Eat Mendocino

2 women, 365 days, 3,878 square miles


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Cucumber, tomato & basil salad for when quitting is not an option

I have a lot of silverware, way more than a single girl needs. So, when I get down to using a plastic fork, things have gotten bad.

I admit it: I would really like a hot bath and take-out tonight. Instead, I will throw together some food eventually clean my kitchen and blog. Such is the glamorous life of a locavore. There is no quitting.

Today was Farmers’ Market day, so I’ve been out and about all day, talking to people. schlepping signs, loading and unloading stuff from my “market mobile.” Now I’m home and before I can deal with my disaster of a sink, I need to eat. I’ve got a bunch of goodies from the market, and decide to throw together a quick summer salad.

Chopped cucmber, onion & tomatoes

Cucumber, tomato and basil salad

* I will leave out specific amounts, because that just depends on how much you want to make.

Diced cucumber

Halved cherry tomatoes

Chopped  red onion

Minced basil

Olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Splash of apple cider vinegar

(If I had thought of this before I devoured it, I also would have added some of the chevre that I bought today from Yerba Santa Goat Dairy…)

Toss it all together and enjoy. And, yes, I will be eating this with a plastic fork. Then, I am taking that bath.

Cucumber, tomato & basil salad


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How to make raw zucchini pasta

To me, zucchini defines summertime. Growing up in my parent’s garden in Chico (where squash could grow into baseball bats in a weekend) there was always more zucchini than we knew what to do with. Thus, I have a really hard time paying for zucchini – but here in the fogbelt, a girl has to do drastic things like wear wool socks in July and buy zucchini at the farmers’ market if she wants to believe that summer does exist, somewhere.

I love zucchini in many forms, and never really tire of it, but this has become one of my favorite ways to eat them. Zucchini pasta is the ultimate summer dish; you can use something that is abundantly available and you don’t even have to cook it. It is as fresh as it can get, super healthy, extremely easy to make and has a wonderful pasta-like texture that takes on sauce very well. Skeptics, try it before you hate on it. I have brought this to potlucks before and people didn’t even know that it wasn’t “real” pasta. I also think that this pasta would hold up well in a stir-fry if you were going for a Chinese-style noodle dish.

All you need is a veggie spiralizer like this. I purchased mine at the Living Light Culinary Institute marketplace in Fort Bragg. You can also order them through the Living Light online store.

Veggie spiralizer

It’s very simple to use. You just mount the zucchini and turn the handle to crank out the noodles. It’s easiest to use straight squash, or cut them into smaller chunks if they are crooked. This is what the spiralized zucchini noodles look like.

Zucchini pasta noodles

You can use any kind of sauce or dressing on your noodles and add other veggies, herbs/seasonings, and cheese. This time I mixed in some of Mom’s famous parsley pesto and sea salt. *Pesto lovers: using parsley is a great option when the basil isn’t growing yet.

Zucchini pasta tossed with parsley pesto

Topped off with some sungold cherry tomatoes and ready to enjoy!

Zucchini pasta w/ pesto and cherry tomatoes


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Meatball Monday with a side of conversation

I believe a girl should eat her veggies and have her meatballs, too. This is not a post about the importance of eating local pasture-raised, grass-fed meat. This is just a post about tonight’s dinner. I had a friend visiting from out of town and we had a summer feast of meatballs, veggie stir fry, brown rice and a sunflower sprout/sauerkraut salad, followed by candy cap ice cream. The best part of this meal was sharing it with someone. It’s always good to have an “outsider” around because it reminds me how abnormal daily life is for a locavore. After my mom’s visit this weekend I was stunned by how much more garbage is produced by packaged products. Most of my waste is compost, so I rarely have to empty my trash.

Living and breathing this project every day makes it easy to lose touch with how most of the world relates to their food, and having others in the kitchen is a really good mirror to reflect on the project. After a big meal and a long thoughtful conversation about what eating local really means to me, I don’t have the energy to tackle the dishes nor share the dinnertime wisdom, so I’ll just leave you with a snapshot of a delicious meal and say goodnight for now and I hope this finds you with full bellies.

Meatball Monday


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Jammin’ on a Sunday Night

When you are living and eating seasonally, you go from scarcity to glut in moments. My fridge is like a tidal wave of produce rather than a steady inventory. This weekend, a huge basket of very ripe yellow plums landed in my kitchen. There is no room for hesitation in these situations; it’s a delicate window from overripe to rotten. I have learned to act quickly and I immediately pulled out all the super soft ones and threw them in the freezer and left the others out to ripen. This is probably one of the most essential elements of the locavore life; the dance between time and perishability. When you get it down, you feel like a food ninja.
Stone fruit bowl

I pulled them out tonight and invited Gowan over for jam making. Which really means talking about boyz, ducks, goats and her dreams of farming on a larger scale while I stirred the pot. If anyone can do it, this girl most certainly can.

Gowan's "girl farm" fists

What I learned tonight is that it is tremendously challenging to stir a pot of jam with your right hand and simultaneously shake a jar of salad dressing in your left. Even harder than resolving some matters of the heart. By the time we had solved all of life’s problems with bowls of potatoes (which solve everything) the plums had reduced down into jammy goodness. There wasn’t a lot so we didn’t need to seal them – just put it in jars to be kept in the fridge or freezer. Plums on Friday, jam by Sunday – boom. These are the sweet little victories that keep the shelves full, and sweet.

Sarah with plum jam


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How to cook beans (not from a can)

People often ask us what has been the hardest thing about eating locally. Most of what we do is not inherently difficult; the biggest challenge is rearranging one’s life around cooking whole foods for every single meal, every day. This requires a complete lifestyle overhaul. We must always think ahead and I rarely leave the house without some kind of food stuffed in my purse. So, the hardest thing is giving up anything premade, whether it be a box of crackers or cereal, a bag of chips, or a can of beans. Honestly, I had never cooked dry beans from scratch before this year. Speckled Bayo Beans

It took us months to track down local beans, and when we did it was tremendously exciting to have a non-animal protein source. These speckled bayo beans came to us via Westside Renaissance Market and they were grown by Guinness McFadden in Potter Valley. When I made the first batch, I ate them every day for nearly every meal for a week and it felt anything but pedestrian; it was like a bean miracle. The simple becomes the miraculous when you have gone without.

Taco salad!

Local Taco SaladHuevos rancheros!

Local Huevos Rancheros

We have said many times that the point of this project is not to get everyone to do what we have done and dive into the deep end of the local food pool. Rather, we hope that people will start looking at their own plates and think about how they might start connecting with their local food supply chain. There are lots of ways to do this – from making strawberry jam to baking bread or simply making time to pick blackberries on a lovely summer day. It all starts with getting closer to the source and cooking from scratch. The more we do this, the more we realize we are capable of.

Here is my challenge to you: take one thing that you usually buy in a box, can or bag, and try making it from scratch. Just one simple thing, like beans. And if that’s where you want to start, here’s the recipe, borrowed from Nourishing Traditions (an indispensable book to have on hand in the whole foods kitchen).

Basic Beans

Makes 8-10 cups cooked beansNourishing Traditions

2 cups black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas or white beans

warm filtered water

2 tablespoons whey or lemon juice (for black beans only)

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed (optional)

sea salt and pepper

Cover beans with warm water. (For black beans, stir in whey or lemon juice). Leave in a warm place for 12-24 hours, depending on the size of the bean. Drain, rinse, place in a large pot and add water to cover beans. Bring to a boil and skim off foam. Reduce heat and add optional garlic. Simmer, covered, for 4-8 hours. Check occasionally and add more water as necessary. Season to taste.

I have never been good at following recipes. I often throw in some other stuff when I’m cooking the beans. In this batch, I added onion, oregano, and kombu seaweed (for saltiness and trace minerals.)

Pot o' beans


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Learning How to Cook – Some Wise Words

Had to share this post by our friends at Mendocino Organics. When people ask us for recipes we are usually speechless; all of our cooking pretty much follows method number four, based on what is seasonally available and on hand. Thanks, Mark Bittman for validating that we have reached a certain level of culinary genius.

Mendocino Meats

We can’t help it, but we have a thing with Spanish cuisine right now. The climate is similar to our’s, and we both have Spanish blood running through us. Last year, we borrowed and watched all the episodes of Spain…On the Road Again. Who can resist Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Bittman, and Claudia Bassols on an eating road trip through Spain, and a theme song sung by Willie Nelson? Fortunately, there is a companion book to the show, including recipes and cultural notes about the places they visit.

Flipping through the recipes of fried eggplant, cordero lechal, and images of jamon, there’s this great transcript of a conversation between Mark Bittman and Gwyneth Paltrow when they were visiting the Alhambra. There’s a bit of the conversation that is actually really poignant in the current conversation about getting back to eating locally and seasonally, and ultimately about…

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