Mediterranean from the Pantry

It's September! A year ago I was on a serious Local Challenge, where except for salt and pepper I only ate food that was grown in Humboldt County. If haven't already, you can check out the blog I kept during that time. It was a wonderful month!

This year the Co-op is sponsoring a community wide Eat Local Challenge, and the time and energy required to put that on, plus a few extra family and social obligations have made me just too busy to undertake such a strenuous challenge this year. I'd been thinking a lot about how much food we waste, and how much uneaten food sits in my cabinets. It's really pretty shameful when you consider how many hungry people there are in the world.... so I decided to make my challenge to eat completely local, except for the food that's already in my pantry. The idea is to use up all the odds and ends that clutter up my cupboard. Not only am I cutting down on waste, but I'm also saving money, which is always a good thing! I think it's going to take a lot more than a month to use everything up, however. I think this is a challenge that I'll take into the following months.

The first big meal that I made last weekend was this Middle Eastern themed feast. It took me all afternoon to prepare, but I realized while I was doing it what was a stress relieving task cooking is for me. I couldn't think of a better way to spend my Sunday afternoon!

Hummus and Baba Ghanouj were my first tasks. I didn't get too many pictures, but here's the eggplant going into the oven. It's Beatrice eggplant from Willow Creek which is an Italian Rosa Bianca type. We've grilled a lot of it, and it's about the sweetest creamiest eggplant I've ever had! I brushed it with olive oil and roasted it at a pretty high temperature.

Here it is coming out of the oven. I scooped the pulp out of the skin and pureed it in the food processor with sesame seeds (I didn't have any tahini, so I pureed the seeds until they were pretty creamy,) garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

I also made hummus in the food processor using two long expired cans of garbanzo beans that I'd been meaning to use for the longest time. They looked and smelled OK, so I pureed them with more sesame seeds, olive oil, salt, and pepper. I'd never realized how similar hummus and baba ghanouj are - they're pretty much the same thing except one is garbanzo beans and one is eggplant. Both were delicious!

This is the Bulgar for the tabbouleh. This was another thing that had been had been sitting in the cupboard for a long time. It's really easy to cook - you just add boiling water and let it sit for about 15 minutes. I added lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper....

... and all of these things. The Cucumber and Italian Sweet Pepper are from Hoopa, the Tomato is from Willow Creek, the Italian parsley is from Orleans, and the Garlic is from our garden. I also added a few mint leaves from our garden. I don't like a lot of mint, but just a touch is essential to make it real tabbouleh.

Here's the finished product. Delicious! This is something I should make a lot more often!

To top it all off, I decided to make some pita. I used a recipe from The New Moosewood Cookbook, and it was surprisingly easy and worked really well. Here's the dough before it rose for an hour. After that, you basically just roll it out into little circles and bake it for about 10 minutes. I was amazed at how authentic it turned out - just like real pita!

Here's the finished spread. I know it's cheesy to eat out of Tupperware, but we didn't want to add any extra dishes to our already large stack. Johnny grilled the local lamb and onion (Walla-Walla from Blue Lake) kebabs while I was finishing the bread. We only ate less than a quarter of all this, and had wonderful lunches all week!
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