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Photo: B.A. Nilsson

The 100-Mile Meal

Earth Day suggestions for a locally sourced feast

By B.A. Nilsson

A few days ago, I enjoyed a salad featuring just-picked dandelion greens. Sampling those greens before the meal, I was reminded of how the flavor of something just out-of-the-ground is delightfully earthy, with a snap that you won’t find in that which has been long-distance trucked.

Celebrating Earth Day with a locally sourced meal presents the challenge of foraging with winter not too far behind us. So grab those young dandelion greens while you can—they’ll soon grow bitter. Likewise the fiddlehead, burdock root, daylily shoots, chicory, knotweed, curly dock, ramp and even stinging nettles (if you’re careful)—most of them are in your neighborhood, and all of them offer delicious leaves, roots or stems right now.

If you’d like to make a meal sourced solely from locally obtained ingredients, a salad from the above might be challenging. There’s no local olive oil (no local cooking oil at all, as far as I’ve found), and the same goes for vinegar, although that’s easily made from local wine or cider if you plan ahead. But let’s see what’s out there for an Earth Day-friendly meal. We’ll give ourselves a treat of salt and pepper (and I won’t begrudge you that post-prandial cup o’ joe), but everything else is local.

Two convenient sources come to mind: the Troy Farmers Market and Albany’s Honest Weight Food Co-op. The former, held every Saturday, moves in May from the Troy Atrium to Riverfront Park; the Co-op is at 484 Central Ave., Albany. But we’re going to go a little farther afield for a couple of items.

A nice selection of early-season produce is offered by Slack Hollow Farm from Argyle, which had carrots, arugula, bok choy, mustard greens and Swiss chard in its Farmers Market bins. Cornell Farm in Hoosick Falls has potatoes, onions, lettuce varieties, Swiss chard, spinach, scallions and kale, and you can find their eggs at the Co-op.

Apples are a reliable local crop. Among the growers are Maynard Farms in Ulster Park, which also has several varieties of potato, and Saratoga Apple in Schuylerville, which also has a year-round, on-site shop for its bounty.

We’ll need herbs, and I saw thyme, cilantro, chives and parsley offered by Full Bloom Market Garden in Whately, Mass., near Deerfield.

Grass-fed, pastured meat is becoming more and more plentiful, and there’s beef, pork, poultry and lamb to be had from such places as Sweet Tree Farm in Carlisle, Grazin’ Angus Acres in Ghent, Dharma Lea in Sharon Springs, Homestead Farms in Cropseyville (which also offers CSA shares), Eight Mile Creek Farm in Westerlo, Cambridge’s Caprendoose Hills, Sap Bush Hollow Farm in Warnersville and Stony Brook Farm in Schoharie.

Stony Brook also had mutton chorizo for sale at Honest Weight last week, and that’ll be part of our appetizer course. Grill it and serve it alongside goat’s milk feta (from Gillis Acres Farm in North Cambridge) atop wilted Cornell Farm spinach. A little vinegar would be nice on that, all the more reason to make your own.

Rack of lamb is the main course, giving us the most tender cut of my favorite meatstuff. The package from Stony Brook Farm in Schoharie is already trimmed to reveal the eight chops that comprise the rack. I raise my own garlic, and thus can easily cut into some cloves with which to rub the meat before seasoning it with salt and pepper and putting it on the grill. Garlic also would be handy if you happen to have some young mint and you put up apple jelly last year: The three combine into a nice lamb garnish.

For a vegetable, we’ll have sautéed carrots with wilted mustard greens (both from Slack Hollow Farm) with a drizzle of honey from Schenectady’s Lloyd Spear. We need some butter for that sauté, and it comes from Duncraven Farms in Fort Plain, which has a full range of dairy products. Mash some Yukon Gold potatoes (Maynard Farm) with heated milk and crumbled blue cheese from Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. Garnish with Full Bloom Market Garden parsley.

That was the easy part.

Dessert is a variation on a tarte tatin, which requires puff pastry that you’re going to have to make from scratch. This needs a day or two of prep time. We’re using flour from Wild Hive Farm Store and Café in Clinton Corners.

 

Puff Pastry

12 ounces of flour

1 1/2 tsp. salt

3 1/4 sticks of chilled unsalted butter

1 cup ice water

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Mix six tablespoons of butter into the flour, going for a cornmeal consistency. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the water, then use a rubber spatula to blend the ingredients. While it’s still rough and sticky, plastic-wrap it and refrigerate it for an hour. This is your detrempe.

Place the rest of the butter on a prep board and use a rolling pin to soften it without warming it too much. Form it into a five-inch by eight-inch rectangle. On another board, roll the detrempe into a 12-inch circle. Put the butter in the middle of the circle and fold its edges in order to completely enclose the butter.

Without tearing the dough, roll the package into an eight-inch by 16-inch rectangle. Fold this rectangle into business letter-type thirds. Roll it into another eight-inch by 16-inch rectangle. Fold the rectangle again into business letter-type thirds. Plastic-wrap it and refrigerate it for another hour.

Roll it into a large rectangle again, fold into thirds, repeat. Refrigerate. One more round of the above and you’ll have folded it six times. Roll it out again. Chill it overnight; when you’re ready to bake, roll it until it’s about a quarter-inch thick.

 

Tarte Tatin

1/4 cup unsalted butter

2/3 cup maple syrup (Wells Maple Farm, North Nassau)

4 Crispin apples and 4 Fuji apples (from Saratoga Apple), peeled, cored and quartered

1 sheet of puff pastry

Melt butter in a 12-inch pan; add maple syrup. When the mixture is hot, add the apples in a couple of layers and cover. Reduce heat; cook until apples are tender. Uncover and cook for a half-hour longer.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pastry and cut it into a circle that will cover the apples in the pan. Make sure the fruit is completely covered with tucked-in sides, then bake for about 35 minutes, until the crust is gold and puffy. Cool for five minutes, then put a serving plate on top of the pan and flip. The liberated apples will spread over the puffed pastry.

It’s an expensive meal compared to supermarket pricing, but the strategy is to eat better meat fewer times. And as the weeks roll on, the local produce is only going to get better and better. Happy Earth Day!

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Chianti Ristorante (18 Division St., Saratoga Springs) celebrates the second anniversary of its monthly “Twelve” Program, a fundraising initiative supporting local nonprofits and named for a bronze panel from the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. On the 12th of each month, you can have 30 percent of your guest check donated to the featured nonprofit. On April 12, the beneficiary will be Aspire Programs, a New York State Education Deptartment-approved preschool for children with developmental, learning, and emotional disorders. No reservations are needed, but call 580-0025 for more info. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.



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