Whole grain salad with root vegetables

grain salad pic

Grains and roots

Whole grain salad with root vegetables

If you love local greens but don’t like the inflated price tag that comes with them in the winter months, try mixing things up with sprouts, grains, kale and shredded winter roots. These nutrient-dense alternatives, with their deep earthy flavors and textures, can be used to make hearty and delicious salads. Not only are they quick and easy to make, but whole grain and root vegetable salads are a tasty way to keep eating healthy even when cold weather limits the availability of fresh veggies.

Cooking whole grains

Some grains, like barley or wheat, rye and spelt berries, can be simply cooked in boiling water for 45 minutes to an hour. This approach is easy in that you do not necessarily need to measure the grain or water. Other grains, like quinoa, bulgur, millet and brown rice, require specific amounts of water when being cooked. Most water to grain ratios are very similar to that of rice. Cook one cup of quinoa, bulgur, millet or brown rice with two cups of water. If you plan to cook more than one grain, cook each of the grains separately in their own pot.

Winter roots

Winter roots, like celeriac, black radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, beets, carrots and cabbage, are sold by the following farms, markets and co-ops throughout the winter months:

Migliorelli Farm
Schoharie Valley Farms
The Berry Farm
The Chatham Co-op
The Honest Weight Co-op

Black bean chocolate soup

Soup Ellie

Black bean chocolate soup

On Wednesday November 3, 2014, Capital Roots (formerly Capital District Community Gardens) celebrated the Grand Opening of their new multi-million dollar Urban Grow Center, a regional food hub with the goal of feeding and educating 300,000 people with 1,000,000 pounds of fresh food each year. Consortium chefs Ellie Markovitch, Renee Panetta and Consortium director Lecco Morris were on hand at the ribbon cutting ceremony to cook with local produce and to serve Ellie’s Black Bean Chocolate Soup.

“This Black Bean Chocolate Soup is not my mother’s recipe. But it started as a Brazilian blended soup. A “caldo” for a celebration day.”

Several years back, when I met fellow Consortium chef Noah Sheetz, I learned that New York grows black beans and I could get them at The Honest Weight Food Co-op. Since then I have learned so much about local food in New York. The Urban Grow Center will help more people have access to local and fresh food. Local food tastes better for so many reasons and the stories and connections make the taste unforgettable.”

Kale fried rice recipe and kale 101

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Kale fried rice recipe

Kale 101

Now is one of the best times to enjoy kale from the garden as its flavor will intensify and actually become sweeter after periodic exposure to frost. As other similarly hearty vegetables, like broccoli and chard, will succumb to the harsh winter elements, kale will be the “last of the Mohicans” to be standing in a snow covered garden, and regularly comes back in the spring. Kale is so hearty that farmer Frederick Wellington of Wellington Herbs and Spices says:

“Until we get 10 or so straight days of cold temperatures below zero, kale and collards can survive and still be harvested. Once the extreme cold weather sets in, the leaves will actually shatter like glass.  In the spring they are one of the few vegetables to re-leaf.  Eventually they go to seed but until so, the leaves can be harvested and are pretty tasty.”

Tips on growing Kale

Kale is a fairly low maintenance vegetable that will grow well in any soil and is largely unaffected by pests and diseases like club root, cabbage root fly and slugs that trouble its cabbage cousins. Extremely nutritious, kale is packed with fiber, antioxidants, beta carotene, calcium and vitamins – like K and C. Some “Super Food” proponents even believe that levels of sulforaphane that are present in kale and its fellow crucifers posses cancer fighting properties.  There are many ways to prepare kale, from oven dried chips to salads, to quiche and pie variations and stir fried as it is in the kale fried rice recipe below.

Some farms that still have kale:

Migliorelli Farm
Roxbury Farm
Schoharie Valley Farms
Hawthorne Valley Farm 
Hudson Valley Bounty producers who are growing kale

Chef Ric Orlando on pumpkin

pumpkinellie

A Peruvian inspired pumpkin recipe from chef Ric

As for pumpkins, all of the pumpkin “guts” should get made into stock and roasted pumkpin seeds.  The eyes, noses, ears and grins that are cut out of a carved pumpkin are good edible stuff.

When I was a little kid, I remember “Little Nonni”–my father’s mother Mary, all 4’9″ of her stoic Sicilian self, taking the pieces of pumpkin face that we kids were cutting out from the newspapered floor. In a few minutes there was golden, breaded and fried chunks of pumpkin on a field of warm tomato sauce, blanketed by the snow of grated Romano cheese. – Chef Ric Orlando

Waste not want not.  These words apply to even pumpkin “guts”, which can be made into stock. 

Pumpkin Stock

To make “pumpkin stock” remove the membranes and seeds from the squash you are using. Put in a heavy pot, and cover with water by at least 2 inches. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cook at a moderate boil for 15 minutes and reduce to a simmer. Cook for one hour, adding a little more water if necessary to keep the squash covered. Strain, squeezing the flavor out of the pulp. Use for risotto, soups, or in stews.  Speaking of pumpkin based stew, here is a recipe for El Locro.

Pumpkin picture by Ellie Markovitch

Calabacitas Recipe

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Calabacitas, a Mexican squash and corn dish

There are hundreds of recipes for this dish but you can be assured that corn and squash will be present in just about every Calabacitas recipe. Calabacitas originated in Mexico where hundreds of varieties of squash were cultivated as a staple food in ancient times.  The earliest records of squashes date back to 7000 B.C. to the state of Oaxaca and the Tamaulipas mountains where they were known as “the apples of God”.  Today Calabacitas are still enjoyed throughout Mexico and New Mexico, where Tex-Mex cuisine has influenced even more variations of the classic dish. Cheese, perfectly ripe tomatoes, peppers and chilies make the dish especially delicious. In the winter you can use any variety of winter squash, just be sure to dice it into small cubes and allow for extra cooking time.