Monday, August 31, 2009

A Little Mado and alot of Food, Inc.

This past June, my daughter Raya and I, had the opportunity of catching a late night showing of the new movie Food, Inc. by Robert Kenner. We had just attended a family dinner at Rob and Allie Levitt's Wicker Park restaurant Mado, which was just voted as one of the Top Ten Best New Restaurants in America by Bon Appetit magazine. For this particular family dinner they teamed up with Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia to create a stellar menu:


lamb summer sausage
lamb brain terrine
lamb liver paté


lamb neck pastilla
lamb loin carpaccio
pickled lamb’s tongue
with potatoes and spring onions


wood-grilled lamb heart
with watercress and pickled ramp vinaigrette


mixed roast:
lamb shoulder baked in hay with herbs de la garrigue
spit-roasted leg

market sides


sheep’s milk ricotta with strawberries

I have long been an advocate of organ meats as being the most nutritious part of the animal, but this meal shouted to us diners that they are the most flavorful part as well. Bon Appetito!

Afterwards, we headed
over to the Renaissance Place Cinema on Clark Avenue to watch Food, Inc.

I must say upon leaving the movie theater an hour and a half later, I felt that this movie had the potential to nudge forward the food revolution that is embracing our nation. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening anytime soon in my narrow circle of populace. This movie has been surprisingly well received by critics, so I will keep my fingers crossed that as a country we will learn to speak up before our next forkful of "food" enters our mouths.

As an organic grass farmer, residing in the corn and soybean patch of east central Illinois, many of the details of this movie were already well known to me. Especially, how most of our supermarkets are made up of a variety of repackaged corn and soy products including; the boxes we find our food in, the colorful ink advertising to us on those boxes, and the very drywall used to construct the grocery store itself. The pernicious company, Monsanto, and their strong armed techniques to convert the world to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) was well represented in this film. Food, Inc. also focused much of its energy on the controversial system of using Confinement Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO's) and the increasing risk of pathogenic e coli bacteria entering our food system. Much of the risk of e coli would be eliminated if we turned away from using these CAFO's and feeding corn to ruminants, which is something that their bodies are not designed to digest. Finally, the movie showed how Wal-Mart, Inc. cooperated after two years of hand wringing to show the power of the consumer and how Wal-Mart's decisions are shaped by their consumers' wants.

In telling the industrial food system story, this movie is a piece of the larger agricultural crisis puzzle joined by the books Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Hopefully, the public will respond louder to moving pictures than to the written word.

To watch the trailer of Food, Inc. please click here:

-Harry Carr

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Grillin' at its Best

Mint Creek has Grass-fed Organic Beef!!!!

We are bringing a variety of beautiful steaks this weekend to market, including: T-bone steaks, NY Strip steaks, Sirloin steaks and Flat Iron steaks. We will also have ground beef for sale too. Supply is limited so please come early for the best selection. We promise to bring more as we build up our supply over the next couple of weeks.

What's on Sale This Week at Market (8-28 to 8-30)

Sale Item:
Lamb Spareribs $6.00/lb

This over looked, under appreciated cut of lamb is a secret favorite among lamb farmers. At this weekend's price we should all be taking a second look and I hope after reading Farmgirl Susan's Farmgirl Fare blog entry about Onion and Herb Crusted Lamb Spareribs, you will be clamoring to market to get some before the secret is out!

Here is a little excerpt from Farmgirl Fare:
This is the same way I prepare a whole leg of lamb for roasting. You simply slather on a thick layer of the onion and herb mixture and pop it in the oven. Both the leg and ribs will taste even better if you allow the meat sit for several hours once you've spread the topping on (set it in the fridge if it's going to be more than two hours). You can cook the ribs for as little as an hour, but two hours makes the topping nice and crisp and the meat more tender. You could probably slow cook them at a lower temperature for even longer.

I never measure out quantities when I make this; I just start with at least a couple of big handfuls of onion flakes and go from there. As long as there's enough olive oil to hold everything together and enough paste to make a thick layer, you really can't go wrong with this combination of ingredients, especially if your herbs are freshly picked. Simply adjust the amounts of everything to suit your tastes.

Its Never Too Late for Change

The Omnivore's Dilemma may have been released in 2006, but it is still relevant to what is happening to our food system in 2009. If you have not picked up a copy, do so and be prepared to change not only the way you eat but what you eat.

This book review of Michael Pollen's The Omnivore's Dilemma is courtesy of Mint Creek's own Harry Carr. Previously published in the Family Farmers Meats newsletter Vol.1, Issue 1, Fall 2006.

Exactly 100 years ago Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle. He gained particular fame for this work, which dealt with conditions in the U.S. meat-packing industry and caused a public uproar that partly contributed to the passage of the Pure-Food and Drug Act in 1906.

Sinclair lamented the effect of his book and the public uproar that resulted: "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident, I hit it in the stomach." I believe Michael Pollen's work to be aimed not so much for the heart or the stomach, but for our reasoning faculty. We shall see if it scores a direct hit.

This book has the capacity to initiate change, similar to Sinclair's work. The beginning of the end of the industrial food system is probably not that close at hand, but after reading this; your diet can't help but change for the better.

Pollen starts out with two questions: What are we eating? and Where does it come from? He answers this by researching four food systems: industrial, industrial organic, organic pastoral, and the hunter-gatherer. Taking us through the history and development of each, he eleborately culminates by hosting and/or preparing a meal from each food system.

In his work, Pollen states, "As different as the journeys of these food systems are, a few themes keep cropping up. One is that there exists a fundamental tension between the logic of nature and the logic of human industry." We seek to maximize efficiency by planting crops or raising animals in vast monocultures. This is something that nature never does, always and for good reasons, practicing diversity instead. A great many of the health and environmental problems created by our food systems are owed to our attempts to oversimplify nature's complexities, at both the growing and eating end of our food chain.

At either end of any food chain, you find a biological system- a patch of soil, a human body. The health of one is connected- literally- to the health of the other. Many of the problems of health and nutrition that we face today trace back to things that happen on the farm. Behind those things, stand specific government policies.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A New Way to Farm

Everyone is interested in urban agriculture these days. More and more we are seeing and experiencing the creation of community gardens, apiaries, edible landscapes, backyard chicken coops and more. These are all exciting endeavors, but I have something new to share with you. So new it has not even been done yet! We have all heard of vertical gardening, well what would our world be like if every major city in the world had Vertical Farms? Yesterday's New York Times Op-Ed column had a story about urban farms growing vertical in every sense. A brilliant theory and design that I hope comes to fruition very soon. There are many cities that have limited land available for farming, but these vertical farms would be housed in towers to utilize space more creatively. These farms would use water and other natural resources more efficiently and reduce not only waste but the cost of using these limited and dwindling resources. This takes roof-top gardens to the next level and makes it a real possibility for every city to grow enough food to feed its own inhabitants. Now that is a real green initiative that every city should try to swallow.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mint Creek's Meat CSA News for August

All our Meat CSA members have gotten their shares for the month of August so I wanted to give everyone else a glimpse of what our members are getting in their boxes:

Half Share (5 lbs.)
1 lb grass-fed ground beef
2 lbs grass-fed angus beef sirloin steak
1 lb pastured lamb loin chops
1 lb pastured goat kabob meat

Whole Share (10 lbs.)
1 lb grass-fed ground beef
1 lb grass-fed angus beef flat iron steak
2 lbs grass-fed angus beef short ribs
1 lb pastured lamb loin chops
1 lb pastured goat kabob meat
1 lb pastured lamb breakfast sausage
2 lbs milk-fed french rack of lamb
1 lb milk-fed lamb leg steak

This particular membership is 3 months long and will run through October. Starting in November we will have another CSA available to our customers. All boxes are hand packed and we strive to give our members a diverse selection of meat varieties with ways to prepare these healthy grass-fed cuts. Each box also comes with an informative farm newsletter full of recipes, helpful tips, articles and health news. Our members also get a market discount card that entitles them to an additional 10% off of all their market purchases. Now this is smart shopping for the meat hungry in lean times! We will be sure to keep everyone updated on the blog with all future CSA info.

Mint Creek's Pastured Beef

Breaking News:
Mint Creek Farm is releasing their Grass-fed Ground Beef this week at market!!!!

Our 100% grass-fed angus beef is lean and full flavored with a slight earthiness that makes it one of a kind. You will never look at beef the same way again. This is how beef is supposed to taste, clean and pure. What better way to celebrate summer than with a classic burger. One of my favorite food magazines (Saveur) is highlighting the Burger this month. Here is a link to the article and a list of inspiring ways to top your perfect burger:

What's on Sale This Week at Market (8-14 to 8-16)

Sale Item:
Milk-fed Lamb Loin Chops $16/lb

One of my personal favorites is on sale at market this week, lamb loin chops. These little "t-bone" shaped chops are perfect for the grill, on the stove top or even in the oven. However you want to cook them, they will cook up quickly and keep their tender sweet flavor. Just like our lovely rack chops and french racks, we strongly encourage you to err on the side of under-cooking verse over-cooking these precious morsels. I love topping my grilled chops with a quick pan sauce of dried fruit poached in a ruby port. Here is a quick recipe for a similar decadent chop from

We also shared our lamb loin chops with our Meat CSA this August. In our member newsletter we included a farm favorite recipe from Cooking Light: Honey, Cumin and Mint Marinated Lamb Chops These caramelized meaty grilled bites are so yummy, they even impressed my Israeli in-laws! Now that is a feat, since they eat mostly lamb in Israel and are used to most preparations of this meat staple. Using fresh herbs, honey and a little spice makes for a unique and impressive original dish. Trust me and make this dish at your next "hard-to-impress" family gathering.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Blue Kitchen Cooks up Mint Creek Meat

Terry and Marion came to the Logan Square farmers market one Sunday and we talked food. Good food. They told me that they write a food blog called Blue Kitchen and that they have prepared some of Mint Creek's pastured meats. I was thrilled to learn that and when I got home that day, I promptly checked out their blog. Terry does such a wonderful job creating dishes and photographing them that I signed up to get their blog feed through my google reader account. Now I follow Blue Kitchen's adventures along the culinary road to create, share and enjoy good food. One of my favorite entries of theirs is about our goat kabob meat: Cumin and cinnamon grilled goat kabobs with a pomegranate molasses, yum! Terry also gives a nice little introduction to the world of goat meat for anyone that may be hesitant to sink their teeth into a hunk of goat.

Note: If you would like to follow Mint Creek's new blog just click on the "Follow" button and you can follow our every mouth watering moment through Google Connect!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What's on Sale This Week at Market (8-7 thru 8-9)

Sale Item: Milk-fed Rack of Lamb $22/lb
Regularly $32/lb

Our milk-fed racks are tender morsels of lamb perfect for a lovely dinner for two or an elegant summer barbecue. Each rack has been frenched and the bones are pre-cut for easy slicing. All you have to do is grill it up and serve it along side a lentil salad and some crusty bread smeared with goat cheese and you have a perfect quick meal. Oh, and don't forget the chilled rose in the frig! Everyone will remember this meal and you will be the star of the party.

Here is a great recipe for Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Herbs:

You can also grill the racks over medium hot coals (in foil) for about 20 minutes, then remove the foil and place the rack directly on the grate for an additional 5-10 minutes checking the internal temperature to desired doneness. I like my rack at medium rare to medium and that takes about 30 minutes. Remember to let the meat rest, loosely covered for about 5 minutes after removing it from the grill. The internal temperature will continue to rise 5-10 degrees so take that into consideration when you remove the rack from the grill.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summertime Lamb Feast

I cooked up my first milk-fed rack of lamb today and it was so succulent and delicious that I nearly swooned! I created a recipe for it, since I felt it was something special and should be treated with careful attention. So, I decided to grill it with a subtle and sweet rosemary infused white nectarine glaze. Decadent, yes! Worth it, oh my yes!

Rack of Lamb with a Rosemary Infused Nectarine Glaze

One could use any stone fruit in this recipe (peaches, apricots, plums, etc.) and besides rosemary one could use lavender or even thyme.

1-2# rack of lamb
a drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2-3# of ripe nectarines (I used a white nectarine that is not only sweet and juicy but has a nice floral aroma to it)

Special Equipment:
Food mill
Meat Thermometer

Split nectarines in half and remove pits. If unable to remove pits, just cut off as much flesh as possible. Roughly chop the nectarines (including the skins) and cook the pulp, along with 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, in a sauce pan until thick and bubbly (30-45 min.). Let cool to room temperature. Remove the rosemary sprigs once sauce is cool. Strain the infused sauce through a food mill to remove the nectarine skins and to finely puree the sauce. This is the glaze that you will coat the rack of lamb with while grilling.

Place the rack of lamb on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Thoroughly coat the rack with the nectarine glaze on all sides. Place the remaining sprigs of fresh rosemary under and on top of the rack. Fold the foil up and around the rack to create a packet. Place the packet on a prepared grill or in a 350°oven and roast to desired degree of doneness. Brush on more glaze near the end of the cooking time to give the rack one last burst of sweetness. (If grilling, you can remove the foil and place the rack directly on the grill near the end of cooking. This will caramelize the glaze on the meat and give you a crispy exterior.) When trying to decide if the meat is cooked to the desired doneness, it is a great idea to have a meat thermometer to help with this process. For medium rare to medium the meat should take 20-25 minutes to cook. It is very important to remember to remove the meat before it reaches the correct temperature and let it stand for about 5-10 minutes, loosely covered. The temperature will continue to rise 5-10° more while resting. Slice the rack into single rib portions. Serve the rib chops topped with remaining nectarine glaze and a sliced baguette with roasted garlic and a lovely goat brie cheese.

Helpful Hint on Checking for Internal Temperatures:
Make sure to insert thermometer in the thickest portion of the meat and do not touch the bone.
Medium rare: 145° Medium: 160° Well done: 170°

It Tastes Nothing Like Chicken

I met Pete at the Logan Square Farmers Market this Sunday and he told me he loved our lamb hearts! He shared with me how he prepared them and it sounded so divine that I asked him to share with all of our blog readers. So here is Pete's recipe in all its glory:

Lamb Hearts with Summer Squash

This recipe is based on one I found in 'Variety Meats', a 1982 cookbook I bought at the Salvation Army because the pictures grossed me out (I ate but didn't cook meat at the time). Little did I know. ;-)

*2 lamb hearts
* a cast iron skillet with lid
* 2 or 3 average sized summer squash
* 1/2 cup dry red wine (I used marsala, a cooking wine, since we're beer drinkers).
* 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
* 1 average onion, chopped small

Seed and slice the squash in to sticks (1-2 inches long).

Trim the valves, tubes, membranes off the hearts and anything else that doesn't look like you should it eat. Remove most of the fat too. I used a boning knife and was pleasantly surprised at how easy this was (and how little waste). Cut in to one inch cubes.

Brown the heart pieces in a tablespoon of olive oil. They didn't really turn brown for me (more like grey), despite several minutes of sauteing. Add the onion and garlic, and cook/stir until the onions are soft and starting to brown. Add 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and the 1/2 cup wine. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or so, occasionally lifting the lid to stir/smell/check for doneness - the heart was slightly chewy (in a good way) when done. If things get to dry, add a little water.

Meanwhile, steam the squash. This takes about 5 minutes.

I served the hearts (with juices) over Israeli couscous (aka 'pearl pasta'), sauteed in a little bacon fat for 3 minutes, then simmered like normal with a bay leaf thrown in. The cooked hearts tasted really meaty - they're quite dark colored and have a rich flavor, without being heavy. It's hard to describe, but they made us feel invigorated and energized after eating them.

The beer we paired with them was Great Lakes' Eliot Ness (an amber lager). I was planning to pair it with Bell's Pilsner, but we drank it all earlier in the week. Follow with a refreshing salad and a night of dancing (my salad had apples, but raw turnips would work too).