Monday, September 22, 2014

Why Meatless Monday Matters

Hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets of Manhattan yesterday demanding immediate action on global warming by the UN delegates gathered in New York this week. The Climate March, the largest climate protest in history, attracted people of all ages and demographic groups — from grandparents to children, from NJ residents devastated by Hurricane Sandy to the rich and famous.

I have to confess that I did not make the journey. And I had a bit of writer’s block [and a bit of guilt] when it came to blogging for Meatless Monday today and sharing the tomato recipe I promised last week. I asked myself, “Does Meatless Monday matter?” 

It is easy to become discouraged when thinking about what actually makes a difference. Does it matter that you recycle your paint and batteries when you know others throw them in the trash? Does it matter that you try to use all your leftovers when you see how much trash can be left for pick-up on your block in a week? But, as my husband says, “How much worse would it be if no one cared, if no one did anything at all?”

Then, today’s weekly message/pep talk from the Meatless Monday Movement arrived in my inbox. 

It reminded me that the Meatless Monday Movement is playing a major role in the Climate Action events in New York City over the next few days and also reminded me why Meatless Mondays are important. You can read more here

So, before I tell you about Tomato Pesto, let me share some of the reasons why Meatless Monday (and thus, this blog) matters. 

Most of you know that Meatless Monday was started as an initiative to make people healthier. You can read about the many health benefits of cutting out meat one day a week here. Meatless Monday is also kind to your budget.

But, for today, the eve of the Climate Summit, let’s focus on the reasons why the Meatless Monday Movement is good for the planet. 

  • When you reduce your meat intake, you minimize water usage because the production of beef requires 1,850 gallons of water, while the production of vegetables requires 39 gallons of water. 
  • When you reduce your meat consumption, you reduce your carbon footprint because beef production creates 30kg of greenhouse gas per kg of food, while carrots, potatoes, and rice require .42, .45, and 1.3kg respectively.
  • You also reduce fuel dependence. About 25 kilocalories of fossil fuel energy is used to produce 1 kilocalorie of all meat based protein, as compared with 2.2 kilocalories of fossil fuel input per 1 kilocalorie of grain based protein produced.

And now, back to my originally scheduled post…Here is the Tomato Pesto recipe — easy to prepare, but requiring several hours of slow roasting. The aromas will have your tummy grumbling as it bakes.


Slow-Roasted Tomato Pesto 
from Edible San Francisco, August/September 2008

Ingredients
  • 4 pounds plum tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic (about 12 whole cloves), peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 6 large cloves of garlic (from California if you can find it)
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, slightly toasted
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method
  • Position oven racks on the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  • Preheat the oven to 225° F.
  • Line two large rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper rubbed with olive oil.
  • Slice tomatoes lengthwise and cut a V around each stem to remove.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and three of the garlic cloves.
  • Toss gently to coat.
  • Arrange tomatoes, cut side up. 
  • Place sheet pans in oven and roast for one hour. Then reverse the pans and rotate 180°.
  • Repeat every hour for 4-6 hours total.
  • Tomatoes are ready when they have reduced in size by at least half and have begun to caramelize.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  • In food processor combine everything except Parmesan and pulse until combined but still chunky.
  • If freezing, omit raw garlic and Parmesan. [Add them after thawing.]

Serve the pesto slightly warm with thin rounds of bread or pita chips.



[Note: It has been such a wonderful year for tomatoes in my state that I couldn’t resist picking up another basket. They’ll be one more issue on the wonders of the tomato if you can find your way back here next week.]

One more thing: If you want to make your voice heard about the need to take action for our planet, you can add your voice here.

Happy Meatless Monday. Good health to you, and to the planet.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”





Monday, September 15, 2014

Meatless Monday: What Do You Do When You’ve Bought the Farm?

Last Sunday we headed out to Bishop’s Orchards to pick some peaches, but we succumbed to temptation and came home with so much more.

The trees were laden with perfect peaches, so plentiful and within such easy reach that we filled our two, 8 qt. bags in no time at all. To our delight, McIntosh apples were also ripe—deep red and growing in clusters like grapes on the trees. We picked two bags of them as well.

We stopped for some corn at the farm market and ended up buying six, huge, sweet ears, along with a half bushel basket of tomatoes, a couple of pounds of green beans, and some salad fixings.

What do you do when you are a family of two and you feel like you’ve bought the farm?

You eat, you store, you simmer, you bake, you freeze — without delay.

It was a lot of work, but in the deep, dark days of winter, we’ll be happy to grab a taste of summer from the freezer.

The tomatoes were the biggest challenge — so many, so perfectly ripe, so perishable. They required our immediate attention.

Some went into sauce. Some were turned into tomato pesto [next week’s post].

About a third became Tomato Confit, a slow roasted, gooey concoction of tomatoes, garlic, shallots, olive oil, and herbs that is perfect for serving with fresh bread. 


I first heard of Tomato Confit in a 2005 recipe column by student Gordon Jenkins in the Yale Daily News.

The usual confit is duck, goose, pork, or other meat cooked slowly in its own fat. But confit can actually be any food that has been slowly cooked in a liquid  that is inhospitable to bacterial growth. In the case of a fruit this can be oil or concentrated sugar syrup.

In fact, it was thoughts of Tomato Confit that drove the recent purchase of the basket of tomatoes. 

In Gordon’s own words: “Tomato confit is a can-do. Oh yes.” If we can make it, you can, too.  All you need is time and patience.

Gordon Jenkins’s Tomato Confit

Ingredients
  • 5 cups of sauce (plum) tomatoes, sliced horizontally into 1-inch rounds
  • 1/2 cup of whole shallots or pearl onions, peeled
  • 1 head of garlic (about 12 whole cloves), peeled
  • 1/2 cup of fresh parsley
  • 3 T of fresh savory or thyme [I have only used thyme]
  • 1/2 cup of fresh sage
  • 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil 
  • Sea salt
Method

  • Preheat the oven to 250° F.
  • In a large rimmed baking pan (preferably about an inch deep), lay the tomatoes in a single flat layer.
  • Scatter the shallots and garlic evenly throughout the pan.
  • Do the same with the herbs.
  • Pour the oil over everything.
  • Salt generously. [Gordon calls for 1/2 tablespoon, but I use about half that amount.]
  • Place the pan in the oven and roast for at least two hours.

The confit is ready when the shallots and garlic have cooked through, the tomatoes are wrinkly,  and everything has congealed into what Gordon termed “that perfect ecstatic mush.”

Serve the confit warm with bread for soaking up the leftover oil.

I have found Tomato Confit freezes well, should there be any leftovers.  Just be sure to warm it up before serving. 

Grab some tomatoes and be ready for next week when I share my recipe for Tomato Pesto, which takes even longer… 

Happy Monday. Have a great week!


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Monday, September 8, 2014

Meatless Monday: Support Your Local Farmer

When you are asked to consider what drives New England’s economy, your thoughts may turn to high tech, biotech, manufacturing, and institutions of higher learning, with a bit of tourism mixed in, but farming is still an important piece of the pie. In 2012, New England cash receipts from farm sales totaled $2.702 billion.  Maine placed first in the region with $703 million in sales, Vermont placed second with $699, and, to my surprise, my state of Connecticut placed third, with $544 million (a slight increase over 2011’s proceeds). Greenhouse and nursery products comprised 43% of Connecticut’s cash sales, with revenue from milk coming in next. Massachusetts was fourth ($510 million), followed by New Hampshire ($184 million), and Rhode Island ($62.1 million).

Most farms in my state are family farms, some of which have been in the same family for generations. Family farmers work particularly hard. Like all farmers they have to worry about the vagaries of the weather, pests, and disease, as well as the threat of major storms. For them there is no guaranteed pay check each week, and, in fact, many farmers work a second job to make ends meet. The USDA reported that in 2012, over 70% of the principal operators of farms derived less than 25% of their household income from farming; 61% of them worked some days off the farm and over 52% had a primary occupation other than farming. It is easy to understand why the total number of US farmers declined over 3% between 2007 and 2012.

The State of Connecticut recognizes the importance of family farmers and and has launched a number of initiatives to help support them now and to preserve their farms for the future. The Connecticut Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with the Connecticut Grown campaign, has developed a series of consumer guides, available in print and online, to promote both the purchase of Connecticut farm products and agritourism. 

Some of these include guides for: The Connecticut Wine Trail, Pick Your Own Crops , Farmers’ Markets, and Dairy Products.

This past spring, BuyCTGrown launched the Buy 10% CT Pledge urging residents of Connecticut to spend 10% of their food and gardening dollars locally. 

It’s harvest time in New England. With the dry, sunny, weather we enjoyed for most of the summer It has been a banner year for tomatoes. Corn, peaches, and raspberries are at their peak, to be followed soon by apples. In October, winter squash will be piled high in the produce bins. These late crops in particular are easy to cook and freeze for later use.  You can find local kale and root vegetables well into the cold weather months. Here is a link to a seasonal guide to produce in Connecticut. 

If you decide you’d like to give the Buy 10% Pledge a try, here are some ways to get started:
  • Take an outing to pick your own produce
  • Shop at a local farm stand or farmers’ market
  • Eat some local produce now
  • Cook and freeze some for later
  • Hit the Connecticut Wine Trail
  • Enjoy a meal at a Farm to Table restaurant

Even if you do most of your shopping at the supermarket, there are still ways to support your Connecticut farmers.
  • Look for the Connecticut Grown symbol or shop the locally grown section of the produce aisle. 
  • Look for products from local farms, such as Farmer’s Cow, in the dairy section. 

The Farmer’s Cow is a co-op of six Connecticut family-owned dairy farms whose offerings include milk, cream, ice cream and half & half from their farms. They also sell Connecticut-sourced eggs, apple cider, summer beverages. Locally roasted coffee is the newest addition to the line. Farmer’s Cow farmers DO NOT use rBST on their cows. Their products are sold across the state; use their store locator to find the one nearest to you.

Maybe taking the Pledge is not as daunting as you first thought.  

Even if you don’t hit 10%, with each purchase you are helping
  • a family farmer
  • the CT economy
  • the preservation of open spaces

Think about that the next time your fridge is looking a little bare.

Happy Monday. Have a great week!

On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”