Produce of the Week - American Food
sponsored by Coleman Farms
When I was in school, we were taught that agriculture began in the 'Fertile Crescent' in the Near East with the domestication of wheat and barley, goats and cattle. There's something a bit funny about this if you think about chicken and rice, both of which are products of the Far East, or about rye, buckwheat and oats, which favor a northern clime. Still, it's possible that while these things were domesticated far from the Fertile Crescent, but only after the concept of agriculture had spread from there.
And then, there are the Americas. Indigenous agriculture in Mexico, Central America and the Andes developed a large range of products - fruit, vegetables and grain - dating from roughly the same time as similar developments in the Near East. It's difficult to see how the development of agriculture in the Americas was not completely independent from that in the Old World, yet even emminent geographers seem to overlook this.
You can do something about this by eating American. Our photo this week features some Made in America items: Beans (Pinto and Black), Chile (in this case hot peppers, flaked), Tomato and Squash. This is the basis of a meal.
You've already soaked and cooked the beans. Prepare the squash by peeling, seeding and dicing (we're assuming Winter or hard squash). You also want something oniony. Indigenous agriculture included varieties of Alium, but you're unlikely to find this at the Farmer's Market (though you could try Earth Tryne or Coleman Farms for wild garlic) so you'll have to settle for Old World onions and garlic.
Put some beans, the squash and onion/garlic and chopped tomato, if you like, in a little water in a covered saucepan and cook slowly until done. "Done" can mean what you want - from slightly al dente to dissolved for the squash, depending on your taste and the variety. If you have several varieties of squash, by all means cook several at once, as they'll likely offer different textures and flavors. Spoon this stuff onto a warmed tortilla - it must be corn, remember - add chopped tomato, if you haven't cooked it and chile. You can add Oregano, though for authenticity you should try to get one or both of the Lippia family, 'Mexican Oregano' and Pipicha (see vendors named above), and you have an All American burrito, or something. Made a bit wet, you've got a stew that can be thickened with strips of less than fresh tortilla, or you've got a sauce or side for grains.
There are other things you might add, of course. The nutrition, texture and flavor of potato compliments squash and beans. If you want to add potato, cut it into chunks and put it on top of everything else, out of reach of the water, where it can steam for as long as you want without turning to mush. The chunks should be small enough that the potato is done by the time the squash is ready.
Greens are a bit difficult, not because the Americans didn't have them, but because such things as the Chauals and Amaranth won't be available for a few months yet. I'm not sure about Dandelion - it mixes well, but where did it come from, and is it really domesticated, in any case?
If you want grain to go with it, you've got Amaranth, Quinoa,Maize and Wild Rice. If you want meat, then you'll have to hunt, fish, or settle for turkey, llama/alpaca, or guinea pig. Cheese, rice and wheat - whole or in the form of pasta - go very well with this mixture, but you'll have to wait for the Europeans. In the meantime, find a nice avocado, and think about the chocolate for dessert.
Apart from the tortilla and chocolate, everything mentioned is available at the Farmer's Market at some time. It may be late for dried beans, but Tutti Frutti, Windrose and Tom Shepherd are worth trying. You can get hydroponic tomatoes from Balik. A number of vendors should still have winter squash, and if you're lucky you may find an avocado.