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Thursday was my first “eat local all day” day. My observations:

1) Eating Local Takes Planning

Unless you do it daily, you will need to think through what you want to eat and where you need to buy the ingredients. I can see that it gets easier and quicker the more you do it

2) Eating Local, at least in winter, costs the same as eating organic

You won’t save money by eating local, unless you are willing to REALLY plan out where and when to buy the ingredients (local farms, canned fruits from summer, etc). But, it costs about the same as buying organic.

3) Eating Local is fun and delicious

Breakfast: Toast, peanut butter and jam (I ran out of time to make the eggs)

Lunch: Ballard cheddar cheese, bread, apple, carrots

Dinner: Cashew crusted trout, sweet potatoes, greens

Snack: Hot and spicy pecans

Cashew Crusted Trout w/ Greens and Sweet Potatoes

There were a few ingredients that were hard to find, including locally made crackers, fruits, vegetables, and I opted out of making fresh bread crumbs with local bread. It also appears the only local vegetables readily available are potatoes, onions, and winter squash. I expanded my definition of “local” to the west coast to include organic apples, carrots and swiss chard.

Overall, the planning and shopping was fun for me and my daughter, the day was full of delicious meals and I learned more about local providers and brands.

And, a special call out to City Peanut Shop who made the day’s eating extra tasty with fresh-ground peanut butter, locally roasted cashews, and locally roasted sweet and spicy pecans.

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My friend Janet Hawkins Moore is eating local during the month of January (in Boise, Idaho…not as easy as some more temperate climates). Looking at her first day’s post, it looks like a delicious initiative.

When I first saw Janet’s  post about eating local, I thought “Good idea, and since I already do a lot of local shopping, it won’t be hard”. But, I’m realizing it takes a lot more planning than I anticipated, at least in the beginning.

And, since I didn’t want to rock the boat too much on New Year’s Day, I simply monitored my normal eating (we had some great food yesterday…including leftover cake for breakfast and spicy shrimp for dinner! Yeehaw!) Turns out, only about 20% of the ingredients I used were local (fresh pasta, local milk, local honey) and although I buy organic vegetables from Brown Box Organics and The Boise Co-op, I’m not actually sure if they are locally grown.

So…this will be a learning adventure.

The Plan: Eat entirely local one day per week this month. Observe and chronicle my observations and learnings.

Stay posted! This week’s local day is Thursday. I’ll post my first “findings” then.

Happy New Year!

I don’t usually like grape juice. But this weekend while at the Farmer’s Market, one of my daughter’s classmates was handing out grape juice samples. She was working so hard (she is in 5th grade) and helping her grandparents, how could I not buy a $5 jar of fresh Galena Grape Juice?

When I arrived home, I poured some over ice and took a sip. Delicious….so much so, that I can NOT WAIT to get more this weekend at the market.

My suggestion to you…run, don’t walk, to your local farmer’s market or local vineyard and see if you can get some fresh grape juice of your own!

And, now that I have a new passion (I don’t use the term “nectar of the gods” often), here are a few things I may try this weekend with grapes:

1) Sausages with Grape Sauce, which is a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks “Intercourses, An Aphrodisiac Cookbook”. I highly recommend this cookbook….and NOT for THAT reason, hee,hee…though THAT is a good reason, of course. Every recipe I’ve made from the cookbook turns out great and is relatively simple. Here is a similar recipe I found online at Lidia’s Italy.

2) Click here to learn how to make your own homemade grape juice (sounds a little messy, but could be fun)

3) And, I did an online search for “Galena Grape Cocktail” and read about one that had only two ingredients: Galena Grape Juice and Vodka!

Cheers!

Oh the culinary joys of spring! Along with foraged mushrooms and tender salad greens come fiddlehead ferns. We found some at the Farmer’s Market last Saturday and I scooped up about a quarter pound, plus eight  plump, freshly foraged morel mushrooms.

Fresh fiddleheads

Last night I made a simple soup using two tablespoons of white miso, the rinsed fiddleheads and sliced morels, two cloves of crushed garlic, and a quarter-inch thick slice of fresh ginger that I diced finely. I threw all the ingredients into a small saucepan with about two cups of water and set the brew over medium-low heat for about half an hour. I didn’t even let the broth come to a simmer, keeping it at 150-155 degrees F. The vendor who sold me the fiddleheads and mushrooms said that if you cook the curled spring vegetables at too high of heat for too long they turn bitter. After 30 minutes of being gently warmed, the fiddleheads were still crunchy but cooked, and the morels were tender.

Spring soup of fiddleheads and morels

Anyhoo, the flavor of fiddleheads can be compared to asparagus. Their appearance resembles the scrolled end of a violin or fiddle. You’ll find they contain fiber, iron, potassium, omega-3s and omega-6s. If you can find them during their brief two-to-three-week growing season in the spring, do give them a try.

I knew there was something stranger looking than Kohlrabi–Fiddlehead Ferns! According to Wikipedia, fiddlehead ferns are the furled fronds of a young fern and are harvested for use as a vegetable. Left on the plant, each fiddlehead would unroll into a new frond (a leaf).

Check out the article where I found this image. Good info on Fiddleheads, and a nice blog.

And, according to the farmer at the Farmer’s Market, they can only be picked for 2 weeks….a short season, and not easy work.

I woke up at 2am thinking about this post and what I would do with my fiddlehead ferns:

Option 1: Heat a little butter and garlic in a pan, then sauté the fiddleheads for 30-45 seconds. This was a suggested preparation from the folks at the Farmer’s Market.

Option 2: Do something fancier, à la Emeril Lagasse: Fiddlehead Ferns and Angel Hair Pasta

Option 3: Since it’s now 3am, decide that something as crazy sounding as a fiddlehead fern deserves its own tongue twister

Fiona forages for flavorful forest fiddlehead ferns

Fiona forages for flavorful forest fiddlehead ferns

Fiona forages for flavorful forest fiddlehead ferns

Luckily,  I really liked option 3 because this evening, when I went to experiment with my fiddleheads, they were shoved to the back of my refrigerator and had iced over.

On the bright side, I went to my garden and was able to harvest an entire salad bowl of fresh greens. My first success of the gardening season!

First salad!

And, I’m hoping the fiddlehead ferns are still around this coming Saturday at the Farmer’s Market…I’m dying to try them WHILE reciting my Fiona forages for fiddlehead ferns tongue twister.

First planted

 

Salad Garden June 7

Colorful spring veggies

Beet greens and turnip tops are among the most underrated edible foliage in the garden. Susan recently forwarded an email to me from Saveur magazine that contained a mouthwatering recipe for saag paneer. The savory Indian spinach dish is seasoned with fragrant garam masala and uses cubes of homemade cheese that are pan fried before serving. Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard. I salivate just thinking about the dish.

One week later, strolling through the Capitol City Farmer’s Market I spotted beautiful spring beets with their big leaves still attached. Susan and I included them, along with bunches of young bok choy, in our weekly market basket and I immediately thought of making saag paneer with the beet tops. Then I sang my turnip happy song when I spotted young white turnips with their tops still on, too. Roasted turnips make me swoon, but I’ll write poetry about them another time.

Ha! Who needs spinach? Although the traditional recipe for saag paneer is based on spinach, I am not afraid to modify. In place of the one leafy green I used two others: beet tops and turnip greens, plus sliced bok choy and chopped asparagus, to form my fresh green base.

Also, being short on time, I did not spend three hours making cheese from scratch but substituted halloumi style Golden Greek cheese from Ballard Family Dairy in Gooding. I bought it at Boise Co-op.

The heady, exotic fragrance of the ginger, garlic and garam masala that season this dish turns the simple act of cooking into mouthwatering kitchen therapy. Be prepared to drool.

Bok Choy

Modified Saag Paneer

Adapted from recipe at Saveur.com

Serves 4

½ pound halloumi style Golden Greek cheese

6 TBL ghee or vegetable oil

1-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 jalapeno chile, stemmed and chopped

1 bunch beet greens, washed, trimmed and chopped

1 bunch turnip tops, washed, trimmed and chopped

1 bunch baby bok choy, washed and chopped

½ bunch asparagus, washed, snapped and chopped

Salt

½ tsp garam masala

1-2 pinches cayenne

6 TBL heavy cream

Cut the cheese into 1-inch by ½ -inch pieces. Heat ghee in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add cheese and fry until golden brown all over, 4-6 minutes. Transfer cheese with a slotted spatula to a plate and set aside. Set aside skillet with ghee.

Put ginger, garlic, jalapeno and ¼ cup water into a blender and puree to a smooth paste. Return skillet with ghee to stove and heat over medium-high heat. Add ginger-garlic paste and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 30 seconds. Add beet greens, turnip tops, bok choy and asparagus; season lightly with salt and cook, stirring often, until greens wilt, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring often, until greens are very soft, 10-15 minutes. Stir in garam masala, cayenne to taste, and cream.

Add fried cheese to skillet, cover, and continue cooking until liquid thickens and greens are silky soft, about 15 minutes more.

Crunchy vegetables, hummus and modified saag paneer

The Farmer’s Market usually inspires me to try new recipes or spend a little extra time in the kitchen. But some nights, I need a meal that is fast, easy, healthy and inexpensive. It’s nice to know that I can find the ingredients for those types of meals at the Farmer’s Market.

I added 2 Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon fillets (from Costco’s 3lb bag) and one lemon to my “market basket” and ended up with all the ingredients needed for a quick meal. The meal took 35 minutes to prepare, cost $4.25 per serving  for 4 nice size dinner portions, and resulted in very few dirty dishes. Now that’s a perfect quick meal.

Weeknight Pasta

2 Salmon fillets

1 lemon

1 lb fresh pasta

4 large handfuls spinach

8oz delicious sauce

+ salt, pepper, and olive oil

1) Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place a few spinach leaves on a large piece of aluminum foil, then top with salmon fillets in a single layer. Generously season with salt and pepper, add thin slices of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil . Fully enclose salmon in foil and bake 18-20 minutes in oven, until cooked through. This technique  is “en papillote”. To read more about en papillotte, and to get really hungry, read this article from the NY Times. The nice thing about en papillote is that it keeps the fish moist and flavorful AND there is no messy pan. What more could a busy gal want?

2) Heat pasta  water to a boil

3) Cut the spinach in to long shreds

4) When the salmon is just out of the oven, add the pasta to the boiling water. Fresh pasta cooks in 2-3 minutes. 

5) Drain pasta and immediately return to the pot. Add sauce and spinach. The sauce and spinach will warm and wilt slightly from the heat of the pasta.

6) Divide pasta in to 4 bowls, flake salmon on top. Serve.