Sunday, August 30, 2015

Race Recap: Red Fire Farm Tomato Trot 2015

I have fulfilled a lifelong goal. I have been awarded food as a prize for running at a modestly quick pace in a race. The dream was realized at Red Fire Farm in Granby, MA on Sunday, August 23rd during their annual "Tomato Trot 5K" cross country race through the farm fields.

Chris and I are CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members at Red Fire Farm. In case you're not familiar with the concept of CSA, a brief explanation: It's a partnership between families and farmers. We invest a small sum to "buy into" the farm at the beginning of the growing season in exchange for a weekly share of the farm's harvest. Every Thursday, Red Fire delivers a whole bunch of produce to Union Square and we stop by to pick up our share of vegetables. We really enjoy supporting this wonderful organic farm and the bounty of vegetables we receive each week is, often times, overwhelming. We don't always know exactly what we're going to get. The contents of the share depend on how things are growing in a particular season and what the farmers were able to harvest. There's a ton of variety week to week. I've learned to cook vegetables I had never heard of before joining a CSA. I still haven't figured out an appetizing preparation for kohlrabi, though. If any of you have suggestions, I'm all ears!

Each year near the end of August, Red Fire Farm hosts a Tomato Festival. The day-long event includes tasting 100+ varieties of heirloom, cherry, slicing and saucing tomatoes, cooking demonstrations and workshops, local food trucks, craft vendors, musical performances, and THE TOMATO TROT, a spirited 5K-ish race through the farm fields.

From start to finish, the 14th annual Tomato Festival was an incredible community event.

We arrived early at the farm, parked nearby, confirmed our registration and retrieved race bibs from a small tent in front of the farm, then followed the arrows on a hand drawn map to the starting line "up the street a ways". At first, it was difficult to identify where the race would start. A few runners trotted up and down the hill to warm up and stretch out, and others milled around a patch of hay we identified as the most likely start line.

Eventually, the two race coordinators, who introduced themselves by stating, "Our only distinction is that we are the fathers of the farmers," ran through the logistics while the small group of us crowded around. Because there had been heavy rain the previous day, these men had stayed up late into the night to make sure the paths were cleared and well marked with spray-painted arrows.

Never before have I competed in a race where "On your mark, get set, GO!" was immediately preceded by a poetry reading. I may have wiped a bit of dust from my eye as the men recited this passage from Robert Frost's The Tuft of Flowers:

I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the levelled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been, --alone,

As all must be,' I said within my heart,
Whether they work together or apart.'

And we were off. Here's Becca, most cheerful runner in all the land!

The first half mile of the course required cautious steps. Red spray paint marked a number of hazardous small dips and divots in the terrain. We turned a corner, and as I grew more comfortable with my footing, I was able to lift my gaze to take in the beauty of the farm. We ran through corn. We ran past flowers. We looped around melons. The mile markers weren't distinguished in any way, but the path was easy to follow and clearly marked with arrows. The field of runners was quite small (fewer than 160, I think,) and there were stretches of the course where, flanked on both sides with corn, I could see no one ahead of or behind me. I felt pleasantly alone with my feet and my breath in the fields.

Shortly after what I estimated was the 2 mile mark, I spotted a photographer as I came around the corner. Runners briefly entered the street and looped around to the front entrance of the farm, where a small, but energetic crowd cheered us down the drive, around a field, past a patch of flowers, and through a tractor-lined finish chute. A table of watermelon slices awaited us at the finish line.

There was a small clock near the finish line, but I didn't catch a glimpse of it and no official time was kept. As I crossed the finish line, someone told me, "I think you're the third woman." I feel no shame in admitting that I love to run small races because there is a far greater likelihood of finishing near the front of the pack. No shame.

I caught my breath and cheered in Ciara and Becca as they raced one another to a photo finish. It was a tie.

We snapped a finish line flower photo together and I awaited the award ceremony wondering whether I really had come in third place.

I grinned as I was awarded a melon and a farm market gift card.

We stuffed our faces with wood-fired pizza, grilled corn, ice cream, and tomatoes. So many tomatoes!

...and spent the rest of the afternoon listening to music, exploring the farm and enjoying the Vegetable Freak Show.

I promptly made use of my winnings and brought home this excellent bounty!

Thank you, Red Fire Farm, for putting on a fun and beautiful little race. I'll be back next year.

For the record, the tiny watermelon tasted like late summer candy. Please don't end, summer!

*DISCLAIMER: A handful of these photos are lifted from the Red Fire Farm Facebook page. I am grateful for them and hope they do not mind my theft!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Homemade Seitan Hot Dogs

As a kid, my number one favorite meal was Kraft macaroni and cheese with a cut up hot dog mixed in. I'd like to think my taste buds have grown up along with my developing a preference for food made from things that exist in nature. Truthfully, there is something about those nitrate-laden processed meat tubes that I still long for when grill season rolls around.

Fortunately, there is very little about proper hot dogs that resembles animal flesh, so replicating them as a vegetarian turns out to be quite easy. There are plenty of packaged veggie dog products out there (Lightlife and Tofurky make them), but the store brand veggie dogs often seem nearly as processed as regular hot dogs, just without the meat. So I set out to make my own.

In my search, I discovered that carrot hot dogs are currently a thing. That's a bit much to fathom, even for carrot-loving me. Anyone tried it?

Then I came across recipes for using vital wheat gluten to make a seitan hot dog. I'd purchased, eaten and enjoyed seitan products before (especially those from Upton's Naturals), but had never considered making my own. Mostly because I didn't really know how to make seitan or how to cook with vital wheat gluten.

Vital wheat gluten might be tricky to find in some grocery stores, but it's sold in natural foods stores (I bought Bob's Red Mill brand at Whole Foods) alongside the baking flours. Although technically not a flour itself, vital wheat gluten is made from the protein found in the endosperm of the wheat berry, which is very high in protein. Sorry gluten-free folks...seitan is your enemy. It's like a super flour with a lot of protein and very little starch. When mixed with water, it expands and becomes highly elastic. Plain seitan has a neutral flavor and a slightly rubbery texture, but it takes on the flavor of whatever spices you enhance it with and can be manipulated pretty easily to become chewy without being rubbery.

Vital wheat gluten was surprisingly easy to work with. I feared my hot dogs would fall apart on the grill or, worse yet, be incredibly mushy. Instead, the elasticity of the gluten meant it was no trouble to shape the seitan loaf into tubes and steam them. And I think they tasted pretty darn good.

Here's the recipe!

Seitan Hot Dogs
Adapted from recipes by Susan Voisin and Annie Oliverio 
Vegan. Definitely NOT gluten free.

  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup pinto beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked salt*
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke*
  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat a small-non stick skillet. Pulse onion and garlic in food processor until finely chopped, then add to skillet and cook until onion is soft, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer mixture back to food processor.
  2. Add pinto beans, water, soy sauce, tomato paste, paprika, coriander, mustard, salt, pepper, and liquid smoke to food processor. Process until you have a smooth, thin paste.
  3. Combine gluten, oatmeal, yeast, and flax in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the contents of the food processor and stir until combined. If the mixture seems too dry, you can add water by the tablespoon. Knead until a heavy gluten "dough" forms.
  4. Place a steamer in a pot of water and bring water to a boil. Cut 8 6-inch pieces of foil. Divide gluten dough into 8 pieces. Roll a piece of dough between your palms into a tube, then place it on a foil wrapper and roll securely, twisting the ends of the foil to close up. Once it's wrapped, you can roll it back and forth a few times on the counter top to make an even, cylindrical "hot dog" shape. Repeat with remaining dough to form 8 hot dogs.
  5. Place all dogs in the steamer, cover, and steam for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before unwrapping. Steamed dogs can be stored for a few days in a sealed container in the fridge. Throw them on the grill to heat up when you're ready to eat. Serve with all of the typical hot dog accoutrements.
*Both smoky ingredients are totally optional, but definitely help the dogs taste smoky and, for lack of better descriptor, hot doggy. I used Colgin liquid smoke, which can be found in the spice aisle.

Here are some less appetizing pictures of the "dough" and hot dog rolling process. I swear it tastes way better than it looks.

If you try it out, let me know what you think! Anyone else have favorite veggie dog recipes?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Good Eats On The Road

July has been a whirlwind of weekend road-tripping.

In less than 24 hours, Chris and I witnessed soccer matches at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA (USMNT vs. Haiti) and at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ (New England Revolution vs. New York Red Bulls).

My bike and I took a ride on the MBTA commuter rail for a solo beach day in Manchester-By-The Sea.

And we grinned through our favorite weekend of the year with friends and family at the Newport Folk Festival.
This photo is from the NY Times, I didn't take it!

And this photo is stolen from Matt. Thanks, Matt!
Although I deeply enjoy discovering local restaurants (and my husband is really excellent at finding them), jam-packed adventure trips tend to allow little time for eating good meals out. I loathe to sacrifice quality for convenience. After many a hangry road trip, I've nailed down a few strategies that keep me well-fed amid organized chaos on the road.

1. The cooler is my friend.
With all the tailgating we do for Revs games, our hard-walled cooler pretty much lives in the car during summer. I use it like a refrigerator on the road. I'm able to pack perishable items as long as we periodically stop at a gas station to refill our ice and drain out the cooler. The bonus of owning a smaller soft cooler and an insulated grocery bag makes it easy to carry along lunch and snacks on our outings. I also make serious use of hotel mini-fridges and abuse the hotel ice-machine. Thanks to this strategy, I never have to leave home without my yogurt and fresh fruit. No crappy granola bar breakfast for me!

2. Book AirBNB whenever we can. 
And we look for places that have a full kitchen, with a refrigerator and a stove. Having a super rental house at Newport Folk Festival allowed me to...

2. Make ahead and freeze meals to heat up.
I have a few go to meals that I can have ready and frozen. This enchilada recipe and this veggie burger recipe are among my favorites and are pretty quick to heat up.

When an oven or microwave isn't an option, I stick with a few favorite sandwiches that hold up well over the course of a day.

This summer, I've been loving a tempeh bacon BLT.

From the olden days of Asphalt Kitchen 1.0 (way back in 2011), here's a left coast veggie sandwich

and the farmer's lunch sandwich.

Portable, hand held, and delicious. Everybody wins.

3. When in doubt, Whole Foods salad bar.

Chris and I used to go out of our way on road trips to track down sweet little diners and cafes for our lunch stops. But even enlisting the luxurious 21st century assistance of smartphones with Google Maps and Yelp, we still encountered challenges finding something quick we both felt good about. Then, on one long drive home from visiting my family in NJ, we passed a highway sign for Whole Foods and pulled off the road. I got to raid the epic salad bar for tofu and sprouts and sweet potato and wild rice and kale washed down with kombucha (I fully acknowledge that I sound like a snobby yuppie/hippie right now). Chris got a handmade veggie burrito with ALL OF THE TOPPINGS. We both returned to the car full and content. And thus, the tradition of the Bean and Chris Whole Foods Road Trip Lunch Stop was born.

4. Always say yes to the local ice cream joint.

You will never have to ask me twice if I want to stop for ice cream on a summer road trip. I will eat an ice cream cone every single day in the summer.

As we head off on the road again for a real, true, honest to goodness vacation on the Cape, you can bet I have already made and frozen some dinners. The cooler is waiting to be packed. Here we go again!

I will leave you with this - the (#nofilter) view from my Saturday morning pre-festival long run in Newport, RI. It may be brutally hot outside right now, but I will take summer morning runs like this forever.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...