Wednesday, April 21, 2010

a locavore meal, almost

Locavore: one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible
Spent the afternoon with a dear friend who I have not seen in a long time, sustainable food blogger and committed locavore Mary Nelen. Mary, who writes the blog Valley Locavore,  filled me in on what is going on in her community of Northern Massachusetts where a strong DIY food ethic flourishes. She boasted of canning and preserving and shaking hands with farm animal. All very cool and admirable. We decided we would make lunch together during our visit. Mary supplied the broccoli rabe from a farmers market and I rummaged through my fridge at home to pull out some tofu (locally made!) and shitake mushrooms (I have no idea where they came from, oops) and some red quinoa I thought Mary might be interested in.
I also contributed a large handful of fresh herbs that I pulled out of my garden just before leaving the house to meet her (how much fresher can you get?)
The Upper West Side where Mary was staying was in full bloom Spring mode.

Our plan was simple, we would gab away with each other a mile a minute and give barely a fleeting thought to the meal. Kind of like cooking on auto pilot. I made the quinoa while Mary prepped the broccoli rabe.
I guess we could have used a slightly larger pan for the broccoli rabe.

The kitchen we were borrowing was minimally stocked and equipped. I did a quick sautee of the mushrooms and then the tofu which we cut into cubes. We found an onion in reasonable shape, chopped it up, sauteed it with the broccoli rabe and then threw in all the chopped herbs. The tofu and mushrooms went back into the pan and we mixed it all together.
The herbs coming up in my garden now are mint, lemon balm, sorrel, chives and oregano. I roughly chop them all together and add them to almost any dish right at the end of cooking to add freshness and depth.
We cooked the shitake mushrooms and the tofu separately, just enough to get a little brown crust for flavor and texture.

The finished dish: a mound of steamed red quinoa surrounded by the sauteed vegetables and tofu.

It was a simple, tasty, easy and healthy meal, which meant we could drink wine and not feel guilty.  What can I say, talking makes you thirsty. We drank white wine which seemed a good choice. How did we do Amanda?

A good friend, delicious, easy lunch, and a nice bottle of wine. Sounds like a pretty great afternoon! Question - you don't blanch the broccoli rabe first? Just toss it right into the pan? I'm always in a quandry about that whenever I prepare it. I never really know when to blanch and when to just sautee. Any recommendations or thoughts on this?

Yes, I am in agreement regarding your wine choice! I think any light, crisp white would really work fine here. I wouldn't give it too much thought. Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet, Pinot Grigio - all fine, simple choices. You and Mary had set out to have a fun, easy afternoon together which does not require hemming and hawing over a wine. Just go with something fun for an occasion like this. I find that Prosecco is always a great afternoon libation to enjoy with friends, especially as the warmer weather hits. Prosecco is a staple on my block for afternoon/early evening barbeques. This light, refreshing, frizzante wine from Italy is always a huge hit.

Prosecco is made from a grape by the same name, and hails from the Veneto region of Italy. Very versatile, you can really enjoy it with a wide variety of fare. It's great for brunches, showers, and large get-togethers - it is Italy's answer to Champagne, minus the hefty pricetag. For great examples of this inexpensive sparkler, look to producers Bisol, Riondo, Caposaldo and Zardetto.

Choosing a wine should never cause stress or too much thought. Wine is best when shared with friends. As long as the "indulgers" enjoy it - that is all that matters! But I do recommend keeping a few bottles on hand as Prosecco is a great bottle to open for unexpected guests!


  1. We did not blanch the broccoli rabe, this is true. I think because we were lazy and did not feel it was needed. Mary and I like strong flavors, so blanching to tame some of the vegetable's bitterness did not come to mind on this occasion.

  2. I only blanch when I am making it in advance to reheat later so it keeps it's nice green color. I have always read that the longer you cook broccoli rabe the more bitter it gets, so I always try to cook it just until it's tender. . .I wonder if that's true?

  3. Thanks Katie- I do the same. Not sure if it gets more bitter when cooking thou- we should test that out sometime!


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