Thursday, June 20, 2019

In Season: Summer Avalanche Warning


It wasn't an auspicious beginning to a meeting. As I sat down to talk with Josh Alsberg, aka "Fruit Monkey" and proprietor of Rubinette Produce in the wondrous land of food that is Providore Fine Foods, he said he had sad news.

"Strawberries are done," he deadpanned.

Hood strawberries.

My shocked expression caused him to quickly add, "I mean Hoods. The heat cut them off." Then Alsberg assured me that we will be seeing other varieties like Seascapes and Albions through the summer and into September, though the harvest this year is looking slimmer than usual—the word he used was "trickle"—so he's advising you strawberry addicts out there to get to the farmers' markets on the early side to get your fix.

In happier news, he said the bounty of other berries is about to bury us, and he's started to see raspberries, blackberries, tayberries and loganberries on farmers' fresh sheets. He expects marionberries and local blueberries to appear en masse by the 4th of July, and the "bloobs," as we refer to them here at home, should stick around well into August.

Blueberries ahoy!

A caveat: Alsberg emphasizes that the summer's heat will affect all the berries—it can make strawberries more woody. He said the best time to buy berries at the markets is on the early side while they're still cool, then process them soon after you get home so they're not sitting around in the heat. As for freezing, his advice is to spread the berries out on sheet trays—the industry refers to it as "IQF" or "Individually Quick Freeze"—before freezing and bagging. (I hasten to add that Monsieur Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm would disagree…)

Cherries aplenty

Alsberg also crows that "cherries are on!" and we should be seeing local—he includes Washington's Yakima-area fruit in that definition—red-fleshed varieties like Attikas, Royal Brooks and Chelans at farmers' market stalls. Pro tip: Alsberg shares that local cherries tend to be more expensive at the beginning of the season when the harvest is just getting going, so if you can hold off until after July 4th, you should see prices begin to drop somewhat. (Wink wink, nudge nudge.)

Costata romesco squash.

It's not all fruit out there, either, and despite his Fruit Monkey moniker, Alsberg is equally excited about the coming avalanche of vegetables about to bury us in local green (and yellow and red and…). We're in the throes of squash season, he says, with zucchini, crookneck, eight-ball (a type of ball-shaped zucchini), pattypan and costata romanesco (a ribbed green summer variety) flooding in. You'll also find alliums in abundance, with scapes of all sorts—leek, shallot, garlic, etc.—sticking around for a bit, soon to be overshadowed by fresh, as opposed to cured, Walla Wallas, red onions, scallions and fresh shallots.

Sprouting cauliflower.

There is the slightest whisper about local tomatoes starting to appear, but Alsberg said that it'll be mid-July before they'll be available in any quantity. Peas, asparagus and favas, those fleeting bright green delights of spring, are on their way out, as are the spring roots like radishes and turnips, but cucumbers are coming and local lettuces are in their glory right now. Romano beans and their compatriots are just starting to appear, as are all the herbs, including my favorites, basil and tarragon, along with local celery and carrots, as well as newer faces like sprouting cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli (referred to as PSB in certain circles).

A rainbow of potato varieties.

Alsberg didn't realize he'd made "ze leetle joke" when he said that "new potatoes are starting to turn up" (ha!), but shoppers should find yellow, red and fingerlings aplenty. With warming temperatures, rhubarb will be getting scarce, but don't despair, local eggplant is coming, as are melons (by the end of July) and apricots.

Other bits and bobs to look for include orach, a red-leaved plant in the same family as spinach and chard, and arugula. Local corn will be coming around the end of July, as will the plethora of peppers from sweet to hot. You'll start seeing plums in mid-July with the full panoply appearing in August along with table grapes.

My advice? Boot up your spreadsheets and make a plan to use some of this local goodness now with schemes to preserve some for winter!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Summer Reading List for Food-ophiles


Civil Eats, which I like to think of as a national version of Good Stuff NW (ahem…), has just put out its summer reading list of books about our food system, 21 New and Noteworthy Food and Farming Books to Read This Summer.

Included are a wide range of topics, from Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C. by Ashanté M. Reese, to Robyn Metcalfe's Food Routes: Growing Bananas in Iceland and Other Tales from the Logistics of Eating. There are a few more traditional(-ish) cookbooks, too, like Indian(-ish): Recipes and Antics From a Modern American Family by Priya Krishna with Ritu Krishna, and Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables, 100+ Recipes and 230+ Variations by Abra Berens. There's even a celebrity(-ish) tome from author and journalist Michael Pollan's mom and three sisters called Mostly Plants: 101 Delicious Flexitarian Recipes from the Pollan Family.

I also contributed a review to this collection, of an engaging book from first-time author Stephany Wilkes called Raw Material: Working Wool in the West (top photo) that describes her transition from high tech executive in Silicon Valley to itinerant sheep shearer in the American West. My review said, in part, that she "brings to life the cast of the interesting characters and ornery sheep she encounters on her journey to understand the ranchers and the land they steward, and [to] discover the terroir of wool."

Five Fabulous Summer Cocktails


For once I'm not going to give you a lengthy lead-in, describing sipping margaritas over a long evening watching the waves wash in as the sun set at a little palapa on the Malecón in Puerto Vallarta—true story!—or waxing eloquent about cachaça, the fermented sugar cane brandy of Brazil. Nope, I'm getting right to the recipes, because that's what's important when you've got a hankering for a cold drink on a hot summer day. Cheers!

Dave's Ultra Margarita
Adapted from the Coyote Cafe

2 Tbsp. extrafine sugar
6 Tbsp. lime juice
3 oz. blue agave tequila
2 tsp. Cointreau or triple sec
Kosher salt
1 lime

Put large-size martini glasses in freezer to chill. Fill cocktail shaker 2/3 full of ice. Put all ingredients into shaker. Shake till "the sound starts to change just a little bit" (10-15 seconds at most). Take glasses out of freezer. Put salt in a wide, shallow container. Cut a small wedge of lime, make small cut in center of the wedge from cut edge to pith. Put over edge of glass and run the wedge around it. Holding the glass at an angle, submerge the edge in the pile of salt and twirl. Put one large ice cube in glass. Pour 1/2 of margarita mixture in each glass.

* * *

Caipirinha

1 heaping Tbsp. superfine (baker's) sugar
1/2 lime
2 oz. cachaca

Trim ends off lime so white rind is gone. Cut lengthwise and remove pith from center. Slice almost all the way through perpendicular to axis of lime, leaving rind side intact. Slice diagonally a couple of times, again, not slicing through. Cut in half, perpendicular to axis and put in glass flesh side up.

Put sugar over lime. Muddle gently, squeezing out all the juice you can. Put into shaker. Fill with ice. Add the cachaca. Shake. Pour with ice into tumbler.

* * *

Gimlet

2 oz. gin
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup*

To make simple syrup, in a small mixing bowl stir 1 c. sugar (or superfine baker's sugar) into 1 c. water until dissolved.

Fill cocktail shaker with ice, add ingredients, shake very well and strain into martini glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

* Think about simple syrup differently, and your cocktail can suddenly take on a whole different character. Infuse the syrup with rhubarb or elderflower or basil or…?

* * *

Americano Cocktail

1 1/2 oz. Campari
1 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
Club soda
Lemon twist

Fill cocktail glass half full of ice. Add Campari and sweet vermouth. Top with club soda and stir to combine. Add lemon twist.

* * *

Mojito
Adapted from Williams Sonoma's The Bar Guide

6 fresh mint leaves
1-1/2 Tbsp. simple syrup
1 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
Crushed ice
2 oz. light rum
2 oz. club soda
Lime wedge for garnish

Put mint leaves into a highball glass. Add simple syrup and lime juice. Muddle gently (try to leave the leaves whole rather than tearing them up too much...that way you won't have to strain them through your teeth when you drink it). Fill glass with crushed ice and add rum and soda. Garnish with lime wedge.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin': Meatloaf with Greens & Cheese


Do you ever get an idea in your head and it just sits there, occasionally tweaking your brain with that "now what was that" niggling feeling? That was the case when I was thawing out some pasture-raised hamburger from Carman Ranch the other night, wondering whether to make burgers—we had leftover homemade buns in the freezer—or a marinara with pasta, or tacos or…meatloaf?

Pat out the meat and top with cheese and greens.

That's when it hit me. That idea I'd toyed with at some point in the misty past to make a meatloaf with the usual sofrito of onions and garlic, binding it with eggs and oats, but then flattening it out, filling it with with greens and rolling it up like a jelly roll.

How would I roll it up? Would it stay together or crumble into a mashy mess? There was only one way to find out.

Pull away the sheet as you roll.

Fortunately, my neighbor Bill had gifted me some radishes from his garden with their gorgeous greens still attached, and we had some leftover grated Parmesan from a risotto I'd made the night before. The rest, as they say, was history.

Rolled Meatloaf with Greens and Cheese

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs. hamburger
1 1/2 lbs. ground pork
2 eggs
1/2 c. rolled oats
1 Tbsp. dried herbs (I used a combination of basil, oregano and thyme)
2-3 c. greens, sliced into chiffonade (I used radish greens, but kale, spinach, chard or any other greens would do.)
1 c. finely grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat olive oil in medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add chopped onion and sauté until tender. Add garlic and sauté briefly until aromatic. Take off heat and allow to cool.

Combine hamburger, pork*, eggs, oats and onion mixture in a large bowl. (I mix it using just my fingers so the meat stays crumbly and doesn't get clumped together.) Form the meat into a loose ball in the bowl.

Lay out a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap about 15" long on a cutting board. Put the meat in the center of the sheet and start pressing it out until it's about 3/8" thick. Sprinkle it with the cheese and the greens in an even layer. Take the long edge of the sheet and start rolling it, repairing any cracks with your fingers, peeling away the sheet as you roll. Close up each end by patting the meat over the exposed edges.

When it's rolled up completely, transfer seam-side down to a sheet pan that's lined with parchment. Bake in a 375° oven for 40-50 minutes until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part reads between 140-150° (cookbooks all say 160°, but I find that results in drier meatloaf, so you decide for yourself). Remove from oven, tent with foil and allow to rest for 15 min. Slice and serve.

* I like a combination of beef and pork, since it seems to me to make a moister loaf, but all-beef is perfectly fine, too.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Smokin' Dinner: Puerto Rican-Style Smoked Pork Shoulder & Black Beans


When I invited two of my favorite Italian restaurant owners over for dinner, the last thing they were going to hear from me was, "Wait until you try my risotto. I think you'll love it!"

So I went in a completely different direction, to the small island east of Cuba that was hammered so mercilessly by Hurricane Maria a little less than two years ago, an island filled with our fellow American citizens who are still all but ignored in the sturm und drang of our current national crises du jour.

Going into the smoker.

It's hard to find this island's cuisine represented on our local dining scene, and while the flavors of cumin, garlic and chile are found in many Latin cultures, I thought it might be fun to make a dinner based on a Puerto Rican theme. Plus we love their take on pork shoulder, a dish called pernil that, though delicious when roasted in an oven or even on a grill, takes on a whole different character when left for several hours in the smoker.

With Dave primed to spend his day, beer in hand, tending the fire, I needed to come up with a side that would fit in. It just so happened that I had some black turtle beans from Anthony and Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm in the pantry, so I put them on to soak while I did a little research.

Ready to go! (And check out that smoke ring.)

Similar to the black beans I make for taco nights at home, traditional preparations start with a sofrito of onions, garlic, cumin and chile powder, then add in chopped peppers, splashes of wine and vinegar, and chopped olives. These are best simmered for several hours, allowing the beans to get buttery-tender and for flavors to meld into a rich, stewy whole, so I put them on first thing in the morning. Cooking them overnight in a 250° oven would work, too, the only problem being you'd wake up wanting to make huevos rancheros after breathing in the heady aroma of the cooking beans all night.

Dave, of course, did his usual magic with the pernil, allowing the pork to roast low and slow, swathed in the smoke from the mix of charcoal and fresh oak. And the beans got their share of raves, along with sincere thanks from our friends, who, like most chefs I've cooked for, are just grateful to have someone cook for them for once!

Pernil
Adapted from Mark Bittman

1 pork shoulder, 4-10 lbs.
4 or more cloves garlic, peeled
1 large onion, quartered
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves or 1 Tbsp. dried
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ancho or other mild chili powder
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil as needed
1 Tbsp. wine or cider vinegar
Lime wedges for serving.

Heat oven to 300 degrees or prepare a fire in the smoker, allowing it to reach a stable temperature of 250-275°.

Score meat with a sharp knife, making a cross-hatch pattern. Pulse garlic, onion, oregano, cumin, chili, salt and pepper together in a food processor, adding oil in a drizzle and scraping down sides as necessary, until mixture is pasty. Blend in the vinegar.

Rub this mixture into pork, getting it into every nook and cranny. Put pork in a roasting pan and film bottom with water or, if smoking in the smoker, place it on a rack above a pan of water. Roast pork for several hours until an instant-read thermometer reads 180°. [Our 10-lb. shoulder took 6 hrs. - KB]. Add more water to the pan as necessary, until meat is very tender.

Let meat rest for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting it up; meat should be so tender that cutting it into uniform slices is almost impossible; rather, whack it up into chunks. Serve with lime.

* * *

Puerto Rican-Style Black Beans

1  lb. dried black beans, rinsed thoroughly
3  Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1  large yellow onion, chopped
2 poblano peppers, chopped in 1/2" pieces
4 to 5  garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. oregano
4 c. water
3  bay leaves
1 Tbsp. salt, plus more to taste
2  Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2  c. dry white wine
1/2  c. green olives stuffed with pimentos, thinly sliced

The day before cooking, soak beans overnight in large pot with water covering them by at least 3". The next day drain them and rinse. Set aside.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in large Dutch oven. Sauté onions until translucent, stirring frequently. Add chopped peppers and garlic and sauté until tender. Add cumin and oregano and sauté 30 seconds. Pour in water and add drained beans, olives, bay leaves, vinegar, and white wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, for at least 2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure the beans aren't dry. If they are, add more water.

When beans are tender, if beans are too soupy remove lid and keep simmering until liquid is reduced. Remove bay leaves, turn heat down to warm until ready to serve.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Your Food, Your Legislature: Take Action to Protect Oregon from Invasive Canola


Canola has a long and sordid history in Oregon going back to 1990, when it was designated as a controlled crop with strict regulations on where it could be grown in the Willamette Valley, because of its habit of cross-pollinating with other crops. And ever since, producers have come back again and again to try to expand the restrictions on its production.

On July 1, current rules that cap annual canola production at 500 acres in the Willamette Valley expire, and—suprise, surprise—once again canola producers are attempting to roll back that restriction. The Oregon Legislature is considering SB 885, a bill that would maintain the current 500 acre per year cap indefinitely.

Canola field in Boardman, Oregon.

Meanwhile, according to Ivan Maluski, Policy director of Friends of Family Farmers, the ODA has announced a newly proposed rule to replace current expiring canola restrictions. "This draft proposal simply falls short of what is necessary to protect the unique attributes of the Willamette Valley’s specialty seed industry," Maluski writes. "ODA’s proposal includes no acreage cap, doesn’t explicitly prohibit canola production in a proposed Isolation Area, doesn’t prohibit herbicide tolerant or genetically engineered canola varieties, and leaves large parts of the Willamette Valley unprotected."

What can you do about it? You can e-mail your legislators and tell them to maintain the current restrictions as outlined in SB 885 (sample letter at bottom). You can also submit e-mail comments on the ODA canola rule by Friday, June 21 at 5 pm (sample text at bottom; written comments can be sent to Sunny Summers, Oregon Department of Agriculture, 635 Capitol St. NE, Salem, OR 97301).

Canola blossom.

Why should you bother? Here's what I wrote in 2012:

"The Willamette River, from its headwaters in the Calapooya Mountains outside of Eugene to its confluence with the Columbia north of Portland, forms the base of a long narrow valley that not only contains 70% of the state's population, it's also Oregon's most fertile agricultural area. Averaging only 25 miles wide, the valley's rich volcanic and glacial soil was deposited here by ancient Ice Age flooding and can be half a mile deep in some areas.

"Orchards, vineyards and farmland vie with urban areas for space in its narrow confines, and some crops have been tightly controlled to prevent problems with cross-pollination from the distribution of pollen by the wind, water and dust churned up by traffic along its length. Canola, also known as rapeseed, has been one of those controlled crops and has been regulated in Oregon since 1990.

"Because it is a member of the Brassica family (Brassica napus, B. rapa and B. juncea), it can cross-pollinate with with similar brassicas like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and turnips, endangering these valley crops and the farmers who depend on them for their livelihoods. With the bulk of the domestic canola crop also contaminated with GMOs (approx. 93%), this presents a particular threat to organic farmers and seed producers, since current USDA Organic guidelines do not allow for genetically engineered material."

Canola cross-pollinates with other brassicas.

The Oregon Dept. of Agriculture (ODA) issued a temporary ruling in 2012 to allow planting of the crop in certain formerly protected areas, prompting Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF), the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and three Willamette Valley specialty seed producers to file suit to stop the ruling from taking effect. As a result, the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the ODA's action, whereupon the ODA filed for a permanent ruling to allow growing of canola, prompting the legislature to pass a ban on the production of canola in most of the valley through 2018. Unfortunately, in 2015 a handful of canola growers unhappy with the previous bill pushed through HB 3382, which authorized 500 acres of commercial canola production per year from 2016 through July of 2019.

What all this means that if you care about being able to buy locally grown, organic, non-GMO produce at the farmers' market or greengrocer's, it would behoove you to write your legislators and submit a comment to the ODA. I've made it simple to do by supplying suggested text (below) that you can copy and paste into your e-mails or letters. (Thanks to FoFF for supplying bullet points).

* * *

(Find your legislator here.)

Dear [legislator],

I am writing to urge you to support SB 885. We must maintain current restrictions on Willamette Valley canola production that expire July 1 in order to protect the region’s important specialty seed industry and the hundreds of farmers, gardeners, and food producers who depend on it.

Thank you,

[your name and address]

* * *

(Here's the ODA's e-mail address.)

Dear Director Taylor:

I am writing because the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s draft proposal to address the risks from canola production falls far short of what is necessary to protect the unique attributes of Oregon’s world-renowned specialty seed industry.

I oppose the draft rule because it includes no acreage cap, doesn’t prohibit canola inside the proposed Isolation Area, doesn’t prohibit herbicide tolerant or genetically engineered canola varieties, and leaves many Willamette Valley farmers unprotected from the risks associated with canola.

The final rule should include: an acreage cap not to exceed 500 acres per year inside the Willamette Valley Protected District; a clear prohibition on canola production inside the proposed Isolation Area; a larger Isolation Area where no production of canola would be allowed; clear protections for seed farmers outside the proposed Isolation Area; and a clear prohibition on growing herbicide tolerant or genetically engineered varieties of canola.

Thank you,

[your name and address]

Friday, May 31, 2019

Breakfast? Dessert? Company? Try This Versatile Olive Oil Cake!


I've been posting contributor Jim Dixon's recipes for years, and his approach to cooking with whatever's in season with minimal fuss is right up my alley. Right now he's expanding Real Good Food's selection of imported and local goodness—olive oil, spices, vinegars, sauces, etc.—and moving to a new location in order to bring more tastiness to Portland's tables. More on his grand opening in a future post, but for now here's his latest twist on a classic olive oil cake!

Olive Oil Cake with Fennel Pollen

I adapted this recipe from Tenuta di Capezzana, the Tuscan winery and olive oil producer, and it uses more extra virgin olive oil than any other olive oil cake recipe I've seen.

3 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 c. milk
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. fennel pollen*

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit a 12-inch cake pan (I usually make this in a 12-inch cast iron skillet); drizzle some olive oil into the pan, then place the parchment paper and slide it around so it’s well-oiled.

Blend the eggs and sugar together in a medium-sized bowl, then stir in the olive oil and milk. In another large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and fennel pollen. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and slowly add the egg mixture, stirring just until blended.

Do not over mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan on top of the parchment paper.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let the cake cool completely, then loosen the sides with a knife, and invert onto a serving plate (hold the plate against cake pan and flip…hopefully it will come out in one piece). Remove the parchment paper, slice, and eat.

* In response to a question posed on Facebook about the taste of fennel pollen, Jim had this to say: "Fennel pollen, more accurately called fiore di finocchio in Italian since it contains bits of flower and pollen, has the same flavor as fennel seed but a bit more delicate. It's a key ingredient in porchetta, and the stuff we sell at Real Good Food comes from Monte San Savino in Tuscany, where a lot of the roadside porchetta trucks get their stuffed suckling pig roasts. I like it on salmon, too."

Saturday, May 25, 2019

A Trip to the Farm with Auntie: Picking Elderflowers


Saturday morning there was a a two-word e-mail from Anthony Boutard at Ayers Creek Farm. Under the subject line "Elders" it read "In bloom." That was enough for me to cancel my plans for the day, gather up my nine-year-old nephew—who was staying with us while his parents had a well-deserved getaway at the coast—and hit the highway.

Elderflower blossoms.

Arriving at the farm, Carol handed over the key to the Gator along with a bucket—my nephew asked if there were seat belts and I hollered, "Nope! Hang on!"—and we bounced along the track Anthony had mowed to a back field. I knew from previous trips that the elderberries were scattered among an eclectic collection of trees on a west-facing slope overlooking the farm's wetland. And sure enough, pretty soon I could see the white clusters of blossoms glowing against the bushes' dark foliage.

Mixed and ready to infuse for three days.

Pulling up to the nearest shrub, the flowery perfume of the blossoms enveloped us, and I set to clipping off the most mature clusters. Trundling through the tall grasses, flitting from shrub to shrub gathering blossoms like bees collecting pollen, the bucket quickly filled and we headed back to the house.

Strain into containers and freeze. Easy!

Back in the city that afternoon, I spent a good two hours pulling the blossoms from the stems, a tedious but necessary job since the dark stems of the flower clusters are toxic, though the tiny green stems attached to each flower aren't a problem. Last year I'd infused vodka with the flowers to make a liqueur similar to St. Germain, the artisanal French product. Since, after a year of aging it had just begun to be drinkable, I decided to make syrup this year, which only takes about three days to be ready to use. (Here's the basic recipe.)

I'd made the simple syrup earlier so it could cool while I picked the flowers from the stems, then I stirred the blossoms into it and covered it with a clean dish towel. Three days later, I strained it through a fine mesh sieve and it was good to go. Dave immediately started trying it out on cocktails, which you'll find below. With almost two gallons of syrup stashed in pint containers in the freezer, I've got plenty to experiment with, so I'll keep you posted as more uses come to light.

Elderflower Gin Spritz

2 oz. elderflower syrup
1 oz. gin
Soda water
Sprig of mint
Strip of lemon zest

Fill Collins cocktail glass two-thirds full of ice. Add elderflower syrup and gin, then top off with soda water. Stir briefly to combine and add mint and lemon zest. For a non-alcoholic but very refreshing drink, simply omit the gin.

* * *

Elderflower Gimlet

2 oz. gin
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
3/4 oz. elderflower syrup

Fill cocktail shaker with ice, add ingredients, shake very well and strain into martini glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Impossible Burger: Industrial Scam with a Side of Glyphosate


A couple of articles have come across my radar lately that are worth noting, and they fit in with some conversations I've been having, both casually and work-wise. Those conversations have to do with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), laboratory-produced synthetic meat products—the industry likes the hygenic "clean meat" label because it doesn't have the "dirty" association with farms and killing animals for food—and glyphosate, the active ingredient in the pesticide Roundup made by Monsanto, which has been found guilty of causing plaintiffs' cancers in three recent trials, as well as being labeled a carcinogen by the state of California.

Impossible burger.

The articles involve the Impossible Burger, which its manufacturer enthusiastically lauds as "making meat using plants, so that we never have to use animals again. That way, we can eat all the meat we want, for as long as we want. And save the best planet in the known universe." It claims to taste just like meat, too, and to "bleed" (i.e. leak juices) when cooked just like a normal hamburger.

All this good news has the tech-bros in Silicon Valley and the VC dudes weak in the knees and climbing over each other to finance products that can be industrially manufactured by the zillions and sold to a public clamoring for healthy, climate-friendly, humanely produced food.

Aerial spraying of pesticides.

What the manufacturer, Impossible Foods, has neglected to say amid all this hoopla is that the soy proteins used in its burgers are derived from soybeans that were genetically modified to resist applications of Monsanto's Roundup—sold as "Roundup Ready" seeds—that is used to kill weeds that might compete with the soy plants in the field and/or impede harvest. Roundup is also sprayed on fields just before harvest to dessicate, or dry out, the soy plants before harvest.

The organization Moms Across America, with a mission to educate the public about the dangers of GMOs and toxins in the food supply, recently published an article titled "GMO Impossible Burger Positive for Carcinogenic Glyphosate" that describes tests done by Health Research Institute Laboratories showing that the levels of glyphosate detected in the Impossible burger "were 11 times higher than the Beyond Meat Burger [a competing lab-produced product]. The total result (glyphosate and its break down AMPA) was 11.3 parts per billion (ppb). Moms Across America also tested the Beyond Meat Burger and the results were 1 ppb."

Monsanto's Roundup sold for home use.

"This new product is being marketed as a solution for 'healthy' eating, when in fact 11 ppb of glyphosate herbicide consumption can be highly dangerous," according to Zen Honeycutt, the founder of Moms Across America. "Only 0.1 ppb of glyphosate has been shown to alter the gene function of over 4000 genes in the livers, kidneys and cause severe organ damage in rats."

It must be noted here that almost no mention is made of agricultural workers and the dangers they and their children face from exposure to this toxic pesticide, which can cause damage during pregnancy and developmental delays in addition to causing cancer and other health issues.

The article goes on to list the ingredients in the Impossible Burger, which it says could contain as much as 80 percent genetically modified ingredients like sunflower oil, potato protein, yeast extract, cultured dextrose, modified food starch and many others in addition to the soy protein.

Another problem with the soy protein in the Impossible Burger is described in an article from the Organic Consumers Association. It states that "in the messy world of soy studies, where 'soy' can be defined as almost anything with soy in it, there are just as many studies showing no or only marginal benefits, and in some cases, potential for harm" from diets high in soy. Contrary to the beneficial reputation of fermented soy products like tofu or miso, these highly processed soy proteins are made from defatted soybean flakes that have been washed in either alcohol or water to remove the sugars and dietary fiber. "Alcohol is the most common process, as it produces products with a neutral taste. But the beneficial isoflavones in soy are removed by this method. Soy protein concentrate has the lowest level of healthful isoflavones—including daidzein, genistein and glycitein—of any form of processed soy."

But the biotech industry isn't taking all this lying down. An article describing the steps manufacturers are taking to undermine media reports states that "the biotech industry is particularly focused on taming controversies surrounding GMOs and the chemicals that are used on genetically modified crops, including Monsanto’s weedkiller glyphosate. The world’s most widely used herbicide, glyphosate is critical for the successful cultivation of GMO corn and soybeans. A recent study found that the chemical’s use by farmers has jumped fifteen-fold since 1996.

"One tactic industry allies employ to discredit questions about GMOs is to narrow the discussion to food safety. Pro-GMO scientists and writers mock experts and critics, by portraying them as loonies who think eating a bag of corn chips is akin to ingesting a bottle of arsenic. But this is a misleading line of attack, since GMO concerns are wide-ranging, including how well they are tested for safety, their impact on agriculture and the ecosystem, and the toxicity of glyphosate."

The article quotes author Michael Pollan as saying, "The industry’s PR campaign to reframe the GMO debate and intimidate journalists through harassment and name-calling has been remarkably successful in my view."

It remains to be seen if the recent guilty verdicts have any effect on people's willingness to subject not just themselves, their children and their pets to these pesticides, but their communities and the air, water and climate that we all depend on.

Photo of boxed burger from Wikipedia.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Dress for Success: Avocado Caesar Dressing


As often happens around here, this recipe started with leftovers: half an avocado from lunch and a few filets of anchovies floating in their jar in the fridge, a lemon that had been zested to death sitting in the bin, a few heads of Little Gem lettuces from Groundwork Organics I'd bought at the farmers' market last weekend. Plus scads of blooming chives waving at me from the herb bed.

Dave was jonesing to light the grill, and had bought some gorgeous Carman Ranch pasture-raised top sirloin steaks to throw on for dinner. So, since nothing pairs with medium-rare beef better than a hefty Caesar salad, I decided to try my luck with a from-scratch Caesar dressing using that avocado. Mayonnaise-y emulsified dressings are always a little fraught for me even with a recipe, since I've had a few that never "emulsed" (is that a word?) and remained a watery mess in the processor.

My favorite easy Caesar dressing is one from the classic Silver Palate Cookbook, so I adapted its basic proportions and crossed my fingers as I drizzled the olive oil into the processor's feed tube. And voila, the magic worked! Drizzled over those Little Gems and garnished with scattered chive blossoms, it looked—an tasted—fabulous. Next time I may not wait until I have the leftovers gathered to make it!

Avocado Caesar Dressing

1/2 avocado
1 egg yolk
1 lg. clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
6 anchovy filets
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Chive blossoms (optional)

Place avocado, egg yolk, garlic, salt, anchovy filets and lemon juice in bowl of food processor and process briefly to combine. While processor is on, drizzle olive oil in a thin stream through the feed tube until it emulsifies. Pour out into medium mixing bowl and stir in chopped chives and freshly ground pepper. Toss dressing with salad greens and garnish with chive blossoms.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Your Food, Your Legislature: Time to Take Action!


With just a few weeks left in the 2019 session of the Legislature, it's time to get in gear and let your legislators know where you stand. Type your address into the box at the top of the directory and write or e-mail your own letter (addresses are included in the listings for each legislator), or copy and paste the sample letter below each bill. If you want to take an extra step, click on the "Current Committee" in the listings under the explanation and send a copy to each member of the committee.

HB 2619 would ban the use of the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, a dangerous neurotoxin that affects brain development in young children. Here's a sample letter:

Dear [legislator],

I am writing to urge you to support HB 2619 and ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos in Oregon so that children living in our state may have a permanent reprieve from exposure to the highly toxic pesticide.

Current exposure levels to this developmental neurotoxicant, by children ages one to two, exceed the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own allowable threshold by a staggering 140 times.

Even at low levels of exposure by women during pregnancy, chlorpyrifos has been shown to alter brain functions and impair the learning ability of children into adulthood. Researchers at Columbia University have demonstrated that the presence of chlorpyrifos in the umbilical cord of developing fetuses is correlated with a decrease in psychomotor and mental development in three-year-olds. At high levels of childhood exposure, chlorpyrifos has been found to cause attention deficit, hyperactivity, slow cognitive development, a significant reduction in IQ scores and a host of other neurodevelopment problems. Children who live near farm fields experience the highest risks and impacts. A University of California Davis study found that women who resided within a mile of farms where chlorpyrifos and other organophosphate pesticides were applied had a 60 percent higher chance of giving birth to children with autism spectrum disorder.

Two states, Hawaii and California, have already passed bills banning this dangerous pesticide. I can only hope that the Oregon Legislature follows suit and declares our children are more important than corporations that profit from exposing them (and us) to toxic chemicals.

Thank you,
[your name]
[address]

* * *

HB 2882 protects farmers by making the patent-holders of genetically engineered crops financially liable when their products contaminate neighboring farmers' fields. Sample text:

Dear [legislator],

I am writing to urge your support for HB 2882, which would protect Oregon farmers by holding the patent-holders of genetically engineered crops financially accountable when their products cause economic harm to farmers who experience unwanted contamination.

Contamination from genetically engineered crops can make organic and conventional crops unable to be sold. When these genetically engineered crops escape their fields, the contamination can cost farmers not just the value of that season's crops, but can can take years to eradicate, with the potential that the farmer would be deprived of a livelihood.

Oregon's family farmers and the integrity of our food supply should not be at the mercy of corporate agribusiness giants.

Thank you,
[your name]
[address]

* * *

SB 727 supports the Double Up Food Bucks program that gives food assistance (SNAP) recipients assistance in purchasing locally grown fruits and vegetables from farmers' markets, farm share sites and retail outlets that participate in program. Note that very SNAP dollar spent at farmers market can generate $1.79 in local economic activity!

Dear [legislator],

I am writing to urge your support for SB 727, which supports the expansion of Double Up Food Bucks Oregon, a SNAP incentive program with a proven record of success.

For every dollar spent on SNAP-eligible foods at participating farmers markets, farm share programs, and grocery stores across the state, shoppers will receive a dollar to spend on Oregon-grown fruits and vegetables. State appropriations have successfully funded similar statewide SNAP incentive programs in CA, MA, MI, MN and NM. 

Passage of this bill would:
  • Allow 250,0000 low-income Oregon families will be able to expand their buying power and consume more fruits and vegetables 
  • Connect family farmers with new customers, giving them a financial boost 
  • Encourage our local economies will grow: every SNAP dollar spent at farmers market can generate $1.79 in local economic activity 
  • Enable all farmers markets in Oregon to accept SNAP, by providing technical assistance: currently 25% of Oregon’s farmers markets are not currently accepting SNAP
  • Enable all farmers markets in Oregon to offer SNAP matching programs: currently they exist at only 60 of Oregon’s 120 farmers markets. This leaves many rural markets without any SNAP matching program. 
  • Leverage future federal, other public and private matching dollars to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program.
Voting for this bill helps Oregonians in need to increase their access to fresh, local food, but it will also support family farmers and boost our economy.

Thank you,
[your name]
[your address]

* * *

HB 2020, the Clean Energy Jobs bill, would cap greenhouse gas emissions from most large industrial sources—those that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (or equivalent) per year—and effectively put a price on carbon. Currently large industrial farms are excluded from this cap, though one of the largest emitters of ammonia gas in the country is Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman.

Dear [legislator],

I am writing to urge that HB 2020, the Clean Energy Jobs bill, include large industrial farms in its cap on greenhouse gases.

Climate change is a growing threat to Oregon agriculture. From extreme, unpredictable weather and drought, to declining water supplies, our rural communities, farms, and ranches are experiencing dramatic changes to the climate. While we need to stabilize the climate by reducing industrial and other large sources of greenhouse gas emissions, we also need to invest in climate-friendly agricultural practices. Oregon needs to offer a framework for Oregon’s farmers and ranchers to be a part of the solution by providing grants to engage in climate-friendly agricultural practices.

Under HB 2020, emissions from agriculture are generally exempted from the cap on emissions, even for individual large sources that exceed 25,000 metric tons per year in CO2 equivalent like mega-dairies and feedlots with more than approximately 10,000 cows. Because they are exempt from the cap, these very large operations may also qualify for "offset" funding under the bill, which are for emissions reduction projects that most smaller farms are unlikely to qualify for.

I am requesting that:

  • A minimum of 20% of the Climate Investment Fund allocated for activities on natural and working lands.
  • Applying the cap on emissions to large agricultural sources that exceed 25,000 metric tons CO2 equivalent emissions per year (for example, mega-dairies or large feedlots with at least 10,000 cows).
  • The creation of a Healthy Soils Program and an Alternative Manure Management Program like those in California which have generated millions of dollars in grants for farmers to engage in climate friendly practices.
  • Sustainable agriculture or small farm representation on the Climate Investment Fund advisory committee.

Thank you,
[your name]
[your address]

Monday, May 13, 2019

Memories Found in a Puckery Lemon Tart


This past Mother's Day brought forth a flood of memories of the women in my family, many of whom have passed on but who left indelible impressions. Some are as sharp as the high heels my mother loved to wear, others as soft as the pastel-colored housedresses my father's mother wore. Many, for me—as I'm sure will come as a surprise to no one—involved food: my maternal grandmother's rhubarb sauce that my grandfather heaped sugar on; the batches of cabbage rolls that my dad's family called "hoblich," an invariable feature at any gathering; my own mother's love of fruit desserts and pies.

My mother in party mode.

The one dessert that she adored but never felt that she mastered, at least according to her exacting standards—my Kentucky-raised friend Kathryn would interject "bless her heart" here—was lemon meringue pie. I recall many of these cloud-topped confections parading through my young life, but for my mom there was always a meringue that pulled away from the crust, even if only a little, or it bore too many overly browned curlicues on its tips, or the curd was too sweet or too tart.

No matter how many compliments were showered on her efforts, she'd turn them away by pointing out its shortcomings or by saying, "Oh, you should try my friend Eleanor's, she makes the best lemon meringue." In other words, it was a fraught topic for her.

A simple lemon tart to love.

I, on the other hand, was more than happy to gobble up any and all "mistakes," major or minor. If the smooth lemony curd made the back of my tongue tingle, all the better. If its sweetness cut the lemon's tang, I can't remember minding. Ditto with any meringue issues.

These recollections came rushing back recently when Dave was experimenting with a lemon tart recipe from Cook's Illustrated, following on the heels of his apple galette epiphany. The curd is smooth and has just the right tang of lemon, the crust is short and not-too-sweet, and a dollop of whipped cream obviates any potential meringue traumas.

I think my mother would approve.

Lemon Olive Oil Tart
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz.) flour
5 Tbsp. (2 1/4 oz.) sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. water

For the filling:
1 c. (7 oz.) sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 eggs plus 3 yolks
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest plus 1/2 cup juice (approx. 3 lemons)
1/4 c. olive oil

Make sure that all your metal equipment—saucepan, strainer and whisk—is nonreactive, or the filling may have a metallic flavor.

For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°. Whisk flour, sugar and salt together in bowl. Add oil and water and stir until uniform dough forms. Using your hands, crumble three-quarters of dough over bottom of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough to even thickness in bottom of pan. Crumble remaining dough and scatter evenly around edge of pan, then press crumbled dough into fluted sides of pan. Press dough to even thickness. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is deep golden brown and firm to touch, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.

For the filling: About 5 minutes before crust is finished baking, whisk sugar, flour and salt in medium saucepan until combined. Whisk in eggs and yolks until no streaks of egg remain. Whisk in lemon zest and juice. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly and scraping corners of saucepan, until mixture thickens slightly and registers 160°, 5 to 8 minutes.

Off the heat, whisk in oil until incorporated. Strain curd through fine-mesh strainer set over bowl. Pour curd into warm tart shell.

Bake until filling is set and barely jiggles when pan is shaken, 8 to 12 minutes. Let tart cool completely on wire rack, at least 2 hours. Remove outer metal ring of tart pan. Slide thin metal spatula between tart and pan bottom, then carefully slide tart onto serving platter. Cut tart into wedges, wiping knife clean between cuts if necessary, and serve. (Leftovers can be wrapped loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

In Season: Shungiku, or Chrysanthemum Greens


When wandering through the stalls at the farmers' market or in the aisles of my local greengrocer's, I pick up the usual salad greens and vegetables (including those for my dogs), but I'm always drawn to any unusual seasonal gems that might be tucked into the displays. Chicories? Garlic shoots? Espellette peppers? Any new raabs?

On one of my last trips to Rubinette Produce, I ran across something called "shungiku" grown by Katie Boeh at Fox + Bear urban farm, who last year  expanded her offerings through a collaboration with Willow Bar Farm on Sauvie Island. (Check out Fox + Bear's impressive CSA offerings!)

An edible chrysanthemum.

Shungiku, while it sounds exotic, is actually the leaves from a type of chrysanthemum, Glebionis coronaria, a native of the Mediterranean that became a popular part of Japanese cuisine. The young leaves of the spring plant are often used fresh in salads, but it is sturdy enough to stand up to being blanched and chopped in dishes like sukiyaki. (I'd probably mix it into pasta dishes or stir it into a risotto.)

Adds a fresh zing to salads.

My copy of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, by Shizuo Tsuji, effuses that "its fragrance and distinct, light, astringent flavor harmonizes with meat or fowl, onion, and other vegetables," but warns to "take care not to overcook in one-pot dishes—a minute or two in the seasoned broth is enough. If overdone, chrysanthemum leaves tend to develop a bitter aftertaste." When purchasing, Tsuji advises looking for bright green leaves and stalks that are strong and perky. If they're showing buds or flowers, they're too old and may be tough.

Janis Martin, former owner of the idiosynchratic Tanuki izakaya—now chef at East Glisan Pizza Lounge—said that for a hot weather refresher, place a few sprigs of shungiku in a large pitcher of water along with a sprig of Chinese celery and a strip of yuzu rind (or lemon, if yuzu is not available). She lets it infuse at least three hours and serves it ice cold. (Thanks, Janis!)

Only available for a very short season in the spring, it's a plant that gardeners should check out for their spring gardens. Organic seeds are available from Andrew Still and Sarah Kleeger of Adaptive Seeds in Sweet Home, whose seeds are bred specifically to thrive in the maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest. Even better, they're dedicated to making available public domain, open pollinated (OP) seed, none of which are genetically modified (GMO) or grown with chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.

So get out there and find your own hidden gems, and maybe a new favorite garden green!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Organic Noodles Go To School


What comes to mind when you think of school lunches?

Once a week the cooks in my high school cafeteria served fresh cinnamon rolls baked onsite, as well as a lusciously gooey mac'n'cheese that can still make me drool when I think of it. That was before school kitchens were disassembled and preparation was centralized in an attempt to cut labor and food costs. Those of a certain age might remember when then-President Ronald Reagan's USDA attempted to (unsuccessfully) classify ketchup as a vegetable on children's lunch trays, and most of us probably think that low quality, commodity foods are still a common feature of school cafeterias.

Umi Noodle Day poster.

Dr. Betty Izumi, a registered dietitian and a professor in the School of Public Health at Portland State University, gets frustrated when she hears Portlanders talk about how gross school lunch is. “They are perpetuating a stereotype that is not true," she said. "I ask them, ‘How do you know? Have you ever eaten it?’ ”

In point of fact, for several years Portland Public Schools (PPS) has been working to make its lunches healthier and incorporate local food in its menus. Those efforts have benefited from state legislation that gives Oregon schools money to buy local food and create garden and farm education opportunities.*

Umi Organic's Lola Milholland.

As part of this funding, on Tuesday, May 14, PPS students will be served locally produced Umi Organic yakisoba stir-fry noodles for lunch as part of a traditional Japanese meal of fresh roasted cabbage, carrots and noodles in yakisoba sauce (with or without chicken), in all of the city's public schools. The noodles, made with 50 percent organic whole grains—Edison and durum wheat, to be specific—sourced from Camas Country Mill in Junction City, Oregon, were developed specifically for schools in cooperation with PPS nutrition directors.

Lola Milholland, co-founder and CEO of Umi Organic, studied Japanese language and culture since kindergarten in PPS. After college she worked at Ecotrust, where she focused on supporting the first Farm to School Bill in 2011. “To work with both PPS and the Farm to School Bill as a business is a dream come true and feels very full circle for me,” Milholland said. "We worked very hard to find the right flour mix to create a great, chewy yakisoba but without the typical preservatives, food dyes, and unidentifiable ingredients."

If these noodles are a hit with the kids, they will be featured regularly next year. What can we say but "Itadakimasu!" (The equivalent of "bon appetit" in Japanese.)

* The Oregon legislature is voting to renew funding for the Farm to School program later this month. House Bill 2579 would provide $5 million for Oregon schools to buy and serve Oregon foods, and districts and partner organizations to provide agriculture, nutrition, and garden-based educational activities. The bill renews the existing $4.5 million program and $500,000 in additional funding to serve more schools and students, and evaluate results. Let your Congressperson know how important it is for our children to have access to healthy, locally produced food. Find your legislator here.

Photos from Umi Organic.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Simple Seasonal Supper: Pasta with Rapini & Pork


This time of year, when tender spring greens are bursting with flavor, the best meals are often the simplest. I agree with contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food that the combination of the inflorescences of various brassicas are fabulous combined with a good pasta (fresh or dried) and pork (fresh or cured).

It's officially spring and we can't seem to leave the farmers market without bundles of "spring raabs." Whatever you call them, we love to eat them.

Pasta with Rapini & Pork

Rapini and pork make a delicious combination—served over pasta it is a classic southern Italian dish.

The slightly bitter turnip greens are also called brocolli raab, cima de rape (head of the turnip), brocolli di rapa, or rape, and they're members of the Brassica family of cabbage cousins.

A quick bath mellows the bitter tang of rapini, and then it’s dragged around a skillet in plenty of olive oil and garlic. [If you like that bitter tang, like I do, omit the next step, chop them and go straight to the skillet after washing. - KB]

First, cook the rapini in well-salted boiling water for about 4 minutes; fish it out with tongs and let cool in a bowl.

Cut the rapini stems and flowers into pieces about 2 inches long, add them to a skillet (with the water clinging to them) with extra virgin olive oil and a few cloves of chopped garlic, and cook for about 5 more minutes.

Put the cooked rapini in a bowl and set aside.

Use the same skillet to cook a pound of ground pork with some olive oil over high heat until browned, then add a good pinch of oregano, another of fennel pollen, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, and a good pinch of sea salt. Stir in the cooked rapini and turn off the heat while the pasta cooks.

For 4 servings, cook a half pound of pasta in salted boiling water for about 12 minutes [I'd normally use a full pound of dried pasta for four servings, but we're hungry folks. - KB], Using a slotted spoon or small sieve, scoop the pasta into the skillet with the pork and greens; add a big spoonful of the pasta water and cook everything together for a couple of minutes. I like to serve this with a drizzle of good olive oil, some grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, and a pinch of flor de sal with piri piri chile. [Red pepper flakes or other ground hot peppers like cayenne are also great. - KB]

You can get the following from Jim at Real Good Food, online or at his store: Pollinaria's whole grain extruded pastas, made with an organic heirloom durum wheat variety called Senatore Capelli, carry the flavors nicely. Pantellerian oregano has an out-of-this-world flavor that makes the bulk stuff at the store pale in comparison. Jim also carries Burlap & Barrel Desert Fennel seeds, Necton’s flor de sal and the piri piri chile.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Side of Spring: Potato and Artichoke Heart Gratin


It was to be a spring birthday dinner for a friend featuring those exquisite lamb rib chops often called "lollipops," grilled and properly eaten holding onto the rib end and gnawing the bone to get all the carbonized goodness clinging to it. (If you're a knife-and-fork person, I won't judge you if you don't judge me.)

The mis en place.

In the spirit of the season, I'd volunteered to bring deviled eggs—from Mike and Linda's pasture-raised hens at Terra Farma, which have launched into spring production recently—along with a potato gratin of some sort. I'd considered a leek-and-mushroom version, but a heavy, creamy dish, while delicious and totally appropriate for grilled lamb chops, just didn't seem springy enough.

Ready for the oven.

So I turned to a version I'd concocted based on a recipe by Patricia Wells, renowned author of cookbooks drawn from meals she served at her home in Provence. Hers was a gratin meant to be cooked in the oven under a leg of lamb, the juices from the haunch dripping down into the potatoes as it roasted.

My version eschewed the lamb juices—don't get me wrong, I love this method, which works with roasted chicken, as well—but kept the rest of the ingredients, adding a couple more for a Mediterranean-ish dish that would sing with the lamb chops. Not to mention that it would also be terrific for a simple summer grill with fish or chicken, or a rich vegetarian main dish with a salad alongside.

Potato and Artichoke Heart Gratin

2 lbs. medium-sized Yukon Gold or other yellow potatoes, halved lengthwise and sliced very thin
1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled and smashed but not chopped
1/2-1 c. kalamata olives, pitted
2 14-oz. cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained, or 8 fresh baby artichokes, peeled, cored and quartered (see note)
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves (no stems)
1/2 tsp. fennel pollen
1/3 c. olive oil
2/3 c. dry white wine
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced thin
1 c. pecorino romano, grated fine
Four bouquet garni: each one should have 4 parsley sprigs, 4 thyme sprigs, 1 rosemary sprig and 2 bay leaves, each tied with kitchen twine

Preheat oven to 400°.

Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Put sliced potatoes in the hot water, and when it returns to a boil cook for no more than 5 minutes. Drain in colander.

In a large mixing bowl, gently combine potatoes, garlic, olives, artichokes, thyme, fennel pollen, olive oil, wine, salt and pepper. Stir to coat the potato slices evenly. Pour into 9” by 13” baking dish.

Nestle the four bouquet garni, spaced evenly crosswise, into the potato mixture. Scatter a layer of tomato slices over the top and sprinkle with the cheese.

Bake for one hour. Remove from oven and gently pull out the bouquet garni, trying not to disturb the tomato slices too much. Serve.

Note: To prepare fresh baby artichokes (step 1 and 2 only).