Thursday, July 30, 2009

Babcock Hall Ice Cream

Babcock Hall Ice Cream

UW-Madison, in the heart of dairy country, is among the top three research institutions in the country. Sometimes the benefits of research seem intangible, but at UW-Madison's Center for Dairy Research (CDR) the benefits of research are palpable, delicious and unarguably beneficial. The CDR is one of the top dairy research centers in the United States, featuring a state of the art dairy complex housing over 400 cattle. So just how do people benefit? Ice cream, of course!

Gallons of fresh, creamy milk from Maisy and Daisy (‘CDR cows’ just sounds too clinical) are shipped to UW’s Babcock Hall Dairy Plant, where it’s churned into rich, delectable ice cream. An ice cream lab on UW-Madison campus is undeniably a researcher’s dream come true. But it begs the question: How can you improve upon perfection? Engineers at the Dairy Plant are always looking for ways to make ice cream even better, if that’s possible, patenting new flavors such as Orange Custard Chocolate Chip, and even discovering certain peptides (made from pork gelatin) that prohibit ice crystal growth on ice cream. Uh, okay.

Getting back to the ice cream flavors and general deliciousness. I mean that’s where research counts, right? You’ll find standards such as Vanilla, Chocolate Chip and Blue Moon. But you might want to try Peach Melba, peach ice cream with chunks of peach and raspberry swirl, or Badger Blast, a chocolate ice cream with swirls of fudge and flakes of chocolate. One of my favorites is Union Utopia, a classic combination of vanilla ice cream with peanut butter, chocolate and caramel swirls. Its name is well-founded. The Union Terrace is the quintessential place to spend summers days and nights in Madison, WI. It definitely borders on a utopian experience. My husband even asked the other night, while sitting on the Terrace watching the sun set, “Does it get better than this?” Only with a scoop of Babcock ice cream (and a beer, obviously) in hand.

What’s your favorite flavor?

Babcock Hall ice cream can be bought by the scoop on campus at Babcock Hall, in the UW Memorial Union (Daily Scoop), and Monona Bait and Ice Cream shop (in Monona). If a cone won’t do, pick up a pint at Ken’s Meats and Deli (Monona), Sentry-Hilldale and Cap Center, or any of the UW stores. So eat up and enjoy your tax dollars at work.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Local Farmer ‘Beets’ Competition

I (Otehlia Cassidy) wrote this article recently for the East Emerson Neighborhood Association newsletter.

Farming is not a glamorous occupation; it ruins a manicure in about three seconds flat and leaves rather distinctive tan lines. But when you package such an arduous job under the gleaming cloak of our nation’s capitol, it takes on a different ring: White House Farmer. The idea behind having a White House Farmer resulted from Michael Pollan’s compelling letter to President Obama. Pollan, an author and sustainable agriculture advocate, urged the president to support a five-acre organic fruit and vegetable garden at the White House, as a step toward changing our nation’s food policies. The public cast their (online) votes for the best farmer for the job, and Madison’s own Claire Strader, Community Farm Manager for Troy Gardens, won.

It’s not easy to make the leap from pondering how to participate in meeting life’s basic needs (from the comfort of a classroom) to farming, but that’s just what Claire did. In 1992, as a Philosophy student, she apprenticed on a farm, finding hands-on answers to her self-inquiry. Claire never had any intention of becoming a farmer - she merely wanted to grow food for herself - but discovered that it was her calling.

Claire has effectively blended production and education. At Troy Gardens, aside from farming, Claire teaches organic and ethnic farming to high schoolers from nearby Shabazz. She also teaches an organic production techniques course for UW-Madison students. If Claire gets to the White House (Obama hasn’t opened the position yet), planting a garden that is a model of sustainable agriculture for the rest of the nation would remain her priority – though she would presumably grow food for the White House kitchen, too. A few rows of beets might even take root, though it’s doubtful they will make it to the White House dining room.

For Claire, White House Farmer “would be an impossible job to accept [or] refuse.” This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity means leaving Madison’s magnetic embrace. For now, Claire’s white house is merely a white canopy that shades her farm-fresh vegetables at the Northside Farmer’s Market (NFM). The NFM is open Sundays from 8:30-12:30 through October. This small market is just a short distance from our neighborhood, at the corner of Northport Dr. and Sherman Ave. You will find everything from fruits, vegetables and grass-fed meat, to baked goods and even crafts. Be sure to pick up fixings for an easy summer greens dish (see recipe here). Find more info about NFM at and Troy Gardens at

Monday, July 13, 2009

Grilled Mahi Mahi over Chickpea Pesto Noodles

Grilled Mahi Mahi over Chickpea Pesto Noodles

One delicious way to enjoy your summer bounty.

Recipe inspired by Food Gal’s review of Fly Trap in San Francisco and adapted from Cooking Hussy’s Mahi Mahi with Pesto recipe.


½ pound Mahi Mahi filets

½ pound brown rice noodles, or other noodles
¼ cup chickpeas, drained
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped parsley
orange slices

Pesto (see recipe here)

2 tsp paprika
1 tsp each cumin, coriander
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp cayenne
2 tsp brown sugar

Mix spices together for rub. Meanwhile boil pasta according to directions. Add chickpeas to boiling water. Drain noodles and chickpeas and toss with olive oil and tomatoes.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Coat fish filets with rub. Grill on medium-high heat (350-400) for about 4 minutes each side.

Place noodles on plate. Put a filet of Mahi Mahi on plate and a nice heaping spoonful of pesto. Garnish with orange slices and parsley. Enjoy!

Basic Basil Pesto

My husband and I bought the house we now live in about 3 years ago. It had most everything we wanted in a house, and a few things we didn’t. We loved the deck, the wood floors, the fact that nothing was caving in, or in need of major repair. The fact that it has only one bathroom, a tiny kitchen, and a very wet basement were definitely not its greatest assets. One of the major selling points was the huge backyard, full of both sun and shade. I imagined the garden of my youth: huge rows of cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, a big berry patch, asparagus and potatoes. What I found, as the snow melted and the spring rains ensued, was that our backyard is the low spot in the neighborhood, and that the suns shines brightest near the back of our house - the kid’s favorite play areas. So as not to compete with the rain, or the kids, we had to come up with some creative garden design.

We decided to expand the perimeter beds, and make them mixed vegetable and perennial gardens. This spring, for one frantic week as the planting dates slowly started passing by, I urged (or possibly even insisted) that my husband help me get building materials and dirt for a raised bed. The result was worth it (to me at least). We literally have tomatoes competing with zucchini to take over the bed while peppers, tomatoes and marigolds, which grow with less fervor, cling to the few sunny spots left at the front edge of the bed.

Also lining the front of that bed, and various other plots around the garden, is basil. Harvesting the bold, green leaves truly marks summer for me. The first batch of pesto creates such a decadent feeling, a sense of warmth and wholeness. The smooth texture provided by the oil and nuts, along with the rich, deep flavor of the basil and the bite of garlic (which I grew for the first time this year) is pure heaven to me.

I made a batch of pesto today, and realized that my first post on this blog was Pesto Pizza. Funny how time passes, but we continue in circles, going back to the same places, and foods that we have always enjoyed. This time around something joyful went into the pesto. I think it’s the realization that I have started feeding my family from our own land (or small garden at any rate). We are becoming connected to our place; we are seeing, embracing and enjoying the change of seasons in a way that we haven’t before. This is not the garden of my youth, but it embraces the knowledge that I gained as a youngster helping in my parent’s garden. It is the garden of my children’s youth, however, and that is something that I feel good about. It is true what they say – children love to eat vegetables that they help plant and grow, and tonight we’re eating pesto.

Basic Basil Pesto

8 cups loose packed basil leaves – do not wash!
4-5 garlic cloves
½- ¾ cup olive oil
1 cup pine nuts, toasted
6-8 oz parmesan cheese

Put garlic in food processor and chop. Add basil until smooth. Add oil, more to taste if desired, and remaining ingredients. Adjust ingredients to suit your own palate. Eat.