Eating Local in Phoenix

French Toast
August 22, 2011, 12:33 am
Filed under: breakfast, challenge, recipe | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Published February 21, 2011
Local BreadI don’t know exactly when the weekly ritual of buying bread from a door to door sales-family started. I can’t remember if it’s been one year or two since the blond, pigtailed girls began showing up at my parent’s doorstep. And I don’t fully remember their story.

What I do remember, however, is my first taste of this bread – made from a secret family recipe – and the way it tugged and pulled and slowly dissolved with each careful bite. I remember the handful of times when it arrived still warm from the oven and a thick slab of salted butter melted into the strands of dough. I remember when my Dad left the required $3 in an envelope taped to the front door with a crooked note, “One small loaf, please,” because he was outside mowing the lawn and didn’t want to miss his chance to buy our weekly bread.

YogurtIt’s funny how such a simple ritual can become transformative. As a family, we aren’t big bread eaters, yet, every week we diligently buy a loaf. It’s become important to us. Important to support this entrepreneurial family, important to share the homemade bread over our weekly family dinner. And, if it lasts long enough – important to use that slightly stale bread for breakfast.

The flour and yeast of this “swiss’ bread probably aren’t local. The family, however, is from a few blocks away – and that’s good enough for me.

There are a lot of reasons for eating local – from keeping more of your dollar in the local economy to reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil – but, personally, my interests revolve around keeping me connected to my place, my little postage stamp of native soil.

EggsI celebrate the 800 types of citrus in season at the moment, get excited for local pork and taste the earth in local wines. This is how I know what home is, this is how I feel connected to my place and this is how I celebrate what Arizona has to offer.

This is Phoenix. This is my neighborhood. This is home.

French Toast

You can make this recipe with milk, or use homemade yogurt thinned with lemon juice to achieve the same effect. Personally, I love the yogurt from Udder Delights.

French ToastIngredients:
8 slices bread
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup milk (or 3/4 cup yogurt and 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice)
4 medium eggs
2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 Tsp cinnamon
1/4 Tsp salt

Beat the eggs, milk or yogurt mixture, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Transfer this mixture to a large, shallow baking dish or plate.

Soak two pieces of the bread in the batter – about 30 seconds per side. Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbsp of the butter in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown – swirling it to coat the entire pan. Remove the bread from the batter, allowing any excess to drip back into the dish. Lay the bread into the hot pan.

Cook until both sides are golden brown, about 2 1/2 minutes per side. If using the yogurt mixture, keep an eye on the bread – it has a tendency to stick and may require extra butter. Transfer the French Toast to a wire rack and keep warm in a 200 degree F oven, or serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining bread, batter and butter.


August 22, 2011, 12:30 am
Filed under: challenge, recipe | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Published February 6, 2011
CitrusThere’s something so undeniably tangeable about citrus. The way its weight feels in the hand, the skin-like texture of the peel, the cellular interior all of which yield to a sticky, pungent juice. It’s a combination I find irresistible.

Like so many other fruits, however, their peak is short lived. Come mid-May these fruits are a mealy, flavorless disappointment, which makes it easy to spend two hours turning them into a treat that will last throughout the year.

Marmalades are notorious for their difficultly, often requiring several days to transform the bitter fruits into the famously bittersweet spread. It’s an unfortunate reputation. Orange MarmaladeTurning fresh-from-the-tree fruit into a canned treat takes no more than three hours. Skip the canning, and in under two hours you have five pints worth of gold.

Truth be told, however, I wasn’t the biggest fan of marmalades. Somewhere between the back of the tongue bitter and whoosh of sickening sugar, the mixture has always left something to be desired. That is, until I made my own. I said last week that oranges are the bearers of sunshine in winter – marmalade, it turns out, is like sunshine in jar.

And after a batch or two, I’ve discovered a few tricks that take this jam from scary (like when I made apple jelly and caramelized the glass stove top) to relatively painless.

Seville Orange or Grapefruit Marmalade

For this recipe you can use the “decorative” oranges you find all around Phoenix, as long as the skin has not been sprayed with any chemicals. If you don’t have any citrus – the Phoenix Public Market is teeming with the fruits. Just make sure the peel is untreated and pesticide-free.

This recipe is easiest using a mandolin. While highly effective, this is a very dangerous kitchen tool. It is amazingly easy to do a lot of damage in a short amount of time. It is imperative to use the hand guard every time you use this tool. If you do not feel comfortable with a mandolin, you can achieve the same results with a knife – just slice the fruit as finely as possible.

And, finally, as tempting as it may be to double this recipe – don’t do it, it won’t set.

Grapefruit MarmaladeIngredients:
1 3/4 pounds oranges or grapefruits (4-5 medium oranges, 3 medium grapefruits)
12 cups water
1 lemon, zest and juice
3 pounds 12 ounces sugar
5 clean pint jars
2 Tbsp Orange flavored liquor (optional)

Scrub the fruit clean and put in the freezer for 10 minutes. Using a mandolin, slice the fruit into 1/8 inch slices and then, using a knife, cut into quarters. Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large, non-reactive stockpot. While the water is heating, place the fruit into a strainer set over a bowl and press down to release any juices. Once the water is boiling, add in the peel and pulp, reserving the juice. Boil the fruit, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add the zest and juice of one lemon into the reserved juice.

After 5 minutes, strain the peel and pulp. Add back into the pot with the reserved juice and remaining 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to an aggressive simmer. Cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid should greatly reduce. After 40 minutes check the peel for softness – yes, you have to eat it – it should be soft with just a little bit of resistance. If the peel isn’t soft enough, add in 1 cup additional water and cook for 20 more minutes.

Once the peel is soft, place a small plate in the freezer. Bring the mixture back to a boil and add in the sugar. It is critical at this point to stir constantly until the mixture sets (about 220F degrees if using a candy thermometer). To test the marmalade, place a small amount on the plate that has been chilling in the freezer. Return the plate to the freezer and check after 1 minute. If the mixture has jelled slightly and wrinkles when nudged it’s done. If not, continue to cook until it sets. The process takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.

Remove the mixture from heat, add in the optional orange liquor and ladle into clean jars.
You can store these in the refrigerator without processing them, however if you plan to can them (which will make them last for a year) you can learn more about the process here.