Eat Local Challenge: Leah's local high holiday meal

eat local challenge leah composite

Leah's local high holiday meal.

By Leah Wolff-Pellingra

The Honest Weight Food Co-op's LocalHarvest Festival is this Sunday in Albany's Washington Park. AOA is a media sponsor of the event, so we thought it would be fun to ask a few local food bloggers to come up with some easy meals made with local ingredients.

For today's challenge, Noshing Confessions Leah puts together a local meal for the Jewish high holidays.

Children are running underfoot. They've been soaked by the water table outside, and now are coated in mud, demanding apples from the table. Adults are calling from room to room, laughing and talking politics, as the dressing is tossed through the greens, the wine opened and poured. Our final arrival comes bearing two half gallons of Stewart's Vanilla Ice Cream.

The Eat Local High Holy Day Meal of 5771 was about to commence.

This is our second year joining a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, a.k.a. a crop share. We belong to Denison Farms, which means that our vegetables, fruit and eggs are grown a 45 minute drive away from our house for 22 weeks out of the year. They usually arrive in such copious amounts that the extras end up in our deep freeze, helping to feed us through the winter months as well.

The CSA philosophy

Eat local veggies.jpg

You do need to be somewhat of a foodie to belong to a CSA. When that oddly shaped vegetable that you've never seen arrives in your weekly share, you must suppress the natural desire to run for the hills. If you enjoy discovering new recipes and pushing the boundaries of your family table, no worries. If you abhor challenges in your kitchen, consider splitting your share with someone who exclaims, "Ooooh! Beets with their greens still attached! I just saw a great recipe from Alton Brown that uses those."

The truth? I am the only person in my household that will eat beets. As a family, on a year round basis, we don't always eat certified naturally grown, low spray or organic. We're not vegetarian. We even get take out Chinese every now and again. Hypocritical, you say? No. Just realistic. Practical, even. We're doing the best we can with the resources we have, just like everybody else.

Keeping kosher and eating local

In our home, we keep kosher. Keeping kosher means different things to different people (see the aforementioned Chinese take out), so here's a basic rundown: kosher laws are ethical decisions about food that guide the way that many Jews eat. For instance, there is a law against baby animals being cooked in their mother's milk (example: veal parmesan). This leads to a prohibition against eating all meat and dairy together, including poultry (example: chicken parmesan), but excluding fish (example:. tuna melts).

Others laws are health based, forbidding the eating of carnivores high on the food chain (example: shark and swordfish) or scavengers that eat carrion (example: shellfish and most bugs). My favorite rule, however, is the one that permits locusts; if locusts eat all of your crops, you must be able to eat the locusts. Not all of the laws feel this logical. Traditional Jews would argue that we follow them regardless of logic, believing they are commanded by God vs. created by man. Whatever a family's reasons for keeping kosher, following the laws leads to a mindfulness of where food comes from.

Our family has found that this mindfulness falls naturally in line with eating local. We purchase vegetables that are grown with respect for the earth. We know that the farm laborers who picked them are being treated fairly. We pay more for our meat, knowing that paying a higher price ensures that animal the meat comes from can be humanely raised and slaughtered. We also intentionally support our community by buying products grown by local farmers, or produced by locally owned companies and corporations (Stewart's Ice Cream, Heldeberg Market, Schenectady Green Market, Mohawk Dairy, Cappielo Dairy, Freihofer's Bread, Price Chopper, and, of course, Gustav and his cheese).

Part of me does worry that I'm falling in with the Authenticity Hoax crowd by jumping on this Bandwagon of Locavore. What I know beyond a doubt is this: the quality of food is directly related to the amount of time that has passed since it left the earth. While this means something very different to a block of cheese vs. a tomato, I would argue that the principle holds true, regardless.

The Eat Local High Holy Day meal of 5771

The night before, we roasted tomatoes, green peppers, onions (all from our CSA) and a head of garlic from the Schenectady Green Market, drizzled with olive oil, on a sheet pan at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes. We then combined them in our slow cooker with a generous amount of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. We set the temp on low, covered the pot and checked on it in the morning. At that time, I pureed it with our stick blender, adjusted seasoning, and called it a day.

Leah's Eat Local lasagna .jpg

The sauce was layered with lasagna noodles bought in bulk from HWFC, and grated mozzarella and ricotta from Cappiello. The ricotta had been mixed with three eggs, 4 cups of chopped spinach, 1/4 cup fresh parsley, sautéed onion and garlic, 1/4 cup of Parmesan, salt, and another palmful of Italian seasoning (about 2-3 T). The assembled lasagna was covered with aluminum foil and baked in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. At that point the aluminum foil was removed, and the lasagna baked an additional 15 minutes. It was then allowed to rest and set for 10 minutes.

artisan bread leah.jpg

The lasagna was served alongside a salad of mixed greens tossed through with roasted peaches and their juices, roasted sweet onions, cherry tomatoes and chevre. Our challah was based off a recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day and was made with local buckwheat honey and more eggs from the share.

Eat local dessert.jpg

For dessert, we served the Stewart's Vanilla with Old World Apple Cake, made with more of that gorgeous local honey and apples from The Farm at Kristy's Barn.

Apples and honey.jpg

Throughout this High Holiday Season of 5771, Jews around the world will eat apples dipped in honey for a sweet New Year and will make round challah as a reminder of the world coming full circle. On Yom Kippur, we will ask to be sealed in the Book of Life for a good new year. On Sukkot, we will celebrate the fall harvest and the exodus from Egypt. On Simchat Torah, we will complete the reading of the Torah and begin the cycle again, saying, "From strength to strength, may we be strengthened."

Our holidays, and life in general, seem to boil down to that epic Judaic punchline: They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat.

Yep, Honest Weight does advertise on AOA. And, as we mentioned, AOA is one of the media sponsors of the Local Harvest Festival (we're big fans of local food...mostly because because, you know, we like to eat). We did this series of posts because we thought it would be fun.



My family was honored to be part of Leah's meal; the lasagna was outstanding.

We squeezed in for seconds and might have tried for thirds if explosion wasn't eminent. :)

great post and delicious-looking meals!

L'shana Haba'a B'yerushalayim - Next Year Jerusalem.

Thank you all for the feedback! If anyone is interested, the recipe for the Old World Apple Cake is up on Noshing Confessions. L'shanah tovah u'm'tukah!

Salad with roasted peaches and chevre sounds like a brilliant idea!

Leah: "a sweet and good year" to you too.

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