Fall and winter here in Tennessee are dominated by a lot of foods that I just don't like. Mostly involving greens - turnip greens, collard greens, mustard greens, and more. I've been told that cooking any of these greens long enough (along with some salt pork) makes them tasty. I've never found that to be true. It never fails to surprise me though because I love spinach - it makes no sense to me that I dislike the taste of all of these other greens so much. Local vegetable alternatives to greens? Sweet potatoes, potatoes, squash - some of my favorite vegetables to cook with. I predict you'll be seeing a lot of them in my Dark Days posts over the next few weeks.
Our CSA farmers are true experimenters, with peanuts being the big new crop for this year. The crop was apparently fairly successful too - we ended up with a big bag containing 2 lbs of unroasted peanuts. We roasted the peanuts in the oven for an hour at 250 degrees and then I shelled them. I've never had freshly roasted peanuts before. As with most locally-grown food, the flavor was amazing, nothing like peanuts you buy at the store!
We were also lucky this year to get some fresh ginger that was grown locally. Now, this isn't ginger for the faint of heart - this super fresh, locally-grown ginger has a ton of zing. In fact, it's so strong that it's been a bit of a challenge to use. I thought that sweet potatoes could probably stand up to the ginger flavor though and so we came up with our local meal for the week:
Sweet Potato, Ginger, and Peanut Soup
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2.5 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup fresh ginger, minced or grated
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup milk
Nutmeg, Cayenne Pepper and Salt (to taste)
For topping: chopped cilantro, peanuts, and crystalized ginger
Melt butter in a Dutch oven or other large size pot. Saute onion and garlic in butter until onion is translucent. Add chicken broth to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook chopped sweet potatoes in the broth until soft, 20-30 minutes. Blend mixture until smooth using a stick blender. Stir in ginger, peanut butter, and milk. Season with nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste. Top with chopped cilantro, chopped peanuts, and crystalized ginger.
We served this with a hearty slice of bread from Twin Forks Farm and an arugula side salad. We followed it up with an apple crisp made from locally grown Arkansas Black apples.
The local tally here:
- Onion, garlic, sweet potatoes, ginger, peanuts, cilantro, arugula: all from Bugtussle Farm
- Chicken broth: made from scratch with a chicken from Peaceful Pastures Farm
- Milk: from Rock Springs Dairy (available at the Produce Place)
- Bread: Twin Forks Farm
Big lesson for the week:
Making chicken broth might be more effort than opening a can but it's not that much more effort. Also, it tastes better, you end up with cooked chicken that you can use in other recipes, and you don't have to worry about what's in the broth (because you know everything that's in it!). A total win.