Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dark Days Challenge - A look back and my favorite meals

Last week I wrote about our 17th and final meal for this years Dark Days Challenge. From November 30 - March 30 I shared one meal per week that Gail and I were enjoying using SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, and ethical) ingredients that we purchased and prepared throughout the winter.
Looking back at all of the Dark Days posts I am not surprised that pasta dishes were featured in 7 of  the 17 meals! Gail and I both love pasta and ravioli and we manged to can 18 1/2 quarts of sauce using a combination of farmers market seconds and our tomatoes. Looking now we are down to about 5 quarts - pasta and sauce with maybe a sausage or additional vegetables is a staple of our weekly food routine!
My favorite dishes for the challenge were Week 11: Red Pepper/Goat Cheese Ravioli, Sauce, & Spicy Beef Sausage and Week 16: Braised Pork Rib, Roasted Potato, and Relishes. Both are very simple and incredibly satisfying dishes. We are lucky to have a few great pasta and ravioli vendors as well as an abundance of great locally made sausages to compliment our homemade sauces. The pork rib was the first 'country style' rib I had ever prepared and both Gail and I were so satisfied with the end result! Again it was a case of great farmers market items (meat, potato, pickled carrots) to pair with our own homemade relishes.
I found that sourcing items for this years challenge was incredibly easy. Evey weekend from before Thanksgiving through late April there is at least 1 winter market open within a drive able distance. Gail and I visited the markets in Wayland, Somerville, and the South End regularly as well as a one-off Brookline market this winter and continue to do so now. These markets had an amazing variety of produce, meats, eggs, milk, cheeses, honey, apples, coffee, prepared and specialty goods! Some weeks we would go with a long list of ingredients for a few specific meals and other weeks we would pick and choose on a whim and figure out what we wanted to eat for a local meal that way. There was no shortage of local goods throughout this overly warm winter. It is amazing to see the explosive growth of winter markets just in the last few years.
I love participating in this challenge as it gets me thinking about my food even when I am not in the garden or enjoying  fresh fruit and vegetables at the height of summer. I also was able to continue to make great connection to the people who raise, grow, produce, and make much of what Gail and I eat, giving us a genuine appreciation for our food and the hard work that goes into producing it.

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