One of my favorite things about eating locally and gardening is that it forces you to experiment with your cooking. I'm sure that a few years ago, I never would have dreamed of making ratatouille considering the fact that I had never eaten it before. Maybe for kids in France this is a normal part of summer. For me, its hot dogs, ice cream and slush puppies. But with a CSA box overflowing and a tiny garden doing the same, you have to branch out from the hots dogs and find some new foods to associate with each season.
Branching out for me often means incorporating spices and flavors not traditionally found in "local" food. It took me a long time to embrace new foods (I had never even tried hummus until I was in college!) but now it's my favorite part of cooking. For the most part, recipes are easily adapted to local produce. There are obvious exceptions - I'm sure I will never find local avocado. But most vegetables and meats can be grown right here just as they are grown far across the world. Or, many recipes from far off lands do fine when you swap in your own favorite, local vegetables.
The first "foreign" dish that I tried this year was a Thai curry, based on one that I LOVE from our local Thai restaurant. Now, to be fair, this was largely NOT local when I cooked it (a few weeks ago). However by now, most of the veggies I used are in season, maybe with the help of a greenhouse or some other clever farming techniques. I had this dish in mind when I chose my peas - I love the snap peas in the pod that they use in their mango curry. Add other seasonable vegetables like summer squash, cherry or grape tomatoes, zucchini, and bell pepper and you've got yourself a fairly local meal. The coconut curry sauce, mango and the rice will never be local, of course, but that's a small price to pay, in my opinion.
And one last disclaimer: I totally cheated and used the canned curry paste. I know I could make my own but I'm still new to this cooking from scratch thing so one step at a time.
"Local" Thai Curry
Small can of curry paste (I prefer the yellow)
2 cups Coconut milk
1 mango, diced (optional - but DELICIOUS!)
1/2 cup snap peas
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow summer squash, cut into strips
10-12 cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 - 1lb meat/chicken (cut in pieces) or shrimp (optional)
Add curry paste, coconut milk and mango (if using it) to deep pan, bring to a boil and then simmer.
Add meat/chicken (if using it) and veggies. If using shrimp, add later as shrimp cooks faster than veggies.
Simmer until vegetables are tender and meat/chicken/shrimp is cooked through. Serve over brown jasmine rice.
For those of you who also love Thai curry, what are you favorite veggies to add?
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