Winter SOLE Food, take 1

As part of an international challenge this year among the blogosphere (meaning mostly Americans and one Australian, that I know of) I will be posting about once a week focusing on a meal constructed nearly 100% of local food; meaning within a 100 mile radius of where I live.  Nearly 100% local meaning that things like salt, spices, chocolate, sugar and some beverages like coffee and tea are exempt, but are still expected to be housed under the SOLE acronym of Sustainably produced, Organically raised/grown, Local within 100 miles (some grant locality to 150-mile radius, especially in the winter) and Ethically raised and handled.

The purpose of this challenge is to raise awareness through personal experience and second-hand online reading of how to eat seasonally even through the doldrums of winter when the days are representative of doldrums, darkness and dormancy.  Though this time is seen as a seeming antithesis to the harvest and bounty days of the splashing, sticky and sunny days of summer, there is, in fact, quite a lot to be eaten and enjoyed as the days are growing ever shorter (and then hey! they start to get longer again!)  Some crops even benefit from the freeze-thaw cycles, growing sweeter, crisper or more tender.  Kale, Brussel’s sprouts and arugula are just 3  crops that are known for their hardiness, texture and outstanding taste – and each of these characteristics becomes more pronounced after a freeze or snow.

So without further ado here is meal number one, which is fittingly, a scrumptious breakfast:

Backyard-herb Frittata and Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Despite the heavy, 6-inch snow and sub-20 degree nights we had last week on the Olympic Peninsula, the herb garden in the back yard is unfazed, bearing dark green and lush oregano, purplish-hazed sage plants, some minty-cool rosemary and vibrant green thyme.  These I picked and diced before adding to 2 local eggs from the farm down the street where I’ve been volunteering (the eggs came from one of the farm’s breeds of brown-egg layers: Black Australorps, Buff Orpingtons, Red Stars, Barred Rocks and Black Stars.)

Heat up a non-stick fry pan over med-high heat and add 2 well-beaten eggs with a smattering of crushed, chopped fresh herbs.  Let settle into shape and cook up until it holds well (about 4 minutes) then flip quickly to the other side for about 20 seconds before cutting off the heat.  Fold or lay flat onto a plate and enjoy with another topping of herbs (alternately, you could sprinkle some shredded local cheese or a pat of butter on top.)

The idea for the pumpkin smoothie came from a friend who’s always browsing recipes both online and in her collection of cooking magazines and books.  And being a pumpkin from the same aforementioned farm, it was local, organically grown, and as fresh as the shelf life inherent in winter squash (they can keep from 2 months to 8 months and beyond).  I had baked the pumpkin whole in the oven the day before and scraped out the pith and seeds while saving the flesh in a container in the fridge, so it was ready to go for anything from soup to pie to smoothie.

Take about 1 1/2 cups baked pumpkin and place with a couple of ice cubes in a blender.  Pour in about 1/2 cup of milk (*admittedly, I used boxed almond milk, because I’m dairy-sensitive, but local milk would be the prime choice for most – and I intend to find some local grain or seeds to make milk with at some point in this challenge).  Add a dollop of nut butter (I know that hazelnuts and chestnuts are grown in my region, I haven’t seen any nut butter products made using them, but again, this is something I can hopefully tackle before the challenge ends in April.)  And season with spices to your taste: cinnamon and ginger are nice, and instead of cloves or nutmeg, I opted for allspice since it is indigenous to the Western World, a native of Central America and Mexico, and therefore comes much closer to being local than something grown in the East.  Add a dash of local honey, in this case, also from up-the-road-farm, and blend to your heart’s desire. 

This smoothie is so simple and straightforward, yet so creamy and tasty it could easily sub for a milk-shake fix (no, really!)

Start your day off right with SOLE food!

 

A Curry of a Life

As I finish my westward journey it hits me that I’m half-way through my intended trip. Though I’ve placed no sincere agenda on my time of traveling (could be one year, could be one season, could be 3) I’ve made it to the northwest tip of the United States; I’ve driven across the country. I’ve been through 11 states and one province to get to where I am. That’s a good accomplishment to look back on (rolling over to 226000 miles on the car isn’t a bad reminder itself.) And the friends and network of contacts I’ve made along the way from St. Louis to Lawrence to Canon City to Castle Rock to Hamilton to Sorrento (and even far off in Connecticut and New York!) have been both God-sends and a good stream of people with which to keep in touch and call in a pinch if need be.

All this is extremely affirming and an exciting endeavor for a young will-be farmer amid the paradigm shift of her generation coming back to the land. So many farmers become locked down to their land, and WWOOFing is a wonderful way to keep a working network among a hard-working, ingenious, resourceful and intuitive group with similar problems, different solutions and a variance of microclimates that couldn’t be more diverse. In fact, the one thing I’ve heard from almost every farmer I’ve stayed with so far is that they really wish they could WWOOF.

But I have to admit, that I’m finally getting tired. A little road-weary. A bit nostalgic for my own bed, in one location, for more than a few weeks. I’m craving familiarity to yin the yang of newness all of the time. There’s a lot to be said for making friends in lots of places, but if you can’t have your one place of lots of friends it’s easy to feel adrift at times.

“If variety is the spice of life, mine is a curry.”   -From My Life in France, by Julia Child

And at this particular time, it’s proven helpful to sit down and re-evaluate my intentions and goals for this season of traveling and farm-hopping. So I have rewritten my info page and hope with that to maintain a clear focus on this time of my life where youth and transience and a sponge-complex aid living and learning.

Though time (and money) is one thing, experiencing, tasting, handling and feeling are things one can’t get merely from reading a book (or even a blog, sadly.) And that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing – to fully interact with my passion and interest in a very educational, hands-on way. Be it compost piles, potato beetles, sheep, horses, goats, chickens, herbs, flowers, squash, broccoli, peaches, apples, pears, hoes, shovels, wheelbarrows, hay balers, 100degree markets, 20degree markets, potlucks or honor-system roadside stands.

I will always remember the fertility of the Kansas soil and how to herd a sheep from behind; the feel of the grit on my knees of the rocky, sandy garden in Montana; making compost tea in Colorado; weeding beets with knives in B.C., and; that the perfect trellising system for peas has yet to be invented.