Thursday, May 18, 2006

Eating Local - Rise and Fall, Hit and Miss


With this latest meal, I swing back from the Far East to a California cuisine sensibility. California is blessed with an early appearance of Spring vegetables, which can make cooking local foods a simple activity. Just cut them up, cook them quickly, and let the vegetable's essence shine through.

Souffles can be a perfect place to feature Spring vegetables, and they also can be wonderful in the colder months, when less exciting produce is available. The base of a souffle--eggs, flour and milk--can be found locally throughout the year. The flavoring can be as simple as a distinctive cheese like a soft, fresh goat milk cheese or a sharp cheddar-like cheese. A few vegetables can liven it up and add some color. And a souffle, of course, makes a dramatic dessert. A little while ago--months past the end of apricot season--I made a delicious apricot souffle, using preserves from a jar. More thoughts about eggs and frittatas can be found at the Eat Local Challenge, or in one of my recent posts.

My dessert was also an all-season item: crepes with a sweet filling. This time I spread a mixture of almond butter and honey on a portion of the crepe, piled on some chopped strawberries, and rolled it up. Other great dessert fillings would be fruit preserves, chocolate ganache, or a fruit compote. Or, for some drama, make a classic crepes suzette and bask in the flame. Like the souffle, crepes can work in many places throughout the meal: layered with cheese and vegetables as an appetizer, or rolled around asparagus spears and cheese and drenched with herb-infused cream sauce as a main course.

The meal
The ingredients were almost all from within my 100 mile circle (the fava beans, salt, black pepper, vinegar, and mustard were not), and mostly from the farmers market (the milk and butter were not).

This meal required a lot of small repetitive steps--shelling the fava beans (remove beans from large pod, blanch for a minute, remove dark green inner bean from translucent casing), making crepes, cooking the leeks (a four or five step process)--but in the end came together nicely. And then somewhat fell apart.

I baked the souffle in a large ceramic dish, which prevented the "wow" of the souffle rising out of a single-serving dish (like in this photo), but had some advantages. Easy to prepare and clean up. Something might have gone wrong with the batter, though, for when I looked at a cross-section there was a major stratification of the egg whites and the souffle base: light and foamy on top, custardy on the bottom. But still delicious. And, if I want to think positively, I got a two-for-one: a souffle and a custard.

The other vegetables were hit and miss. The leeks vinagrette was boiled (then cooled) leeks with a dressing of wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and olive oil. Leeks are beautiful when cooked with potatoes to make soup, but for me they don't have what it takes to star in a salad (and had some exceptionally tough and stringy parts). The green garlic soup had the equivalent of about one head of garlic per serving, but since it was so young the flavor was intense but not sharp or overwhelming. Fava beans seem to have a mystique about them, and make a splash in high-end restaurants for a little while each year, perhaps because they are so much work.

Keeping with my eat local pledge, I had to use local flour, which is limited to Full Belly Farm's whole wheat flour (as far as I know). Thus, the crepes were a bit rustic, so to speak. The combination of almond butter, honey and strawberries was excellent. With all of the ingredients for crepes available within my 100 mile circle, I'll be making crepes a few more times.


The Sources


#1 - Marshall (40 mi) - Straus Family Creamery: milk.
#2 - Sebastopol (48 mi), Redwood Hill Farm: goat milk feta.
#3 - Santa Rosa (50 mi), Ludwig Avenue Farm: eggs, potatoes.
#4 - Petaluma (33 mi), Clover-Stornetta Dairy: half and half.
#5 - Middletown (63 mi), Michael Huber, honey.
#6 - Guinda (67 mi), Riverdog Farm: asparagus.
Full Belly Farm: whole wheat flour, almond butter.
#7 - Sacramento (70 mi), Bariani: olive oil.
#8 - Davenport (54 mi) - Swanton Berry Farm - strawberries.
#9 - San Juan Batista (84 mi) - Happy Boy Farm - Leeks, green garlic.
#10 - Chowchilla (120 mi) - Happy Boy Farm - Fava beans.

Backyard: parsley, rosemary.
Non-local: white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, black pepper.


Indexed under Eat Local Challenge
Technorati tags :: :

1 comment:

lucette said...

I'm envious of your asparagus. I went to the farmers market yesterday hoping to find some, but I guess it's still too early here (Ohio).