By Jayni Carey of Jayni’s Kitchen
For those of you who don’t live in Kansas, I host a weekly cooking show, Jayni’s Kitchen, that airs across much of the state. In January, my guest was Simran Sethi, a contributing environmental correspondent and expert for NBC News. She is routinely featured on Today, CNBC, and Nightly News with Brian Williams. She is also the host/writer of Sundance Channel’s environmental program, The Green. The award-winning journalist is the Lacy C. Haynes Visiting Professional Chair at The University of Kansas' School of Journalism for 2007-2008.
Simran suggested that we do a show together based on the 100-mile meal concept. In other words, I would prepare a meal using ingredients that come from within 100 miles or less of where I live and Simran would explain why it is important to eat locally grown foods and to support local farmers. My challenge would be to find local ingredients to prepare the meal. This would be easy to accomplish in the spring or summer, but it was the middle of winter in Kansas and I thought it might be impossible. Simran, however, was convinced that I could turn out a meal that any locavore would be proud to serve. To my surprise, it turned out to be relatively easy to find a wealth of good food sources close to home.
In December, my search for local ingredients began at the annual Holiday Farmers' Market. The vendors sell goods they've produced from the summer bounty such as jams and jellies, local honey, canned fruits, pickled vegetables, cheeses, beef jerky and more. The selection was amazing.
Next, I went shopping at our local natural foods store, The Community Mercantile. "The Merc" is on top of the locavore trend and posts "Miles To The Merc" signs throughout the store. This helps shoppers identify what is local and how far it has traveled to get there. The Merc has developed a strong partnership with local farmers so that many of their products, most of which are organically grown, are available there year round. Even in the middle of winter, it was possible to find local ingredients including squash, salad greens, mushrooms, cheeses, eggs, butter, milk, cream, beef, pork and chicken. Simran says many foods on North American plates travel as far as 1,500 miles from farm to fork, so eating locally just makes sense. She says shipping foods over long distances requires more fuel for transportation, while buying products close to home supports the farmers, builds community, and helps the local economy. It also ensures that foods will be fresher and more nutritious.
The other great local food source was as close as it gets to my kitchen, my own backyard garden. Though the garden is long gone, I rescued my herbs and potted them last fall. I keep them in my kitchen window and they serve me well through the winter. The joy of snipping and chopping my own fresh herbs on a cold wintry day gives me a great deal of satisfaction. I also plant garlic every year and the summer harvest of softnecks keeps remarkably well and sees me through the winter months.
By show time, I was able to create a three-course meal, including wine, from ingredients just 47 miles or less from my home. There were a few exceptions, all of which were organic and/or Fair Trade Certified products: one leek, salt and pepper, sugar, wheat germ, vanilla, vinegar, olive oil, mayonnaise and mustard. Simran says if you can’t find what you need locally, buy organic and Fair Trade products, which supports policies that protect the environment and workers. Fair Trade empowers farmers and requires that they be paid a fair wage for their products. Purchasing Fair Trade products helps support small farmers over large agribusinesses.
If you would like to become a locavore, a person who strives to eat foods grown and produced within a 100-mile radius, here are a few tips:
- Shop at your local farmers' market and get to know the farmers. These folks love to talk about what they grown and raise, and you'll discover that it is comforting to be acquainted with the people who produce your food. It’s easy to see the love and care they take to ensure the best possible products.
- Try growing a small backyard garden this summer. Your children can see where fruits and vegetables come from and experience the thrill of watching the garden grow.
- Learn your way around the natural foods store in your area and you'll be amazed to see what local, organic and Fair Trade Certified products are available.
Below is the menu from Jayni’s Kitchen that I prepared with Simran Sethi on the episode called From Farm To Fork. Though these particular farmers and vendors may not serve your area, a little research is bound to turn up what is fresh and local in your community.
Oven-Roasted Free Range Chicken with Butternut Squash, Oyster Mushrooms and Garlic
1 free range chicken, about 31⁄2 pounds (Bauman’s Cedar Valley Farms)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed (Jayni’s backyard garden)
1 teaspoon each fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano and marjoram, chopped (Jayni’s backyard garden)
1⁄3 cup white wine (Davenport Orchard and Winery)
1 teaspoon natural sea salt
1⁄4 teaspoon organic black pepper
3 tablespoons organic extra-virgin olive oil
2 small heads garlic (Jayni’s backyard garden)
4 tablespoons organic extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium butternut squash, about 11⁄2 to 2 pounds (locally grown)
1 medium organic leek
4 ounces oyster mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed (Wakarusa Valley Farm)
natural sea salt and organic black pepper, to taste
1⁄4 cup white wine (Davenport Orchards and Winery)
Place the chicken on a cutting board, breast-side down. Using kitchen shears, remove the tail. Butterfly the chicken by cutting down one side of the backbone from the thigh to the wing. Turn the chicken around and cut down the other side of the backbone, wing to thigh. (Or, remove the backbone in the same fashion using a sharp knife.) Turn the chicken over, breast-side up and press firmly on the breast to crack the breastbone. Rinse the chicken under cold running water, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Fold the wings back behind the body joint. Place the chicken in a large eco-friendly storage bag (or in a shallow pan).
Marinade: In a small bowl, combine the smashed garlic cloves, herbs, wine, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour the mixture over the chicken and seal the storage bag. Turn the bag over several times until the chicken is well-coated with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight, turning the bag several times.
Remove the marinated chicken from the storage bag and place it on a baking rack, breast-side up. Place the rack in a large baking dish and pour the marinade over the chicken. Using a sharp knife, slice about ½ ; inch off the top off the garlic heads to expose the cloves, and trim the root ends. Toss the heads with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place them cut side down under the baking rack. Roast the chicken in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes while preparing the vegetables.
Cut the butternut squash in half, crosswise. Peel both portions with a vegetable peeler. Cut the bottom half of the squash in half, and using a large spoon, scoop out the seed pod. Cut the squash into 3⁄4-inch dice and place in a large bowl. Remove the root end of the leek and most of the green tops. Cut the leek in half, lengthwise. Rinse under cold running water (rinse between the layers to remove sand and dirt), drain and slice into ¼-inch half-rounds. Place the leek in the bowl with the squash. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and toss to coat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the trimmed oyster mushrooms in a separate bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. After the chicken has cooked for 30 minutes, lift the chicken and baking rack off the baking dish and add the squash and leek mixture to the baking dish. Scatter the mushrooms on top of the squash and turn the garlic heads cut side up. Replace the rack with the chicken and continue roasting for 30 to 45 minutes more, until the chicken, vegetables and mushrooms are tender. (The total cooking time is 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes.) Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Transfer the vegetables and garlic heads from the baking dish to a warm platter. Pour the pan drippings and browned bits in the baking dish into a fat separator. Remove the fat and pour the pan juices into a small saucepan, add ¼ ; cup of white wine and simmer for about 2 minutes to reduce slightly.
Cut the chicken into quarters and top with the wine sauce. Serve the vegetables and garlic on the side. Serves 4.
Wine Recommendation: 2006 Davenport Chardonel from Davenport Vineyard.
Mixed Salad Greens with Honey Dijon Dressing, Pickled Vegetables and Cheese
4 to 6 ounces mixed salad greens (Wakarusa Valley Farm)
Honey Dijon Dressing:
2 tablespoons clover honey (Blossom Trail Bee Ranch)
4 teaspoons organic Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon organic mayonnaise
2 tablespoons organic red wine vinegar
natural sea salt and organic black pepper, to taste
pickled corn or asparagus spears (Pendleton’s Country Market)
soft cow’s milk cheese or crumbled goat cheese (local farmstead cheeses)
honey toasted sunflower seeds (Sunflower Food & Spice Company)
Rinse the salad greens and spin in a salad spinner, or drain well. Place the greens in a large salad bowl.
Honey Dijon Dressing: In a small bowl, combine the honey, mustard and mayonnaise. Whisk in the red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
Pour as much of the dressing as desired over the greens and toss to coat. Top each salad with pickled corn or asparagus spears, cheese and sunflower seeds. Serves 4 to 6.
Honey Wheat Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk (Iwig Family Dairy)
4 eggs, separated (Bauman’s Cedar Valley Farms)
1⁄2 cup organic sugar (Fair-Trade Certified)
1⁄2 cup clover honey (Blossom Trail Bee Ranch)
2 cups heavy cream, well chilled (Iwig Family Dairy)
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
3 tablespoons organic toasted wheat germ
Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until very hot and bubbly, just below simmering. Remove the pan from the heat.
Separate the egg and place yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl. (Reserve the egg whites for another use.) Using a wire whisk, whisk until the mixture is pale yellow and falls into ribbons when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Slowly pour about ½ ; cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Pour the egg mixture slowly into the saucepan of remaining milk, stirring constantly. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring continually, until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes.
Pour the custard through a wire-mesh strainer into a bowl to remove any curdled bits. Stir in the honey until dissolved. Stir in the chilled cream and vanilla extract. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or until the mixture is well chilled.
When ready to freeze, stir the wheat germ into the ice cream mixture. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Makes 1 quart.