Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Eggstravagantly Local

I've bragged (incessantly) on here that my son is a chef.

Well, my daughter is a CPA. Not a Certified Public Accountant, but a Certified Permaculture Apprentice. This comes after having studied abroad in central Brazil in a program run by Amherst jointly with Ecoversidad.

This means various things in various situations but mostly that she can tell me sternly how I need to be turning my compost heap at least twice a month and get away with it. She knows about compost heaps and how they work and why they have to have a certain balance of materials and be nurtured in order to do their intended work.

My daughter is the one who got the Omnivore's Dilemma book for a gift at Christmas, read it enthusiastically, and thereafter redoubled her efforts to get me to the Farmer's Market to use my food dollars in ways that support local growers and more sustainable food sourcing.

When I ended up with fresh eggs from the Market last Saturday, it was this same CPA/Dilemma Daughter who was excited over the prospect of seeing firsthand what Pollan was writing about in the section of the book that served not only as a paean to fresh farm eggs from uncaged, unclipped chickens but also as an extended commercial for the Incredible Edible Egg.

My market eggs are not organic, Hairston Farms uses some commercial feed for their small flock. However, their birds are pastured rather than caged, and have free access to grass, bugs, and whatever else chickens living loose like to find and eat on their own. Organic or not, these are, doubtless, content chickens in contrast to the caged, de-beaked critters whose eggs I usually buy. Definitely worth celebrating.

What, we asked ourselves, would be the best test of the visual and gustatory advantages of our Hairston Creek Farm orbs?

My daughter Eureka'ed first - Eggs Benedict.

Eggs Benedict is one of those "every time we are on vacation or eating out for brunch" favorites for both my daughter and I. It has acquired the status of special celebratory food, especially given my reluctance to prepare it at home.

I made Hollandaise sauce once from scratch and checked that off my lifetime list as "done". It isn't that Hollandaise is difficult to prepare or that it takes so much extra time or energy or uses too many bowls or any of that. For me it is mostly that in order to eat Hollandaise sauce without feeling I am begging for a heart attack, I need not to have such recent knowledge of the ingredients.

However, my daughter had some pancetta on hand that she'd ended up with the same way I now have Italian Seasoned bread crumbs (it was right next to what she wanted and thought she was grabbing...). We decided to use our amazing free range eggs to make Hollandaise from scratch, prepare Eggs Benedict, and use up her pancetta in place of Canadian bacon.

So we did just that. Michael Pollan was right - the eggs do have better flavor all round and the yolks were amazingly colored as the result of a varied, more natural diet offered a free ranging hen. See for yourself. We also enjoyed organic grapefruit from the market, and more than that, the understanding our meal was composed of at least some ingredients that came from within three counties of where we live.

Today I am making Butternut Squash Soup following one of the video recipes Whole Foods provides on their "Secret Ingredient Video Blog". I'd hoped to procure a squash from the Farmer's Market, but couldn't find any. I ended up with a squash from my grocery store, a local chain at least, and it is called a "Big Chuy" which I admit I kinda like. Peeling the squash demonstrated for me how seriously dull my knives are, which is a sure sign of dissolute living, and in order to feel better about myself, after I took the squash skin peelings out and dumped them in, I actually turned our compost pile. That is not an activity for the faint of heart, certainly, but it did serve to restore my self esteem to some extent to be a person who A) actually has a compost pile; 2) has a daughter who knows to tell her to turn the stuff at least twice a month; and B) finally turned the durn thing.

The Eggs Benedict the other night was amazing and delicious. The pancetta was not just a substitute for Canadian Bacon, but an improvement. If I ever do make Eggs Benedict again at home, pancetta will be on the plate.

I am hopeful the Butternut Squash Soup (southwestern version) will receive similar high marks. My Big Chuy may not be local, but the host chef for Whole Foods, Scott Simons, IS. The thyme stirred in and the cilantro to garnish on top the soup are from the back yard, and the Nilgai sausage I added to satisfy my carnivorous type omnivores is from south Texas by at least 4-5 generations.

The soup tonight will be served with cumin seasoned roasted pumpkin seeds, a step I'll reserve for immediately pre-dinner to take advantage of the aromas I anticipate. I'll be sprinkling the soup with Queso Fresco from Industry, California and serving flour tortillas alonside that come "listas para el comal" via Guerrero bakeries in Irving, Texas. When all is said and done, that will be plenty local enough for me for tonight.

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