The River Reporter Special Sections Header

Clear sky
Clear sky
50 °F
September 16, 2014
River Reporter Facebook pageTRR TwitterRSS Search Login

Cooking real food from scratch; Avoiding ‘edible food-like substances’

Encouraging people to cook real food from scratch was the author’s mission for many years at the Wayne County Farmers Market.
Contributed photo


I love farmers’ markets. Not a farmer myself, I nevertheless belong to an organization of farmers who practice sustainable agriculture. I support the blossoming food movement to Buy Fresh Buy Local and the local economies movement to shop locally because I believe that our global economic model is unsustainable based as it is on the unsustainable use of fossil fuel energy. I shop at farmers’ markets because they are a source of real food, which is pretty much the only food I want to eat anymore. For me, real food, grown locally is a starting point for sustainable living.

For nine years every summer Saturday I present cooking demonstrations outdoors at the Wayne County Farmers’ Market. This year—with mixed feelings both of nostalgia and eager anticipation for discovering new summer Saturday projects—I finally hung up my apron and retired. There is one pleasure I will miss, however, and that is introducing people to new and exciting ways of preparing vegetables.

I still remember one Saturday years ago when The Anthill Farm showed up with a large quantity of the prettiest little white turnips (the size of radishes). Sadly they couldn’t sell these little gems because people didn’t know what to do with them. The next week I featured those same turnips by preparing a pureed, creamed soup with the white root of the turnips and stirring in cooked, chopped tender turnip greens (the tops) into the soup. It didn’t hurt that for a second recipe I simply sautéed some thinly sliced turnips in butter. (Most vegetables taste pretty fabulous cooked in butter and sprinkled with a tiny bit of salt.)

Being an avid supporter of local farmers’ markets and eating real food cooked from scratch, I came to the conclusion over the years that people are not likely to patronize farmers’ markets or farm stands or start a garden if they don’t know how to prepare this kind of food. Sadly too many people have lost the basic skills our moms and grandmothers took for granted, relying instead on already prepared meals made by cooks at the local grocery store, on highly processed foods made by big manufacturing companies, or on fast foods eaten on the run (or in the car; did you know that 20% of food is eaten in the car?). What a shame that so many Americans have lost those basic cooking skills. No wonder so many are so hesitant to try some unfamiliar vegetable or some new recipe. (I’ve been told that the average home cook knows how to make about a dozen dishes that he or she makes and serves over and over again at family mealtime. This is why I like to encourage everyone to expand their cooking horizons. There is a whole exciting world of real food out there waiting to be discovered.)

To me, counting on fast food, manufactured/processed food, and other people cooking for me all the time would make me feel too vulnerable to food resources over which I have so little control. I want to know what’s in the food I eat; I don’t want to eat chemicals; I do want to eat food with more nutrition in it, i.e. food sold closer to the source that produced it; this includes not only local farmers, but also my own very small garden plot.

Recently I found a website I like a lot (www.sustainabletable.org), where my favorite section is called “real food, right now and how to cook it.” I encourage you to think about the idea of sustainable food, a sustainable kitchen, and to share your thoughts with us at The River Reporter.

Meantime, I’d like to share several recipes from nine years of cooking at the farmers’ market. It’s still there—located at the Wayne County Visitors Center, trackside at 32 Commercial St., Honesdale. Hours of operation are Saturdays starting at 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (or until the farmers sell out their produce for the day).

There’s also a mid-weed Wednesday farmers market from 4 to 7 p.m. at The Cooperage, 1030 Main St., Honesdale, and a market on Fridays in Hawley in Bingham Park from 2 to 5 p.m. For information about Sullivan County, NY’s many farmers’ markets, visit, www.sullivancountyfarmersmarkets.org/

Corn cob soup with leeks, potatoes and bacon
7 cups fresh corn kernels (from 5 to 6
medium ears, cobs reserved)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 strips of bacon
4 medium leeks, white and light
green parts, sliced thinly
4 cups milk
1 1/2 pound red-skinned potatoes,
(peeled or not according to your
preference) cut into 1/2–inch dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp minced fresh parsley

1. Cut kernels from ears of corn; and then over a bowl (to catch any remaining kernels and their milky juices), scrape the cobs, pressing with the back (dull side) of your knife. Add kernels to the bowl and set aside.
2. In a large pot, place corncobs with enough water to cover (about 4 cups). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Pick out and discard cobs. Reserve 3 cups of this corn “broth.” (Discard remaining broth.)
3. Dice bacon strips and add them with 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil to a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bacon fat is rendered. Add leeks, and continue cooking until bacon is crisp and leeks have softened, about 6 minutes.
4. Add corn “broth” to the saucepan, then milk, potatoes and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat. Simmer gently until potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Add corn kernels and milky juices, and continue to simmer gently until corn and potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
6. Puree 2 cups of soup in blender and return puree to soup pot. Reheat gently. Stir in chopped parsley. Serve immediately
Variation: To make this a vegetarian soup, substitute roasted red peppers for the bacon.
Under your oven broiler, over the open gas flame on your stovetop, or outdoors on the grill, roast red peppers, turning as necessary, until skin is blacked all over. Enclose charred pepper in small paper or plastic bag and set aside for the pepper to sweat. When the pepper is cool, rub off the blackened skin. Remove stem, seeds and veins from inside the pepper. Cut into 1/4-inch dice. Stir into finished soup.

Baked butternut squash and apples with maple syrup
Serves 8
1 3/4 to 2 pounds butternut squash,
peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded,
cut crosswise into 1/4–inch-thick slices
(about 4 cups)
1 1/2 pounds medium-sized tart green
apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled,
quartered, cored, cut crosswise into
1/4–inch-thick slices (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup dried currants
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Parboil squash in large pot of boiling, salted water to soften slightly, about 3 minutes. Drain well.
Combine squash, apples and currants in a 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish. Season generously with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Combine maple syrup, butter and lemon juice in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat. Whisk until butter melts, pour syrup over squash mixture and toss to coat evenly.
Bake, uncovered, until squash and apples are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
(Can be made a day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Rewarm, covered, in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes.)

Tomato and corn sauté
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
1/2 cup diced shallots
1 pound tomatoes, diced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon or basil
1/4 tsp salt

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.
Add corn and shallots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes, tarragon
(or basil) and salt.