"Viva la Local!"
Numerous signs and banners bearing this message could be seen everywhere. Look to your left, and you'd see a stand selling locally brewed kombucha in at least four different flavors.
Look to your right, and there are a couple smiling ladies setting out freshly made local/sustainable goat cheese and goat's milk soaps.
People mill about with cups of wine and beer made down the street, sampling grass-fed cheddar and stuffing organic pea shoots in canvas totes.
Standing in that field surrounded by artisan food and crafts, I could have been at some kind of hippy convention in Portland, Oregon. Or I could have been right at home in Tucson, at one of the most characteristic events the city offers.
You're not still trying to guess where I was... right?
Of course, if you live in Tucson, you already know that in the last, say, ten years, the city's food scene has really shot up into the culinarisphere as if gastronomical rocket fuel got stuck under its burners. People here are serious about eating. They're so serious that they'd rather not mess around with pomp and get right to the circumstance.
Food trucks. I'm talking about food trucks. Food trucks and farm stands and teeny-weeny mom + pop shops that get their food, literally, off the back of a truck that just drove 30 miles into town.
Thus is the culinary scene in Tucson, a land where it is never too cold to grow something, never too cold to walk outside, and (almost) never too cold to eat a prickly pear popsicle.
This past weekend I went to the Viva la Local Food festival, a twice-yearly event hosted by the Heirloom Farmer's Market that pops up a couple times a week around Tucson. This is just one of ten thousand and fifty food events (okay, I made that factoid up - but it's a lot) that tempt Tucsonians + visitors every year, but it had a very reasonable entry fee (can't beat $4) AND a huge number of unique vendors. Of course I went.
Not only did I go, but I went as one of the super-serious foodies that thrive in Tucson. If you saw someone fervently stuffing farm-fresh green beans + walnuts into a tote and local-organic-gluten-free-mequite waffles-from-a food-truck into their face, that was me. Or one of the thousands of other people there. But it was also me.
While I declined to form dreads out of my hair or pick up any tattoos for the occasion, as was in vogue for some at the festival, I certainly made the rounds geeking out on specialty food and drink. I bought far more farmer's market produce than may have been wise for a small household.
And yet. I really can eat a lot of veggies. Have I told you how I feel about broccoli? Yes, well, the feeling is similar when it comes to crunchy, roasted green beans. Make that lemony green beans with toasted walnuts and no one else might get any if they wanted it.
Since green beans have been a traditional side at many a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal for me, and lemons begin falling off our trees sometime between now and December, this seems to me to be the single best way to capitalize on all this produce. I'm sure if I had seen you at the festival, pondering the best way to eat everything you saw (and believe me, we were all pondering how to eat everything) I would have organized a pre-Thanksgiving feast for everyone to bring dishes made from Viva la Local purchases.
Next year. Let's make that happen. In the meantime, I hope you'll spend this holiday season with family - and being thankful! I'm thankful for you! (Really - thank you for stopping by!) In my appreciation, I'll give you a little something to add to your table - which, personally, I'm glad takes minimal extra effort - so you can just enjoy this simple dish of tastiful farm-fresh proportions.
Lemony Roasted Walnut + Green Bean Salad
2 lbs green beans, washed + ends trimmed
can of extra virgin olive oil cooking spray
Sea salt grinder, fresh-grated black pepper, garlic powder (if you have a larger-granule variety, use that), + onion powder to sprinkle
1 small-medium lemon (zest of whole lemon + 2 T. lemon juice)
1/2 c. walnuts (coarsely chopped before measuring)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Prep two to three large baking sheets by coating with olive oil cooking spray.
Spread out the green beans on each pan, making sure that the green beans are all flat on the pan, and have a little room between one another, if possible! Evenly coat all the green beans with the olive oil spray again.
Grate the sea salt and black pepper directly over the green beans, making sure to get a light coat over all the beans. Lightly sprinkle all the beans with the garlic and onion powders.
Roast in the oven for 12-14 minutes, or until they are cooked through to an "al dente" level - bright green and with just a slight crunch left.
During the last 6-7 minutes, place the walnuts on a baking sheet to toast. Keep your nose on alert: If you smell walnuts before the timer goes off, they're done!
Transfer the green beans and walnuts to a lare bowl and zest the lemon directly over them. Squeeze the juice (about 1 oz/2 T.) into the bowl. Toss to combine. If you like, you can add a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top as well.
Keep warm until serving by covering with foil!
Serves 8 as a side dish
Nutrition for 1/8 batch: 89 calories; 10 g carbs; 4 g fiber (for 6 net carbs); 5 g fat; 3 g protein