Sunday, September 6, 2009

Durham Market and the Search for Heritage Poultry

This weekend I went to the Durham Farmers' Market, and this was the line at Fickle Creek Farms, where they sell free range chicken and grass-fed meats, as well as an assortment of vegetables.  I didn't wait in line to see what is so special, but I am in the process of inquiring.  I bought some bison from Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm and some ground chuck from Meadow Lane Beef, LLC.  I have decided, after a month of eating no meat, and very little dairy, to bring some back into my diet - but only clean, pasture-raised meat, and either organic dairy - or dairy that is nearly organic  (and I know so because I have talked to the folks who milk the cows).

But what I am really on a quest for right now is heritage chicken.  What is that?  Something other than Cornish Cross, the chicken that has been bred to mature in six or seven weeks and to be so fat and indolent that it scarcely has the energy to find its own food, nor the same vitality to resist weather and disease as its slower-growing counterpart.  Don't get me wrong - I do appreciate the farmers who are raising free range Cornish Cross chickens, because that is infinitely preferable to the factory chicken that now appears so utterly disgusting to me.  At least these chickens are treated humanely and fed well.  (Apparently you have to be careful not to overfeed Cornish Crosses, because they don't know when to quit on their own).  Anyway, if anyone is reading this and knows of a good local source for slow-growing chickens, please let me know.

The Durham Farmers' Market had some nice veggies I hadn't seen at other markets, including some tiny eggplants (see the picture) and a number of different sources of arugula and fall lettuces growing in pots.

Here's a yummy summer dish I cooked this weekend:

Summertime Zucchini and Tomatoes

2 T olive oil
1 T butter or other oil
1/2 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
4 small zucchini, julienned
2 tomatoes, peeled & sliced vertically
2 T. fresh basil, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 T grated Italian or organic Romano or Parmesan (optional)

Slowly carmelize the onions and garlic over medium low heat until lightly brown.  Remove from pan and reserve.

Add zucchini to the pan, a little more oil if necessary, and saute until almost tender.  Add tomatoes and onion/garlic mixture, and cook briefly until tomatoes are hot and flavors combine, about three minutes.  Add basil & sprinkle with a good Italian romano or parmesan cheese right before serving, if desired.  If you are using the cheese, use less salt.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hemlock Bluffs & Leaf Shadows

Here in the Raleigh area, we have had two perfect days in a row for getting outside.  Yesterday I went to Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve for my walk.  I chose the Swift Creek Trail, an easy loop that I walked twice as I usually do.  You have to watch your step on the boardwalk, which is damp and very slippery.  The only hard part of this walk is at the end - more than 100 steps back up the bluff, with two decks with benches along the way for resting.

There are a few hemlock trees at Hemlock Bluffs, but it is not a hemlock forest.  There are some magnificent tulip trees here, among others, and many varieties of flora and fauna.  I always hear birds, and yesterday I wished I had my binoculars.

Here are a few pictures I shot along the way.

The sun was very bright and the shadows were deep and intriguing.  I began to look for shadows everywhere, and I took these pictures of the beautiful leaf patterns.  The brighter the sun is, the deeper the shadows; and a tall tree will cast a fuzzier shadow than a small bush.

Eventually, I started playing with my own shadow, and took these pictures for fun.

Stevens Nature Center, a center for educational programs and a resource in the natural history of the area, is the gateway to the trails.  Yesterday there was a small group of children on a walk with one of the park staff.  Overheard:

Child:  "Oooooh, look what I found!"
Park Staff:  "That's a chewed-up pinecone."
Child:  "Awesome!"

That child is awesome in my book.  What's awesome in yours?