Friday, June 5, 2009

Lighthearted Locavore's Asparagus Cheese Soup

I found my way over to the new farmers market at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton in the middle of a rainstorm this afternoon and caught up with Art Ludlow of Mecox Bay Dairy, who offered me a taste of one of his "experimental"and delicious cheeses, a mild white cheddar that's aged 7 months. 

I told Art about the One Local Summer challenge sponsored by Farm to Philly which I recently signed up for with 70 or so other locavores and my LightheartedLocavore blog, and bought a decent sized piece of cheddar, the only Mecox Bay Dairy cheese that I had not yet tried. His others are award winners (and available at a few shops in Manhattan -- namely Gourmet Garage and Saxelby Cheese)! 

Art had some fun ideas for me this summer in my quest to cook "extreme" local at least one day a week for the One Local Challenge (versus my usual "lighthearted" fare). 

Because it was raining, most of the vendors didn't show at the farmers market so I headed over to Hayground Farms (no relation to the school) and Green Thumb and picked up some local produce -- asparagus, spinach, strawberries, rhubarb, milk -- and a few other ingredients -- including dried blueberries --  for the weekend to go with the cheese. 

When I got home, I decided to make an Asparagus Cheddar Cheese soup using the Mecox Bay Dairy cheddar, Ronnybrook Farm whole milk and bunch of very long and thin asparagus from Hayground. It was delicious and very, very, very rich. We had it as a meal by itself with a glass of white wine. 

I agree with Mr. Ludlow when he says that the north and south forks of Long Island have an incredible diversity of foods from strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus in June to exotic mushrooms, fabulous wine and now a local vodka (and his amazing cheeses, of course). We joked about infusing a watermelon with the Long Island vodka and having a really fun party! 

I know I'm going to have a lot of fun with the One Local Challenge every week! Try the soup, but know that it's a meal in itself -- very rich, very cheesy. 

ABOUT THE FARMS
Check out the lovely short film on Mecox Bay Dairy produced by "thepeoplethatfeedus" and featuring Art Ludlow and his grass- and hay- fed registered Jersey Dairy Cows. It's 6 minutes and quite delightful. 

 855 Mecox Road
P.O. Box 411
Bridgehampton, NY 11932
Phone: 631-537-0335
E-Mail: art@mecoxbaydairy.com



RECIPE 
Adapted from Southern Living Magazine, 1972. 

Asparagus Cheese Soup 
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour, all-purpose
1 dash of nutmeg, freshly ground 
6 cups of local whole milk
20 ounces of local asparagus, cooked but still firm, diced
2 cups of shredded local, raw cheddar (reserve some for garnish)
1 teaspoon of paprika for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter and blend in flour, salt, nutmeg, and pepper in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to remove any lumps in the flour. Gradually add local milk and cook 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened (do not allow to boil). Add cooked and diced asparagus and a local cheddar cheese and continue to stir over low heat until the cheese melts. Add salt and pepper and taste. Add more salt or pepper, as needed. To serve, garnish with a generous dash of paprika and shredded Cheddar cheese for a colorful and delicious meal. 

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