15 Jun Find your inner forager and savor local fare
Cooking with fresh, local, seasonal ingredients straight from the farm definitely would delight Alice Waters, a pioneer in the locavore movement who opened her Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., back in 1971.
Still thriving today, the neighborhood bistro emulates an at-home intimate dinner party featuring the finest of sustainably-sourced organically grown ingredients.
Waters has worked diligently for decades to seek out the best local ingredients and build relationships with farmers and suppliers, which pretty much sums up what a forager does. A highly-coveted job title for some in the foodie world, a “forager” forges relationships with local producers with the intent of providing the best seasonal ingredients available to restaurant patrons.
Finding your inner forager is easier all the time with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) options in Montana. I subscribed to Groundworks Farm Seasonal Farm Share program in the spring and have been eagerly awaiting the first farm pickup ever since.
Eric and Audra Bergman, who operate the organic farm, sell vegetable share subscriptions to customers who pick up their weekly windfall each week at the farm, located just west of Great Falls, or at the Saturday Farmers Market in downtown Great Falls.
While this year’s summer shares are sold out for the season, you can make reservations for next year and also take advantage of the onetime pick up of fall vegetables (potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, cabbage and beets) available in October. You also can find the Bergmans at the Farmers Market where they plan to sell their farm fresh organic eggs later in the season, likely by July. You can reach Eric or Audra Bergman at Groundworks Farm by calling 406- 590-0508.
Courtney and Jacob Cowgill, who run Prairie Heritage Farm near Conrad, also run a CSA available in Great Falls. They can be reached at 406-396-1261.
Supporting local farmers seems like the right thing to do, and in the process I’m providing nutritious, delicious food by using the fresh produce each week. Food that I know has been grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides or fungicides. Food that didn’t travel thousands of miles in a refrigerated truck all the while losing nutritional value. Food I feel good about cooking for my family.
“Always explore your garden and go to the market before you decide what to cook,” Alice Waters has said.
And so I did.
Peeking inside the early harvest bag of veggies in my possession, I pondered the possibilities. Perhaps the loveliest surprise was the bundle of baby French breakfast radishes tucked under the red and green leaf lettuce and the spectacular spinach leaves.
Related to the horseradish and turnip family, the French breakfast radishes were pleasantly crisp and mildly sweet. A dash of fleur de sel, hand-harvested sea salt, is all they’d need to become the appealing appetizer on the menu.
As for dinner, the lush leaves of spinach seemed so fresh and full, I opted to quickly stir fry them in a splash of olive oil with a sprinking of salt and freshly ground pepper, rendering them bright green and still slightly crunchy, a beautiful backdrop for the grilled salmon fillet baking on the barbecue. Mmm!
A lightly tossed salad would make good use of the leaf lettuce and complete the made-straight-from-the-garden menu, simple straightforward recipes that allow fresh local produce to shine.
As fun as it was to dream up recipes using this week’s farm share of fresh, local seasonal ingredients, it’s sure to keep getting better and better as the summer progresses. I will be sure to keep you posted. This week’s Special of the Day is A Forager’s Feast. Enjoy!
A Forager’s Feast Menu
FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES WITH FLEUR DE SEL
French breakfast radishes, washed, dried, leafy tops removed, with a dash of Fleur de Sel or other fine salt.
For balsamic vinaigrette:» 2 tbsp. olive oil » 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar » Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For salad:» 1 small head red leaf lettuce, washed thoroughly and patted dry with paper towels » 1 small head green leaf lettuce, washed thoroughly and patted dry with paper towels » 2 cups grape tomatoes, washed and dried » 3 green onions, washed and sliced thinly » ¾ cup shaved parmesan cheeseIn a small jar, combine ingredients, cover and shake until incorporated.
Toss salad ingredients to combine. Pour dressing over and toss lightly.
Grind additional pepper over the top if desired. GRILLED SALMON WITH PESTO MAYONNAISE ON A BED OF WILTED SPINACH » 1/3 cup real mayonnaise » 3 tbsp. prepared pesto » 6 5-ounce fresh salmon filet portions, washed and patted dry on paper towels » 6 tbsp. butter, cut into pats » 2 lemons, one juiced, one cut in slices » 2 bunches fresh spinach, washed, stems removed » ¼ cup olive oil » Salt and freshly ground pepper, to tastePreheat the barbecue to medium.
Make the pesto mayonnaise by thoroughly mixing together mayonnaise and pesto in a small bowl.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Lay out three sheets of aluminum foil (about 16 inches long) on work surface, one on top of another.
Fold in ends, tops and bottoms about 2 inches to make a tray.
Lay salmon filets atop foil tray, leaving room in between.
Squeeze juice of one lemon over the top of the filets.
Top each filet with one pat of butter.
Set foil tray on preheated barbecue and cook with lid down for six to eight minutes, until edges of filets are browned and fish is opaque.
While salmon is grilling, wilt the spinach by heating olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat.
When hot, add the spinach and stir fry briefly, about two minutes, until slightly wilted and bright green.
Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Remove from heat and tent with foil until ready to plate.
To plate: Using tongs, remove about ½ cup of wilted spinach from pan at a time and arrange on individual serving plates.
Wipe up any excess olive oil with paper towels.
Top each bed of wilted spinach with a salmon filet.
Top filets with dollops of pesto mayonnaise and lemon slices.