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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Food Day Story: Food is a Team Sport by Lyn Huckabee

Happy post-Food Day!

In preparation for yesterday, I finally got around to reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. In it he says:

“…I no longer think it’s possible to separate our bodily health from the health of the environment from which we eat or the environment in which we eat or, for that matter, from the health of our general outlook about food (and health).”

Although Food Day 2011 is promoting a number of specific policy steps to improve our food systems, In Defense of Food serves as an easy to understand platform on which everyday people (whether you are a food policy pro or not) can base their eating to promote Food Day principles every day. My Food Day story begins with Pollan’s concept that what we eat should be determined by culture rather than science (or, for that matter, industry). I live alone in an urban condo and part of why I saw a need for a local food swap stemmed from the difficulty urbanites have experiencing community and culture around food. We work late and we eat out often, so eating (and cooking) real food is often a challenge. The Food Swap was designed to be a social destination where busy urbanites can go to exchange food but also to experience the fun and the evolutionary benefits of sharing real food and real food experiences with others. We aim to build that culture of food that is so easily lost in our collective lifestyles.

The seed for the swap was planted last year around Labor Day. A law school friend of mine posted pictures of his very Italian Family’s “Sauce Day.” This is apparently a long standing tradition in his clan where the whole family gathers - aunts, uncles, cousins, grand-relatives, and all – to cook an entire year’s worth of the family’s tomato sauce recipe. They have restaurant scale cooking and canning equipment and they set up hundreds of quart sized mason jars in the back yard. They buy dozens of bushels of tomatoes and other produce and they use herbs from the backyard garden. They even recycle the spent tomato skins in their garden soil! With everyone chipping in their share of the effort, they prepare and preserve their sauce. At the end of the day, everyone takes home their allotted number of jars to get them through the year. His family uses their food culture and tradition to create memorable experiences.

When I think about all of the special occasions spent (by me and other people I observe) at restaurants, I wonder how memorable that special occasion would have been if it was spent at another fast food restaurant or eating another heat and eat dinner from the grocery store’s freezer section. Looking back on my life, I can recall in explicit detail meals that were made with or for people I care about but can only remember the sheer volume of meals where the culture of the food took a back seat to simply consuming it. Until the swap came along, I often thought about those pictures and wondered how I could recreate that food culture experience in my own life even though my family is far away and I barely have enough room for two jars of sauce. When I read the New York Times article about food swapping, a light went off. This was the vehicle by which I and my fellow urbanites could have a “sauce day” experience without the prerequisite space and family.

My Food Day story started in September when I was reminded of the value of food community. During my tomato odyssey, when I made the sauce that I preserved for yesterday’s lasagne, I stood in my kitchen seeding tomatoes by myself for what seemed like the whole day. As the sauce simmered in the evening, I spent some periodic moments at my street’s block party congregating with my neighbors (incidentally, around potluck food!) between stirs. I told my neighbors why I was running back and forth to my house and I eventually got in to a discussion about the tomato seeding and peeling process with one. A disappointed look washed across her face as I told my story because she thought the idea of making her own tomato sauce sounded like so much fun that she wished I had asked her to help! In my busy urban mind, I failed to recognize the community of food. Although seeding tomatoes all day was a memorable experience, it would have been infinitely better if I had bonded with a neighbor at the same time.

So as you celebrate the 365 personal Food Days before the next national event (2012 is a leap year!), turn food in to a team sport. Bring the children in your life in to the kitchen to squish the seeds out of next September’s tomatoes. Get to know people who know livestock, produce, and the environment in which they grow. Prevent waste by sharing (or swapping) meals with friends. Recruit the family to work your way through the Food Day recipe book. Spend some time with those who don’t know where they will find their next meal. And don’t forget to take pictures and post your team’s victories on the Boston Food Day microsite so others can learn how to Eat Real!
Didn't have the time to find dairy direct so I picked up a local Rhode Island mozzarella from my corner store (yes, my corner store is Whole Foods!)

Eggs from Stillman's. They were at the Babson Food Day festivities yesterday.

My CSA was a bit light for this recipe so I needed to supplement from the farmer's market. This is the Siena Farms booth where I got the extra produce I needed (or wanted).

Roasted Autumn Vegetable Lasagne
Adapted from the What Katie Said Blog


  • 1 gal 2% milk
  • 1 q buttermilk
  • 1 lemon, juiced with seeds strained
  • 1.5 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 2T water
  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced thin in to rounds
  • 1 small butternut squash, halved and peeled
  • 4 leeks, sliced thin
  • 32 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small branch of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped finely (don’t use the stem!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1q of marinara sauce – I used my jarred sauced from September’s Tomato Odyssey
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach (although October is technically spinach season, I couldn’t find it fresh from any farmer’s market vendor – it’s OK to fill in your recipes with frozen veggies when your farmer’s market doesn’t have them! Even better? When you can find spinach, steam it and freeze it!)
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Dash of ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Ricotta (you can do this ahead of time):

1. Combine milk and buttermilk in a large pot
2. Heat to 180 degrees without stirring
3. Add the lemon juice
4. Wait for curds to separate (this should happen quickly – no more than a few minutes)
5. Drain in to a large colander lined with fine cheese cloth until enough liquid has been drained (this should be quick too – if you wait too long it will become dry)
6. Put drained curds in to a bowl and toss with ½ t of salt
7. Refrigerate until you are ready to make the lasagna

For the pasta:

1. Put flour on a flat work surface (I am a huge fan of silicone mats which work perfectly here)
2. Mix in 1t salt with a fork
3. Create a well in the flour/salt pile
4. Crack two eggs in to the well and add 2T of water
5. Beat the eggs in to the flour with a fork. As it becomes more doughy, start to form a ball with your hands
6. Add more flour to prevent sticking or more water for moisture as needed
7. Once you have a big ball of dough, cut it in to 2 or 3 smaller pieces
8. Cover whatever pieces you aren’t using with a clean towel so they don’t dry out
9. Roll one of the smaller pieces in a pasta maker (I just bought one from Joyce Chen – I LOVE it and don’t want to ever eat store bought pasta again!) at the widest setting
10. Fold the long oblong piece in to a square and run the square through the pasta roller starting with the unfolded edges – this will ensure that your pasta has straight edges!
11. Repeat step 10 for a few times until the dough comes out of roller smooth (it will be easy to tell when it’s done)
12. Run dough rectangles through pasta roller again on progressively narrower settings until it is as thin as possible.
13. Roll once through the lasagne cutting roller
14. Keep finished lasagne strips under a towel until you are finished with the batch
15. Repeat with the other two pieces of dough
16. Boil water in a large pot with a pinch of sea salt and a bit of olive oil
17. Add fresh noodles and cook for about 4 minutes
18. Drain in a colander and toss very lightly with olive oil to prevent sticking
19. Use as soon as the noodles are cool enough to handle because they will stick together after a while

Note: I’ll admit that on paper this sounds like a lot of work. I can assure you though that it went SO quickly (20 minutes if your dough doesn’t get too dry) and tastes so great fresh that it is completely worth it. Also, if you have help, this is the ultimate team food project. As I was rolling out dough, I thought that kids would LOVE this!

For the Lasagne:

1. Preheat oven at 425 deg F
2. Toss eggplant slices with 1t salt and place slices in a colander to draw the liquid out of them. Leave to drain for about 30 minutes. This is a great step to do while you make the pasta.
3. Defrost the frozen spinach and drain in a colander. Press it with paper towels to draw out the liquid.
4. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly (this is really important or your finished dish will be too salty!)
5. Place mushrooms, leeks, eggplant slices, and garlic in a roasting pan lined with parchment. Toss with 2 t of olive oil, ½ t of salt, and chopped rosemary. Brush squash halves with olive oil and put face down on a separate pan. Place both pans on separate racks in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes.
6. While your vegetables are roasting, add the drained spinach, an egg, 1T mozzarella, a bit of parm, cinnamon, and nutmeg to your ricotta and toss.
7. When vegetables are roasted, slice the butternut squash in to thin slices
8. Reduce oven temp to 375 deg F
9. Grease a lasange pan and put a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom.
10. Put pasta strips over the sauce in a single layer
11. Place ½ ricotta mixture on the pasta
12. Place ½ of squash, ½ of eggplant, and ½ of leek/mushroom mixture over the ricotta
13. Repeat steps 8-11 (minus the pan greasing)
14. Finish with a layer of pasta, the remaining sauce, the chopped mozzarella, and the grated parm
15. Cover loosely with foil being sure not to let the foil touch the cheese on top
16. Bake for 50 minutes
17. Take foil off of the top and bake for other 10 minutes until the cheese browns
18. Let rest for 10 minutes
19. Enjoy with the team!

Don't mind the force field around the lasagne, I was trying to keep it warm!

Thanks to everyone who attended the Food Day CSP! We can’t tell you how much we appreciated your attendance.

Update: We want to spread the word about Food Day, so we're adding this to the Patchwork Living Blogging Bee. It's like a digital version of a quilting bee where bloggers share tips on sustainable living, which ties in nicely with our swap philosophy and the Food Day principles.

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