More and more, our nation’s food culture and how it relates to our health is being called into question. And more and more the comparison between our diet and that of other countries is raising some serious questions. People love to discuss the diets of others and wonder what makes the outcome so different. Think about the common discussion of the French eating cheese, cooking with butter, and drinking red wine. But what is often overlooked (although I will argue is becoming more apparent) is the simple argument of quality. We’ve grown accustomed to eating whatever we want, whenever we want it even if it means sacrificing quality. Were blown away if a restaurant runs out of a menu item, or if our grocery store doesn’t have a certain herb or vegetable. But is this really a bad thing?
My girlfriend and her sister just got back from a trip to Costa Rica. They haven’t stopped raving about the food, specifically the freshness of the diet. Fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, and fish. Dishes are prepared with simplicity highlighting the quality of the ingredients. But it was common for fruits to be unavailable one day, or to have entrees missing from the menu on any given night. All for one simple reason…the ingredients in question, if available at all, weren’t fresh. Therefore they werent served. Here’s to logic!
I’ve found similar experiences shopping for local ingredients whether it be in the green market in Union Square or even at Whole Foods which now has a fairly extensive “locally raised or farmed” product list. And I’m not just eluding to the seasonality of produce. The local grass fed beef among the other local fish and meat options, is available in certain cuts one day, and gone the next. What is fresh is available. So sure, you can’t always find what you were looking for, but sometimes what you end up with exceeds all expectation.
I had never had beef shank before but having seen them available, I couldn’t resist. A cut of meat meant to be braised over low heat for hours comes with some added decadence. The bone portion not only imparts great flavor to the beef while cooking, but the marrow that remains is unbelievable. I braised these shanks in a onion and red wine broth finished with baby spinach and served with polenta. Classic flavors, classic preparation, quality product! And just like Costa Rica, there was no leftovers to be served the next day…