ROOTSTOCK GUEST BLOG BY TERESE ALLEN
Whenever I’m talking about the joys and benefits of eating local, there’s one question I always get asked: “How do you do it all year?” There’s no quick-and-dirty answer, of course, especially in a cold-weather climate like Wisconsin. Adopting a farm-to-table lifestyle is a process, I say. I talk about things like root vegetables, indoor farmers markets and food storage techniques. Lately, I’ve been also saying, “During the winter, eat more cheese.” And then I bring out a copy of Wisconsin Local Foods Journal: Cheese Edition.
It’s a book I wrote with a friend, Joan Peterson. A different kind of book, I like to think. Joan, a food travel writer and publisher, got the idea for it several years ago when she become a fervent local foods advocate. Knowing that eating sustainably was a year-round endeavor many people needed guidance for, she envisioned a resource that would embed a calendar into a guidebook about eating locally—something people could reference every day, all through the seasons.
When Joan asked me to co-author the Journal, I jumped at the chance. I had been looking for just that kind of project—a local-foods education publication that I could sink my food-writing teeth into. But my dream was to do a book whose proceeds would help support farm-to-table programs in my community. I proposed to Joan that we donate the profits to REAP, a group that operates farm-to-table programs in schools, restaurants and more in our region…and she was all for it. Turns out she had also been looking for way to “give back to farmers and the local foods community,” as she put it.
We’ve been producing the Journal ever since, with a different local-foods theme each year. This year, it’s all about cheese (in my state, that’s everybody’s favorite local ingredient, of course!). It’s really several books in one: a month-to-month guide to what’s in season and the cheeses to pair with it; a cheese recipe cookbook; a cheese selection and usage resource; and a guide to cheese shops around the state. There’s also a 2014 calendar-journal—I keep two copies going myself, one for daily engagements and one to track what I’m cooking from local sources.
Thanks in part to generous support by Organic Valley, we were able to make this year’s Journal bigger and better than ever (more photos, more recipes, more resources.) And now, when people ask me, how to “go local” outside the growing season, I’m happy to have a uniquely and useful resource to offer.
To get a look inside the 2014 Local Foods Journal or to order copies, visit wisconsinlocalfoodsjournal.com.
Kale and Swiss Cheese Pie with Pasta Crust
Pasta forms the tender crust for this unusual but very easy recipe. Bound with eggs and baked until set, it is the base for a savory pie made with Swiss cheese and frost-sweetened kale. Feel free to add a little bacon or ham for extra heartiness. From Wisconsin Local Foods Journal: Cheese Edition, by Joan Peterson and Terese Allen (Ginkgo Press)
2 tablespoons butter, plus a little for the baking dish
8 ounces thin spaghetti, broken into thirds
1/4 cup shredded Organic Valley Parmesan
6 large eggs, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
8–10 ounces fresh kale, stems removed
4 ounces Organic Valley Swiss Cheese, shredded
1/2cup chopped ham or cooked bacon (optional)
1/3 cup milk
¹⁄8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-by-12-inch baking dish. Cook spaghetti in lots of salted boiling water until tender. Drain, place in a bowl, and stir in butter and Parmesan. Let pasta cool down for a few minutes. Beat 2 of the eggs and stir them into the pasta. Place the mixture in the baking dish and press it all over to even it out. Cover with foil and bake 13 minutes. Set the crust aside.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet or pot, add shallots, and cook until tender. Add kale and stir over heat until wilted. Remove from heat, let kale cool down a bit, and then coarsely chop it. Beat remaining 4 eggs and add to kale along with the cheese, ham or bacon (if you’re using either one), milk, and red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
Spread filling over crust. Cover again with foil. Bake 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 5 minutes. Let the pie stand 10 minutes before serving.
Passionate about regional foods and what she calls “conscious eating,” Terese writes about Wisconsin’s culinary culture, past and present. Her cookbooks, including the award-winning Flavor of Wisconsin and Flavor of Wisconsin for Kids, focus on the places where real food happens, and on the people who grow, produce, cook and celebrate it. A columnist for Edible Madison and Edible Door magazines, she’s also president of the Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin (CHEW) and a director of REAP Food Group. Terese lives in Madison and on Washington Island, and she’s hungry all the time.