Out here in Montana we don’t have the deciduous tree display like they do back east — we do have surprising splashes of gold aspens on mountainsides dark with conifers — last week I took the dogs up to Pine Creek for a hike and as we were driving into the trailhead there were two yellow aspens, halfway up the mountain, illuminated by the sunlight streaking down the canyon — just two, glowing like candles. One of the many reasons to live here.
Anyhow, we don’t have the gorgeous red and gold and orange displays of the east, but what we do have is fall veggies, roasted hot until they’re slightly caramelized. I have a bumper crop of beets this year, and although I didn’t grow as many carrots as I now wish I had, I have a solid stash of carrots. Deep Creek Green, our local source of fabulous veggies, let most of their fields go fallow this year but they still seem to have come up with a crop of their delicious garlic, and Mark Rehder who is farming both in town and on a 10-acre parcel just outside of town has some beautiful pumpkins and squash.
Because I’ve been trying to pay more attention to my energy consumption, and because I’m really kind of lazy, I’ve started ganging up my cooking. If I’m doing a chicken, I’ll throw in two or three dishes of veggies to roast — and so now I have a refrigerator full of roasted carrots and beets, some squash puree, and leftover roast chicken (I have written before about my near-religious devotion to the powers of a roast chicken).
So, yesterday, trying to decide what to eat for lunch, I pulled out the leftover squash and smooshed some onto a tortilla. Then I added some of the gorgeous beet salsa I made with roasted beets, a chopped shallot from the garden (shallots are easy to grow and expensive to buy), some green tomato salsa, a little leftover chicken and some of last week’s ricotta. Plus a little Herdez Ranchera sauce to perk things up — and there you have it — a sort of swanky “gourmet” lunch made with all local ingredients in five minutes (well, fifteen if you count the time to heat it up in my cast iron pan). With a glass of my delicious local milk — what more could a girl want?
One thing I like about having a lot of stuff in the fridge like that is the way it allows you to keep making up new combos. I’m not one of those people who is good at following recipes — I wind up improvising — so a fridge full of lovely, pre-roasted veggies and chicken or some pork shoulder looks to me like a fun palette of flavors that I can keep combining and recombining all week.
And they’re beautiful. Orange squash. Beets like jewels. My own carrots which are so much better than any carrot I can find in a store. Bright green chard that was growing in my backyard five minutes ago.