Will $15 of locally grown produce feed a family for a week?

As part of my #30atHome cooking challenge, I’ve been trying to get out of my everyday grocery shopping habits, which is why I went by two East Austin farmstands last week.

Boggy Creek‘s farmstand is open Wednesday-Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Springdale Farm, just a few blocks away, is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday.

Between those two places, I spent $14.87 on five items. I was hoping that these would be our veggies for the week. (I still had to stop at the store for apples, bananas and oranges, because with two young boys, we can’t go long without familiar fruits.)

The broccolini was the cheapest at $1.70 ($3/lb.) and the cauliflower the most expensive at $4.25 ($4/lb.). Kale and carrots were $3 each, and sweet potatoes were $2.95 ($2.50/lb.) These are some of my favorite kinds of produce, so I was excited to use them in several dishes, including a kale, carrot and butter bean soup, sauteed broccoli with pasta, roasted sweet potatoes and roasted cauliflower.

I was the most skeptical about the cost of the cauliflower, a produce ingredient you can find for less than $2 at most grocery stores, but when I roasted it with minced garlic, the simplicity of the seasoning allowed me to enjoy the small but super flavorful cauliflower head.

Pongol is a lentil dish from India that paired well with roasted sweet potatoes and carrot top pesto. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

The roasted sweet potatoes paired so well with pongal, an Indian dish that I picked up at a food swap last weekend from Hema Reddy, a local food business owner and fellow mom who is also doing the #30atHome challenge.

I’ve decided that unless you use the carrot tops, there’s little sense in paying so much for carrots. My $3 bunch had about nine carrots no bigger in width than my fingers, and once I trimmed the green stems and tiny roots, it didn’t seem like much food was left.

Just before I tossed the carrot tops in the compost, I realized that I had the stems from a bunch of cilantro left in my produce drawer and a bag of peeled pistachios that needed to be used up. I put the carrot tops, cilantro, pistachios, a few slivered almonds and peeled garlic cloves in a food processor with salt and lots of olive oil.

Cilantro and carrot tops went into this bright green pesto made with pistachios, garlic, almonds and olive oil. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

The combination of the greens created a herbaceous, somewhat grassy flavor that brightened my entire kitchen for the day. I originally made it to serve on that kale and butter bean soup, but it was a brilliant addition to all kinds of foods, from scrambled eggs to those roasted sweet potatoes and pongal.

The broccolini was the ingredient I felt like I got a deal on. Many more stores sell this ingredient that looks like baby broccoli, but it’s usually pretty expensive — and definitely more than regular heads of broccoli, which I love. At less than $2 at Springdale Farm, I bought two meals’ worth of broccolini, a brassica that bursts with earthy notes and just the right amount of bitterness. I’d make the trip to East Austin again just to stock up on it.

The other good news is that thanks to the pesto, not much of that $15 in produce went to waste. I can’t say the same for the cheaper produce I usually buy in the store and accidentally forget about in the fridge. The flavors in the ingredients were more vibrant than what you’d find in their supermarket counterparts, too, and buying seasonally forced me to come up with dishes that suited the produce, not the other way around, which is often what happens when I’m doing “regular” grocery shopping.

Now, did my kids eat any of this? Not really. They had fun with the raw carrots, and my oldest enjoyed the broccolini and roasted cauliflower, but he hates sweet potatoes and wasn’t ready for the pesto. They aren’t huge vegetable lovers anyway, but I ate more vegetables this week, which was my goal after a meaty first half of the month.

How does a trip to a farmstand or farmers market change what you cook? Do you spend extra on local and/or organic produce? Why? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or via the #Austin360Cooks hashtag.

Carrot Top Pesto

Leafy greens from one small bunch carrots
Large handful cilantro
1/2 cup pistachios
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup olive oil
2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt, to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, adding more olive oil if necessary. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

— Addie Broyles

 

 

 

How to send Texas grapefruit to your friends who are snowed in

Grapefruit is one of the only seasonal winter fruits you’ll find in the grocery store, and many South Texas farms will ship boxes of Ruby Red varieties anywhere in the U.S. Contributed by Nelly Paulina Ramirez

Love Texas grapefruit? Me, too.

I’d forgotten the story about how Ruby Red grapefruit came to be until researching one of my favorite winter fruits this week. Apparently, orange growers in Florida weren’t that interested in growing the then-bitter grapefruit that first arrived in 1823. Eventually, Texas farmers started experimenting with the crop, and in 1929, a farmer whose name seems to be lost to history discovered a one-off mutation that was bright pink.

RELATED: Go ahead and buy that big bag of citrus. Here’s how to use it up.

From that single discovery, Texas now has a booming grapefruit business, growing about 10 percent of the U.S. crop. Arizona, California and Florida are the only other states with commercial grapefruit operations, but we know that those Ruby Red grapefruit — in varieties like Rio Red, Star Ruby and March Ruby — from the Rio Grande Valley are just about the best ones you’ll find.

You can buy top notch Ruby Red grapefruit online for shipping anywhere in the U.S. Contributed by South Tex Organics

If you live in Texas, you can walk into just about any grocery store and buy top-notch grapefruit this time of year, but if you really want to impress your friends who live elsewhere, there are a number of orchards that make it easy to ship fruit anywhere in the U.S.

A warning: These babies aren’t cheap. We’re talking like $25 for 8 grapefruit, but if you love grapefruit and don’t mind dropping the cash, this would make a really nice winter surprise for someone buried under snow up north.

Earth Born Market

Laura’s Delicious Rio Red Grapefruit

South Texas Citrus Shop

South Tex Organics

Pittman & Davis

Harry & David

Bell’s Farm to Market

New supper club coming to the Plant at Kyle in January

Supper clubs have been around since people have been making food, but the modern, pop-up supper clubs have enjoyed more than a decade in the spotlight, thanks to the success of experiential food businesses like Outstanding in the Field and even the local restaurant Dai Due, which started as a supper club.

A new traveling supper club company called Moonrise Standard started last year that will be swinging through Austin in a few weeks.

The Plant at Kyle is hosting a Moonrise Standard supper club on Jan. 20. Contributed by Moonrise Standard

The first Moonrise Standard dinner was in Flagstaff, and they’ve hosted dinners in Joshua Tree and the Cuyama Valley in California, as well as a few others in Arizona, but this is their first Texas dinner.

In addition to the feasts, owners Alana Tivnan and Derek Christensen plan to host food-themed retreats and workshops, but in the meantime, they are gearing up for the Jan 20 dinner at the Plant at Kyle, a Lake/Flato-designed event facility that you might remember used to host those Rude Mechs Oyster Club parties.

The dinner starts at 4 p.m. and will feature seven courses and local libations from Infinite Monkey Theorem.

Tickets cost $185 and are available at moonrisestandard.com. They are working with local companies and farms including Still Austin, Austin Winery, Salt & Time, Moonlight Bakery, Dos Lunas Artisan Cheese, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, Katie’s Seafood, Boggy Creek Farm, Johnson’s Backyard Garden Organic Farm, Green Gate Farms, Agua Dolce, Barton Springs Mill,  Flat Track Coffee, Austin Beerworks and Confituras, and you can find the complete menu here.

Moonrise Standard hosted its first supper club last year in Arizona, and since the launch, has held dinners in the California desert, too. Contributed by Moonrise Standard

 

 

Confused about Austin’s composting program? Here’s what you need to know

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Composting can be a mucky, gross, smelly, decaying mess.

You know this if you have a compost pile set up at your house. Sometimes you add too many leftovers and not enough leaves and the pile gets, well, a little out of hand.

About 52,000 Austin homes now have these green composting bins. The city’s curbside composting program is growing and will eventually include all 210,000 homes served by Austin Resource Recovery. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Thanks to the city of Austin’s growing curbside composting program, now 52,000 Austin homes are getting familiar with what happens to their food once they dump it.

The program started out in 2013 in a few pockets of the city and then expanded to 14,000 homes. This fall, an additional 38,000 homeowners and renters received green bins to start composting, which means all of the food and yard waste can go to a composting facility to be turned into a useful soil amendment rather than going into the landfill, where the food rots and emits greenhouse gasses.

Austin is somewhat behind other similar cities around the country when it comes to citywide composting. San Francisco implemented it in 2009, Portland in 2011.

These 32 gallon composting bins are now all over Austin. Each week, the contents are collected by city trucks, which take it to Organics by Gosh, which is handling the composting for the city. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

How much will it cost you? Once all 190,000 homes that Austin Resource Recovery serves have the curbside composting bins, the city will start charging an additional $4 per month for the service, pending council approval. If you already compost or don’t want the bin, too bad. You’ll still have to pay the extra fee and take the cart. If that feels like an imposition, consider San Francisco, which issues fines if you don’t follow the rules and separate the trash from the food waste.

RELATED: Austin Answered: You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers

The carts get picked up once a week, on the same day as your regular trash collection.

Austin’s composting rules are few:

  • No cat litter, cigarette butts, diapers, pet waste, animal carcasses, rocks, wine corks, styrofoam or other trash.
  • You can compost meat, but you shouldn’t put bacon grease and other oil in the bin.
  • The only plastic bags you can use are the small BPI-certified compostable bags. They fit in your kitchen collector, and you can then toss them in the bin. Some people place them in the freezer and then empty into the bin the night before it goes out. Make sure they have this logo on them.

I’m trying to avoid using those plastic compostable bags, but that means I’m dumping spoiled leftovers straight into a green bin.

Here’s how I keep it from being the grossest compost bin on the block:

Placing newspaper in the composting bin helps absorb the liquid and smells. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman
  • Put paper goods in the bin with the scraps to absorb liquid. Once I started layering the bin with newspaper before (and after) adding scraps, there weren’t nearly as many grubs and bugs and the smell wasn’t so bad. You could do this with cardboard boxes, pizza boxes, paper plates and office paper, but you can also use yard waste, including leaves.
  • If you have a lot of leaves, use the composting bin first before filling paper yard waste bags.
  • Collect food scraps in a cereal box or tissue box, but be sure to remove any plastic lining first.
  • If the smell really gets out of hand, start sprinkling baking soda inside of the kitchen collector and the outside bin.
  • Wash the container you use to collect scraps in your kitchen — I use a bowl with a lid — after emptying it into your green cart. Spray out the inside of your green cart from time to time.
  • Meat and fish tend to emit the worst smells in the bin, so you can freeze those scraps and put in the curbside container the night before your collection day.
  • Keep the lid closed at all times and place in a shaded area.

Have more questions? Here’s the city’s FAQ on the program.

 

Heads up, beef lovers: New steak store opens in Cameron

The small town of Cameron now has a steak store.

The Cameron-based company 44 Farms recently opened a storefront in the small town northeast of Austin. Contributed by 44 Farms

To be fair, 44 Farms sells more than steaks to more than 400 restaurants across the country, including Knife in Dallas and Salt & Time in Austin.

But as of last month, the Milam County-based company is selling its Angus beef and other products at a new retail store about an hour and a half northeast of Austin.

Steaks and other cuts of beef are the primary product sold at 44 Farms’ new store, but you’ll also find other food and kitchen products. Contributed by 44 Farms.

In addition to Prime and Choice steaks, ground beef and some processed cuts such as jerky and franks, the 3,780 square-foot store at 1509 S. Highway 36 in Cameron also sells coffee, honey, nuts, spice blends, Yeti products and some apparel and other kitchen gear.

The store is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, but you can also buy their products online.

Yeti products are among the other items for sale at 44 Farms’ new retail outlet in Cameron. Contributed by 44 Farms.

 

A boozy bread pudding recipe from specialty food pioneers Fischer & Wieser

Earlier this week, I told you about Fischer & Wieser, the specialty food company in Fredericksburg that gained national fame in the 1990s with their roasted raspberry chipotle sauce.

Case Fischer, CEO and President, and his wife Deanna Fischer, Chief Experience Officer, of Fischer & Wieser, a Central Texas company which has been selling jams and jellies from Fredericksburg for more than three decades. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

It’s hard to believe this, but before 1996, you wouldn’t find raspberry chipotle anywhere, but in the years that followed, many specialty foods companies started blending sweet, smoke and heat in grocery store products. Fischer & Wieser continued to grow, adding more partnerships and products as the years rolled by, and last month, I toured their production facility to give you a glimpse of what goes into making the next roasted raspberry chipotle sauce.

RELATED: In fight over Stubb’s brand, how a spice-and-sauce company came out on top

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Hundreds of boxes of test recipes sit in a warehouse of Fischer & Wieser, which has been selling jams and jellies from their Fredericksburg headquarters, called Peach Haus, which opened as a peach stand in the 1950’s. The company has grown into an international condiment and sauce company, with a production facility in an old building in Fredericksburg, TX.
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

One of their bestselling products is an amaretto peach preserve, an ingredient in one of the company’s most popular recipes, this pecan bread pudding that tastes like it has amaretto. You could easily add a splash of rum or amaretto to this dish when making it to add a more pronounced flavor, or you could rely on the jam alone for the hint of amaretto.

RELATED: The secret sauce to Fischer & Wieser’s success? Family and new flavors

How Central Texas became a hotbed for packaged food businesses

This amaretto bread pudding is one of many recipes on Fischer & Wieser’s website that gives cooks ideas for how to use their products. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Amaretto Peach Pecan Bread Pudding

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 jar Fischer & Wieser Amaretto Peach Pecan Preserves
1 cup pecan pieces
6 loaves Mexican-style bolillo bread
6 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the sauce:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 10-inch-by-14-inch baking dish with vegetable spray. In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese with half the preserves and half of the pecan pieces.

Slice the bread across as though for sandwiches and spread the cream cheese mixture between the slices. Replace the lid on each loaf.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, heavy cream, milk, brown sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon and salt. Tear the bolillo sandwiches into small chunks and set into the egg mixture. When all bread is in the bowl, press down to absorb all the liquid. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then transfer to the baking dish. Press down gently to cover and flatten the top. Bake in oven till set and golden brown, about 1 hour.

As baking time nears its end, prepare the sauce by combining the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Let the liquid bubble without stirring until it turns golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Don’t let it burn. Stir in the cream until the sauce is smooth, then add the remaining preserves. Turn off heat and let preserves liquefy into the sauce. Remove the bread pudding from the oven and let cool about 10 minutes. Spoon sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining pecan pieces. Serve warm in squares. Serves 10 to 12.

— From Fischer & Wieser, jelly.com

Anthony Bourdain’s latest project hits Alamo Drafthouse this weekend

Anthony Bourdain might be known for being drunk on screen, but his latest project, “Wasted,” isn’t about booze.

The popular CNN host and author is now on a crusade to help us understand why food waste is a growing international problem.

The movie, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, opens this weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, with wider release possible if ticket sales are good, and you can also find it On Demand. You can find screenings at the South Lamar Drafthouse for tonight and into next week.

The film features appearances by chefs, including Dan Barber, Mario Batali, Massimo Bottura and Danny Bowien, and is directed by the Emmy-winning Nari Kye and Anna Chai, who is known for her work on “The Mind of a Chef” and “The Layover with Anthony Bourdain

According to a release: “Audiences will see how the world’s most influential chefs make the most of every kind of food, transforming what most people consider scraps and rejects into incredible dishes that feed more people and create a more sustainable food system. The film also features several food waste reduction stories all over the world including waste-fed pigs in Japan, a disposal program that has reduced household food waste by 30 percent in South Korea and a garden education curriculum New Orleans”

 

Are there too many farmers markets? 10-year market closing this month

Austin is losing a farmers market at the end of the month.

After 10 years of bringing local food to Austinites in one of the first mixed-use projects in the city, the SFC Farmers’ Market at the Triangle is closing Oct. 25, according to the Sustainable Food Center, the local nonprofit that runs two other markets in Sunset Valley and downtown.

RELATED: SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown will move back into Republic Square Park on Oct. 14

Read more about Central Texas farmers markets and agriculture

The SFC Farmers’ Market at the Triangle opened in 2010 and took place every Wednesday afternoon in the mixed-use building north of the University of Texas. 2010 photo by An Chih Cheng / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Joy Casnovsky, the deputy director of SFC, said it was a decision the staff made after many conversations with farmers and other vendors, who reported lower sales in recent years as the number of markets in the area expanded.

The farmers’ market at the Triangle featured more than a dozen vendors from all over Central Texas. 2007 photo by Kitty Crider / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

More markets means more options for customers — perhaps too many options (see below) — but it means more labor and time away from the farm for the farmers.

“Over the past decade, our Central Texas food community has seen amazing growth in the number of sales opportunities for our local producers, and we are so proud that our Triangle market helped to shape this growth,” Casnovsky wrote in a statement on the website. “Unfortunately, it appears now that this market location is no longer a viable option for our farmers, ranchers and food artisans.”

Regular patrons of the SFC Farmers’ Market at the Triangle gathered for playdates and weeknight picnics to enjoy the live music, fresh food and neighborly vibe. Leslie Pool is seen here with her pet cat, Jake. 2008 photo by Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Triangle farmers market was the second market that SFC opened, just a few years after opening the downtown location. In 2010, SFC opened a third market in Sunset Valley, which is still open in the Burger Center parking lot, and the longtime market that had been operating in that space became Barton Creek Farmers Market and moved to Barton Creek Square Mall, where it now has a stunning view of the downtown skyline.

The nonprofit said that the proposed last day of the market is Oct. 25, so check the Facebook page for updates.

So, does this closure mean the local food economy is saturated?

Although the Triangle is a rare mid-week farmers’ market in the middle of the city, shoppers these days can choose from more than a dozen farmers’ markets in the Austin area, from the larger markets at Barton Creek Square Mall and Lakeline Mall on Saturdays and the Mueller development and Plaza Saltillo on Sundays, to weekend (and some weekday markets) in Bee Cave, Dripping Springs, Buda, San Marcos, Round Rock and Georgetown that have a small-town feel and a loyal customer base.

The markets in the outer areas of Austin seems to be doing well, even with the expansion of Trader Joe’s, Sprouts’ and Whole Foods’ new 365 store. The organizers of the Williamson County markets are teasing two new markets in Cedar Park, which is already home to Texas Farmers Market’s Lakeline market.

Are customers in the middle of Austin saturated with options? Is the Triangle too off-the-radar for newer Austinites? Are they getting local produce delivered by CSA? Are they hitting up the local farmstands at Boggy Creek, Springdale Farm and Green Gate Farm? Are they growing more food on their own or simply at traditional food stores instead?

My gut says that the mid-week market was too hard for customers to get to, especially as traffic in the city has worsened. There’s no way I can get to that Triangle market from my office downtown — much less my house even farther south — during that weekday afternoon window. But I also know that the farmers who kept the market going for so many years have to be smart about how they spend their time and how much they make at each market. On Facebook, several shoppers commented about the dwindling number of vendors at the market over the past few years.

What do you notice at local farmers markets these days? Are there too many markets or not enough? Did you go to the Triangle market? What will you miss about it?

Republic Square Park reopened, but SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown isn’t moving back in – yet

In May of 2016, Republic Square Park closed for renovations, and the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown had to move out of the park and into a closed-off section of a street next to the park.

The park finally reopened late this week, but the market isn’t moving back in just yet.

Republic Square reopened to the public the evening of Oct. 5, 2017, for the first time in over a year. Photo courtesy of Emily Smith

The Sustainable Food Center has been running the downtown market on Saturday mornings for more than a decade in this historic park west of Congress Avenue, but the dozens of farmers, ranchers and food artisans who sell each week haven’t been able to line the edges of the green space, including a lovely strip near the stunning new federal courthouse, like they always have.

The Sustainable Food Center’s Farmers’ Market Downtown had to move to accommodate recent renovations to Republic Square Park, but the market will be moving back into the park on Oct. 14. Rodolfo Gonzalez for the Austin American-Statesman

The city announced this week that Republic Square Park was officially reopen, but the Sustainable Food Center says it won’t be able to move the market back into the park because of the last-minute notice. This weekend’s market will have the same footprint that it has had since last year, but on Oct. 14, shoppers will find vendors set up in the newly renovated park. There won’t be an official reopening event until March, a rep with the nonprofit said.

SFC operates three weekly farmers markets, including one on Saturday mornings at Toney Burger Center in Sunset Valley and another on Wednesday afternoons at the Triangle in Central Austin, and they also host an array of cooking and gardening classes at their East Austin headquarters. Click here to find the schedule of upcoming events, as well as the locations of the organization’s community farmstands.

Like pimento cheese? Here’s where to get actual pimento peppers this weekend

Many proud Texas cooks have recipes for pimento cheese in their cookbook collections, but hardly anyone uses fresh pimento peppers, which are somewhat difficult to find.

Pimento cheese has always been one of Jack Gilmore’s most-requested recipes. It turns out that he doesn’t use pimento peppers after all. Photo by Kenny Braun.

If you’re going to make pimento cheese at home, you’re probably using a jar of pimento peppers, but for what it’s worth, Jack Gilmore doesn’t even use pimentos. When his cookbook came out, we found out he uses roasted red peppers in Jack Allen’s Kitchen’s famous dip.

But for a short window this summer, at least one area farm is selling fresh pimentos at the local farmers market.

RELATED: Want to find a local farmers market? Here’s a list of the markets in Central Texas.

Last weekend, HOPE Farmers Market, which runs a Sunday market from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Plaza Saltillo, posted a photo on Instagram of Johnson’s Backyard Garden’s pimentos for sale on a table.

I’ve never had a fresh pimento pepper, so I can’t tell you what they taste like, but I have a feeling they’d make some killer homemade cheese dip this weekend. The good news is that JBG sells produce at nearly every farmers market in the Austin area, so if you’re hitting one up this weekend, keep an eye peeled for interesting peppers that are perfect for roasting and mixing with cream cheese.

I will also note that the dictionary *really* wants these peppers to be known as pimiento peppers, despite widespread usage for “pimento,” which is what I used here. Another request for the Associated Press Stylebook, I guess.