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Monday
Jun142010

ASAN Alabama Supper!

For those of you wanting another Alabama Supper, have we got a treat for you! Saturday, June 26th, the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network is holding a fundraiser in Thomaston featuring a SEVEN COURSE all-Alabama meal. ASAN, the state's only non-profit devoted to promoting sustainable food and farming, has put together an event and a menu that is not to be missed. The usual suspects from previous Alabama Suppers will be on hand - Good People Brewing, a bevy of local farmers and producers, the four of us here at Eating Alabama, etc. - along with some new additions, like the good folks at PieLab in Greensboro who will be providing all locally sourced pie! While the dinner itself should be enough to convince you to make the trip (menu below), the location is the icing on the cake. The Rural Heritage Center at Thomaston, remodeled by Auburn's Rural Studio, will be our dining room for the evening. Come celebrate the rich heritage of the Black Belt while supporting the good and vital work of ASAN. Come early and take a self-guided tour of other nearby Rural Studio projects. You'll be glad you did. Meet your farmers, meet the people of ASAN, and support the important mission of creating more sustainable farmers throughout Alabama.

The meal itself is quite a treat, too: Adam Weinstein, chef from previous Alabama Suppers and the proprietor of Might Could Catering, has put together this amazing menu:

 

THE MENU
Appetizers of grilled shrimp with cherry tomato confit; polenta cakes with roasted pepper aioli and lardoons.

 

Seven course menu featuring three sliders (vegetarian option of three separate veggie burger sliders are available; please request vegetarian when ordering tickets)

1) watermelon salad with muscadine wine reduction, black salt and basil

2) lamb burger with roasted eggplant, charred onion, lemon and mint, served with a side of herbed yogurt

3) tomato salad with fried leeks and bacon vinaigrette

4) beef burger with tomato relish, pickles, cheddar, and kettle cooked chips on the side

5) lemon basil ice

6) pork shoulder burger with bourbon glazed peaches and roasted fennel, with spicy slaw on the side

Dessert: a variety of locally-sourced pies artfully created by PieLab!

Thanks to the generous support from Snow's Bend, Boutwell Farms, McEwen and Sons, Wright Dairy, Red Root Farm, and a variety of suppliers in the Black Belt, who are providing the food and making this event happen. Stay tuned for details, and please note that tickets are VERY LIMITED. The venue only holds 80 people. Please don't miss this special event, and know that every penny raised during this benefit goes directly to supporting ASAN and its mission of promoting and supporting sustainable agriculture throughout the state.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Supper has been postponed due to unforeseen circumstances. We'll keep you posted when it's rescheduled.
 

Thursday
May272010

All Hail the Peas

My evening visits to the garden almost always include a stop in the pea patch. I like to check their progress and make sure that their numbers are up - we've had a few casualties as of late, both to tenacious birds and tenacious weeders (yes, it's hard to weed around pea vines without an occasional uprooting). It's amazing to see how much taller they've grown, and how they've managed to stay upright even when they've surpassed the height of your makeshift trellis, grabbing hold of and wrapping their delicate tendrils around each other. And as I look up and down the vines in search of the mature pods, I see just how many little peas are in the making, their green tips emerging from a spent bloom.

Sugar snap peas are quickly becoming my new favorite snack. Plump and verdant, the peas are just too tempting to resist. Even if I come prepared to harvest, I inevitably end up eating more than I save, each pea bypassing my bowl and going straight to my mouth. Their sweet crunch and refreshing burst of flavor make them the perfect snack for a hot Alabama day.

Even though I'm happy to eat them straight off the vine and raw most days, sugar snap peas also work well in a number of dishes. Try them in stir fries and pastas, or paired with meats. They are also just as good by themselves, sauteed in a little butter and mixed with fresh herbs.

Sugar Snap Peas with Oregano (From Martha Stewart Living)

1 lb sugar snap peas (strings removed)
coarse salt
1/2 T butter
1 T fresh oregano, coarsely chopped

Combine snap peas and 1 cup water in a large skillet; season with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cook until all the water has evaporated (~3-4 minutes). Add butter and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until snap peas are crisp-tender (~2 minutes). Remove from heat and add oregano.

 

 

 

Sunday
May162010

The Double-Dig

I recently picked up a copy of John Jeavon's "How to Grow More Vegetables", a must-have reference for the sustainable gardener and any grow-it-yourself junkie. It's laid out in a very straightforward way, walking the reader through all the steps of the "grow biointensive" method of gardening from soil building to planting. The real gem is towards the end, where the author provides several detailed garden plans that take into consideration family size and plot size, all with the proclaimed goal of helping the gardener grow more food with less land.

My study of the book is far from complete, but I've worked my way through the first chapter on bed preparation, where the method of the elusive "double-dig" was finally revealed to me. Although I had often heard the term "double-dig" in conversation amongst my gardening/farming circle, I'd never found occasion to inquire further to its meaning. It seemed intuitive enough, a simple case of dig and dig-again. But, whatever connotation the term had in my mind, it wasn't until reading an entire chapter on the practice, complete with a step-by-step chronology and detailed diagrams, that I fully realized the extent and intensity of the method. This guy was serious about soil health.

And so, following his advice, I decided to take an entire day and double-dig one of my back beds. The idea is to loosen and aerate your soil by digging to a depth of 24 inches (2 spades deep) (It's much deeper than you think, so get ready to burn some calories with that shovel!). The gardener tackles her plot by digging a series of trenches, each time pushing the first foot of soil into the previously dug trench, and then further loosening the second foot of soil with a spading fork. An initial layer of compost is worked onto the bed before the double digging ensues, which then gets mixed into the first foot of the soil during digging. Compaction of soil is minimized during trenching by the using of a "digging board" (see photo). If you've done it right, in the end you've given your soil a much needed boost of air space and also improved soil texture by encouraging the formation of soil aggregates. Your plant's roots will thank you for all of the extra breathing room!

Even if it's one of the most physically exhaustive things you'll do in the garden, double digging is well worth it. After you prepare a bed this way, you can immediately see the difference. The soil looks and feels much different. My newly prepared bed is now host to an assortment of melons. So far, they have no complaints!

Below is a portion of the double-digging diagram from Jeavon's book: