The idea of social experiment is what made reality TV–putting people on an island and banishing them one by one Lord of the Flies style until there is one lone survivor is the grand daddy of this genre. Since then, these types of shows have morphed and multiplied. Now we watch housewives as we would animals in a zoo. We like to see these strange creatures in their habitat; we vicariously experience people like us stretching themselves beyond their comfort zone to overcome fears and phobias. And we’ve become arm chair talent executives, judging performers and celebrities from our living rooms.
My own little social experiment, while not necessarily TV friendly has been something I’ve been trying to do for the last year, and what started this whole blogging thing. That was to be more conscious of what my family was eating. My method of tracking this has been by sourcing the majority of my food at the local farmer’s market and making almost everything we eat, using those ingredients. I have to admit that for the most part, it hasn’t been difficult for me as a person living in California, where there is access to a variety of food year round. But now realizing that if put to the locavore, seasonal eating test outside of my comfort zone of Santa Monica, I’m not sure I would be able to overcome the obstacles of a wintry climate.
But then I went to a farm to table restaurant and met chefs and other home cooks who don’t live in a place where it’s sunny and 75 degrees almost daily. And I began to understand that preserving and charcuterie aren’t just a novelty, but a way to eat sustainably even when there is no farmer’s market available for months. And it makes me appreciate that I can walk to a farmer’s market as many as three days during the week.
While most of the country is buried in snow and sub-zero weather, it’s beginning to look a lot like Springtime in Southern California. These last couple weeks at the market, there has been a plethora of vegetables and fruit and also a variety of mushrooms, and meats and poultry. As part of my own private (and I guess now, public) social experiment, I have limited our family to the local farmer’s market. For the last month, I have not purchased food from a super market, with the exception of milk and coffee. The market has inspired me to try new dishes. These are some that I have never made before, but since discovering these recipes, have made these dishes multiple times.
The Truffle Breakfast:
I vaguely remember truffles being in season around Valentine’s Day and each year wishing I had someone to make for or make for me, a romantic truffle dish. I’d never seen a real truffle, much less eaten one. Each week, I visit the mushroom guy at my market. Each week, my mushroom guy has turned me on to a different fungi and generously shares simply genius recipes that bring out the different subtleties of each mushroom variety. This week, truffles appeared and I felt familiar enough with the mushroom guy (MG) to ask about them. He was more than happy to open up the little Coleman cooler where the truffles ($20/oz for the black; $10/oz for the white) were ensconced. They looked like little pebbles. The black ones, kind of looked like…an animal dropping. I thought they were dirty, but MG showed me a bit of dirt on the truffle and it was quite a contrast–the dirty brown smudge on a deep dark creamy black nugget. I sprung for the black–the cost–$4 for a little pebble. It had a deeper umami smell than your usual shroom. It was dense, yet delicate.
The suggestion was to shave them over scrambled eggs. Simple. Heavenly. It was a simple scramble (eggs from the farmers market) with a bit of sea salt, black pepper and dash of fat free milk. Truffle shavings to top it off. It has made it as a top 3 dish. The eggs were so rich, as though made with cream and cheese. But I think that it was the texture–I made the eggs over a very low heat and left them soft. I’m not sure why–it just seems like a nice environment for the truffle shavings. I can’t quite describe the aroma, but it was in a word, sensual. There’s a reason truffles and romance go hand in hand.
I paired the truffle eggs with in season berries (!), a bed of mixed greens and my home made bacon (called lardons). The following week, I got to the market at 10am and the black truffles were sold out, so I tried the white truffle. Delicious, but not as amazing as the black truffles. The black truffle was well worth the $4.
Super Food Salad
I can’t say enough about the kale. (See my last post comparing kale to fast food). This is my first year of eating this leafy green. I used to always interchange kale with collard greens, swiss chard, mustard greens. But I’ve realized lately that rather than cooking the kale, it makes a delicious and filling salad. The key is the massaging. The bunch of kale cost $1. I got 3 salads/meals out of it. Beat that Super Size Meal.
Kale Salad with Tahini Dressing
leaves from the stem and slice into thin strips.
Wash and rinse. Gently salt and massage the salt into the kale.
Let the kale/salt sit for 15 minutes.
Squeeze 1/2 lemon juice on the kale and massage again and let sit for another 10 minutes.
1/3 cup Tahini Sauce
2 green onions
1/4 cup mint
1 Tablespoon Tamari
2 cloves garlic
juice of 2 lemons
1/8 cup water
black pepper to taste
Mix in a blender
Mix the kale with dressing, avocado and cucumber.
For dinner, I made many of the dishes I’ve already written about–the difference is that I was able to purchase my fish, chicken, duck, beef, pork, goat and lamb all at the farmer’s market. One note–I tried to purchase pork bellies for Charcutepalooza from the pork guy at the market, but he doesn’t sell the belly because he ‘makes the best bacon’ with it. When I asked him about the salt he prefers to use, he said, ‘nice try’. Because apparently it is a big secret…but not on the Charcutepalooza twitter feeds, where fellow bloggers have been more than generous with advice and ideas…but more on that in a later post.
Interesting..seems the vegetable farmers are much more forthcoming with recipes and meal ideas. Like my new favorite vegetable of the season, Spigarello! The east coast and midwest gets ramps in the Spring–us west coasters get spigarello. Looks like rapini; tastes like a delicate cross between ramps and baby broccoli sprouts. I stir-fried them with shallots and garlic bulbs that look like green onions meets leeks.
1 bunch of spigarello (washed and cut in large pieces)
1/2 shallot, sliced
2 garlic bulbs, chopped
tir fry all in
Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
Juice about 1/2 lemon and drizzle honey over the top.