Sometimes it bothers me that I can’t buy any locally produced food. I get to thinking that if food can’t be grown here, maybe we shouldn’t live here. Clearly it’s an unenvironmental place to live if everything from greens to beef to beans has to be shipped here.
Then I remember that I’m here for an environmental reason. I work for a radioactive waste disposal site. And it’s here because there aren’t a lot of people here. Do you want radioactive waste stored anywhere near your city? Probably not. (Although the truth is that most of the locals here appreciate the repository’s presence, as it brings good jobs to the area and has had no environmental effect.) And there aren’t a lot of people here because stuff doesn’t grow here.
The upshot of this is that I have no qualms about buying California strawberries or Florida peaches. If I tried to follow a 100-mile diet in southern NM, we’d have to survive on pecans. Even the state’s prized green chiles are grown almost 200 miles away. I draw the line at Chilean berries, but anything from the US or Mexico is fair game.
If you try to eat local and you live farther north, you probably don’t have strawberries yet. When you do, here’s a great way to use them. These light, tender muffins are fragrant with lemon and studded with sweet berries. We enjoyed them while sitting outside in our sunbaked parched desert.
Makes 12 muffins
I substituted ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour for an equal amount of the all-purpose flour.
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1½ cups strawberries, chopped
1. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Spray the bottoms only of a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with paper liners. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
2. In a medium bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar. Whisk in the eggs, ricotta, buttermilk, vanilla, lemon juice, and butter. Pour the ricotta mixture into the flour mixture and fold until the flour is evenly dispersed but not completely mixed in. Add the strawberries and fold until the flour is moistened (some lumps are okay) and the strawberries are evenly distributed.
3. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean, 18-22 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, then use a thin-bladed knife to remove the muffins from the pan.