Sunday, May 10, 2009

Half-Local Chili

When I use dry beans, I prefer to avoid the canned variety. For one thing, they're full of sodium. For another, they're squishier, and they weigh a lot more. This means they make my grocery bags heavier, and they cost more to ship around.

And now, I've been lucky enough to find dry beans that are, if not local, at least from this state.
The co-op has started carrying certain types of beans from a farm in Ithaca. So far I've only picked up the cannelinis - I don't eat very many beans, since I'm not a huge fan - but it's a start. I still had some kidney beans and black beans on my shelf, and couldn't really excuse picking up more on my last trip.

I've had a hankering for some chili recently, and there are some canned tomato products on my shelf that need using up. So I picked up some ground beef at the farmer's market from the Lewis Waite Farm in Jackson, New York.

Lewis Waite is one of the farms that hadn't been at the winter market in Saratoga. They're the very last stall the way the market is set up now, and when we were there on the first week of the summer market, Emma stopped to look at their pictures. They have albums full of photos of their farm for customers to look at. As I walked past, trying to catch up with the girls, the woman working the stand said, "I have more pictures if you'd like to see them."

Well, I'm easy. If you're a seller, and you talk to me, I'll at least stop and look at what you have to offer. Actually, I think she was talking to Emma, but nonetheless. So as soon as the girls were happily absorbed in tree climbing and I made sure Matt was willing to follow my son around for me, I went back to check it out. I absolutely, no question, did not need any meat that day, but I could at least look for another time. Two things I noticed: they brought unusual cuts (Beef heart? Not for me, but how interesting!), and they made their own hot dogs. Awesome.

I like supporting the Brookside people, but to be honest, the beef I've gotten there was a tiny bit gamey. And, I like to spread my dollars around to a number of different farms, on principle. So I was open to trying a new place for ground beef, and that's just what I did this weekend. (I still bought a chicken from the Brookside guys that day.)

It tasted fantastic! Matt made burgers with it, and I also tried a little nibble of mine after cooking it for the chili today. Lewis Waite grass finishes their beef and dry ages it, too. They also have cooking tips sitting right there for you at their table, if you need them. Their pamphlet is full of health information and glowing descriptions of their farmland and animals and, my favorite part, it says on the back in tiny, barely-legible text, "love and gratitude to all." But really mostly to the observant, I'm guessing from the font size.

Beyond my status as a new locavore, the real reason I'm willing to try paying more for local meat is to get my hands on the pasture-raised stuff. The meat of pasture-raised animals has a very different composition than the CAFO stuff. I've heard it theorized that it's not beef that has a high fat and cholesterol content, but merely CAFO beef specifically. Well, we have a lot of cardiac health problems in my family, and I'd like to do what I can to remain healthy as long as possible. This seems like a good way to go.

Today's chili is probably a unique batch; not only was I using up shelf ingredients I probably won't buy in the future, but I had lost the recipe I usually go by. This will have to be my new "basic" recipe from which I operate.

Half-Local Chili

1 cup dried beans (I'd use more next time, maybe a cup and a half)
1 lb. ground beef
1 small red onion
1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
2 14.5-ounce cans stewed tomatoes, squished
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
1 12-ounce can cooking wine (I only had white on hand)
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 hot red pepper, crushed

Boil and soak your beans, then cook and drain them.

Sauté the beef, onions, and garlic until done. Add beans, tomatoes, and spices, and cook till thoroughly heated. If possible, give the chili some time to sit around and the flavors to meld together. Chili always tastes better the second day!

The beans were an absolute fiasco for me today. I'd read that you'll get less of a flatulance issue if you cook them in water with a teaspoon of baking soda in it. Now I don't know whether the baking soda makes the cooking time shorter or I was just unattentive, but I ended the process with bean mush. And I'd used up all my kidney beans in the effort, so the chili I eventually made with a new batch of beans only had black beans and cannelinis. Still tasted good, though!

The hot red pepper was, oddly enough, grown by my ex-husband last summer. So that was local, too, and has got me thinking of drying some of the herbs I'm growing this year, for local spices year-round.

Not local today: Black beans, kidney beans, garlic, tomato products, cooking wine, all spices except red pepper.

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