I’m on the road now, visiting my family in rural Virginia. Just how rural this is is up for debate. Yes, my parents’ small town is still small (thankfully), but the sprawl of D.C. has littered the roads from here to the beltway with more grocery stores than I can count, not to mention McDonald’s and Borders and Target. Fact is, the land is pretty out here and folks don’t mind spending hours in the car so they can live here but work there.
So we were in the car driving back from D.C. the other day when my dad surveyed the eight (or was it ten?) lanes of stop-and-go traffic and said, “I can’t imagine that when your kids are grown, this will be their dream.” With long-range predictions of gas prices topping out at $20 a gallon, something will have to give, and this life — the one followed by so many folks in the cars around us, with jobs in one place and houses in another — won’t be tenable. The price will simply be too high. I hope my kids have the sense to either live in the city or in the country, rather than trying to straddle two worlds.
I bring this up because “local” might be a buzzword in food circles these days, but its implications extend beyond eating what’s grown within a hundred miles. A recent article in The Atlantic pondered how energy might one day be locally generated, with wind or solar panels distributing power not across state lines but across a neighborhood, much as my neighbor in Denver does now.
Speaking of Denver, I heard that tomatoes aren’t in our farm-share bag this week. But in Virginia the growing season is a few weeks ahead, so they’re in. To celebrate our arrival, my parents picked up local tomatoes and green beans from a farm down the way. This is the dish we made, along with marinated pork tenderloin, roasted corn on the cob and crusty bread.
Tomato and Green Bean Salad
Adapted from EatingWell in Season: The Farmers’ Market Cookbook
1/4 cup cider vinegar
4 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon olive oil (not extra-virgin)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 15-ounce cans of white beans, or an equivalent amount of already-cooked dried beans
8 ounces green beans, trimmed
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved, plus a few beefsteaks or other full-size tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
2 ounces of goat cheese, if desired
Whisk the vinegar, honey, oil and salt together. Drain the beans, then add them to the vinaigrette and let sit for at least an hour in a non-reactive bowl. Boil a pot of salted water and cook green beans about 5 minutes. Drain and dry and add to the marinated beans. Gently add sliced tomatoes and basil and season with salt and pepper. Top each portion with a few slices of goat cheese and serve on a platter lined with sliced tomatoes, if desired.