Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dark Days, Purple Haze

I'm still pretty new to the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge. Last week was my second week and I boasted about how easy it is to eat local in Northern California, how I can shop at any one of a bazillion farmer's markets overflowing with fresh, organic produce, and how the real challenge was not getting stuck in a cooking rut. Boy, oh boy, did I get my booty kicked!

If you haven't checked out the Dark Days, you should. Those folks can cook it up! And they ain't basking here in sunny California. No siree bob! Those guys and gals are in the dead of winter, buried in snow drifts crafting noodles from scratch for Chicken Udon Soup, simmering Shitake Risoto and delving into Kabocha Squash Soup.

After perusing my competition, I realized that I need to bring my A game to this challenge so here it is, Dark guys and girls:

Cauliflower and Leek Soup.
To entice the chilluns, I opted for the jewel-toned purple cauliflower sold at my farmer's market. I steamed a head of cauliflower and two local leeks in some homemade vegetable broth. Once soft, I added one cup of local plain yogurt (yes, LifeLessPlastic, I'm still unsuccessfully trying to make my own) and pureed everything, then heated it through again. Served with bread from a local bakery.

The boys were giddy when we first started cooking this. They love colorful produce and have gobbled down purple cauliflower before. And really, how much fun is a purple people eater soup? Apparently, not very because, even though my husband and I enjoyed it, the little guy cried throughout the entire meal. Well, at least he ate the side dish - home fries.

Steak Fries with local ketchup.
Oh, I know what you are thinking. I thought she was bringing her "A game" and here she serves up french fries! Well, yeah, the kids don't cry when I serve these so I figured I could share. I just slice up some local russet potatoes, toss them in local olive oil and salt and bake them at 400F until done. We ate them with local ketchup - store bought but next year, I'm making my own.

Backyard Lemon Bars.

If the kids cried through the soup, they somehow managed to swallow, um, I mean devour the lemon bars. We made them with our backyard lemons, local eggs, fair trade organic sugar and non-local gluten free flour. (My kids are gluten free). I'm still working on finding a local, or at least bulk, source of gluten free flours (rice, soy, tapioca). If you know of any or have ideas where to look, please leave me a comment.

Broccoli Thai Tofu Stir Fry.
This is a favorite dish that I trot out every winter. I'm not much for recipes. I usually just throw a bunch of the ingredients together and hope it's edible but here's how I do this one:

Press tofu for 30 minutes then fry in local olive oil. Process (in food processor) half a bunch of local cilantro, 1/4 cup of bulk peanuts, three teaspoons of non-local Thai chili sauce (yes, I do put this in everything) and set aside. Steam local broccoli until soft (I also included a head of local cheddar cauliflower because it was just about "done"). Mix in sauce and tofu and heat through. Served over local rice. Spicy, spicy, spicy!

Pumpkin Souffle.
This is a great way to use up all the winter squash you - or at least Katrina at Kale for Sale and I - have lurking around the house. Besides, souffles are light, fluffy and good for breakfast the next day.

The recipe is modified from Diana Shaw's The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook and can be adapted for almost any seasonal fruit.

2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups pureed winter squash
1/4 sweetener (I use local honey)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 350F. Coat four 8 ounce custard cups or individual souffle dishes with butter.
Mix puree ingredients. Mix in lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar. Set aside.

Beat egg white until foamy. Sprinkle in baking powder and tablespoon of sugar. Resume beating until egg whites are stiff (like shaving cream).

Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/3 of egg white mixture into puree mixture until you can't see any egg whites. Fold in next 1/3 and then final 1/3.

Distribute evenly into prepared dishes. Put dishes in a large baking dish and add enough water to baking dish to come halfway up the sides of souffle dishes. Bake until puffed and golden brown - about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Baked Winter Squash Pasta with Greens.
I cannot take credit for this dish but stole the idea from my competitor, I mean, friend Melinda at Elements in Time (how else do you expect me to get ahead?). Because, I have A LOT of squash, I've already made this twice.

First, I saute half a local chopped onion in homemade local butter (This was a breeze. Follow Crunchy's instructions here.) and then add homemade vegetable broth and chopped greens. I use whatever greens on hand - homegrown chard or farmer's market purple kale. Both times, I used local Potimarron pumpkin puree - delicious heirloom variety! - and mixed in some fair trade sugar, nutmeg, salt, a dash of pepper, some homemade veggie broth or local apple juice, and then a little local milk or heavy whipping cream. After adding in the greens and cooked non-local pasta, I smothered it with local mozzarella and baked at 350 until it is all cheesy, bubbly deliciousness. The kids actually eat this without a single tear.

Chocolate Chip Cookies.
I made these with the local whole wheat flour ground by the ancient mill in Napa Valley (local to us), local butter, local eggs and fair trade, organic sugar and chocolate chips. Served with, you guessed it, local milk. These are great help while I'm looking for ways to trim the fat.

Bonus Points: 100% Local Lunch.
Finally, because I am the competitive sort, here is a photo of my son's 100% local lunch. Local pistachios, local dried cherries, local carrots, local apple, homegrown (my mother in law) home-dried persimmon, homegrown (my parents) dried pink beans and local ketchup. Eat your heart out, lunchables!

And, that, my friends, is how you cook in the Dark Days! Or at least I think that is how you cook but I'm sure I'll get spanked next week by Urban Hennery, Simply Local Idaho and their locally eating possee. Oh well. Keep on cookin'.


Raw Food Diva said...

Girl! you outdid yourself!
makes me wanna eat a mess of cooked food! I sure do miss those California Lemons.It all looks very tempting.

Gruppie Girl said...

That is one seriously impressive lunch.

And here I'm trying to pack a trash-free lunch....

CindyW said...

What a great idea - purple cauliflower dip looks so great. I have two girls who will wear and eat anything purple. Definitely will give it a try. But you simply cannot put fresh-baked bread and "tightened the belt" challenge posts next to each other :) I can devour a loaf of fresh baked bread at one sitting, okay maybe two sittings. With the purple cauliflower dip, who am I kidding about tightening the belt!

Chile said...

Wow, I'm stuck on the beautiful purple cauliflower. I love colorful food, too.

Fake Plastic Fish said...

I just want to come to your house and hang out and eat. Can I?

kale for sale said...

Wow! All I did this week was braise greens, disguise a delicata, and eat almonds whenever I got hungry. You go girl!!!

Melinda said...

I see I have a lot to compete with - I mean show you - when I get back! Glad the kids liked the casserole, and look at you go. Wow. I'll have to try making lemon bars when I get back. Not to compete or anything...

I'm traveling around the Dominican Republic eating local tropical food... Sigh.

Idaho Locavore said...

Ha! I just found this post. Thank you for the kind words, but I absolutely would never, ever, ever spank Green Bean. :-)

I am going to try some of your meal ideas soon - especially the broccoli and cauliflower spicy tofu Thai fry. We LOVE Thai food. And broccoli. And tofu. So I have to try it. It's fate.

I also loved the purple cauliflower soup! Purple is actually one of my favorite colors. I even made some purple watermelon pickles once. My little sister was the only one in the family besides me that would eat them. :-/

Anita said...

not sure where in NorCal you are, but have you checked Rainbow Grocery in SF? They have a ton of locally-milled flours and grains from Giusto's Vita-Grain. (I think they're all grown 'away', though. But at least they're locally owned and produced. And the grains are purchased direct from farmers, not from commodity streams.)

Full Belly Farms sells cornmeal; it's locally grown and milled.

Anita said...

I just found a resource for local teff, amaranth, millet, and flax (and wheat, but obviously that won't workd for your gluten-free needs):


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