Over the past decade, it's become fashionable to eat local on Thanksgiving, the ultimate feast on our social calendar and the quintessential expression of seasonal produce, that last breath of harvest before winter swoops in. Somehow most of us haven't got the local memo for the 4th of July, a tremendous opportunity to show our patriotism by giving thanks for local produce and the people who grow it.
In these days leading up to Independence Day, summer produce is here, from coast to coast. But in our rush to stock the mustard, ketchup, relish and buns at our Independence Day repasts, we often miss what is just under our noses, the amazing gifts from Mother Nature.
If you're looking for proof of Made in the USA, you'll find it at your neighborhood coop, farm stand or farmers' market, where you can have a conversation with the person who made sure your favorite foods were watered and fed. Your dollars feed the local economy, supporting these folks who take care of local soil and make all of us proud.
Toward that end, I put out a Real Food Right Now APB to help you be in the moment on this Independence Day. Below, I've compiled the more than two dozen reports from all four corners of the Lower 48 - a local foods snapshot if you will - along with suggested menu ideas for this week's festivities.
Happy Birthday, America!
Over in Lincoln Nebraska, Kim H. is holding out for sweet corn, which may not make it in time for the festivities, due to a long and cold spring, she writes. If she gets her wish, this Grilled Corn Orzo Salad with Chili Lime Vinaigrette might do the trick.
In Boulder, Colorado., where Ann C. is savoring her backyard bounty of herbs and crucifers, perhaps a tray of roasted broccoli is in order, and for those leftover stalks, a batch of refrigerator broccoli pickles.
Ann's also one of the lucky eaters still enjoying the ultimate in-the-moment vegetable - the garlic scape - along with Barry E. in Vermont, yours truly in Seattle and Pascale L.D. in New York's Hudson Valley. As Barry mentioned, scapes make the best pesto in the world, and I couldn't agree more. For the Fourth, I might add it to a bowl of pasta salad, toss with cherry tomatoes or just spread it onto toast. Speaking of toast, this time of year lends itself to a bevy of bruschetta toppings, no matter where you live: For Susan D. in Alabama, where both sweet and chile peppers are in full swing, she can top her toast with Peperonata, a Mediterrean stewed pepper dish or Kopanisti, a roasted pepper and feta spread. She also might want to try her hand at Kate P's Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes.
In southern Florida, Ellen K., is yipping it up with avocados and mangos, the lucky thing. For her most wonderful problem, I suggest Grilled Avocado Halves and a big batch of Mango Salsa, which she can use on grains, salads, tortilla chips, on that toast or all by its lonesome.
In Connecticut, Sherri V., is excited to report the arrival of zucchini and summer squash. My bet is that she'll be whipping up a batch of refrigerator zucchini pickle spears to go with cocktails, but I'm casting my vote for a tray of Zucchini Fritters, which can be eaten right out of the skillet or at room temperature.
For the cucumber crew - Barbara K. in northwest Arkansas, Jackie C. in Boston and Maddy in D.C., - a pitcher of Cucumber Aqua Fresca would be a lovely way to cool off. I'm also rooting for a batch of these Garlic Dill Refrigerator Cucumber Pickles, no cauldron of boiling water required.
What's the 4th of July without potato salad? It'll be particularly tasty for Tammy H. in Kentucky, where "the potatoes are marching to the hollers around here" for Robin M. in Kansas and Venice W. in Milwaukee, with their respective harvests of early potatoes. I'm torn between this Pesto Potato Salad with Snap Beans, (Tammy's also excited about the arrival of her half-runner snaps) and this Nicoise Salad, Hold the Tuna. It'll be hard to go wrong.
Venice, in neighboring Wisconsin, is also jazzed about her new stash of lovage; if I were in her shoes, I might pair it up some of her newly harvested potatoes and whip up this Lovage, Onion and Potato Frittata.
As Bruce C. in San Francisco exclaimed, "It's California - EVERYTHING is on the menu!" But the one thing that he and other Bay area locavores are enjoying before the rest of us is eggplant. For their shindig, I'm thinking Grilled Eggplant, 12 Ways.
For David D. in Rhode Island, it looks like Steamed Clams in White Wine, Garlic and Butter are in his immediate future, lucky guy. Speaking of fruits of the sea, Maddy in DC is taking advantage of Pan-fried Soft-Shell Crabs while softies are still in the picture, and my Pacific Northwest peeps are lapping up the king of fish, wild salmon, which needs hardly any seasoning, perhaps just a cedar plank on the grill.
Last but not least, the cherries and the berries are coming out of the woodwork for many of our correspondents, and no Fourth feast would be complete without a sweet ending.
Writing from Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains, Joyce P. is up to her eyeballs in blackberries, which I hope translates into Blackberry Slump. With an ice cream maker, it'd be fun to try out this Sorbet, which would also work for the mulberry gang (I'm thinking of you, Nicole in DC and Barbara in Eureka Springs).
If you're still enjoying cherries like me and my pal Jill, I urge you to whip up a cherry cobbler, stat. Time's running out on these short-lived beauties, in a shade of red designed for the bold and brave.