Cooking Up a CSF Feast with a Jody Adams Bluefish Recipe

Grilling the bluefish

Grilled Bluefish with Pomegranite Glaze

Michelle and I spent six woman-hours last night cooking a delicious dinner featuring the bluefish from our final Community Supported Fishery (CSF) delivery for the August 2010 season. The six hours doesn’t include the time I spent trolling the aisles of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods looking for pomegranate molasses (couldn’t find it so we made our own from pomegranate juice), chicory (must not be in season, so I bought other greens), and whole coriander seeds (not in stock, had to make do with ground coriander).

Cooking molasses

Cooking down the pomegranate juice into molasses

The pomegranate glaze features the aforementioned pomegranate molasses, garlic, red onion, mint, coriander seeds and orange zest, and it’s a delicious complement to bluefish, which I always think of as a very “fishy” fish because it’s so dark and intense. Although the molasses has sugar in it, there’s only a hint of sweetness in the sauce.  The rich flavor is a perfect foil for the oiliness of the bluefish.

The reason the dinner took so long to make—besides making the molasses from scratch—was that it was actually five dishes. In addition to the bluefish, the recipe called for “Dukkah,” garlic yogurt sauce, farro, and “Fiery Greens.”  While the entire recipe is not online, there’s a link for the fish and a similar yogurt sauce at starchefs.com.

Farro with carrots, celery and onions

Farro, which I’ve never made at home before, is a delicious healthy grain that reminded me of barley, although the grains are larger and toothier.  Adams adds the farro to a sauté of onion, celery, carrots and garlic and cooks it with chicken stock—we used veggie stock—and bay leaves.

Cooking the greens

Fiery Garlic Greens featuring broccoli rabe and arugula

The greens are blanched and then sautéed with lots of olive oil, garlic, and hot pepper flakes. The Dukkah is an Egyptian seed, nut and spice mix of blanched almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and coconut, all of which have to be separately toasted and then ground together.

The Six Hour Recipe

Dinner was worth the wait!

The mixture of all these tastes on the plate—sweet, spicy, fishy, oily, salty, bitter—was what made it worth the effort.

Besides the recipe, the other star of the evening was the bluefish from our CSF, Cape Ann Fresh Catch. I was delighted to open my email on Tuesday and find that the fish of the day was a gorgeous two-pound bluefish fillet. I picked up my share at Community Servings, cut it in half, carefully wrapped the pieces in plastic wrap and freezer bags and froze them. When we opened one of the packages, we defrosted it and it was still beautiful and as good as fresh.

Our CSF bluefish

Beautiful fresh bluefish from Cape Ann Fresh Catch CSF

This is the first time that I’ve belonged to a CSF, and it’s been a wonderful opportunity to support local, sustainable fishing and learn a little about the ups and downs of the industry. Each week, we get an email telling us what they’ve caught, the boat that caught it, a little information about the fish, a recipe, and a blog post.  Over the six weeks, we’ve enjoyed a variety of fish, including hake, fish dabs and bluefish.

The catch—no pun intended—is sometimes there is no catch.  Deliveries have been cancelled due to quality issues and weather. While as a CSF member, you share the risk with the fisher folk, Cape Ann has made an extraordinary effort to provide us with the best possible fish each week.

If you’re lucky enough to live in their delivery area, I encourage you to sign up for Cape Ann’s next season, beginning November 1,  or check out this list of CSFs around the country.

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Boston Local Food Festival on October 2 Will Be a Love Fest for Food-Lovers

Berries

Local berries from Heavens Harvest

Food is love, as far as I’m concerned.  There is no better way to show your love for family, friends, community, your community and the planet than through what you buy, cook and eat.

As a fish-eating vegetarian, I’ve always preferred fresh and local food.  Until recently, however, I put much more attention on the fresh than the local side of things. I sought out fresh foods with as little processing or additives as possible because I assumed they were tastier and healthier than cooking canned and frozen foods.  As long as it looked fresh, it went in my shopping cart, regardless of whether it came from Cambridge, California, or Cartagena.

But the more I learn about the benefits of eating locally-grown food, the more time and money I’m willing to invest in supporting it.  By seeking out local foods from conscientious growers and producers, I’m supporting the local economy, helping workers earn a living wage, eating eggs that are less likely to be contaminated with salmonella, and swooning when I eat a fresh peach. What’s not to like?

Cape Ann Fresh Catch fishes for the best catch

So I’ve joined the Heavens Harvest Farm Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and the Cape Ann Fresh Catch Community-Supported Fishery (CSF) and volunteer at the Community Servings  Farmers’ Market.  And I’m growing a few herbs and vegetables in my front yard–still waiting to see if I can harvest my potato crop.

Even so, I still find that eating locally can be challenging.  When I go to the supermarket, for example, the signs often do not tell me where the food is from, and the store is less likely to sell artisanal products from local companies.  When I go to most restaurants—except for the ones that specialize in local foods–the menu seldom tells me whether the fish is wild or farmed, and where it was caught. When I can, I try to support the places that support local food and provide the information I need without having to ask.

I’m happy to report that the consumer demand for fresh and local products is beginning to force even the food chains and the supermarkets to provide more local options.  Just because the food is sourced locally, however, doesn’t mean that the benefits go to the farmers or their workers.  The only sure way to know you’re supporting your values with your dollars is to know your farmer—and fishers, and cheesemakers, and…  In short, be an informed consumer!

Which brings me to my final point:  The Sustainable Business Network is holding Boston’s first ever Local Food Festival on Saturday, October 2, from 11am-6pm at the Boston Waterfront at Fort Point Channel.  The fest will be a chance for you to meet local producers and learn about local foods while you attend cooking demos by some of your favorite local chefs, sample delicious local beers, and enjoy some music from local bands.

And—specially for “us” pescovegetarians—there’ll be a mini seafood festival featuring fresh, locally-caught delights. For those of you who love watching Iron Chef and Chopped, two chefs will compete in a cooking “Throwdown” competition, featuring a mystery seafood ingredient.

Free food, fun, and the chance to learn more about eating local—sounds like a love fest for food lovers to me!

Have You Hugged Your Farmers Market This Week?

Elio Duarte of Millbrook Farm holds up an eggplant

In case you didn’t know, August 22- 28, 2010 is Massachusetts Farmers Market week, as proclaimed by Governor Deval Patrick.  Despite the pouring rain that drenched Massachusetts during the first half of the week, the Farmers Markets were open for business, and intrepid farmers and shoppers were smiling and swapping recipes, as usual.

Logo for Loving Local blogathon, designed by Leon Peters

In honor of Mass Farmers Market Week, the In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens blog has been hosting a farm-fresh blogathon, called Loving Local: Celebrating the Flavors of Massachusetts, with a little help from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and Mass Farmers Markets.  If you are loving especially locally this week, please consider donating to Mass Farmers Markets, a non-profit that helps the markets thrive. And check out the cool posts from the blogathon for some mouth-watering recipes.

I celebrated Mass Farmers Market Week doing what I’ve been doing throughout this glorious summer—shopping at and cooking and eating food from farmers markets.  But the great thing about farmers markets is that, as the season progresses, there’s always something new to taste or do there.

Artis Cooper buys red roses from Fanci Nanci to brighten a gloomy day

This week, I picked up my first shipment from the Cape Ann Fresh Catch Community Supported Fishery—two pounds of filleted, fresh haddock that Michelle immediately baked and we served with mashed baby tomatoes, steamed corn, and a tomato and cucumber salad dressed with avocado oil and balsamic vinegar—all veggies from the market, of course.

Since my spouse is not a vegetarian, fish is one of the few commonly-available food that we can enjoy together at home or in restaurants.  As the Cape Ann folks say, “Your participation in the CAFC CSF not only helps our local economy prosper, it delivers to your table the freshest locally-caught, sustainable, seafood available.” For more info about CSFs, read this great article from The Wall Street Journal.

Laurie Herboldsheimer of Golden Rule Honey offers a sample

I also tried a new taste treat this week: The Queen of Chocolate – Spicy Chocolate Mix from Golden Rule Honey. It’s a honey-sweetened, powdery blend of rich, natural high fat cocoa, Golden Rule’s treatment-free Arizona Rangeland Honey, and Turkish Aleppo pepper). Although the combination sounds weird, it delivers a solid hit of chocolate with a spicy kick that satisfies my chocolate cravings. I’ve been enjoying it sprinkled on Blue Frog Bakery’s Seven-Grain Bread with Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter

Golden Rule Honey co-owners Laurie Herboldsheimer and Dean Stiglitz, authors of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping, sell honey and chocolate at the Community Servings Farmers Market and 6 other markets each week. Unlike most beekeepers, “We don’t medicate our bees or feed them sugar or high-fructose corn syrup,” Herboldsheimer told me.

Every week is Massachusetts Farmers Market Week at my house.

Hot Day, Cool Market

Berries

Angelic berries from Heavens Harvest

It was another sizzling hot day in Boston, but opening day at the Community Servings Farmers Market in Jamaica Plain on Wednesday, July 7, was pretty cool in all senses of the word.

I volunteered for a few hours and was pleased to see a steady stream of excited customers arriving for fresh veggies, eggs, bread, and free lemonade. The 4-7pm time slot made it convenient for people to stop on their way home from work, and by then, the heat had dropped, a pleasant breeze was blowing, and there was plenty of shade.

With only four vendors—two farms, a bakery and a florist—the market is small, but the quality and range of products are good.

Blue Frog

Ethan Kiermaier purchases a giant cookie from Blue Frog baker/owner Brad Brown.

Brad Brown, pastry chef/owner of the Blue Frog Bakery on Green Street, was selling at a farmers market for the first time and didn’t know what to expect.  He’s there because Community Servings’ Social Enterprise Manager, Edith Murnane, is a friend and customer and asked him.

Blue Frog makes delicious pastries like strawberry shortcake, but such delights are too delicate for a hot day, so Brown brought an assortment of breads, cookies, and cakes.  “Next time,” he said, “I’ll bring more baguettes and fewer whole cakes. “

Millbrook Farm

Farmer Shaun Giurleo of Millbrook Farm with customer Brian Mazmanian.

Meanwhile, the folks from Millbrook Farm in Concord were busy selling a multitude of berries, including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and gooseberries, as well as cucumbers, corn, and tomatoes for only $2 a pound, among other items.  “Business today has been more steady than last year,” farmer Shaun Giurleo told me.

Across the patio, Ashley Howard, co-owner of Heavens Harvest Farm in New Braintree with his wife, Ethel, presided over his giant scallions, fresh fennel, little bundles of lemon balm, and assorted other fruits, vegetables and herbs like the proud father of every stalk. He hands out free nasturtium flowers, telling timid tasters that every part of the flower is edible and has a different flavor.

Heavens Harvest

Ashley Howard's farm, Heavens Harvest, primarily sells through CSAs.

The primary focus of his organic farm is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), but since Community Servings hosts their CSA, they agreed to sell at the market. Howard seemed to recognize the names of every CSA customer and thanked them for participating.

As I left, I heard Howard suggesting a recipe for cooking fennel: slice it thinly, grill it, and serve it on a burger with mustard and fresh chives. Can’t wait to pick up some fennel next week and try it!

The Community Servings Farmers Market is open from 4-7 pm each Wednesday at 18 Marbury Terrace, near the Stony Brook T station in JP. For a list of Massachusetts Farmers Markets, visit http://www.massfarmersmarkets.org/.