Winter Harvest: It's not all turnips and potatoes

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Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series sharing staff writer Amy Anderson’s experience as she participates in a local winter food co-op.

Food is a huge part of my life.

Whether it’s sharing a meal with friends, trying different recipes, eating at a new restaurant, watching a cooking show, or working in a restaurant, talking about and preparing food has been a central part of my life since I was a child.

My mother – Carmela Mildred Ragonese – was always cooking and our house permanently smelled of garlic and onions.

Food is comfort. Food is social. Food is fun.

Maybe that’s why for the last 20 years I have been involved in the restaurant business. I started working a part-time summer job at the Lobster Cooker in Freeport in high school. In college I made extra cash by tending bar. Later, I helped open and run a restaurant in North Carolina. Now, I write for The Forecaster, but also waitress at Hugo’s in Portland.

A few years ago I began to make an effort to get to know the people who raised the meat and grew the produce I bought and prepared.

Now, Ron and Linda Winship from Windy Hill Farm in Windham supply most of my meat and dairy, and thanks to a new winter farm share program farmers in Cape Elizabeth provide my produce and seafood.

Jordan’s, Green Spark and Alewive’s Brook farms recently created the local winter co-op. Every two weeks people can order from a list of items based on what is available.

It’s not all turnips and potatoes, either. Since each farm offers different items, I was able to select haddock, beets, kale, Brussels sprouts, onions, carrots and other vegetables completely new to me. 

I started by making kale chips. This hearty green is part of the cabbage family and is super healthy. It is rich in vitamin K, calcium and fiber and is great when roasted at a high temperature. They taste like popcorn and are highly addictive.

Kale chips

A few kale leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper and red chili flakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse kale and spin to remove excess water.

Shred kale into bite-sized pieces.

In a medium-sized bowl drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to coat the leaves.

Sprinkle salt and pepper and chili flakes if you like a bit of heat.

Spread the leaves on a baking dish and roast for about 15 minutes, until the edges of the leaves start to brown.

Let cool and enjoy the crunch.

Romanesca

I had never seen or heard of this vegetable so I had to order some and experiment. It looks like an alien cauliflower with an icicle head. I had no idea what to do with it. 

But, as I was making a crock-pot meal of chicken, artichokes, tomatoes, olives and capers, I thought of the odd alien vegetable in my fridge. Could the Romanesca stand up to such flavors? I tried. It worked. There was much rejoicing.

I didn’t add the vegetable to the crock pot. I tried it first as a side dish using similar ingredients.

Heat olive oil on medium heat in a saute pan and add some chopped kalamata olives, capers, a few squirts of lemon juice and some lemon zest, a pinch of salt and a dash of chili flakes. Mix the ingredients together, take off heat and set aside.

Get a large pot of salted water boiling and add some of the Romanesca. Cook for about 5 minutes or until it is tender, then drain.

Toss the cooked florets in the lemon, caper, olive mixture and see what you think.

Fish stew

With the two pounds of haddock I purchased from Alewive’s Brook Farm and the fingerling potatoes and red onions from Jordan’s Farm I decided to make a chunky fish soup. It was cold outside and a hearty bowl of stew sounded like a great Sunday night dinner.

4 slices of bacon cut into small pieces
2 – 3 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
7 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
2 bay leaves
About 1 pound fingerling potatoes, skinned and sliced 1/3 inch thick
5 cups fish stock (vegetable or chicken stock can be substituted)
2 pounds skinless haddock or other white fish
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Cook bacon in a large, heavy pot until crisp, remove from the pot, drain some of the fat but keep a few tablespoons because it adds great flavor.

Add butter to the bacon fat and cook the onions, garlic, celery, thyme and bay leaves for about 8 minutes.

Add potatoes and stock. Make sure potatoes are covered.

Boil ingredients for about 10 minutes, covered. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and add a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Add haddock (whole is fine; it will break up as it cooks).

Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.

Stir in 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream. (Don’t balk here, it will taste rich and delicious.)

Enjoy immediately, or if saving for later, let stew cool completely, then cover and refrigerate. When reheating, do not let it come to a boil.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

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