One Local Summer: Week 1

It seems like the Dark Days Challenge just ended, but here we are at the start of the One Local Summer 2008 challenge. I’ll be posting not only here, but also at Farm to Philly as the West regional coordinator. Check on Tuesday morning for the first recap of the summer – I’ll be posting from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Of course, it hardly feels like summer around here with the weather we’re having. It’s been pouring most of the week and yesterday when I worked from home the warmest spot in the house was my arm chair next to the propane stove. I spent the whole day firmly ensconced there. Oh well, summer never arrives in the PNW until July 5th anyway.

We eat so locally and seasonally around here that it’s hard to choose a meal to be our “challenge meal o the week”, but I’d like to choose just one to write about each week this year. And to make it challenge worthy I think we’ll strive to include as many home grown ingredients as possible. That makes it a bit tough right now since the only things we have ready to harvest are eggs, herbs, lettuce and radish. Makes it hard to make anything more than a poor poached egg salad.

Since I was working from home yesterday I took advantage of the opportunity to get dinner started at the same time that I made lunch. It poured all day with the wind blowing, so comfort food was the name of the game. By sheer luck we had everything we needed to make a local beef stew, homegrown salad and homemade biscuits topped off with a 2004 San Juan Vineyards Cabernet-Merlot.

Not the best food photo I’ve ever taken, but it was dark in the kitchen and I was hungry. The salad wasn’t the absolute first from the garden, but it was the second. It included lettuce, french breakfast radishes and chive blossoms. I made the stew using Alice Waters’ recipe in her “The Art of Simple Food“. The only change I made was substituting rosemary for savory and in retrospect I would have omitted the orange peel.

The biscuits? Oh my freakin’ heck (trying to watch my language) they were the best I’ve ever made and Mike has dubbed them the best he’s ever had. They were melt in your mouth flakey perfection. They were heaven. They were amazing. They were even fabulous day old with leftover stew tonight.

– Salad: lettuce, radish and chive blossoms from the garden
– Biscuits: Fairhaven Organic Mill all-purpose flour, butter and half-and-half from Golden Glen Creamery
– Stew: almost the last of last year’s steer, farmers market carrots, onions, garlic and potatoes, home canned tomatoes and chicken stock, herbs from the garden and Yakima Valley red wine

The exceptions were salt, a bit of sugar, spices and baking powder.

Cream Biscuits
The Art of Simple Food

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
6 tbs butter – chilled
3/4 cup heavy cream (I used half-and-half)

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using your fingers or a pastry blender until grainy. Add the cream (setting 1 tbs aside) and mix until just combined. Turn out onto floured board and fold a few times. Roll out to 3/4″ thick and cut into 1-1/2″ circles or squares, re-roll the scraps if required. Place on baking sheet and brush tops with remaining cream. Bake at 400 degrees for 17 minutes or until cooked through and golden.