Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer Pasta Dinner

     So, Graham and I listened to the audio recording of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, written by Barbara Kingsolver on a recent long drive. EXCELLENT book, I must say!!! My short summary: A family of 4 spends a year in Southern Virginia living on a farm, eating only things that have been locally, organically, and seasonally grown, harvested, or produced. They give themselves a 100 mile radius from home to include as "local" and they documented their experience as a rebellion from industrialized farming (think Monsanto's intellectual monopoly of engineered seeds, exploitation of animals in huge feedlot/slaughterhouses, etc.) and a simpler way to connect to nutrition on a personal level. We were both inspired.
     We are nowhere near as hard-core as that family. But we've committed to trying to focus on our food choices, and making better decisions for our family and the environment. We're going to try to buy as much local, seasonal, and organic food as possible. And we're going to try to eat 2 vegetarian meals a week, strictly for environmental reasons.
     And, the fact that I just learned how to can has been very helpful to give us some Winter options as well. It's easy to eat seasonally-appropriate local produce at the height of Summer, living in Virginia. However, we are trying to look ahead now, and set aside some preserved vegetables and fruit, so we buy less off-season fakers, brought in from other countries, using a ton of fuel to move them around the globe. There is also a taste difference. Graham has discovered that Summer tomatoes that we grew, at the perfect ripeness are actually delicious. This may not seem like a surprise to some of you, but this man has avoided raw tomatoes for 34 years, due to exposure to mealy, off-season, tasteless mush that he'd sampled for years. We grew a HUGE organic Heirloom Brandywine beefsteak tomato variety in the backyard this Summer. We harvested the first ripe one yesterday. A pretty, pinkish-skinned, heavenly-scented tomato the size of my fist. It was so fleshy and sweet, you could instantly see its roots in the Fruit family of produce. So, now Graham likes tomatoes. Late to the party, but I am delighted!!!
     We've also been hitting our Farmers' Market pretty hard lately too. My favorite one on the Earth in the Green City Market that we left behind in Chicago. It taught me how much a good seasonal selection and committed community can offer a home cook. But here, my heart has embraced the Eastern Market in DC, near Capital Hill. This Farmers' Market is full of local food, plus, art and other handmade goods, as well as AMAZING meat offerings. Gorgeous stuff!!!! LOVE it!!!! We also frequent the Reston Farmers' Market. That's where we got our tomato plants, a ton of our fruit and most of our vegetables.
     I went to Whole Foods today to get a jump on some heirloom tomatoes to can, and I came home dry. They had plenty of organic options that each looked like perfect red orbs, but they were ALL flown in from California. WHY?!?! There is absolutely no shortage of perfectly lovely Virginia tomatoes available, but none found their way to WFM. Not one. What the Hell??? So then, I kept a closer eye out on all the WFM signage in the produce department. I am pissed. I do appreciate what they are doing for American growers, but we are lucky enough to live in an area of the mid-Atlantic that is extremely fertile, and has a looooooooooong history of agriculture. Why in hell is Whole Foods asking us to pay for jet fuel, and less ripe fruits and vegetables?
     But I digress. I finally dug around and found a few Squash, Eggplant, and Zucchini from a farm in Pennsylvania. So, I brought them home and threw them in a stew pot with 5-6 huge heirloom tomatoes we bought bulk at Eastern Market. I let the tomato sauce simmer for hours, adding oregano, fresh basil, cilantro, cinnamon (yes, cinnamon) and garlic. Pinch of salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of honey to sweeten the eggplant a bit. Threw on some pasta, and garlic Naan. We killed it!!!! One vegetarian meal for the week down, one more to go.

     Now, my other food distraction this week is tiny pies. I want to experiment with baking single-serving pies, while I have all this fresh Summer fruit at my disposal. I have research to do....


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