–where my mom has a house–hard. My CSA farmer had planned to harvest what she still could once the waters receded. But now that was no longer possible.

Knowing that Irene had ended the season for my CSA farmer of 11 years, I headed to the Saturday farmers’ market anxious–who would I see? Who would I not see? Would people be in similarly dire straights or did some survive intact? I was greeted with a better than anticipated market full of produce and farmers. I heard many stories, some of them devastating. And I loaded up on gorgeous produce, including a box of tomatoes.

Before lunch today we did the pesto process. Before dinner we did the two tomato sauces (one was carrot/onion/lovage, the other was basil/garlic). As I type, the freezer is full as can be. And so am I. It was a bittersweet moment in the kitchen–slightly less joyous than it normally is considering. But we were all glad to have it.

MY MOM’S PERFECT* PESTO (*UNBIASED! THIS IS A FACT!)

2 stuffed cups of washed basil leaves (preferably organic/local, don’t bother drying them)

3 heaping tablespoons pine nuts

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (depending on how salty you like it)

1 small garlic clove (go big if you like garlic)

1/3 cup olive oil (preferably organic/local though there is no local Hudson Valley olive oil)

Blend all of the above in a food processor. If not using right away, freeze as is. Defrost when ready to use.

Serve with 1 pound of pasta and tons of parmesan cheese. Tip: reserve some pasta cooking water to use as needed when mixing the pesto with the pasta.

Blurry Cellphone Shot Of Sorting Pine Nuts

Pesto Filled Freezer

Do You Compost? My Farmers’ Market Does!

  • March 9, 2011 10:19 am

compost drop off!

Look what greeted me when I arrived at my small local winter farmers’ market this past Saturday. What a fabulous and welcome surprise! I already compost at home — in a NatureMill automatic composter that does the trick in my small urban apartment. We bring the results to friends and/or tuck it into the beds of the trees that live on our New York City street. But sometimes there is overflow (we cook at least three times a day and eat a lot of fruits and veggies, plus there are egg shells, coffee grounds, and more). This sign introduces what is a trial run to see if compost drop-off is widely needed/desired beyond the main Manhattan farmers’ market (Union Square). I want the organizers to know it’s very much in demand, so I intend to march my overflow there every Saturday. If you live in NY, there are more trial drop off sites being organized by GrowNYC. Join me in dropping off your scraps.

Here are some thoughts about composting from The Conscious Kitchen:

For biodegradable items to actually biodegrade in landfills, they need access to a basic combination of air, water, light, microbes, and enzymes. Landfill methane emissions are a result of the fact that landfills don’t offer this access. Most are too tightly packed for biodegradable scraps to be exposed to such things, and so they sit, unbiodegraded , next to truly unbiodegradable items for years. In 1989, a garbage project out of the University of Arizona went into a landfill and discovered a legible newspaper from 1952, intact hot dogs, and an ear of corn (husks, too) mixed with material dated from 1971. Tragic but true. These findings are like poster children for why it’s a good idea to keep even biodegradable items out of the landfill and aid the process yourself. Composting is truly win-win. It will drastically reduce your garbage output and give you something valuable–nutrient-dense soil for your garden and house plants–in return from “trash.” Seeing your atrophied garbage once you start composting is nothing short of miraculous–there’s almost nothing in it! It’s mind-boggling how much we collectively throw out that can simply, cheaply, and effectively be turned into good dirt. Once you’ve composted, you’ll never go back.

For more on composting, including resources, see pages 209 to 214 of The Conscious Kitchen.