Friday, August 31, 2012

Get Set...

There are two steps required to eat locally. The first is be prepared.  The second is be flexible.  You've got to be prepared, because it's just not as easy to get food.  If I'm in the middle of a recipe and I notice that it calls for tomato paste, and I don't have any tomato paste, you can't just run to your neighborhood Pick n' Save and get a container of local tomato paste.  I am very much a meal planner, especially this summer since I got my CSA.  Now it's a battle of not only knowing what I need so I have it all, but also knowing what I have and how I can use it all!  But that's a different post for a different day.

The second step is to be flexible.  Dietitians tell you to figure out what you need, make a list, and then go to the store and buy it.  That makes sense when you are trying not to over purchase food, and you know that everything you could ever want will be at your local Mega Mart.  Eating seasonally requires a little more finesse.   I generally figure out the main meals I'm going to make, and get an idea of how many vegetables and what kinds I'm going to need, and then figure out the rest when I get there.  I'd love to be able to give you a beautiful shopping list of what to by at your local farmer's market tomorrow, but I don't know what's going to be there for you to pick from.

So, here is the menu that I have planned for myself this week, based on my CSA box.  If you want to give this a shot you can feel free to follow along.  Get yourself to your local farmer's market tomorrow and get what you can get.  If you can't find something, pick up something you think would be a good substitute, leave me a message here or on Facebook, and we'll figure something out.  These are all things I can find locally produced - feel free to let me know if I can help you (especially if you're in the area.)

If you get your butt out of bed early tomorrow morning, head down to the South Shore Farmer's Market.  My dance troupe, Tamarind, will be performing at 9:00 am (cross promotion!)

If you don't get up early, or don't see this until later, the West Allis Farmer's Market opens at 1:00pm and runs until 6.  If you get this even later than that, do not be concerned!  Tuesday and Thursdays you can visit the West Allis Farmer's Market from 12:00 to 5:00, and the Westtown Farmer's Market at Ziedler Union Square (Downtown Milwaukee) on Wedensdays from 10:00am to 3:00pm.  If you end up there, make sure you find the Rhine Center Vegetable Club booth and let them know that I sent you.  I'm always looking for brownie points!

If you plan on doing any canning this weekend, I would recommend tomatoes and, if you can get your hands on them, peaches.  Most farmers have large quantities of tomato seconds (less pretty tomatoes) available at a discount price for canning.

Saturday September 1st: BBQ ribs
It's the kick off of the Eat Local Challenge, and it's also the start of Labor Day Weekend.  I'm Celebrating!  This is by far the most complicated recipe on the menu, so if it's overwhelming you, just skip ahead to Sunday!  I will serve this with some grilled potatoes, and whatever good veggies I can find at the market.

This recipe is from Epicurious.  I am drastically reducing the recipe for myself and using less than one pound of baby back ribs, because I am poor and will supplement the recipe with veggies.  You could also use spare ribs, which I am a big fan of and which cost a lot less than baby back.  I am including the recipe as originally written, which serves 8.  Notice you will want to bake these first thing in the morning, to allow them to cool to be grilled for dinner:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 pounds baby back pork ribs (8 racks) or St. Louis-style spareribs (4 racks)
  • Low-salt chicken broth (optional) (or use home made chicken stock if you have it)
  • 1 1/2 cups peach bbq sauce (recipe coming soon!) or your favorite bbq sauce
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Place each rack of ribs on a double layer of foil; sprinkle rub all over ribs. Wrap racks individually and divide between 2 baking sheets.
Bake ribs until very tender but not falling apart, about 2 hours for baby backs and 3 hours for spareribs. Carefully unwrap ribs; pour any juices from foil into a 4-cup heatproof measuring cup; reserve juices. Let ribs cool completely. DO AHEAD: Ribs can be baked up to 3 days ahead (the flavor will be more developed, and the cold ribs will hold together better on the grill as they heat through). Cover and chill juices. Rewrap ribs in foil and chill.
Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Add broth or water to rib juices, if needed, to measure 1 1/2 cups. Whisk in barbecue sauce to blend.
Grill ribs, basting with barbecue sauce mixture and turning frequently, until lacquered and charred in places and heated through, 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; cut between ribs to separate. Transfer to a platter and serve with additional barbecue sauce.

For the Peach BBQ sauce you will need:
  • 4 lb peaches
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup organic canola oil (organic is especially important for canola oil. If it's not organic, it's a GMO.)
  • 1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup buckwheat honey
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup whiskey (why not use some local Great Lakes Distillery whiskey.  Have you taken all the steps possible to win your free bottle?  So far you could have had up to 4 entries.  Click HERE to see what I'm talking about.)
  • 1 cup worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (you can find a lot of varieties of local ketchup at your farmer's market if you're lucky.  I always get mine from the mushroom guys.)
  • 2 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp chili power
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
Blanch and peel the peaches (just like you would a tomato), then halve and pit.  Slice the peach halves.  Pour the lemon juice into a large nonreactive bowl.  Add the peaches and toss to coat with the lemon juice.  Warm the oil in a large nonreactive sauce pan over medium low heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender - about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute.   Stir in the peaches, sugar, vinegar, and whiskey.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the peaches and onion are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Blend, either using an immersion blender (best choice) or working in batches in a traditional blender until smooth.  Pour back into sauce pan.  Add Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, ginger, and chili powder.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce to medium low heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring often until hot, about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

This recipe makes 4 pint jars, which can be processed in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  It would also freeze well.  The BBQ sauce lasts in the fridge for up to two weeks in theory, if you don't eat it before then!

Sunday September 2nd: Mozzarella and Sage Stuffed Chicken Breasts
This recipe serves 2.  Adjust as needed.  I will serve this with whatever veggies at the market suit my fancy, and a salad with lemon tarragon dressing.  This recipe is a standby favorite of mine, and I first printed the recipe here in June of 2011.

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 6 large sage leaves
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat grill to Medium-High heat.

Make sure chicken breasts are 100% thawed, or this will be harder.  Carefully, butterfly the chicken breasts: Slice chicken breasts down the length of the side of the breast, almost to the end but not all the way through, so the breast opens up like a book.  Season the chicken breast inside and out with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder.

Open up the chicken breasts so the two "insides" are showing, and what originally was the "outside" of the chicken breast is facing down.  On one half (what will become the "bottom" half) lay 4-5 sage leaves per breast, depending on the size of the chicken breast and the sage leaves.  Thinly slice the Mozzarella, and lay that on top of the sage leaves, trimming to match the bottom half of the chicken breasts.  Fold the top half over the mozzarella, and use a tooth pick to hold the breasts closed (it should now look like the original chicken breast, except with sage and mozzarella stuffed in the middle!)

Monday September 3rd: LABOR DAY!

Why not swing by the Usingers store on Old World Third and pick up some brats!  Or you could get some beef brats at the South Shore Farmer's Market from Ney's Big Sky.  The Dill Pickle Brat is my new absolute favorite.  If you're looking for a refreshing salad to bring, try a tomato, watermelon and mint salad:

Take equal parts watermelon and tomato (get a yellow tomato for some color variety) and cut into bite sized chunks.  Combine in a large bowl and sprinkle generously with feta and mint.  Season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper, and drizzle with a champagne vinegar.  Toss gently to combine.

Tuesday September 4th: Date Night!
Labor day was exhausting, and then you had to go back to work?  No cooking tonight.  Visit one of the Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge affiliate restaurants.

Wednesday September 5th: Tacos
Tacos are a great way to use up some vegetables in the fridge.  Really, you can put anything in a tortilla and call it a taco.   I'm willing to bet that SOMEONE made some sort of pulled meat product for Labor Day.  When it's time to leave, make sure you get a to-go container to use in your tacos tonight.  Or, if that doesn't work, make yourself an extra (unstuffed) chicken breast on Sunday.  If you're feeling extra healthy, use lettuce in place of the tortillas.

Thursday September 6th: Potato and Corn Chowder
This is my vegetarian version of my Fish Chowder.  If you want, pick up some Rushing Rivers Smoked Trout from Outpost and throw it in.

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped (celery saves in the freezer well for purposes like this.  So plan ahead for the winter!)
  • 1 lb potatoes, unpeeled
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2/3 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tsp minced tarragon
  • 1 cup corn kernels  
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
In a large frying pan over medium heat (or using the browning feature on your slow cooker if it has one), melt the butter.  Add the onion and celery and saute until softened, about 6 minutes.  Transfer the contents of pans to a slow cooker (if not already there!)

Cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes and add to the slow cooker.  Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.  Top with stock, wine, tarragon, mushrooms and corn.  Cover and cook on the low setting for 6-8 hours.  The potatoes should be very tender.

Stir in the vinegar, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
Friday September 7th: Fritatta 

I am a Wisconsinite, so my Friday meal of choice should be fish fry.  But it's not.  It never has been.  It has recently become fritatta.  There are, I suspect, two reasons for this: One - I love eggs for dinner (with a big glass of red wine).  Two -  Fritattas are, like pasta, a great vessel for whatever you've got.  Have you got some leftover meat or potatoes?  Not enough to make a meal but too much to throw out?  Are there some vegetables that will not make it into next week?  Chop them all up, add some cheese and or herbs, throw them in a well buttered pan, and cover them with about 6-8 eggs beaten with about 1/4 cup of cream or milk.  Bake at 350 degrees until set in the center - about 30 minutes.

Serve with potatoes if there aren't any in the fritatta (or even if there are!  Who am I to judge?  The only thing I love more than eggs is carbs.  And pork.)

 I don't have any pictures to show you this week, because I haven't made any of these things yet, so here is a picture of a giant cantaloupe I pulled out of my garden:

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