Monday, May 01, 2006

Going Local, Day 1: Well Prepped

Note: This post is part of an ongoing report on my efforts to eat locally for the month of May. You can read about my goals, exceptions and guidelines here.

Pasta dough ingredients, pre-mixing. The eggs and herbs are local.

When I was a kid, my parents always made me get everything ready for school the night before--pack my lunch, organize my backpack, lay out my clothes. I still (mostly) adhere to this method, and have decided to use it as my guiding principle for eating locally as well--getting ready on the weekends for a week of meals. One of my biggest concerns joining the Eat Local Challenge was time--I work relatively long and sometimes unpredictable hours, and I didn't want to fall off the wagon some night at 10 p.m., scarfing tacos from the stand down the street.

So--be prepared. First, I needed the local ingredients of course, so a trip to the Hollywood Farmers' Market was in order. I discovered a new-to-me stand, Mitchell Herbs and Specialty Produce, out of Redlands, CA, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles. Doug Powell farms 2 1/2 acres originally purchased by his in-laws and specializes in onions, garlic, lettuce, carrots, beets, fava beans and blackberries. He sells only at farmers' markets and to Farm Artisan Restaurant in Redlands. (You can read more about his farm here, though registration is required.) I picked up shallots, pearl onions, spring onions and yellow onions at his stand.

After the shopping ended, I spent the rest of the weekend baking bread, kneading pasta dough and sauteeing tomatos and onions. Some of each ended up in the freezer, some in the fridge, and tonight, some in my belly. J and I ate a late dinner of marjoram-flecked tagliatelle tossed with a simple tomato sauce. All we had to do when we came home was roll out the pasta dough, a fun and easy task, cook the noodles, and warm the sauce.

My basic tomato sauce recipe is easy to make in bulk, can be dressed up in myriad ways, works well with pasta, and makes a great pizza sauce if you run it through your food processor. Usually at the farmers' market you can find bins of cheapo tomatos marked "good for sauces and salsa" which means they're a bit soft and kinda ugly, but taste just fine.

Basic Tomato Sauce

fresh tomatos, seeded and chopped
1 yellow onion for every 2 lbs. tomatos, finely diced
3 cloves garlic for every 2 lbs. tomatos, finely diced or pressed
bouquet garni of fresh marjoram, basil and thyme
olive oil
salt and pepper

Saute your onions in some olive oil over medium heat, until they are uniformly soft and starting to brown. Add garlic, let sizzle a minute or two. Then add your tomatos and your bouquet garni. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Depending on how thick you like your sauce, how finely you chopped your tomatos, and/or how big a batch you're making, simmer over low heat for at least 1/2 hour and up to 2 hours.

Erin's Kitchen Index: Pasta, Rice and Eggs


Erin Eats said...

Responding to your comment in my blog a while back... cos I'm slow like that:

Hi back other Erin! Actually, hi back other Erin S. Oooh the Erin S.'s are taking over.. we should start the secret Erin S.'s society.

I wanted to participate in the eat local challenge, but it's hard to do that around here, near Salt Lake City, so I've resigned myself to eating as much local food as I can find... that'll have to do. Good luck with your challenge, it sounds fun :)

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how intelligent your parents are to give you such a good foundation for life!

Erin S. said...

Hmmmm...anonymous...I wonder who you are??

Rorie said...

I'm so impressed with your plan ahead-ness! I, too, prepare all my things for the next day the night before but am subject to much whim when it comes to cooking. BTW, your tomato sauce is eerily similar (or identical) to the one I make all the time!

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