I joined up with the bloggers doing the Dark Days Winter Eat Local Challenge, a once-weekly meal made from SOLE ingredients (sustainable, organic, local and ethical). Since so much of what we eat here at Raccoon Tree Acres is from the local farms, I thought it wouldn’t be a problem to showcase one meal a week.
“Local” is often defined as 100 or 150 miles from your home base. Eugene is within that range distance from Portland and our bounteous coast, but even the 150-mile radius doesn’t include the Rogue Valley (home of award-winning Rogue Creamery blue cheeses) or Ashland (home of Dagoba chocolate, a full-circle sustainable company that imports quality chocolate products), much less the dry, low desert areas in the northeast part of the state that produce incredible onions, melons, wines, and many more things. Since it doesn’t make much sense to me to exclude parts of Oregon that offer wonderful products, I’m setting my boundaries to include the entire state, but I will make every effort to stick as close to home in the Willamette Valley as possible.
We’re allowed to state exceptions, and for me, that’s the usual coffee and spices. I’m using our Eugene-based fair-trade importers, Café Mam and Wandering Goat, for coffee. Asian food is a big part of my cooking repertoire, and I can’t give up imported soy sauce. This, along with coffee, is probably my biggest exception. Herbs and hot peppers will come from my own garden, but I don’t have a local source for pepper, salt, sugar, ginger, cumin or coriander — all of which I use frequently. (We do have a local fair trade cinnamon and vanilla importer, Kestrel Growth.) If I use lemons, they will be sourced from Northern California, since my little lemon and lime trees (bushes, really) already have been harvested.
We get our eggs from a local farmer in my husband’s department, and our dairy from Noris Dairy, just north of us near Salem. As for cheese, I mainly eat Noris farmhouse or Tillamook sharp cheddar, both within the 150-limit. Starches are more challenging, and I’m still looking for local sources of rice and wheat flour. Our pulses and some grains (polenta, Tarbais white beans, Zolfino yellow beans, frumento) will come from Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, others (garbanzos and pinto beans) from Stalford Seed Farm in Tangent.
Of course, the first blog post was due the week that I was not the least bit interested in cooking, due to all the other pressing deadlines I had. That’s OK, though. I managed to get one full meal on the table with local ingredients, pulled together with many of the tidbits I was using in my cooking classes, article, etc. Voilá!
My version of pork chops and apple sauce. It’s a pork chop from Springfield-based Biancalana Pork Growers, spread with quince paste made from farmer’s market quinces with cardamom. The chop is surrounded by the chioggia squash whip Queen of Hungary I made for my Eugene Weekly article from Ayers Creek Farm squash, salad greens also from Ayers Creek with a homemade dried cranberry vinegar dressing and dried corn “croutons” (dehydrated from a humble bag of frozen organic, local corn), and a tiny bit of illegal rice with fresh local chanterelles. Since the quince paste is so sweet, I probably wouldn’t pair it with the winter squash side for a dinner party, but leftovers is leftovers.
And speaking of leftovers, the rest of the roasted squash went into a cream soup with thyme, a bit more quince paste, and chicken stock from my freezer.