Ta da -- my first all local meal! As I type, it's Day 13 of the Eat Local challenge. I started out the month eating mostly local at every meal, but rarely hitting the 100% mark. Either I still had non-local ingredients in the fridge that I needed to use, or I just had to have that cilantro of unknown origin, or I simply crapped out and threw some dried spaghetti into a pot of water because nothing but pasta would do. Life, I figured, is hard enough without raking yourself over the coals for a bowl of pasta.
I've been reading about the folks who are trying to follow this challenge more strictly than I am. Some have given exceptions for only salt and tea, others are giving up caffeine for the month. I suppose if they can't find fresh cilantro locally, they forego the homemade salsa they've been craving. I admire them for their discipline (as I snack on my chocolate covered pretzels -- shh!)
I am simply not hard core enough to subsist only on local foods. I'm not even convinced it's something we should do all the time (nor, for the record, is that the point of this challenge.) But even with only the small changes I am trying to make, I am spending an awful lot (more) time thinking about food and where the next meal is coming from. It requires reading labels in grocery stores or hunting down produce managers; it means foregoing a steak on Friday night, craving be damned; and most of all, for me, it means developing my biceps. That's right, it's all about muscle tone.
See, the biggest difference in eating locally is that I can no longer shop for meals on a daily basis (without killing myself, I should add. I suppose it could be done.) I have never been a "shop once a week" kinda girl. Mr. Food Musings and I typically have a pretty bare fridge, and it has been our habit to drop by the store every night to gather dinner. When I was too tired to make dinner, we'd simply go out. This is partly because I despise meal planning, partly because our meal cravings are based on whimsy, partly because we have the world's tiniest refrigerator and if I buy too much stuff and can't use it all, it rots. I hate it when food rots.
These days, I find myself lugging pounds of food around at the Saturday farmer's market, hoping I've bought enough for the week. My CSA box arrives every Wednesday with another installment of fresh vegetable goodness. Between those two things, if I need something, I can either walk 2 blocks to my local grocery and chance buying a pepper from Mexico, or haul my butt to Whole Foods and fight for parking with SUV-wielding, French manicure-tipped women. Whole Foods, I love you, but deal with that every day? No thank you.
Just so I don't let you down entirely, today I went a little hard core: I bought a chicken with the feet still on. For the uninitiated, let me just say that chickens have some fugly toenails. Blech! Chris, the butcher, reassured me that they're easy to cut off -- there's this little joint right above the, er, ankle (?) where you can cut it "like cutting butter." Or so he tells me. Luckily last night's meal required significantly less pain for the gain.
Fava bean and tomato salad
Adapted from a recipe at Gluten-free Girl
Last night we managed to have a 100% local meal, salt excluded, and I'm feeling pretty virtuous. For the pesto, I used organic basil, green garlic, Old Word Portugese cheese in place of Parmesan and pine nuts that I think are from Cali (they're at least packaged here, I couldn't find out more than that). The pasta was made in Berkeley, and the salad was a mix of Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, fava beans, pancetta and Old World Portugese cheese. I guess the red wine vinegar wasn't local but it was a specialty where it is made in Italy, and ditto for the Dijon mustard in France, which is okay in my book.
I didn't measure my ingredients, so this is more description than recipe. To prepare the fava beans, first split open the pods and remove the beans. Throw those into a big pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds, then drain and rinse with cold water. When they are cool enough to touch, peel them from their jackets.
In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup each of prepared fava beans and halved cherry tomatoes. Pour 1 TBSP red wine-mustard vinaigrette over the vegetables and toss gently. Chop up 2 ounces pancetta and toss it into a pan over medium heat. Cook, turning here and there, until crisp (5-8 minutes or so) then remove to paper towels to drain. Cut off a few thin slices of a hard, salty cheese (Parmesan or similar). Add the pancetta and the cheese to the vegetables and serve.