Be sure to see what our “East” (quotes deliberate!) Challenge participants have been cooking up, in today’s companion post. Here in the (kinda) West, our recappers Jen, Miranda, Xan, and Sage have made their own Seasonal, Organic, Local, Ethical meals.
Chicago finally made it into winter this week. Here by the lake I (Xan) awoke to the first light dusting of snow for the season just yesterday. Although I think some our neighbors in the western suburbs and a little farther north have had a couple of inches, it’s extremely unusual to have such a late first snow. On the plus side, I’ve still got harvestable chard and parsley, although I did finally have to pull the last of the root vegetables before the ground froze hard. For my first official SOLE meal, I made a lovely heirloom bean cassoulet with local bacon; I confess to Spanish sherry as an ingredient however. The picture of the cassoulet is at Mahlzeit; here’s the bacon! (sorry vegetarians).
A bit north of Xan and on the other side of the lake, I (Jennifer), was able to procure some locally raised beef. I’m giddy that my dairy farm also sells their own organically raised pork, beef, and chicken, as well as eggs and raw milk cheese. With the stash of root veggies I’ve saved from the last farmers market days, I put together a nice stew.
It’s not only a healthy, seasonal meal, but inexpensive too! I used leftover stew meat and soup bones to make the rich and hearty meal. I let my stew cook down slowly for at least four hours, until it falls apart although the veggies went in a bit too early this time around. A bit of Michigan red wine was used to deglaze, but some non-local tomato past was added to help keep all those flavors together without separating into oil and broth. I only wish I planned enough in advance to bake up a good loaf of bread from local wheat!
Out in Oregon, I (Miranda) am still struggling with the limitations of temporary apartment (read: a gardener with no garden) living, zip for a food budget and lack of active farmer’s markets. BUT i did pretty well this week with a stew that fed us for at least two days. It’s definitely stew season! Along with Jennifer, several of my western bloggers were cooking up stews this week. I cooked my very FIRST stew, so i feel it worth mentioning despite the glut of stews in the challenge. In my stew i used the last of our locally harvested potatoes, carrots from my mother’s garden in southern Oregon, and grass fed beef raised by an old high school mate of mine (in northern California). I admit to adding onions from the store as we’d used up the last of our homegrowns brought with us from Texas, as well as commercial worchestershire sauce and salt/pepper. I also got the cumin from the store, but the other herbs were homegrown. If you’re having a hard time with this challenge, you’re not alone! I promise i’ll try harder next week to stick to the challenge!
Like Jennifer, i really wished i’d baked some crusty bread to go with it. Instead, i served our stew with some Oregon baked “Dave’s Killer Bread” the first night, and some Corvallis baked sourdough the next. The best part of this stew (other than the fresh-as-heck meat) was definitely the mushrooms we’d picked and put up in the freezer a few weeks earlier. Nom!
Well, I (Sage) am obviously “challenged” in more ways than one! Usually 90% of what we eat comes right off our farm. During the worst drought on record this year our well went dry for six months, so for the first time ever, there was no garden and nothing to preserve. Because of our remote location, our closest farmers market is a four hour round trip. Eating well has recently become a monumental effort.
For this week’s SOLE meal I learned that cooking and blogging don’t always go well together. Let’s just say I kind of forgot I was cooking and the meal was burned beyond recognition. (Does this happen to you, too?) It’s something I admittedly do from time to time. However, I was quite surprised to discover my kitchen was also burning! Oops!
Please do not try this yourself–this is NOT the recommended way to brighten the dark days of Winter! Apparently the flames (after melting the stove knobs and scorching the wall) caught the exhaust filter on fire, which melted some wiring and pushed the flames to the cabinets above. It was all quickly put out with a lot of screaming and a couple of pails of water. You know how white kitchens are all the rage now? Gray is the new white. Soot is also an amazing way to discover all those pesky hidden cobwebs left over from Halloween (or earlier holidays).
The weirdest thing is the spring water in a plastic jug about six feet away took on the most rancid taste it had to be tossed, yet the bottle was not deformed in any way by heat. It was as if the water served as some kind of room purifier.
Farmer Rick–who I might add is the most understanding husband on the face of the Earth, loving me through all my foibles, even making me feel good about getting our kitchen remodel, um, started–had just asked me moments before the fiasco what I wanted for Christmas, so it looks like Santa is going to have to fit more paint, a new stove and range hood on that sleigh. Sigh.
What did those of you in the “West” group make this week as your SOLE meals?