BY JESSICA PRENTICE
Jessica Prentice, Maggie Gosselin, and Sarah Klein created the Local Foods Wheel to help us all enjoy the freshest, tastiest, and most ecologically sound food choices month by month. Here are seven of Jessica’s seasonal favorites. You can learn more about the Local Foods Wheel and the group’s other ventures at localfoodswheel.com.
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod knew what they were after: herring fish. Underappreciated in the industrialized U.S, but celebrated by traditional folk worldwide and throughout history, herring is a nutritional powerhouse rich in omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Here in Northern California, we have a well-managed herring fishery worthy of our support. Look for fresh herring in the spring, and you may find that many of your little fish are full of uber-nutritious roe. These can be pickled in soy sauce and mirin for a Japanese delicacy called kazunoko. The herring can also be “kippered,” which means butterflied, salted, and smoked. My son loves kippers, and I love it when he eats them, as they are fabulous brain food.
If you knew me as a child, you would not have seen many signs that I would go on to pursue a career in food, but one may have been that I loved spinach. I remember trading Jell-O salad in the cafeteria for classmates’ spinach and thinking I’d gotten the better end of the bargain. At some point, my youthful passion was overtaken by a love for the full array of leafy greens, but this season’s plethora of spinach in our CSA box reminds me of that early favorite. My preferred way of preparing it is to sauté it in ghee for a couple of minutes, then crack in some eggs, lid the pan, and steam just until the egg whites are set. Served with toast (plus a quick hollandaise if I have an extra moment), this is an absolutely delightful breakfast.
When I was in the hospital after the birth of my son, a dear friend brought me a delicious dish of broccoli raab. The contrast between that health-giving bitter green and the sterile, beeping, overly electronic hospital environment seemed like a talisman: a memo from the universe that life is good and right and in balance somewhere. It said: keep faith and stay nourished. Broccoli raab lends itself well to the same sauté-and-steam egg dish with spinach described above, and is also fabulous with pasta.
A lesser-known cousin of spinach is the lemony green known as sorrel. We grow it in our garden, where my son likes to pick it to make “play” salads for his friends. I have to curb them from consuming too much of it, since like spinach and chard, sorrel is high in oxalic acid, which when eaten to excess can demineralize the body. Nonetheless, sorrel seems to be the latest thing at trendy restaurants, and I’ve noticed chefs using it in sweet dishes, such as a sorrel panna cotta! That sounds delicious. Better try it soon.
One of the staples in our home kitchen is Cheddar cheese. We keep our fridge stocked with it and eat it a myriad of ways: quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, grated over beans and rice, baked macaroni and cheese, cheeseburgers, and more. One simple but delicious meal we added to our repertoire recently is Welsh rabbit (or rarebit). The origin of the name is debated, but the dish is essentially a Cheddar cheese sauce over toast. Melted cheese was evidently a favorite of the Welsh, who may have been prohibited from hunting rabbits by the nobility. With an egg baked into it, the dish is called “buck rabbit.” Stir in tomato sauce and you have “blushing bunny.”
Who can resist recipes with such charming names?Spring can be the time of year when local, pastured cream is most nutritious, since that’s when the hills are at their greenest and the cows are browsing on plenty of fresh grass. The beta-carotenes in the grass are converted into vitamin A by the cow, and then delivered to us along with an adequate supply of butterfat, which helps us absorb the vitamin A. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most delicious and fortuitous arrangements possible, as I love cream, both fresh and cultured, and it is equally useful in sweet and savory applications. It does not come cheap, but rather is “dear” in every sense of the word.
In the hopes of adding homegrown eggs to our locavore-as-possible diet, my family bought six baby chicks last summer. One died of mysterious causes while still a tiny ball of fluff, and Jake witnessed another getting snatched by a hawk before the coop was finished. Some time later, we we butchered him and ate him in the fall. We still had not gotten a single egg. But before the twelfth day of Christmas, I heard a new sound coming from the henhouse, and suspected one of our girls must be a-laying. Was it Rosemary? Poppy? Nutmeg? Sassafras (Sassy)? Paprika (Pappy)? Or the escape artist, Itty Bitty? We’re still not sure which hen should get the credit, but there in the henhouse we found two perfect eggs: one blue, one brown. Placing them into an egg carton labeled “homegrown” gave us a special thrill. My son, Tor, put them away in the fridge and declared: “Now you can stop buying eggs!” This does a locavore mother proud. •
(aka Welsh Rarebit)
Our favorite version of this old-fashioned classic is very different from the usual béchamel-based cheese sauce. It is thickened with egg yolks and a bit of arrowroot, instead of flour, and features beer, fish sauce (or anchovy), and cream. We like to serve it with slices of toasted rye bread, steamed cauliflower, and sautéed spinach.
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon fish sauce (or ¼ teaspoon anchovy paste)
¼ teaspoon Celtic sea salt
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon dry mustard (or substitute Dijon mustard)
Pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon arrowroot (or kuzu, tapioca flour, or coconut flour), optional
½ cup cream
1 tablespoon butter
¾ cup dark beer (This is a great way to use up a bit of leftover, flat beer.)
3 cups grated cheddar cheese
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with the fish sauce, sea salt, paprika, curry powder, mustard, and cayenne and set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the cream and arrowroot and set aside.
In a double boiler over simmering water, melt butter. Whisk the beer into the melted butter and heat until warm. Add the grated cheese to the double boiler and whisk until cheese melts. Add the egg mixture to the beer and melted cheese and stir until blended. Whisk the cream and arrowroot mixture into the cheese sauce and continue to whisk until the sauce is thick and creamy.
Serve by pouring over slices of toast. We usually put the sauce in a small pitcher or gravy boat and each pour as we like over the toast and vegetables on our plate. If you want to add some meat to the dinner, sliced or cubed ham would be perfect.