Deer, beer and wild 'shrooms 

Secrets to serving up a Montana-style spread

When you put together the list of all the things you're grateful for this Thanksgiving, a few of the usual suspects are sure to appear: family, friends, health, the invention of Snuggies—stuff like that. But there's one thing you should add to your list, regardless of what else is on it: Missoula's increasingly bountiful local food system. Every year, there's more and more emphasis from local restaurants and groceries on educating the public about cooking with and ultimately serving up locally sourced ingredients. It's not always the easiest route, especially during Montana's winter months, nor is it necessarily the cheapest option, but cultivating our homegrown culinary creativity does an immeasurable job helping to define our sense of place.

In that spirit, we're keeping the focus firmly on hometown fare for our annual food issue. We asked four chefs known for their commitment to area foods (and one organization known for harvesting area meat) to provide hyper-local, Montana-inspired recipes for an epic Thanksgiving feast. The results are inventive, simple to execute and almost entirely reliant on ingredients found right here in western Montana, and that's something we think all of us can be thankful for this holiday season.



Salad

Autumnal Beet and Apple Salad

Rain Smith, pantry chef, Biga Pizza

What you'll need:

1 bunch red Swiss chard

1 bunch purple kale

3 large Lifeline Farm beets, roasted and cubed

2 Bitterroot honeycrisp apples, sliced

Lifeline Farm's Feta-U-Betta, crumbled

Roasted spiced pumpkin seeds from a Clark Fork Organics pumpkin

For the pumpkin seeds:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

For the apple-ginger-chili vinaigrette:

1/2 cup Swanson's apple cider

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup jalapeño jam from Mountain View Jams

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup vegetable oil

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER

How to make it:

Place the beets in a roasting pan or Dutch oven with 1 1/2 inches of water. Roast at 400 degrees for 90 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool (Chef's note: cold water can be used to expedite this). Gently squeeze beets to remove skins.

Store-bought pumpkin seeds are fine, but you can also roast your own. You'll need to halve 1 pie pumpkin and remove seeds. (Chef's note: You can also roast the pumpkin, face down, with the beets for an hour and use it for a pie, pasta, soup, etc.) Rinse the seeds with cold water and strain, then toss in a bowl with the olive oil. Coat the seeds with the salt, garlic powder, paprika, chili flakes, chili powder and turmeric. Place seeds on lined or oiled baking sheet and toast at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden.

To make the apple-ginger-chili vinaigrette, place all of the ingredients into a blender—except the vegetable oil. Blend. As the blender is moving, add in a slow stream of the vegetable oil.

Once your components are prepared, wash, dry and julienne the chard and kale. Toss the chard and kale with vinaigrette, then top with beets, apples, Feta-u-Betta and roasted pumpkin seeds.

A word from Biga owner Bob Marshall:

Our restaurant's specials are inspired by what's available that week, and this autumnal salad calls for a number of easily accessible seasonal ingredients.

At Biga Pizza, we pride ourselves in bringing a first-rate level of quality to our menu by using as much local food and as many local services as possible while maintaining a fair price to our customers. We accomplish this by incorporating local, organic foods that are harvested at their prime, and working with local farmers such as Montana Flour and Grains, Clark Fork Organics, Lifeline Farms, Farm to Market Pork, County Rail Farms and others through the Western Montana Growers Co-op.

In Missoula, we are fortunate to have many wonderful organic farmers who have honed their seed selection and farming practices to maximize our short, intense growing season. The produce we receive from them is usually harvested the same day and didn't spend time/fuel getting trucked in from 2,000 miles away. Most importantly, when we purchase meats, flour, produce and other items from local growers, the revenue stays in Montana. It helps them support their families and enables them to have money to spend in our vibrant local economy.

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