Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Food & Mood ~ The Missing Link

By Kelly Lang, Holistic Health Coach & Co-op Wellness Educator

In the age of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, most people are making food choices based on how it will impact their physical health. Sadly, it may not be until one of these conditions surfaces that someone will even think of focusing on healthier eating. A person who is thin and physically healthy might feel like their food choices don’t make a whole lot of difference or they might believe that they can eat “whatever they want” since there is no weight gain or obvious affect on health.The missing consideration is that food affects more than just our physical health, and it is, in fact, a key influence on mood and mental capacity as well. Our brains, like any other organ, require nutrients for proper functioning... (Learn more and register for one of the two FREE classes)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

April Fool's Cheese Class

by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist

Nobody likes to look a fool and especially when you are in front of family and friends. So, can you look at a cheese plate and know whether that is a stinky muenster from France or a milder domestic muenster? Will a block of low fat mozzarella have the same taste and texture of fresh mozzarella in a caprese salad? Should you serve on the side of your dessert a scoop of ricotta or mascarpone? Or do you want to pair your crackers and fruit with an Italian or Swedish Fontina? Thankfully Heidi, the Co-op's cheese expert was there to help us see, smell and taste the difference so we can enjoy our cheese the way it was made to be enjoyed.

First up Heidi asked us to try the mozzarella's. I had enjoyed the fresh Maplebrook Mozzarella's before and I found this easy to tell the difference. of course the fresh is going to be what you want to serve in your caprese salad. The low fat is firmer and has very little flavor. The fresh mozzarella is soft, melt in your mouth with a salty finish, perfect with basil, tomatoes, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a shake of salt and freshly cracker pepper.
Next we tried the mascarpone and ricotta. I am sure you will be able to tell the difference visually but what would you serve with a pastry dessert? I personally think the mascarpone is smoother and more buttery. A dollop of that on my cherry turnover would definitely go well or use in a cheesecake recipe, yum! The ricotta is a little grainer and lower fat. You really can substitute one for the other, but it doesn't have that rich creaminess like the mascarpone. The ricotta also has a higher moisture content, so if you were to use it in pastries it might not hold together as well.

Get ready to hold your nose if you want to try a French muenster! Definitely not what I was expecting after having tried domestic munster cheese here in the US. It is rather mild when you are talking about stinky cheeses, so a great introduction for enjoying something different. The texture was soft with a nice bloomy rind and the taste was amazing, but I don't think I would want to talk to someone afterwards, pee-yew! The domestic munster was very mild and firm with the tell-tale orange exterior. Beware if you see a French muenster on a cheese plate, make sure you have something to wash it down with after you enjoy.
Lastly we tried an Italian and Swedish fontina. While they both have mild nutty flavors the Swedish fontina is aged a little longer creating a firmer more earthy flavor. I think I preferred the Italian fontina for a cracker plate with freshly sliced peaches and a glass of Riesling. But don't take my word for it, try them!

During our cheese tasting class, Tracey was pouring us samples of Gen5 wines, the Co-op Wines of the Month (April 2015). We started off with a glass of the Chardonnay that I thought went well with the mozzarellas. Slightly chilled, this is a great Spring wine to break out with friends. Next we tried the Old Vine Zinfandel with the mascarpone and ricotta. This was an interesting combination. With each sip and taste of cheese the flavor would evolve on your tongue. It was like I was drinking two different glasses of wine depending on the lingering taste from the cheese in my mouth, quite enjoyable. Next Tracey poured the Cabernet Sauvignon, a stable for any wine rack. The fruity flavor will make any guest feel welcome in your home. Then lastly as a treat Tracey poured us a glass of Love, Oregon Riesling. A higher end bottle to impress the wine aficionado in your life, grab a bottle next time you need a host gift, they will know you mean it.
If you would like to join us next time, topic to be determined, register online before it sells out! Click here!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why You May or May Not Have "Gluten Issues"

by Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Gluten - the sticky, glue-like protein in wheat and its relatives as well as barley and rye (and hidden in many other foods) - is the "in" thing to avoid right now. The number of American households seeking gluten-free foods has increased dramatically over the past ten years, with 30 percent of U.S. adults currently trying to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diets. Why? Most shoppers believe GF products are healthier. For people who embark on the personal experiment of going GF without any particular diagnosis, those who stick with it say they feel remarkably better. Digestive complaints, skin issues, mood, inflammation, autoimmune disease... gone or dramatically reduced. Why do so many people have "gluten issues" nowadays? While some of it might be more trend than reality, there are several key reasons why an individual might do better ditching the gluten... (read more)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

International Cuisine at the Concord Food Co-op

by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist

The Celery Stick Café chefs have been creating some amazing regionally inspired dishes for the Co-op's World Cuisine Tour on the hot bar, Thursday's now through April 16, 2015. If you haven't been in yet during the tour to try the food, you are missing out! Make a lunch date this Thursday, March 26 at the Co-op to enjoy the Western European cuisine on the hot bar. The menu will include pissaladiere, a French inspired pizza topped with onions, anchovies and olives or hachis Parmentier, which is basically the French version of Shepard's pie with a luxurious Lyonnais sauce. There will also be fish pie and scotch eggs, inspired by English picnic style food, so grab a to-go container to enjoy later!

There will also be a free wine tasting this week from 4 pm - 6 pm. One of our favorite wine reps, Derek will come by to sample bottles of wine from Southwestern Europe to complement the hot bar menu. Adults, make sure you stop by to try something new or ask Derek your wine-y questions.

Now, just to let you know what you have either enjoyed or missed, in the previous weeks of the World Cuisine Tour we let our taste buds travel to the Mediterranean, Pacific East, Eastern Europe, Southwestern Europe and Middle East. Some of those highlights included Italian inspired Pork Ossobuco with Gremolata, Japanese Miso and Soy Chilean Sea Bass, Chinese Classic Kung Pao Chicken, Russian Beef Stroganoff, Greek Pulled Pork Gyros, Spanish Paella, Turkish Kofta Balls and so much more! Where else in Concord, NH could you enjoy such a mix of international flavors for only $8.99/lb?

The fun never ends at the Co-op, as well as enjoying exotic flavors for lunch and dinner, Co-op diners have also had the opportunity to collect Co-op passport stamps each week in their free Co-op passports to be entered to win tickets to the Co-op Farm to Table Appreciation Dinner on Friday, August 14 at Canterbury Shaker Village, that's a $250 value!
If you haven’t picked up a free Co-op passport yet, we have added more prizes and more chances to win! For every stamped page in your Co-op passport receive a raffle ticket to win awesome prizes like cookbooks, Co-op cutting boards, Co-op vests and more! Just show your Co-op passport on Thursday’s during the World Cuisine Tour to receive your tickets. Drawing to be held on April 17th, 2015.
The Co-op's marketing team will be ready to give you your stamped Co-op passport and raffle tickets this Thursday just for joining us for lunch and dinner from the hot bar. For more details visit... http://concordfoodcoop.coop/worldtour/
 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Now on to Pizza

by Wesley Hatch Co-op Produce Clerk
Click here to read Part 1.

Pizza: in my mind the word conjures bubbling cheese and… Oh just shut up and tell how to make a sourdough pizza already.
First, you need to make “the proof,” which gives your pizza dough its flavor.
1 cup sourdough leaven culture
2 cups flour
1 cup warm water
In much the same way we fed the leaven, we will create a larger mixture with — you guessed it — equal parts flour and water. This mixture, called, according to Ed Wood, a proof, or a poolish, is where much of the flavor of the final dough will be derived. Although varying times of fermentation are offered across the sourdough world, it is safe to assume that any time beyond 5 hours is probably enough time for the flavor to form and to begin fermenting.
Mix the ingredients and leave the proof covered with cloth for five to 12 hours. You’ll only need 2 cups of the final proof for your pizza recipe; you can use the remainder for something else or compost it.
Now, to make your pizza dough...
2 cups of your proof
1 to 2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups of flour
Cornmeal or semolina
Combine 2 cups of the proof in a new, large container with salt, oil, and warm water. Mix thoroughly.
Now, one cup at a time, add the flour to the main mixture. Try to incorporate as much of the flour into the liquid as possible, scrapping down the sides as you go. By the second cup, your dough should begin to take shape: lumpy mess of flour. In my experience, whenever I add all the suggested flour, the final dough is too dry. Therefore, try adding the last cup a bit at time to ensure a moist dough.
After the dough has formed and you’ve added all the flour the dough needs, sprinkle some flour onto a cutting board or countertop.
 

Use 1/4 cup of flour measured out so that you do not keep going back for more four as you knead the dough. Knead the dough on the flour-covered surface by pressing down firmly with the palm of your hand, folding the dough onto itself, and pressing down again, turning the folds so the dough is kneaded evenly (check out videos online for kneading tips. Youtube has plenty).
Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, soft to the touch, anywhere from three to ten minutes depending on the hardiness of your flour. Place the dough in a clean bowl with enough space for it to double as it rises. Cover with moist cloth, leave in warm area, and wait for the dough to rise. This may take quite a few hours.
After the rise, some people like to deflate the dough and allow to rise for a few more hours, but I find in the early dough's I make with a fresh leaven, the yeast is not powerful enough to rise the dough a second time.
Place the dough on the cutting board or countertop, cut into 3 to 4 equal pieces, and set aside all but 1 piece.
No matter what your dough looks like or rises like, if it’s somewhat flat and covered in tasty bits, mostly it’ll taste good. Hope for solid dough all the way through and people will be happy to eat your pizza.
(Here I must confess, I most often use frozen dough. As you’ve seen so far, sourdough is a lengthy process that is not perfectly attuned to a busy life. Therefore, I compensate by creating large batches of dough at once and freezing them for later use. This provides two benefits: first, convenience to have tasty sourdoughs whenever my hand dares reach into the cold confines of the freezer. Second, to provide a chance for the dough to fully form. Call me crazy, but I have found time and time again that the unthawed dough I use for my pizza to be more whole, to be bounded together tighter than the dough I use fresh. I remain strong by my words: freezing the dough is more convenient, less wasteful, and lends solidification to my otherwise amateur dough. But onward, bakers!)
Gather all your pizza toppings together, pre-heat your oven and your baking stone to 450, and roll out the dough. With the dough on a floured surface, begin flattening the dough from the center, making sure you distribute evenly. Use a rolling pin to flatten further. If you’re chancy, try tossing the dough in the air in a circular motion to help flatten it out. Shape to desired thickness, keeping in mind the rising of the dough will change increase the thickness.

If you don’t have a baking stone, any flat pan big enough to hold the pizza will do, though it is not necessary to preheat other pans. When you are ready to assemble your pizza, dust the pan with cornmeal or semolina to keep the dough from sticking. Many recipes call for a pre-cook of the dough before the toppings are added. Although I did not do this, it would have been a good idea as my dough was slightly undercooked. If using fresh mozzarella, which tends to be much wetter, a pre-cook for the dough can help ensure against a soggy middle.
Assemble your pizza. Cook until the cheese begins to brown and bubble, the crust becomes crispy, and the bottom is browned.
Carefully take out of the oven, meanwhile taking in all those enticing smells. Let cool for five to seven minutes, resisting the urge to gobble it up, thereby allowing the pizza to rest.
Cut it up and share with someone you love.

And there you have it, a fully formed ready to eat pizza, risen by yeast you invited to your home and feed and kept comfortable until you called upon them to do you a service. The world is a mysterious place, indeed.
Now to the philosophizing: I say at this point in time, pizza is a near universal concept, like books and cars. I mean pizza’s been round, in one form or another, since the Neolithic age. In human years, that’s a ways back, like, imagine the not-yellow, Greek Homer sitting on a break from reciting war at the Gates of Troy eating a slice covered in melted sheep’s cheese given by a passing shepherd and olives and olive oil drizzled over the top baked under a starry night, the same stars we see now. Pizza’s been there for us, through thick and thin these meals of ours, these moments of departure from the daily grind. And what more ancient way to enjoy pizza than with yeast invited from the air around us, baked with as many local products as possible, and shared with friends and family? I’d say pizza’s about as human as it gets.
Thanks for reading, and happy eating friends.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What Cheese is that?

by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist

In March, Heidi tested our sense of sight, smell and taste with the knowledge we have learned throughout the previous cheese tasting classes with a "cheese-off". On our plates Heidi served 4 pairs of cheeses and we had to figure out which was which. This was a fun class and would make a great wine and cheese night with friends, just remember to mark the order of the cheeses somewhere so you can tell what you are tasting afterwards.

So the pairings Heidi had for us where:
  • Henri Hutin Couronne Brie from the Isle de France, France vs Camembert Le Chatelain from Normandy, France.
  • Cambozola from Bavaria, Germany vs d'Affinois Blue from the Rhône-Alpes, France
  • Rusticone Bufala Mozzarella from Campania, Italy vs Maplebrook Farm Mozzarella from Bennington, Vermont
  • Valbreso Sheep Feta from the Mediterranean Plateaus, France vs Karoun Goat Feta from Sun Valley, California

The Brie and the Camembert were so similar but the biggest difference is the size. Brie is made in a larger wheel and usually sold already pre-cut. The Camembert is made in a wheel of only 4.5 inches  wide and sold whole. As far as the flavour, I found them very similar and comparable, brie is made with a higher fat content so the texture may be softer, almost runny if it is very ripe.
If you are not a fan of blue cheese, you may want to put down your guard and just try these two. Known as a perfect introduction to blue cheeses, Cambozola and d'Affinois blue look similar in that they both have pockets of blue veins within their creamy yellow interiors. As far as I could smell and taste I could not pick them apart, though most others in the class seemed to have a definite opinion on which was which.
While I personally struggled with tasting the difference between the buffalo milk mozzarella and the cow milk mozzarella, they looked exactly the same, someone pointed out the slight grassy flavour of the buffalo, which once they mentioned it I could then taste the difference between the two.
Then lastly the fetas, a sheep's milk and a goats milk. These tasted very different and also looked a little different on the plate. The goat feta was very crumbly, almost light and fluffy with a firm, creamy taste. The sheep feta was chunkier and had a definite salty taste.
We also invited Amanda from Vinilandia to pour samples of the Co-op wines of the month, Alias Wines. While I personally am abstaining from alcohol during lent, the feed back from the class was that these are some very drinkable wines and judging by what was left on the shelf at the end of the evening these are at a great price too! The class tried samples of the cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and Secret Agent red blend. Then as an added bonus, Amanda opened a bottle of Klassen Merlot which you can also find on the shelves of the Co-op's wine section. I might have to hurry and put a bottle aside to try after lent before they are all gone!

So next time you are looking at a cheese plate, would you be able to guess if it is a Brie or Camembert? Maybe you should have your own tasting evening and invite your friends to play too!
Join us at our next cheese tasting class... http://concordfoodcoop.coop/cheese 
If you have a suggestion for a cheese you would like to try or a special request, send an emai lto our cheese buyer Suzy at cheese@concordfoodcoop.coop

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cheese from Un-Cheesy Places

by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist

The January Cheesy Wine Down Wednesday tasting class challenged the Co-op's Cheese Buyer Suzy to find us some cheeses from un-cheesy places for the February class last night. Suzy accepted the challenge and came through with seven cheeses from six states you would not naturally think of when looking for cheeses. As well as some fun cheeses to try we also had Shane pouring free samples of the Co-op Wines of the Month from Riebeek Cellars.
The first cheese on our plate was Salty Sea Feta from Narragansett Creamery in Rhode Island. While Rhode Island is known as the Ocean State, this is the perfect cheese to match their ocean theme. While I didn't think this feta was particularly salty, it would definitely be a great summer salad cheese with melons and a glass of sweet white while enjoying some salty ocean breeze.
The next cheese we tried was a camembert-style double cream from Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia. The Green Hill cheese was everything you expect when you see gooey buttery cheese on a platter. Smeared on a cracker with some fruity spread, any cheese snob would be very impressed with the texture and tang this cheese from Georgia brings to the palate. I wonder how this would come out if I baked it in pastry, probably delicious, let me know in the comments if you try it!
So I had been sipping the Riebeek Cellars Chardonnay to start and I thought it went well with the first two cheeses. Then we moved on to the Sauvignon Blanc as I tried the Everton alpine-style cheese from Jacobs & Brichford in Indiana. This was an ok combination, the cheese was sharper than a Gruyere, but a milder flavor than what I was expecting after reading the description of this "meaty" cheese. I imagine this would go well in a fresh leafy green salad, well spring is just around the corner so the leafy greens will be bountiful soon!
Next up was the Ameribella from the same company. I heard a rumor that when they opened the cheese to cut it, it had a very intense smell. Hmm... I am not a big fan of smelly cheeses but I was here to try new things, so after hesitating I breathed in and took a little nibble. Not bad, with the Sauv Blanc this was a pretty good pairing on my tongue as it melts around your mouth, so smooth and pasty almost. I bit off a little more enjoying the soft texture then moved on to the next cheese, the Appalachian from Meadow Creek Dairy in Virginia. A lightly cooked, pressed-curd cheese this bright cheese did not go well after the smelly Ameribella. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed as I breathed out and could smell that all familiar "stinky" cheese breath coming out of my nose, yech! I quickly took a sip of the Pinotage which amplified it even more, so I nibbled some more of the Appalachian trying to move on from this unfortunate layering of flavors that my brain did not like. Ahhh, much better. I found myself rather surprised that the order in which I was trying the cheeses and wines was really affecting the taste and smells quite dramatically. I went back and nibbled a little more feta and decided that yes, compared to the last few cheeses, it really was salty. Have you experienced a strong layering of flavors with different cheeses before? Was it enjoyable?
Now for some fun facts; the Pinotage is a red wine grape cultivated in South Africa, a real treat I thought as notes of plum and fruitcake rolled back over my tongue. A new world wine, the first vines where created in the mid 1920's and the first wine from the grapes in 1941. If you want to try something different and you enjoy lighter style reds, I definitely recommend trying this, especially for the sale price as part of the February 2015 Wines of the Month.
Back to the cheeses, next on the plate Suzy found us from Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy in Colorado a sticky pale cheese called Sunlight. With it's cheery orange rind I didn't connect the dots that this was goat cheese. I started with a small bit and let it crumble around my mouth, yummy. Came in for a second taste and then I got a slight goaty flavor. With the onion chutney I almost didn't guess that this was a goats milk cheese.
And my favorite cheese of the evening was Big John's Cajun from Beehive Cheese Co. in Utah. This spicy hand-rubbed cheese would be great on a big juicy burger but as a cheese on a platter your friends will definitely enjoy it just as much. With distinct orange marbling throughout the yellow cheese, as you nibble your way towards the rind the cheese starts to heat up with spicy goodness. I thought this cheese worked well with the Riebeek Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon we sampled.
But the tasting didn't end there! The Co-op's Bakery Box pastry chefs had whipped up some Cheesecake of the Month for us to try. The White Chocolate Key Lime Blackberry Swirl was a huge hit among us all. This fresh treat was a great ending for another fun event at the Co-op. As usual it is nice to see familiar faces every month and make some new friends too.
You can find the cheeses, wines and dessert right here in the Concord store, just ask any of our friendly staff for help.
I hope everyone enjoyed the evening and I look forward to their suggestion for the next class in March where they have asked Suzy to sample cheeses we can compare like camembert versus brie and a sheep milks feta versus a goats milk feta. They created quite the list for Suzy to find. To sign up for our next class or to read more about our cheese tasting classes click here.