November and December is a time of real local pride for me, especially, and perhaps strangely, pride in our local harvest. Summer’s juicy fresh fruits and veggies are fabulous and already missed, but our autumnal New Hampshire foods dominate the traditional menus for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hannukah. The classic Hannukah potato pancakes are served with applesauce, after all, and potatoes and apples are easy to find on Lebanon farms!
The Thanksgiving story, of course, is all about New England foods. I like to add two components to my family’s big holiday meals, both of which are possible because I live here, in this rural community filled with excellent farms.
Firstly I like to use local ingredients as much as I am able, perhaps in one dish, perhaps in many. Potatoes, carrots, winter squash, Brussels sprouts, various meats or cheeses—these are readily available from local farms. A New Englander born and bred, I get great satisfaction looking at our table during times of celebration and feeling connected to our agricultural heritage, our self-sufficient communities, and the hard work of my farming neighbors.
The second component I add is something fresh and green. It’s easy for big group meals to focus on meats, potatoes, stuffing, and rolls. I love pie, and spend most of my feast prep rolling out pie dough and slicing apples (New Hampshire butter and apples are key to the process!). Adding something green and fresh balances out the heavy foods…and magically leaves more room for pie. I can still find local, very fresh green vegetables to make a simple salad or cooked dish at our grocers and farmers’ markets this time of year.
A simple kale Caesar salad can be my local, green dish—trendy and tasty. Developed by Bethany Fleishman, who, among other things, develops local recipes at Vital Communities, it’s a delicious and healthy side. The recipe requires hand-squeezing the kale, which is a great way for children to join the meal preparation. With very clean hands, kids can squeeze and squish the kale until it gets soft. They love it.
The recipe details making croutons and dressing from scratch (my kids also liked making the croutons and eating half of them in the process). If you prefer, you can use store bought croutons and/or dressing, but don’t be put off by the fairly straightforward process of making your own. As Bethany says, you’ll build kitchen skills!
To find local kale and many other delicious local foods for your table, visit our local grocers, winter farmers’ markets, or winter farm stands. Or, use the zip code search in the Online Guide at ValleyFarmFresh.org—it’s amazing how many farms are within 10 miles of Lebanon. Here’s to a fresh-food-filled season!
Find our Kale Salad Recipe at VitalCommunities.org/KaleCaesar.
Becka Warren focuses on local farms and food at Vital Communities, a White River Junction-based nonprofit organization that brings people together to make positive change on the regional issues of agriculture, transportation, energy, economy, civic engagement, and sense of place. Learn more at VitalCommunities.org.