Sunday, November 20th: Eat Local For Thanksgiving with Chef Dustin Ronspies of Art of the Table!

This is where the rubber meets the road, folks. If there is any time to eat local, it's Thanksgiving. After all, what's the point of giving thanks for the bounty on our tables if we do not know who to actually give thanks to? Well, when you Eat Local For Thanksgiving, you'll know the names of each of the farms that produced the ingredients that went into your Thanksgiving feast, and that means you can thank each and every one of them by name as you give thanks over your meal. How cool is that? And to help us with great ideas for Thanksgiving side dishes is Chef Dustin Ronspies of Art of the Table, who will be performing a cooking demonstration today at noon at your Ballard Farmers Market. Dustin has built his entire business around using what's fresh and local at your Ballard Farmers Market every week as the basis for his weekly menus, so if anyone can talk Eat Local For Thanksgiving, it's him!

Okay, it's time to go down the Thanksgiving grocery check list. And you might as well bring that entire list to your Ballard Farmers Market today. I mean, if for some reason you can't find it here, you'll still have four days to get it at the coop or Ballard Market, right? Let's start with an absolute staple: winter squash. Just look at these beauties from Growing Things Farm. You know, like with so many crops, 2011 was not a good year for winter squash harvests, but the ones our farmers did harvest are awesome, and the Market is flush with them today, so celebrate 'em while you can!

If you are looking at this photo thinking, "What the heck do sausages have to do with Thanksgiving dinner?", then you need to broaden your horizons a bit! These beautiful, farmstead sausages from Sea Breeze Farm are perfect to mix in with your stuffing, or to toss in with your mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. Their savory, spicy, fattiness adds complex flavors to all sorts of dishes. So don't think of them as a main course. Think of them as a seasoning!

Looking for flour to bake with, or to thicken that gravy? Or maybe you'd like to add a nice pilaf as a side dish. I imagine you have all manner of uses for the whole grains, cracked grains, flours and mixes offered by Bluebird Grain Farms. Well, Brooke Lucy returns today with your direct connection to your local grain grower. Everything else on your holiday table will be local. Shouldn't your grain products be local, too? Not to mention fresh and delicious!

Granny Smith apples from ACMA Mission Orchards make for great pies and sauces, and they've got a gorgeous fresh crop of them, and many other varieties of apples and pears, right now. And hey, don't just think desserts and sauces. Think stuffing, or roasting with squash and more. Few meals are more wonderful than Thanksgiving dinner for  celebrating the bounty of this year's local harvest of magnificent deliciousness. So pull out all the stops!

Beauregard sweet potatoes from Lyall Farms are another must for your Thanksgiving table. You can roast them whole, or cut them up. You can bake them in a casserole. You can mix them in with your mashed potatoes. You can even try them with a recipe I learned from some of the Mexican farmhands at Full Circle Farm years ago -- cube them, steam them until just tender, and then mash them with some canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and a little maple syrup. Yeah, baby!

Okay, just how many dishes will require fresh milk this week? You'll need them for your mashed potatoes, of course. And for that chocolate cream pie. So let's be thankful for Silver Springs Creamery for producing for us some of the most incredible, local jersey milk and goat milk you will find anywhere. Support your local dairy while enriching your meal.

Ah, the mighty Brussels sprout from Boistfort Valley Farm. It is peak season for them now. If you love them, you don't need me to sell you on them. But if you are one of those phobic types, then you clearly have never had them prepared properly. They are amazing oven roasted, but I love them sautéed with pancetta, shallots and a little white wine at the end to deglaze the pan and give them a little steam. You pork-phobic types can leave out the pancetta, I s'pose, if you must. Otherwise, sweat the chopped shallots while you render the fat out of the pancetta, and when they're both going good, add your halved and quartered sprouts. When they start to get bright green and a bit tender, hit the pan with some white wine for a few minutes, until nicely tender. Just don't overcook them. That's why most folks don't like them. They've always had them overcooked.

As for those aforementioned mashed potatoes, Olsen Farms has an amazing selection of the finest potatoes you will ever want. For mashing, I am a particular fan of these Viking purple potatoes, with their creamy, white flash that is pretty much put on this earth as a vehicle for butter. But you might be a German butterball fan. Who am I to judge?

Pumpkin pie is a staple of many a Thanksgiving feast, but too many people use that nasty canned stuff. But why, when Stoney Plains has these gorgeous sugar pie pumpkins just waiting for you? These babies are bred specifically for your pie-making pleasure. Please, do not deny them their destiny!

You might be thinking, "With all the food we'll have on our table this Thursday, do we really need bread, too?" Uh... yes!!! I mean, you are gonna take it home tonight, cube it up or tear it apart, toss it with olive oil and herbs and spices and roast it in the oven at low heat to dry it out, and then, on Thursday, you are going to make the most amazing stuffing with it. Woohoo! So stop by Grateful Bread Baking for just the right loaf, or three.

And the secret ingredient is schmaltz, or chicken fat. Use it in just about everything. From your mashed potatoes to your baked goods to a rub-down for your turkey, and on and on. Stokesberry Sustainable Farm produces this from their chickens. And they've also got plenty of turkey sausage right now. Work some of that into your stuffing, too, eh?

You'll be needing some incredible, heirloom jams and jellies to accompanying many of your dishes, and for that, Deluxe Foods has you covered. Hopefully, they've have some of this quintessentially Thanksgiving-esque quince jelly today, though you might have to get here early to get any. But hey, if not, they've go many more great flavors.

Parsnips from Nash's Organic Produce are great added to a root roast, stew or soup, but for Thanksgiving, I recommend blending some in with your mashed potatoes. Oh, sweet, creamy deliciousness!

Let us finish today's Eat Local For Thanksgiving epistle with the mighty rutabaga from Colinwood Farm. These, too, can be mashed in with your potatoes, but me, I like 'em steamed and mashed with lotsa butter all on their own. For my money, it just ain't Thanks For The Land Day without a healthy helping of bagas.

Hey, there is plenty of local deliciousness waiting for you today at your Ballard Farmers Market. Just check What’s Fresh Now! for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now.