Category Archives: Buy Local

Spring Lavash Pizza


Spring Lavash Pizza Recipe

I call it Spring Lavash Pizza because the recipe was inspired by one main ingredient that’s harvested in the spring: stinging nettles. Which I turned into Stinging Nettles Pesto. (Wow, is that ever good!) My batch yielded about two cups so I froze some of it and then wondered what I would use the rest for.

As it turns out, the local greenhouse tomatoes were ripe at the Holland Farmers Market last Saturday (and I’ve been dying for fresh tomatoes since last November!). So I opted for an easy lavash pizza, which is made with a Bill-friendly lavash (flatbread) base from Sami’s Bakery.

Spring Nettles Pesto and Greenhouse Tomato

After toasting the bottom of the lavash on a griddle, I smeared the pesto on the lavash, then added sliced tomatoes and kalamata olives.

Spring Lavash Pizza recipe

I sprinkled the pizza with salt and pepper, added some grated Pecorino cheese, drizzled it with olive oil and broiled it for about three minutes on low.

Spring Lavash Pizza recipe

This makes a wonderful light dinner or a small plate to share. And it’s full of superfood antioxidants from the nettles!

Stinging Nettles Pesto


Stinging Nettles Pesto Recipe

The first time I came across stinging nettles I was in a friend’s back yard and he said to stay away from them or I’ll be very uncomfortable when they sting and burn my skin. Then I heard an herbalist talk about how she forages for them all around Grand Rapids, Michigan. To many people, they’re a weed and a bad memory. Others use nettles for medicinal purposes. Some even consider them a superfood. When I heard the herbalist talk about her passion for cooking nettles, I thought I’d try them sometime.

Photo via Wikipedia

Photo via Wikipedia

Recently, they were on the spring menu at Salt of the Earth, one of my favorite local restaurants. I had them as a side dish–like sautéed greens–with pork. They tasted a lot like spinach! When my CSA farmer at Mud Lake Farm emailed me that she was offering nettles in our delivery last week, I knew I had to give them a try at home. They were delivered in a plastic bag along with the order of greens Bill and I usually get.

Stinging Nettles from Mud Lake Farm

I stuck them in the fridge for a day or two until I found a recipe that sounded good. Ultimately, I settled on a pesto, inspired by two bloggers who had posted their recipes online: Jess Thomson and Michael Ruhlman.

With about 3/4 of a pound of nettles, I wasn’t sure exactly how to vary the quantities in their recipes, but I listed my approximate measurements below. (I hate measuring!) The main differences in the recipes were that I used pine nuts like Jess did, but Pecorino like Michael did (since Bill can eat sheep’s cheese but not pasteurized cow’s cheese.) It was so easy to make.

The key is NOT to touch the nettles until they are cooked. These are the tools I recommend using: rubber gloves, scissors, and tongs.

Rubber glove, scissors, and tongs for handling stinging nettles

I put a large pot of salted water on the stove with the flame on high. When it was boiling rapidly, I donned the rubber gloves as a precaution, then used the scissors to cut the bag open. I also used the scissors to trim the woody stems from the nettles. Then I took the tongs and put the nettles into the pot.

Stinging nettles recipe

After boiling for three minutes to remove the chemical that makes them sting, I put them in an ice bath, as Michael suggests on his blog. This cools them quickly so you can keep moving with your recipe.

Stinging nettles in ice bath

Then I put them in a colander, cut off more of the thicker stems, and chopped them coarsely.

Stinging Nettles recipe

Then came the fun part. All of the following ingredients went into a food processor along with the nettles:

5 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

Juice from half a lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1/3 cup Pecorino cheese, grated

1/2 tsp. salt

Ground black pepper to taste

Stinging Nettles Pesto recipe

I processed the mixture for a couple of minutes until well blended. And what I got was pesto. Just like basil pesto or spinach pesto, with lots of antioxidants. My recipe yielded about two cups…..plenty to freeze for later! Watch what I use the pesto for in my next blog post.

Stinging Nettles Pesto Recipe

The Perennial Plate: Episode 82


Warning: This video is graphic. It’s about a halal slaughterhouse in Queens, New York, that sources many of its chickens from small farms and is run by a guy who believes in the humane treatment of the animals he buys for food. And many people in the neighborhood prefer to come here and pay a premium for natural, free-range, organic, or pastured chickens rather than paying cheap prices at the grocery store down the street because of the way the chickens are slaughtered and processed.

Potager Restaurant: Simple Cooking, Simple Eating


Potager Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

“A good kitchen respects its sources and chooses ingredients that are sound, seasonal, and local whenever possible.” That’s why the menu at Potager Restaurant in Denver, Colorado, changes monthly, adapting to the seasons.

Potager Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Run by Teri Rippeto and her father, Tom, who believe the best tasting food is organically grown, and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound by people who take care of the land, the restaurant’s ingredients are sourced from a network of like-minded suppliers they know personally and trust. I love it when restaurants list their sources on the menu!

Potager Restauran, Denver, Colorado

In April, Bill and I enjoyed a dinner at Potager with family members and were not disappointed.

Menu, April 13, Poteger Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Because so many dishes on the menu looked enticing, I ordered several appetizers to appease my curiosity: White Bean and Spring Greens Soup, Oxford Farm Kale Salad, and Home-made Beef and Pork Sausage. (Ordering a variety of small plates seems to be a trend for me lately! I did the same thing at Five Bistro in St. Louis.)

White Bean and Spring Greens Soup, Potager Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Oxford Farm Kale Salad, Poteger Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Home-made Beef and Pork Sausage, Poteger Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Bill ordered the Triple M Bar Ranch Grass-fed Red Wine and Thyme-Braised Lamb Shanks. Like many high-quality locavore restaurants, they were able to accommodate his wheat allergy by substituting the accompanying couscous with roasted potatoes.

Grass-Fed Thyme-Braised Lamb Shanks, Poteger Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

I tried a bite of niece Kristin’s pizza. It was wood-fired and covered in arugula– and so flavorful from the goat cheese. Delish!

Pizza

At Potager, they believe the meal is “the center of human existence.” And the table is where “we are nourished, put in touch with the source of life, and reconnected to traditions.” It’s simple cooking and simple eating, honoring the season and honoring the people that grow, raise, and harvest the food.

Poteger Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Check it out next time you’re in Denver!

Potager Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Five Bistro: An Experience for All Five of Your Senses


Five Bistro Restaurant, St. Louis, Missouri

When Bill and I travel, food is a primary focus. So when we planned a road trip to the Plains with a stop in St. Louis, we looked for a farm-to-table restaurant for our dinner. And we hit the gold mine at Five Bistro, where “Chef Devoti and his staff are committed to providing a memorable dining experience that evokes all five of your senses.”

Five Bistro Restaurant, St. Louis, Missouri

One of my favorite attributes about locavore restaurants is when they cite the sources (i.e., farms) for their food. Another is when they align their menu offering with the season. That’s why the menu changes daily.

Five Bistro menu April 9, 2013

After an amuse bouche of arancini (fried risotto ball), we began with the house-made charcuterie, which was excellent and included sausages, rabbit confit, cured meats, pates, pickles, a smoked chicken egg (!), shitake mushrooms, mustard, and cherry jam. It’s flavorful and filling.

Arancini

House-made charcuterie at Five Bistro

That’s why I opted for a soup and salad approach for dinner. There were so many great things to choose from but I didn’t want to over-eat. So I got the potato soup-puree and farm salad with local field greens and lamb pastrami.

Potato soup-puree

Farmers salad with local field greens and lamb pastrami

Bill got the half chicken (with stinging nettles….yum!).

Roasted chicken

And for dessert? What could be happier than cheesecake made with goat cheese and topped with a strawberry compote?

Goat cheese cheesecake

Our meal really did appeal to all five senses. We had a wonderful seat at the front window of the restaurant, which is located in The Hill district of St. Louis. The food tasted and smelled delicious, and it felt wonderful in our mouths. The background music provided an ambience without being disruptive.

And, I’d like to add a special thanks to our server, who we appreciated for her knowledge about the menu, the restaurant’s philosophy, and food issues in general. It’s always a great experience when the staff is as involved in the food experience as the chef. Five Bistro is a must-do for locavores in St. Louis.

Five Bistsro Restaurant, St. Louis, Missouri

Chez Marcita Presents: Raw Milk Butter


Can you imagine the doors that were opened when Bill and I learned that he could eat butter made from raw milk? For years, he’s had an allergy to cow-dairy products. But a friend of ours learned that pasteurization is what causes the allergic reaction for many people, including her son. So when we had the opportunity to try raw milk, and found out Bill’s system could handle it, it meant more options on the menu. Ice cream! Butter! Buttermilk! Now we’re making butter with the raw milk we get from our local cow share program. Watch this video on how to make butter from raw milk. It’s simple and easy, and a decadent treat to have on hand.

Know Thy Customer


One of my top-five favorite restaurants in the country is Blue Hill at Stone Barns, up the hill from Tarrytown, New York. For me living in Michigan it’s like a pilgrimage to go there because executive chef Dan Barber is more than a creative culinary artist. He’s an inspiration for home cooks and anyone who eats (that’s everyone!) by creating consciousness around everyday food choices. Three years ago I made the pilgrimage to Stone Barns with my friend and fellow home-chef, Cathy. When we visited this year, we brought Bill.

Arriving at our table we found a Field and Pasture Four Season Journal that lists the potential harvest by month. I loved reading the list and anticipating what we might be eating that night.

Field and Pasture Food Journal

Field and Pasture Food Journal - March

On the restaurant’s website there’s a phrase: Know Thy Farmer. Dan Barber’s philosophy is that great cooking starts with great ingredients. And great ingredients start with great farmers. You can find all the local farms that inspire the menus at both Stone Barns and Blue Hill New York (in Manhattan) by scrolling over a map on their webpage.

But I’d like to offer a new phrase that incorporates both restaurants’ philosophy: Know Thy Customer. The staff goes out of its way to accommodate people with food allergies, like Bill. At Stone Barns, where each meal is a “farmers’ feast” comprised of multi-course tastings from the day’s harvest, no meal is alike. It’s amazing to see how meals are customized for each person. It’s not just about food allergies; it’s about making your experience delightful by being attentive to your preferences–all within the confines of a seasonal harvest.

Here were our preferences for ingredients to avoid:

Bill: Wheat, corn, cow-dairy

Cathy: Mayonnaise

Marcia: Shellfish, mushrooms

We decided upon the 8-course feast, which means a variety of dishes keep coming out over a timespan of two to three hours.

The Vegetables on a Fence was the first to arrive, along with Pickled Asparagus and an egg-yolk dip (that I cannot remember the name of!). We were also given a pot of pea shoots, along with pruning shears (in foreground) with which to cut off the shoots. These were then dragged through the citrus-pepper oil shown on the white ceramic plank.

Vegetables on a Fence and Pickled Asparagus

One of the favorites among the three of us was the “make your own tacos” course served with celery root tortillas. Yes! Tortillas made from celery root! In the center was a nice arrangement of shrimp and mussels, which Cathy and Bill enjoyed. I got to have fresh spinach as a substitute for shellfish.

Make your own tacos

Celery root tortillas

And when Cathy and I were served Red Fife Bread with Marmalade of Greens and Fresh Ricotta, Bill had wedge of roasted rutabaga.

Roasted rutabaga

Because it’s not the time of year for beef, we enjoyed a Parsnip Steak instead, cut  tableside by our server. The way it was prepared, you would have thought you were eating steak. It was so delicious.

Parsnip Steak cut tableside

Parsnip Steak

To see the other courses we enjoyed, check out the slideshow below. We really enjoyed our meal and the excitement of wondering what would be served next.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Chez Marcita Presents: St. Paddy’s Lamb Stew


I’m not Irish, but I love lamb. What could be better for St. Patrick’s Day than lamb stew? Join Bill and me in the kitchen as we create this wheat-free, dairy-free, corn-free one-pot meal. Find the recipe on page 40 of my cookbook, Nothing to Sneeze At: Main Dishes for People with Allergies.

Chez Marcita Presents: Bill’s Fab Meatloaf


I already posted Bill’s meatloaf recipe a few years ago on Life Is Fare, but now you can see the chef in action as he prepares this cozy comfort food. It’s wheat-free, corn-free, and dairy-free, and made with grassfed beef and pastured pork. Happy food heaven!

Chez Marcita Presents: A Classic Rock Trip to the CSA


Join Bill and me as we drive across town to pick up produce from our winter CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Lakeshore Family Farm. In this short video, we’ll explain how a CSA works and show you what we got in our half share one week in February. Special thanks to Grand Rapids radio station WLAV for providing a rockin’ soundtrack for a Wednesday afternoon road trip.

Please share this post with your friends, especially those who might want to learn more about a CSA program.