Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Leafy greens are nature's spring tonic."

I came up against my first battles in cooking through Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. I knew it was going to be a problem after reading the first chapter on asparagus and the short growing season. Although I scoured the farmers' markets looking for spinach for the spinach lasagna, I was pretty sure I wouldn't find it.

Kingsolver explains how to determine what produce is in season by describing a plant she calls the vegetannual - a hybrid which miraculously grows every fruit and vegetable as an illustration of the lifecycle of a plant. If you think of how a plant grows, this makes perfect sense. The first thing out of the ground is going to be the stem and leaves, hence the first produce season is made up of leaves - spinach, kale, lettuce, chard. They wilt and wane when the weather gets warm - and here we are in July.........and it's HOT, so no spinach. (On a side note, I DID find one place that still had some spinach at the Irvine farmer's market - but a day late and a dollar short. The lasagna had already been made)

So I had to decide what to do - should I sub in a different, more seasonal vegetable? Or take the easy way out and head the grocery store where I can find spinach year round. I knew I could use chard, which manages to stick around longer than most other greens, but I thought I might be pushing my luck a bit with serving Thatboy chard two nights in a row, so I relented and picked up some spinach from the supermarket.

My second problem was that San Diego doesn't have a lot of dairy farms, making local cheese a bit hard to find. I knew my local cheese shop got their mozzarella and ricotta from a place in LA and research showed it was exactly 102 miles from my home...just 2 miles over the typical "100 mile radius" that determines if something is local or not. Close enough, right?

Today's Farmer's Market field trip was to Rancho Bernardo's Farmer's Market.



The RB Farmer's Market was disappointing after the Oceanside one. There just wasn't much produce. I stopped off at my cheese shop on the way back.



The stash:


Eggplant
Burrata - seriously they had just unloaded it. There was no way I was leaving without it.
Mozzarella
Ricotta
Bermuda triangle - a triple cream goat cheese. I like to pick up a new cheese every time I go. This one is fantastic on some toasted french bread.
Prima Donna - a gift for Thatmom, it's one of her favorites



And the results:


Spinach Lasagna (recipe can be found at animalvegetablemiracle.com)

I have to say, fresh ricotta in spinach lasagna is heavenly. You wouldn't think it would make that much of a difference but oh golly does it. A world of difference. I didn't even season the ricotta, just spooned it right out of the container. Even Thatboy noted that he prefers meat lasagna to vegetarian lasagna (which is funny given that 90% of the time I make spinach lasagna, just because it's so much faster and easier than having to cook the meat) but he really liked this one. (Don't tell him about the whole wheat noodles...I didn't) He might have even said it was the best spinach lasagna he ever had, but I might have been a little light-headed from the ricotta.

Local ingredients used:
ricotta (from Gioia Farms)
mozzerella (from Gioia Farms)

7 comments:

  1. OH YUM! That lasagna looks amazing!

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  2. Make your own ricotta and mozzarella! Then it's really local :) http://www.cheesemaking.com/30-Minute-Mozzarella-Ricotta-Kit.html.

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  3. This recipe is entirely beyond delicious looking. I would have waited too - it was so worth the wait and the memory of the experience.

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  4. I have to try this. Well, once the weather isn't so damn hot, that is. ;)

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  5. Okay, I think you are great for making the effort to go local. Since I read the book, I too have been watching where my food comes from and trying real hard. I must follow your blog more closely now that I have discovered it to see where this adventure takes you! Gorgeous lasagna, btw.

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  6. fresh ricotta, huh? i really should hunt some down, because i'm not a fan of "regular" ricotta cheese. this looks and sounds fabulous!

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