How Local Can I Get? Let Me See…

Sometimes “local” means what’s in the house right now, or what I can scrounge glean from my neighborhood. Today was such a day.

Before going to pick up the car from the repair shop, I rode my bike to a community garden plot where I’ve been given permission to glean; i.e., scavenge for leftovers. Years in the restaurant business have inured me to any feelings of squeamishness or shame from this practice, so off I went to “hunt for vegetables.” The giant zucchini I had seen a few weeks ago was gone, and the tomatoes were pretty much played out, but I managed to come away with a few pounds’  worth for my effort. I also squeezed in a bike ride on a beautiful fall day, which is never wasted time.

Back home, I had to decide what to make for dinner. I had put ratatouille on the menu for Tuesday night, and eggplant Parmesan for tonight, but both called for things I didn’t have. I decided to split the difference. First, I diced and sauteed half an onion that was languishing in the fridge along with a red bell pepper and two cloves of garlic; while that simmered, I diced the ripest of the tomatoes. The yield was well over a quart, and into the skillet they went, along with salt, pepper, sugar, basil, and oregano. Next came one of the two eggplants I picked up a few days ago. I halved, quartered, cubed, and consigned it to the doom of heat. Some leftover black olives followed, once I remembered they were in the fridge.

Then, cold beverage in hand, I started to think about how nice a dessert would be. “I’ve got apples, brown sugar, oatmeal…but I don’t want to use the oven. Hmmm…what to do…” Suddenly the plan burst forth like Athena from Zeus’ forehead. I cored and diced about two quarts’ worth of the Cortlands and Macs I had from the orchard, and tossed them with brown sugar and cinnamon until they were coated. Then I sauteed them with two pats of butter while I worked on the topping. Remembering the chicken and dumplings from the other night, I sifted 1 cup of flour with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 tsp. each of baking powder and salt, then cut in 1 cup of rolled oats. I bound it all together with a cup of milk and spooned it over the top of the simmering apple mixture. Here are the two dishes, side by side:

You wish you could smell this right now.

There wasn’t much left to do but cook the spaghetti and start the broiler (for the melting of the cheese), so that’s what I did. The results were declared to be in the top 1 percent of dishes I had ever made, although The Youngest One a) didn’t care for so many different vegetables, and b) would rather have had plain apple crisp a la mode than Apple Dumpling Pie, as I just named it.  Whatever. The results:

ready for the finish













And that’s how dinner got done tonight.


About poorlocavore

Welcome to one family's journey towards a smaller food-mile footprint on a small food budget. How do our choices affect the environment, and what influences our choices? Read on and find out what I'm learning.
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2 Responses to How Local Can I Get? Let Me See…

  1. Cassie says:

    I’m way behind on my reading.

    Those look lovely and I *do* wish I could smell them! I envy that you can just invent. The fact that I cook best with a recipe has been a huge roadblock in my efforts to eat what we have on hand and to use local ingredients. “Oh, dear, I only have Hungarian paprika and this recipe calls for smoked paprika. I guess I will have to make something else…” is how I cooked for years! I’m trying now to freestyle it a little more, especially in the summer when the produce in our garden is in abundance. I admire your creativity!

    • poorlocavore says:

      I suppose I’ve always considered recipes more as general guidelines than actual 1-2-3 instructions; plus how-many-years of watching professional cooks in action taught me a little. There’s also a bit of “I’m not going to do it *that way*” stubbornness. I think what it comes down to is that desperation brings inspiration. That apple dish, though…the brown sugar just simmered down to a sauce…it was like bananas foster, only with out the bananas and the rum. Tonight I’ve got Asian pears marinating in lemon juice, sugar, and ginger. I’m going to steam them in my “new” (from Salvation Army store) rice cooker and serve them with plain yogurt. Asian-Mideast fusion!

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