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Delicious meals can be made with the finest local ingredients

Wednesday, October 3, 2007 | 2:35 p.m. CDT; updated 5:53 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Dennis Sentilles

Gardeners and devotees of our farmers markets must have found it easier than anyone else to meet last week’s Localvore Challenge in Columbia and Boone County. The challenge was to eat only locally produced foods through Sept. 29, with imported spices and oils allowed. Especially excluded were high corn fructose soft drinks that contribute so much to the nation’s obesity epidemic.

Participants were motivated both to support local producers and the recognition that a notable portion of designer foods produced for mass marketing are not developed with nutrition or simple goodness as their first priority, as these are for products of local farms and gardens.

Bread was once known as “the staff of life,” but it has been decades since one could rely on supermarket bread as the core of a satiating meal. If, however, one is willing to visit our local Uprise Bakery, then real bread can be had locally. Having had the good fortune to live in France, and to have sampled baguette all over this country as well, I can say that to my taste their baguette is as good and as true as any I’ve had outside of France itself. Or you might stop by Natasha’s Euro Deli and try a loaf of Russian or Ukrainian bread to know what “the staff of life” is.

Sprinkle a little olive oil on Uprise’s baguette or Ciabatta and then smear it with some local Goatsbeard Farm goat cheese at room temperature and you’re off to a good start on a satisfying meal. Follow with some plum tomatoes— Ruby Pearl is my favorite— upon which you have sprinkled more olive oil and some chopped green onions and tarragon from the garden and then added Goatsbeard feta cheese, and you have a fine simple salad for any summer day. In my opinion, the best olive oil at the best price is found at Campus Eastern Foods in the basement at our local mosque. Although hardly a local product, this oil tends at least to be from small producers in either North Africa or Lebanon, and I am assured that, unlike the oils of large producers, it has never been known to be adulterated by cheaper oils.

Patchwork Family Farms has been a local producer of good pork for some years and the farmers market offers several other locally produced pork and meat products. Cube a good pork roast and brown the cubes well in a skillet, being sure to save the drippings and fond from the bottom of the pan. Then add these to some bubbling chicken broth to which you have added chopped leeks from the garden. Use a lot of leeks, entirely covering the pork and filling the broth, and whatever spices you like, especially whole black peppercorns. Then let it stand at a very slow simmer for half a day or so until the ingredients are mostly indistinguishable. You will have a version of “Porc Mijote aux Poireaux” and , as a friend said, “this is to die for”. I like to serve it on a bed of rice, but that is not local.

It is already time to plant next year’s garlic. Mince up several cloves of this year’s garlic and stir these into the yellow of a local egg. Add some salt. Then begin drizzling and slowly stirring in olive oil until you end up with a half cup or so of mayonnaise, known in Provence, France as aioli, to which you should add at the end the juice of half a lemon as preservative. Spread on warm baguette or Ciabatta, aioli is superbly satisfying. Follow with a few sprigs of fresh garden parsley, and no one will know you’ve eaten so well.

Locally produced apple cider would solve the drink challenge, but it is not ready yet. In the meantime I’ll continue to enjoy the beer I have been brewing for some 20 years now, though I must get its ingredients from afar.

Dennis Sentilles, MU professor emeritus of mathematics, is a Missouri Master Gardener and a member of Katy Trail Slow Food International with a love for working outdoors and eating simply and well every day. He can be reached at sentillesd@missouri.edu


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