I was worried about this October's challenge, I must say. With a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to navigate, I was not sure how I would locate local food. I tried looking for farmers markets on localharvest.org, but nothing showed up. No response for a query on Chow.com either. Things were looking bad for sticking to the challenge.
Eating local is, for me, a way of life these days. Not just a challenge, but a long list of farmers who are friends and an ease of knowing where to get what in my area, and when it is available. Every meal features a lot of local ingredients from dairy to meats, fruit to vegetable. Even in winter, our table is still graced by the meats stored in our freezer, produce we've put up, eggs, and milk. Leaving this familiar turf would be taking my locavore self way out of the comfort zone.
When we arrived in Norfolk, after two airplanes, we hopped into the car for another hour and a half ride. As we got within 30 miles of the beach, I was a bit stunned to see tractors, not sailboats, outside the window. And farm land. And farm stands. Butter beans, pumpkins, apples ... I perked up. Even the local grocery chain carried some local produce. Then I remembered what else I could get local — seafood. No way was this ever on the menu during a challenge month at home.
With a quick scan of Monterrey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch list, I made my list of the most sustainable choices for the area and it was off to the seafood store just up the street from our beach rental. Crab, clams, snapper, scallops all fit the menu. No shrimp with one allergy, but all sustainable choices. And all in my favorite seafood dish — cioppino. Finally, I got a taste of what eating local is like for some of our coastal ELC folks.
I also realized that eating local is not just do-able on your home turf, but very possible on the road. In fact, there is much to be celebrated by finding the foods in the new place that you can't get at home. I feasted in celebration, three bowls worth. Does it count toward the challenge if you eat MORE local food in one sitting than normal?
Cioppino, East Coast Version
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs. tomato paste
1 1/2 cup red wine
48 oz. of chopped tomatoes
1 cup clam juice
1 cup low salt chicken broth
1 lb. lump crab meat (check for best varieties)
1 lb. crab claws
12 clams, scrubbed
1-1/2 lb. skinless snapper
1 lb. scallops
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
Heat olive oil in large stock pot. Sweat the onions, garlic, peppers, spices for five minutes. Add bay leaves. Add the tomato paste and saute for a couple minutes. Deglaze with red wine. Boil to reduce the wine for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, clam juice and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 30-40 minutes.
Scrub the seafood, cut the fish into 1-inch chunks. Add the crab claws and clams first. Cook for about seven minutes, up to 10 minutes. Remove the clams, discarding any that did not open in the cooking process. Add the fish and scallops, cook for five more minutes. Add the lump crab meat and cook for about five more minutes. Stir in the fresh herbs.
Serve hot, with crusy bread from local bakery. Savor with every bit of your Midwestern self. Reluctantly return home from the beach where you had no internet connection, no cell phone calls, and did not even wear a wristwatch for a whole week.
Come on over to Expat's Kitchen anytime for more local food. Though, perhaps not any more seafood recipes for a while ...