Cost, consistency and convenience – those are the three Cs that have made the American fast food industry a success, according to Stephanie Danahy, chef at Local, a kitchen shop and deli in Brunswick. Although she knows she can’t compete on cost, she aims to bring the other two to Local.

Her selection of house-made soups (such as chilled blueberry yogurt or mushroom barley soups) and vegetable dishes (gingered beets or sugar snap pea, mint and feta) will never be on anybody’s Dollar Menu. The seasonal ingredients alone cost more than that to source, and that’s not taking into account prep time and packaging the items for eating on the go.

Soups run $3.75 for a cup. Salads, sold by weight, start at $8.95 per pound, and the average sandwich, on bread from Standard Baking Co., will set you back $6.95.

In her own small corner of the food world, though, Danahy is working to close the consistency and convenience gaps between slow food and fast food. On Mondays, she has a big-picture plan for what she’ll put in the deli case that week. “But details change because one farmer got an early crop of something we weren’t expecting, and a crop we were expecting is no longer available. So you adapt,” Danahy said, adding that retailers must learn to articulate the rationale behind these changes to customers.

“It’s a good thing I won’t serve the Brussels sprouts salad you had last November in July,” she said. “I have learned not to make any dish if it doesn’t taste the same as it would when the produce is at its peak. It’s a different kind of consistency.”

Regarding the third C, convenience, Danahy offered a few tips on how to make local food quickly on a tight weekly schedule.

 Process produce as soon as you get home from the farmers market. Wash and dry greens, cut vegetables, blanch peas and beans, and store each separately in the refrigerator. “Prep to the point where you can simply assemble a salad on a Tuesday night after work,” Danahy said.

 Make more vinaigrette than you need so it’s handy for more than just one salad or ready to use as a simple marinade. Use the same principle for soups – make a double batch and freeze half.

 Dress only the portion of a salad you will eat within 20 minutes or it will wilt. If you need to dress a salad well ahead of time, add whole grains – such as farro or barley, which soak up the flavor of the vinaigrette and insulate the vegetables from the acid that breaks them down.

Danahy’s final piece of advice: Even if you prepare it fast, eat it slowly and savor (and don’t use disposable plasticware, either).


Recipe from Stephanie Danahy of Local in Brunswick.

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound sugar snap peas, strings discarded

7 medium radishes, halved and thinly sliced

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

3 tablespoons julienned fresh mint

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons honey

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the snap peas for 2 minutes. Drain, then plunge them into a bowl of ice and cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain again and pat dry.

Toss the peas with the radishes, feta, mint and salt in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the lime juice and honey together, then slowly whisk in olive oil.

Add 1/3 of the dressing to the pea mixture. Toss. Store the remaining dressing in a container for future use – and a head start on your next fast meal.

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