Dark Days Dirt to Dinner Week 1

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Big Soup from the Garden

The Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge began Sunday, November 15 and goes through March 31, 2010. Basically the idea is to make at least one meal each week with 90% local, sustainable, organic, ethical ingredients. I’m trying to cook as close to home as possible using ingredients that come straight out of the Dirt to Dinner garden.

Chinese CabbageThis weekend, to get warmed up, I took a few small liberties with Alice Water’s “Winter Minestrone with Turnips, Potatoes, and Cabbage” recipe from The Art of Simple Food. But I like to think that Alice would approve. It was fresh, organic and as local as the front yard after all. Some friends came down from San Francisco, and the enthusiastic audience set the tone.

I had to improvise right from the start with the soffritto because I don’t have celery ready yet. Our celery started from last year’s seed is still tiny. What we do have a bit of in the Dirt to Dinner garden is gorgeous ‘Rainbow’ chard. We fought the leaf miners long and hard this year to get that chard, so I’m making the best of it. Not only did we add it to the “Massaged Kale Salad” the last time the group met, I also used it for the soup. I took two long beet-red stalks of chard and chopped them as I would have the celery and tossed them in with one of the last “White Globe” onions and a variety of carrots ranging from ‘Yellowstone’ to ‘Purple Dragon’ which I snuck out of our carrot Fort Knox as thinnings. When the soffritto had colored nicely, I tossed in garlic, a handful of fresh thyme & some dried Italian parsley that we had growing all over in the spring.

Then I added a pound of ‘Tokyo Market’ turnips, with the greens, the leftover chard leaves, a handful of last tomatoes from a volunteer plant out back, a couple handfuls of our ‘All Blue’ potatoes and sliced up rings of two small leeks. The turnips have been growing in a low bed in the front garden for about six weeks now and they are wonderful. Germination rates have been amazing for this variety and they are small, sweet, tender turnips that even the kids eat happily. The leeks are slow growing and much thinner than I had hoped but they still taste good and the kids often prefer them to onions. The ‘All Blues’ are a story all their own!

The night before I had soaked some of the drying beans we grew this summer with kombu and toward the end of cooking, I added in about 3 cups of these along with the softened piece of kombu. All of this was topped off with a head of chopped Chinese Cabbage pulled from the garden and thoroughly rinsed to remove the slugs hiding in many of the leaf folds.

The bowls of soup were finished off with a splash of nice olive oil and a heaping spoonful of, admittedly not local, Parmesan. I could have finished them with homemade/homegrown pesto, but the cheese was a lovely addition. If you know how I can get some made within 100 miles, I’d love to try it.

One thought on “Dark Days Dirt to Dinner Week 1

  1. Soup sounds amazing!

    I’m not sure exactly where you are to calculate the 100 miles for the cheese – but bravo farms (www.bravofarms.com) has a “Silver Mountain” cheese that is a great substitute for parmesan. Nice and complex and grates easily.

    They sell at my local farmer’s market, but having just looked them up, it looks like they are out of Visalia.

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