Eat Local Challenge: Kabobs à la Celinabean


Local, easy, kid friendly and grillicious.

By Celina Ottaway

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, Celinabean's Celina Ottaway brings on the beef.

In an ideal world -- the one in which I run half marathons before breakfast, save the lives of a dozen children before lunch, and then whip up a beautiful all organic, all local dinner for friends and family before falling gracefully on to my pillow and dreaming sweet dreams of, I don't know, the perfect Greenmarket heirloom tomato or some such -- well, in that ideal world, I would have both happy carrots and happy cows. All my vegetables would be from local farms -- chemical free, etc... and all my meat would be raised near by with plenty of fresh upstate air and grass and freedom. Every bite would be delicious in a fresh, alive, flavors dancing way and it would never involve Campbell's or, God forbid, store brand frozen pizza.

This is my ideal world, but it is not the one in which I feed my three children - day in and day out, when I am frazzled, when I'm up all night worrying about our family budget, and when I am slogging it through 5Ks that leave me proud but unable to lift up my head afterward much less shop or cook dinner.

Eating local, in my family, is about prioritizing. What are we going to be picky and dogged about -- extra effort, extra time, extra money be damned, and what are we going to do if it seems to work on that particular day? Our top buy-local priority is red meat. It's a choice we make for health, political, aesthetic and community reasons. And our meat purchases trump vegetables for fussiness and diligence. About 90 percent of our meat comes from local sources. Most of it from a freezer cow -- actually a quarter cow -- that we purchase ever year from Michelle Hicks, a farmer in Dutchess County who we've been friends with for more than 20 years. When we can afford it, we also buy a freezer lamb. The price of the cow varies depending on the final hanging weight as well as feed costs and slaughter fees. It usually runs somewhere in the $550 to $600 range and is enough meat to feed my family for a year with some leftover for friends.

We get every cut -- ground meat to steaks to marrow bones -- which means that I've had to get over my fear of roasts and learned to plan ahead so I can pull the meat out of the freezer. Planning is not my strong point in cooking or life and my pot roast is a work in progress, but these are small things and worth the inconvenience to know that our meat is raised humanely and without a bunch of stuff I can't pronounce. Also, once you've tasted beef this good, it's hard to go back.

Kabobs raw - Celina.jpg

Flank steak is one of my favorite cuts, and I've been saving it for a last summer hurrah. This is a simple recipe that's fun to make with my kids - assembly required. It's no more than five minutes or so to prep the marinade and cut the meat and then on cooking day another 10 minutes to put together the skewers. Another 10 minutes or so on the grill and you are done. In other words -- it's a meal that works in the real world.



On this day I had beautiful peppers from the Schenectady Green Market and a purple onion from Indian Ladder Farm, so for one fine late summer afternoon in my best friend's backyard, 7-year-olds screaming and a toddler insisting that clothes were totally and completely unnecessary, cold beers on the window ledge and the conversation flowing easy and free, they were close, my real and ideal worlds. Close, so close.


Grilled flank steak and veggie skewers with Asian marinade (serves 5)


1 ½ to 2 pounds flank steak
3 large peppers, red and green
2 medium purple onions

¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup mirin
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ sake (or cooking wine, marsala will work in a pinch)
six or seven drops of sesame oil
3-4 large slices of ginger


Cut flank steak into inch cubes
Combine marinade ingredients. Put steak in a 1-gallon Ziplock bag and pour marinade over the meat. Seal bag and let soak for one to two days (overnight min.) You can do this in a glass bowl if you prefer, but you will need to stir the meat more often to make sure it is all soaking well.

Two hours before you are going to grill, cut the peppers and onions into 1-inch chunks and add to the bag of meat and marinade.

Assemble the meat and veggie skewers. Alternate meat and veggies and don't press them too close together. Don't put two pieces of meat next to each other.

Heat grill and put flame on medium high. Put skewers on the grill. Don't crowd them. When meat and veggies are brown with the beginnings of char (about five minutes) flip the skewers. Grill till both sides are done.

Celina Ottaway writes about food and community at

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.


If anyone really wants to run a half marathon while helping to save the lives of children, check out The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training program... We're working hard to create that ideal world!

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