Locavore selected as Word of 2007

by: submitted art,

Here's an interesting piece of trivia: Locavore was chosen as The New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year for 2007.

Jessica Prentice from the San Francisco Bay Area coined the word at World Environment Day 2005 to describe and promote the practice of eating a diet of food harvested from within an area most commonly bound by a 100-mile radius. Locavore is an appropriate word to be peppering our conversations as we celebrate Earth Day.

Locavores choose to eat locally grown/produced foods for a variety of reasons. As a member of that group, I count on the local farmer to practice sustainable agriculture, in other words, raise food that is healthy for consumers, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers and provides a fair wage to the farmer while supporting our rural communities. Over the years I have built relationships with these people and know that I am getting the best food at a fair price. I have great appreciation for the quality of the food and the effort that went into producing it. And frankly, I believe it tastes better fresh from the farm.

In our mild climate, it is easy to Eat Local year round and each season has its stars, the foods we anticipate being ripe as we move into the new season. We look forward to tender pea tendrils and peas and tart rhubarb in spring; crisp lettuces, peppers and plump berries in summer; juicy tomatoes, snappy apples and pears in fall and earthy winter squashes, chards, nuts and mushrooms in winter. Eating food in season ensures you get the best that nature has to offer year round.

Though 100 percent dedicated to sustainable agriculture, I figure my family is about 85 percent locavore. We still drink coffee and tea; we buy citrus and bananas. I crave salads of mixed greens all year, and homemade dressings made with extra virgin olive oil.

Many of us have reclaimed the art of preserving foods and canned, froze, dried and pickled the bounty as it became available to enjoy over the winter. There are few things as satisfying as enjoying the tastes of summer in the middle of January.

Becoming a locavore is relatively simple; it just takes a little planning. Here are a few tips to get started:

n Begin by granting yourself some flexibility. It will be next to impossible to eat locally 100 percent of the time, every day. You may wish to continue drinking coffee, and your children may balk at eliminating the sacred PBJ.

n Decide what you consider 'local.' I consider anything within 100 miles of home to be local, but I stretch the limit to include potatoes from the Klamath Basin and beef from Eastern Oregon. I don't consider California local, but others do.

n Join a CSA or plant your own garden. Even a small container planted with a cherry tomato and a few herbs is a start.

n Devoting just 10 percent of your food budget to local food is a good beginning. Buy food direct from the source or at farmers markets. You will meet all sorts of interesting people: farmers, cheese mongers, fishermen, ranchers, bakers and others who dedicate their lives to raising and producing the best food they can. Check the Tri-county Farm Web site at www.tricountyfarm.org for a list of local farms in our area.

n When dining out and shopping at the grocery store, ask where the food originated. Most chefs and grocers are happy to share their knowledge. At the best, you've gained a new friend who appreciates your interest in efforts taken to provide the food; at the worst you have a new friend who is aware you wish to eat local food.

n Form a Food Club or potluck group to seek out local food. Explore the bounty our area has to offer.

With Locavore being selected as the Word of the Year, it is obvious that it is more than a passing fad. The trend to eat local is a growing factor of life that we need to consider. We do have choices.

Someone grows or produces all the food we eat - it doesn't just show up at the grocery store in its plastic bag. Hopefully, Sunday night's roasted chicken was recently clucking contentedly in the barnyard and the carrots tucked lovingly into the lunch boxes still have greens attached at the top. You can buy them locally that way. If you suspect your chicken and carrots got to your table in a different fashion, perhaps you should ask your grocer.

We do have choices, friends.

The recipe for today will be perfect for heralding in spring - should the cold weather subside. Make it with fresh lasagna sheets for a truly sustainable dish.

Bon Appetit! Eat Locally!

Creamy Asparagus Lasagna

Serves 4

Look for local ricotta cheese and use Willamette Valley Cheese Farmstead gouda for the Parmesan.

½ pound lasagna noodles, cooked

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed

2 cups non-fat or part skim ricotta cheese

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot minced

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Set aside half of the asparagus and cut the rest into quarters. Cook the cut asparagus by heating 2 inches of water in a medium saucepan. When the water has come to a boil, add the asparagus, cover and simmer gently until it is soft enough to puree, about 6 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks.

Remove the asparagus from the water and puree in a food processor or blender, taking care not to overdo it, or the asparagus will liquefy. Add the ricotta and process until you have a thick cream of uniform color.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the shallot and lemon zest. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté, stirring often just to season the oil and soften the shallot, about 3 minutes.

Chop the remaining asparagus. Add it to the skillet and stir until it turns bright green, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Heat the oven to 350º F. Lightly spray an 8-inch gratin dish or baking dish with cooking spray. Place a layer of pasta on the bottom. Spread a third of the asparagus cream over the top. Place a layer of sautéed asparagus on top and sprinkle with a third of the Parmesan. Repeat with two more layers, ending with the last of the asparagus cream, sautéed asparagus and Parmesan. Cut the butter into tiny pieces and distribute them evenly over the top.

Bake until the top is browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Barb Randall

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at brandall@lakeoswego