Undoubtedly the hottest topic in the culinary world today is that of the importance of eating local, sustainable food. For several months now, I, too, have been trying to eat locally--but in a different sense than people like Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver advocate. What I've been attempting to do is to incorporate more of the distinctive ingredients for sale in my neighborhood into my cooking. I live in south Park Slope (South Slope to us locals), an area with a large Latino population, and ever since I moved here in September I have--slowly but surely--been modifying what I cook to include a wider variety of the foodstuffs I see in my nearby grocery stores and supermarkets. Corn tortillas, for example, are now a staple that I keep in my freezer at all times. On a rarer occasion, I might, say, slow-roast a huge pork shoulder in the common Puerto Rican style. I think it's important to adapt your habits--including your shopping and cooking--to where you live. Personally, putting this idea into practice makes me feel more a part of my neighborhood, and more in touch with the people who live in it.
I kept this mantra in mind when, looking to satisfy an intense steak craving, I went shopping for my dinner earlier today. I found a nice-looking skirt steak--an inexpensive and reliable cut of beef--and decided to marinate it in a mixture of olive oil, lime juice, cumin and salt, then sear it, slice it, and fold it into the aforementioned tortillas resting in my freezer. I wanted to make a quick tomato salsa to crown the tacos with, and as I instinctively reached for the bunch of cilantro in the produce section of my local Associated supermarket, I noticed its more seldom seen cousin, culantro, lurking nearby. I had heard of culantro on the PBS cooking show Daisy Cooks!, and knew that it made an acceptable, if stronger-tasting, substitute for cilantro in recipes. In my continued effort to try out new ingredients, I decided to purchase it in cilantro's stead. Here's what it looks like:
Before I put it into my salsa, I tasted a bit of it. For me it's similar to cilantro, but more peppery-tasting, with a stronger bite. Its leaves are also a bit thicker than cilantro's, and lent a more substantial textural element to the finished salsa:
And, finally, the main event: skirt steak tacos with avocado and fresh salsa. Local eating at its best.