Tuesday, 27 May 2008 21:01
I got hooked on local foods when I moved to Argentina in 2005 to
volunteer for two seasons on a couple of organic farms. Without a lot
of money to spare, the families that I lived with ate what they had in
abundance â and that meant they ate seasonally and locally.
When I arrived in late winter, our salads were mainly comprised of
escarole, leeks and chicory and the watercress that we foraged from the
banks of a stream. But as spring came, we enjoyed tender asparagus,
robust artichokes, fresh fava beans and succulent English peas. Summer
brought us mountains of fruit â strawberries, apricots and cherries,
followed by peaches and plums, and in the fall we picked apples
directly off the tree for our breakfast or mid-morning snack.
Not only did my Argentine sojourn change my diet, but it also changed
my style of cooking. Previously, I had always cooked from recipes,
planning our menu and writing detailed grocery lists, then shopping for
those specific ingredients. In Argentina, we cooked with what we had.
That meant we had a repertoire of basic meals for which we kept some
staples around (grains, beans, pasta, and so on) and then we added to
the dish whatever vegetables happened to be in season.
Though it may at first seem like a sacrifice to cook only with what is
in season, it turned out to be far more delicious, because fresh food,
no matter how it is prepared, has so much more flavor than anything
else. Our salads also rotated throughout the year. In spring we ate
tender greens, peas and scallions. A summer salad consisted of
tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, raw green beans, grated zucchini and bell
peppers, and in late fall and winter salad our salad bowl was filled
with lettuce, cabbage and grated beets, carrots and apples.
After harvesting vegetables for salad twice a day as I walked back from
the fields to the kitchen before lunch and dinner, there was no way
that I could go back to buying mushy, tasteless supermarket produce. So
upon my return from Argentina, my fiancÃ© and I became committed to
eating local, organic products throughout the year (including winter).
Although we live in the city, we managed to start a small garden when
we moved to Bloomington this fall. In November and December, we enjoyed
beets and carrots from our garden. In late fall, we planted arugula and
spinach to overwinter under cold frames and row cover so that we could
enjoy bountiful salads in early spring. We are now watching our peas
and fava beans grow, our garlic bulbs sprouting and our rhubarb and
asparagus plants awakening from their long winterâs rest.
As for everything else, we are able to get most of what we need from
the Farmersâ Market. Along with produce, we shop for whole wheat flour,
corn meal, honey, maple syrup, cheese, eggs and mushrooms there. Most
of these items are also available at Bloomingfoods, along with some
great wildcrafted items such as ramps and morels. Lastly, we have a cow
share in which we pay a local farmer a fee for boarding, caring for and
milking a cow and in exchange we obtain 1 1/2 gallons of raw milk per
week, part of which we make into yogurt.
I would like to leave you now with an easy recipe from my fiancÃ©, Eric Schedler, that you can make 100% local year-round:
1 c. water
1 t. yeast
1/2 t. salt
3 1/2 c. organic whole wheat flour from Icelandic Sheep Farm*
Toppings (see below) â all available at the Farmersâ Market
1. Put yeast, water and salt in bowl. Incorporate flour by kneading.
Let the dough rise for at least 1 hour until nearly doubled in volume.
2. Roll out crust and let it rise in pan until it noticeably increases in size.
3. Prebake crust for 5-10 min in 350Âº oven.
4. Add toppings and local cheese and bake at 500Âº until browned.
Most toppings should be sautÃ©ed before adding.
Spring Topping: asparagus, scallions and chard or spinach, or spring onions and shelled peas.
Summer Topping: fresh tomato sauce with onions and zucchini, eggplants or peppers, or sliced tomatoes and garlic and basil.
Fall Topping: apples and onions (need to cook on low heat for a long
time so that the onions caramelize) or tomato sauce with carrots, or
broccoli with pesto.
Winter Topping: kale, chard, or beet greens with onions; or frozen corn
(bought at Farmerâs Market in summer) and onions; or home-canned or
Local Folks Food tomato sauce** and mushrooms.
*available at the Farmersâ Market
** available at the Farmersâ Market and at Bloomingfoods
Katie Zukof is a baker and cashier at the Bloomingfoods on East Third
Street. She is also the consumer representative on the board of the
Local Growers Guild.