Friday, July 29, 2011

A Veggie Lasagna Grown From My Own Lauderdale Roots

Food prices are climbing higher than flowers on a trellis. During a recent tour of a local hydroponic farm, the tour guide said that inflation on groceries had risen 30% already, and that learning to grow your own fruit and veggies might not be such a bad idea. The best part about the tour and learning more on CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) was how easy they made it all look; “they” being The Urban Farmer in Pompano, FL—that’s in the Lauderdale area where I’ve lived for decades.

John, the guide that day seemed optimistic and sincere when he told everyone that growing the okra, swiss chard, yellow squash and eggplant—not to mention multitude of other leafiness we saw around us—was something any of us could do. We all tried samples of what he clipped from the plants, pleasantly taken aback by how fragrant and bold the flavors were. Nothing was tainted by pesticides; it was all 100% pure, and if we didn’t want to attend CSA workshops on how to grow it ourselves, we were encouraged to sign up for CSA Membership with Jessica Padron, the owner.

Is There An “Urban Farmer” in All of Us?

It was so gratifying to see Jessica swamped with customers and potential customers on the sweltering July afternoon the tour took place. The Urban Farmer lets you sign up for a weekly or biweekly box of fresh and local veggies, starting at a very reasonable price of $128 a month; you can also arrange to buy grass fed beef, fresh eggs and local honey—just about anything and everything that makes dinner for your family a healthier affair. That day, visitors to The Urban Farmer took home a few odds and ends plucked right off the vine in front of them; many of them had the makings for veggie lasagna—all they needed now were pasta strips, ricotta and rest of the ingredients to whip up a savory Tomato and Sautéed Veggie Sauce I use in this dish.

This Veggie Lasagna Pays Homage to the Slow Food Movement

One of the things The Urban Farmer said about what they’re doing really resonated. I’ve experienced (and tasted!) it before when I had a share at Green Cay Farms in Boynton and enjoyed their weekly box of in season produce: it’s all about the Slow Food Movement. So I offer you my recipe for Veggie Lasagna -- homage to the Slow Food Movement, which started in Italy because foodies there, who loved the Spanish Steps in Rome, were protesting McDonald’s, a fast food restaurant on schedule (not anymore!) to be built there. That was in 1986, and ever since, this movement—as young as it is fresh and tasty—has been asking communities to take a moment and appreciate high quality and locally grown foods that make their region unique. The Ark of Taste was born, and if you click the link you can read about everything from Italians trying to preserve delectables like Italian honey and exotic sounding fruits, to meat lovers in the USA who cherish their Florida cracker cattle, America Plains Bison and New Hampshire chicken.

Dance to the Slow Food Movement tonight by making a dish that calls for some locally grown items…actually, your marina sauce won’t hate you if you use out-of-state tomatoes, but your taste buds will love you if you harvest from your own zip code…and so will the local economy. I can’t think of a better way to stop thinking about the debt ceiling, can you?

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