i’ve been grasping for cooking inspiration in the past few weeks, and i have this funny feeling i am not the only one out there feeling the marchness of march when it comes to cooking and food. ever since reading babs’ animal vegetable miracle years ago when i had an infant, (oops did i just call her babs out loud? sorry, my bff knows i’m talking about barbara kingsolver), i have been working on one year of local after another. i guess that would make six of them! goodness. i am not nearly as strict most of the time as babs was in her book, but then there are long stretches of time when our diet comes from well within the 100-mile radius. when those times involve months like march, though, it means a lot of canned fruit, frozen veggies and hopefully we haven’t run out of potatoes yet.
we’ve been sick quite a lot this winter, and between that and just feeling completely blah about what’s in the jars and freezer bags right now, i have granted myself a month of non-local in the midst of my half decade of local. i’m only a week or so in, and feeling really good about this decision.
i’ve found that if i indulge a little bit, it helps me utilize the food i have stored away in new, exciting ways. our standard fare of burritos and quesadillas seem ever so much more exotic topped with pineapple-avocado salsa (a recipe i got out of the newspaper). that one pineapple stretched pretty far, and also gave us a batch of pineapple curry over brown rice (which was also from the newspaper and included a bell pepper from way out of season, but also more seasonally/locally appropriate scallions and cilantro, which i had almost forgotten about!) a little more pineapple mileage went into the best smoothie ever made, as well as a fun tropical evening beverage for rich and i.
best smoothie ever made will be difficult to replicate, given that i was emptying a particular constellation of mason jars from the fridge that will likely never reoccur, but here is the rough outline (get out your jars and your rubber spatula):
1 ripe banana (yes, we usually have no bananas.)
a few pears plus juice from bottom of jar
a few chunks of pineapple
splash of homemade apple cider, dregs and all
end of the jar of raspberry/lemon/lemongrass jam which included about 4 slices of meyer lemon rind and a hint of raspberry plus a few seeds (lemon does something for a smoothie….)
handful each of frozen blueberries, strawberries and pluots
few slices of orange quinn didn’t finish and i stuck in the door of the freezer the day before
sprig of fresh cilantro
if you’ve noticed i don’t do food posts often, it is partly because i usually forget to take a picture until after i’ve gobbled up the final product.
babs never recommended being so stringent that you didn’t have, for instance, your coffee beans or olive oil, though the mindfulness that ensues from endeavoring on a year of local does inspire one to find closer-to-home ways of meeting the hunger needs for greater percentages of your total diet. what fats/oils can you source more locally than olive oil? toss in some butter from a local dairy perhaps? can you meet your starch need with more potatoes and quinoa rather than rice?
citrus is really talking to me right now, which is decidedly never going to come locally. we always binge on clementines around christmas, but this year we’ve also been enjoying grapefruits, limes and oranges in larger quantities than in recent years. one grapefruit can turn a dinner salad into a whole new flavor sensation. dinner salads are a frequent thing lately, and the greens and carrots are still local, providing the backdrop on which the avocados, sunflower seeds, yummy smoked gouda cheese, and citrus harmonize. i often marinate up some local chicken or toast some local walnuts in local honey to go in the salad, or toss in some of my local dried cherries. i generally make my own dressing (yogurt/tahini/lemon? a vinaigrette with some of the citrus juice or freezer berries?), but the grapefruit juice and avocado make additional dressing unnecessary, just don’t forget some salt and pepper.
my heart is still here locally, and i’ve been gathering our one-mile radius staples of (the amazing and wonderful) stinging nettles (added to pasta and burritos this week) and miner’s lettuce (added to salads). it’s just that one pineapple can go a long way toward balancing out your palate after a long winter’s nap to where it wants to eat more local staples.
so, if you’ve been feeling uninspired in the kitchen, my advice to you is to allow yourself a few crazy non-local items this month: grab avocados, citrus, and tropical fruit, along with plenty of scallions and cilantro this week when you do your grocery shopping. go ahead and allow yourself that mango, guilt-free, to liven up some coconut curry and mix up the winter blahs. it will give you new eyes for your chest freezer and your pantry full of mason jars, and maybe, just maybe make spring arrive a little more quickly!