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• Fall Feast
• Produce guru
• Organic on the rocks
Local chefs create a harvest spread
by Marissa Hermanson
Leaf Vegetarian’s Steve Dustin, The Kitchen’s Hugo Matheson and Arugula Bar e Ristorante’s Alec Schuler whip up simple recipes for fall entertaining. Head down to the farmers’ market and pick up fresh, local and organic ingredients to prepare these mouth-watering harvest meals.
Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant’s Organic Farm Salad
(Serves four to six)
Notes: You can very easily pickle more radishes and carrots, and they will last a long time refrigerated to make other salads in the weeks to come.
1/2-lb pea shoots
6 radishes, large
8 purple carrots, baby
3 heirloom tomatoes, large
25 opal basil leaves, purple
1 qt rice wine vinegar
1/2 C garlic chili sauce, Huey Fong
2 C sugar
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Slice carrots and radishes to desired thickness (recommended 1/4 inch for carrots and 1/8 inch for radishes) and place in separate containers. Mix rice wine vinegar, garlic chili sauce, sugar and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Once mixture has boiled pour over radishes and carrots. Set aside until cooled. You have now just pickled radishes and carrots. Cut tomatoes into wedges. Toss tomatoes, pickled radishes, pickled carrots, opal basil leaves, olive oil, three tablespoons pickling liquid from the radishes, salt and pepper to taste.
The Kitchen’s Butternut Squash Soup
Notes: This can be made with any winter squash, which usually start coming in around October. You’ll need about 1.5 pounds of peeled and chopped flesh, so when buying a squash weigh it and imagine that you will lose a small percentage of the weight.
This recipe involves a very basic technique that can be used for almost any hardy vegetable; just change the seasoning as desired. The Kitchen purees the soup, but you can also serve it unblended. Serve piping hot with a glug of olive oil, grated cheese, or just straight up. You really do need some crusty bread with butter.
2 T unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
pinch of crushed red pepper
salt and pepper
1 medium butternut squash
a few grates of fresh nutmeg
2 C chicken or vegetable stock, or water
1 C heavy cream
In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add onion, garlic, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt and a couple of turns of the pepper mill. Cover and leave to sweat for about 15 minutes (you want the onions to be almost melted, without coloring). Add squash and nutmeg, cover again, and sweat for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (This really brings out the flavors of the vegetables and all the sugars.) Increase heat to medium-high and add stock or water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until everything is very soft. Transfer to a food processor or blender (or use an immersion blender) and puree to a smooth soup. Return to pot and add cream; heat through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
The Kitchen’s Braised Chickpeas with Tomato and Cumin
Notes: This is great as a side or supper dish. The Kitchen actually serves it at brunch with eggs. "I have always prefer to start with dried chickpeas, as you then have a control as to where they end up when cooked. We are fortunate to have farmers nearby who grow a variety of chickpeas, which gives a great variety of colors, textures and flavors," Matheson says. But if you cannot find something a little different, regular chickpeas will work just as well.
1/2-lb dry chick peas, soaked in water over night
1 onion, halved
1 celery stick
2 bay leaves
1/2 T cumin seeds, light crushed
1 large onion, finely diced
1 16-oz can, best quality tomatoes
1 clove of garlic sliced
a pinch of chili flakes
1/4 C olive oil
Cook the chickpeas with water in a large pan and cover. Add the carrot, celery, onion and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer; they should take about one hour to cook. Just test one and they should be easy to bite. When they are ready, turn off the heat. They will store like this in the liquid for a week in the fridge. It is up to you if you want to discard the veggies. It is nice to mash them up in the braise.
Heat up a large sauté pan, then add the oil, cumin, onion, garlic and chili. Sauté until golden brown and melting. Add the strained chickpeas and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and let simmer for about 30 minutes until the tomatoes have reduced down by half. Check for seasoning, and serve, making this a day ahead. This gives it time to relax and the flavors to come together. Stir in some fresh cilantro at the end. It’s a nice light lift to the dish.
Arugula’s Sausage and Goat Cheese Penne
Notes: This dish is a favorite among those who frequent Arugula.
5 links good raw Italian sausage
1 onion, large
6 Roma tomatoes
3 sage leaves, large
3 garlic cloves
1/2 bunch of parsley
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 C goat cheese (loosely packed)
12-oz. penne pasta
1/4 C olive oil
Cook penne in abundant salted water to al dente (not quite cooked thru). Follow instruction on box for time. At the same time sauté sausage (cut into ¾” coins) and onion (cut vertically in half and then sliced thin). Sauté these ingredients at medium heat in half the olive oil until sausage in almost cooked thru. Add balsamic vinegar. At this stage you can turn off heat and hold to coordinate timing with the pasta.
Briefly sauté roughly chopped garlic, torn sage leaves and Roma tomatoes (cut into 1/2” cubes) in the same pan as the sausage and onions. Then add pasta and continue to sauté on low for an additional one to two minutes. Remove from heat. Add remaining olive oil, chopped parsley and crumbled goat cheese. Toss and serve!
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A chat with Mark Menagh about our local food chain
by Marissa Hermanson
Q: What is your involvement with the local food industry?
A: I’m president of KORU Fresh Innovations, a consultancy helping small- and medium-sized companies increase productivity. I’m on the Board of Directors of Naturally Boulder Products, which is a city-sponsored nonprofit organization dedicated to making Boulder the epicenter of the natural food industry. Naturally Boulder intentionally attracts new business to Boulder by connecting all of the participants in the sector through networking and educational events. I’m also on the Boulder County Food and Agricultural Policy Council, a recently formed council advising our county commissioners on the issues of food security, food sovereignty and the needs of the agricultural community. I was the executive director of the Boulder County Farmers’ Markets working with more than 100 farmers and 50 specialty food vendors. In this role I worked with CSU Agricultural Extension office to build a new farmer program and was one of the advisors for new farmers looking for channels to build their direct sales. Specialty food vendors in the natural food arena are a favorite area of mine, and I worked to find entrepreneurs who were ready to start marketing their products and hadn’t made it into the mainstream grocery store yet.
Q: How do you encourage Boulder residents to shop for food?
A: As wisely as possible, which means that we should know the companies or farmers that produce our food. So, let’s purchase food produced locally when we can. All of us have favorite brands that we trust, but I like to encourage consumers to evaluate their favorite brands and determine if they still deserve their loyalty. The food industry is changing rapidly to meet changing consumer demands and meet their profit targets by increasing the amount of highly processed substitute ingredients. Our food producers are in a competitive environment and very demand driven. We have seen the food industry change rapidly when consumers change buying habits. As consumers we make a political decision every time we choose to eat something. If a company is local, you can find out a lot more about them and can find ways to verify their green or ethical claims than you can any large international company. By choosing fresh food produced locally, when possible, our money goes into the local economy and uses the local sun, soil, water and labor to stimulate productivity in our community. Developing a productive local economy is both simple and powerful when we choose to buy local.
Q: What are the benefits of buying local over organic?
A: Comparing local to organic is an inequitable comparison. Both have positive factors, and I believe the best is both local and organic. Key factors for me are healthy food, fresh food, environmentally positive and local. Every individual must decide what issues are most important every time we choose an item to eat. I choose organic over local when I know the local conventional producer is not using healthy environmental processes. I always choose local when an item is in season and it’s produced with environmental consciousness. I know of many local farmers who are not certified organic but grow their food in a healthy way that is sustainable, and I would choose their products over some farmers that are local and certified organic. The Country of Origin Labeling that we are finally seeing in our stores makes choosing consciously even easier now, but we need more labeling to know we are truly purchasing local unless we purchase direct from the producer. Buying conventional produce grown outside of the U.S. is not wise unless you know that country is following standards better or similar to the U.S., and even then it doesn’t meet the environmentally conscious criteria of minimizing our carbon footprint.
Organic certification gives us a standard, and there is no other label or certification that comes close to providing the consumer with real information about how a product is produced. If cost is a concern for the consumer, they can shop for items that have less risk of pesticide exposure or fruits and vegetables where pesticides can be safely removed. If people choose organic first for the benefit of our earth, they can choose those organic items when conventionally grown require much more pesticides and herbicides such as grapes, peaches, sweet bell peppers and potatoes. This way we will have the most positive environmental impact. In this context, let’s look at potatoes. Based upon my criteria, I always choose organic because conventionally grown potatoes are poisoned with pesticides, and this impacts my health and the health of our soil.
Q: Is local or organic better for our environment?
A: Organic is the best for our environment. Many local producers here in Boulder County use toxic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. You cannot choose local and automatically claim to be making the best decision.
Q: Both local and organic food is expensive. How do you suggest people buy it on a budget?
A: Visit our community local farms, farm stands and farmers markets. There is no more competitive environment that a farmers’ market with farmers lined up side by side selling the same items. Find a farmer you can trust and become loyal to them. That is the most rewarding thing you can do both for peace of mind of how you food was grown and your pocket book. Buy your food in season, you will save money and eat a much healthier diet. And most of all, to save money and to eat healthier, eliminate processed food from your diet.
Q: What should everyone know about Boulder County’s food chain?
A: We currently do not come anywhere near meeting the local demand for fresh food from our local agricultural producers. We continue to produce less food for human consumption in Boulder County even though we are increasing the number of small farms that are selling direct. Our land-use policies and the sub-rural homeowners’ reluctance to have agricultural land use close to their property is driving our farmers farther and farther away from us. As a community we need to find a way to support our local, small farms so they can continue to afford to farm and live here — and flourish! We make it very hard to start a farm by not allowing small greenhouses, not allowing seasonal farm labor to live on the farms and by not understanding the beauty and benefits of having organic small farms as neighbors. We have thousands of acres of zoned agricultural, publicly owned land in our open space in both our city and county programs. This land, with the right policies and economic incentives, could make our community economically stronger, more productive, healthier, and more food secure.
Q: Any other information?
A: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” as Michael Pollan, a popular journalist said. And I will add that if you are going to eat any processed food or conventionally grown food other than organic fruits and vegetables you should question what is sold as food by the industrial food supply chain we have come to rely upon. Some ingredients used to grow and process food may not be what you would choose to eat. We have found ways to artificially create almost every major ingredient in our food. With modern chemistry we are able to create many synthetic materials, and some of these end up in our food for no other reason than to replace natural ingredients with less expensive alternatives. Why we would choose to eat these substances is beyond me. The adulteration of food for efficiency of production is not exclusive to processed foods, our fruits and vegetables, even our meats and diary items are often produced in ways that degrade their nutritional and healthy nature. It is up to each individual consumer to make educated choices that influence the food supply chain and help keep real food available for their families.
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Organic on the rocks
Vodka 14 takes the toxic out of intoxication
by Erica Grossman
It’s hard to imagine being concerned about pesticides and blending agents while sitting on a barstool. As consumers, after all, we typically reach for a drink to relax and escape from the more rigid details of existence. Alcohol is alcohol, we might think to ourselves — just drink and be merry.
But what you might not know is that your martini could be laced with remnants of chemicals or crafted in a way that has a long-term detrimental effect on the environment.
As the green movement is pushed further and further into the forefront, questioning what goes into your body is nothing new. Yet trying to find organic at the bar isn’t always easy. It’s been a slow process, but recently organic drinks began to pop on to the barkeep radar.
And, unsurprisingly, Colorado is helping pave the way. In 2007, Fort Collins’ New Belgium Brewery unleashed its Mothership Wit beer, a certified organic white Belgium brew. Vintners like Jack Rabbit Hill near Hotchkiss, Colo., are popping up with organic-certified biodynamic wines. And to add to the mix is the 4-year-old Boulder-based Vodka 14, one of the country’s first certified organic vodkas.
Vodka 14 is a family venture, run by the father-and-son team of Mitch and Matthew Barris. For them, crafting vodka is in their genes — distillation runs back five generations in their family, traced back to their Eastern European ancestors — but the Barrises also know that quality is just as important as roots. As Colorado residents, the two were inspired by the success of local microbreweries and knew that Boulder is a place where both craftsmanship and organic practice are embraced.
“With vodka, it is all about purity,” says Matthew Barris (the son in the venture). “Vodka isn’t aged or flavored, so there is nowhere to hide impurities.”
And though vodka isn’t defined by a distinctive flavor — a fact that has made it a No. 1 choice for mixed drinks — vodka connoisseurs can easily detect its overall taste and cleanliness. The Barrises believe that non-organic vodkas can negatively alter that taste by using grains grown with chemical pesticides or sewage-sludge fertilizers. Barris also notes that some non-organic vodkas use “blending agents” — chemical agents that help ferment the mash — to smooth out the taste, ultimately compromising the purity of the vodka.
So what does it mean to have certified organic vodka? As it turns out, a few things.
For one, you have to start with organic grains. A larger, corporate distillery might opt into a contract with an agricultural corporation that can supply them with mass-produced, genetically modified grains. Vodka 14, conversely, opts for high-quality, organic farms.
“Our ingredients are selected for quality prior to each production,” says Barris. “As a result, they don’t always come from the same exact farm.”
In addition, the company makes sure its ingredients come from American organic farms, mostly in the northern Rocky Mountains. The water used in Vodka 14 likewise comes from an ice-cold, 200-foot deep spring in the Teton Range’s Snake River rather than a public water source. Aside from ingredients, creating an organic product should also mean that its production is synchronous with ecological practice, and Vodka 14 follows this model by refusing to use chemical cleaners in its production. It’s something that Barris says helps to truly distinguish their product.
“Keeping our vodka organic helps us maintain the highest levels of quality and purity,” he says, “but it also allows us to support sustainable agriculture and keep our business in line with our ideals.”
At the end of the day, when it’s time to hit the liquor cabinet, catch yourself up with the rest of the green movement and shoot for local, organic drinks. The knowledge that what you’re ingesting is pure will help you relax even more.
For more information on Vodka 14, visit www.vodka14.com. You can purchase Vodka 14 at Liquor Mart (1750 15th St., 303-449-3374), Pettyjohn’s Liquor and Wine (613 S. Broadway., 303-499-2337) and a variety of other local outfits..
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