During my Eastern Market cooking demos, I am often asked, “Do you only cook with organic ingredients?”
The answer? “No.” I prefer organic, but I put my full faith in farmers. The reality is that raising and selecting healthy food is more complicated than a single factor, like organic. There are highly toxic organic pest and disease controls. And who has certified the food to be organic, the USDA? Those standards are too broad to be meaningful, and don’t cover important health and flavor factors like soil nutrition, cultivar selection and harvest and storage practices.
Develop relationships with farmers and their food. Ask them where it was grown*. If it tastes amazing when you bring it home, go back to them and buy more. If you’ve never been to the market before, watch the locals.
At the end of the day, I trust that they are experts in growing healthy and flavorful food. Like electricity or aspirin, some chemical pest and disease controls are okay, used properly. That’s part of the expertise of farming.
My farmers sell me and my family the same food they serve their own families. Their livelihood depends on being able to look me in the eye, confident I will return healthy and happy the following week.
So, when Marvin at Long Meadow Farms told me his Gold Rush apples had stored well over the winter, that they were nice and crisp, despite wrinkled skins, I trusted him. And they were delicious.
*Sometimes I hear people complain that farmers sell produce they didn’t grow themselves. Farmers are often part of local agricultural communities. They have friends and neighbors who grow great food too. Growing everything yourself isn’t a pre-requisite for being a great purveyor of delicious, healthy farm-fresh produce.
Golden Apple Oyster Mushroom Salad
- 2 tbs butter
- 2 cups chopped Oyster mushrooms
- 2 tbs brandy
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1/3 cup Blackberry Balsamic or balsamic vinegar*
- 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp honey
- 2/3 cup Koroneiko or another high- quality, light, grassy olive oil*
- 1 pound baby spinach
- 2 Gold Rush or other golden apples cut in matchsticks
*Blackberry Balsamic vinegar and Koroneiko olive oil are available in Washington, DC or online from Sapore Oil and Vinegar.
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until softened.
- Deglaze pan with brandy. Cook until evaporated and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- While mushrooms cook, whisk together shallot, Blackberry Balsamic vinegar, mustard and honey with a pinch each of salt and pepper.
- When mushrooms finish, whisk oil into vinegar mixture. Taste with spinach and adjust seasoning.
- Lightly dress spinach and top with mushrooms and apples.