Day 7 of the Locavore Challenge and I’ve noticed that taking the pledge has encouraged me to be more creative with my food choices. I’ve always enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen but with the self-imposed constraint of using only local ingredients I feel like I’m starring in my own little Masterchef mystery box challenge each time I open the fridge door!
I’ve stocked up my pantry, fridge and freezer with plenty of wonderful local produce and now I keep stumbling upon the most delicious combinations. Here are a few of my favorite little discoveries so far.
HONEYED WINTER WHEAT BERRIES WITH HOT MILK, BLACKBERRIES & BLUEBERRIES
I cooked up a big pot of hard red winter wheat berries last week having bought them out of curiosity from guest vendor Breslin Farms. I’d never tried them before and was intrigued by their wholesome moniker. They are not dissimilar from brown rice with a mild nutty flavor. I’ve been scooping out a cupful from the fridge each morning and dousing them with hot Kilgus Farmstead milk, a generous drizzle of honey from Chicago Honey Co-op and a handful of Mick Klug’s fresh blueberries & blackberries. Sweet, warm, tart and toothsome – it’s comfort in a bowl.
CHERRY TOMATOES DIPPED IN CREAMY RAW MILK CHEDDAR
Snacking makes my world go round and if I haven’t got something to snack on before my next meal I’ve been known to get a little anxious. Thankfully this gem has become my go-to for a quick refuel. A big bowl of fragrant Tomato Mountain’s juliet & black cherry tomatoes is residing on my counter. A handful of those beauties dipped in Brunkow’s creamy Raw Milk Cheddar makes for a perfect mid-morning graze.
FRESH GOAT CHEESE & WHITE PEACHES ON WOOD FIRED BREAD
I love fresh goat cheese. I love white peaches. I tried them together and was swept off my feet. Wedges of toasted Prairie Fruits Farm wood fired bread, spread with Heritage Prairie goat cheese and topped with slices of juicy white peaches. This is one seriously good combo.
BRAISED EGGPLANT WITH SWEET ONIONS AND TOMATOES
Turkish food is a favorite of mine and one of my best-loved dishes is Imam Bayildi. Typically, a halved eggplant stuffed with tomato, onions and garlic and simmered in olive oil, which is then served cold. With a glut of late summer eggplants populating my crisper I decided to give it a whirl. However, being typically time-poor I improvised a short cut and just threw a collection of sliced eggplants from Iron Creek Farm into a heavy pot with lots of Kinnikinnick’s sweet tropea onions, Genesis Growers garlic, Tomato Mountain’s roasted tomatoes and fresh sungolds. I added plenty of olive oil and sea salt, which are my two exceptions during the challenge. After an hour bubbling on the stove I had a luscious soft braise made quite sweet by those magical onions. I have been happily spooning my cold Imam Bayildi inspired dish over toasted Prairie Fruits Farm wood fired bread and sprinkling with fresh herbs for lunch.
So at the very least I’m glad to report I’m not going hungry! Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to further discoveries and to hearing what other tasty fare our Midwest bounty has inspired.