We love fennel for so many reasons! It's crunchy and sweet, bright and satisfying, local and keeps well. It's a wonderful winter vegetable that stores just about as well as onions, and can stay fresh in your refrigerator for many weeks to offer you something raw and crunchy in the doldrums of winter.
All parts of the plant are edible, from fronds to bulb. We like to reserve the fronds and use as garnish or as a replacement for dill. In addition to its lovely and delicate flavor, fennel is very healthy and is a great aid to digestion. Our favorite way to eat fennel is in this raw salad using citrus, raw celeriac, and a nice bright olive oil. This recipe was featured in our Quick and Healthy Soups, Salads, and Sandwiches cooking class.
Recipe from Chef Ashton Keefe. Simply delicious.
Yesterday our staff did a guided tasting of our new Private Label Olive Oil. We have partnered with Gourmet Cooking and Living, a business who’s owners travel extensively in Italy and Europe to find products to share with their customers as a part of Tasting Clubs. By featuring one product per month, they are able to work exclusively with farmers and artisans who are truly small and will not sacrifice the quality of their product by expanding.
We knew that this would be a great way to find a private label olive oil that we loved and wanted to support. A few months ago, Jennifer from Gourmet Cooking and Living allowed us to taste a number of oils from small olive growers, and told us the history of the land, the farmers, and the way that each oil was produced. The variety in colors, flavor profiles, and stories was astounding.
As a team, we fell hard and fast for sustainably grown and harvested F.A.M. Irpina Colline Dell’Ufita, a single estate Olive Oil from Venticano, Italy. The oil has a beautiful golden yellow hue, with bright green undertones. We were taught how to taste the oil properly: from a small plastic cup, warmed by covering with your hands and swirling for a few moments. The warmed oil “opens” like wine, allowing you to clearly smell the complexity of the oil. We then all took small sips of the oil from the cup, and made a somewhat rude sounding slurping sound, which further opens up the flavor profile and aroma.
Its taste is bright and fruity, with the scent of freshly cut grass. The slurping really highlights the intensity of the peppery flavor, which is very reminiscent of tomato vines. Jennifer explained that pepperiness indicates the freshness of an oil – our oil is from the first pressing and is only slightly filtered.
One of the most exciting things we learned about our oil is how healthy it is in comparison to others. Olive Oils are usually assessed based their amount of polyphenols, which indicate the amount of antioxidants present. A normal olive oil has 300 mg/kg polyphenols; a great olive oil has 500 mg/kg polyphenols. Our private label oil has 640 mg/kg!
Don’t just take our word for how fantastic our oil is – it’s also award-winning: Three Olives and Label from Slow Food, Two Leaves from Gambero Rosso, Best Bio Olive Mill (for organic production), and finally the 2012 First Place for the Intense Fruity category at the SOL of Verona.
Haven's Kitchen supports our local economy is as many ways as we can. While we do tend to focus on food and farmers, we also want to highlight small business owners in NYC who are creating beautiful things with thoughtful techniques and traditional methods. In addition to the joy of supporting local businesses in our shop, we love that we can build personal relationships with our purveyors. We create stronger ties to our purveyors by connecting their products to their story.
Common Good is particularly near and dear to our hearts. It was one of the first products we had in our shop, and we love that a local business is working on the oft-ignored matter of packaging waste and household cleaning. We carry Common Good All Purpose Tea Tree Spray, Bergamot Dish Soap, and Lavender Hand Soap.
Read our interview below to learn more about how Sacha Dunn came to start Common Good!
HK: How did the Common Good team come together?
SD: I started Common Good with my husband, Edmund Levine two years ago. We've known Dawn for over 10 years working together as stylists. That she was able to join Common Good so early on was so lucky for us. We all know each other so well and I trust her sense and taste. Also, it's great to work with someone who will tell you when you're wrong! She has that special knack of being able to do anything which is essential in a small business. Now she and I run the business together.
HK: Amongst the bourgeoning craft/artisan/small batch movement, why did you choose soap?
SD: Edmund and I took the kids to visit my parents in Sydney Australia and were doing tons of laundry. We realized that we were refilling Mum's big plastic bottle with those soft refill packs and she'd kept the same bottle for years. It occurred to us that we couldn't do that back in New York and it seemed crazy. The amount of recycling we were taking out each week was awful and a lot of it was from cleaning products. So the idea sparked more from a waste problem than a love of soap. We decided to create refill stations for household cleaners.
HK: How did you enter the soap and cleaning field - had you already made it? Do either of you have a background in chemistry?
SD: Once we decided to create refillable products, we started researching the chemistry. It took a year of research and working with chemists before we were ready to make anything. We knew we had to understand the chemistry and get that right if we were to convince people to refill their bottles. Now we have wonderful chemists working on our formulations and making the safest, most effective and greenest products we can.
HK: What were the steps in opening a small business that you were the most surprised by?
SD: Oh boy, all of it! We went from creative freelancers to wholesale manufacturers. The nicest surprise is how much fun it is to work with friends to create a tangible product that we know make a positive difference to our lives and the environment. We love coming to work.
HK: Where do you source your materials and packaging from? Have you had any interesting discoveries about sourcing?
SD: A stylist friend once said that you just need to make 6 phone calls to find anything and it's true. We use as many local suppliers as we can and have met some wonderful people. We are lucky to live in Brooklyn where other entrepreneurs are willing to offer a suggestion. Like the glass bottle warehouse that is 6 blocks away from us. Who knew?!
HK: Where do you hope your small business will take you in the future? Do you have plans to expand or grow?
SD: We love being able to create beautiful products that improve our quality of life but that also have a greater mission to reduce waste. We would love to see refill available to everyone who wants it across the country and we're working on it.
Most people who are interested in good food know the typical story about Organic - a reduction of pesticides being a defining aspect of the word, it is also associated with happier animals, happier workers, small farms, and local food systems. While this is certainly true of many organic farms, the word Organic has, in many ways, become diluted and coopted by businesses and farmers who may not believe fully in the ethos, but are happy to capitalize on the profits.
If you are concerned about pesticides, herbicides, fungicide (any -cide, really), and chemical fertilizers being in your food and in your environment, there is no question that choosing USDA Organic is a major step in the right direction. It also tends to create systems that are healthier for farm workers who no longer have to come into direct contact with carcinogens, and healthier animals, who without high doses of antibiotics, can no longer be jammed into small, crowded spaces.
We don’t like to harp on the negatives, but it is true that many Organic products are still grown on farms that treat their workers poorly, on farms that are degrading soil at completely unsustainable rates, and on farms that are run like industrial factories which force nature into submission daily.
Luckily for those of us who believe to our core that the word Organic means much more than simplistic regulations, there is another title available: Biodynamic.
Not necessarily “new”, the term Biodynamic has been around since the early 1920s when Rudolph Steiner began to lecture to farmers who were noticing the first whispers of the dangers of modern agriculture – most noticeably, a reduction in soil quality.
The core of the Biodynamic model requires a holistic view of farming systems, food production, and nutrition from spiritual, ethical, and ecological standpoints. Agricultural systems, from farms to window gardens, should be understood as ecosystems, which include the seeds, the water, the soil, the bugs, the people, among endless other inputs and outputs.
Biodynamic farming system tend to create closed loop systems, in which the soil is amended with manures and fertilizers produced on site by compost heaps and farm animals, the local variety of seeds are saved every year for replanting, animals are fed with grazing on fallow pastures, and pest populations are kept under control by growing polycultures.
Practitioners of Biodynamic farming mimic natural ecosystems by fostering a self-sustaining balance between soil, plant, and animal health. Many also commit to commit to a triple bottom line, where ecological, social, and economic sustainability and success are all equally valued.
One of our favorite farms, Old Field Farm, embodies this attitude in their misssion,
“The goal of the farm is not to maximize production of a given product but to establish an equilibrium between many varied species and to focus on the contribution they make to each other and thus to the overall productivity and health of the farm. Once sustainable balance is achieved the surplus is sold. This means that there are many products but in very limited quantities. We feel that this ensures thehighest quality of products and the best practice of farming.”
Because of this holistic way of dealing with farming, the ethos of Biodynamic practices are also a part of a larger movement that applies to many spheres beyond farming, such as community building, business strategies, and city planning.
If you are interested in finding foods that are Biodynamic, be sure to ask around at your farmers market about the practices of farmers, and ask your grocer to offer foods that are Demeter Certified
More To Learn
And if you are interested in seriously geek-ing out, read this FAO Article