Oh, this can't be local food. It's Chinese.
But the eggplant came from my backyard. The scallion and garlic came from the farmers market. The rice is from the Sacramento Valley. The pork is from Prather Ranch.
Naturally, a couple of ingredients couldn't possibly be local: the peanut oil, the soy sauce, the sesame oil and the chile bean paste.
But the best local thing of all was the inspiration for this recipe: Passionate Eater.
A former San Franciscan from Los Angeles, she recently moved to New Orleans (so she's a former local... sue me). By the way, she's ga-ga about her now-local Louisiana cuisine.
PE first turned me on to her Ma Po Tofu last year. I tried it. It worked! Dang, it was good.
Then I gave her fried rice recipe a try. I loved it.
I'd always been a "fake Chinese" cook, meaning I'd stir fry some vegetables with a bunch of meaningless flavorings and (gasp) thickeners. I always overdid the soy sauce. I'd add a peculiar squirt of hot sauce. I'd leave out the ginger and scallions.
And I hated my concoctions.
But the first time I tried Passionate Eater's tofu recipe, it SANG. I know, it's easy. Basic. But I had never been taught the rules.
So yesterday, I felt brave enough to fiddle with the rules. I cooked some eggplant grown in my backyard, and used it instead of the tofu. I think it worked out OK. It needed a spritz of sweetener (is that all right, PE?) and a drizzle of water to loosen up the mix.
I hope PE doesn't get all gumbo on me and forget to teach me how to make more of these amazing meals.