Saturday, July 11, 2009

...Starring Broccoli!

It's high summer in Montreal and the broccoli is showing up in large firm heads from local producers, in abundance.
Dinner calls and this time, you can make a thoroughly rich and satisfying dinner with just broccoli, roasted garlic, some spaghetti and a little parmesan cheese. The garlic sweetens with roasting and gives the whole dish an almost meaty richness.
It's an Italian basic, and one I learned from a London friend (with her fabulous, handsome, Italian, then- husband Sylvio) who held these languid all day "Sunday Lunches" in her backyard.
We began with glasses of chilled amber Dubonnet, and finished with several rounds of Bocci ball. That is, for those who could still stand up.

Jane's Broccoli Garlic Spaghetti

1 box of spaghetti

1 full head broccoli (ends trimmed and florets on long stems seperated)

1 - 2 heads garlic

olive oil

S & P

1/2 -1 cup grated parmagianno cheese

1/2 cup slightly toasted pine nuts (optional)

Prepare garlic by slicing about 1/4 inch off the top of the heads. Place on a square piece of tin foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper. Fold up and roast in a 375 degree oven for about 45 min. It will be golden, sweet.

Put large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. As it comes to a boil, add salt, and immerse the broccoli pieces in it for about 30 seconds to blanche. Remove broccoli. Add pasta and cook following directions on the box. For best results I like Barilla and DeCecco brands.

Drain spaghetti, reserving about a cup of the pasta water for the sauce.

In the same pot add a couple of tablesp0ons (or more to your taste) of good olive oil. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves out of their sheathes and into pot. Add broccoli and toss for a couple of minutes. If you like it saucier, add some pasta water but Jane liked hers dry and it was delicious.

Add some cheese and the pine nuts if you choose. Give a little toss and serve up in a big pasta bowl for folks to help themselves. Pass extra cheese separately.

Makes a great main dish meal served with a little salad of some kind on the side. no meat required. You can also do this without the pasta and use the broccoli as a side dish when making a delicious roast of meat. You can also substitute rapini for the broccoli for a little bitter contrast to the rich sweet garlic.

Bueno appetito!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Farm Day at a CSA

At their most fundamental level, CSA farms provide a weekly delivery of organically grown produce to consumers during the growing season (June to October). Those consumers, in turn, pay a subscription fee. But CSA consumers don't simply "buy" foodstuffs from particular farms as become "members" of those farms. CSA operations provide more than just food; they offer ways for eaters to become involved in the ecological and human community that supports the farm. They get connected with their food.

What does CSA membership involve? Arrangements vary. Some CSA operations deliver their baskets to the neighborhoods where members live, while others arrange for members to pick up their vegetables at the farm. Some CSA farms expect members to work on the farm at least once during the season while others only expect members to support the farm with their membership dollars.

Being involved with a CSA operation always means sharing the rewards as well as the risks of farming: enjoying the freshest produce available, often harvested the same day you receive it; knowing where, how and by whom your food is being produced; having a direct connection with the people who produce your food; and supporting the kind of stewardship that is good for the land as well as its people.

The risks include weather and pests. Though formidable for small, self-sustaining farmers, these risks are bearable when shared by a group of shareholders. By linking together through CSA operations, farmers and consumers can both benefit from an agriculture that provides beautiful and bountiful food while preserving the ecological and social basis necessary for coming generations to be so blessed.

A key component of the equation is education. If the members know what the farmers are doing –with the whys and the hows – it makes the whole experience more meaningful.

That's where FARM DAY at Ferme Cooperative Tourne-sol comes in. Just west of Montreal, the 5 partner farmers hold an annual July Field Day welcoming members, and curiosity seekers a chance to walk the fields, the barn, the greenhouses and learn all about the whys and hows of growing vegetables and herbs organically. Things like: why using handtools for weeding and seeding is the choice of these farmers. Why it's important to give some of the land over to cover crops each year to rebuild the soil and keep weeds down. What are the newest methods for dealing with pests. All strategies for ensuring a succession of bountiful vegetables all season long.

More and more families on getting on board the CSA train, since exposing kids to where their food comes from helps them develop their palettes and a taste for fresh and healthy stuff. At Ferme Cooperative Tourne-Sol, there's a 'pick your own' garden section - a bonus for the families who opt to come out for their weekly baskets. Kids can harvest their own peas, beans and cherry tomatoes and pick lovely bouquets of flowers to take home, too.

Coming up... how to make broccoli sexy!