Archive for the ‘Eating Local in Knoxville’ Category

I love my job(s).

a. Farmers Market Second Liutenant (Real title still in limbo)

b. Mountain Meadows Farm- tomater sorter, CSA organizer, veggie planter, apple analyzer and anything else Shannon may deem important

c. La Costa- tender of the bar and server of zee cuisine

d. Market Gnome

I’m guessing the positive words relating to careers are rarely uttered by my fellow countryman these days, especially by the sprightly 20-somethings who are still searching for the best beer deals in town, something financially and socially beneficial but with less long-term gratification than being happy with your career choice. Reaching the point of satisfaction required hours and years of self-exploration and refinement, not forgetting the unnecessary mentionables–physics, engineering calculus, and volunteering in the sterilized white-washed depressing Jackson-Madison County Hospital. I mean really, could you imagine me as Dr. Pettigrew…boring, I prefer Kimberly.

Ive always had a hard time making concrete decisions, so the fact that I’ve settled into a job genre is surprising to me…but I guess since I do work a trio of jobs that’s not exactly choosing one thing . What is your favorite food/color/song/movie? Impossible! What would you like to major in? Impossible to pick one field of study and consider it a complete education. Im really not complicated, I just will never fit my dreams into a tiny nutshell. My current non-rotting in an office between the hours of 9 to 5 job(s) combine the following: education, outreach, nutrition, physical labor, conferences, philanthropy, multi-media, food, farmers, wine and people. Im able to shape and influence the direction that Knoxville takes in regards to the local food system in the next few years and decades. What more could a gal want? (besides the obvious money to make this all happen)

My job is malleable, and this enables me to fluidly grow with the needs and wants of the community. Charlotte, market mama and friend, and I can generally be found with a cup of Counter culture coffee at Old City Java or perched up at the Farmers’ Market Info booth or more recently swingin on her porch, talking about our dreams to bring local food to all and to educate the public about what’s around them–lesser known veggies and fruits (heirloom tomatoes, fennel, herbs), preservation (canning, drying), cooking, nutrition,etc. Charlotte got the wheels turning by introducing the use of food stamps at farmers’ markets in TN. Her ability to turn visions into realities is the main reason I decided to axe my grad school dreams and give my soul to local food. I have dreams of community kitchens, cooking classes, mobile markets, food sheds, and community gardens. These things will happen here and I will be a part of them. It tugs my heart and makes my eyes slightly misty and my throat a bit lumpy to think of all the possibilities–how far we have come, how daunting a task these things are to accomplish, but how fortunate I am that Knoxville is ready to stop being stagnate.  Knoxville isn’t so different from other places that linger somewhere between a big town and small city. We’ve got a blend of SUV-drivin, strip-mall suburbia to a riveting pedestrian friendly downtown. But what we do have is the people and support to make this happen. We may not be as financially stable as Nashville or Chattanooga, but damn our lack of money is made up with willpower and determination. Here we come world.


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No, I didn’t lose my marbles in South America.  I acquired worms and munched on weeds at my friend Katie Ries’s MFA Thesis Show–The Urban Land Scouts. The worms will be my little kitchen scrap recyclers, breaking down my leftovers into organic matter. My prior composting involved putting scraps into a bowl and waiting until nightfall to sneak down to the green space behind my apartment to deposit my unwanted peels, coffee grounds and egg shells. But now, I shall fear the landlord no more and compost in peace.

Onto the part about eating my lawn (well, I live in an apartment so I’ve actually been borrowing lawns from others). Well, I came back from South America not exactly with money overflowing from my pockets. So, what’s a starving foodie to do about sustaining herself through the day? Forage for food! My favorite food to forage for (aka easiest to find) are dandelions.

The best part about the dandelion, besides its beautiful yellow color, is that the entire plant is edible from the roots to the petals. I don’t recommend eating them when they reach the snowball stage, they are better used for entertaining purposes at that point.

Health Benefits

– The flowers: helps purify the body and blood; aids in the treatment of hepatitis, yellow jaundice, anemia and weight loss; rich in lechitin (good for the brain and the liver)

– The greens: sodium, iron, beta-carotene, potassium, antioxidants, and vitamin A

– The roots: ontain inulin and levulin, starchlike substances that may help balance blood sugar, as well as bitter taraxacin, which stimulates digestion

How to Use

– Flowers: dry them and use as tea, infuse into a simple syrup, deep fry (thank you Katie Ries), mix into and omelet or fritter, blend into wine or make into jelly

My way: dried leaves to make dandelion tea

– Leaves: after sauteeing or steaming these leaves can add flavor and nutrients to salads, soups, fritattas, crepes…the possibilities are limitless. The small, immature greens can be eaten raw.

My way: Soup

Forage Soup Recipe

Saute 4 green scallions with 6 ramps. Add two chopped carrots and saute in 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Add dried herbs (I used oregano, time and winter savoury). Add 2 cups of dandelion greens and any other greens you have on hand. I added baby collard greens. Cover with water, salt and simmer until your kitchen smells heavenly. As a finishing touch I added spaghetti noodles. Dollop with pesto (I made cashew, spinach and arugula pesto) and voile!

– Root: Delectable roasted and ground into a coffee-like substance similar to chicory coffee. Can also be eaten raw or sauteed.

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Tuesdays are my day off. I don’t handle 24-hours of freedom very well. Yes, I love to read and lazily drink my cup of english breakfast in my flannel with the rest of the world–but then I think of all the productive things I could (and should) be doing and my relaxation bliss turns into me repenting for my deadly sin of sloth. I wanted something to do on Tuesday that would occupy my wandering mind but still provide solace after working my stressful hosting shift on Nama’s half-price night. I thought about exercising–getting that good anaerobic exercise, but just the thought of jogging makes my muscles cramp and my bones ache. I’m not particularly artistic or creative  making sewing, painting, or drawing out of the picture. Man-oh-man what is a girl to do with 24 hours of free time.

That’s when I got the perfect message. It came via cyberspace,  but it’s sender was merely 1-mile away as the crow flies.

“Does anyone want to work the dirt at Organicism farm to and receive a free CSA share?” it asked.

I thought about it for a whole two minutes.

Question 1 to myself: Do you love free food? Who doesn’t

Question 2 to myself: Do you have time? Yes, Tuesday!

Brilliant. And so it came to be that my Tuesdays are now spent working at Ryan and Jessica’s farm in Seymour. This is my first official week as a CSA’er and I must say I am quite smitten. In addition finding peace working in the cool mountain air, I have a basket (with a nifty handle) full of produce begging to be made into something delicious.

My CSA basket has a blingin metal handle

CSA Basket Week 1

  • CSA Flier Week 1

    CSA Flier Week 1

CSA Meals

  • Arugula pesto pizza
  • Arugula pesto cream cheese spread served with late summer vegetable sandwiches
  • Gumbo
  • Double Chocolate Mint Cookies
  • Pumpkin Penne with pan-fried rosemary butter
  • Late fall salad- with butter lettuce, micro-radishes, pears, caramelized walnuts and lemon-garlic dressing
  • The slaw was gone in less than one hour…oops

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I am the proud owner or a new MacBook Pro thanks to my parents and uncle sam’s oh-so-generous tax-free holiday.  I love to take it everywhere. I whip it out of the durable waterproof messenger bag I purchased and sigh as I look at the sleek ergonomic design. Yes, I’m in love with this little electronic gadget. I hope it keeps me more accountable in the cyber world–no, not chat rooms or e-harmony, just more in touch with reality and myself through the blog. Oh yes the blog, I really must get to business and stop bragging.

Who knew organic green passionfruit could grow in Knoxville? Not I, probably not anyone other than the farmer who grew it. But, the good ole reliable market is always full of surprises. So, here I am with 12 lovely passionfruits, fragrant beyond belief. I really had to do some soul-searching to decide what I would make with these green jewels. I want to savour their flavor, be able to worship the chemical reactions that fill my mouth infinitely. I’m going to use the fruit in two dishes. One a simple ode to the passionfruit, the other an appreciation for the complexity it takes on when paired with other ingredients.

1. The Locavore Roll at Nama: Jaime, goddess of flavor creator of delicious hybrid sushi, is going to make me a roll using the passionfruit, tomatoes, buckwheat sprouts, thai basil and bell peppers (all grown in local soil).

2. Passion Fruit with Cream – Deborah Madison’s recipes in Local Flavors never disappoint. Here you cut the top of the fruit, add a spoonful of cream and eat. Take pleasure in the small things.

I know the passionfruit was listed last in the title, but I just couldn’t help myself, I had to start with it first. So, now I’ll restart from the beginning by telling you about the grapes at the market. They are perfect. It reminds me of the grapes I drew as a child with my deep rich purple crayon. They are muscadines, and muscadines are known for their tough skin and sweet fruit. Although many people dislike them for their skin, they are a joyous memory from my childhood. My grandfather grew grapes (muscadine) and created the most delicious grape jelly and juice from his vines. We were only allowed to drink the juice in the kitchen because the color stained everything it touched, including my lips which is I can honestly say I’ve had a purple mustache. After purchasing the grapes, I’ve tried to keep myself from eating them (they’re addicting) because I plan on making grape juice as an ode to my grandparents legacy  using this recipe I found at Chowhound:

1 cup of grapes
1cup to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of the grapes)
placed in a 1/2 gallon canning jar
filled with spring water 
topped with a hot canning lid and ring
boiled for 20 minutes
Let sit for 2 months before drinking
Strain Grapes out of Juice before serving

Finally, after a trip down memory lane, I’ll tell you about the flour. The dear boys at the Colvin Family Farm are the most motivated teenagers I’ve ever met. They flaunt creative talent like that of a senior advertiser. They are well-read, preferring historical prose as opposed to modern day smut. They strive to be better today than they were yesterday. But their kind hearts deserve the most praise. With a bunch of carrots and a bag of freshly ground whole wheat flour, they made my horrible day worth facing. It was a tough day full of turmoil, angst, confusion and self-pity. But the small act of kindness they showed me, made me smile and leave my troubles behind (at least for a little while). But enough emotion, here’s what I’m going to make for my best friend Heather’s going away all-local potluck using the flour

Caramelized Apple Tart with Cinnamon Custard. Bravo

Well, I have nothing else to say except leave you with a quote I read today.

” What a power there are in words…Perhaps the basic secret the scientists never discovered, the first fount of life, is that which happens when a thought takes the shape in words.”

Ayn Rand from The Fountainhead

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Today I ran the Market Square Farmers’ Market solo. I transformed from merely an intern to the Queen Bee. Armed with just a receipt book and pen, I tried my best to fill Charlotte’s large, impressive and oh-so-humble shoes. I consider it a success because no one died, got arrested, complained, or cried. 

I’m sure you’re aching to know how I handled all that produce power. Well, in a nutshell, it was pure bliss. Here’s a list of all the exciting things that happened. (Charlotte if you are reading this, there were no Hardees girls dressed in French maid outfits or other crazy antics this week)

1. It rained cats and dogs (really big smelly pooches and felines)

2. The 28 vendors dwindled to 10 dedicated individuals

3. Thomas, the overall-wearing 70-something farmer from Grainger Co., pulled up in his truck again this week wanting to sell produce. Although it was wrong of him to come with the “ok”, he produced an completed application and we needed vendors so I said ok. Turns out he’s a sweet man despite that he flicks his cigarette butts on the ground and tends to be somewhat chauvinistic. Although he follows conventional farming methods (non-organic)…he only uses one spray which is a moldacide. He gave me purple okra which was nice…but who knew that even existed.

4. While getting booth fees I landed a new job. Still Waters Farm wants to actually become a big boy farm, and they need my man power and drive to help build raised beds this Winter. I’m excited to get my hands in the dirt. I haven’t warned her yet that I have no green thumbs on my body, in fact I killed my Chia pet. Either I’ll fool her or I’ll be fired.

5. Wilson Family gave me a free aromatic bouqet of flowers. I’ve decided to treat myself to a bouquet a week to enhance the ambiance (and odor) of my apartment.

6. Nancy Kendrick is one driven lady–from former corporate power to chicken-salad-momma, her grub is delish. I’ve already planned to make a market sandwich with her chipotle chicken salad on Saturday. I’m going to make a lettuce wrap with onion, tomato and chicken salad.

Finally, here’s what I bought at the market. I’m sorry it’s been awhile since I shared my purchases and plans with you. My old cranky computer decided it doesn’t want to hook-up with Walter’s internet connection anymore…or anyone else’s wireless for that matter. So, my postings will be sporadic.

Market Purchases for July 29

  • 3 heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 Italian and 1 traditional zucchini
  • 1 yellow Melon who’s name escapes me

Freebies from the Market

  • 2 eggplants from Danny
  • 10 peaches from Charlie Parton
  • Okra galore from Thomas

My Farm to Table Meals

  • Curried Zucchini Soup
  • Heirloom Tomato Tart with a Parmesan Crust
  • Eggplant and Sweet Potato Burritos with Goat Cheese
  • Fried Okra
  • Pickled Okra
  • And a to-be-determined peach dessert (I’m open for suggestions)

As always, ask for the recipes if you’d like!

Here’s a great one I made last night

Roasted Ricotta Roma Tomatoes with steamed yellow squash and zucchini mixed with homemade basil pesto and served over whole wheat penne.

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Some girls collect coach purses or fancy high-heeled shoes, but not me. No, I prefer practical over pretty. A good cookbook or food magazine consistently make appearances on my Christmas or birthday wish lists. I’ve had numerous favorites over the years including Cooking with Curtis ( beautiful blond hunk in the kitchen…yes please!) or Tyler Florence’s Eat This Book (beautiful flavors featuring global classics). Not to mention the oh-so-Southern Dining with Pioneers given to me by Memaw, but whose delicious recipes I’ve eaten since childhood. But, as much as I love this culinary beauties, I’ve never had a go-to book for any day of the week–a book where even the random produce items lurking in your fridge have a purpose. I didn’t have one of these books in my life, until Sunday.

Local Flavors by Deborah Madison has changed my world- I feel lighter, healthier, happier, ethereal even.

I love this book more than…
Kettle Black Pepper Potato Chips
Fine Boxed Wine from a Recycled Container
Getting the mail
Hunting for Easter Eggs
Dancing Crazy at Sassy Annes
My family (only kidding…)

But really, this book is worth buying because it features beautiful seasonal recipes that utilize local nutritious produce to make aromatic, colorful, and delicious food. Two-days post purchase, I’d already whipped up three dishes. I’ll share these three as a teaser, but you’ll have to buy the book to create the other magical recipes. Enjoy!

Blueberry Lavender Compote

Ingredients: 2 pints blueberries, juice from one lime or lemon, 1 tsp. corn starch, 1/2 cup of sugar, pinch of sea salt, 1 tsp. lavender blossoms

Directions: Pick over the berries, removing any stems, leaves, or rotting berries. Rinse. Then, in a large saucepan, mix the juice with the cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add the berries and lavender and cook over medium high heat until the fruit gives up its juice and the liquid thickens. It should be ready when the liquid sticks to the spoon without dripping back into the saucepan.

Serving Suggestions: bread, oatmeal, bread pudding, ice cream, or a lemon pudding cake

Nettle Frittata with Green Garlic and Sheep’s Milk Ricotta

Ingredients: 1/2 lb. nettles or spinach (1 plastic bag full), 1 head green garlic (or 2 mature garlic cloves), 1 small white onion finely chopped, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 6-8 market eggs, 1/3 cup pecorino Romano cheese (can substitue Parmesan or Manchego), 1/2 cup sheep or cow’s milk ricotta cheese, 1.5 Tbsp. butter

Directions: Preheat the broiler. Bring a large pot of water to a oil for the nettles. Dump nettles into boiling water until they turn bright green and limp. Do not touch nettles with bare hands or you will be stung. The heat kills the stinging mechanisms. After a minute or two of cooking drain water and chop finely. Then, chop the garlic and onion. Warm 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low and add the garlic and onion and cook until softened. Add the nettles and cook until all water has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.  Next, beat the eggs with 1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Add nettle mixture and pecorino cheese. Add ricotta but leave it streaky.  Wipe out the skillet that held the nettle mixture and return it to heat with butter. When the butter is warm, pour in the egg mixture. Slide the pan back and forth a few times, then turn the heat to medium-low and cookin for several minutes of until the eggs have set around the edges. Slide the pan under the broiler and cook until set and browned. Cool slighltly before serving.

Nutritional Benefits: Nettles are an extremely healthy green used throughout Europe. They are praised for their immune-building properties and positive cardiovascular health properties.

Three Beat Caviar with Endive and Goat Cheese

Ingredients:6 beets (preferrably 2 golden, 2 Chioggia, and 2 red but any combination of the three or six of the same works just as well), 1 very small red onion diced, 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 2 tsp. parsley or chervil chopped, 2 Belgian endives sliced thinly, 4 oz. fresh goat or herb cheese crumbled.

Directions: Leaving an inch of the stem and all of the root, steam the beets until they’re tender when pierced with a knife or for 25-40 min. Cool, then peel the skins and cut them into chunk and pulse in a food processor 6-8 times (try not to mush the beets). You can also chop them finely. While the beets are cooking, toss the onion in the vinegar with 1/4 tsp. salt and set aside. Then, toss  each of the beet varities seperately with 1/3 of the onion and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Toss again with parsley and chill. To serve, mound each beet mixture seperately on each plate. Place the sliced endive in another pile and the cheese in a pile in the center. Drizzle with olive oil.  Add pepper and servce. Before eating, toss everything together (if not it will all be beet red!)

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Wild Blackberries

Originally uploaded by SnapShotStrawn

I’ll begin with a lovely lyric that epitomized the never-ending chill that lingered during the Tennessee Spring.

Cold spell started yesterday
Nearly freezing in the month of May
But spring is still here, she hasn’t surrendered
She’ll come through this blackberry winter
Saw a fox down in the meadow
Looked like he was running for his life
Maybe he’s confused with the change in the weather
Wish I could tell him everything’s all right

– Dulcie Taylor

So, why am I still pondering the coolness of spring, when the hot trepid summer is raging? Well, it all started on my morning walk. The dogs and I were trekking down our usual path nestled by the Tennessee River. My mind tends to linger as the yards dwindle behind me. But today as my mind was wondering as I was wandering down the winding path, I did a double take. There isn’t much that distracts me from my thoughts other than drooling wet dogs, big mud puddles, or hot shirtless men. But today I saw a tiny red blob amongst in a briar batch. My mind quickly realized the red blob must be a berry. After a quick one-eighty, I began to examine the glistening jewel to discover it wasn’t just a berry; it was an unripened blackberry, my favorite. But, alas, it was only one….what a tease. So I carried on my merry way, but this time my mind was engaged, my body alert and my blackberry radar was full force.

After half a mile or so, my hope dwindled. I did see a mushroom the size of my head, beautiful golden wildflowers, and my dogs run through a huge mud pit (bath time!). Because I was feeling down and didn’t want to retrace my steps of blackberry failure, I followed a new path home. Although I consider myself a realist (not the same as a pessimist), I tried to be positive. If I am supposed to find an undiscovered blackberry thicket amongst this suburban meadow I will or every time I think a positive thought a blackberry magically appears in the woods ahead. I’m not sure if it was the positive thinking or shear luck, but sweet Jesus there they were, and they were abounding. The red berries, the sweet luscious and juicy treasures that would soon ripen to purple perfection were all mine, as soon as they ripened of course. I let out a gleeful squeal. To those who may have seen my 100-watt smile, they would have assumed I won the lottery, not found a wild blackberry bush. But for me, the discovery was a lucky diamond in the rough, one that nature so kindly bestowed on me and that I discovered all on my own. I quickly walked away inauspiciously trying to conceal my excitement so another traveler would not discover my secret that was between me and Mother Nature. During the remainder of my walk, or should I say skip, because there was definitely pep in my step, my mind swam through blackberry recipes… cobbler, duck, jam, ice cream…just thinking of the smell of caramelizing berries wafting through my apartment is enough to make me scream, “I’m the luckiest girl in the whole world.” Now I just have to wait until they ripen and hope they aren’t discovered before then.

My soon-to-be blackberry booty reminded me of something my grandmother said during the drive to our family reunion. With the windows rolled down, we smiled at the beautiful white blossoms saturating the Virginia mountainside. Memaw said they were blackberry blossoms, and the massive quantities were attributed to the Blackberry Winter that was coming to an end. Blackberry Winter…sounds like something out of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie. In all reality, a blackberry winter is a late-in-the-season cold snap arriving as the blackberries bloom. Dave’s Garden gives the following definition: “Oldtimers also knew that blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) need a cold snap to set buds on the blackberry canes, so as sure as night follows day, there will be a cold snap when the blackberries bloom, called Blackberry Winter. ”

May all your blackberry dreams come true

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