Monday, August 9, 2010

The Challenge Continues...

We made it through the weekend and it was so much fun to try to eat as much local food as possible! And need I say, it was delicious, too!
So, a little bit more about how I'm structuring this thing so that it really is do-able...
First of all, I'm not restocking my kitchen. I just don't have unlimited funds to replace all condiments and whatever groceries we still have from our Trader Joe's shopping trip from last week. I'm working within my means, buying local as I go along, as often as I can. I keep telling myself, this is about exploration, not perfection. So, the olive oil is not local (nor could it be), the lemons and limes...not local. In fact, there were hardly any fruits for sale at the farmers' market this weekend, so we're having to supplement with shipped-in fruits. Big B loves his bananas so I don't intend to deprive him of that. (If I have time this week, I'll stop at the co-op and get some local fruits there.)
 So, Saturday morning we ventured out to the St. Paul Farmers' Market, bags at the ready, cash in hand. We stocked up on tomatoes, zukes, cukes,  onions, garlic, cheese, and bread. The tomato stand I recommend is the one where their tomatoes are pesticide-free, and all varieties are $2.50/lb. That includes heirlooms!! Compare that to the co-op, which will charge you up to $5.99/lb. for heirlooms! So, we filled a bag with a huge, gnarly red heirloom, some smaller roma-like tomatoes, and a couple of purple ones (I don't remember the names.) The big one was amazing! When I cut into it that evening, the flesh was smooth, juicy, and tasted like the earth it was grown in. It tasted like a tomato-- and you probably know how hard it is to find a tomato these days that tastes like a tomato!
I snagged a couple of onions from a guy who was selling the largest ones I've ever seen-- about the size of a 1-year-old's head! He said they were super-sweet, like a Vidalia. He was not kidding; sliced super-thin and tossed in the Greek salad I made that evening, they were heavenly.
Next, it was on to my favorite bread stand, A Toast to Bread. I get their rosemary or basil baguette whenever I visit the market. They are so dense and chewy, you can't take just one bite. And the ingredients list: flour, yeast, sea salt, water, herbs. (I'm going from memory here; there might be sugar in that list, too, but that's it!) Compare that to the litany of ingredients on the labels of bread at a big-box grocery store, and that alone may convince you to eat local and/or organic. (Seriously, next time you're grocery shopping, read the label of some of those breads that are supposed to be "healthy"! Many have HFCS and other nasty ingredients. It's unbelievable!)
After a few more veggie purchases, we made our big splurge of the day: a big, $10 wedge of cheese from (I think it was) Love Tree Farmstand Cheese. The mother and son were selling that day, dressed in their finest pink T-shirts. Hers read, "Aged to Perfection" and his, "Got Mold?" I've met her before; she's quite a character, and VERY passionate about good, artisinal, cave-aged cheese. They had 3 kinds there that day: a fresh sheep's cheese they had just made the night before; an aged goat cheese that was super-mild, and an aged cow/sheep cheese that had the most beautiful, bumpy rind, was pungent and smelled to high heaven. Guess which one we chose! Hint: the kitchen smelled like feet for hours! But, oh was it ever delicious-- rich, creamy, amazing.
We went home loaded with treasures and excited about digging in. I had even stopped at Heritage Liquor on Frost the day before and picked up a bottle of Crispin "The Saint", a hard cider made in Minneapolis, and a 4-pack of Liftbridge "Minnesota Tan", brewed in Cold Spring.
So, do you want to know what we did with all that goodness?? First, I have to say that if you want a plethora of great recipes that use ingredients readily availble in MN, pick up a copy of "The St. Paul Farmers' Market Cookbook" and "Simply in Season". The former orders the recipes according to main ingredient, so that when the market is overflowing with carrots and parsnips, you can just flip to those sections and find lots of ways to prepare them. "Simply in Season" groups recipes by season, according to what foods are growing at that time of year. I'm a seasonal eater by habit-- I can't even fathom eating apples in the Spring or strawberries in the Winter, so this cookbook is a godsend.
OK, so back to Saturday dinner: I made the Greek Salad from p. 100 of "Simply in Season": tomatoes, onion, and cukes dressed in olive oil, wine or balsamic vinegar, garlic, and dill from our garden. With that we had caprese stacks: the baguette sliced thin stacked with a slice of tomato, cheese (either the fresh mozz I got at the co-op on Friday or the lovely stinky cheese), and a basil leaf on top, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. Even Little B can't get enough of those! On the side, we had local corn drizzled with lime and salt, of course our hard cider to wash it all down. We dined (and sweated) al fresco and it was beautiful!
I took some great pictures of the spread, but until I find my USB cord, the pics are trapped inside my camera. Hopefully it will turn up soon!
Later this week, I'll tell you about the pizzas we had on Sunday, and how we fared on our weekday meals....the adventure continues!


Cherielabombe said...

Woah that sounds delicious. Especially the tomatoes and the bread! (OK, and the cheese too!) Good luck on your challenge!!

Beth Butterfield said...

Thanks, Mel! I finally got the camera cord, too, so now you can see photos!

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