Sunday, July 29, 2007

One Local Summer: Week Five

The Mister gets all the credit for this week's contribution: our variation on eggplant parmesan. With local tomatoes, eggplant and onions readily available, it all came together fairly easily. The grocery store stocks locally made fresh mozzarella and rolls. The CSA is continuing to keep us in salad greens. And we're more than happy to take full advantage of all the Jersey corn that's out there right now.

Get a taste of what others are cooking up locally. . .

Sunday, July 22, 2007

One Local Summer: Week Four

A trip to our old neighborhood in Brooklyn enabled us to stock up on pasta from one of our favorite Italian specialty shops, Caputo's. Much of what they sell they make themselves, and for us it's always worth the trip back. As far as the crow flies, it's a mere 12 miles away. Of course those can be 12 very traffic-clogged miles. Fortunately this time around it was a breeze.

We also decided it was time to break out the pasture-fed steak we had been storing in our freezer. Simply Grazin' Farm, our local meat source, specializes in pasture-fed beef and though we've had some experience with it, we're still very green when it comes the preparation of this particular kind of beef. As opposed to the corn-fed, industrialized beef found in most grocery stores, pasture-fed beef is much leaner and not as marbled. That fat and marbling benefits the steak as it cooks, tenderizing it and giving it moisture. So when cooking a pasture-fed steak, you got to work fast and hot. The meat basically gets seared over high heat so that the flavor is preserved and the texture isn't compromised by over-cooking. I'm happy to report that the Mister did an expert job at the grill. This steak was truly one of the best I've ever tasted. . .
The pasta was tossed with local zucchini, spring onions and garlic scapes from our CSA and some home-grown herbs. The salad came courtesy of our CSA.

Green Thumb Sunday

It's great when our plants can look pretty or produce something tasty and edible. It's a further bonus if they can help us in our quest for more privacy. It's in fact a rare thing when one plant is able to deliver on all three, so we're particularly pleased with our sunflowers this year. They're gorgeous. They'll produce a wealth of tasty seeds. And instead of my neighbor's house, we get to look out on this...

Visit more gardens. . .

Progress Report: Tomatoes

They're definitely getting bigger. The question is when will they start getting riper and redder? They're on their way for sure, but it's hard not to be impatient. We're considering stripping some of the leaves to allow more light to filter in. Has anyone out there had any success with that technique?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

One Local Summer: Week Three

This week's contribution was enjoyed on Friday. Local zucchini has been abundant lately, so once again we took full advantage. We sautéed it up with some of our own home-grown basil.

As for the centerpiece of the meal, we opted for chicken on the grill again. This time around, the bird came from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We grilled it, then seasoned it with our own rosemary along with some baby onions from our CSA. The mushroom/amaranth combo we cooked up for our first meal definitely bore repeating, especially since our CSA has been keeping us in amaranth. The mushrooms again came from Pennsylvania. A salad of CSA lettuce rounded it all out. . .

One of the challenges of eating locally for me has been to achieve variety when most of the ingredients I'm working with are the same. So far this hasn't been a problem as we're always happy to repeat a successful meal, but at the same time I'd love to be able to experiment more. Our particular "foodshed" is somewhat limited. Ironic for the Garden State, no doubt. As the season wears on, I'm sure I'll get my hands on a greater variety of produce. I'm hoping for enough to be able to make a meat-free meal. At the moment, I just don't have enough stuff to work with to feel I can produce a wholly substantial vegetarian meal.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dahlias for Dummies

Last October I dutifully dug up our dahlia tubers with the intention of wintering them over in our basement. I wasn't sure this would work. For one thing, I had started these particular dahlias from seed. My knowledge of botany is scant at best, so I was having a hard time imagining how a plant I generated from a seed ultimately develops a tuber. But when the time came, I dug them up and was happy to see that in the end, I had tubers.

So what remained to be seen was that if I wintered them over would I, in the end, have dahlias again.

There was much I could have done to see to the success of my dahlias– powders and treatments I could have used to prevent rot and mildew, etc. But once they went in the basement, I promptly forgot about them.

Fortunately, come the spring, I remembered them again. The tubers looked a little dessicated, but for the most part, none the worse for wear. A few were sprouting even. So I planted them and hoped for the best.

And I'm happy to report that my blooms are taller, fuller and more plentiful than they were last year. I'll definitely be digging up those tubers again. And I might even work a little harder at ensuring their comfort through their long winter in the basement.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

One Local Summer: Week Two

This week we decided to dedicate our 4th of July dinner to the One Local Summer challenge. A rather cool and grey day, the holiday lacked its usual dog-days-of-summer appeal. Our menu was likewise not in the typical Independence Day vein, though it was quite tasty just the same.

We had steamed greens, mostly courtesy of our CSA. . .
A mix of dandelion, kale and beet greens.

Our grocery store now features local produce which is helping us supplement our CSA share. There we scored some beets whose greens were steamed while the rest was simmered with non-local couscous. . .

The veggies accompanied pork chops from our local meat source. We seasoned the chops with herbs from our own garden, plus baby onions from the CSA.

I'm lacking local sources for dairy and grains, though I do think I'll be able to get some eggs soon which will enable me to broaden our options a bit. Cheese would also be helpful. For next week's meal, I'm hoping to get my hands on some local seafood. We'll see.

Friday, July 06, 2007

It's a Jungle Out There. . .

It doesn't seem all that long ago that we were transplanting our tomato seedlings, taking care to strip the lower leaves and bury the stems so that we'd have strong, stable plants.

And now, just a little more than a month later, it's a jungle out there. . .

We took some time this weekend to remove the lower leaves, pluck out any suckers and secure each plant to its stake. It's great to see just how similar as well as dissimilar each variety is. Some you can't tell apart at all. Whereas others, like the Ferris Wheel, are quite different. More gnarled and vine-like in its growth, this pink heirloom seems to have retained much of its wildness.

Anyway, the most exciting part of it all is that we've already got some of these. . .