When it comes to beautiful vegetables, my eyes tend to be bigger than my stomach. Last week I came home from the farmer’s market with more cabbages than any one person could reasonably be expected to eat. Tonight I’m going to give kimchi a try for the first time using this post from Signal Mountain Farmer blogger Chyela Rowe to guide me, but today I’ll share with you my current favorite way to eat Napa cabbage.
To make this recipe vegan, substitute natural sugar for the honey. To make it gluten free, substitute tamari for the soy sauce and brown rice noodles for the soba noodles.
Spice cabbage and noodles
For the sauce:
Meanwhile make the sauce by whisking or shaking the ingredients together in a small jar until combined completely.
When the mushrooms are beginning to brown, add the cabbage, and cook until it begins to wilt but has not lost its texture. Add roughly half of the sauce and continue to saute until the sauce is quite thick.
In the meantime, boil the noodles according to package instructions.
To serve, toss together the noodles and cabbage mixture. Drizzle with a little more of the sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.
Next week I’ll be featuring an interview with our own Walter Bates of Hoe Hop Farms. This week, I wanted to talk a bit about what sets apart the locally raised meat and poultry you can find at the Main Street Farmer’s Market from what you may find in a conventional grocery store.
In many grocery store butcher’s cases and refrigerator shelves, you’re likely to see a number of labels on meat packages: natural, free-range, cage-free, all natural environment, etc. Sounds good, right? Those words conjure images of happy livestock in safe, humane conditions–chickens in spacious coops and cattle with expansive green pastures to graze in. Unfortunately, these terms can be quite misleading. For example, the USDA defines “natural” as:
A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”).
This really doesn’t tell us very much about the health of an animal or the environment it was raised in.
Other terms, such as “cage-free” and “free-range” can be similarly misleading. A laying hen raised in a cage-free environment simply refers to a hen that is not confined to a “battery cage”–which is a very small cage that restricts nearly all movement. This does not, however, mean the hen has access to a healthy environment, and in some cases a hen’s “cage free” living space may only be slightly larger than a standard battery cage. “Free-range” refers to an environment where the animal has access to an outside area–but does not indicate a specific number of hours in a day, or the kind of outside area to which the animal has access. A confined, indoor area with a small door granting access to a dirt enclosure that is left unlocked for a short time each day satisfies the requirements for a “free-range” environment for poultry.
In addition to providing little concrete information about an animal’s environment, these labels also tell us little if anything about the sort of diet livestock receive. Chickens, for example, are omnivores, and naturally subsist on a diet that includes bugs and seeds. A chicken raised exclusively on corn, which is standard for many battery farms, is not receiving the well-rounded diet it requires to be healthy. Animals raised “naturally” may be fed GMO feed, treated with antibiotics or given artificial growth hormones. In addition to the unsettling effect that this has on the animal’s life, these practices can be harmful to the consumer as well as our environment. The term “organic” is better regulated and limits a number of dangerous practices, such as the use of sewage fertilizer on pasture land. This label does not necessarily ensure that animals are treated humanely, but does restrict the use of growth hormones, antibiotics and GMO feed.
Researching animal agricultural practices can be overwhelming and disconcerting. There are many factors that contribute toward the health and safety of the final product, and lots of grey area in terms of humane treatment of livestock. For this reason I have found that the best way to ensure that I bring healthy, humanely raised meat into my home is to have a relationship with the person who raises it. Last year, wanting to have a better idea of where my food was coming from, I emailed a few area farms and asked if I could see the living conditions of their animals. Some of our Main Street Farmer’s Market farmers were among them, and I found it extremely reassuring to see their livestock roaming freely through lush pastures, receiving the nutrition they need and the careful handling they deserve.
For meat eaters, choosing pasture raised meat and poultry from a farm that you have a relationship with is an excellent way to take charge of your diet and to support those committed to safe and humane animal agricultural practices. I encourage you to get to know the farmers at the Main Street Farmer’s Market to learn more about the care they invest in their livestock.
For more information visit animalwelfareapproved.org.
Coming up next week on this blog, continuing in our relationship theme, we’re going to be talking about farming relationships and livestock. As I prepare for that, I’ve been remembering a delicious recipe for roast chicken that I love to pull out in the fall. It’s a cozy one-pot meal that will have your friends and family clambering around your table on a crisp evening.
I’ve included the method I use for reducing cook time so that this dinner is easily achieved in under an hour on a week night. However, feel free to ignore those suggestions, leave the bird whole and increase cooking time accordingly.
Roast Maple Chicken and Root Vegetables
adapted from Sweet Paul, fall 2010
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prep the bird for cooking by scrubbing it, including the cavity, with a handful of coarse salt. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Lay the bird breast-side down on a clean surface and cut out the backbone with shears. Using either a very sharp knife or shears, remove both thigh bones. Place the bird, breast side up, in a large roasting pan and scatter the onions, root vegetables and garlic around it.
Next, prepare the glaze by whisking together the jam and the maple syrup. Pour or brush the sauce onto the bird evenly, being sure to coat the legs and wings as well. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper to taste, plus a little paprika for color. Place in the oven for about 45 minutes or until cooked through.
Meanwhile, begin to warm the stock and cream together in a small pan. When the chicken is out of the oven, pour the cooking juices from the roasting tray into a small sauce pan with the cream and stock. Simmer the juices, stock and cream together for about 10-15 minutes, or until reduced by one third.
Carve the chicken into generous portions and serve with a drizzle of the cream sauce and a large scoop of root vegetables on the side.