June 8, 2008

One Local Summer Update

This year, I signed up for the One Local Summer Challenge. This means that I've committed to eating one meal made from entirely local products each week. For this exercise, I will define local as originating from less than 150 miles of my house. I'm allowing exceptions for oils, spices, and items like flour that are milled locally but the grain itself may have originated from slightly farther away.

What did I eat this week?
The plan for yesterday was to head to a U-pick strawberry farm with a couple of friends so that I could make something yummy with local berries. We'd meet at 8 am, then carpool for 30 minutes to the farm to pick. That seemed reasonable, since this particular field is open 7:30 to 11:30 am, or until they are picked out of ripe berries. Unfortunately for us, their parking lots were nearly full when the gates opened at 7:30 am. When I called at 8:00 to make sure they were open, I was told that they were closing their gates at 8:30. Although we could have rushed to make it into the gates before they closed, it didn't seem make sense to drive all the way out there to hunt for the last ripe berries in the field.

Now what to do? We decided to head to the Tower Grove Farmer's Market to see if we could find fresh berries there. After a half hour stay at the market, I had nabbed a nice bag full of sunflower sprouts (an incredibly tasty addition to salads), a beautiful bunch of chives (Rob was planning on making cheese and chive scones later that day), a dozen local eggs, and three quarts of bright red, sweet smelling, organically raised strawberries. Though the berry vendor is not certified organic, a sign on their stand noted that they do use organic farming practices. I've found this is fairly common in smaller farms, because the certification process can be painful and expensive.

Anyway, enough rambling and let's get to the food. When I got home from the market I found a yummy sounding recipe for Summer Strawberry Bread in a cookbook I picked up earlier this year. We've made a couple of things from their recipes so far, and they've both been excellent. So, I pulled together my local ingredients and went for it. Here's how I made it.

Summer Strawberry Bread, Adapted for Local Ingredients
1/2 cup chopped local almonds
1-2/3 cups locally milled 10-grain flour
3/4 cup turbinado sugar (not local, but organic)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (not local)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (not local)
1/2 teaspoon salt (not local)
3 large, local, free-range eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil (not local)
1/3 cup local, organic milk
1 cup small, local strawberries, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8" loaf pan. Spread whole, raw almonds onto a rimmed cookie sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes in the oven. Cool for 5-10 minutes and chop finely.

Combine flour, sugar, almonds, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs in a small bowl until frothy; whisk in oil, then milk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture. Blend until just moistened. Fold in the berries.

Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Run a sharp knife all the way around the pan, gently running between the pan and the bread to loosen any stuck spots. Turn the bread out onto wire rack and let cool.
How did it turn out?
I really liked this bread, and I think it would work with a lot of other fruits. If you eat bananas, you can trade the almonds for walnuts and the berries for bananas. If you have fresh blueberries, you could probably swap those directly for the strawberries. I suspect that rhubarb would also be a welcome addition.

What would I do differently?
I would add another 1/2 teaspoon of salt and maybe 1 tablespoon of honey if your berries are not quite sweet. If you use anything but 10-grain flour, you should reduce your liquids to 2 eggs and skip the milk.

How did I eat it?
I brewed a pot of local Kuva coffee in the french press while the bread was baking and poured myself a big mug with turbinado sugar and a little warmed milk. Then I sliced a couple of pieces of bread and slathered them with a little bit of fresh goat cheese.


My goal is to make my local meals more and more complex, but this was a simple and delicious way to start my local summer. Oh, and next time I'll try to have pictures.

Note: You can also keep an eye out for a post from one of my strawberry picking / farmers' market going friends, who is planning on posting her recipe for Strawberry Cupcakes. I tried one, and it was quite tasty...


Debbie said...

This sounds pretty much like a perfect meal to me. I may see if I can "veganize" that bread recipe!

Joy said...

Sounds yummy! Which strawberry farm were you going to? I'm thinking of picking strawberries someday this week.

Lori said...

Yep, it was pretty tasty. I decided a local meal didn't have to be formal...just good.

We were planning to go to a farm out in O'Fallon, Missouri: http://www.lakeview-farms.com/. I've not been there yet, but it sounded like a good place to pick. Their strawberries are in peak season right now, but they've had so many pickers arrive that they're only open every other day right now. They've also experienced some black root rot issues due to the heavy spring rains. I believe their raspberry season will be ramping up here shortly.

Jeanne said...

Delicious meal. I'm reading the Barbara Kingsolver book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" and it's opened my eyes. Did the all local meal myself this evening.

Lori said...

Thanks! I picked up Animal, Vegetable, Miracle a couple of months ago and loved it. Combined with my most recent read, Micheal Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, I've really started to understand the reasons behind and the wonderful possibilities of growing my own food, and buying from a local I trust when my garden can't supply what I need. Hopefully the garden will cooperate and there will be more picking and less buying in my future...

Your local meals look delicious, by the way. I hope the weather cools down for you soon...