Inspiration at the Farmer’s Market

11 May

I think that I must have been a farmer in another life.

There’s nothing that gets me more motivated to eat well and eat clean than to buy groceries fresh from their sources. I have accepted that this means putting a few extra dollars aside every week, but it is a.) incredibly important to support local farms that focus on sustainable agriculture and b.) much better for all who eat my cooking to not be unwillingly inundated with extra hormones/salt solutions…etc.

It was with that motivation that I set out for a Saturday morning trip to the Arlington Farmer’s Market. For many folks, the image of these street markets conjures up thoughts of craft stands with the occasional person selling homemade preserves or fresh herbs. Arlington’s market, however, is a clean eater’s paradise. There’s a vendor for nearly any grocery item you might need including (but not limited to) a baker that sells whole-grain products (some gluten-free items), several dairy farmers featuring fresh eggs, milk, and cheese, veggie/fruit farmers with produce of all kinds, tomato and herb plants, livestock farmers selling meat and poultry, a mushroom vendor with a wide variety of types, and even someone selling raw honey. The Master Gardener’s club also has a tent on-site to answer any gardening questions people purchasing plants might have.

This week’s trip yielded a whole chicken, some buffalo burgers and jerky, pork chops, vine tomatoes, homemade ricotta (which is so good that eating it out of the container with a spoon is perfectly acceptable) and mozzarella cheeses, a dozen eggs, two giant portobello mushrooms, baby arugula, romaine lettuce and a sweet onion.

Many of the farms are located in Loudon County, which is having their spring farm tour this coming weekend. I’ve already decided that I want to visit one of the places where you can gather your own eggs, but it’s also getting close to the time of year when strawberries are candy-like, so…decisions, decisions!

Anyway, my motivating trip to the market segued nicely into cooking. Looking to use up some of the grains I had around, I decided that pizza dough was in order…

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups whole grain spelt flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup whole grain durum flour (Usually labeled as semolina, has the consistency of fine cornmeal)
1/2 tbsp. light olive oil or grapeseed oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast
1 cup warm water (105-110 degrees F)
1 tsp. sucanat or evaporated palm sugar

The method is the same as you’d do for any normal yeast based pizza dough…

*Dissolve the sucanat in the warm water and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow this to sit for 5 minutes or until the yeast foams.

*In a separate bowl, combine the flours and salt. Make a well in the center and gently pour in the yeast/sucanat/water mixture.

*Add the olive oil.

*Mix until a soft dough forms and then turn out onto a board lightly dusted whole wheat pastry flour. Knead 10-15 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

*Roll the dough into a ball and put it in a bowl that has been greased lightly with olive oil. Toss to coat the dough with the oil and then cover with a towel and allow it to rise for one hour.

*Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

*Punch the dough down and allow it to rise for another half-hour.

*Now, you’re ready to bake! Stretch the dough out on a cookie sheet or pizza stone, top with your favorites, and bake for 15 minutes. (I made some homemade sauce out of those vine tomatoes and topped with the fresh mozzarella and a few dollops of ricotta)

NOTE: I did a slow-rise with this the first time I made it (24 hours in the fridge as opposed to 1 hour in a warm place), but it came out a touch tough. I prefer a crust that is crisp on the outside, but has a little softness to the bite.

A common complaint from people who try this and other whole-grain based breads/crusts is that it’s heavy. Yes, it’s true. I ate one piece of this pizza and was full for the rest of the afternoon. (Joe had two pieces and was full to give you an idea of how the average stomach reacts.)

You’re absolutely going to feel full. Eating whole grains means that you’ve got to digest every part of the grain including the germ, bran, and kernel. It takes a lot of time and effort for the body to do that. When you eat refined flour, a lot of those elements get taken away, thus it takes more to fill you up. This is, I think, the main issue in the American diet that causes weight trouble. Most of what’s hanging out on the grocery store shelves contains huge amounts of highly-refined ingredients, which in turn allow us to eat large quantities without feeling full. Add sugar, fat, and salt and you’ve created the drug that so many of us get hooked on.

Fortunately, many farmer’s markets (including Arlington for those of you in my area) stay open year-round, and more and more natural food stores are opening up and forcing competition with some of the chains. While it’s still more expensive than a trip to Safeway, I find that I am able to stretch the ingredients I buy further because I’m eating less. (We did have more than half of a pizza left yesterday!)

If you want to try some different flavors, replace the whole wheat pastry flour with garbanzo bean or white bean flour. It’s a neat texture difference and really nice if you have a bit of a gluten-sensitivity(it is not, however, gluten-free).

That’s all for now! Hopefully, the next few weeks will mean more time to experiment while I’m on break from school. If you have a recipe that you’d like to see reformed for a clean diet, please shoot me an e-mail at bananafish711@gmail.com. I’d be glad to give it a go!

Ciao friends!
-Neen

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