Market Musings Blog

Notes from the field – MOSES Organic Farming Conference

Matt Olson has worked at Mississippi Market for 7 years and has been in his current position as Selby’s produce manager since 2011. Each year he attends the MOSES conference to connect with growers, learn about what’s new in organic farming, and be inspired by the talks and workshops.  Read more …

Kickin’ it with kimchi

Napa or Chinese cabbage is traditionally used for making Korean winter kimchi, but it’s far from the only vegetable you can use for that purpose. Read more …

There’s oatmeal, and then there’s oatmeal.

Ounce for ounce, oats have more fat and more protein than most grains, making them perfect fodder for our keenly cold late winter. With their fat and fiber, they stick to your ribs, as people used to say. Read more …

Frattallone’s Ace Hardware on Grand Ave – St. Paul’s Kitchenwares Mothership

FrattallonesIf you live in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, you’re probably already familiar with the depth and breadth of kitchenwares at Frattallone’s Ace Hardware at Cambridge & Grand, kitty-corner from Ramsey Middle School. If you’ve instead assumed that one Ace Hardware is pretty much like another in terms of its kitchenwares, you are in for a very welcome surprise: this particular Frattallone’s/Ace, one of nineteen Twin Cities stores owned by the Frattallone family of St. Paul, is completely unlike the others. For sensibly priced, sturdy, practical cookware and kitchen tools, it is simply unrivaled; for customer service, it’s as responsive and supportive as our very own Mississippi Market. Read more …

Adventurous Eating for Omnivores – Offal

Humans have eaten offal (the internal organs of slaughtered meat animals) throughout recorded history, but doing so fell out of fashion in this country following World War II, except among cooks and diners retaining traditional foodways. My Minnesota German mother and her siblings relished headcheese, blood sausage, and other foods that left my San Francisco-born sister and me faint. But we loved beef or calf liver and onions, chicken hearts and livers, and tongue sandwiches. In this, we were a minority. Only the most recent immigrants managed to keep the sale of tripe, pork intestines, kidneys, and chicken feet in somewhat lively commercial circulation, largely in their own communities’ meat markets.

nose to tale eatingAnd then, in 1999, the London chef Fergus Henderson published Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking, and the next thing you knew, every northern European and North American chef under forty, along with plenty of home cooks, rediscovered offal. And a good thing it was, because these formerly discarded odds-and-ends from the meat trade are inexpensive and very tasty.

At the same time, there’s no question that many of them are acquired tastes for those who didn’t start eating them young. Because organ meats are particularly strong in flavor, the easiest way to develop a taste for them is to take down their flavor a bit by first soaking them in lightly salted water; I’m thinking here most particularly of kidneys and liver.

Definitely the go-to offal meat for first timers is beef or calf’s liver. Fifty years ago, it made a weekly appearance on a majority of American dinner tables, accompanied by fried onions and/or bacon. Children either loved it or hated it, and most adults tucked into it with zest. Liver is very high in iron (and cholesterol), and it’s not something you want to eat daily, but it’s a terrific meat to try—low in cost (because low in demand), and because Mississippi Market’s beef liver comes from Thousand Hills’s pasture-raised cattle, it’s a powerhouse of nutrients and flavor, with less saturated fat than that from feedlot beef liver.

Calf’s liver is milder in flavor and slightly tenderer in texture, but beef liver is a better value. If this will be your first venture into cooking beef liver, here’s how to prepare it. If you’re feeling hesistant but committed, fry up some bacon along with the liver; the two complement each other beautifully.

Beef Liver for Those New to It
Soak the liver first, using 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 quart of water, for 1 hour. Pat the liver dry before searing it in a cast-iron skillet or a broiler. Beef liver and fried onions go together like salt and pepper, so be sure to include onions when you cook the liver.

Most people like to eat liver pink in the middle; the times given below are for medium-pink.

Ingredients:
1–2 slices of bacon (optional)*
¼–½ onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
Beef liver (4 oz. per serving)
* If you’re not using bacon, fry the onion and liver in mild olive oil.

1. In a cast-iron skillet, fry the bacon first on MEDIUM till it’s almost crisp; remove bacon slices to a side plate and cover to keep them warm. (You may want to chop the bacon up after it’s cooked.)
2. Fry the onion slices in the bacon fat until they soften and start to brown. Scrape them to the side of the skillet and add the liver.
3. Raise the heat to MEDIUM-HIGH, add salted and peppered, dried-off liver, and fry it on one side for about 2 minutes. When it’s nicely browned, turn it over and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat.
4. Put the bacon back in the pan and swab the slices or chopped pieces over the onions and liver. Remove the liver, onions, and bacon from the pan.
5. If you’re broiling: Broil the bacon first about 3” below the heat source, remove from broiler pan, then put onions, swabbed with olive oil, in broiler pan and cook until bubbly and slightly golden on each side. Salt and pepper the liver, then broil it for 1 minute per side; combine all ingredients off the broiler.
6. Serve with a simple side of greens (cooked spinach, chard, kale, &c., garlic, and red pepper flakes, finished with sherry vinegar or lemon juice).

Extreme Local – Wild Foraging

Before I start: wild foraging can be very dangerous. The amount of mushrooms that are fatally poisonous are relatively small, but there are a great many that will make you wish you were dead and cause serious illness. You should never eat a mushroom unless you are 100% confident in identifying it. There are a great many resources if you would like to get into wild foraging, but it should be approached with a healthy respect and only after much study. DO NOT EAT WILD MUSHROOMS ON A WHIM.

Chicken of the woods on tree

Chicken of the Woods, too old, but still pretty cool.

I am an outdoors person. I love hunting and camping, and when morel season hits in spring I am in the woods nearly every weekend. This year, I have decided to enjoy some of the local foraging that can be had in mid-summer months.

Ok, morel season is easy: little undergrowth, very distinctive mushrooms, little to no mosquitos and hardly any ticks. All of these things have made it a trendy thing to do, amateurs beating down trails to every dead elm tree in state parks around Minnesota. And with good reason, morels are delicious.

Mid-summer mushroom hunting has been about as far from that as possible. Minnesota mixed hardwood forests are hot, full of bugs, poison ivy, buckthorn, wild berries, stinging nettle, and a fair amount of other hidden pitfalls. I have found mushrooms that I have picked, learned to do a spore print, and identified them with some confidence. Only then to throw them out because doubt about my knowledge crept in (this is normal and a healthy thing). I have worn poison ivy rashes with pride for a good portion of the summer. I have invested in what I call a hippie basket, a bandaloo (which I have already lost), spent a small fortune on gas driving to state parks, and shirked some responsibilities.

Chicken gnocci with chicken of the woods

Chicken gnocci without the kale, subbing thyme in its place, and with whole wheat gnocci

Despite this, the exhilaration that I felt when I saw my first mass of orange Chicken of the Woods* was just as exciting as any morel patch I have found. Finding lobster mushrooms buried in leaves was worth the mosquito bites (technically my lovely wife found our first lobster). And wild mushroom gnocchi shared with friends and family? Good grief.

*Mississippi Market carries wild, foraged mushrooms from time to time, so it is possible to cook with them without foraging. Call ahead before making a special trip.

Here is the recipe:
Wild Mushroom Gnocchi, serves 2-3

ingredients
1 med onion, diced ½ inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
A large mass of wild mushroom, your choice on variety, all have been excellent – usually around .5 lbs, or you could use button, but the earthy flavor of the wild mushroom is what makes this dish. Tear/cut/break the mushroom into bite size pieces. Be sure to clean the mushroom, ideally using a brush of some kind, not in water. Mushrooms really soak up liquid and it is ok to wash them in water, but it will alter how this dish cooks and you may need to cut the rest of the water out of the recipe entirely.
2T Olive oil – you may need a little more if you are frying a large amount of mushroom, they tend to soak up liquids
1 package of Cucina Viva gnocchi
1 half of a bunch of dino kale, or a sautéing green of your choice, rough shred/julienne
1 table spoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Stock
1.5 cups water

Equipment:
1 14” sauce pan, with 1.5 inch sides, or some equivalent
1 stock pot to boil gnocchi
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Fry the onion, garlic, mushroom together stirring often on medium high heat until your onion just starts to become translucent. Dissolve the Better Than in 1.5 cups of water and pour that mixture into your sauce pan. Cook until reduced, but not dry. There should be some liquid left in pan to provide a ‘sauce’ for the dish.

At this time add the gnocchi to the water. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom. When it rises to the top it is done. Add your kale to your frying pan and stir it in. The gnocchi will cook quickly in a rolling boil (4-5 minutes tops) and will overcook just as fast. Scoop out the gnocchi leaving as much water as possible behind and put it right into your mushroom mix. Stir and serve.

At this time I like to shred a little Pecorino Romano on top, but that is completely optional. There are gluten free gnocchi’s in some grocery stores, so it is possible to make this dish gluten free as well.
Eat and enjoy.

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods

James Talbot is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. As the grocery manager at Selby, you’ll find him in the ailes stocking the shelves, answering questions and figuring out how to make space for more awesome products. 

From the Bread Nook – New French Bakery

In my first year on the job as the Frozen and Bread Buyer for the Selby store, which I just wrapped up, my main focus for the bread department was to really get to know the products we carry, feel how bread sales trend season to season, learn what was available from each vendor, and try new things out here and there.  Going into year two, my next major goal for the remainder of the calendar year (yikes, is it really mid-August already?) is to finally get around to visiting the local bakeries we stock on the shelves, see the process, and talk with some of the people who work there.  Yesterday, I started this venture off with a visit to New French Bakery.

New French Bakery was started about 19 years ago by Peter Kelsey in Minneapolis.

New French Bakery was started about 19 years ago by Peter Kelsey in Minneapolis.

New French was first started up about 19 years ago by Peter Kelsey, and as the company has grown from a small start-up to a large operation that has national contracts, there have been some employees who have stuck around since the earliest days.  There are now two facilities, one of which works solely with product that gets frozen and shipped elsewhere in the U.S. and serves as the primary warehouse for raw ingredients.  I toured the other location, which does both frozen products for shipment and fresh breads for a surprisingly large number of local restaurant and retail deliveries.

I’d never been on a tour of a bakery before, so this was a pretty crazy experience.  It was simply amazing to me the type of engineering mindset that goes into laying our conveyors, mixers, ovens, cooling rooms, packaging machines in such a streamlined layout.  Giant mixers (think Kitchenaid stand mixer that you could sit in and *maybe* see over the edge) prep all the dough with the flour getting pumped up from giant storage tanks in the basement—the volume of these just astounded me!  Machines size out dough for the product in production—rolls, buns, baguettes, loaves, etc—and into trays, molds, or baking pans the dough goes.

Before it hits the oven, all the dough hits the proofing room for a few hours to rise—the humidity here was high, and the smell of active yeast was amazingly strong.  If anything needs special attention (like the small slices that give the tops of artisan breads their special look or things need to be rolled in seeds or grain), the human touch comes into play—machines are not to be trusted with these delicate accents!  Finished products are then cooled, sliced if need-be, and packaged to ship out to their destinations.  And then the process continues for the next item, around the clock, all year!

Of all the little details I learned during my visit, this is the one I really want to pass on: while New French is focused on large-scale production, they still get almost all of their flour from wheat grown and milled within 150 miles of the bakery—keepin’ it local!

At Mississippi Market, we carry only a tiny fraction of the 700+ varieties and variations in their available production catalog.  Some of the more artisan loaves that have been on the shelves for a while include the French baguette (perfect for sandwiches and bruschetta), traditional and whole wheat sourdough rounds, stirato loaves and smaller rolls made of the New French baguettessame dough (a customer favorite to accompany soup for lunch), the ever-so-soft honey whole grain batard (also carried in baguette form), and my favorite, the Italian peasant loaf (this only needs some olive oil, Italian herbs, and a bit of feta to become a meal in itself!).  Since becoming the buyer for the Selby store, a number of new items have made appearances: potato dinner rolls, a sesame semolina batard, pretzel buns for both burgers and hoagies, and a weekend-only double raisin rye.  Due to customer request, a while back we also started carrying their large sandwich loaves, the same bread our Deli uses.

Interested in trying something we don’t carry?  I’ve seen a variety of both sweet and savory baguettes and artisan loafs, buns, and sandwich breads we simply don’t have room to add to our own shelves.  Stop in at the 26th Ave. location sometime (the address and hours below), where they offer a wide range of fresh items, a daily soup special, and a small selection of salads and sandwiches.  And if you do visit, give a (polite!) shout-out to the second floor, where the excellent Customer Service team sits, answering my questions and getting my orders in the system; say Ben from Mississippi Market sent you, and you might see a hand waving at you from over the balcony!

New French Bakery
2609 26th Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN 55406
612.455.7507
www.newfrenchbakery.com
Retail hours: 8:30-6 M-F, 8:30-3 on the weekends

Ben Zamora-Weiss is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. As mentioned above, you’ll also find him at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best locally baked breads we can find.

Locally-raised goat? Perfect for stew!

While my role at the Market is the Frozen and Bread Buyer for the Selby store, I was also raised as a meat-and-potatoes guy…and with the freezer doors right next to the meat cases, my eye always catches on sale signs and discount stickers.  This week, I saw the Shepherd’s Song ground goat meat marked down, so I thought I’d give it a try.

local goatMy project for this afternoon was to find something I could do with the goat and our large selection of CSA produce before leaving town for the weekend.  Peppers and onions were plentiful on our counter and we had almost a fridge bin full of a variety of greens, so a simple stew came to mind.

Four diced hot peppers (jalapeno and Serrano), a pair of bell peppers, three small sweet onions, and a few cloves of garlic made for an aromatic kitchen once cooked in with two packages of the goat meat, some salt, a few diced tomatoes, and a healthy dose of garam masala.  This cooked for about an hour or so on medium low heat.

My wife turned me on to sautéed greens…the preparation for I’ve come to really enjoy: fold the leaf, cut the spine off, stack a couple leaves, roll, and slice into strips.  Fill a large pot, we usually use a 2-gallon model (I’m not even joking), with the green ribbons, a bit of extra water, and a pinch of salt (sometimes I’ll add onion, garlic, or turmeric to the greens, too), and wilt it all down to al dente.  To add a third color to the meal, we halved then sliced four summer squash to salt and sauté. Enjoy!

Ben Zamora-Weiss is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. You’ll also find him at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best locally baked breads we can find.

Sizzlin’ Summer Sauté

One of my absolute favorite ways to cook vegetables is to sauté them. It is the simplest and fastest way to prepare vegetables and has never failed in encouraging family members to try—and like—foods they once hated.

It’s easy to start off with sautéed greens but if you really want a meal filled with summer bounty, you should try this simple summer sauté I created a couple of years ago while working on a farm.

1 medium zucchini (or 2 small)

1 medium yellow squash (or 2 small)

1 medium onion, medium dice

2 ears of corn

2 tbsp Hope Creamery butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Dice onion and cut zucchini/summer squash into quarters, and slice about 1/4” thick. Cut corn kernels off corn cob.

corn on cob

Melt butter and sauté onions until translucent on medium high heat. Add zucchini, yellow squash, and corn and sauté until vegetables caramelize – about 10-12 minutes.

Serve hot, next to freshly sliced, lightly salted tomatoes.

corn saute

Early August is the perfect time to find all of these items local and fresh at the co-op. If you crave a little meat with your veggies, grill up some of our Mississippi Market Made jalapeno cheddar brats.

A 100 percent local meal that’s 100 percent tasty!

Jess Zamora-Weiss is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. You’ll also find her in the Selby store’s juice bar, making things run smoothly and taste amazing!

LaBore Farms – The Future of Vegetable Farming

LocalLogoMichelle Keller has seen the future of vegetable farming, and it is hydroponic. Farmland prices are soaring. In Minnesota’s challenging climate, bringing fresh leaf vegetables to market much of the year can only be done under glass or other protection. But in Keller’s 42 x 132-foot greenhouse, with its two bays, 10,000 plants at a time are in production, with another 10,000 in nursery cubes, the seeds and seedlings cradled in rockwool, all of this greenery straining toward the light from its watery broth. It is an oddly chaste place; the fertilizers that feed Keller’s plants also inhibit blossoming and stimulate only leaf growth. The plants are perpetual preadolescents, tender and beautiful. No bolting here.

Many of you have eaten or at least gazed at LaBore lettuces or cress in the produce department. Keller’s greens arrive on their own roots, encased in plastic clamshells like something precious. They look like the platonic ideal of lettuce, each leaf perfect, full, soft. And because they remain on their roots, they remain alive—you can transfer them to bowls or vases to extend their lives at home.

Few garden-grown lettuces attain this almost eerie perfection. Keller explains why:

Plants grown hydroponically don’t have to work for their water and nutrients. They can grow faster.”

Selective breeding has created a class of plants that neither toil nor spin, and it’s these that hydroponic growers seek out. Other plants, Keller says, the ones that are genetically driven to go after what they need, are befuddled by hydroponic life, unable to make use of what they must work so hard to attain in outdoor soil: light, water, nutrients, heat.

Keller became interested in hydroponics’ humanmade environments while she was studying at U-Wisconsin River Falls, where she graduated in 1996. At the time, only a couple of companies sold commercial hydroponic set-ups, and she worked with Crop King to learn what she could about operating her own hydroponic farm. She set up her greenhouse in June 2004 in Faribault and has been running it ever since—and running is the apt word, because Keller’s successful business is almost entirely a one-woman operation: “I seed, transfer, harvest, sanitize, package, deliver.” She works 7-day, 70-hour weeks.

And she wants to do more.

LaBore lettuceShe hopes to add two more bays to her operation and to bring in interns from local colleges on a yearly basis so she can share her knowledge. Hydroponic farming, she says, is far more sustainable than conventional American farming: despite using water as a growing medium, it is far thriftier of water as a resource: “One 1,000-gallon tank serves the whole greenhouse—everything is grown in it. The water gets reused for ten days, and then on day ten, I turn off the water, and the plants use most of that up. Two hundred fifty gallons are left, which I dump on my own property—that amount of water never makes it anywhere near my property line. I use far less water than the same crops would if they were grown in the ground.”

Despite its advantages over open-field farming, hydroponic farming has its own challenges; Keller says that at the last conference she attended, she was the oldest grower there, and she’s watched operations open and close.

When I opened, there was only one other hydroponic grower near the Twin Cities. Now there are four or five. Hydroponics isn’t for everybody. It’s expensive to get into. It takes a certain kind of person: someone who enjoys working for herself. Someone who’s stubborn and tenacious.”

This stubborn and tenacious grower is branching out in a new direction: “I’m going to specialize more and more in Asian greens. They were suggested to me by one of my earliest co-op customers, and I’ve had very positive feedback on the first red and green pak choi I’ve grown.”