Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nicole's Fried Pink Tomato, Basil Ricotta, Southern Grit Cake, and Lemon Zucchini Stack...

Ok, please keep in mind, I'm terrible at following recipes and even worse at writing them.  I'm a farmer and a foodie, so I use recipes more for inspiration than a rule.  Please feel free to treat the following the same...

Fried Pink Tomato, Basil Ricotta, Grit Cake and Lemon Zucchini Stack

Fried Pink Tomatoes - The only real suggestion here is to use green tomatoes that are just turning pink.  The flavor is so much better than entirely green tomatoes, yet they still hold together when fried.  Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick.  I pre-soak the tomato slices in an egg and sour cream mixture prior to coating with the flour mixture.  I use a 50/50 combination of flour and corn meal and a cajun blend for seasoning.    While tomatoes are frying, make the ricotta mixture.

Basil Ricotta - 2 cups of ricotta and 12 basil leaves (chiffonade), mix together with salt and pepper to taste.  Cut recipe in half for a smaller batch.  Hold in fridge until stack is assembled.

Grit Cake - You can use leftover grits from b'fast, or make a batch a couple hours prior to making cakes.  Spread grits (I make mine with cheese) onto a sheet pan and let cool in the fridge.  Slice through sheet of grits with a knife in order to create squares the same size as the fried tomatoes.  Brown both sides of grit cake in a thin layer of oil.  I prefer to use a ghee/coconut oil mixture.  While grit cakes are browning, make lemon zucchini.

Lemon Zucchini - Use a mandolin or peeler with a julienne blade to shave the flesh off of two medium zucchinis.  The result will be spaghetti like ribbons of zucchini.  Add the juice of half a lemon, or a 1 T of lemon extract  (easy to make with lemon peel and organic vodka).  Season with salt and pepper. 

Stack ingredients in order of recipe.  Feel free to sub out zucchini for cucumber, and grits for leftover risotto.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Organic Community...

Finally! It seems as though we've passed through a grueling winter (at least for us southern folks) into the new life of spring. As icy cold dormancy gives way to buds and blooms, gardening and farming enthusiasts prepare for the fruitfulness of spring and summer. As a board member of 180 Degree Farm (http://www.180degreefarm.org) I've observed Scott and Nicole Tyson’s passion for gardening organically as well as the fruitful results of their passion. What I've learned from them is that organic gardening is much more than growing fruits and veggies
without using man made chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Stated more fully, it’s about cultivating an ecosystem that provides a naturally sustainable environment for healthy, fruitful plant life.

As I've observed 180 Degree Farm on the journey of cultivating this kind of ecosystem, it’s plain to see that this is not the quickest method for growing food, nor the easiest; but it is, without a doubt, abundantly fruitful and sustainable. The Tyson’s have tirelessly worked to build the foundation of healthy soil, made up of the right combination of minerals, organic matter, and micro and macro organisms that can support healthy plant life. With persevering tenacity, they have naturally fought back the unending invasion of pests which seek to devour their harvest and the steady encroachment of weeds which steal valuable nutrients from the soil. And, with continual care they feed their plants naturally, to produce a fruitful harvest. In an age that rewards the quick and easy route to production, I’m continually encouraged with Scott and Nicole’s faithfulness to the hard work of sustainable reproductive life.

As I overlay the organic mindset on my context as a pastor of an evangelical church, I identify with the need and desire to cultivate a healthy, sustainable spiritual ecosystem. So often in the church, the goal is to have as many people as possible, gathered as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Like in the "productive" industrial food system, there often appears to be healthy growth and fruitfulness, but over time we begin to understand that the unnatural practices employed to realize this production aren't feasibly sustainable. If we aren't careful, people created in the image of God, destined for His glory, can be perceived as mere consumers of our religious products and engaged strictly on that level. For instance, there are many "consumers" out there who have particular tastes as it relates to church life and the tendency is to create spiritual mono-cultures which accommodate those particular preferences. The result is a homogenous group of people who have the same desires and function in similar fashion during the church's gatherings or programs. Although this environment is ideal for creating uniformity along with rapid production growth, I believe it stands in contrast to God's creative desire to establish the unity of the Spirit in the abundant diversity of the body. The Apostle Paul points to this variety in the body, cultivated by the perfect union of the Trinity, in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6.

There are many parallels to church life we can draw from the organic vs. industrial food system discussion, but the question remains; will the church enter fully into the hard work of cultivating a healthy reproductive ecosystem rather than the quick and seeming productive work of providing for consumers? Will we embrace a diverse understanding of the body of Christ, intentionally involving everyone in the process of cultivation, or stick with environments that celebrate the few staple leaders who provide for the masses? Will we continually plant in the natural soil of unconditional love for healthy relationships with one another and the world, or
spread the unnatural pesticides of surface relational connection, avoidance of conflict, and judgmental perspectives? Will we cultivate an ecosystem which deeply connects and reproduces the family of God for His mission in the earth, or stay content in organizational structures that establish a contrived secular and sacred dichotomy in life? My hope and prayer is that we can learn from the Tyson's in their pursuit of a natural reproductive ecosystem on their farm, and join them in the hard but rewarding work of organic life.

Brent Anderson
Pastor of Senoia Vineyard Community Church

Monday, February 3, 2014

Letting Animals Do The Work...

One of the many good things I've experienced about farming over the years is how gratifying it can be to let animals participate in farm work.  It saves us the back breaking labor it would take to pull the weeds, lowers our fertilizer bill, and makes the animals very happy. 

In January, as we do most winters, we move the geese and ducks into the fields or trellis areas where vegetables grew over the summer/fall.  Most areas that don't have crops growing have either clover or rye planted as our cover crop, along with a few weeds.  Their job -eat, poop, and lay eggs!  We simply take two lengths of electric fencing (328 ft) to enclose the area we want serviced and move them in. 

During this time, we will benefit from a weed free or nearly weed free field.  As the geese eat the weeds, the ducks will also drill into the ground, eating larvae and grubs that would be future pests during the spring and summer.  It's a win-win!

In this picture, the ducks and geese are in an area that we had tomatoes growing over the summer. They'll be in this area for about a week or so and during that time, they will clear out all of the weeds and deposit plenty of manure.  Once they move on to a new paddock, the manure will have time to rest and get broken down into the soil before we plant this area in mid-spring.  

Another benefit - beautiful orange yolks from the eggs we collect!  Delish!