30-Day Eat Local Challenge: June 4

Spanish Rice“What do you mean, ‘There are no more leftovers’?”

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It’s quite fitting that, as I explored recipes online the very day after I posted my big survival tip, I check the fridge to find out that there are neither green peppers nor onions available, and I simply do not have the time to make another farm run to get them.

That’s fine. We have substitutes. We will not starve!

For breakfast, I had the last of the cooked rice with a spoonful of blueberry pepper jelly. Not exactly French Toast Crunch, but I really like the sweet and spicy combo of fruit + pepper jellies.

For dinner, the goal is to make a Spanish Rice variant. I’m basing it off of this recipe, and I don’t trust that I have room in my skillet for all of it, so I’m basically halving the major components and adding the rest of the tofu block that I didn’t cook for the stuffed peppers two nights ago.

Standard substitutions apply: no black pepper, but I’m using the oregano and thyme we acquired, and our oil is our old friend and resident savior, Mr. Pecan Oil.

However, in lacking onions and green peppers, I decided to chop up four of the okra I picked up at the farmer’s market yesterday, and dice up a stalk and bulb of green garlic from Holly Grove.

Meanwhile, I’m sucking down this homemade mint tea sweetened with honey and real cane sugar like it’s made with crack. The house smells like something between a greenhouse and a swamp doctor’s prep room, depending on where you stand. I’m pretty okay with this.

This is my first experience stewing my own tomatoes. Eventually, I got all the skin peeled off, so “OP SUCCESS!” I suppose. But instead of going back and stewing them, I basically turned the skillet into a giant rice cooker, pan frying all of the ingredients minus the tomatoes, but including the uncooked rice (which sounded like the weirdest thing to me. Who fries uncooked rice?). Also, all of the stewing recipes I saw called for sugar, so I stirred roughly a tablespoon or so in with the tomatoes.

I fear my big mistake is that I put the tofu in a water-based dish.

Tofu, as you’re aware, absorbs everything. As the rice just got done cooking, I noted that the outer ring looked browned.

While everything cooked fine, and it looks mighty pretty, unfortunately the dish turned out fairly bland. I’m really hurting without anything to spice it up, and the okra just doesn’t add a satisfying crunch the way pepper would. We do have some homegrown chiles that I’ll probably wind up throwing in the coffee grinder at some point (it’s not like the grinder’s getting any other use!), and I think those’ll go a long way. I’m also just not confident with my ability to work with raw jalapeño, as we have a few of those as well. The one time I tried…let’s just say it didn’t end well.

So, I’ll have to come back to this dish at some point with better ingredients, but the good news is the recipe worked, at least to a point to where I could understand it and get everything to an edible state. However, it notably lacks a protein on its own, so I’d like to serve it beside something. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of a simple corn, bean, and kale salad, that way neither shares any major ingredients, but we’ll see what comes up over the next few days.

We’re still hurting for cane vinegar; it’s our only option for actual vinegar, and we can’t track it down. I also have a grapefruit ready to go, but without an emulsifying agent like mustard, I can’t get it to bond with oil to make a vinigrette. Yes, I could use egg yolk, but I really like how mustard works in dressings. If we can make tomato paste (which looks like a weekend project), I might be able to use that to bind the two; I can’t get straight citric acid, but I can use grapefruit juice.

This could go well…or it could go so horribly wrong.

The nice thing is that next weekend, I believe, is creole-fest, which celebrates our local variety of tomatoes. They’re already a staple of my cooking, so being able to get them by the bag cheap will be a huge boon.

On the horizon, I’m looking at finally tackling some of these local spirits (I mean alcohol, of course). We’re going to grab some corn meal; while we can’t make cornbread, as we lack baking powder, we can probably make some kind of flat corn cake that we’ll spice up with jalapeño and glaze with honey. Again; could be amazing, could be terrible. The cornmeal will also go into a rice flour frying batter recipe that I saw.

I’m looking at these tomatoes more and more with creole-fest coming up. If I can figure out the magic of stewed tomatoes, we may be good for a few more recipes.

I still have yet to make a glaze with the rest of our blueberries, and it’s about time that we grab another pint. Another weekend project, I think, as I’ll have Saturday off.

I’ve had a few people ask how I’m feeling.

I’ve noticed a dip in energy around 3-4:00 PM that picks back up around 5:00 or so. Part of this, however, may be tied to poor sleep; I’m in a new location and my brain seems to be in survival mode overdrive. It does not like sleep, even if I really do.

I will say that I don’t think I’ve had this much protein in my diet since I went vegetarian, and it’s something I want to be more conscious of in the future. I’m still taking a B12 supplement because it’s stupid not to as a vegetarian, even for a challenge. I’m also conscious of leafy green intake. Normally, my staple leafy green is spinach, and I know basically what to do with that. The local greens down here are bitter: kale, chard, collared greens, so on. Fitting these things into a dish is a big part of the challenge.

Do I feel healthier? Not necessarily, but it’s hard to say what I’m supposed to feel on day 4. Give it a week for all this stuff to start finding regular presence in my system. Without wheat, I may start to lose weight. Without coffee, or other stimulants, I may start to become sluggish, or pick back up once my body realizes it’s not getting those things. So…let’s just table that question for now, and enjoy what we have at the table.

But seriously, I need to grind up those chiles.

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Post note: Sorry for the picture quality. I didn’t notice it was that bad until it was on my computer, and by then, I’d already eaten a bowl of the rice!

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