Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Eat Local Challenge: The Finale

Well, it's over. I actually gave up a little early, because my brother arrived in town and we had both breakfast and dinner out on Sunday, so I let things slide. Having a fridge full of local ingredients means that even a let-your-hair-down, non-local-eating day will include lots of local vegetables and fruits, though. Today's lunch is nearly completely local just because local has become standard for me. The exception is the bread and peanut butter I packed to go with my local salad, fruit and yogurt. I missed bread. It was far too hot to consider baking bread, and of course there are no available breads made from locally-grown wheat, although of course there are many locally-made breads.

Bread, lemons, pasta, coffee, gin, and nuts: if we could just find a way to ensure easy access to locally-grown versions of those items, I could do the eat-local challenge forever. And maybe some white flour and sugar to make the occasional cookie. And some chocolate.

Okay, so maybe I'm not really that interested in pursuing a fully-local diet for the long-term. But I realized there were definitely places where I could increase my local sourcing. I will continue to buy my cornmeal from Gray's Grist Mill, which is fantastic, and my dried mushrooms from Maine. I intend to be more stringent in choosing local dairy, which are widely available even at my big, mainstream supermarket. I hope to use honey and maple syrup more and sugar less. And, with the exception of the cooking essentials parsley and lemons, the first of which was rarely available at the farmers' markets and the second of which will not grow in New England, I think I can stick to all local vegetables in season without much trouble. I already sourced nearly all of my meat locally.

I think that I can move my in-season local eating from something like 50% to closer to 75% without much effort. Winter is another story, and one I fear is unlikely to change without a change in my living situation. With a cellar, more storage space, I could store, freeze and can more local food for the winter, but otherwise I'm stuck.

For a final big send-off meal on Saturday, I made a ground beef dish with zucchini, garlic, corn, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. It was supposed to be stuffed zucchini, but two of my zukes had gone soft on me, so I just sort of threw everything into the oven and baked it off (after browning the meat and sautéing the onions, of course). Only the oil and black pepper were non-local. I made cole slaw from cabbage and carrots, sour cream, and mayo made from an egg yolk, olive oil, mustard powder, and a teaspoon of vinegar (non-local items: vinegar, oil, mustard, black pepper, celery seed). I tried to make a cornbread using whole wheat flour, which came out terribly. I think the whole wheat flour absorbed more of the liquid than white would have, and so there wasn't enough moisture for the (non-local) baking powder to react with. As a result, the bread didn't rise well, and there was that unfortunate distinctive metallic-salty flavor of baking powder. (The whole wheat flavor also overpowered the corn flavor.) The guys ate it, though, and didn't think it was nearly as bad as I did. Everything in it was local, save the baking powder, and it might have been okay had I increased the milk. For dessert, we had a honey-peach-sour cream ice cream, and that was really good.
Here's a rough recipe:

Honey-Peach-Sour Cream Ice Cream
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups fresh peach chunks, pureed
1 cup sour cream

Make a custard with the honey, milk and egg yolks. Chill. Fold in sour cream and peach; freeze in ice-cream freezer.

Unlike the other honey-sweetened ice creams I've made, the honey flavor did not dominate. The peach came through strong and clear, with a nice sour tang in the finish. I'll make this again.


Liz said...

Congratulations on completing your challenge! I'm sure most people don't understand why/what you were doing, but what an eyeopening experience it can be! Are you still planning on doing one meal a week for the rest of my summer challenge?

Winter squash, onions & garlic can all be stored in a cool-ish room. And I have a friend in the NC mountains who stores potatoes under the bed. Food storage can be possible, even under less than ideal conditions!

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