Posts Tagged ‘vera videnovich’

Our sales force in action

January 16, 2010

Stopped by the Empty Bottle Farmers’ Market and caught up with Celeste and Devon, David, and west-side sales rep Vera. Vera will also be at the Logan Square Indoor Winter Market at the Congress tomorrow, with a stash of cookbooks on hand to supplement your yarn and knitwear needs.

Also: Unfiltered apple cider and Templeton’s Rye? Yum.


The view from Videnovich Farms

October 7, 2009


A few weeks ago I took a field trip to Michigan. Destination: Videnovich Farms, the family land where my friend Vera raises chicken, sheep, and vegetables. Vera and I used to work together at the Reader, and for years she ran a small, Reader-only CSA program, which had her delivering bags of vegetables to the office once a week all summer and fall.   After she was laid off in 2007 she decided to try and make a go of farming full time.

After hanging out with her for an afternoon, all I can say is I don’t know how she does it. And those vegetables? They’re underpriced by any minimum wage standard.


She shares the land with two of her four brothers, one of whom raises peppers that he sells to the Serbian community.


The other raises soybeans and white Concord grapes, which he sells to Welch’s. When the grapes are ripe on the vine, the whole farm smells like a lunchroom full of first graders.


On her corner of the farm, Vera specializes in rare, Old World vegetable varieties that reflect her Serbian roots. Eggplant, okra, beans, cucumbers, radishes, peppers, and more peppers. Sadly, her tomato crop, like so many, was devastated this year by blight.  The carnage — rows of mangy, rotting, inedible fruit — was painful to see.


But on the day I visited the okra, though late in ripening, was bountiful. And, beautiful.


I helped her pick a row — down once side and back up another. After about two hours this is what we had. Also, I had a little sunburn.


When Vera’s out there, she sleeps on the sofa in the main house, which is otherwise uninhabitable. The bathroom is in the barn. And every square foot of the farm’s uncultivated land seems to be full of old cars and rusty farm equipment, which her brothers buy at auction and then sell on the scrap metal market.


But there is also a passel of brilliantly colored chickens.


And some seriously adorable sheep. In the off-season, Vera spins their wool into yarn and knits sweaters and other wooly goods to sell at craft fairs like this weekend’s Handmade Market at the Empty Bottle. (Next weekend, for all you yarn geeks, she and her portable spinning wheel will be at YarnCon at Pulaski Park.)


Vera sells at the Andersonville and Logan Square farmers’ markets, and distributes her CSA at the Hideout. After seeing first-hand how hard she was working, we decided to dedicate this week’s bingo proceeds to her. OK, it’s not exactly “urban agriculture,” but independent entrepreneurs like her are in the vanguard of the movement to find creative, small-scale ways to bring farm-fresh produce to the city. Today, she says she’s going to bring some ajvar — Serbian pepper relish — to donate to the prize pot. You don’t want to miss this stuff; it is DELISH.

So, see you tonight, with our guest callers David Kodeski and Diana Slickman, of BoyGirlBoyGirl and Theater Oobleck. That’s from 6 to 8 PM at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia. Bingo, beer, and hot dogs (and their veggie friends) — what more could you want?

Got veggies?

May 6, 2009

Vera's veggies

Have you always wanted to join a CSA, but never knew how to start? Are you intimidated by the beefy boxes of bounty sitting in your friends’ pantry? Might you, perhaps, be curious about kohlrabi? Wondering how to get your hands on some free-range chickens?

Come to the Hideout on Wednesday, May 13, for a casual Q&A with farmer Vera Videnovich, who’ll be talking about what she’s growing this season on her family’s farm in southwest Michigan and signing up subscribers for her 2009 CSA — which starts with May asparagus and wraps up in late September with mini-pumpkins, eggplants, peppers, and sweet basil.

Vera’s boxes are small and priced to move: $15/week for 20 weeks, which comes out to  $300 for the summer. It is, in her words, “intended for the smaller household or for those with limited food budgets.” 

Which is just about everyone these days, yes?

And, if you want some meat and dairy to go with those peppers, Jody Osmund, of Cedar Valley  Sustainable Farm outside Ottowa, Illinois, will also be on hand to tell everything you ever wanted to know about his sustainably raised beef, pork, and poultry. His meat CSA runs $255 for three months and each box includes a variety of beef, sausage, ham, pork chops, chicken, and eggs. (Jody estimates each one’s worth about $80 retail.) Sound like a lot? Share with a friend!

If there’s enough interest both Vera and Jody will include the Hideout on their delivery routes — which means that you can pick up your food and enjoy an Old Style on our scenic patio, complete with view of the Streets and San parking lot, at the same time. Can you do that at the Green City Market? I think not.

It’s next Wednesday, May 13, from 6 to 8 at the Hideout — and it’s free. See you there.


April 4, 2009

From Vera Videnovich


[Says Vera: “Pita” is a generic term used to describe all these dishes: zeljenica = with spinach and cheese; sirnica  = with cheese; gibanica  = with cheese; burek (sa mesom) = stuffed with meat; krompirusa = stuffed with potatoes. Greeks also have a similar dish: spanakopita. It’s a peasant dish, and I don’t really make it the same way twice.”]

6 eggs (free-range preferred) + 1 egg reserved
1/2 lb feta cheese *
32 oz cottage cheese or ricotta
swiss chard** steamed and finely chopped
1 package phyllo leaves*** 
canola oil

Large baking dish with at least a 2″ rim.

Beat the eggs and add crumbled feta and cottage cheese. Gently stir in the steamed swiss chard.

Lightly oil the baking dish. Add two phyllo leaves, lightly brushing or sprinkling oil on each leaf.
Spoon the egg-cheese mix evenly over the phyllo. Add two more phyllo leaves, again adding oil to each leaf. Continue with the phyllo + egg-cheese layers until you run out, reserving one or two phyllo leaves for the top. Beat the reserved egg with a tablespoon of water and brush on the top, this will help keep the top phyllo layer from drying out and adds “texture.” 

Cover with foil and bake at 375F for about 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Baking times are approximate as you want to make sure the egg mixture is fully baked and depends on how many layers you make and how thick your phyllo or dough is.

* domestic feta cheese has less salt added. French feta is my favorite as it has a rich texture and flavor.
**swiss chard, sorrel, spinach, or kale can be used in this dish.

***yufka, lavosh or large wheat tortilla breads also work. 

Chicken and Nettle Soup

April 4, 2009


From Vera Videnovich

[Says Vera: “Free-range chicken has more flavor and will create it’s own stock. Serving suggestion: add a tablespoon of plain yogurt and squeeze of lemon juice to each bowl.”]

Ingredients (all measurements are approximate)

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
water (to fill stock pot)
2 bay leaves
4 potatoes, cubed
salt, pepper to taste
2 cups fresh nettles *
1 egg

Use a thick-bottomed stock pot, if available, for a one-pot process. A large crock pot will also do the job. 

Heat the pot then add the oil. When the oil is warm add carrots, celery, and onions cooking over a low heat until the onions soften. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink. Add potatoes, bay leaves, and water to fill the pot. Cook at low heat until the meat is fully cooked and falls from the bones. Remove the chicken from the stock and when cool enough to handle discard the skin and bones. 

At this point you may cool the soup stock and skim the fat.

Shred the meat into bite-size pieces and return to the heated stock. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Add nettles and let them slowly cook for a minute or two. 

Beat the egg and slowly pour into the stock pot while stirring. The eggs will cook in the hot water creating “egg drops.”

Place lid on the pot and remove from heat and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving. 

* spinach, sorrel, or other spring greens may be substituted.