Good Morning! Happy Monday! :)
So what is on my plate today.
Oatmeal Walnut Raisin Chocolate Cookies
If I say so myself, this one is a keeper.
Chewy, dense, salty and sweet, lots of raisins, nuts and chocolate, really thick oats. On the oats, I just switched from the regular Quaker rolled oats to Bob's Red Mill organic thick oats and I am loving the latter. They stand up so much better in baking and make for satisfying crunch in granola. I suspect they are the reason for the elevation of the humble oatmeal cookie achieved in this recipe. Instead of melting away and making for a wistful presence, the thick oats stand bold and proud. There is no way you can ignore them. And, once you have noticed their existence, you suddenly realize that you respect them and then, it is all over.
You reach for the second cookie, unconsciously and are surprised to see it in your hand.
I also wanted to share some surprising facts I dug up about flowers, post a conversation with a New York flower farmer at the market last week. If you are not interested in this part and just want the recipe, scroll down to the end of the post (or click on recipe link below)
Last Friday, I made a visit to the Union Square Green Market after, oh, several months. Most of my favorite stands were there and I stopped by them to have a chat and pick some of their finest and freshest. I stopped to say hello to my favorite flower farmer, Mike, who sells the most gorgeous roses year round. Mike was in a mood alright, and, as farmers are apt to do when they find an empathetic ear, he vented about the unfairness of corporate powers. I agree with him in principle. So, I was also sympathetic.
Rant aside, I did learn something. That North East New York used to be a bed of organic flower farms, especially roses. That this region's land is incredibly fertile and supports the growth of astonishingly beautiful flowers. That all but his farm have now closed down because they could not compete with the cheap roses flown all the way from South America. That after him, his farm will close too, as the inheritance taxes combined with declining flower sales do not make farming sustainable for his sons. It is saddening!
To limit coca farming and expand job opportunities in Colombia, the U.S. government in 1991 suspended import duties on Colombian flowers. The results were dramatic, though disastrous for U.S. growers. In 1971, the United States produced 1.2 billion blooms of the major flowers (roses, carnations and chrysanthemums) and imported only 100 million. By 2003, the trade balance had reversed; the United States imported two billion major blooms and grew only 200 million.
" - Smithsonian
Literally every corner shop near me has flowers to sell. Until now, I never quite questioned where they came from. My assumption all along being such delicate beings cannot possibly be airlifted and flown across several thousand miles to reach my corner deli. Oh! How I was wrong! Much like food, these delicate creations of nature which for the large periods of human civilization remained a gardner's pride and relish is now a multi-BILLION dollar industry!
According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), consumers in the U.S. consumed $34.3 billion in floral products in 2012. SAF estimates that value of cut flower sales to be around $7.5 Bn. 64% of the sales are of imported flowers with 95% of the imports coming from South and Central America (Columbia, Equador and Mexico). California accounts for 76% of domestic flower production. And, New York ranks nowhere of consequence.
Note that I say "production" and not farming or growing. That is because this is an industry of enormous scale. California alone accounted for $7.6 Bn of sales in 2012!
One has to wonder how is it possible to ship flowers across such long distances without bruising them? Well, Mike gave me a clue and I did some further research. Roses cut from the plant have a life span of 5 to 10 days. Once cut from the plant, the inability to photosynthesize nutrients needed for life rapidly depletes the stored food in the stem and leaves, and, the flower wilts. Water can arrest this process but only cold temperatures can keep them going for weeks. To keep them fresh for longer and for long distance travel, “cold chains”—refrigerated warehouses and trucks every point along transit keep the flowers in suspended animation; flash frozen and sprayed with pesticides and inert gases. In this way, floral life is extended by several days.
I am simply boggled. While there is a push on being a locavore for food, the other industries linked to farming also seem to be suffering a similar fate and demise from industrialized processes.
From my experience, I can definitely vouch for the quality of Mike's flowers being superior than any I have seen in a deli. They are shaped beautifully, non-uniformly and look like roses and haven't been sprayed with chemicals. Yet, he is asked several times, why his flowers are expensive. Notwithstanding the inherent lack of understanding of the farming process or empathy to the effort involved, I have to ask, how is it expensive?
I agree flowers in your deli may be cheap per rose, but what is the real price of those dozen roses? On a normal day, a dozen roses here can cost between $12-%15 increasing unto $25 for occasions and Holidays such as Valentine's, Mother's Day etc. Mike charges $10 for half dozen of his brilliantly hued, non-pesticide, non-chemical blooms that were picked the evening work and the prices do not vary by occasion or day.
Do we need twice the amount of roses? Are 6 more roses going to add incremental happiness? Isn't it better to have fewer yet beautiful and virtuous flowers to cherish and enjoy? Not to mention, the gazillions of money spent on fuel and logistics for shipping those roses grown on far away farms with working conditions far below international standards, including child labor.
Perhaps, I am asking existential questions here, but, I would like to hear your thoughts. Here is a great article on the US flower business and its ties with foreign lands.
Oatmeal Walnut Raisin Chocolate Cookies
125 g thick rolled oats
90 g whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
100 g raw sugar, pulverised fine
120 g butter, room temperature
1 tsp sea salt
1 egg, room temperature
1-1/2 tsp vanilla essence
handful of chopped walnuts
handful of black raisins
handful of chopped dark chocolate
Process the butter and sugar to be light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and pulse to a smooth mixture. If the mixture seems curdled, it means the egg and butter were not at room temperature and one slightly colder. It's ok, just continue using the mixture.
Sift together the flour, soda and salt. Add the oats, nuts and raisins and chocolate and toss. Add the wet mixture to the dry and knead to incorporate.
Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. This will allow the fats to solidify and bloom while baking creating that lift in the center.
While the dough is cooling, preheat oven to 350F.
Using a 1/4 cup measure, place dough in rounds on a baking tray lined with parchment paper about two inches apart.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges are browning and the cookie has flattened out a bit.
Remove from oven and let it stand for 5 minutes undisturbed. The cookies will be extremely soft, so desist urge to pick them up as soon as they are out of the oven.
Gently transfer the cookies to a cooling rack for 10 minutes, to cool down and harden enough to handle.