Monday, June 3, 2013

Week 5, We Can't Afford to Not Eat Local and Organic

Last week in our newsletter, we discussed how an organic farming system translates into healthy food, and by extension, a healthy you. But at the market, we do hear people say they cannot afford to eat organic food all the time. Let’s think this through a bit.

Fast food chains have their meal deals, and for conversation sake we will estimate an adult style burger and fries “deal” to be $6. With this you get an enormous cup of high fructose corn syrup that those microbes in your gut go bonkers over, converting it to fat for you.  You receive a burger with a country of origin label that says “product of U.S., Canada, and Mexico”. We do not know the source of the meat or how it was processed, delivered and prepared for you. Processed cheese uses 51% real cheese that is then emulsified, along with additives and extenders that are used to make the cheese easier to handle and have a longer “sit around time.” The lettuce, tomato, and onion have most likely traveled from the West Coast or Mexico on a truck, (and we all know how we feel after 1500 miles in a crowded vehicle.)  The bun is one of those that when left on the counter in the bag, it looks just fine after many weeks.  The ingredient panel is in a 4-point font so all of it fits on the package. If that’s not enough, the GMO potatoes, deep fried to a golden brown, do not stick together because of all the salt. But hey, it’s cheap and fast, and though there are lots of wrappers to throw away, it kills time while riding in the car. So, four people are looking at $25 or so.

What is the cost of an organic equivalent meal? First the burger:  a grass- finished, certified organic, USDA Choice, dry-aged Angus patty from Elmwood Stock Farm in Scott Co. KY.  Jerome and his crew of two others at Central Kentucky Custom Meats butcher the meat.  They maintain individual attention to their work while a USDA inspector is actively present.  There are absolutely no additives to the product. There are numerous raw milk cheese vendors at the farmers markets now. These are 100% real cheese from that farmer’s cows. Salt and enzymes are the lone ingredients because that is what it takes to convert milk to cheese. The produce is certified organic from Elmwood Stock Farm and it’s not a bad drive for the lettuce, tomato, and onion to travel down Newtown Pike past lots of beautiful horse farms. The potatoes may be blue or red, or pink, or gold, or white from historic preservation of unique varieties, not genetic engineering. A couple of slices of good yeasty local bread only add 3-4 more ingredients to the meal. Using farmers-market-pricing, this organic equivalent meal comes in well under $25, it just takes a little of your time.  You may want to pick up some local brew or bottle of wine, invite some friends over, prepare and share the food, drink, and conversation for hours of enjoyment. 

One other aspect to point about these two meals is the respective value to the local community. The fast food meal supports local workers and infrastructure services, albeit the time spent per meal is so low, very little of the cost stays here. Most goes out to suppliers, distributors, corporate overhead and profit. The money for the local meal ALL stays in the central KY area. Because a business like ours must pay retail prices for our cost of goods sold, these dollars have a six or seven-fold rollover value to the local economy. None of this even begins to address the externalities from a fast food meal, like GMO grain production, transportation fuel use and pollution, dead zone in the gulf, worker conditions, and the like.

Given that the food cost is not too farm apart, while the social climate of consumption is vastly improved, the greatest value is now to your digestive system and overall health. Your internal microbial partners, described last week in the Micro-Biome Project, will feast and thrive on the simplistic locally derived meal. Preservatives, by definition, are in the food to prevent microbes from consuming them. But that is exactly what is supposed to happen when we eat food: the microbes break down the foods into digestible components we can use.  Over time, microbe colonization that doesn’t have to deal with invaders like preservatives and additives will stimulate a strong immune system.  Ultimately, if people think they can’t afford to eat local and organic food, they must not have looked at the cost of high blood pressure, diabetes, or other serious illnesses, have they?  They really can’t afford to not eat it.

In Your Share

Fresh Asparagus

Broccoli – organic

Lacinato Black Kale Greens - organic

Red Butterhead and/or Green Leaf Lettuce – organic

Green Curly or Red Stemmed Spinach – organic

Strawberries - organic

Heirloom Corn Meal –organic

Dried Tomatoes - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Baked Kale Chips, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this easy, enjoyable recipe; she shared a few notes on how to vary the flavors.

2-3 cups of kale, washed
2 tablespoons of olive oil
juice of lemon to taste
sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Remove ribs from kale and tear into chip-sized pieces. Set aside.  In a bowl, whisk together olive oil and lemon juice. Add kale and toss together. Spread kale leaves on baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until crisp, about 15-20 minutes, turning about half-way through.

For variation, I use lime juice and red pepper or just about any flavor combination. I find the bigger kale leaves work better, saving the smaller, more delicate leaves for salads and steaming.

Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast,  Thanks to a CSA member for sharing another Deb Perelman recipe – she got to meet Deb during a trip to New York City last year during the promotion of the website and cookbook.

1 large egg
1 slice of your favorite hearty bread
2 baby spinach
1 pat butter
1 T minced shallot or white onion
1 T heavy cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp smooth Dijon mustard
1 T crumbled cheese, such as goat cheese or feta

Bring small pot of water to boil. Lower egg into it and boil for five to six minutes. Rinse egg briefly under cool water and set aside.

Wash your spinach but no need to dry it. Put a small puddle of water in the bottom of a skillet and heat it over medium-high. Once the water is simmering, add the spinach and cook it until it is just wilted, and not a moment longer. Transfer it to a colander and press as much of the excess water out with the back of a fork as possible. No need to wring it out here; we’re hoping to those lovely wilted leaves intact. Keep that fork; you’ll use it again in a moment.

Put your bread in to toast.

Dry your skillet if it is still wet. Heat a pat of butter in it over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook them for a few minutes, until translucent and a little sweet. Return spinach to skillet and add cream. Simmer them together for one minute, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put your toast on your plate and spread it thinly with Dijon mustard. Heap the spinach-and-shallot mixture on top, then add the crumbled cheese. Peel your egg; doing so under running water can make this easier. Once peeled, place it on your spinach toast, smash it open with the back of that fork you used a minute ago, and sprinkle it with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Eat immediately.
Creamy Polenta With Sun Dried Tomatoes and Mixed Greens, recipe found online and shared by a CSA member

8 sun-dried tomatoes (packed without oil)
12 C boiling water
1 C cornmeal
1 dash pepper
32 oz chicken broth or vegetable broth, divided
1 C water
olive oil
2 C onions (thin sliced)
1 C red bell pepper (strips)
4 garlic cloves (minced)
5 C greens (torn mixed: kale, Swiss chard, spinach, etc.)
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese (fresh)

Combine tomatoes and boiling water.  Let stand 30 minutes, drain and chop.  

Combine cornmeal and pinch of black pepper in saucepan. Gradually add 3 cups broth and 1 cup water, stirring continually with a whisk.   Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove polenta from heat and keep warm.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté onion and red pepper for about 10 minutes or until tender.  Add tomatoes and garlic, cooking for 1 more minute.  Add 1 cup broth and the greens.  Cover and reduce heat to low, cooking 15 minutes or until greens are completely tender.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spoon polenta into 4 plates and top with greens.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  

Massaged Kale Salad, recipe adapted from Aarti Sequeira, we have a similar kale salad on our Pinterest page, along with other ideas for using fresh greens and asparagus – check it out!

1 bunch kale
1 lemon, juiced
¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
2 tsp honey
Freshly ground pepper
1 mango, diced
2 T toasted pepitas or sunflower seeds 

Remove tough stems from kale and cut into thin strips.  Add to large serving bowl along with half of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a little kosher salt. Massage until the kale starts to soften and wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside while you make the dressing.
In a small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice with the honey and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stream in remaining oil while whisking until a dressing forms and you like how it tastes. Pour the dressing over the kale, and add the mango and pepitas. Toss and serve.