22 September 2009


Day 11
Eggs, bacon, and rustic wheat bread

Day 12
Ratatouille, corn bread, and lettuce salad with yellow carrots and cucumber

Day 13
Baked chicken, butternut squash braised in apple cider, roasted potatoes

Day 14
French toast with maple syrup, melon

Trust Your Ingredients

I have a standard demurral when someone compliments my cooking: “You can’t go wrong with fresh vegetables."

One thing about the 100- mile diet is that you're limiting your ingredients with which to cook. You can’t add a dash of Tabasco to this or layer mustard on that. When I’m sauteing up veggies, I could add all the spices in my cabinet – because I have made spices an exception – but I find myself doing that less and less.

My ingredients are fresh and high quality. If an eggplant didn’t come from my own garden, it came from Thomas – our CSA farmer – or from one of the farmers I see every week at the market. To me, that means more care in planting, growing, and harvesting. Why not let them take center stage?

And yet, I still have a hard time believing it will work. Take my tomato-eggplant gratin. I started with a recipe from Alice Waters (there’s a woman who trusts her ingredients) and popped it in the oven. I was working at my computer in the next room when the timer went off – a reminder to remove the foil cover for the final minutes of baking. I walked in the kitchen and thought, Mmmm... what smells so good?

Sounds dumb, but I really did do a double take. Of course, it was the gratin cooking in my oven. Tasted just as good as it smelled too.

Tomato-Eggplant Gratin
from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters

Saute 3 cloves garlic and 3 sweet onions in olive oil/butter mix until soft
Spread on the bottom of a lasagne pan
Peel and slice an eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds
Arrange in a layer on top of the onions
Slice a tomato for the next layer
(Waters says eggplant and tomato again, but I had a surplus of summer squash so...)
Slice a summer squash for the next layer
Slice a tomato for the top layer
Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil
Cover with foil
Bake at 400 for 30 minutes covered, 15 more minutes uncovered.

17 September 2009


Just dinners now. Partly because I can't keep track, but also because breakfasts and lunches tend to be very similar from day to day.

Day 8

Lettuce salad
Steamed green beans and broccoli

Day 9
I hosted my book club tonight, and made two types of foccacia: One topped with basil and garlic, the other with larges tomato slices, fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves.
Cherry tomato and green bean salad
Lots of bread and cheese choices
Locally canned roasted red peppers and dilly beans
For dessert: peaches & cream and apple-rhubarb crisp sweetened with maple syrup

Day 10
Ham, baked apples, tatsoi (an Asian green) sauteed with garlic and hot pepper, and foccacia

Potato-Leek Soup

When I pulled the leeks out of our farm share bag, I was excited. I've never cooked with leeks before, but I tend to love anything onion-y. So I wasn't really worried about how they would taste, or whether I'd like them. It was just a matter of deciding what to do with them.

I sat down with my cookbooks, my friends Alice Waters, Mark Bittman, and Deborah Madison. I learned that leeks can come thick or thin. You can grill them or stir-fry them, braise, cream, steam, or puree them. We had potatoes in the share as well, so I quickly settled on potato-leek soup.

I worked from the recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Wash and slice 3 leeks; chop 3 potatoes
Saute veggies in olive oil for a few minutes
Add 1 quart stock (I had made veggie stock from scraps the night before)
Cook until veggies are very tender; about 20 min
Puree (I used a small food processor)
Stir in 1 cup plain yogurt
Salt & pepper to taste

The soup was pale green, smooth and delicious. With foccacia on the side, we got more than one meal out of it.

14 September 2009


Day 6
Breakfast: Rustic bread with honey
Lunch: Eggplant-tomato gratin, sage foccacia
Snack: Plums
Dinner: Breaded eggplant, tomato salad

Day 7
Breakfast: Peaches and yogurt
Lunch: Potato-leek soup, breaded eggplant
Snack: Apples and honey on whole wheat bread
Dinner: Pork chops, applesauce, broccoli, sage foccacia


I told my husband we had three very orange pumpkins already in the garden. (It's my only summer crop that’s come in early.) They usually ripen in October and we set them on the front step for Halloween.

He said, “Can we eat them?”

I was thinking the same thing.

Two things are going on here. One is fact that we feel a certain level of deprivation. I think any time you make a change in diet you can’t help missing some of your standbys (for me, a bite of chocolate midday; for John, a handful of chips when he gets home).

The other reflects the extra effort required to stock up and prepare local fare. The shopping is limited to certain days (Tuesdays and Saturdays for the farmers market, Thursdays for our farm share, my garden when it gives – not the 24/7 supermarket), the shelf life is shorter (and my veggie drawer is stuffed), and the time commitment (to wash, chop, slice, knead, and cook all our fresh food) is relentless.

Both these things lead to hoarding our stuff. We push bananas on the kids (who eat our local dinners, but aren’t strictly on the diet) so we can eat the local plums for our after dinner fruit. When I offered to pack cherry and grape tomatoes in my daughters’ school lunches, I realized I was hoping they’d say no.

So when there’s a couple of pumpkins advertising themselves amidst my weedy garden bed -- well, we why wouldn't we want to eat them?

The pumpkins are on the front step for now. They’ll be on the menu soon.

13 September 2009


Day 4
Breakfast: Yogurt with black raspberry preserves
Lunch: Open-faced sandwiches with cheddar, tomatoes, and basil
Snack: Apple
Dinner: Grilled eggplant and zucchini, sage foccacia, Bibb lettuce salad with radishes and carrots

Day 5
Breakfast: Rustic bread and honey
Lunch: Potato-leek soup and sage foccacia
Snack: Sliced apples and cheddar on cracker-thin slices of bread
Dinner: Grilled steak, corn on the cob, tomato salad

New York Wheat

They say that the Northeast used to be the breadbasket of the country. Indeed, Albany’s city seal incorporates two sheaves of wheat.

The city was chartered in at was in 1686. In the more than 300 years since then, the nation’s breadbasket has moved west to the Great Plains.

When I first did the 100-mile diet, in 2007, I found some locally milled flour. I suspected that the wheat coming to the mill probably traveled hundreds of miles on a truck. (I never called to ask, because part of me didn’t want to know!) It was the best I could do – and it would have to do. I didn’t want to go for a month without bread or pasta.

Last year, during my month of local eating, I read about some New Yorkers growing and milling flour. I finally made my pilgrimage to the Wild Hive Farm this summer, about two hours south of us in the Hudson Valley. We ate lunch in their cafe and I came home with three bags of truly local flour.

Last week I made a couple rustic-style loaves with the all-purpose flour. Owner Don Lewis had warned me that I should add my liquids gradually until I had the right consistency – that the home-brown grains vary more than mass-produced flours in terms of how they’ll behave. They’ll also differ in taste.

I forgot the advice, so my rather wet loaves ending up growing sideways more than rising up. But they were delicious -- with honey drizzled on top or with cheese, tomato, and basil.

11 September 2009


Day Two
Breakfast: Bread (made with NY-grown wheat) and honey
Lunch: Tomato, basil, cheddar sandwich
Snack: Apple
Dinner: Scrambled eggs, pork sausage, yellow wax beans, tomato salad

Day Three
Breakfast: Bread and honey
Lunch: Omelet with sausage, onion, and cheese
Snack: Toast with goat cheese and basil
Dinner: Pan-fried eggplant (breaded with locally milled corn meal), broccoli, lettuce-radish salad

10 September 2009

Rules and Exceptions

So the rules:

I'm trying to eat only those foods grown or produced in the state of New York (although we adopt next-door neighbor Vermont when need be). I'm trying to source ingredients, not just where products were packaged. So, for example, I can be fairly sure that peanut butter concoctions made by a Saratoga Springs company (30 miles north) do not satisfy my requirements -- because the peanuts were not grown nearby.

I do a New York State diet rather than a strict 100-mile diet for two reasons. I've found it's a little easier to figure out where food comes from by state, than the actual distance of small towns in the Northeast from where I live in Albany County. Also (it must be confessed), the New York wine grape growing regions -- both Long Island and the Finger Lakes -- are beyond the 100 mile radius. And if I must give up beer for a month, well then, I'll need my wine.

And the exceptions:

Coffee (no debate!), oil, vinegar, spices, yeast, baking soda, and baking powder. Oh, and some fancy Italian tomato paste in a tube. And perhaps lemon juice (I haven't quite decided yet -- I may want it for flavoring baba ganoush and soups). I am giving up chocolate for the month -- which is new from past Septembers.

Many modern 100-mile dieters make exceptions. But so did Laura Ingalls, more than a century ago. In the "Little House" books, Laura dsecribes Pa hunting for meat and Ma making cheese from the cow's milk and sweetener from maple syrup. But the family traded for certain staples, such as coffee and white sugar for when guests came. I'm happy to stick to honey and maple syrup for my sweeteners for a month. But when it comes to cooking in fat, I'm going to opt for vegetable oil over the lard that Ma likely used.

08 September 2009

Day One, part three

I'm starting the 100-mile diet for the third September in a row. I'll get to the rules and exceptions soon, but first I want to address commitment.

I've been feeling some reluctance in recent days about doing this all again. I eat peanut butter realize I'll have to give that up. I threw out leftover bean and corn salad today because the beans weren't local -- even though the corn, onion, and tomato were. It feels silly to deprive myself of nutritious whole foods just because peanuts grow down south and the canned beans were from an California organic food company.

But then I remember the sense of discovery I've felt the last two Septembers. I read through my past posts and reminisce. The successful dinners and the new-to-me foods. The shift in my diet to more fruits and vegetables and less meats and grains. The experimentation in the kitchen throwing things into a pot and calling it soup -- and delicious soup at that, because I started with just-picked veggies.

On the one hand, it feels so much easier. I’ve been eating more locally throughout the year. But on the other hand, it feels less important in that lazy kind of way. I mean, I’m doing so much better, eating locally and more seasonally, why do I have to do without baked-goods-unless-I bake-them? For a whole month?

I guess I'll have to trust that I'll learn something new, something worthy, once again.

Today's meals
Breakfast: Half a melon
Lunch: Leftover cabbage-escarole soup
Snack: Apple and plum
Dinner: Pork chop, potatoes, applesauce, and tomato salad