Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dark Days: Meal One

I recently stumbled upon the "Dark Days Eat Local Challenge" at the Urban Hennery blog and couldn't resist. After all, eating local is a piece of cake during the summer if you have a farmers market anywhere in the vicinity. But what do you do in the winter when the farmers markets close?

That certainly is the case here in the District of Columbia. The only intown farmers market that stays open during the "dark days" is the one at trendy Dupont Circle, where you will find maybe four vendors on duty when those cold January winds blow. Another is across the Potomac River in Arlington, one of the area's oldest farmers markets. I've never been, but maybe this is the year.

In fact, most of the farmers markets in the Washington area close before Thanksgiving. During the winter, farmers are on hiatus. Nothing is growing, unless perhaps it's in a greenhouse destined for the restaurant trade.

One of the exceptions is our farmer friend Brett Grohsgal who is a bit of a fanatic about the arugula and collards and other cold-weather brassicas he grows in St. Mary's County, MD. Brett seems to love nothing better than to dress up in his Carhart overalls, pull on some Neoprene gloves and pick greens in the snow. We subscribe to his CSA, so we'll be getting fresh eggs, an occasional chicken and a bounty of greens and roots all the way to Easter.

Of course, if we'd planned better, we could have done some canning from our garden and from the produce at the farmers market that is so bountiful this time of year. Maybe we'll have our ducks in a row next year.

For now, we are joining the challenge with last night's dinner, local pork chops, pan-seared and smothered in Stayman apples sauteed with Madeira. I also made my new most favorite treatment for acorn squash, sliced and roasted with a pomegranate molasses glaze. Finally, there's a casserole of lima beans, tomatoes, fresh bread crumbs and sage. It was a symphony of browns, big flavors and certainly enough food.

The pork, apples and squash were readily available at the Bloomingdale farmers market, just a mile from our house. The lima beans, tomatoes, herbs and garlic all came from our own garden, the bread crumbs from a rustic rosemary loaf baked at the local Whole Foods.

My own thinking is that certain staples and pantry items--seasonings, flour, olive oil--do not need to be produced locally for the purposes of this challenge. Everything else I will be trying to find in the Washington metro area. I have a feeling this is going to be a lot of work, and take me places I haven't been before.

Sounds like fun, no?


Joanna said...

Bravo, Ed! The one thing I guarantee is that by early summer you will be ready to kill for a tomato ... and you will not want to see any more cabbage for a couple of months.

The other thing I guarantee is that you will feel a huge sense of achievement, which will not go away, but which will spur you on in the summer to be better prepared next time.

We are at this stage. We are a little better prepared (lots of slow-roasted tomatoes in my fridge and freezer, although I fret about the energy required for freezing the summer's bounty). Next year, I hope that we will be even better prepared. Baby steps. But that's how we all learnt to walk.

Good luck ... and we'll look forward to reading about it, because I think it's going to be much tougher for you than it is for us, warmed as we are by the gulf stream.


Jasmine said...

Hi, I found your blog through the Urban Henny and was glad to find a "neighbor" participating as I have been delving more and more into the eat local world. I live in Alexandria and am exactly 12 miles from both the Dupont market and the Court House Market in Arlington so I have checked out both in the winter. the Old Town market is also year round but it isn't a producer only market. As for flour, if you are interested, Byrd Mill all purpose and the whole wheat flour is grown in VA and milled there as well although the only place I have found it for sale is on the internet. I think the Buckwheat is local to VA as well although I would have to check. The bread flours however are from Minnisota or some such because they are made with hard wheat. The quality is good and the packaging? plain brown paper -- what is not to love.

Ed Bruske said...

Joanna, thanks for the encouragement.This should be a revelation, trying to source local foods here in the nation's capital during the winter. A real challenge, but I'm eager to see what happens.

Jasmine, so glad to hear we have a neighbor involved as well. I was wondering what the Alexandria market was about. And thanks for the tip about Virginia wheat. I will look them up.

Kim said...

Looks great, Ed! The number of fresh veggies you have makes me envious!