Support local farms, cure boredom with these make-at-home meals
"I made a big pot of chicken soup with lots of vegetables,” a friend wrote on the first day of the local shelter-in-place order. “But here I sit eating cheese puffs and ice cream.”
For me, black licorice and butter horns got me through the initial sea change. Soon, my desire to cook returned, as it always does. Cooking is not a chore to me. It is a calming, sensual activity I cherish. It’s a feeling I try to inspire in readers and students.
We are in one of the best places in the country to weather this virus outbreak, especially when it comes to what we eat. Just because we’re under orders to stay home, we don’t have to settle for foods we normally eschew. There are so many options for keeping our diet as local and fresh as possible.
Farmers markets and farm stands have been categorized as essential businesses, provided they practice social distancing and offer hand-sanitizing areas. Ours are open, though if you typically shop at the Santa Rosa Community Farmers Market, you should know it’s currently being held in the Farmers Lane Plaza at Bennett Valley Road and Farmers Lane instead of its traditional location at the Veterans Memorial Building east parking lot.
If you don’t relish the idea of being around other people, you might consider a CSA subscription and choose home delivery instead of pick-up, though you should decide about doing this sooner rather than later. In the past week, farms that offer subscriptions have experienced a dramatic increase in inquiries and memberships. Laguna Farms, based in Sebastopol, filled up over the weekend, and Singing Frogs Farm, also in Sebastopol, currently has a waiting list. Tierra Vegetables in Santa Rosa is currently accepting members.
Farm Trails (farmtrails.org) has added a Shelter-In-Place section to its website, where you’ll find a list of members offering delivery, take-out/pick-up and CSAs.
Some of our local ranchers have shifted from selling their meats at farmers markets to CSA programs. Green Star Farm (greenstarfarm.com) began the shift in January. They are currently offering eggs, chicken, goat, lamb, pork and sausage.
Victorian Farmstead (vicfarmmeats.com), which operates a small butcher counter at Sebastopol’s Community Market, has dropped its $25 delivery fee for orders over $50. The company also offers several CSA options.
Several farm market vendors have plenty of spinach right now. This dish has evolved over the years from one the late filmmaker Les Blank contributed to L. John Harris’ “Book of Garlic” (Aris Books, 1975) to this version. The primary difference between my version and his is that I use shallots instead of white onions. If you want to make it and don’t have shallots, feel free to use a white or yellow onion instead.
Baked Cheddar Spinach
Serves 4 to 6
1 ½ pounds fresh spinach leaves
2 ounces (½ stick) butter, preferably local and organic
3 shallots, minced
10 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
8 ounces aged Cheddar, grated
½ cup homemade or commercial bread crumbs
¾ teaspoon ground cayenne
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
Rinse the spinach in cool water; drain but leave some water clinging to the leaves. Put the spinach in a wok set over high heat and use tongs to toss and turn the spinach until it is just wilted. Set aside.