Tag Archives: stocking up

Three Ways Recipes Make you a Better Locavore

24 Sep

Can you follow a recipe and still be a locavore? My (blog editor, Rachel’s) answer? Yes.  An even better answer? The right recipe can make your locavore experience better!  Here are three ways I think recipes and locavorism go together.

A recipe is a guide, always, to creating an edible, flavorful food.  Some of us follow that guide more strictly than others, for any number of reasons.  Normally I take the approach of reading recipes and then totally doing whatever I want based on the ingredients I have at hand.  This works really well for me because I have a pantry stocked to the hilt with local staples, plus keep a supply of specialties and exotics.  I’ve been cooking for myself, family and friends for well over a decade, and shopping for ingredients is fun for me.  If I happen upon something that I’ve read about being really great for a particular cuisine or style of dish, or a local version of something I don’t often see (such as apple cider molasses, a recent happy acquisition) I’ll usually bring some of that home with me.  So, I’m already at an advantage (or several) because I make food into a hobby and a lifestyle.  I can’t make that a tip for anyone, but I admit that it helps.

Tip/Technique 1:  Start in the back of the cookbook/at the search function on the food blog.  Search for the ingredient you know you’re about to get from your CSA, or that caught your attention at the farmers’ market, or that you over-bought at the roadside stand.  The fresh foods I have on hand absolutely dictate what I make.  Sometimes I use a recipe all the way through, sometimes not.  If a recipe seems to rely too heavily on something out of season, I won’t make it, but I might see a cooking technique I like for the ingredient I do have.  Over the years, I’ve gotten a sense for which foods swap in and out well.  I’ve also found out what flavor combinations tend to show up together in certain cuisines, or even over all foods (cooking fat+onion+garlic seems to be part of human DNA).  In other words, I’m not going to the grocery store to buy lots of out-of-season components just to make a recipe, but I’ve honed my ability, just by simple reading and research, to have a running list of options of cooking techniques and flavor combinations (so THAT’S what to do with all that oregano…add it to the zucchini!)

TIp/Technique 2:  Baking recipes and fruit desserts can generally be done with local ingredients.  Again, if you have been shopping with a local-foods radar, you may have started making local grain, flour, honey, maple, eggs, dairy and butter part of your pantry.  If you have local cornmeal, you’ve expanded your options, and any seasonal local fruit means you can make a locavore dessert.  I want to share a very local cornbread recipe (pictured a few weeks back).  This is a recipe that’s not seasonal, just reliant on local pantry ingredients.  I need a recipe to make it…the chemistry of baking isn’t improvised; the local ingredients may or may not enhance the flavor, but it’s important to me to use local ingredients because of the positive impact it has on my community and economy.

Evolved cornbread, based off a recipe in Moosewood Restaurant New Classics.

1/4 c/ 2oz/1/2 stick butter
1/4 c. honey
2 eggs
1c/245g plain yogurt or buttermilk
1 c/125g flour
1 c/145g cornmeal
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda

1. Set the oven to 400 degrees, use a dab of butter (not from the amount above) to grease a 9×9″ or 7×11″ baking dish (or I’ve used my 10-inch cast iron numerous times, with a bottom layer of sauteed onions and peppers).

2. Beat together the butter and honey until uniform and lightly colored.  Add in eggs and beat until uniform.  Add in the yogurt and make it uniform again.  If you’re so inclined, this would be the point to add in up to 3/4 cup of finely chopped or shredded vegetables (try shredded, salted and drained and dried zucchini or cooked onions and peppers or a little amount of finely minced jalapeno peppers).

3. Combine the dry ingredients together, whisk so they’re evenly mixed.

4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones (the butter-honey-egg-yogurt mixture) and mix up until well combined (again, it should look uniform in texture, no flour streaks).  Pour or scrape out into your baking dish and bake 25-35 minutes until golden brown.  Cool a bit before cutting and serving.

Tip/Technique 3: The right recipe should be followed, when it focuses on a local and seasonal ingredient.  The conditions of “the right recipe” are laid out above.  Following a great recipe will make you a better cook, even if you only make the recipe exactly that way one time.  Even though you might know how to combine the ingredients in the dish, even if you don’t think bringing out the measuring devices for such a simple list of ingredients would be necessary, this is your chance to really learn from someone, right off the pages of a cookbook.  And this is how you will learn how to maximize in-season foods to their real, great potential.  That particular ratio of ingredient x to spice y, cooked in that particular order, will make a flavor different.  It’s the physics, chemistry and alchemy of recipes that naturally came into existence–these great recipes were born from co-availability of the best of ingredients, not some random combination of foods from far away places.  A few enhancements make it in, a result of trade and awareness, but a really great recipe highlights that locally-available food in a special way.

This became clear to me a few weeks ago over something called salsa de dedo.  I’d picked up some tomatillos.  I had just a pint, and I knew I wanted to make a sauce.  It just seemed right for the end of summer, and I recalled making a green sauce with pepitas and orange juice from a favorite cookbook.  I really was hoping for something new to try out from my gigantic Latin America cookbook, and maybe not relying on those out-of-location ingredients.  Since a lot of Latin cuisines (but not all, not by a long shot) were born out of a tropical climate, I was thinking I’d be following tip #1 above: just look for the technique to feature the tomatillos.  Then I saw a curious listing under tomatillo, “salsa de dedo,” which translates to “finger sauce.”  Knowing that more than one cuisine has a condiment or snack that is named because you have to lick your fingers after eating it, I thought this could be very interesting to read about.  My curiosity was beyond rewarded when I realized salsa de dedo could be so very locavore.  Tomatillos, dried chiles (I did substitute the type I had dried from last summer for what was called for in the recipe), white onion, garlic, vinegar, cilantro, dried oregano, and tomatoes. Just cumin and salt were non-local at this time of year.  Going back to my previous point, I wouldn’t look at this recipe in february and think I should run to the grocery to buy all the produce (though it is that good).  I’d hope I’d frozen or canned some, but that’s another story.  I really really love this sauce.  This is what tomatoes, tomatillos, onion and cilantro were supposed to do with each other.  With all credit to cookbook author and chef Maricel E. Presilla (her tome Gran Cocina Latina is worth it, even to this vegetarian who must pick up techniques between pork and chicken recipes), here is the gist of her recipe for Salsa de Dedo:

Roast a little over a pound of plum tomatoes (like Romas or sauce-making tomatoes) in a hot, dry skillet, turning occasionally.  I used my broiler because I needed the stovetop space.  Roast until the skin is blistered and the tomatoes are cooked-about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring a pound of tomatillos in water to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.  Also simmer a few dried hot peppers (she calls for up to 7 dried chile de arbol, but I used 1 dried serrano I knew to be fairly hot in a half recipe) for 10-12 minutes until softened.  Drain the boiled veggies, cool everything while chopping a white onion and 3 cloves of garlic.  Blend/process first until smooth and paste-like: the chiles, the white onion and garlic cloves; then add the roasted tomatoes and tomatillos, 1/4 cup vinegar (local cider vinegar works for me), 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (or about 1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh oregano leaves, which you’re likely to find in your garden, at market, or from a friend), 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.  Blend/process until the veggies are broken down but still chunky (this is why you did the onions and garlic separately, first).  Taste, then lick your fingers.  It’s great on cornbread.


4 Days until the Challenge-Task: Sunday at the Market

28 Aug

Another post by Lea, Assistant Director:

You know how runners say that they experience a “high” when they hit their stride and can suddenly just run and run.  Well, I am pretty sure I have hit my locavore stride.  I finally feel like I have fallen back into my cooking groove, and am pretty sure that as a result I cooked enough food in the last 4 hours for a small village. 

I headed out early to the Brighton Farmer’s Market this morning, because I was convinced that Irene’s forces would make their way as far as Rochester and that the vendors would suddenly need to flee.  (This was not true, it was the windiest all day at 9:15 am when I got to the market).  In addition to gathering up a ton of great food, I had one of those idyllic market mornings where the community aspect becomes just as important as the food part. 

My first stop was to the Finger Lakes Farms/Meadow Creek booth where in addition to stocking up on a pound of butter and a pound of raw milk cheddar cheese, I ran into my step-sister and her husband.  My step-sister is pregnant and due in just a few days, so I was thrilled to catch up with them before the baby comes along.  While we had cheese on the brain we walked over and visited First Light Creamery to sample some of their smokey paprika flavored chevre. It was unbelievably delicious-but it was the more local flavored dill and garlic variety I was after (which is also unbelievably delicious).  I had also hoped to pick up some of their feta, but it their batch is not fully cured yet.  I chose not to visibly cry.   And realize that I have plenty of cheese for a single person already.  I can wait a week or two.

A few booths down I visited with Aberdeen Hill Farm where I had planned on grabbing just a dozen of their beautiful free-range eggs, but my eye wandered to their chalk board and without even thinking I ordered a pound of Kielbasa as well.  My Polish roots always get the best of me when it comes to Kielbasa, and since I already had plans to braise a head of green cabbage this week-it just seemed like a no-brainer.

My next stop was to the Small World Bakery where I grabbed a jar of their Honey Bunny Granola (not 100% local-but good for these next few days, and in a pinch).  They also have delicious baked goods and hot sauces made  with organic and local ingredients and re-sell Stolor Organic Sunflower Oil and a Farmer Ground Flour.  The owner of the bakery Luke is a great guy and he just signed up Small World to become a sponsor of the challenge.  So I was excited to thank him in person.

Next up was a visit to Eric Newman’s booth.  Eric is a young beginning farmer and has some great products.  He happily let me sift through the seconds of his heirloom tomatoes.  He sold me 2 quarts of seconds for $5 (at least half-off), which have already happily been cooked up into a delicious tomato sauce. 

Seconds and bulk purchasing, by the way, are a great way to stock up on what is at the height of the season and save some money. Most farmer’s market patrons just want the “pretty looking” fruits and veggies, but true locavores know that it all tastes the same whether it’s pretty or not!  Farmer’s need to get these seconds off their hands, so make sure to ask about them if you are looking for a large quantity of something.

I popped over to Circle B farms next for two quarts of peaches.  I have been dreaming all week of making peach and honey ice-cream but when I grabbed a red onion for 50 cents, I also became inspired to make peach salsa.  Which is why I popped over for a quick visit with a good farmer friend Kurt Forman who just happened to have some jalapenos for me.  Serendipitous!

My final stop at the market was to Whitney Organic Farm.  The Whitney’s sell organic pork and grass-fed beef.  I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I regularly visit their booth for a chat and often some bacon or sausage.  The farmer, Dave was my school bus driver and his daughter Michelle and I went to school together, so I always love to chit-chat with them about home and the farm.  Michelle and I chatted for a while today and she convinced me to buy some short ribs.  I’m pretty stoked about this impromptu purchase and am planning on cooking them up with some creamy mashed potatoes and tomato and garlicky green beans later this week.






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