Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New York Times article, "The Return of the Lost Tomato," is a must-read

The New York Times on Wednesday has a separate section, Dining Out, that is a must-read for any follower of food. Today's issue touched on a subject dear to my heart, New Jersey tomatoes. I grew up in the summers on the Jersey shore in Ocean City, NJ and came to love the tomatoes grown in that area.

Today's article (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/23/dining/23toma.html?_r=1&ref=dining&oref=slogin) by Julia Moskin is a feast to a tomato lover's eyes and I highly recommend you read it. The article deals with a hybrid developed at Rutgers, the Ramapo, that had nearly disappeared but is being returned to use there.

The article reinforces what I have been writing about in this blog about the benefits of growing produce locally. The writer points out that tomatoes in recent decades have been bred for shipping with "thick skins and tough walls." Mr. Gary Ibsen of California when interviewed by the writer stated that "...now that shipping is so expensive, I think everything is going to change again. You're going to see a lot more local tomatoes everywhere."

The article points out that it costs $10,000 to ship tomatoes across country. Can you imagine what it costs to ship citrus from California to Florida? Are you listening Publix?

For the record, New Jersey needs to know there is competition out there. Anyone who has tasted an Alabama Sand Mountain tomato has had their own occasion to taste divinity in the same league with Jersey tomatoes.

I recommend you read the New York Times every Wednesday. The Dining Out section is a treasure.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Alachua County Farmers' Market Busy This Morning

video

With increased awareness to buying locally, our farmers' markets are busy, busy, busy. The farmers' market up by the Highway Patrol station was just that. This morning, I arrived about 10:45 and the parking lot was full and vendor's supplies were beginning to run thin. One vendor had been selling greens, but was sold out. I saw lots of tomatoes, okra, local eggplant, acorn squash, butternut squash, and ample offerings of plants. The opportunities to buy low priced, high quality produce are many.

Certainly, buying locally allows the consumer to purchase a fresher product with less energy being expended it to bring it to the customer. A paraphrasing of a line from John Hartford's music says it well. "It's good for the country, good for the nation, ain't nothing like that sweet sensation"... of buying home-grown Florida produce.

To magnify why buying locally is a smart way to shop, take a look at products sold in the produce sections of many conventional grocery chains. Try to get a sense of how far those items were shipped before it reached your hands. You will be shocked particularly when there are ample supplies closer to the store that would put money into the local economy, use less energy to deliver to the customer, and be of higher quality and taste.

My pet peeve is when Publix ships California citrus across the country to sell in Florida, a leading citrus producer. Give me a break.........

Sunday, July 06, 2008

RECIPE: WALHALLA PIMENTO CHEESE

WALHALLA SC PIMENTO CHEESE

My friend, Paul, is an aficionado of Southern cooking and resides with his wife, Carol, in Walhalla, SC. When the county decided to place road signs on the driveway roads abutting the county's paved road, they were asked to submit their choice of a name for their drive. Paul's nomination was Psycho Path, but his choice was vetoed by Carol.

A renaissance man, Paul’s recipe for pimento cheese is a sure thing if you are planning on feeding Yankee guests who need remedial guidance in the ways of Southern cooking.

Soon after Paul and Carol sent the recipe, they prepared for a “pig pickin’” to honor 5 retiring Home Extension agents. The party menu included barbecue pork, slaw, beans, hand cranked ice cream, watermelon, and cantaloupe with pimento cheese sandwiches as appetizers. Paul wrote that “This will be a knowledgeable crowd, but we won’t lose any sleep worrying that the pimento cheese won’t stand up to close scrutiny.”

I bet.

Ingredients:

2 parts sharp yellow cheddar
1 part sharp white cheddar
drained pimentos, chopped
mayonnaise, Duke’s or Hellman’s
freshly ground black pepper, coarse


Preparation:

In his note to me with this recipe, he wrote the following instructions:

“If the cheese is well-chilled, a food processor will do a good job of grating the cheese. Turn the cheese into a large bowl and add the chopped pimentos. The size of the particles is still being debated and may never be decided.
Add mayo and pepper and begin to blend, adding more mayo and pepper as needed, which is also a matter of some debate.
Sometimes (if my wife isn’t looking) I add a bit of French’s mustard, sometimes a dash of Tabasco, never both.
Cover and chill overnight.”

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Southern Foodways Alliance: a god-send for revering and preserving Southern food-ways

I would be remiss to not urge you, even nag you, to become familiar with the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA), a subset of the University of Mississippi's Institute for Southern Culture (http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/south/). Both organizations have produced projects, films, and books of merit about southern culture and, in particular, its cuisines. The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture was my first foray into their organizations and I regularly use the SFA web site, http://www.southernfoodways.com/. Also, check out the four volumes of Cornbread Nation, http://southernfoodways.com/cornbread_nation.shtml,

John T. Edge and John Edgerton have long been leaders of the alliance and any of their publications are also highly recommended.

Good reading to you.