Faces of Bloomingfoods: Justin Goellner

 Livin' la Vegan Loca(l)! - Cultivating a Love of Local and Seasonal Foods

Justin Goellner is the popular front end manager of Bloomingfoods East. Customers are often astonished when he tells them their member number, or remembers details of conversations from earlier trips through the check-out line. He is participating in the Eat Local America Challenge through August 15th, eating a vegan diet with local overtones.

I've been mulling over catchy phrases for my veganized version of the Eat Local America challenge for about two weeks. Eat (without Meat) Local! wasn't quite catchy enough, even with the internal rhyme. Hmmm... I've never been one to turn down a chance at a tongue-in-cheek pop culture reference, so LIVIN' LA VEGAN LOCAL(L) it is!
My initial panic at the 80% ingredient challenge was sourcing local vegetarian protein. Despite the large number of local soybeans, edible and/or organic ones don't really seem to be readily available. Maybe local wheat to mill into gluten flour to make seitan? Yikes! I could also just do a raw foods kick for a month, which would make everything really simple.
I silently decided to stick to my tried and true vegan diet with a little bit of modification to the challenge: an overall 50% local ingredient factor would be an improvement for me, and produce-wise, I would definitely strive for 80-100% local. With lowered standards and higher hopes, I was ready to face the first week of local veganism.
With the weather as hot as it's been and my house's refusal to indulge in air conditioning, the idea of cooking inside was making sweat collect on my brow. How about a good, olde fashioned GRILL OUT!?
The roomies and I pulled together some vegetable skewers with all local zucchini, tomatoes, yellow squash, and bell peppers, brushed with a homespun vinaigrette marinade. We grilled some melon, too, and with a sprinkle of salt it became an entirely different food! Amazing! I concocted a German-inspired creamy potato salad, filled with local yukon gold spuds, local red onion, and of course, celery, with fake bacon bits, apple cider vinegar, and veganaise. My roommate Jackie picked an insane amount of blackberries at a U-Pick farm about thirty minutes away (I swear it was about 30 pounds), so she made a local blackberry sorbet spiked with local rosemary (in a simple syrup) to give it a gourmand edge.  And finally, the most local of all, my urban farmer housemate Molly provided greens from our yard for a festive, colorful salad.
Sipping on a crazy cocktail after dinner (gin, local cucumber, local mint, and rosewater), I realized – why was I so worried about protein this whole time? I just got uber-full on an uber-fabulous meal that was uber-fun to make, and there was no uber-protein source in sight. Maybe being vegan for so many years has just made me paranoid ("Are you SURE this is SOY CREAMER?" and "Was that margarine or butter on my toast?"). Maybe I need to find a local source of B-vitamins and chill out. Maybe my protein-paranoia is totally called for, I'm not sure... but I made it through week one with better results than I'd expected.     

What Does it Mean to be Vegan?
Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle which "seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment." ~Wikipedia

Roasted Diversity Vegetables - Livin' la Vegan Loca(l)-Style

This recipe starts with a trip to the farmers' market – the Saturday Market at Showers' Common, the Tuesday Market at Bloomingfoods Near West Side, or (my favorite!) one of the markets in the parking lot at Bloomingfoods East, on Saturday or Wednesday mornings. Or simply stroll through the produce aisles at Bloomingfoods, looking for the local stickers and signs. Oh, and we did have to turn on the oven for this one.

Go crazy buying the local stuff!
     Potatoes: large, small, whatever suits your fancy
Green, red, and/or yellow or hot peppers
                                   They all have their own flavors, from sweet to hot
      Green, purple, or varigated beans: it's time!
      Onions, leeks or shallots: all the same family
      Carrots: some bold orange for color
                              Zucchini or yellow squash: it's August, after all
      Shiitake mushrooms: always a treat
      Salt and pepper to taste
                             1.5 tsp curry (or more!)
                             1/2-1 tsp chili powder
     Olive oil

Get a good cookie sheet ready, and drizzle it with olive oil. 
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Slice and dice! Peel and cut the potatos to nice bite size pieces. Peel the 
carrots (slice it in half and then into smaller pieces) and cut the peppers, 
zucchini, and mushrooms into bite-sized pieces, too.
Cut the onions in half and then slice each piece into nice half  ringlets.
Place them on top of the rest of the vegetables.

Spice it up! (This and the olive oil are your non-local components: but hey, they support cultural diversity.) Shake curry and chili powder all over the vegetables. Personally, I like to use a lot of curry. Drizzle the vegetables with some olive oil – about a tablespoon. Make sure you mix the vegetables well, so that the spices are all over them.

Place in oven for about 25-40 minutes, depending on how hot your oven gets. Be sure to stir your veggies at least a couple of times. Take out when you find that the potatoes are soft. Take out and let sit for a minute before devouring. You might want to sprinkle with some nutritional yeast from the bulk department: yum, and lots of good nutrients!
Prep time: 10 minutes | cooking time: 25-40 minutes |  makes 4-5 servings

Log onto the Eat Local America website and find a blog, recipes, photos, and a map showing other co-ops across the nation involved in this initiative to support local foods.