You can eat local. Even in January. Even in Boston.
Chef Michael Leviton lives in New England, where winters are famously long and the growing seasons short. But Leviton is a creative genius when it comes to using what’s at hand—even during the cold seasons.
Chef Leviton, owner of Lumiere Restaurant in Newton, Massachusetts, and executive chef of Boston’s Persephone organic bistro, is a locavore—someone who eats foods grown and raised locally, usually within a 100-mile radius. Though it’s easier to eat locally in the summer months, reducing meat and dairy intake and using easy, age-old produce storage techniques make it possible to eat a low-carbon diet year-round. “I created this vegetarian menu for Natural Home using the abundance of local produce and flavorings,” he says. “The squash and brussels sprouts were picked in late autumn but stored in root cellars. I get my mushrooms from a local producer who raises cultivated exotic mushrooms all winter long; if they’re in a dark, moist climate, they’re fine!”
Benefiting the environment is not the chef’s only motivation to eat local foods. “Local food tastes better!” Leviton says. “Why eat something that traveled thousands of miles when we can opt for food that has been recently harvested and handled with care? Even our maple syrup, apple cider and cranberries are local.”
A local cheese platter adds protein to a vegetarian menu and allows you to showcase local dairies. A cheese platter is appropriate served before, during or after the main course. Toss in a few local nuts and dried fruits to garnish. If you’re serving your cheese platter just before or instead of dessert, consider drizzling on a bit of local honey; it’s a tasty foil to blue cheeses and some salty cheeses such as aged dry California Gouda.
Opt for a variety of textures and flavors. A good combination might include one soft creamy cow’s milk cheese, a dry aged goat cheese and some type of blue cheese. If your state or county produces only one type of artisanal cheese, your choice is easy!
Your platter doesn't have to be fancy; in fact, a wooden cutting board lends farmhouse elegance. Cheese knives are great, but if you don’t have one, use any sturdy cutting knife for hard cheeses and a spreader or spoon for soft cheeses. For more tips about creating a cheese course, check out The Cheese Plate by Max McCalman and David Gibbons (Clarkson Potter, 2000).
For a list of locally made cheeses, visit igourmet and click under United States. But don’t order the cheese by mail; find its source locally.
• Shop from local vendors at the farmer’s market.
• Set aside a cold, dark place in your home as a storage area for root vegetables.
• Reduce your intake of meat, dairy and hothouse-grown vegetables.
• Reduce food waste and compost what you can.
For more tips and information, visit Chefs Collaborative.
Sarah Belk King is a food writer based in Bozeman, Montana.
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