Cooking,  Local Products

ELC Day #22- Fresh Tomato Soup

Where has August gone? There’s less than 10 days left until the end of the Eat Local America Challenge month, and so many good things to cook. Only a few days remain to dive into what this month is really all about: promoting the locavore movement.

My greatest hope for this project is not a million views a month. Sure, I’d quit my job, command a professional blogging career, and eat local food for a living. But let’s be honest, that’d be somewhere between utopia and paradise. Not likely.

Instead, the purpose of Minnesota Locavore is the possibility of change.  To help a few more readers to ask the same tough questions of our food system that I do.  To encourage a few more readers to start voting for local, with their dollars and their common sense. This week I’ll be adding in 3 major discussion points about what it means to be a locavore, and some of my thoughts on why I buy local.

Why Buy Local #1:  Fresh food is the best food.  Nothing is more fresh than local. 

We’ve all heard the statistic  that on average, our food travels more than 1,500 miles from grower to plate.  That’s 1,500 whopping miles and too many middle steps to count. Do I really want to eat a carrot that travels more miles in a year that I do?  Do I really want to know what has to be done to a carrot in order for it to travel that far, last on a supermarket shelf for a few more weeks, and still look edible in the little bag of pre-peeled chunks? Not so much.

What I really want to know is why we as Americans insist on owning the best house, in the best neighborhood, filled with the best electronics and a top-notch car out front, but we don’t demand the best on our plates?  We’re willing to pay 350% above cost for kitchen gadgets, but grumble at the premium on high quality, organic meat from a local farmer. We cringe at paying $2.99 a dozen for free-range local eggs that are hands-down the freshest on the shelf, because there’s a $0.99 option right next door.  But why?  Why do we settle?

The number one reason I don’t settle for less is simple.  Food is the fuel that sustains me as a human being.  Everyone’s got to eat. And if food is what keeps me alive, it had better be the best. Accepting anything else is to say, “Hey, I care more about saving some time and maybe a little money, than I do about caring for my body.” I demand fresh, less-processed food that is harvested at its peak and brought to my plate pronto. So should you.

Need more proof about the freshness difference?  Local tomatoes are plentiful and ripe right now.  Make a this fresh tomato soup, inspired by Mark Bittman’s recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian Try one pot with local tomatoes and another pot with supermarket tomatoes, trucked in from out of the region.  Trust me. Even your spoon will know the difference.

Fresh Tomato Soup 


2 Tbsp. sunflower oil Smude Sunflower Oil, Pierz, MN
2 Tbsp. tomato paste Homemade
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped St. Paul Farmers’ Market
1 large onion, chopped into 1/2″ pieces Homegrown
2 carrots, chopped into 1/2″ pieces Homegrown
2 stalks celery, chopped Homegrown
3 C. seeded, chopped tomatoes Homegrown
1/4 C mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped (thyme, basil, oregano–choose whatever you like) Homegrown
2 C. vegetable stock or water
1 tsp. maple syrup (optional) Sippl’s Sugarbush, Birnamwood, MN

1. Heat oil in a sauce pot over medium-heat until warm. Add tomato paste and heat 2-3 minutes until paste begins to soften and thin. Add garlic, onion and carrots and cook until tender 5 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes and herbs, and cook 10 minutes reducing heat if tomatoes begin to boil. Stir often to avoid scorching to the bottom. When tomatoes are soft, add liquid and return to a simmer. Simmer another 15 minutes until vegetables are soft.
3. Using a food processor or immersion blender, remove 3 cups of the soup and blend until smooth. Return to pot and mix together. (If you prefer a smoother soup, you may blend the entire pot.)
4. Taste soup and if necessary, add maple syrup to cut acidity of tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with additional fresh herbs.

Minnesota Locavore has been nominated for the 2011 CBS Minnesota’s Most Valuable Blogger award in the Dining and Entertainment category. Voting runs through September 9. If you like what you read here, please cast your vote today!

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