Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Call for Seasonal Recipes!

Happy week before the New Year, sexy food folks!  Looking ahead to the coming flip of the calendar always has us thinking about priorities and intentions. We don't do the whole 'resolution' thing, because we really feel every day should start with resolve to make the best choices and live the best life possible. 

We do set priorities and intentions for a variety of day to day fun, and our big intention for the New Year is to develop the Sexy Food "Homemade Tastes Better on Handmade" Calendar for 2013. You're invited to help by submitting your favorite seasonal recipe - here's how it works:

Each month, I'll write up a little something about what's in season near me (I'm in western North Carolina), and will feature a recipe for at least one seasonal ingredient. You're invited to join in - if you're in this region, well then you'll find head start info here. If you're in another area, we'd love for you to share a little something about what's seasonal where you are, and offer up a recipe that you enjoy. Pictures are even better! If you also enjoy eating and serving your delicious homemade fare on handmade pottery, send us those images too and be sure to credit the cook as well as the potter (and photographer too)! You can write the whole post up and send it to us with images, and we'll post as many as we can, in the order they arrive. We'll be working on the calendar throughout next year, and while the print version of the calendar will likely feature recipes that are regional to NW North Carolina, if we get a big enough response, we'll do multiple versions, and of course we'll feature many more here on the blog.

If you're in this area, you can find a list of what's locally seasonal via the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, or if you're outside this area you can check the right-hand column next to our posts, where you'll find a link that will help you learn what's seasonal in your area throughout the year. In that same column you'll also find details on how to submit content for the blog.

Easy-peasy, right? We'll get started here right after the first of the year, but if you're in this area here's a head start with a list of what's in season in western North Carolina in January: 

greenhouse tomatoes
greenhouse vegetables
sweet potatoes
winter squash

Let the cooking begin!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Brunch

It has happily been a very busy and fun-filled holiday season, which has been good for the soul but not so good for regular blog posts. The promised Thanksgiving chronicles were set aside because I was having too much fun with visiting family to pick up the camera. The entire event can be summed up in the dog's reaction to us finally sitting down to eat:

For Christmas I was again the happy recipient of visitors for brunch, so I got one of my best presents in the form of a nice, long morning in the kitchen working my way through a pot of coffee while putting together our meal.

even 'mis-en-place' looks better and is more fun with handmade pottery!

went a little outside of 'regional' to add the blueberries to the
fruit salad, but after all, it's Christmas

the makings of a mighty tasty mimosa

had the blueberries, so they joined in too

The brunch feast, much of it sourced from many favorite local makers,
growers, raisers: eggs scrambled with smoked trout, bagels with chevre & same smoked trout,
thick-cut bacon, sweet potato hash, green beans saute-ed with balsamic-soaked
red onions & tomatoes, fruit salad, tangerine-ginger-prosecco mimosa

 Once again, homemade tastes better on handmade, and tastes even better when shared with friends!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Love

I would start this post waxing on about how much I love the cooling fall temps, colorful sidewalks covered with fading yet still colorful leaves, root veggies and squashes filling the co-op shelves ... well I still mean it all, but we're having an unusual warm spell, and while it's truly lovely outside, my heart and mind are already moving on to cooler weather so it's also just a little odd.

I'll be sharing all the sexy goodness that follows in the coming months. I have the rare opportunity to be hosting much more than in the past several years, so I'll be looking for and playing with all sorts of seasonal goodies.  If you have some recommendations, feel free to share!

Till then, it's planning and scheming in advance of the day. Of all the things that come with hosting a holiday meal, I think the food-related thing I look forward to most is the smells. Going off to visit friends or family for a holiday meal is wonderful, and you know you've arrived at the party when you walk in the door to mingling aromas both savory and sweet. But then you go home, and even with a lovely plate of leftovers, it's still pretty much done.  When you host, you get to enjoy the layers of smells as they develop ... the fresh rooty smell of the pumpkin when you cut it open for roasting pre-pie making, the simmering veggies in anticipation of gravy or sauces, the slow evolution of the roasting turkey.  And it doesn't have to be a huge, opulent meal - even the simplest foods, if they're fresh, local and seasonal, can make the feast. And when you add people you love, it becomes epic in a Henry VIII kind of way. And then ... when you wake up the next morning, it still lingers. 

Here's hoping your holiday finds you sharing a meal with people you love, which makes any meal a feast, no matter how modest it may be, which is a very good reason to always be giving thanks. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

sage wisdom

So it's only been a month since the last post, but after posting daily during the Eat Local Challenge, it feels like it's been much longer. I think it feels longer too because shortly after the last post, my hard drive crashed, taking everything with it (at least for now, future recovery is possible). I do have some tasty tidbits to share from the time since the crash, but those will come in snippets later when more time allows. For now, I'm noticing that while some herbs in my spiral garden are waning in the cooler weather, some still doing their thing at about the same pace as summer, the sage plant is going crazy! I know I haven't made daily garden visits, but it did seem like it doubled practically overnight!

So what to do with a bounty of fresh sage? I've been using it all season, chopped into egg dishes, added to salad greens, fried up for a snack, etc. And in this abundance, I've got visions of brown butter sauces and even rolling the leaves into fresh pasta, but what else is there? 

When in doubt, or on a quest, google! I got a kick out of the fact that the first link I followed talked about wanting some ideas, so naturally the author went to Twitter. We all have our muses. I've been on the Chocolate & Zucchini site before and have found great recipes, so it didn't surprise me to find a bounty of information to rival my growing sage crop.  Here is a compilation of suggestions that came from the Twitter query, and if you go to that archival page and scroll down to the comments, you'll find even more to add to the list:

Sage pairings:
- Sage + eggs (i.e. in an omelette)
- Sage + chicken (i.e. roast chicken with sage and lemon inside the cavity)
- Sage + lamb (i.e. in lamb burger patties)
- Sage + fried liver + croutons
- Sage + polenta
- Sage + onion (i.e. in stuffing)
- Sage + white beans (i.e. in white bean hummous or anopen sandwich)
- Sage + apple
- Sage + pineapple
Sage + roasted peanuts

Sage uses:
- Sage butter on gnocchi
- Sage butter on ravioli, especially pumpkin ravioli
- Sage butter on trout
- Sage olive oil with pasta and parmesan
- Put some leaves into pesto with other herbs.
- Add sage to duck sausage.
- Add sage to bean dishes.
- Infuse honey with sage.
- Use with parsley, rosemary and thyme in chicken risotti and soups.
- Add along with fresh parsley, basil, thyme, and rosemary to tomato sauces.
- Deep-fry the leaves and serve as an appetizer, or use as a garnish for poultry, meat dishes, or pasta.

Recipe ideas:
- Sandwich an anchovy between two leaves, batter and fry for great antipasto.
- Feta, prosciutto and sage involtini
- Sage on asparagus with shaved pecorino
- Lay two sage leaves over a long slice of sweet potato and wrap with a slice of prosciutto. Roast for 20 minutes or so with some olive oil (credit to Mark Bittman).
Italian bread and cabbage soup with sage butter
- Roast butternut squash on a thick bed of it.
- Sage and goats' cheese gnocchi
Sweet potato gnocchi with chestnuts and fried sage
- Put leaves on fish, wrap in prosciutto and sear in clarified butter and olive oil; finish in the oven.
- Take half a chicken breast, place 2 or 3 sage leaves on top, wrap in Parma ham, pack in foil, bake at 180°C (360°F). Open top side of package, pour in some dry white wine, and leave open in oven for 20 more minutes or until done.
- Wrap a flattened chicken thigh in prosciutto with a leaf of sage and pan-cook.
- Pan-fry chicken breasts, add sage, red onion, lemon & crème fraîche.
- Sauté chicken livers with shallots and sage, season, then add a little cream. Toss through pappardelle.
- Sauté lamb chops with a sage leaf on each side.
Saltimboca (veal, sage and prosciutto)
Pork, sage and apple burgers
- Mold around a piece of pork sausage (out of casing), batter and fry.
- Sage and cheddar biscuits or pumpkin sage biscuits
- Sage ice cream
- Sage panna cotta

Other uses:
- Freeze in ice cubes for summer drinks.
- Go native and use the dry sage leftovers to purify your kitchen from evil spirits (see smudge sticks).
- Sage tea is a great remedy for sore throat.
- Sage plants give the most beautiful blooms!

WHERE to start?!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

banana pancakes

This started out as something so non-chalant, and turned into a delightful re-discovery of sense memories from various parts of my life.

It all started when my friend Sadie made a facebook post about pancakes. Actually, a lot of her posts seem to be about pancakes, but this one eventually brought up banana pancakes. Like the theme to the Brady Bunch, it was now stuck in my head. When is the last time I made banana pancakes? More of cool weather cooking for me, and while Fall is definitely making some tease appearances, it's still a bit warm.  Still ... banana pancakes...

At this point, we jump into the way-back machine. I grew up in Vermont, and from a fairly young age, my mother encouraged me to play in the kitchen. In fact, some days I was allowed to literally do that, play around and make what ever I thought might be good. Sometimes, my family, or at least my mom, might even taste it. While I created some seriously inedible concoctions, some that were probably lucky not to combust, the experience taught me not to be afraid to play around. Later experiments taught me to learn the basics, so I knew better how to play around. Kind of like learning scales before you scat. Or learning the grammar before you learn all the cool bad words in another language.  

The reason this flashback hit me as I stood in the kitchen contemplating banana pancakes, is that as I consulted my favorite pancake recipe (Ginny Callan's 'Horn of the Moon' cookbook, from the Cafe that is sadly no longer in Montpelier, VT), I realized that I was missing several key ingredients listed in any of the pancake recipes listed. My first inclination was, maybe I don't make banana pancakes today. Oh, but I must. So I conjured my inner 10 year old determination and decided I would just work around those little issues. I had flour, baking powder, soda, various sweeteners, fats and liquids. Something will work out. That, and while I love LOVE cookbooks and collect them, both vintage and contemporary, and read them like novels, I consider the actual recipes to be helpful suggestions shared by others who have loved to play in the kitchen. Sometimes I actually follow them.  Sometimes...

The short list of subs: no sour cream, so I softened from chevre. No milk, so I pureed some ripe bananas (these are, after all, banana pancakes). No syrup, so I made a bit of simple syrup and cooked down some peaches, figs, and candied ginger. A couple of other tweaks that are hopefully noted clearly enough for me to try and replicate this, and suddenly I was cooking up banana pancakes.

And then again, maybe I don't need to make this exact batch again.  Now this harkens me back to days working in theater. The best, absolute best part of working on shows for me was that every performance was its own thing. A show could be extremely tight and consistent, but there was always something that only happened in that one performance, and even if nobody else noticed what it was, only a relatively small group of people shared in the experience. I loved that. I often carry on these kitchen improvs for other people, and of course being able to share the outcome makes it even better (except for that time the dough didn't rise and the breadsticks turned out to be WMD's). This time, it was just me, and that's ok. Although it is too bad that Sadie's not here to share some!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Eat Local Challenge: day 31

Wow - in so many ways I can hardly believe it's been a month of chronicling my Eat Local Challenge. It's been a lot of fun to focus on, yet I realize that pretty much every day I do very well on the Eat Local front, be it in the locally grown or raised groceries I am fortunate to have available at multiple markets and at my co-op, or be it in the form of the many wonderful local businesses who also work with other local businesses in creating and preparing delicious menus for those times I don't want to cook myself.

While the chronicle will end today, and we'll move on to other subjects (and maybe let some other folks have more to say), my co-op continues the Eat Local Challenge through September, so I'll keep getting my "local" card punched every time I shop. I'm happy to report that shining the light on local this month has confirmed that I have developed many habits that are based around seeking out and supporting my local farmers and small businesses, and I think that's better for my health and better for the economic health of my town. And that's downright sexy. Today was a day of running about, dashing into the studio for bouts of work interrupted by meetings and checking on the drooly dog still recovering from dental surgery. I munched on much in the way of local fare: figs from the tree, more leftovers and veggies from last weekend's markets, etc., but as I worked my way into the evening, I realized I had no signature "day 31" fare. 

braised beef & potato tamale with peach/jalapeno salsa from
Bandido's Burritos, accompanied by a cool Payne's Pale Ale from The Wedge.
Luckily, my sweet friend Melissa helped me solve that problem!  She works at one of our many acclaimed local brewery/pubs, The Wedge, and she put a call out for (of all things) a cup of coffee.  I was headed back to the studio to wrap things up for the night and The Wedge is along the way, so I grabbed a cup and took it to her.  In return, she treated me to one of my favorites, our locally brewed Payne's Pale Ale.  While I was catching up with her at the bar and realizing that I was hungry for dinner, I learned one of my favorite local eateries, Bandito's Burritos, was vending from a food cart in the parking lot.  Moments later I was back at the bar with a braised beef and potato tamale, moist, hot, and spicy, still wrapped in the banana leaf in which it was cooked. Add a little local peach/jalapeno salsa to that and I had just the right amount of spice to compliment my cool Pale Ale. So good I got another one for lunch at the studio tomorrow.

What better way to cap off the month?!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eat Local Challenge: day 30

This chronicle of my Eat Local Challenge was going to go out with a bang, as I was planning to attend the Endless Summer Market Supper that followed the closing of the West Asheville Tailgate today. Instead, it's something of a whimper as sweet pup who usually sits at my chair trying to levitate food off the plate and onto the floor had to go in for some dental work today. He is not enjoying the post-op experience, so I'm home with him. I'm sure there will be pictures posted of the incredible Mediterranean meal being put together by some incredible chefs, so I'll cover that in a later blog. Maybe my last minute facebook plea will see a plate of leftovers at my door later...

At home and between bouts of very sad whimpers from the pup who just can't seem to let himself fall asleep, I came up with dinner:

I had leftover stuffing from last night's empanada's, plus an extra roasted butternut squash, so I re-heated/roasted them together and added a simple salad of avocado (from Florida, closest I could get) and tomato (second one from my plant - woohoo!) with sea salt.  I made a nice little cocktail by blending the last of a market watermelon with some garden basil and tequila (the dog gets tramadol, I get tequila!), and it was all quite good!

Check out the Tailgate's facebook page for pictures from the Supper

Monday, August 29, 2011

Eat Local Challenge: day 29

The fig tree is really pumping out figs now, and I've been having a great time playing with a variety of uses. I may test my way right out of the batch of preserves or chutney I planned to make, but it will be fun and tasty along the way!

Tonight's fun was with mini 'empanada/ravioli' treats (empanoli?). Empanada in theory, ravioli in design. The dough was made using organic Carolina grown whole wheat flour, which is now happily available at the co-op. The filling is a base layer of leeks, shallots, fennel, prosciutto, butternut squash, tart apples and rosemary, with fig slivers placed on top.  

The leeks, shallots, and fennel were sweated down slowly, the squash was roasted till just tender before adding to the mix, the prosciutto was finely chopped, and the apples were added after the mix was cooked to maintain texture. The figs were placed on top of the mix as each empanada was filled and formed. The individually treated elements meld nicely for good flavor and texture, with just the rosemary, some salt and a slight drizzle of aged balsamic for seasoning. 

What started out as looking for another way to use the figs has given me something I'll continue to play with into the fall and winter. With cooler weather on the way, I'm already thinking about other combinations and variations for fillings - this one's a keeper!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Eat Local Challenge: day 28

Enjoying lovely pre-fall breezes and cooler morning temps this Sunday morning, listening to the news of the storm moving up the East Coast and hoping all in the path and in the wake are faring well.

I stopped by the tailgate to pick up my favorite baguette from Simple Bread yesterday, and they had a special offering of English Muffins - perfect for this cooler morning with a little Oakmoon honeyed chevre, some freshly picked figs and market peaches. Dynamite Roasting Company cuppa rounds it out nicely.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Eat Local Challenge: day 27

I had great plans and dreams for a home garden this year, but a variety of distractions and delays resulted in me getting only a small but lovely spiral garden established. The plot I tilled for the raised bed has already grown over, but I still have plans for getting some greens planted for the cooler season.

a look at the spiral garden in late spring, when I just added the tomato plant
to my basils, sage, thyme, parsley, chives, lavender, and strawberries.

The spiral garden was intended mainly for herbs, but one day I was at a tailgate, and looking at all the beautiful vegetable starters I knew I wouldn't be planting I decided that at LEAST I had to have one tomato plant. And so the garden has herbs going very well, and my one tomato plant. I was so proud when it grew past the rings on the support, and even happier when it started blossoming. And then, a tomato. For the longest time, it was just the one, but by the time I picked #1 (this morning), I was able to pick it's sibling #2 and have two, maybe three, in the wings. I have farmed.

picked this morning from the back 40 (inches, that is) -
tastes like summer!
I've been enjoying some beautiful and delicious heirloom tomatoes from friends and from the tailgates, but today's lunch of just the tomato, sliced thickly and sprinkled with sea salt, accompanied by my favorite Simple Bread baguette, was one of the best things I've ever eaten.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Eat Local Challenge: day 26

The end of the week and a busy day between errands and work, so it was mainly munching on green beans, various tidbits of leftovers tossed together and a nice jar of juiced fruit and veg. All of which has already been seen here in some form or another during this month, so for today's Local Food highlight, I bring you something from one of my very favorite local spots.

The French Broad Chocolate Lounge is the love child of Dan and Jael Rattigan, and it's more than just another local small business. It (they) embody the true spirit of local, be it with their support of local farmers (and, in full disclosure, artists, like me) or be it with their support of the local economy further by paying their employees a living wage. And there's so much more to them, but if you want to get the full picture and you can't go to the Lounge directly, start by reading their manifesto. And then get yourself to the Lounge as soon as possible.

And to the delight of this dairy-intolerant chocoholic, there are endless selections of dairy-free delights. Their vegan truffle collection (the buddha) is crazy good, featuring locally sourced ingredients when ever possible. And then there's the Theros Chocolate Cake (using the olive oil I love), macaroons, liquid truffle emulsions with coconut milk or maybe their house-made almond milk. And that's just the chocolate - there's so much more, but if I go into too much more detail, I'll have to get in my car and go there, then I would never finish this post.

All that being said, because everything they make is done so with extreme care, talent, creativity, quality ingredients, and most of all love, the foodie in me can't resist the occasional taste of something I wouldn't normally eat because of dairy. As in many things in life, sometimes it's just worth it.

salted honey caramel - dark
The salted honey caramel in dark chocolate with sea salt has a permanent spot on the "worth it" list. They're the perfect size for the occasional decadence, and every single bite, chew and savor of the melting chocolate and caramel mingling with salty goodness is a moment of bliss.  

I've spent time in their kitchen (a/k/a 'the happiest place on earth'), and in another post down the road, I'll take you there to see some of the magic behind the scenes. Until then...
realized too late that this was out of focus, and would have
taken another shot, but the truffle was lost in a
sudden bout of consumption.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Eat Local Challenge: day 25

We've had some cooler, breezy days of late, and it's been a great reminder that in spite of some warmer temps to come, Fall is indeed on the way!  

Today was another lovely bison steak from Carolina Bison, along with some steamed purple beans from the tailgate and atop some leftover rice and beans.

I also want to share the latest development with the figs. The tree seems to be ready to start popping more out, and it can happen fast!  I noticed a bit of plumping, so I was checking the tree almost every time I went out the front door, and I still lost several to over-ripening and ended up sharing more with the birds. Happy to share, we are, but the tree gets checked more often now! A few did come free, however, and it was perfect timing for a quick little after-work nosh:

The figs are split in half, topped with some honeyed chevre from OakMoon Creamery, drizzled with aged balsamic from The Tree & Vine, then wrapped in Hickory Nut Gap Farms prosciutto. They had a few minutes under the broiler and were divine.  With help from our lovely tree, these will be a menu item at a small reception I'm hosting after a workshop next month - what a great way to show off some local fare!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eat Local Challenge: day 24

It's really wonderful to have the bounty of markets this time of year. I won't make it over to the co-op Market today, but I'll hit it next week for some pictures to close out the month. Yesterday I picked up a few more veggies at the West Asheville Tailgate, which made popping home for a quick lunch easy today!

I was in the mood for some texture, so I started with a corn/black bean mix I had ready for a later meal and added a tomato that was ready for eating along with nice crunchy carrots and a delicious baby cucumber.  With a simple balsamic vinaigrette, it went well with some toasted baguette and Roots spinach and chipotle hummus (good sopping juices!). Even the nettle/mint tea brew is local, with some blueberries and peaches floating in it for an extra treat.

As mentioned, I did hit the West Asheville Tailgate yesterday, but I forgot to take the camera.  Many of the same folks from Saturday were there - I did get the quick shot below as I drove off for a little shout out.  Next week I'll be attending the farm to table community dinner after the market closes, and you bet I'll have my camera with me then!

a quick glimpse at the West Asheville Tailgate

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eat Local Challenge: day 23

"Never work before breakfast; if you have to work before breakfast, eat your breakfast first." ~ Josh Billings

I love eggs, and I really love the eggs I get from Mudluscious Gardens - even more because they are delivered to me! 

My favorite is probably the sunny side up - soppy, yolky goodness to mix in with veggies or for the toast.  Some days, however, there's only time for a one-pot meal.  Eggs alone are great, but even on a fast-moving day, there's time for a good scramble!

good, good, good
Today's scramble all derived from local farmers and my garden (the thyme):  scramble with leeks, garlic, fennel, shiitakes, squash, kale, and tomatoes:

between the counter light and the sunlight, it seems a very ethereal scramble!

home made tastes better on hand made

As I've been monopolizing much of the post space here during the Eat Local Challenge, you've seen a lot of what I eat as well as the dishes, etc. I use every day. I've had a few messages and questions about them from folks who don't already know me, and thanks very much for the kind words. Yes, I make pottery, and while most of what you see is on my work, I also collect the work of friends, colleagues and other potters I admire, so you'll see a wide range.
day 13 lunch was on one of my plates
my day 1 and 2 entry, also on one of my plates
But shameless self promotion isn't what this post is about (but how can it be helped!?). I think my love of food, in everything from learning about it to preparing it to sharing it, is one of the things that added to my instant love of making pottery. I saw in immediate connection in what I could make in the studio to what I can make in the kitchen, and that inspiration and motivation continues today.

day 15 dinner in a bowl by Massachusetts-based Mark Shapiro

One of the first things I noticed when I started using my first finished pieces: I cared more about how I used them. Not that they were so precious they had to be put in a special case and carted out only for special occasions, not at all. These were (and still are) the pieces I want to use every day, and I swear the food just looked and tasted better on and in them. And it made me start thinking about what I was putting on and in them - why would I waste all the effort, care, and love I put into making this bowl by filling it with processed crap that comes from who knows where? 

day 9 juice in a sweet little espresso cup by Chloe Rothwell
I started to care even more about the food I make when I started to make the dishes I use. And I see that connection happen with people who start to collect hand made. When I entertain I bring out the full compliment of plates, bowls, cups, etc. from potters all over. It's great to watch as friends carefully select "who" they want to use for wine or dinner, and that appreciation and respect carries over to what I prepare and serve, and it leaves with each guest.

day 4 breakfast on one of my favorites by
NC potter Shawn Ireland (mug by me)

I'm very happy that I get to experience this with every meal I prepare at home, be it with my own work or in my much-used and much-cherished pieces by other artists. And with the Eat Local Challenge, it gets even better because my carefully prepared meals, served in my lovingly made dishes, come from passionate farmers and creative neighbors who pour their own spirit into their work. 

day 10 goodness in a bowl by Atlanta potter Luba Sharapan.
Every bite is community, and a reason to be grateful.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Eat Local Challenge: day 22

Today was a good day to toss together the last bits of this and that for a lovely leftover lunch.  And who says pasta salads can't be made with linguini?  I certainly never did!

Last of the pasta with the last of the chevre with a little squash and tomatoes, with some garden herbs with a splash of my favorite aged balsamic vinaigrette.  And some Roots hummus (chipotle & spinach) with black olive crackers from Roots & Branches.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Eat Local Challenge: day 21

On the way home from work tonight, I realized I was in the mood to cook up some protein, but I hadn't taken anything out of the freezer. A quick stop at the co-op would help me decide just what would compliment the market bounty I already had in the kitchen.

I consider myself an omnivore, although I can't eat cow dairy, but that's an easy thing to work around. I do end up cooking vegetarian a good bit just out of convenience and sometimes to save some pennies on what I would be spending on non-veg proteins. I think I eat meat/chicken/fish out more than I prepare it, so it's always a pretty big consideration when I am selecting a protein to cook. I think this month has been the exception because I've been focused on the Eat Local Challenge, and because we have so many incredible farmers offering proteins as well as produce. I'm also trying to stick to a budget, so I decided to let price guide me, within what was available that was local.  

The co-op offered a range of goodies, from fresh trout to chicken to stew meat, but what won the price game was a lovely pork chop from Hickory Nut Gap Farms for just a few bucks. I can't even remember the last time I cooked a pork chop, so that made it more of an adventure.

Stuffing: leeks, shiitakes, prosciutto, garlic, kale, figs, thyme, and olive oil
Home with my chop, I pondered what I'd do. An image of my Italian grandmother serving up a chop with a side of pasta came to mind (in part because I had some leftover pasta with herbs, garlic & olive oil). The thickness of the chop suggested stuffing it, so I took a tour through a few of my cookbooks for some ideas. Deciding to keep the 'Italian' theme, and of course using my market finds from the weekend, I finally settled on a stuffing of leeks, kale, shiitakes, prosciutto, garlic, thyme, and a few of the figs that came off the tree today. Because I hadn't cooked a chop in so long, I went to Jacques Pepin for counsel on technique (I'd have kept it all Italian, but the Marcella book I grabbed had no chop).

The result was quite, quite good - I let the chop rest in a warm oven while I saute-ed up some some sweet onions, market tomatoes and garden herbs in the pan drippings. Deglazed with a little Pale Ale, because it needed something and it was handy. That made not only a nice sauce on the chop, but it helped dress up my leftover pasta. Lovely Sunday dinner.  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Eat Local Challenge: at the Market (Saturday)

I've mentioned already that I'm grateful we have tailgate markets throughout the week, so I can shop for a couple of days at a time without worrying about things going bad or just over-buying. Today's stop was at the City Market. It was so crowded, I didn't even get to stop in at a couple of stalls I normally hit, and since I go here before work, I kind of have to fly through, so if a tent is too crowded on the first pass, I may have to wait till next time.  Luckily, many of these fine folk are at other markets I may visit during the week!

Here's a look at who I visited this week:

the lovely Trish sells me my Market tokens - what a great convenience, to be able to
buy tokens with credit or debit and food stamps too! Today, because I parked in the
far-away lot, I also won $10 in Market bucks!

Spinning Spider Creamery - I usually pick up some lovely goat milk cheeses,
but today I found goat stew meat and now it's in the freezer.

I believe I picked up leeks & shallots here today...

had to get my baguette fix...

source of studio-production-saving granola and health bars!

summer squash and tomatoes from here today...

baby melons from here...

my market cuppa - mmmmm!

today's bounty - some will last well into the week, or at least until the Tuesday market!

Eat Local Challenge, day 20

Today's theme may be re-visited before the month is out, as it's a work in progress. Since late spring, I've been watching the fig tree in the yard pop up figs. After a couple of months of straight out teasing, we started picking 5-6 a day. What with it being the first of the season, most were eaten straight off the tree or shared with interested friends. I've been thinking of things I want to make with them since the first leaf showed up!

And then the figs stopped. They were all still there on the tree, but the growing and the ripening stopped. Taking a rest?  Not enough water?  I waited a bit ... still nothing. So I watered, which of course brought the rains, and now the figs are growing once more.  

The harvest is still in the 2-3 per day range, not quite enough to make full batches of any of the figgy delights dancing in my head, but good for testing, so I shall test.

One of the first things I thought about when I saw the first figs was a nice little tart with local chevre. Over the course of the season, and with this Eat Local Challenge, the 'recipe' as it is, has been evolving even before the first test. Once I get a few more out, I'll share the final recipe to save you extraneous narratives on which versions might result in this, that, or the other.

This is 'take 2' of the fig tart:

The crust is an olive oil/rosemary tart (Theros unrefined olive oil* and fresh rosemary from the garden). It's topped with some OakMoon chevre and the garden figs, with a drizzle of aged balsamic from The Tree & Vine (*also where Theros unrefined olive oil is available). I just found out I can get the organic Carolina grown whole wheat at my co-op, so I'll try a version with that, although it may make it even more rustic, I can't resist trying for as local a recipe list as possible.

I still have another crust variation I want to try that may produce a lighter result, but I rather like this one for all its very basic charms.

Now if the tree will start popping more figs at once, I may make a full-size version. Then again, I'm really enjoying my mini's (and it's a lot easier to share!).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Eat Local Challenge, day 19

Today I was woefully without camera when I put my meals together, but as it's been a day of leftovers, you've seen it already this week!

Local eggs this morning, local chevre on the local baguette later for 2nd breakfast, last of the leftover hash as a mini lunch and the second half of a Roots & Branches granola bar this afternoon.  Scroll on down through previous posts and you'll see representations of them all.

I'm keeping it short as I'm working on a little something with some figs coming off the tree.  

Stay tuned ...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Eat Local Challenge, day 18

The fig tree in the front yard had taken a bit of a break while we had less rain.  I started watering it, and it's started raining more frequently again and the figs are starting to pop again!  I only found one ready to eat on the tree this morning, but it was the perfect addition to my local breakfast!  It's raining this morning, and if I get to them before the birds, I should have some fig-inspired meals coming up!

Home Free Bagels, topped with a Honeyed Chevre from OakMoon Creamery, some peaches from this week's tailgate, and my just picked fig.