Long Road to Locavore

Much as I tout eating food produced locally, I admit to having a very long way to go beforeChecca Sauce I can reasonably call myself a locavore (the Oxford American Dictionary‘s Word of the Year!) One small step I’ve taken in recent years is to cut out or at least minimize the number of fresh tomatoes I buy at the grocery store, especially when tomatoes are out of season. It’s usually not that hard, because, really–grocery-store off-season tomatoes don’t exactly pack a taste sensation. They’re usually not worth the effort.

I slipped up the other day, though, when I was itching for one of my favorite recipes that calls for cherry tomatoes. Bad choice. The tomatoes I bought tasted horrible, nothing remotely close to the beauties that came from the garden last summer. Lesson learned.

The experience has gotten me looking foward all the more to the coming summer…and the chance to mix up this recipe (not the one I used the other day) again, one I tried last summer and has quickly become a favorite. It’s a great no-cook pasta sauce using fresh produce.

Checca Sauce
from Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian

Makes about 3 cups, serves 4 over a pound of pasta as a main course

1 12-ounce bag of cherry tomatoes, halved
3 scallions (white and pale green parts only), coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 1-ounce piece of Parmesan cheese, coarsely chopped
8 fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces fresh mozarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cherry tomatoes, scallions, garlic, Parmesan, basil, and oil just until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped (do not puree). Transfer the sauce to a large bowl. Stir in the mozzarella cheese and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. Toss the sauce immediately with your choice of freshly cooked pasta.

——————————-

If I take up the Eat Local Challenge this summer, I can add Checca Sauce over pasta to a list of meals that I can cook almost entirely from local ingredients (except for the Parmesan, olive oil, and seasonings). Evidently, homemade mozzarella is completely within the realm of the possible. And with my hand-crank pasta machine, I can make my own pasta, which only requires eggs and flour. (Local eggs are easy to come by. Flour? Hmmm, might need a little help with that.) And the difference between handmade and store-bought pasta is as huge as the difference between garden-grown and store-bought January tomatoes. Incomparable.

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About EMH

Forty-something. South Dakotan. Mother to 11-year-old K.L. Wife to Cory. Lutheran pastor. Novice organic gardener. Sustainable living aspirer.
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5 Responses to Long Road to Locavore

  1. AnnMarie says:

    When I was in graduate school, living on my own and buying veggies at the grocery store for the first time, I just didn’t understand why I didn’t like them very much anymore.

    Then I grew my own tomatoes one summer and realized what was wrong.

    I grew up eating tomatoes only in season, carrots only as long as they lasted in the fruit cellar, etc, as we had a very large garden. I haven’t bought a tomato in the grocery store since I started my own garden 5 years ago. One winter day when I wishing for one, DH said I should just go buy one. He doesn’t understand! (He doesn’t know what a fresh garden tomato tastes like versus store bought as he hates fresh tomatoes! Poor guy doesn’t know what he’s missing…)

  2. Erin says:

    Hates fresh tomatoes?! Inconceivable!

  3. Toby says:

    Hey Erin!

    In a weird confluence of media, I read this on your blog this morning and then ran across a Joel Stein essay in Time (which arrived in my mailbox this afternoon) that takes an incredibly different take on the locavore movement. I’m definitely more in tune with your notions (that Checca sauce looks better than anything mentioned in the essay), but I’m curious how you respond to Stein’s take.

    Hope you’re having a wonderful winter weekend!

    ~twu

  4. coralhei says:

    Joel Stein just likes to be contrary. Forward the homegrown revolution!

  5. Erin says:

    Hey, twu!

    Thanks for the comment! There’s too much in the Stein column for a mere comment from me, so I’ll flesh this out into a full post soon–stay tuned! But I’ll start things off here by saying that at the very least, Stein did zero to no actual homework on the subject. The people of Muscatine, IA, are doomed to a bland diet of corn and soy-based food? Um, no. Stein so clearly knows not of what he speaks. I just did a quick search on localharvest.org and found–lo and behold!–203 listings of small-scale farms (vegetables, obviously, not just corn), farmers markets, and even a restaurant or two serving local produce within 100 miles of Muscatine.

    Joel Stein, meet the Internet. TIME to get acquainted.

    P.S. A belated thanks for the book! We love it, and as I’m sure you can imagine, I have a couple posts brewing based on it.

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