Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sumptuous Solstice

Saturday, December 22, 2007
Long ago, the answer to the question, "What's for dinner?" was simple. Go look in the garden or the larder. In my adult life, the answer is not so straightforward. The "garden" is often across continents, and the larder is my overabundant supermarket. The choices can be overwhelming, the experts confusing. What to eat? What not to eat? And, in the confusion, the "simple" alternative often has the most pull; fast food. Yuck! No wonder I never really liked food!

But, we have begun to spiral back around to the source of our food. Revolution! Although I have not tended my skill well enough to grow my own food, I do get it from growers I've met and trust. I have been buying a monthly share of Community Supported Agriculture (or CSA) on and off for years. It wasn't an easy transition for me, because I didn't have a relationship to food. Leeks? Squash? Broccoli Raab? My vegetables, along with the strange hodgepodge of food that I got from the store, took on a life of its own in the depths of my refrigerator. So what changed? I started reading. I've shared some really interesting resources at the end. I realized that I can't go on supporting the current food culture. However, because I don't have much money, it seemed like an extra expense. But remember the science experiments in my refrigerator? I don't throw out as much food anymore. That saves me a good chunk of money. Our share breaks down to be $15 each week. Not bad, really.

The farm that my food comes from is called Full Belly Farm. Each week we get a box is like Christmas. Everything in the box is seasonal and flavorful. It is truly an offering, and I want to do it justice. I pore through cookbooks and recipes, eyes a-sparkle. Then I make a weekly menu plan and supplementary shopping list. Each item I get is put to use to create new, tantalizing recipes. Each bite fills me with a profound nourishment. And I am transformed.

Although we are blessed with a window of blue skies and sunshine, today I am feeling winter's pull. Yes, even the Breadbasket of the world has its winter. Beginning this week, we will not be getting our weekly box of vegetables. The earth and farmers need a break. I appreciate the connection and deep satisfaction they bring. And, mouth watering, I look forward to the next growing season and the Christmas they bring every week.

Here's a wonderfully carnivorous winter meal from Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice. Being a former vegetarian, I know you could cleverly adapt this meal:

Sausage with Potatoes and Cabbage

Serves 2-4

  • 2 tablespoons bacon drippings, olive oil, lard, or other fat
  • 2 whole fresh sausages in casings
  • 2 leeks, sliced thin, including much of the green part (or 1 large onion sliced thin)
  • 1 small head cabbage (or ½ large head, shredded)
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
  • ½ bunch greens (chard, kale, collards; or mustard, radish, or turnip greens), sliced into ribbons
  • 3 medium potatoes (such as Yukon gold), diced
  • ½ cup hot water or stock, or more as needed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ½ cup sauerkraut (store bought or homemade recipe below)
  • Sour cream or crème fraiche

  1. Heat the bacon drippings, oil, or fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the whole sausages and brown on both sides.
  2. Add the leeks (or onions) to the pan around the sausage and sauté. When the sausage is cooked through, remove it from the pan and let it cool.
  3. Add the shredded cabbage to the pan along with a pinch of salt and the optional caraway seeds. Continue to sauté a few minutes, until the cabbage begins to wilt.
  4. Add the greens and stir gently.
  5. Add the diced potatoes, another pinch of salt, and the hot water or stock. Cover, reduce the heat somewhat, and steam until potatoes are just tender. Add more water
  6. Slice the sausage into ½ inch thick pieces and add it back to the pan, stirring to incorporate and heat through. You can also leave the sausage whole or cut it in half.
  7. Add plenty of salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the optional sauerkraut.
  9. Serve in a shallow bowl with a big dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche.

And, if you are really an adventurous food alchemist, make your own sauerkraut. This recipe is also by Jessica Prentice. But take my advice, make sure you don't forget about it if you culture it in the dark of your bedroom closet. Whoever lives with you will tear up the house trying to find what died in the wall!

Quick Kraut

Makes about 3 cups

  • 4 cups (tightly packed) shredded cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds

  1. Put the cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle the salt over it. Using your hands, begin to squeeze and massage the cabbage to release the juices.
  2. Once it is thoroughly wet, add the caraway seeds.
  3. Pack the cabbage into a 1-quart, widemouthed mason jar, pressing down with your hand to release the juices.
  4. Fill a 1-pint, narrow jar (or any jar that has a bottom narrow enough to fit in the mouth of the 1-quart jar) with water and screw the lid on. Place this second jar into the mouth of the 1-quart jar and push on it until the liquid from the cabbage rises above the vegetable matter inside.
  5. Set this on the counter, with one jar nestled inside the other, and drape a cloth napkin over the top. Keep at room temperature for about a week, pressing down on the weight jar at least once a day and making sure that the liquid stays above the vegetable matter.
  6. After a week of fermenting, taste and see if you like it. At this point you can remove the weight jar, screw a lid onto the kraut jar, and transfer it to the refrigerator. You can also experiment with fermenting it for longer as long as you keep a close eye on the liquid level. If too much water has evaporated, mix ½ teaspoon of salt with 1/3 cup filtered water and pour this into the jar.

Some Resources


The Future of Food

The GMO Trilogy


Harvest for Hope by Jane Goodall

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver


Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

The Real Dirt on Vegetables by Farmer John Peterson


Local Harvest