MMLocal

MM Local: Preserving Summer Sunshine

As all of that gorgeous summer produce is coming into season, we foodies can have a lot on our minds. Hypnotized at our farmer’s markets by bright offerings that grow steadily larger and more flavorful with each passing week, many of us can’t wait to get home and whip them into something delicious. Those long winter months seem a distant memory but there is always the idea of that rather daunting task, canning and preserving summer harvests, lurking somewhere in the depths of our brains. The idea can be stressful, even for the experienced canner, as summer produce can arrive in all its full-fledged glory and be gone in a flash.

Luckily for those of us in Northern Colorado (and across the state) some lovely fellows from Boulder have taken out the guesswork.  In September of 2009, Jim Mills and Ben Mustin launched MM Local, with the vision to fearlessly provide customers with fabulous, local fruits and veggies year-round through preserving.  They partner primarily with small, organic growers across the Front Range and Western Slope to get produce at the peak of its season and then keep their products pure, simple and scrumptious. [Read more…]

Tara Parr and Lauren Dittmann of Raindrop Retreat

Fresh From the First Farmer’s Market

Last Saturday was my first visit of the season to the Larimer County Farmer’s Market at 200 W. Oak.  Excited to kick off the summer season with some delicious dishes, I headed straight to Tara Parr’s booth, Raindrop Retreat.  She always has something tasty to share and is a delight to visit with.  Lauren Dittman is also working in collaboration with Tara this season.  They helped me choose some mustard greens and  a small collection of delectable strawberries.  I’ve never cooked with mustard greens and I wanted to do something more than just saute them.  Returning to my trusted copy of The Joy of Cooking, I found this delicious recipe.

[Read more…]

The Cook is Back- Coffee making a difference and creative cooking!

     Welcome back to the blog. Summer is now officially moving back to the southern hemisphere. The Cook’s travels have come to a temporary end, but what great travels they have been. The Cook’s never ending search for the best foods of the world has substantiated the Cook’s belief that the best foods come from products which are grown local to the region.

     Case in recent point, while the Cook was traveling in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, the Cook found wild blackberries growing everywhere. After picking and consuming many kilograms of these huge blackberries, it became evident that these fresh berries tasted nothing like the varieties available in the supermarkets. They were soft, sweet, aromatic, and extremely flavourful. The same can be said of the local salmon. Wild salmon fresh off of the boats, is a whole taste experience different than the store bought steaks and fillets. It is amazing what an extra day or two of processing and shipping does to food tastes and textures.

     Bottom line: eat in season, eat fresh, eat local, and eat sustainable.

     The Cook was introduced to a coffee that is grown in Laos (Southeast Asia) and is marketed in the local Fort Collins, Colorado, USA area by The Coffee Registry. Laos has been a region embroiled in war for decades. The majority of the population lives in poverty. Bolaven Farms formed a cooperative that helped local residents become farmers; an undertaking aimed at providing jobs, not aid. The resulting coffee beans are organic and akin to many of the Sumatran and Indonesian beans, produce a coffee that has lower acidity, is very distinctive in flavor, fruity, yet full-bodied. This has become the Cook’s favored coffee. Not only is the coffee great, but by supporting this project, the consumers provide jobs to these people; provide them with a sense of worth and dignity. We all want that do we not? (thecoffeeregistry.com)

     A new coffee…my oh my, the Cook never imagined that there would be a deviation from the Italian coffee roots, but never say never. Open the palate to all possibilities!

     The Cook has been asked this question numerous times: “How do I become artistic and inventive in the kitchen?. This is a great question, as we all become patterned or habitual in the ways and menus that we cook. Some people are gifted with creative spirits and some are not. The Cook was not one of those gifted with creativity even though the Cook comes from a family of very talented artists and performers. The Cook had to learn and practice.

     The Cook’s answer is two-fold. Most importantly: learn the basics of cooking with all of the products that you and your family enjoy eating. It may be a bit boring but hang with it. Learn what foods and spices work together. A great book to use for a reference is: Culinary Artistry by Dornenburg and Page, published by Wiley&Sons. Develop a “taste palette” and experiment with your newly acquired basic skills. Once you are comfortable with your favorite menus and no longer need the recipe cards, practice with increasing the artistic look or presentation. Keep it simple! Look at the pictures in the food magazines and try to duplicate them. This will lead to your own ideas. If you are a creative person, then have a go. Who was it that said: “we don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents”? (Bob Ross-artist)

     Open the palate to all possibilities! Once you have a good working knowledge of the basics, you can now experiment with foods not so familiar to you. When you have a success, add that to your basic menu set and try with another food product. Do not be timid. Experiment by tweeking seasonings and garnishes or cooking methods to your basics. Practice makes perfect!

 

Well – the Cook is out of space so thanks for re-joining the Cook. Next time we’ll get into a few things that the Cook learned. See you then.

 

The Cupboard Cook

Support Your Local Farmer

I was just speaking last night with farmers Nick and Katie of Native Hill Farm.  They were discussing all of the ins and outs of farming and the challenges that face all of the small local farmers.  Coming away from that conversation, I received a great gift, the recognition of how much power individuals have in helping local agriculture thrive…or fail.  These farmers are out in the field working hard, growing local produce that reduces our carbon foot print, is healthier, and provides direct financial support to the farmers.  And to complete this cycle, they need YOU.  What can you do?

There are a lot of great farmers in Northern Colorado working hard to bring you excellent produce, meat, eggs, dairy, and more.  They need your support to thrive, and in return, you will receive outstanding, high quality food that supports a thriving local economy.  It seems like a great trade to me!

The Best Cauliflower Snack You Will Ever Have

I know you are gawking at my title.

Cauliflower?  Snack?

You may think this is going to be some diet post, or I’m going to try to talk you into putting cauliflower in hummus or something else, but I’m not.  When I became a member of my first CSA, the gal I was sharing my family share with taught me this trick.  And as the past few weeks my Grant Family Farms CSA share has included several heads of cauliflower, I’ve been gobbling this snack down at least once a week.

Did you catch how I used the word gobble there folks?  Gobble, as in turkey, as in, oh land, did you notice that Thanksgiving is next week?  Are you ready?  Do you have all your cookware?  Can you remember where the meat thermometer is?  Do you have a gravy boat?  Do you have enough booze to survive being around your family for 4 hours straight?  Just saying……

Crispy Cauliflower Snack

1 Head Cauliflower
Olive Oil
Salt

Turn on oven to broil

Wash and crumble cauliflower into ziploc bag.  Add salt.  Shake to coat cauliflower bits with olive oil and salt.  Place on cookie sheet.

Place under broiler until pieces begin to turn brown around edges.  Pull out just before begins to burn.  (About 10 minutes).

You’ll thank me!

Some of the best veggie recipes are also the simplest.  What quick veggie dish do you love?  Leave a comment.