Fresh lettuce!

Freshly picked blend of lettuces

Freshly picked blend of lettuces

As I’ve mentioned, my garden runneth over with salad. I usually grow two or three lettuce varieties, but this year decided to throw in a mixture as well. This blend is simply called Lettuce Mixture by the Seed Savers Exchange, all are heirloom varieties. Not only does the mixture provide a nice variety of shapes and textures, it makes for a more complex flavor. The lettuce varieties included are: Amish Deer Tongue, Australian Yellowleaf, Bronze Arrowhead, Forellenschuss, Lollo Rossa, Pablo, Red Velvet and Reine des Glaces.

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Garden greens

Here I was, fussing about not having anything out of the garden in July since everything got such a late start due to the chilly weather. Now I’m buried under an avalanche of greens. Lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, beet greens, arugula, oh my… My beans and peas are only blooming; like I said, everything was late and we’ve had many cool nights this summer. But the leafy plants love it. And I love the leafy plants, so it’s good all around. I give the excess to neighbors without gardens, which is quite a few in this neck of the woods.

My favorite way to prepare swiss chard and spinach is to quickly saute it in extra-virgin olive oil with a little garlic. Sometimes I’ll add that to scrambled eggs, delicious!

Sourdough starter looks good

Sorry I’ve been slowing in posting! It’s been a hectic week with taking my daughter to camp, brining her back, picking up a cat, etc. The cat fancies herself a typist, too. 🙂

This starter looks good; it developed that bubbly foam at the top and smells quite yeasty, kind of like beer. I haven’t set the sponge yet to try it, but plan to do so soon.

It looks like adding a little yeast to the starter can make a huge difference. I added about a teaspoon when I first mixed the starter; then I alternated between adding yeast and not adding it when I fed it over the next four days. On the days when I added it, I just sprinkled a tiny amount in with the flour and water I was mixing.

But the proof will be in the pudding, or bread rather.

Giving sourdough another try

After my first attempt at sourdough fizzled, I’m giving it another shot. This is an ancient skill; evidence of sourdough has been discovered amongst the artifacts of ancient Egypt. One source indicated that sourdough has been around for 5,000 years; it was the original leavened bread. So if people dating back to 3,000 B.C.E. could do do this, I feel I owe it to them to give it one more try.

Now Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, so I’ve tweaked the starter with a teaspoon of yeast. This batch is more bubbly and already smells fermented, even though this is only the morning of day three. I’m also stirring it more often; one starter recipe I found online suggested stirring the starter several times per day. Basically it’s the same starter recipe as before, but with yeast and extra stirring. I’ll keep you posted.

Not quite local at Safeway

Yesterday I was in Rapid City running some errands and stopped at Safeway for croissants (I have a weakness). While cruising through the store, I noticed large signs proclaiming “Locally Grown” in the produce section. Whoo-hooo! I thought, rushing over to check it out, thinking perhaps they were buying from someone right here in South Dakota. There was a neat little sign with Petrocco Farms and a picture of the family displayed for all shoppers to see. But Petrocco Farms? Never heard of them, don’t recall their being listed on Local Harves or SDlocalfoods.org. Hmmmm…..

So of course I turned to my trusty friend, Google, to help me out. Petrocco Farms is a family-owned farm, 30 miles north of Denver. They’re located in Brighton, to be exact. So I have to contend that the “Locally Grown” sign at Safeway is a bit misleading. Regionally grown, I’d buy that, but I can’t quite swallow locally grown.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think Colorado-grown produce is a step up over California or Mexico-grown produce. It’s much closer, so less shipping time, less fossils fuels burned in the process. Also, this is a family-owned business, not a giant conglomerate, so certainly a step above Dole. I love Colorado peaches, and overall view produce from that state in a positive way since it’s not trucked in from the coast. However, it’s not local to folks in South Dakota and shouldn’t be marketed as such.

How many folks, pressed for time as we all are, would look any further than the sign? Would they take time to looks at the information about the farm, which by the way, did not state that they were located in Colorado. I had to look it up to find out exactly where they were located, not an accidental ommission, I fear. Most shoppers would see that large green-and-white sign and think, “Great! It’s from here, so this is the lettuce I’ll get.” They’re being duped, I’m afraid.

I don’t think we need regulations and nit-picking over what “local” means, that’s not my point. My point is that large businesses know what trends are out there and will try to capitalize on them, even if they have to fudge the facts. I think that people would choose to purchase Colorado-grown produce over that from the West Coast, and they should be given that chance. Just don’t tell them it’s local, making them believe it’s grown right here in the community.

The garden today

Peppers and tomatoes in their raised bed

Peppers and tomatoes in their raised bed

My tomatoes and peppers have done pretty well despite the cool weather; they’re blooming like mad and starting to set some fruit. The strange mesh covering is making do until I can pick up some more wire from the hardware store for my hail cage. I’ve had the mesh over the plants for a few weeks, but they started to grow up through it, so had to remove it & (finally) put in the steel posts so I can raise it up. However, it’s pretty droopy so I want to get something sturdier.

Local tortillas

If you’re looking for something made closer to home than those ubiquitous Mission tortillas, try some from the Dan Diego Tortilla Company in Spearfish. They sell a variety of tortillas and wraps made from different flours and with a variety of flavors. I tend be a traditionalist, sticking with either corn or standard-sized flour tortillas. Both have been excellent! Check your local grocery store; if they don’t carry them, ask. In Custer both Custer County Market and Lynn’s Dakotamart sell them.

Local Foods Summit

Attention all locavores! Plan to attend a Local Foods Summit at the Dahl Fine Arts Center in Rapid City on Sunday, July 12. There will be free workshops in the afternoon and a ticketed evening event with keynote speaker Deborah Madison, author of the fantastic cookbook Local Flavors. I had planned on attending, but something family-wise has cropped up, and I don’t think I’ll make it. It aims to be a great time, though, so I hope many of you will be able to participate.

Registration begins at 11:00 am, with five free workshops during the day: Using EBT Cards at Your Farmer’s Market, Home Composting and Healthy Soil, Herb Gardens and Homemade Spices, The Farm-to-Restaurant Connection, and In a Pickle – Value-Added Marketing and State Regulations.

The evening reception at 5:00 pm will feature Madison as well as a wine and local appetizers. Tickets are $25, call Dakota Rural Action’s West River Office at 605-718-4957 to reserve yours or pick them at the Corn Exchange, Dahl Fine Arts Center, Someone’s in the Kitchen, Prairie Berry Winery, and Main Street Market.

For more information, visit http://www.dakotarural.org/.

Scones with fresh strawberry jam

Freshly baked scones with jam

Freshly baked scones with jam

There’s something satisfying about baking from scratch, no bakery donuts can ever quite compare. For the past couple weeks, my young cousin (who is the same age as my daughter) has been visiting, so I’ve baked a variety of goods. He’s not accustomed to home baking, so splendidly ordinary for us is a special treat for him. Since today was his last day here, I baked cream scones this morning and cooked down a couple cups fresh strawberries into a fresh jam. Yum!

Cream Scones

2 cups unbleached flour

3 Tb sugar

1 Tb baking powder

½ tsp salt

6 Tb cold butter, cut into pieces

½ cup cream (or half-and-half, milk also works fine)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

 

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl (I use my Kitchenaid stand mixer). If hand mixing, use a pastry blender to cut in the butter until it’s the size of peas. The mixer with the paddle attachment also works well, just pay attention to the size of the butter pieces.

 

Stir cream and eggs together and then add to flour/butter mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together – do not over-mix! Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat into a rectangle about ¾ inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter, cut into rounds and place on baking sheet.

 

Bake 16 to 20 minutes. Makes about 12 scones

Sourdough a dud

The sponge didn’t proof, no froth, no foam, just a few random bubbles on the top. So I’ll dump it in the compost bin and start a new batch. This first attempt didn’t work out, but it was a learning process. Maybe I’ll get the next one right!

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