Round out menu with organic ingredients from local farmers

Baked pork ribs with Penzey's Spices' 33rd & Galena Pork Rub. JACK CLEMONS
February 20, 2012

Without the farmers markets and roadside stands we visit during the growing season, finding fresh, local produce can be a challenge during the winter months. Although we may still succumb to supermarket bananas from Costa Rica and tomatoes from Mexico, we’ve also found a way to round out our menus with organic ingredients from local farmers.

One of our sources is Community Organics in Greenwood. As members of their CSA (community supported agriculture) group, we pay a fee in January to join a 12-month program that allows us to select from their weekly offerings. They send an email describing what’s available and list the times they’ll be at each of the drop-off locations in southern Delaware. Last week our choices included sweet potatoes, salad and stir-fry greens, sunchokes, Alaskan salmon and eggs from their flock of pasture-fed hens.

Hattie’s Garden is another source for provisions during the off-season. Hattie Allen has organized a collection of suppliers from across the region who sell their products through her order-and-delivery service. She distributes a weekly newsletter listing the various items from each vendor with descriptions and recipe suggestions. Hattie charges a small fee to leave your order on your doorstep early Saturday mornings.

During the fall, winter and early spring, she delivers fresh salad greens and cool-weather crops from her fields and hoop houses. Products from local purveyors include bread, cheese, meat, poultry, honey, mushrooms, milk, yogurt, coffee and preserves. To keep her business manageable, Hattie and her team limit the delivery area to private homes in Rehoboth Beach, Milton and Lewes.

Last week, we ordered pork ribs from what we jokingly call “the farm of happy pigs.” Jack has pointed out on several occasions that any pig who is happy foraging on a free-range farm would quickly lose their good humor when they’re converted to dinner. Of course, the day we planned to cook the ribs was the first time it snowed this winter. We lost interest in grilling outside, decided to defy convention and bake the ribs in the oven.

While I can hear the groans from die-hard smokers and grillers, I assure you the ribs were never par-boiled. I’m not sure where that practice began; perhaps it was considered a time-saving device to cook the ribs in boiling water before finishing them on the grill. It may work for hot dogs, but I discourage the technique for ribs. You want them to be coated in a spicy rub and cooked slowly for a couple of hours, receiving frequent bastings with a slightly sweet sauce.

The rub we chose was a mixture from Penzey’s Spices called 33rd & Galena Pork Rub. This combination of black pepper, paprika, nutmeg, sage, cayenne and crushed red pepper was so hot my lips were tingling at the first bite. To offset some of the heat, I basted the ribs with an orange Balsamic mustard sauce. The only downside to cooking them in the oven, instead of with indirect heat on a grill, was the slight bit of char that began to form on the outside. A foil tent stopped the burn while the ribs cooked until the meat was falling from the bones. To complete the menu, we served the ribs with roasted heirloom sweet potatoes and baby bok choy - all sourced from local farms.

The most recent addition to Hattie’s shopping list is chevon or goat meat - perhaps I should add some to our order this week.

Baked Pork Ribs
3 lbs ribs
rub (below)
sauce (below)

Place the ribs meat side down on a sheet of plastic wrap. Remove the thin membrane from the back of the rack by starting in the middle of the ribs: insert a thin paring knife to separate a section of the membrane, then get a secure grip with a dishtowel and pull it off. Coat the ribs on both sides with the rub. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 325 F. Place the ribs, bone side down, on a wire rack in a single layer in a roasting pan. Cook for one hour, then baste every 15 minutes with sauce until done, about 30 more minutes. Yield: 2 to 3 servings.

Pork Rib Rub
1 T chili powder
1 T garlic powder
2 t black pepper
1 T smoked paprika
1 T sweet paprika
1 t salt
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ground sage
1/2 t cayenne

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Coat ribs on all sides with spice mixture, rubbing it into the meat. Wrap ribs in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours before cooking.

Orange Balsamic Mustard Sauce
1 t orange zest
1 T Balsamic vinegar
1 T honey
1 T Dijon mustard

Whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl. After ribs have cooked for one hour, brush with sauce every 15 minutes until done.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
1 lb sweet potatoes
1 T olive oil
1 minced shallot
1/4 t thyme
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat the inside of a 9-inch-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Wash and peel the potatoes.

Cut into one-inch cubes. Combine potatoes, olive oil and shallot in the baking pan. Toss the potatoes until evenly coated with oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Yield: 2 to 3 servings.

Wilted Bok Choy
6 heads baby bok choy
1 t olive oil
1 t soy sauce

Wash and trim the greens, discarding root end. Roughly chop and place in a skillet with olive oil.  Cook over medium high until greens start to soften, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with soy sauce and cover. Remove from heat after 30 seconds and keep covered until ready to serve. Yield: 2 to 3 servings.


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