Saturday, August 25, 2012

Romano beans sabji and A Year of Local Eating

It has been close to a year since I switched-over to buying and cooking local and seasonal produce. Mostly that means buying my week's fruits and vegetables at farmer's market and supplementing only as and when needed from Trader Joe's.

One of the perks of living in bay area is that there is an Indian grocery store right around the corner - doesn't matter where you are! So its always very easy to hop into car and buy whatever you need at nearest supermarkets or Indian groceries. Most of the produce here though is shipped from miles away and has the dreaded high food miles.

Right around when I was entering the second-semester of my pregnancy last year that I thought of making this big change in our lifestyles. Part of it was sustainable eating for ourselves and the environment we live it, part of it was supporting local farmer's community but the biggest part of it was changing our lifestyles so the new addition to our family would get to enjoy not the only the fresh seasonal tasty local produce but also the very enjoyable Saturday morning farmer's market family visits right from her childhood :)

While the benefits of local eating are numerous and well-known, it also brings about its own unique set of challenges which I did not find discussed as much anywhere.  So I thought why not jot the challenges down in case they come handy for any other new cooks trying local foods for the first time. So here goes:

  • First and foremost, making it to farmer's market every Saturday without fail can be tricky. Luckily we live in a place where farmer's markets are year-around, but still visiting it every Saturday morning sacrificing your lazy weekend start was tricky at first. What worked best for us is to make it a small family outing and treat ourselves once in a while with hot coffee and bagel sandwich or a falafel pita pockets from the local vendors. My husband takes my daughter to listen to the live music while Mommy shops for vegetables - works for us! But if this seems difficult to fit in your lifestyle, there are always options of fresh produce co-ops where a fresh basket of seasonal is home delivered right at your door.
  • Seasonal eating means repetition! There are weeks when only good vegetables at market are cauliflowers and cabbage. But the positive aspect of it is you are forced into experimenting with the same produce with different flavors and with different cuisines - possibilities are endless so who has time to get bored :) and besides when things get really repetitive, you can always add pantry staples such as meats, beans or paneer.
  • Seasonal cooking means not always being able to cook what you want to eat! If you crave butternut squash soup start of summer, that's going to be difficult with local eating, but why not try a zucchini soup instead; I feel it keeps me more creative in kitchen -  however no harm done if once in a while you break the rules and hit the supermarket if the cravings take the better of you :)
  • Eating local is generally considered pricier - but honestly, I have not observed the price difference yet (you do pay direct to the farmer with no middle-man). I do pay marginally higher may be but then the produce is so fresh that it stays fresh a lot longer with low waste, so it makes up in the end.
Without further ado, that brings me to today's recipe. Romano beans are in season - well, actually last few weeks of romano beans in season - so grab them while you can! This is a simple recipe called valachya shengachi bhaji which my Mom used to make when I was kid. I do not know for sure if "valachya shenga" is the same beans as "romano beans" but they sure taste the same and that's good enough for me :) This dish has appeared in our kitchen for last few weeks now. As I was talking to our vendor at the market, he mentioned this might be the last one or two weekends for romano beans this season - so I quickly grabbed some pics of this delicious sabji today and jotted this recipe down before I forget.
 (Romano beans)
Romano beans sabji (valachya shengachi bhaji)

Recipe: Serves 4 hungry guys

Ingredients:
3 large handfuls of romano bean
2-3 small green chilies (chopped)
2Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1tsp black mustard seeds
1/4tsp asafoetida powder (optional)
1/2tsp turmeric powder
2tsp coriander powder
1/4tsp goda masala (substitute with garam masala if you don't have goda masala or eliminate altogether)
salt to taste

Recipe:
  • Wash the romano beans and pat them dry
  • Trim both end of the beans and chop very finely into equal sized pieces
  • Heat oil, when hot add mustard seeds and asafoetida powder.
  • Once the mustard seeds pop, then add chopped chilies and turmeric powder.
  • Add the chopped romano beans and mix well.
  • Cover the pot and let cook stirring a couple of times until the romano beans are soft and cooked through (~10mins)
  • Remove from heat; add coriander powder, salt to taste and goda masala (if using)
  • Serve hot with chapati or naan

6 comments:

  1. everytime I get to see your post on my dashboard I feel happy.the fact that we almost started blogging at the same time is very special to me. great to see that your kid is doing well. we also have started to eat local produce ever since we moved back to Kolkata. i love the fresh produce in my local bazar but the fact that they might contain loads of pesticide fears me...but organic produce are very few and the super market happen to sell only a few vegetables. this sabzi looks delish. I often make a same dish with french beans.

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    1. Thanks Sayantani! It is but for blogger friends like you who keep me motivated to keep the blog running :)

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  2. omg! I didnt know we could get "valachya shenga" here! Definitely going to make an effort to get up early on a Saturday morning and visit the farmer's market! :)

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    1. Hi Anushree, the romano beans surely taste a lot like valachya shenga and look like those too. Grab them before go - sunnyvale market on saturday carries them (the first vegetable vendor on the left as you enter the market has the best price/quality I think)

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  3. I LOVE this post. You make so many great points. And the idea of starting a family tradition of visiting Farmers' Markets is a very sweet one.
    Here in the Midwest we don't get local food year round but make the best of it at this time of year.

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    1. Thank you Nupur! I am lucky to be in an area with year-around farmer's market - your new place might be different though and may likely have a year-round?

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