A question when talking to clients about menus is their concern for their vegetable loving friends and making sure that they will have a proper meal.
Though Heirloom Fire does cook whole animals and larger portions of meat, we actually love cooking vegetables as well. Really, there is something so special about using the first of season crisp, sweet and bitter lettuce that was just washed with cool water or juicy, bright heirloom tomatoes in mid August, warmed slightly in the sun.
We also love working with grains and cover crops. ‘
When Heirloom Fire cooks for events, we will often cook a hearty starch dish in the style of Risotto; This usually becomes a main course for vegetarians.
Besides enjoying the full flavor of these grains and other legumes, we actually cook with them for purpose.
In a nutshell, the reason cover crops such as barely, oats, rye and buckwheat as well as legumes like kidney beans and other bush beans are important is that they put nutrition back into the soil and help suppress weeds for the next seasons growth.
Just about everyone I know loves just picked summer corn; sweet, crisp and basically the perfect embodiment of summer. However, growing this delicious summer treat comes at a cost in the form of a serious withdraw from the soil fertility as corn requires a big slurp of nitrogen. This is why at the end of the harvest farmers will till under the corn and plant a cover crop in the autumn or plant a crop of legumes such a kidney beans in that particular field next season to put a deposit of nitrogen back into the soil. Putting a deposit back in is so important because if you are growing food, you need to feed it with nutrition from rich, living soil. You could, say, purchase artificial chemical fertilizers to pump into your dead soil, but then you would be eating chemicals and tell me, how delicious does that sound?
If food is something that interests you, I highly recommend Dan Barbers book “The Third Plate: Field Notes on The Future of Food”. Dan goes into great detail about soil, sea and rethinking our current food system - very inspiring stuff. If this sounds like something you may like but the idea of sitting in one place for too long or claim to be illiterate (than how are you reading this? Caught!) Audible has you covered! And Dan even reads it himself with a healthy dose of self deprecation.
As Heirloom Fire constantly evolves, I am trying to find ways we can offset our carbon footprint and reuse items from past events in creation for future ones. It is not uncommon for us to take left over bones and vegetable scraps for a wedding and turn them into a stock for a rehearsal or wedding the following weekend. Unclaimed cooked food gets a home with various local farm animals (including my chickens) as their summer feast. Unclaimed raw vegetables find home in rich black soil to return from where they came. The rich black soil becomes nutrition for the next crop; the richer the soil, the more flavor will be in the vegetables.
Other ways Heirloom Fire reduces waste that you can implement in your own home are:
-Save husks from delicious summer corn and freeze them until ready to use. Use the husks as a wrapper for fish filets with citrus and herbs, secure with butcher twine and grill over hot coals.
-Save your spent coffee grounds and mix with salt to bake root vegetables in. Amazingly most and earthy with slight smokey notes.
-Turn leftover milk and cream into fresh ricotta or yogurt. Reserve the whey and incorporate into grain dishes.
After years of working as a caterer in The Berkshires, I have learned that catering can be heart breaking with the amount of waste weddings and events can produce. I encourage you to think outside of the box in your day to day life and say, “Hey, can I give that one more use”?
If you have enjoyed this service announcement provided by Heirloom Fire and would like a second helping, please check out more on Dan Barber. As well as being a progressive thinking chef, he also hosts a series of dinners called waste-ED.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Adapted from smitten kitchen
Makes about 1 generous cup of ricotta
3 cups whole milk 1 cup heavy cream 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pour the milk, cream and salt into a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Heat the milk to 190°F, stirring it occasionally to keep it from scorching on the bottom. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, then stir it once or twice, gently and slowly. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least an hour. At an hour, you’ll have a tender, spreadable ricotta. At two hours, it will be spreadable but a bit firmer, almost like cream cheese. (It will firm as it cools, so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Transfer the whey to a sealable container and use later*. Eat the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.