I’ve been fooling around with the new google maps feature, my maps, for a few weeks now. I wanted to add this to yesterday’s post but had to talk to a few farmers today before I could complete it. I hope to do this each week from now on, hopefully getting a bit more elaborate with photos and links and whatnot.
Archive for June, 2007
My day started out with a potato. Well, okay, one potato in a two-pound bag of potatoes that I had toted home from the farmer’s market the day before. It was gorgeous, in fact, I’d been admiring its beauty for the past 8 weeks, when I started buying its brothers from Mary at my local farmer’s market. But yesterday morning, Mary told me it was probably the last week she would have potatoes, and, after scooping up three baskets of blue, gold, and red tubers, I knew I needed to pay homage to the harvest. My first One Local Summer meal, I decided, needed to prominently feature this potato.
A laudable decision, yes, but one that caused me to spend, I’m not kidding, at least 3 hours of the day contemplating how to properly do justice to this potato. My respect for this particular crop runs deep–it is the only local starch I’ve found in the Southern California spring, and has become a staple of my meals these past few months. Mary is also the first local farmer I’d forged a relationship with, so part of my determination to properly celebrate this potato was for her. It was a strange feeling–I’ve never wanted to pay homage to one food product before (save for my favorite comfort food, the jalepeno cheese bread at the Liars Club, which needs little more preparation than a light toast) which is I guess why I found myself unable to decide on how to cook the damn roots. I pondered and pondered, and finally decided I was stumped. I’d already shaped these babies into every form I could think of–home fries, hash browns, two types of potato salad, even semi-successful gnocci. I wanted to do something different, something more.
(a tray of not-so-successful gnocci–I later learned the secret: freezing)
But the more I pondered the more I realized that what makes Mary’s potatoes special is that they’re good–far better than any I’d sampled before, and since. I realized that what I really needed to do was prepare them simply, to let them showcase their own flavor. It must have been a comical moment, me jumping up from amid a pile of cookbooks on the floor, excited by a sudden realization that I was going to roast some potatoes whole. I suddenly got inspired–not only would I roast the potatoes but I’d roast them with local olive oil from Petrou foods, local garlic from the farmer’s market, and a bit of fresh rosemary from my garden. My mouth was salivating already.
This, however, spurred on pondering session #2, as I was now stumped as to what I could possibly serve with these potatoes to do the decided-upon side dish justice. As I’ve mentioned earlier in the week, my options were limited, and because I was determined to make this meal 100% local, I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I would be preparing a vegan meal (if anyone knows of any dairy or meat farms in San Diego, I’m actively seeking options!).
Luckily, in addition to some gorgeous, inspiring potatoes, I had a few other treasures piled on my kitchen counter. I was particularly fond of the blue lake green beans I’d been getting all spring, and was eager to mingle them with the bewitching dragon beans that Carlsbad’s Valdivia Farms had at their farm stand last Saturday. I decided to feature a bean salad as a side dish, especially after stumbling across this one on Simply Recipes. I had peppermint growing in my garden and had some clementines from Polito family farms I could use in the dressing, along with oil from Petrau farms. Side dish #2, down.
Now for the main course, something that I passed up a Morley Field frisbee golf session to work out the details of. I had gorgeous summer squash, even more beautiful red peppers and some enormous rainbow chard that I was determined to weave together. Wanting to capture the essence of summer and the spirit of celebrating the food I was eating, I decided something elaborate was needed, and so it became: a terraine of summertime grilled vegetables.
I found a basic recipe in the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (aka my kitchen bible), as well as a similar one on epicurious to base the dish on, and, pouring myself a glass of (local) San Pasqual Wine, I took it from there. There were some improvisations as I went along–I threw in some potatoes for good measure, I realized I didn’t have any local white wine so substituted Stone Beer (and the 2007 Vertical Epic at that!). Oh, and I cheated twice: at the very beginning, deciding to use chicken stock I had made and frozen earlier in the year–the chicken wasn’t local but it was free-range; at the very end, adding breadcrumbs from locally-made bread that was, alas, made with non-local flour.
The result? The potatoes were oh-so-perfect, the green beans light and refreshing (although the color faded from the dragon beans). And the terraine? From a foodie standpoint there were things I would have added if I could find them locally–a layer of goat cheese definitely, and if not some sort of protein at least some hearty mushrooms (which are available locally, I just hadn’t planned ahead). From a locavore standpoint, however, I was pretty pleased. The leftovers held up well (I drizzled on some leftover homemade pesto the next day), and, if you’ve got some meat in your foodshed I think this would make a great side dish (although a time-consuming one!).
Here are the recipes:
Roasted smashed potatoes with garlic & parsley
scrub potatoes well, let dry
preheat oven to 400 F
rub roasting pan with 2 tsp olive oil, place potatoes in pan and toss to coat
sprinkle with salt and pepper
roast in oven for 30 minutes, rotating after 15
take potatoes out of oven, let rest for 10 minutes
while potatoes are resting, heat 1 tsp oil in pan over medium heat, add garlic and rosemary, salt, and pepper and sautee for 2 minutes, stirring often so as to not let the garlic burn.
plate potatoes, smash each with large mallet
spoon rosemary and garlic mixture over each
mixed string bean and mint salad
1/2 lb mixed green, wax, dragon, or other string beans
handful fresh mint leaves
dice the mint and mix with olive oil
zest one clementine, add zest to olive oil
squeeze juice from clementine and add to oil mixture. let stand at room temperature until needed.
cut ends off beans and steam for 2-5 minutes over boiling water
rinse under cold water and place in fridge to stop cooking process.
mix beans and mint mixture and let stand in fridge until ready to serve.
zucchini, chard, blue potato and roasted red pepper casserole
2 red peppers
5 blue potatoes
4 medium summer squash
1 bunch swiss or rainbow chard, stems and leaves separated, both diced
1-2 red onions, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 tbsp. fresh italian parsley, diced
1 tsp. fresh oregano, diced
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup good beer (the better the beer the better the flavor!)
2-3 thick slices fresh bread
note: this recipe took me 2 hours from prep to table, and involves grilling, stovetop & oven time. Broiling could be substituted for the grilling if needed; improvisation in any of the steps or layers would also work fine, as long as all components are cooked prior to the dish going into the oven.
light grill, let heat for 15 minutes
stem and seed red peppers, slice into 4-5 flat pieces
slice zucchini into 1/4 inch strips
grill pepper and zucchini slices over open grill for 4-5 minutes per side, until peppers are blackened and zucchini have grill marks. Remove from heat. set zucchini aside
Place peppers in paper bag for 10 minutes. using a vegetable peeler, gently remove blackened skins from peppers. dice peeled peppers and set aside.
saute onions and chard stems with 2 tsp. oil over medium high heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are browned and soft. be careful not to burn. set mixture aside.
while onions are cooking, blanch chard leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.
heat garlic in 1 tsp oil over medium heat for 1 minute. add chicken stock, beer, oregano, and parsley, bring to simmer, cook for 5 minutes and remove from heat.
slice potatoes into 1/4″ slices. toss with 2 tsp oil and salt and pepper. line bottom of glass casserole dish and bake in 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
while potatoes are baking, place bread in food processor and pulse until bread is chopped into course crumbs.
place crumbs on cookie sheet in one layer and cook in oven for 5 minutes. remove from oven and set aside.
remove potatoes from oven (keep oven on) and carefully layer onion mixture, zucchini slices, blanched chard, and roasted red peppers over potatoes, in that order. pour stock and beer mixture over casserole dish. top with breadcrumbs and bake for 20 minutes.
I signed up to take part in Pocket Farm‘s One Local Summer, which starts, officially, today. The idea is to make one meal entirely out of local food once a week, for each week of summer. The idea is a strict one, with the only caveat allowing oil, salt, pepper, spices and herbs. Everything else for this one meal a week must be acquired, not to mention grown, raised, or harvested, locally.
I’ve insisted before that eating locally should not be viewed as a challenge, and for the same reasons I’m weary of calling my participation in One Local Summer a challenge. Rather, I’m hoping it will be a learning opportunity, giving me reason and inspiration to explore, to expand my horizons, and to find more farmers and purveyors than i would otherwise know about. I’m hoping I’ll know a lot more at the end of the summer than at the start, and maybe even think a little differently about how we eat. So I thought it would be a good idea to preface my first One Local Summer meal with a summary of sorts, so I could look back at the end of summer and see where I started.
Since committing last week, I’ve been spending a large part of my free time thinking about what eating locally means, and what my options are. I’ve been to 5 different farmers’ markets, spent a solid amount of time looking up local products (although have been disappointed not to find one solid resource of San Diego-area foods), and spent a bit more money than I usually would on a few staples. Here’s the results of a week’s worth of preparation:
First, I’m in great shape in terms of seasonal produce. Southern California is surprisingly bountiful, with over 200 agricultural products and over 2,000 small farms. Right now tomatoes, avocados, strawberries, leafy greens, summer squash, citrus, bell peppers, and string beans are heavily in season, and we’re just starting to see stone fruits (apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines), sweet corn, cantalopes, and other summer bounty. I’ve also found several farmers that allow me to stock up on what I consider staples of many meals–garlic, onions, and fresh herbs (I recently found ginger and bay leaves, both of which I’m excited about). So fruit and veggies promise to be the easy part.
I’ve also got my own garden to source from, although right now it is in a bit of a state of transition–I’ve harvested most of the swiss chard and all of the romaine that was planted earlier in the season, and I’ve just planted some soy beans, cantaloupe, and bell peppers but won’t see any fruit for weeks. I do have some lipstick peppers that I’m leaving on the vine until they turn red, and my two tomato plants are healthy and strong, with tons of small green fruits starting to appear. I just discovered that someone, probably the gardener my landlord hires to keep our bouganvilla under control, butchered and destroyed my dill, so I’m a bit disappointed about that, but I’ve got some healthy rosemary, sage, and oregano, and I just added some basil and mint to a planter in the shade.
I’ve also found some local gems that I think will help and probably guide the local meals I prepare this summer. I’ve stocked up on Wildflower Honey from Chrystal’s Pure Honey in Borrego Springs, and found Jackie’s Jams, which makes jam entirely from local produce and which I hope to use as a rub or marinade later in the summer. I snagged a jar of apricot as it’s in short season and she often sells out, but am enticed by pomegranate, strawberry, and chipotle peach too. I’m most excited, however, about the bottle of olive oil I bought today from George Petrou, who has been making olive oil in San Diego for over 20 years. The olives themselves are from Central California–he used to grow them in San Diego and Mexico but recently moved the operation. Still, it means I can cook with semi-local oil, making my meals that much more local. With fresh herbs and locally produced olive oil, I’m going to aim for salt and pepper to be my only outside-the-foodshed ingredients.
That said, I am also struggling with a few major food groups. I have yet to find a local source of meat, and although I know of one dairy (Hollandia Dairy, in San Marcos), I have yet to make the visit and don’t know what products they have. Because I don’t want my defintion of “local” to have to mean “vegetarian,” I’m determined to explore the options in the area. I have found local yellowtail caught off the shores of San Diego, and also local eggs, but do want to find what else is out there in terms of the animal kingdom. I also think I may have trouble with grains. There are local potatoes and sweet corn that I can use as starches, but rice and wheat I think are only produced outside my foodshed. I’m going to explore to see if there is any local grains, but also intend to do more research on using corn as a grain.
Oh, and how could I forget the last important component of a meal? I am excited to be able to celebrate San Diego’s wealth of local (and award-winning) breweries as well as at least one local winery that operates out of a warehouse less than 2 miles from my house. So drinks to accompany dinner promise not to be a problem; I also am excited about cooking with beer & wine.
One thing that I’m determined to do, since I am having so much trouble myself finding what San Diego has to offer, is to compile a list of local foods that I find and use. I’m experimenting with the format, but think a combination of lists and customized google maps may accompany this blog throughout the summer, hopefully culminating in a solid directory of San Diego-area local food.
And now, because it’s 5:00 and I have dinner to prepare, let the One Local Summer begin!
The sun and the beach are irresistible this time of year, and there’s no doubt I’ll be heading out to play after coming home from work every day this week. But coming in from the languid sunset, I find myself faced with a surprisingly troubling dilemma: If I take the time to prepare a delicious meal, I have no time to write; if I take the time to write, I linger too long over words and run out of time to cook a satisfying meal. Since the tempting fridge full of local produce inevitably wins (especially this week), it’s the writing that stays neglected.
I have about 5 posts I’m dying to write, and I will get to them. (several espousing my frustration at the state of the world after reading this; several more of excitement after finding this; and at least one waxing poetic on the beauty of chioggia beets). In the mean time, I’ll leave you with some well-articulated, slow and savory goodness that I stumbled across. Which I guess applies to that interview with Carlo Petrini, and also the sweet, smoky flavors of La Milpa chioggia beets.
Six months ago, had you suggested to me that I ride the bus to get from point A to point B I might have given you a puzzling look, not sure whether you could possibly be serious. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find me happily perched at the bus stop every morning, monthly bus pass in hand.
So what changed? Curiosity I guess, discovering that a bus commute was possible and wondering whether it would be feasible, and/or enjoyable and/or convenient and/or save me some dough as gas prices painfully continue to rise. So there I was one morning, waking up a bit earlier than I needed, $2.25 in hand, unsure what the ride would be like or where it would take me. Turns out the bus picks me up a block from my house, drops me off two blocks from my office door, and leaves me just enough time to grab a reusable mug full of organic, free trade coffee, from an independent coffee stand I never would have found had the bus not let me out directly across the square. Combine that with 45 minutes of reading and listening to music and I feel pretty damn relaxed by the time I get to work.
So I liked the commute, certainly a lot more than driving 20 minutes myself, circling for 10 minutes to find a parking spot and walking 10 more from the parking spot to the office door. Time is about the same, cost, because I have to pay to park in Downtown San Diego, is much less, and stress level is non-existent (save for about one morning a month when I’m inevitably running late and literally sprint to the bus stop and climb on board panting). Like many environmentally friendly gestures I espouse on these pages, I’ve come to find that a) not only is making the switch not that hard, and b) I actually enjoy the alternative better than the norm.
And it looks like riding public transportation is just going to get easier and easier. Check out Google Transit for instance, a Google Labs product that allows you to type in a start and end address, select an arrival and departure time, and end up with a familiar-looking Google map with your bus, rail, and foot path mapped out. The system’s not perfect (when looking for a route home from a lecture that would end at 8:30 pm I was told to take a 6:30 am bus the next morning) and its not available in more than a handful of cities, but its a step in the direction of making public transportation seem both more accessible and more convenient.
My favorite feature about the map, aside from the “walking instructions” it gives you if your destination is slightly off the transport route, is the savings calculator. Using local transit fare, mileage, and the most recent IRS cost per mile figure (used to allow businesses to deduct mileage on their taxes), Google shows you how much money you would spend driving and (usually) what you would save with each bus trip. This alone was shocking to me–to find that it supposedly costs me $5 each time I head to a friend’s house; or $11 round trip to drive to work each day. Of course, the Google figure doesn’t take into account parking, tolls, etc., and the transit figure doesn’t take into account monthly or bulk passes, which at least for me, makes the savings even more substantial.
Now all they need to do is add one more calculation–neither figure (public transport or driving) offers up the environmental impact, something I’d love to see some talented economist out there offer calculations for.