Last Sunday I had a 300-0 mile diet dinner at my house. Everyone brought pot-luck dishes, made from ingredients grown within 300-0 miles from our county in north Idaho. I felt bad when the first thing my friends said was that thinking about their dish was very stressful. But, as we talked some more, they were all up for the challenge of creating the best dish. The number one problem with cooking locally and sustainably turned out to be salt! How do you make a dish taste really good without salt? Good question. None of us were able to identify a source of local (within 300 miles) salt, unless, of course, we made some from sea water. The second toughest ingredient turned out to be oil. We do live in an agricultural area, and many farmers grow canola, but it just isn't made here. However, thinking about all of this made us aware of what we have, what we could be making, and what we can live without. And we all enjoyed the party!
In spite of the lack of salt, the dishes were creative and delicious: leek and potato soup, adding fresh Cougar Gold cheese for some saltiness; zucchini "pasta" ribbons with a fresh tomato sauce including local garlic, tomatoes, and basil; locally raised Scottish Highland beef meatballs with Priest River cheese; Montana feta; salad from the garden; vegetable casserole; and my apple wine zabaglione with hazelnut meringue cookies.
Yeah, I won with best dessert. I have to confess I searched for salt, but in my pastry-loving heart I knew dessert would be my entry. A friend around the corner gave me some cream from her cow. I whipped most of it but saved some to turn into butter. With the butter I sauteed some apples slices (from my tree), sweetened with some local wildflower honey. This went on the bottom of a teacup. Then I made my "zabaglione" with local egg yolks, the wildflower honey, and some apple wine that my neighbor had made from local apples. I stabilized this with the whipped cream and put it on top of the apple slices. Finally, earlier in the day I had made local hazelnut, meringue cookies (using the local egg whites), sweetened with the honey. The cookies topped off the custard. It was really good. Frankly, I think it was the wildflower honey that put the dessert over the edge. It's so flavorful.
So, I throw down the gauntlet and challenge all readers to try a locally sustainable dinner. It might give you pause to think about what you eat and how far the ingredients must travel before arriving at your table....