Capital Capitol soup + Seeded Buttermilk Crackers

I’m in DC! Until May!

And it’s wonderful so far.

After a brief work-jaunt to Santa Fe, I’ve settled into a lovely house with awesome housemates, gotten down into work at the office, hung out with old friends and made a few new ones.

New Friends

Introducing, Marcie, a friend of a friend from the islands. We met for first time at the farmer’s market (where else) last weekend for squash and coffee; it was, needless to say, an encounter of kindred spirits.

This Wednesday we inaugurated what I think’ll be an especially fruitful cooking partnership.

marcie-soup

I didn’t feel like trekking to the market and the pickings were slim. Since I just arrived a week ago, I was lacking some of my usual stockpile of goodies, but I figured a little bit of creativity and some love could yield something good. On hand: rapini on sale at Whole Paycheck, a jar of white beans, yukon golds, chicken broth, and some hot Italian sausage from Cibola Farms out in Virginia. It had been a grey day, so I was thinking soup. Marcie was in agreement.

Sausages in soup

The sausage made the meal.

Cibola Farms raises free-range heritage Tamworth pigs and grassfed bison. Buffalo-pork cranberry sausage? Buffalo summer sausage? Yum! I’m curious how they process their buffalo because a source in New Mexico mentioned that the USDA inspector charges some ridiculous hourly rate to inspect “exotic animals” like bison at their mobile slaughter facility. A question for the next market.

The sausage is made by Simply Sausage, a company out in Landover, MD that packages sausages for a number of different farmers. They’ve featured recently on Smithsonian.com in this sausage-making video

Plus their website has a friendly page on storing extra sausage.

So the soup was a success: sauteing the onions and garlic until the smell wafted upstairs into my bedroom where I could smell it 3 hours later, throwing in the harder stem ends of the rapini and the potatoes, then the broth, then the sausage as an afterthought (may have been even better if we had thought to brown it with the onions). Last the leafy bits of the veg, the beans (canned and already cooked), and a healthy dose of chili powder — not an entirely intentional pour, but an entirely welcomed one.

Accompaniments

And to go along, I made a batch of the buttermilk crackers that’ve been a table staple recently. So so simple, and so so delicious, although in this case they were slightly more difficult to make since our kitchen lacks a proper baking tray. I flipped over a smallish roasting pan and used the bottom. The crackers got mostly crispy, but I definitely need to invest in a proper pan.

capital-capitol-soup capital-capitol-soup-2

Seeded Buttermilk Crackers

Adapted from Raley’s Store Website

I generally only bake half the batch at a time. It makes quite a few crackers. To store the rest of the dough, keep in an air-tight plastic baggie in the freezer and remove a couple of hours before you’re ready to bake.

3 cups flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup buttermilk plus 2 tbsp for brushing
1 tablespoon each, sesame, poppy, cumin, and caraway seeds
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 400F.

1) Sift together flour, baking soda, table salt and pepper. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or fork until well-distributed and the flour ends up in little peas.

2) Stir in buttermilk until the mixture turns to a soft dough. Knead several times on a lightly floured board until the flour is worked in, but don’t overdo it or your crackers will get tough.

3) Separate a walnut-sized chunk and roll out on a floured board as thinly as possible — I keep rolling until I can see the table underneath.

4)  Carefully transfer to a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper or sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Brush the cracker with buttermilk and sprinke with seeds and sea salt. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool, then break into large pieces.

January 24, 2010   4 Comments

First Real Good Food Potluck

Wednesday night the Daniel Family hosted our first Real Good Food Potluck. It was a smashing success — over 50 folks made it out, the living room was full to the brim with family, friends, and many new faces.

Mum and I spent the day shuttling to the farmer’s market on the scooter and cooking up a storm. We made chicken enchiladas from a couple of our backyard chickens (more on the processing soon!), pumpkin gnocchi from the Halloween pumpkin I picked with Christina (I owe a post on this too!), a couple of persimmon cakes, and pumpkin & white bean chili. Very seasonal. Very delicious.

It was especially awesome to have a couple of people there who I’d never met (Jessie, Sharon, Carolyn, Gabe, Tod), folks I hadn’t seen in forever (Derek,  a few new friends (Jorge, Janet) who I’d just met the previous week.

Next potluck is on Thursday December 10th. Don’t miss it! Click here to RSVP.
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Mmm... gnocchi!

As the night kicked off, I was a smiling dervish, pulling hot lasagna from the oven and jumping at the doorbell, and digging up serving implements, and hugging my Godparents as they walked in. People just kept coming and coming with amazing food. There were beets and beet greens and slaw and paella and spinach ricotta pasta and homemade tomato pasta; teriyaki chicken and shepherd’s pie and grilled veggies and crudites and baguettes and guac and salsa. Not to mention the glorious desserts. At one point, I ran out to the garage to grab another folding table to hold the bounty.

A little after 7, we screened Food Inc. Only 2 folks other than my family had seen the movie before. Everyone gasped and “wow”-ed and a number of folks came up to me afterwards and mentioned how much it moved them. I’ve now watched the movie 7 times with about 60 different people and I have to say it’s a pretty darn effective tool for getting people to start thinking about what they eat.

I was especially happy because at least 3 people visited the Fullerton Farmers Market after I suggested making a visit to get potluck supplies. Of those, at least two said they’d definitely be making the trip weekly from now on. Hooray!

I got a few questions afterwards of the “well, now-what” variety. People were moved by the film, but were wondering what to do next. I mentioned eating local, seasonal, and organic foods, talked about buying “whole” foods and shared some of the places we shop.

But people’s questions really got me thinking again about how important it is to have a combination of consumer education driving demand and values-based businesses supplying alternatives to the everyday obvious options. Here in Fullerton for example, we really only have one truly organic cafe option and only one big natural food store, not that close to many neighborhoods. The farmers market is wonderful, but not huge. In general, it’s not that easy to get organics or local produce. The markets — Stater Bros, Albertsons, Ralphs — don’t carry any sustainably raised meats; Stater Bros doesn’t appear to carry any organics at all. A shopper really has to go out of his or her way to do things differently.

But for those of us who want to try, here are some great resources for North Orange County:

November 14, 2009   3 Comments

Can a movement toward a new food system learn from the music industry?

In this entry, I started off on the similarities between a trend in the food industry toward smaller, alternative food & farm businesses and changes in the music industry that resulted in part from the growth of the internet.

I made a brief analogy between the effect of the internet on the music industry and the effect of new information and a shifting culture on the food industry and these comments drew the comparison out further.

I like this comparison. In both cases, there are some seriously established players (“new oligopoly” perhaps?): the major labels and and the major food corporations — who currently control a large part of the market and have a stake in seeing that things as they are don’t change. And in both cases, as a result of a new technology and new information and a changing ethos, consumers demand a new way of doing things.

In the case of the music industry, the game changed when internet technology made it possible to upload and download files. When industry decided to ignore this game-changing innovation and stick to business-as-usual, pirates moved in to fill the gap; eventually some legitimate businesses followed (Apple & iTunes). There were lawsuits, there was upheaval. I’m not sure if the major labels actually lost marketshare, though overall rate-of-growth in the industry supposedly slowed. But in general, it seems to me that consumers and small artists ended up much better off since we now we have all sorts of new and legitimate ways to find out about new music (LastFM, Pandora, cheap iTunes singles available for download) and they now have more avenues to get noticed.

In the food industry, there aren’t really “pirates” yet, since generally food isn’t considered intellectual property** but certainly the big players (and there really are only a few, just like worry that profits will be dispersed as modes of distribution become more varied and specialized, as consumers become more informed and their preferences change and the advantage of scale becomes less important.

In the case of music, large scale players might be frightened by the idea that the internet allows people to find out about an artist online rather than only in a record store. As Janis Ian argues in this article in 2002, music downloads may hurt huge artists and labels, but help almost everyone else, consumers who wouldn’t be exposed to so many new artists and new and small artists, for whom exposure is everything.

In the case of food, large scale players might lose part of their advantage when individuals or policies calculate the true costs of food production (social, environmental) and impose penalties for negative externalities, when sustainable farming and food processing and distribution becomes more efficient with time**, and when society pays attention to other elements of value (taste, nutrition, uniqueness or variety, etc) and not just cost.

So what are some things we could learn?

  1. Big companies who are making a lot of money don’t want that to change.
  2. Change that may hurt large companies may benefit individual consumers and smaller players, not necessarily financially (lower costs, increased profits), but also in other measures of value — more access to a broader range of music, better access to healthier food that’s better for the planet.
  3. Consumer knowledge and behavior can force a change to totally new types of business models.
  4. Anything else?

* Monsanto’s patents on certain seeds are a notable exception!
** Some would argue that efficiency isn’t important in the world of organic farming, but I think that’s a romantic and backwards notion. Yes, efficiency isn’t everything, and a quest to produce more, more cheaply can’t completely sacrifice taste, nutritional quality, and the social good, but few would argue with the benefit of finding new appropriate technologies to help make healthy food affordable and accessible to more people.

July 12, 2009   No Comments

Sustainable Food Ripe for Entrepreneurs to Drive Forward

I just read Rob Smart’s article on Huffington Post defining his newly minted term “Pro Food.” While “Pro Food” seems a little corny (“Pro” conjures up images of greasy, bulging Mickey Rourke), I like the idea of a more inclusive food movement that embraces the entrepreneurial aspect of changing our food system. After all, if we are to build an entirely new way of growing, processing (yes, some processing is necessary — I, for one, won’t ask Americans to grind their own flour), distributing, marketing, cooking, eating, and talking about food, we’re going to need businesses to power that system.

And a decentralized system seems to mean lots and lots and lots of businesses. So as a young farmer-in-training with aspirations to start and run her own business, I really liked the direction Rob Smart was going. I also love his coverage of cool sustainable food ventures. And on first read, I liked the analogy which “Pro Food” to the Internet back in the day.

“In some very interesting ways, Pro Food draws parallels with the early years of the Internet, when it was still isolated from the mainstream in government and university labs. People, especially entrepreneurs, were starting to eye the Internet as something that could revolutionize communications and collaboration, that could democratize things long centralized. At first, they had no idea what was going to stick, but began applying time, energy and money in search of winning formulas.”

I still agree with the idea that both movements have the power to “democratize things long centralized” and that in both cases, entrepreneurs need to “apply time, energy and money in search of winning formulas.” But after thinking about it, I wonder if there aren’t also significant differences (I haven’t yet thought all the way through their significance, but here are some preliminary ideas):

– The current food movement is often envisioned (both correctly and incorrectly) as a “return to the old ways,” before the intense industrialization of food that resulted both from the development of synthetic fertilizers, and improved food preservation techniques of the 40s and 50s. The internet, on the other hand was something totally new, and therefore, perhaps, more open and ripe for innovation.

– A Pro food movement would be a move away from a way of doing things in which people are invested (consumers like cheap meat, Conagra likes profits)… whereas it doesn’t seem like there were really any norms associated with the internet and what could or couldn’t be done. (Maybe the comparison isn’t to the internet itself, but the reaction of the music industry to the internet?)

Thoughts?

July 9, 2009   4 Comments

Eat Meat?

April 28, 2009   4 Comments