Friday, June 27, 2008

Market to table - One local summer week 4

Week four of the One Local Summer Challenge and somehow I'm still coming up with new meals. I'm so not normally this adventurous in the kitchen, but my stomach is happy. And if my stomach is happy, I'm happy.

Breakfast:  Inspired by last week's pancakes with local whole wheat flour, I made another attempt at local flour pancakes. This week it was rice flour. Yeah. Rice flour. Let me just say that although I was curious, my expectations were pretty low. But there was a recipe right there on the back of the flour bag, and I love pancakes, so why not? Here goes...
Rice Flour Pancakes:

1-1/4 c. rice flour 
1 tbs sugar (I used honey)
1 beaten egg
2 tbs  oil
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. milk
1 or 2 drops vanilla

Stir together dry ingredients. Combine egg, milk, oil and vanilla; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moist. Cook on hot griddle. Makes about eight 4-inch pancakes.
Of course I made a double batch of pancakes so I could freeze plenty of extras. And as for the official taste test? It turns out rice flour pancakes are really good! It has a nice flavor all on their own, but totally rock with a little of my grandma's homemade dewberry jam warmed up and poured on top. What a nice surprise! I'll definitely be making more of these! I enjoyed this week's flapjacks with a side of local blueberries and homemade yogurt, made from local raw milk. What a feast!

Lunch: As for the lunch meal, I still had a few jars of my all-local homemade soup from last week, but never fear, I got a little creative at lunch too. On my all OLS days, I've been missing the homemade rolls and jam that I normally enjoy at lunch, but the white flour I use isn't local. So I've been on the lookout for an all-local menu option to accompany my nice big bowl of soup. So this week, with my veggie-and-polish-sausage-totally-awesome soup, I had polenta. 

Polenta? I was totally asking myself the same thing when I saw the link on-line. I had been looking for possible recipes for my local cornmeal, and polenta came up in the results. What in the world is polenta? I mean, I've heard of it, but I've never eaten it. I don't think I've ever seen it. So, thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that it's a European style porridge (similar to grits - eew!). It was once the food of peasants, but has recently made an appearance in upscale restaurants as high class food. No wonder I've never seen or tasted it. I'm more of a deli kind of girl. Even when I was in Italy (where it's considered a staple food), I never had polenta. I was too busy eating paninis and pizza (ok, I'm also more of a cheap kind of girl, but we won't talk about that). 

So long story short, I decided to give it a go. Basically it's cornmeal, water, and salt. Uh huh. How tasty can cornmeal and water be? You boil the cornmeal in water on the stove for 20-30 minutes. It gets so thick that your arm starts threatening to detach from your body - this is how you know it's done. Personally, I liked it best when it was fresh off the stove, but if you don't serve it right away, you can pour it into a mold (I used a 9 x 13 cake pan) and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. After it's cool, you can slice it into squares and serve with tomato sauce, cheese, salsa, whatever sounds good. I was a little concerned (ok, I was pretty freaked out) when I found out polenta is a sibling of grits, but this stuff is pretty good!

All I did was toss it in the frying pan with a little oil to warm it up, while my soup was heating in the microwave, and lunch was ready. Buono appetito!

Dinner - Are you ready? Cause it gets better - stuffed tomatoes! I sauteed chopped onion, mushroom, green pepper, zucchini, and parsley in just a little olive oil, then mixed in some local white rice and gouda cheese. Off came the tops of the tomatoes, which were then cored, and in went all the cheesy-ricey-veggie goodness. I baked them in the toaster oven at 350 for 30 minutes and added a little extra cheese on top for the last ten minutes of baking. Do I really need to explain how good these were? Each bite completely fell apart in my mouth. It was so fabulously moist and all the flavors blended beautifully. This has to be the best baked stuffed tomatoes I've ever had. Excuse me while I...Mmmm. Just give me a minute...

Looking back over the day - So, when it was all said and done, the only things that were not locally sourced were salt, baking powder, vanilla, oil, and the sugar and pectin in the dewberry jam. The grocery supplied the Texas grown blueberries and mushrooms (both are grown within 100 miles).  Everything else came from local suppliers like the local farmers market, Sand Creek Farm and DairyDiIoroio Farm and Market, or my dad's farm (dewberries). Bring on week #5. I have ideas up my sleeve yet!

For more ideas on eating local foods, check out the One Local Summer Challenge website (hosted by Farm to Philly) and see what others are eating (weekly OLS posts are made to theFarm to Philly website on Tuesdays of each week). Happy (and mindful) eating!


Laura said...

I used to live on Polenta. My grandmother made her grandmother's recipe and I begged for it every chance I got. I used to pour pasta sauce over it and sprinkle cheese over that! Good times!

Note: It is at the point where you feel as though your arm will detach from your body that you are in grave danger of getting splattered by a bubble. I always wear a long sleeved shirt and a glove on my stirring arm.

Michele said...

Those stuffed tomatoes look awesome, thank you for the inspiration!

As far as polenta, I tried it once and was not impressed even though I love grits! Maybe I'll give it one more shot.

J said...

I love the One Local Summer challenge, I wish I would have found out about it sooner.

Seems like you are feeding yourself well. It's amazing that necessity (in your case, eating local) challenges us to be more creative with out food.

Polenta is really good. It's very versatile too. Over the winter, I tried a recipe from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen for Polenta Lasagna with Portobello mushrooms and Kale, and it was amazing.

J said...

Oh, and I meant "our" not "out"

Unknown said...

Your local menu looks so appetizing!!! Brian and I love having polenta and he cooks it into a porage and adds veggies to cook and tops it off with cheese. We also love polenta cause it's cheap. The stuffed tomatoes sound great and mouthwatering :-) Thanks for sharing.

hmd said...

fearlesschef - The pasta sauce and cheese sounds really good. I just couldn't believe I'd never had it. It's good stuff!

rapunzel - It's certainly worth another shot. I was really surprised! The stuffed tomatoes were super easy and made for a filling meal.

jennifer - polenta lasagna! I read on one of the websites that you can layer this. Do you have a recipe I can try?

jenelle - next time I'll have to stir in some sauteed veggies. I'll bet it's really good like that. Thanks for the idea!

Green Bean said...

I think it is a good idea to experiment with different flours. At some point in the future, wheat flour might not be available to everyone. Or might be too expensive. Besides, it is important to eat a variety of foods.

My kids have been on and off gluten free diets for some time so I've gotten pretty good at taking any recipe and turning it into gluten free. You get the best results when you go roughly 50-60% a flour (better flavors if you mix soy, brown rice, white rice, buckwheat, garfava, sorghum, amaranth) with 40-50% starch (potato, tapioca or starch). I made Melinda's pancakes with traditional flour but, especially in recipes like that that don't call for a lot of flour (hers was just 1/2 cup) I could easily have subbed 1/2 rice/soy flour and 1/2 starch. It's always good, in those situations, though, to add a teaspoon of xathan gum.

The stuffed tomatoes look awesome. I'm always too lazy to make stuffed anything but I'd love to mooch off of you.

Melissa said...

looks great! an interesting tidbit about the polenta is that the staple food in Zimbabwe is actually very similar to polenta (called sadza), only it's made from a white corn meal. It's served with a tomato "gravy". I was there about ten years ago for a little under a month, and ate it several times a day so I got a little overdosed on it, but the point of all this is you started making me reflect on how lucky we are to have such a variety of options in our diet here. Isn't it wonderful that we are able to eat enough different things that it's actually worthy of sharing and discussing? I know this is a bit off topic, but I wanted to share :)

EcoBurban said...

Yeesh, you're always making me look bad. I am TOTALLY copying Green Bean with the yougurt pancakes tomorrow for my One Local Summer post. I need to expand my cooking horizons! Breakfast is always my fail-safe!

hmd said...

green bean - About 18 months ago, one of my doctors put me on a gluten free diet just to make sure my illness wasn't Celiacs. For someone who has scarfed down bread her whole life, it was a really rough month. But you know, it seems more and more people have gluten intolerances. Having to plan those extra special meals must be tough. But it is fun to play with all the flours and as far as I'm concerned. You just can't go wrong with pancakes :)

melissa - Zimbabwe? I'd love to hear stories. I can only imagine what a wonderful adventure that was!

eco 'burban mom - don't be silly. I'm so NOT adventurous in the kitchen. I'm just trying new stuff so that I don't bore everyone to tears with the OLS post each week. The rest of the week, I eat the same old, same old (pancakes or bagels, fruit, and yogurt for breakfast; soup for lunch; tomato sandwich for dinner). The easier the better in my book. Tonight I didn't even make a sandwich for dinner. Toast and jam was as far as I got.

Anonymous said...

Got a question - how can you tell if your wheat/rice/etc. flour is grown locally? I don't think I've ever seen flour labeled with its point of origin at my store.

Regarding polenta, this is not frugal, but...the restaurant where we had our wedding dinner served this polenta that had gorgonzola cheese, white wine, garlic, and herbs blended in. It melted in my mouth and the flavor was to die for. Mmmmm!

hmd said...

Kathryn - Two ways:

1) I got most of my rice, beans, and all the local flours from a market south of town. It's a small market and most of the stuff is grown and milled (if it's flour) nearby. It said on the package where it was from.

2) If you are shopping in the grocery, check the back of the package. Sometimes it will say. For instance, I know now that we grow a lot of rice in Texas. So I was in the grocery last week and looked at the commercial rice isle. It took some hunting, but I found two brands who grow out of Alvin Texas (near Houston which is not far from us). One of those two brands also had the "Go Texan" label on it signifying that it is a Texas product.

Not every product is labeled (especially in the grocery store), but it never hurts to ask and (especially if you know an item is produced locally) it may be as easy as spending some time in the isle checking out each package.