Eating Local in Phoenix


Pumpkin
October 30, 2011, 11:19 pm
Filed under: asides, garden, holiday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

PumpkinI really want to like pumpkin.

Every year as I’m disembowling some ugly, misshapen gourd (why go generic when you can go warty, I always say) I think about saving the seeds and growing my own orange monstrosity.

I become oddly nostalgic, picturing the vine climbing along the garden trellis, smiling as I picture the sudden appearance of an orange ball, waiting for that one leaf to turn over and die before plucking my jack-o-latern.

And then, inevitably, the bubble bursts when someone gives me something pumpkin flavored – this year it was cupcakes – and I remember that I really don’t care for the taste of pumpkin.

Stuffed pumpkin, yes. Pumpkin flavored anything else? Not so much.

Pumpkins glowIt’s my great food secret. I don’t like ginger and I don’t really care for anything with sweetened pumpkin as a primary ingredient.

So this year, as I was hacking into my reddish-orange, bigger than my head and riddled with warts pumpkin, I had that same old debate with myself: Save the seeds or compost them?

This year, instead of carefully washing and drying the seeds just to throw them out a month later when I can’t remember what they are, my pumpkin gave me a clear answer.

Pumpkin gutsIt seems, my rock hard gourd had self-sprouted every seed. Now, I’m all for gross pumpkin insides, but I’m not planting any seed that mutinously grows inside its host.

Problem solved.

This year I just carved. And I won’t be planting any pumpkins. At least, not intentionally.

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Thanksgiving – locavore style

A quick little note: I don’t believe in the “I’ve been super busy” excuse because everyone is busy … but things have been crazy around here lately. So, in an effort to get this post out (finally) there are no recipes with it.  Don’t worry, they’re coming, just not right now.  Once finals are done, I promise.

Thanksgiving tableYes, Thanksgiving was two weeks ago.  Yes, ideally, I should have posted this before Thanksgiving.  All that being said, however, this Thanksgiving was amazing.  It was the first time I’ve really jumped in and cooked – and it was a blast.  We had a pretty non-traditional meal, but, then again, we wouldn’t do it any other way.

In trying to adapt this traditional meal to one made with all local products, I was surprised by how few sacrifices needed to be made.  In fact, the only things cut from our traditional meal were the cranberry sauce (which doesn’t go with chicken anyway) and cherry pie (which we still had – it just wouldn’t be a holiday without a cherry pie).

We also didn’t have pumpkin pie -which we could have made from scratch – opting for sweet potato instead.  For those of you out there who absolutely love pumpkin, let me tell you, the sweet potato version was actually – gasp – better.  Now, before I get any hate mail, let me do some explaining.  This pie was both sweet and savory and had a wonderfully rich sweet potato flavor. Unlike pumpkin pie where one flavor is dominant, this recipe had a lot of depth and each bite was its own, unique flavor.  By the next day the flavors were so complex that each bite required a little bit of time to explore.  It will most likely become our Thanksgiving staple from now on.

Roast ChickenThis year, we cooked a chicken – which is something we’ve been doing for several years now – and it was our first sample of local, pasture raised chicken.  I’m not sure if there’s a better way to describe it, but it tasted like, well, chicken.  The meat had an actual flavor, which isn’t something you always get with the bland, dry grocery story variety.  We had our perennial favorites – stuffing and salad.  And instead of sweet potato casserole this year (made without marshmellows, thank you very much) we had scalloped potatoes.

Shopping for all these ingredients wasn’t nearly as challenging as I’d expected.  I’d started the week before with the local chicken, bread (the nine-grain bread from the stuffed pumpkin was so delicious that I had to repeat it), potatoes, onion and cheese.  The day before the big dinner, I stopped by the Wednesday market in Phoenix to pick up everything else I needed.

DatesWhile purchasing the sweet potatoes from Horny Toad Farms I was very eagerly talked into some local medjool dates.  The little guy selling them was really worried I’d balk at the price and did everything possible to prepare me for the “big cost.”  By the time he was ready to tell me the price, I was concerned that I’d fallen in love with $25 dates.  Turns out it was $7.50 for a carton – which, in my book, is a steal. In the end, I was so happy I bought them because they were perfect stuffed with Udder Delights cranberry farmers cheese and topped with pomegranate seeds.

Thanksgiving GroceriesI picked up the rest of my required produce and headed over to the Tempe Farmers market to get butter, some more cheese (because you can never have enough) and breakfast sausage for the stuffing.  All told, it took three trips to get everything – which really – isn’t any more than normal.

With the paired down menu and lack of a turkey, the cooking requirement was manageable.  My Mom cooked the pies in the morning, Dad started the chicken around 1:30 in the afternoon and with an hour of cooking time left I started assembling the stuffing – made with breakfast sausage from the Meat Shop – and scalloped potatoes. Yes, we all helped, but this was a Thanksgiving dinner that one person could have reasonably cooked in one day.

The best part of the day was experiencing some the traditional flavors in season, fresh and locally grown.  We had bread made by neighbors (they go around the neighborhood once a week selling fresh, homemade bread), eggs raised by friends and a bird that lived a normal life before being sacrificed for a special meal.

I’m not one to get overly sentimental … oh, who am I kidding, I cry at cheesy movies … but this meal was really special.  While the food may have tasted better thanks to its freshness, knowing it came from people who care about our and the land’s health made the meal all the better.  Sharing it with my wonderful parents and working together to get it on the table made it a truly wonderful holiday.  I look forward to more local Thanksgivings for years to come.

Happy Holidays and Bon Appetit!

Quick Note: Here’s the photos that will go with the recipes, you know, so you come back and read them …

Sweet Potato Pie

From America’s Test Kitchen

Sweet Potato Pie

Apple Sausage Stuffing

From America’s Test Kitchen

Apple Sausage Stuffing

Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped Potatoes

Roast Chicken

From America’s Test Kitchen

Roast Chicken

Stuffed Dates

Stuffed Dates

Boiled Carrots

Carrots