Living La Vida Locavore

Sometimes the great thing about not having any food in the kitchen of a new home is liberating.  It’s literally a fresh start.  Here was my chance to eat only local fruits and vegetables, combined with the whole grains I’ve squirreled away this winter.  I’m a little stuck on the meat part, so I’m going to stick to the grass fed variety from my local grocery and learn more from there.

As much as I enjoyed my eat fest in Manhattan, it’s time for a little detox and a relaxing trip to my neighborhood farmer’s market.  The funny thing is that when I go to a farmer’s market or a good ethnic grocery, I get excited about the possibilities.  Even more exciting for me is that all my proper kitchen appliance accoutrement are unpacked and yearning to be taken out for a spin.

The downside to the move is my displaced garden.  The citrus is just now flowering, so no limes or lemons until mid summer, and I have yet to re-plant the vegetables.  If I had to make a choice, I would place eating locally at a higher priority than organic. Its easy for me to practice this since I live in southern California, where there is always a variety of vegetables year round.  For me this choice works because I know that my food is the freshest possible so Ethan and I enjoy maximum taste, nutrition, and variety.  I like that our footprint remains small since our food doesn’t travel great distances.  Though I do miss tropical fruits, I will cheat and buy organic mangoes and pineapples.


There is an Asian vegetable stall at the farmer’s market that is always my first stop because I know they have cilantro with the roots (in Asian cooking, the roots are key).  This week, Chinese broccoli (Gai Lan in Chinese) was back in season, along with a childhood favorite, Pak Boong (in Thai), which I learn is water spinach.  The Hmong farmer knew the names of every vegetable in Lao, English, Chinese, , Vietnamese, and Thai.  He suggested the Holy Basil (also a must for Thai cooking and Lemon Basil).

Spring beans are in season, so some of those made the basket.  I picked up the usual suspects– arugula, avocados, tomatoes–and  some fennel and radishes.   Then there is the mushroom stall–maitake, aka, hen in the woods.  Looking like beautiful flowers–so delicate.  Raw, it had a bit of a nutty woodsy flavor.  I can think of a few dishes to make with this, so I pick up two small maitakes.  My friend gave me another dozen eggs from his hens.  Local eggs–check.  Some burrata and feta from the market and I have enough for about two weeks of meals.

So here are recipes of some of the meals I made this week with local ingredients.  As an added bonus, they take less than 20 minutes to prepare from start to finish:

Meal 1:    
Stir Fried Water Spinach

2 Bunches of Water Spinach
2 Tablespoons of Black Bean Paste
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
4 cloves of Garlic (chopped)
2 Tablespoons of Grape seed Oil

Cut the stems and split in half.  Chop the rest of the spinach.  Wash thoroughly.  
In a wok or pan, heat the oil and garlic until browned.  Add the bean paste (you can purchase at an Asian store–its just soy bean, sugar, and sesame oil).  
Add the water spinach and soy sauce.
Stir fry until the spinach is wilted.

Fried Egg
Half of one small Spanish Onion
2 Eggs (beaten)
2 Tablespoons Grape seed Oil
Slice the onion into thin strips
Heat oil in a pan and add the onion.  Stir fry until the onion is wilted.
Add the beaten egg and fry with the onion, turning over until browned and cooked.
I eat this meal with brown rice and a mix of fish sauce, lime, and chopped fresh chili peppers for the egg.

Meal 2:
Tomatoes & Cilantro

Pint of cherry tomatoes
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
1/8 cup cilantro (chopped)
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Rinse the tomatoes and place in a baking dish with the olive oil, garlic, cilantro and salt and pepper.  Mix together and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (or until the tomatoes pop).


Carbonara Pasta
1/2 cup chopped Pancetta
1/2 cup white wine
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 cup shelled Peas
8 oz of Spaghetti
2 Egg Yolks, beaten
Parmesan Cheese (shaved)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Boil water for the pasta.  At the same time, brown the pancetta in a pan.  
Add Olive Oil and brown the garlic.  
Add red pepper flakes and wine until the wine is almost evaporated.
In a separate bowl, add 2 tablespoons of boiled water from the pasta to the beaten egg yolk.
Add the al dente pasta to the pan and mix with peas, salt and pepper with the mixture above.
Turn off the heat.
Pour the egg over the pasta and mix.
Put in a bowl and garnish with the Parmesan Cheese.


Meal 3:
Mussels in Shrimp Paste and Holy Basil

1 pound of Mussels
2 Tablespoons of Shrimp Paste
3/4 cup white wine
1 Tablespoon of Butter
1/4 cup scallion (chopped)
1/8 cup Holy Basil (chopped)
1/4 lemon juice
Cilantro (chopped for garnish)
Clean and scrub the mussel shells.
Heat a pan large enough to hold the mussels.  When the pan is hot, add the shrimp paste (this shrimp paste is made with dried shrimp, shallots, garlic, soy bean oil, dried chili, sugar and fish sauce that I grind in a mortar and keep in the fridge…you can also purchase at an Asian grocery) and butter until melted.  
Add white wine until it begins to boil.  
Add mussels and lower the heat.  Cover the pan until the mussels open (about 10 minutes).
Add scallion, holy basil and lemon juice.  Turn off the heat and mix.

I eat this with toasted garlic bread.

Arugula, Fennel and Maitake Salad
A mix of thinly sliced fennel, arugula and maitake mushroom petals.  Top with shaved parmesan cheese.  Dress with juice of a 1/4 lemon, flax (or olive) oil, salt and pepper.

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