One Local Summer 2018 – Meal 1

Well, here we are with another One Local Summer coming upon us.  My local farmers market has already switched from their winter every-other-weekend schedule to every-weekend albeit still at the shorter, winter hours.  Last year, I dropped off blogging after Meal #7, but there were still local meals being made since it’s become a habit.  This is now year number TEN of One Local Summer for us and every year there’s something new to try – new recipes, cooking methods, etc.  But ten years is something pretty amazing.  The whole idea behind One Local Summer is that you make one meal a week during the summer using ingredients sourced from local farmers and growers.  The result is that you reduce your carbon footprint by using fewer “food miles” (instead of getting lettuce from California at hundreds of food miles, you get it from the small, family-run farm five miles down the road), and support hardworking local farmers and growers closer to home instead of large corporations that aren’t as invested in doing things the right way.  All of the producers at my local market love talking shop, whether it’s about how they care for their animals, their pest control methods, what new vegetables they’re trying out this year, and what works best for our local micro-climate.  Before I go on too much about how amazing my little farmers market family is, here’s the first meal!  I’m going to go on a meal-to-meal basis instead of sticking strictly to week-by-week since some weeks just get away from me, and that’s alright.  I don’t want this to be a huge chore or burden, so giving myself some leeway on busy weeks has proven to be super helpful.

First meal up!  A friend was raving about how awesome the Instant Pot was and while I’d heard about it before, I guess I never quite knew how amazing this little kitchen gadget was.  It’s essentially a pressure cooker and crock pot in one, and the model I have has SO many features, it almost replaces the oven and a good bit of the stove.  Did you know you can make PERFECT pulled pork in a matter of an hour?!  YEAH, I KNOW!  CRAZY.  So, basically, I’m smitten with this thing, and you will pry it from my cold, dead hands before I’d give it up.  One of the neat options is the ability to do Sous Vide cooking since the temperature control holds steady within 5 degrees.  We already had the vacuum sealer gizmo that we use quite a bit, so I found a recipe for Sous Vide fajitas and went to town.  Using bison skirt steak instead of beef, I added garlic, cumin, pepper, salt, and chili powder to the vacuum bag, sealed, and let marinate overnight in the fridge.  I decided on 145 for the temperature using this chart since I tend to like red meat more on the well-done side, and I know bison doesn’t need quite as much heat as cow beef.  I set the timer for 2 hours to be sure it was cooked thoroughly, though I probably could’ve gone for less since the cut wasn’t terribly thick.  While that was going on, I got to work on the flour tortillas using this recipe.  They’re rather easy to make with only four ingredients, but it’s pretty time consuming, and there is a bit of a learning curve with the thickness and getting them on the skillet just right.  I got a little overzealous with the rolling pin and made them larger than my cast iron pan, so in hindsight, I should’ve probably set up the pizza stone on the grill for more space to get them thrown down nice and flat.  Yeah, they ended up a little smooshed and wrinkled at the edges, but do you know what?  The recipe says the wonky-shaped ones taste better, so, I’m just going to stick with that.  Once the bison was about done, I loaded up the cast iron skillet with olive oil and scallions and then wilted some baby chard on top.  Then I gave the bison a quick pan sear once it was out of the Sous Vide bath, and piled my creation on a plate with some cheese.  To top off the meal, there’s a glass of homebrewed hard cider made with apples from my grandparents’ place that we picked, crushed, pressed, and fermented ourselves.  It’s a true labor of love, and I’m going to be super sad when this keg is empty since we don’t have a batch waiting in reserve.  That’s that for the first meal!  I already have plans for another Instant Pot meal for next week once my fajita leftovers are gone.

Ingredients:
Bison – Backyard Bison
Flour – Mill at Anselma
Chard – Charlestown Farm
Scallions – Charlestown Farm
Lard – Deep Roots Valley Farm
Cheese – Birchrun Hills
Garlic – Hill Creek Farm
Non Local – Olive Oil, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, lime juice

One Local Summer 2017 – Meal 6

Meal 6 in week 9!  I actually cooked this on Saturday right after the farmers market, having come home with my head full of ideas thanks to the kind folks at North Star Orchard.  You see, I was gushing over how pretty the rainbow chard was and how versatile the leafy green is since it’s the best of celery and spinach in one plant, plus, THOSE COLORS.  We chatted for a bit about the myriad of ways to use this gem of a plant, and how great is it that farmers take the time to extol the virtues of their vegetables and offer recipe ideas and cooking advice?!  Well, a quiche is just one of the ways to use chard, so the second I got home, I set out to make a late breakfast for myself.  I like using recipes since I need a good guide when I cook, so I found this one that included a cornmeal and flour crust for the quiche.  I replaced the shortening with lard, because lard, and again instead of milk, I used goat’s milk yogurt.  Chard replaced the spinach, and I sautéed the chopped stems with spring garlic, garlic scapes, and scallions.  Instead of swiss cheese, I used blue cheese fresh from my first Collective Creamery cheese CSA pickup.  I cheated a little and just pressed the crust into the pie dish instead of rolling it out, saving myself the trouble of washing the rolling pin and mat, but that worked out just fine since the crust came out nice and crispy, and the dark roasted cornmeal I used kicked the flavor of the whole thing up a notch.  On the side are three asparagus spears wrapped in culatello, topped with a bit of Red Cat cheese (because always cheese), and a wee little fried quail egg.  The bowl in the back contains fresh strawberries drizzled with our own honey, and I’m not ashamed to say I polished off a whole pint of strawberries in one sitting because they were FANTASTIC.  There’s also a mug of non-local (but absolutely necessary) cold brew coffee.  I also now have a whole bunch of quiche leftovers, so there’s breakfast for the week!

Ingredients:
Asparagus – Hill Creek Farm
Eggs (Quail and Chicken) – Deep Roots Valley Farm
Cheese (Red Cat & Blue) – Birchrun Hills
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – Mill at Anselma
Dark Roasted Cornmeal – Mill at Anselma
Lard – M&M Creek Valley Farm
Goat’s Milk Yogurt – Shellbark Hollow Farm
Rainbow Chard – North Star Orchard
Culatello – Countrytime Farm
Garlic – Charlestown Farm
Scallions – Jack’s Farm
Garlic Scapes – Jack’s Farm
Strawberries – Jack’s Farm
Honey – Our Beehives
Non Local – Salt, pepper, olive oil

One Local Summer 2017 – Meal 4

See, I knew I was going to get behind on these, so while this is meal 4, it’s technically week 7.  Things have been a bit crazy, so while I haven’t had time to put together exclusively local meals, most of what I eat while the farmers market is in full swing ends up being local since that’s where I do the majority of my grocery shopping.  Anyway!  This is a bit of an ambitious dinner for me, but it’s a pretty awesome one, if I do say so myself.  The centerpiece is the banh bao, a Vietnamese pork bun.  Husband came across these on his travels for work at one point or another and we figured the recipe had to be fairly easy – meat and a hard-boiled egg in a dough wrapper.  We found a recipe online and made a huge batch a few years ago.  They freeze and reheat surprisingly well, but it definitely is quicker work with two people.  For this version, I made my own self-rising flour using the ratio here, making a 3 cup batch of flour.  The original recipe calls for milk and sugar, so I substituted in 1/2 cup honey and 1 cup of goat’s milk yogurt to keep it local.  My flour is also a whole wheat flour, so they didn’t come out perfectly white like the traditional banh bao, but that’s just cosmetic anyway.  The filling consists of a hard-boiled quail egg, scallions, and ground pork.  I even took half the batch and added a few cheese curds just for fun.  The quail eggs are a new offering from our farmers market poultry vendor this year, and it’s neat to be able to use quail eggs instead of quartering a chicken egg.  The poultry vendor’s two girls are raising the quail and running the whole quail egg operation on their own, so supporting the next generation of farmers as well as two young girl entrepreneurs sweetens the deal!  Going around the plate, next we have sliced, roasted cheesy asparagus.  I picked the bigger asparagus lot at the market, sliced them on a mandoline slicer, then tossed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper and topped with cheese.  Into the oven at 425 for about 8-10 minutes, and voila!  The cookies may not be made with local ingredients, but they are from a farmers market baker.  Supporting local business is part of the One Local Summer equation, so while it’s a bit of a cheat, it’s chocolate chip cookies, how could I not?  In the glass is some more homebrewed mead to finish out the meal.

Ingredients:
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – Mill at Anselma
Quail Eggs – Deep Roots Valley Farm
Ground Pork – Countrytime Farm
Scallions – Jack’s Farm
Cheese – Cheese curds and Fat Cat from Birchrun Hills
Asparagus – Hill Creek Farm
Cookies – The Flour Fairies
Honey – Our Beehives
Goat’s Milk Yogurt – Shellbark Hollow Farm
Non Local – Salt, pepper, olive oil, baking powder

One Local Summer 2017 – Meal 1

This is going to be my NINTH year of One Local Summer which is pretty incredible.  Last year, I ended kind of abruptly at week 13 after we found out that my dearest girl-dog, Mattie, had a fast-growing, incurable cancer and was given two weeks to live.  She made it 5 more weeks post-diagnosis, but it’s safe to say that she became my top priority at that point in time, and One Local Summer just didn’t seem that important when pitted against the pup’s health situation.  After she passed, my heart was broken, and really, still is.  I spent more time with her than I have with my husband who is out to sea for work more often than he’s home, so it’s been incredibly difficult to deal with the loss of a beloved pet, confidant, and the best, most earnest listener ever.  Her brother is still around, but he’s always been a more aloof sort of dog whereas Mattie would take every opportunity to weasel her way onto your lap (yes, all 50 lbs of her) to beg for head rubs or just to curl up and snore her happy little face off.  She was my little peanut and I miss her tremendously.

That’s a long way of saying we had a loss in the family, and I couldn’t focus on much else since I was grieving.

(and now that I’ve probably made you cry… moving on…)

In case you’re not familiar with One Local Summer, the idea is that you make one meal a week using only ingredients found locally which serves to reduce your “food miles” by using food grown and raised near home instead of across the country.  It means that your food uses less fuel to get to your home, reducing your overall carbon footprint.  It also means that you get to know your local farmers, purchase from local small businesses, and support local agriculture.  Getting to know the people who grow/make/raise the food I eat has been such an incredible experience over the past nine years – I joke that our local weekly farmers market is my farmers market family, and they’re a wonderful group of people that I enjoy seeing every week!  I’m going back to the meal-by-meal format instead of doing set weeks.  Let’s face it, some weeks get away from me, and rather than feel stressed to cook and blog about it when I’m just out of time and energy, this gives me the option to double up some weeks, and give myself a break other weeks if I need it.

I kind of can’t believe it’s been nine whole years of this already.

Our market went to regular summer hours at the beginning of April, so I figured I might as well start this thing off at the same time, even though it’s a month earlier than the usual start of our market summer season.  The market is still on in the winter on an every-other-week schedule since a lot of producers grow in hot houses.  There’s not all that much available at the beginning of the season in terms of vegetables – lots of leafy greens, but not too much else – so the earlier meals end up being a little simpler.  Well, not this one!  I found a recipe for baked empanadas that had a great, easy recipe for the dough that was basically just lard and flour, so I knew I could do that locally.  For the filling, I deviated from the recipe and decided on veal, spinach, scallions, and cheese curds and it was PERFECT.  Really, you could fill the dough with just about any combination of veggies/meat/cheese/etc and get creative with these, so I may re-visit this recipe later.  I made the filling and dough the night before so they had enough time to chill and then assembled them the next evening.  It’s a bit more work than I usually put into a One Local Summer dinner since I don’t necessarily enjoy cooking (a girl’s gotta eat though), but the result was well worth the extra time!  I added some mushrooms and cheese curds to round out the plate since hey, mushrooms and cheese curds, who could say no?!  The wine glass features mead I made from honey from our hives, so that was an extra special treat.

Ingredients:
Flour – Mill at Anselma
Mushrooms – Oley Valley Mushrooms
Lard – M&M Creek Valley Farm
Cheese Curds – Birchrun Hills
Veal – Birchrun Hills
Spinach – Charlestown Farm
Scallions – Jack’s Farm
Mead – Our Beehives
Non Local – Salt, olive oil