Friday, January 18, 2019

Game-Day Comfort: Beer Cheese Soup!


When I heard that a couple we know have an annual party on Super Bowl Sunday, I was shocked. You see, if there are any of our friends who seem completely unlikely to be putting on giant foam hats or wearing team scarves or jumping around pumping their fists in the air (covered or not in outsized foam rubber pointy fingers) shouting at the television, it's these two.

Pimento cheese on a Ritz.

So I was relieved when they admitted, after witnessing our shocked countenances (mouths agape), that it was really all about the food for the event. It conjured images of miniature hot dogs swimming in mahogany barbecue sauce, overflowing bowls of salt-encrusted potato chips with virtual vats of onion and clam dips at the ready, as well as the requisite pimento cheese dip to slather on crackers—Ritz, Triscuits or Wheat Thins, depending on your inclination.

All that salt was, of course, as anyone knows who has succumbed to the siren song of free pretzels at their neighborhood watering hole, intended to encourage the consumption of any liquid within reach, normally beer, for purposes of hydration. Naturally I volunteered to bring any and all of the consumables mentioned above to the festivities, since, being a person of dodgy acquaintance with sporting endeavors yet always johnny-on-the-spot for anything involving chips and dips, I was, as they say, all up-ons.

The recipe file reveals all.

The conversation happened to coincide with running across a recipe from my college days when I managed a soup kitchen—we called it a "coffeehouse" at the time—at the U of O that served a soup and bread lunch for a nominal sum five days a week, relying on a haphazard yet dogged cadre of volunteer cooks to prepare several gallons of the potage of their choice for the day's service. Most were a simple combination of stock, vegetables and protein, like Robert's French Onion Soup l'Abbe or Jane's Potage Parmentier—but one in particular stood out for its inclusion of beer.

Mike, the ostensible manager of the campus Koinonia House, had a family recipe for a beer cheese soup that her family was  crazy about and that she volunteered to make on a weekly basis, a guaranteed winner in my book. It also became a viral hit in those pre-viral days, and I commend it to you for any and all of your game-day gatherings. Rich, creamy, with that certain beer-y je ne sais quoi, it's best made a few hours or even a day ahead to allow the flavors to meld and the beer to mellow. Or heck, if you want, just whip it up a few minutes before guests arrive and let the li'l smokies flow.

Mike's Beer Cheese Soup

3/4 c. butter  (one and one-half sticks)
1/2 c. diced onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. diced celery
1/2 c. diced carrots
1/2 c. flour
5 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
6 oz. cheddar
1 12-oz. bottle (or can) of beer, preferably a lager or pilsner
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté  onions until tender. Add garlic, celery and carrots and sauté until tender. Add flour and dry mustard, stirring to combine. Stir for two minutes to prevent sticking, then stir in stock and cook for five minutes. Blend in cheeses and beer, combining well, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Using a stick blender or working in batches with a blender, purée the soup. Season to taste with salt.

This is best made a few hours or, better yet, a day ahead and reheated, which allows the flavors to mellow. Serve with salad and a good artisan loaf.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Farm Bill 2018: Two Views


Months of "jockeying, hand wringing, and horse trading, largely behind closed doors" according to Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, came to a close recently as the Farm Bill, the sweeping agriculture and nutrition legislation that comes up for renewal every five years, passed the House by a vote of 369 to 47. It was largely stripped of Republican demands for work requirements for people receiving food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), which had stalled the bill for months.

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

The bill that was passed largely continues the agricultural subsidies of previous bills, which are predominantly claimed by large corporate farms, and added a provision that said any member of an extended family who runs a "family farm" can annually receive $125,000 in subsidies ($250,000 if they are married) if they provide “active personal management only,” even from afar, according to an article from Taxpayers for Common Sense. This basically redefines a family farm as a managed operation where the manager doesn't even have to set foot on the farm in order to collect government subsidies, a clear boon to corporate-owned and industrial operations.

Blumenauer was one of three Democrats to oppose the bill, stating in a press release that it "pays too much to the wrong people to grow the wrong foods in the wrong places." He called it "a missed opportunity to make real improvements for farmers, the climate, and the food we eat every single day." The Oregon congressman has instead been pushing for what he calls the "Food and Farm Act," an alternative bill that comprehensively advances reforms on four principles: (1) focusing resources on those who need it most; (2) fostering innovation; (3) encouraging investments in people and the planet; and (4) ensuring access to healthy foods.

Clif Bar's Matthew Dillon.

A different view of the revised Farm Bill was presented by Matthew Dillon, senior director of agricultural policy and programs for Clif Bar & Company, in an op-ed he wrote for The Hill, a Washington, DC-based news outlet. Declaring that the bill as passed is a victory for the future of organic agriculture in the U.S., Dillon pointed to the fact that the bill "for the first time establishes permanent funding for organic research by authorizing $50 million in annual funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative by the year 2023." The $50 million figure makes the program “baseline” or mandatory in the United States Department of Agriculture budget, creating more stability for organic researchers and farmers, he wrote.

"Demand for organic agriculture far outstrips supply, causing our country to import many organic crops that could be produced domestically," Dillon stated. "Capturing the more profitable value of organic production for American farmers is particularly important at a time when net farm incomes across the country have fallen down to the lowest level in 12 years, declining more than 14 percent this year, and showing little sign of turnaround."

Believing that support for organic research is critical in helping farmers transitioning to organic production, Dillon wrote that the guarantee of funding will aid farmers in keeping up with the most effective techniques for soil fertility and pest management. While he admitted that the farm bill will always have room for improvement, "this landmark new gain of stable funding for organic research is critical to the survival of organic farms and the expansion of organic acreage. It is good for rural communities, good for farmers, and good for the planet."

Blumenauer, for his part, takes both political parties and the Congress to task for its business-as-usual approach to the Farm Bill. "Every day that we continue the status quo, we delay improving and enriching communities, and helping families live healthier lives," he stated. "We can and must do better to help increase access to healthy food for all families.  This final bill fundamentally misses the mark on addressing critical reforms that communities across the country desperately need. Americans deserve a Farm Bill that works for them and their families—not corporate mega-farms. I will continue to lead the opposition to the current Farm Bill structure, fighting instead for a better outcome for all Americans."

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Guest Essay: Ode to a Cabbage


I can't think of anyone I know who adores cabbage more than contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food, as evidenced by this essay, an updated version of one first published here in 2015. Whether fresh, sautéed, braised, pickled, fermented or fried, you'll still find it making an appearance on his table. Here he shares some history, as well as his favorite ways to prepare it. 

I love cabbage.

And I’m not talking about Savoy cabbage, the frilly version that’s been tarted up with a first name hinting of royalty. Or the other members of the Brassica oleracea family, including the various kales and collards, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, deliciously gorgeous as they are. Or the strangely compelling relatives from central Asia, original home of turnips, broccoli rabe, bok choy, tatsoi, and mizuna, all part of the Brassica rapa clan.

No, my heart belongs to the ordinary, everyday cabbage, its pale green leaves tightly bound into a waxy ball, the humble heads tucked coyly away in the corner of the produce section. It’s cheap, reliable, and flexible; who wouldn’t fall in love?

It doesn’t hurt that cabbage is good for me, lends itself to last-minute cooking, doesn’t cost much and grows, relatively speaking, in my own backyard.

Humankind’s relationship with Brassica started early. In his encyclopedic work Food: An Authoritative and Visual History and Dictionary of the Foods of the World, Waverley Root relates one ancient Greek belief of its origins: Dionysus, the god of wine, caught Lycurgus, the Edonian king, pulling up grapevines. While awaiting punishment, the king wept, and from his tears sprang cabbages.

An alternate myth has Jupiter sweating as he tries to explain contradictory oracles, and the cabbages sprout from his perspiration.

Those ancient Greeks might’ve been on to something. But given my devotion it seems more likely that Eros, the god of love, was involved.

Wild cabbages, resembling kale more than my beloved green globes, grew along the Mediterranean coast, and according to Harold McGee, in his book On Food and Cooking, the “salty, sunny habitat accounts for the thick, succulent, waxy leaves” that make cabbages so hardy. Domesticated about 2,500 years ago, cabbage spread across Europe.

Because it tolerates cold weather, cabbage became an important staple farther north, and we typically associate it with the hearty cuisines of climes damp and gray.

But the Romans, like me, loved cabbage, and they’re probably responsible for the selective cultivation that resulted in so many disparate variations. By encouraging an existing tendency for the curling leaves to form more tightly packed bunches, those early Italian farmers created today’s well-known “heading cabbages.”

Our name for these derives from the colloquial French word for head, caboche. Vegetable lore tells us that the Italian Catherine de’ Medici brought cabbage to France when she married fellow 14-year-old Henri de Valois, the Duke of Orleans and, eventually, King Henry II. History is silent as to whether she called him mon petit chou, or “my little cabbage.” But the endearment reflects the continuing French love of cabbage, from the choucroute of Alsace to the thick stew called gabure in the south.

Early cabbage fanciers also associated it with good health. Egyptians ate it with vinegar to prevent hangovers, Greeks dribbled cabbage juice into sore eyes, and Romans packed aching muscles with cabbage poultices. Herbalists today recommend cabbage for its anti-inflammatory effects, telling breastfeeding mothers to tuck a few bruised leaves into their bras for relief. It’s got lots of vitamins A, B, C, and E, and a study at Georgetown University showed how phytochemicals in cabbage might reduce cancer risks.

However, those same phytochemicals provide the frequently noted boardinghouse smell of overcooked cabbage, something that bothers others much more than it bothers me. Maybe I’m blinded, in an olfactory sense, by love, suffering from a cabbage-passion-induced anosmia. Or perhaps my approach to cooking mon petit chou reduces the breakdown of glucosinolates, the sulfur-containing compounds released when cabbage is boiled too long.

More likely, it’s the variety of cabbage. Brussels sprouts contain more of the healthful and stinky compounds than any of the other Brassicas. Heading cabbages, with their residual sugars, offer a sweeter love.

Farmers here in the Pacific Northwest harvest cabbage from mid-July through the end of December. Properly stored, it keeps for up to six months, so it’s theoretically possible to eat local cabbage all year. Prices vary, with conventionally grown cabbage usually less than a dollar per pound, organic about half again as much. Just before Christmas I bought an enormous head at a farmers’ market for only two dollars.

So, how do I love cabbage? Let me count the ways.
  1. I love it cooked in a little olive oil with onion. There’s a head of cabbage in the refrigerator and onions in the pantry most of the time, so I make this almost every week. But cabbage loves pork, and I love them together. So start with a little diced bacon, then sauté the onions and cabbage in the smoky fat. A dollop of crème fraîche makes both of these simple dishes unctuous and rich.
  2. A bed of shredded cabbage roasted under a chicken steals my heart.
  3. I love how the cabbage I add to my feeling-a-cold-coming chicken soup gives it enough substance to fill me up.
  4. I’m crazy for coleslaw, the green salad I turn to when winter’s lettuce comes wilted from a long truck ride north and again when the hot summer sun makes my garden’s leaves bolt and turn bitter.
  5. Je t’aime, choucroute braisée à l’Alsacienne: Julia Child kindled new passion for sauerkraut by teaching me to simmer it slowly for hours in crisp white wine.
  6. Marcella Hazan makes me cry, “cavolo sofegao, come sei bella,” with her Venetian-style smothered cabbage, another slow-cooked dish transformed with a splash of vinegar.
  7. Te amo cocido, tambien. While these one-pot Spanish stews often call for whole chickens, pigs’ trotters, veal shanks and a garden’s worth of vegetables, I make a simple version with just garbanzos, potatoes and cabbage.
  8. Louisiana-style smothered cabbage makes me ask, "how's ya mama and dem?"
Cabbage love comes in many other forms, and though the steady routine of our long-term relationship provides familiar comfort, I don’t want it to get stale. So I keep searching for new outlets for my passion, different ways to express my feelings, unexplored culinary territory where I can say, again and again, I love cabbage.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Rave-Worthy Party Dip in Ten Minutes? Yes, It's Hummus


In my view, hummus is one of those intensely flavorful, iconic cultural touchstones that has been bastardized beyond recognition. Just think of the little plastic containers you see in the grocery store of roasted pepper hummus, artichoke hummus and—I swear I'm not making this up—Thai coconut curry hummus.

Linda Dalal Sawaya, local Portland artist, writer and author of Alice's Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking, a collection of recipes handed down from her Lebanese mother and grandmother, describes her family's "Hommus" this way:

"Our family loves hommus bi tahini best when it is tangy, the way Mama and Sitto made it. We garnish it with a liitle olive oil. In Lebanon, pomegranate seeds, whole garbanzo beans, and a drizzle of olive oil might be the garnish. Chopped fresh mint and olive oil also make a lovely garnish."

Sublime made from scratch with quality ingredients.

With her recipe, she describes her mother—fans of the pesto scene in the recent documentary Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat with Samin Nosrat, take note—mashing garbanzo beans by hand the traditional way.

Back when I was in college, hummus was the barely edible, dry stuff you brought to parties in college because it was widely available and a cheap way to feed your friends. I'd give my own efforts an "okay" rating back then and, even at that, it was way better than most of the stuff sold at even the most effete grocery stores, which ranged from chemical-tasting to having that certain je-ne-sais-quoi cardboard flavor. Even here in Portland, there are still very few who make a decent version, outside of Middle-Eastern restaurants like Ya Hala or Hoda's, both of which also make their own pita bread.

Soak overnight, drain, cook. Easy!

Later, my yearnings for truly good homemade hummus were granted with a recipe that my parents brought back from their pre-retirement sojourn in Liberia (yes, in Africa) where they met several Lebanese couples who were teachers at the college my parents worked for. My mother, being a discerning sort and knowing a good thing when she tasted it, begged a couple of recipes from them that she shared on their return home.

Ever since, our lives and the success of many a gathering have been aided and abetted by her ingenuity. I hope you agree her efforts weren't in vain.

Hummus

This is best made from dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) that have been soaked overnight, drained and then cooked in fresh water for an hour or so until tender. For the best flavor, I highly recommend Ayers Creek Farm's organic Tualatin Chick Peas, available at Rubinette Produce. The following recipe makes approximately three cups of hummus.

Taratoor sauce:
2 small garlic cloves
1/2 c. tahini paste (sesame butter)
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt

Hummus:
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans or 2 c. cooked chickpeas
2 tsp. salt
3 garlic cloves
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. water

You can make this in one step by placing all the ingredients in the food processor and processing till it all turns to a smooth consistency. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika (or better yet, Spanish pimenton) or the traditional sumac.

The taratoor by itself makes a terrific sauce for pork or meats, or drizzle it over rice or vegetables, or as a dipping sauce with appetizers like stuffed grape leaves.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Drinking In the Holiday Cheer: Four Faves!


During the holiday season my parents would invariably designate one evening before Christmas to invite friends over for an open house. My mom, a dedicated holiday baker, used the occasion to haul out all the fruitcakes she'd made—one packed with whole nuts and citron barely held together with batter, an applesauce bread studded with nuts and raisins, another cakey version that had been wrapped in brandy-soaked cloth—plus cookies filled with jam, pinwheels stuffed with dates, and her signature Nanaimo bars that I'd eat by the dozen, all displayed on holiday-themed platters.

Classic set for a classic holiday cocktail.

My dad made sure the bar was well-stocked, but his main task was to dig out the Tom & Jerry set from the basement and pull out the recipe card from the file, dog-eared, faded and stained from literally decades of Christmas parties past. On the day of the party, as Mom ran around the house in a frenzy, inspecting (and often redoing) my lackadaisical dusting and vacuuming, fussing over the table decorations of carefully arranged boughs studded with shiny glass Christmas ornaments, and my dad would start making the batter for his Tom & Jerrys.

A hot toddy hits the spot on a winter night.

I don't remember any of their friends making this classic holiday drink, but it was a staple at our house growing up. Dad, who in my memory almost never spent time in the kitchen, would carefully separate the egg whites from the yolks, beat the whites into glossy peaks, then gradually fold in the yolks that had been beaten with powdered sugar and whipping cream. I was particularly fascinated with the teensy brown glass bottles of cinnamon and clove oil that had no doubt been around for years, since the batter only required a drop of each to flavor it. He'd dip a toothpick into the little bottle and pull it out, a shimmering drop of oil clinging to it, and ever so carefully let it drip into the batter.

The Bloody Monkey makes the most of winter citrus.

By this point Mom would have vanished upstairs to get dressed and put on lipstick—bright red—to match her holly-trimmed holiday apron, and Dad would be mixing the rum and brandy and putting the kettle on for topping off the cups. It's memories like these that, whenever the holidays roll around and the cold starts to creep in through the cracks around our doors and windows, you'll find me heading down to the basement to dig out our own Tom & Jerry set, start whipping egg whites and inviting the neighbors over.

Cola de Mono is a Chilean holiday fave.

Over the years I've collected a few recipes for holiday cocktails, and now seemed like a good opportunity to share them with you. Enjoy, and start making memories for you and yours!

My Dad’s Tom & Jerrys

For the batter:
6 eggs
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 drop oil of cinnamon*
1 drop oil of clove*
1/2 c. whipping cream

For each drink:
1 jigger (1.5 oz.) brandy
1/2 jigger (.75 oz.) rum
2 Tbsp. batter
Boiling water
Dash of fresh-ground nutmeg

Separate eggs, putting yolks into large mixing bowl and whites into another bowl large enough to whip them in. Add cream of tartar to whites and whip into stiff peaks.

Beat egg yolks to combine and add cinnamon oil, clove oil and whipping cream. Beat, gradually adding powdered sugar till the mixture is thick and smooth. Add whipped egg white and slowly fold them into each other till you have a smooth, light batter.

To make drinks, put brandy, rum and batter into each cup (ours are 6-oz. cups), fill with boiling water and stir. Top with a sprinkle of ground nutmeg. For the kids, make Clyde & Harrys—simply leave out the alcohol and combine the batter and hot water and stir, topping with the nutmeg.

* Oils available at many natural foods stores. Just make sure they're food grade.

* * *

Ann and Chad's Hot Toddies

1 slice lemon, 1/8" thick
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
Pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
1 1/2 oz. whiskey (your choice)
2 oz. boiling water
1 tsp. honey

Place lemon in bottom of a mug or heat-resistant cup. With a muddler or the back of a spoon, crush the lemon gently to release its juices. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

* * *

Rodrigo's Cola de Mono (Tail of a Monkey)

This is a traditional Chilean Christmas drink, usually served cold. Best made a couple of days ahead.

3 qts. whole milk
4 c. of sugar
Peel of an orange (about 1" wide by 2" long)
4 cloves
A pinch of nutmeg
1 stick of cinnamon
2 Tbsp. freshly ground coffee
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 qt. Aguardiente*, grappa** or pisco

Boil milk with sugar, orange skin, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Once the milk has come to a boil, remove from stove and add the coffee and vanilla extract and stir constantly for about 5 to ten minutes or until the coffee dissolves as much as possible.

Once the mixture is cold, filter it (paper filters work best) or use a really fine colander with a paper towel. Add the spirit and pour into bottles with tight lids. Place in refrigerator and let it sit for a couple of days before serving. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Shake well before opening. Serve cold, over ice if desired (though not traditional). Can be garnished with a cinnamon stick or a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired.

* Aguardiente is a denomination of spirits that can range from vodka to sugar cane based, so the name is given not because of the source, but the alcohol content, which can be upwards of 120 proof alcohol. In Chile, Aguardiente is made from grapes and the alcohol content is usually somewhere between 45-55% (above 55% is illegal). Because aguardiente is a very generic term and the actual product and alcohol content varies from region to region, I suggest using a grape spirit such as grappa or pisco, preferably between 45-50% alcohol.

** Grappa, like champagne, is a spirit produced from grapes and can only be called grappa if it complies with certain requirements, such as being produced in a certain region of Italy. That’s why substituting it with a grape-based spirit like pisco can lower the cost considerably.

* * *

Keith's Bloody Monkey

This variation on a Monkey Gland, but uses fresh winter citrus. Makes one cocktail.

1.5 oz. gin
1.5 oz. blood orange juice, strained of pulp
1 tsp. grenadine
1/2 tsp Pernod

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker. Add ice till shaker is 3/4 full. Shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with slice of blood orange.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Mega-Dairy Moratorium Demanded by Farm & Consumer Groups


A coalition of more than a dozen local, state and national organizations, including Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF), the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) have called on state legislators in Salem to stop any further expansion of new or existing mega-dairies in Oregon until the state can guarantee protections for its people, animals, and the environment from the industrial-scale impacts of factory farm mega-dairies.

Waste from a mega-dairy can equal that of a small city.

According to the coalition's press release, "Oregon’s inadequate oversight of mega-dairies has become clear over the past two years, since the state ignored red flags and widespread public opposition to authorize operation of Lost Valley Farm, which was permitted to confine 30,000 cows. Lost Valley has since racked up nearly 200 permit violations and has had problems ranging from overflowing mortality and waste management facilities to a lack of clean water and restrooms for workers. As a result, the state is now fighting to shut the mega-dairy down. However, Oregon’s insufficient laws do not protect the state’s air and water, setting a standard so low that thousands of animals are raised in extreme confinement and family-scale dairies are forced out of business."

Cow laying in waste at Lost Valley Farm.

As documented extensively on Good Stuff NW, Lost Valley Farm has ignored or flagrantly violated permit regulations from the start, beginning construction on the massive facility without the required permits from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). Instead of shutting down the industrial facility until it went through proper permitting channels, the ODA gave Lost Valley the go-ahead to develop the facility. This is despite the facility—which is sited on a federally designated Groundwater Management Area (GWMA)—never completing construction of the required manure lagoons to protect the area's groundwater.

Cow standing in waste at Threemile Canyon Farms.

The legislature's track record on setting limits for these facilities has been lax at best, negligent at worst. Last year the legislature's Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources killed a bill, SB 197, that would have begun the process of setting up basic regulations on air contaminant emissions (like ammonia) from these  mega-dairies. Contaminants are not monitored or regulated due to a loophole in Oregon law that exempts these factory farms from any requirement to monitor, report or reduce air pollution associated with the manure from the tens of thousands of animals they keep.

Waste at mega-dairies is often kept in large open-air lagoons.

On its Facebook page, the Center for Animal Law Studies posted that, speaking on behalf of Humane Voters Oregon, Lewis & Clark Law School Professor Rajesh Reddy joined the growing chorus calling for a moratorium on new and expanded mega-dairies in the state. As quoted in the Statesman Journal newspaper, Professor Reddy addressed the documented cruelty at such farms: “The cows are more often subject to extreme confinement, without access to pasture, and are more likely to be treated like machines instead of living things. The pictures from Lost Valley Farm, of highly confined cows standing knee-deep in manure, show us where that can lead.”

Ivan Maluski, Policy Director of FoFF, is quoted in the coalition release as saying: “The state’s inadequate handling of the Lost Valley debacle, along with the catastrophic decline in Oregon’s small and mid-sized dairy farms, make clear that we need a time-out from new or expanded mega-dairies until it we have stronger environmental, animal welfare, public health, and family farm protections in place.”

For more information on mega-dairies in Oregon, read my article for Civil Eats, "Big Milk Brings Big Issues for Local Communities" as well as my post on Tillamook Cheese's connection to these factory farms, "Why I'm Quitting Tillamook Cheese." Read my full reporting on Threemile Canyon and Lost Valley mega-dairies.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Farm Bulletin: A Sense of the Organism


In the introduction of contributor Anthony Boutard's book on corn (link below), he remembers that "since childhood, I have enjoyed sweet corn from the garden. Eating fresh corn on the cob is a sensual pleasure that takes the sad edge off of the dwindling days of summer and, when I was a boy, the bittersweet start of school." Later, he and his wife, Carol, journeyed to Italy's Piedmont where they discovered what looked like Indian corn to their Western eyes, yet the Italians ground it into their famous polenta. It started them on their corn odyssey.

In 2009, we planted some corn seed given to us by someone who brought them back from Cuzco, Peru. As part of my research in writing Beautiful Corn, we planted a great many sorts that year with little regard to cross-pollination as they would not be used for seed production. The geneticist Barbara McClintock stressed the importance of developing the "sense of the organism” in her work with corn. It was sage advice. Sometimes we read a book on a crop and can’t help feeling the person lacks that sense—perhaps the information is delivered second-hand or third-hand. The Peruvian was planted in a block that included the first generation of what has become the Peace, No War flour corn; a single, chance ear of purple-colored corn in a block of blue corn that piqued our curiosity. We still have that ear with its missing kernels (top photo). We kept the chance ear planting upwind to avoid cross-pollination.

A massive branched ear.

The Peruvian plants were massive, some with a distinct purple zig-zagging stem. Multiple ears were born on long branches. Some we had to support them with fenceposts. The nodes above the ground produced aerial roots covered with a thick exudate. This August, a paper was published explaining how these exudates attract microbial communities that fix atmospheric nitrogen. They studied a variety from Oaxaca, but the gummy roots looked just like those we saw. This relationship may account for the corn's extravagance. Though for all of its vegetative drama, the Peruvian corn produced just a few ears with kernels. It was the only time we grew the Peruvian sort.

The "Esmé ear."

During that time, a friend brought Esmé Hennessy to the farm. Esmé is a botanical illustrator specializing in orchids who moved from South Africa to Portland where her son lived. She agreed to produce some illustrations for the book, so we delivered a box of ears to her house. Captivated by the odd Peruvian ear, she drew it first.

October 2018, nine years later in the Peace, No War planting, staff found a small ear strikingly similar to the ear Esmé drew. Some pollen from the Peruvian plants must have been caught in a contrarian zephyr or an eddy as the morning sun warmed the earth. Not the most elegant ear, nor as mature, but it shows how traits, such as the oddly colored kernels, can linger unexpressed in the genome. Bear in mind, we have been relentless in our quest for the darkest ear possible. We look for purple in the stem, foliage, cob, silk and kernel. At its extreme, the heavy pigmentation is a deleterious trait as the plant cannot photosynthesize adequately. As we have repeatedly said, Peace, No War is more art than agronomics. Despite the rigorous selection, the Peruvian kernel traits remained somewhere in the breeding population.

The "Esmé ear" returns.

Early on in our work with the chance ear population, just a couple dozen ears met our standards, now hundreds do. Nonetheless, off-types continue to appear because we emphasize two traits—early ripening and a high anthocyanin content. The reappearance of the traits in the peculiar ear that grabbed Esmé’s eye reminded us of other traits the Peruvian may have brought to the corn. As it happens, some other traits such as prop roots, zigzagging stalks, long ear stalks and other odds and ends may have come with those grains of pollen. Staff also brought in another variant we saw in the 2009 collection, flinty kernels with a bird’s egg mottling. That one had mature kernels so it may prompt the “Eggshell" art project, if we have space to tuck it in somewhere.

Aerial roots with exudates.

In all three lines of corn we currently maintain at the farm there is a genetic effervescence that makes them interesting. Sometimes the tassels have scattered kernels on them, sometimes the ears terminate with a small tassel. Some are so beautiful they would make a great ornamental. Geneticists apply the terms "dominant" and “recessive" to traits, though working with various crops we are happier thinking in terms of “loud” and “quiet.”

Reno Sweeney’s serenade to Billy Crocker, Public Enemy Number 13 starts “At words poetic, I’m so pathetic, that I have always found it best, instead of getting ' m off my chest, to let 'em rest unexpressed." Just as because a trait is unexpressed or quiet, as with Reno's sentiments, it does not mean it is absent; it is just silent at the moment. The intensely dark purple pigments of Peace, No War were unexpressed in the chance ear. Somewhere in next year's seed crop, some of the Peruvian traits may linger once more unexpressed. We will keep our eyes open. We see a similar quiet/loud expression in the other crops we grow for seed. Some a bit wilder, some a bit more demure.

All photos courtesy Anthony Boutard.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

An Unexpected Accolade


My friends and family know better than to go to a farmers' market or food event with me, because I'll end up seeing people I know and chatting about "the latest this or did you hear that" until they want to pull their hair out and run screaming from the scene. Just the other day a friend and I were wandering through the Eat Oregon Now event, a pre-Christmas show of local producers and makers showcasing their food and food-related wares.

I got in a conversation with Lyf Gildersleeve about his essay on seafood trade wars and we got talking about the farm bill that was about to be voted on—my friend had wisely wandered off by this point—when he pulled out a little booklet from Earl Blumenauer. Titled "The Fight for Food: Why You Deserve a Better Farm Bill," it distills the complexities of this massive piece of legislation down into bite-sized pieces easily digestible for we normal folk.

It begins: "The Farm Bill is a law that helps determine: what we eat; how and where it's grown; and how we take care of the land it's grown in" with the purpose "to provide adequate food for the country, ensure fair prices for farmers and consumers, and protect the land." It then segues into a description of how it got from this original simple premise to "become distorted and distracted…giving too much to the wrong people to grow the wrong food in the wrong places." (You can get your own copy for a donation of $3.)

My point? In the back of the booklet is a collection of publications where you can learn more, listing books by acclaimed authors Dan Barber, Michael Pollan, Anna Lappé and Mark Bittman, along with websites like Civil Eats, Slow Food, the Food & Environment Reporting Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog.

The last item on the list? Good Stuff NW, the very blog you are reading right now. To say I was blown away to have it included on this list of some of the most important food folks in the country is the understatement of the decade. Holy moly!

What can I say but thanks, Earl, I'm honored. And here's to carrying on the fight for good food!

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Party Favor: Quick White Bean Spread


Part of the reason for starting this effort twelve years ago was to have a place I could use to remember recipes I've made over the years. It's obviously grown beyond simply being a personal reference library, but it's still super useful when I need to quickly access my mom's grilled shrimp appetizer or that hot crab dip that never quite got copied into my card file.

One recipe that I keep going to the search bar to look for—that's what that little window on the left above the masthead is for—is an incredibly simple white bean spread that I came across eons ago from a source that's been lost to the mists of time. The problem is, I've never written it up here, but I keep thinking I have, so round and round I go in the little gerbil wheel of my brain. (Sorry, is that TMI…?)

It's handy for impromptu moments when the neighbors drop by for a glass of wine or friends ask you to bring an appetizer and you're running behind, since it whizzes up in the food processor in about five minutes. All you need to have on hand is a can of cannelini beans, capers and a clove of garlic and you're set—the raves that ensue will be crazily out of proportion to the work involved, but no one needs to know that besides you.

Herewith is the official, posted recipe so I never have to dash around the kitchen rummaging through files to find that recipe card ever again:

Tuscan-style White Bean Spread with Capers

1 15-oz. can cannelini beans, drained (or use 2 c. cooked white beans)
1 medium clove garlic
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. capers
1-2 Tbsp. parsley, minced (optional)

Put beans, garlic, salt, thyme, lemon juice and olive oil in food processor and process until smooth. Using a spatula, scoop bean purée into medium-sized bowl and add capers and parsley. Stir to combine and adjust salt. Serve with bread or crackers.

Makes about two cups. (Can be doubled.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Guest Essay: Seafood Trade Wars


Lyf Gildersleeve, owner of Flying Fish Company, a sustainable seafood retailer in Providore Fine Foods, is a second-generation fishmonger and a vocal advocate for national fisheries policy. This is a guest post he wrote for the Marine Fish Conservation Network, a coalition of fishermen, conservationists, scientists and citizens around a mission to conserve and revitalize wild ocean fisheries.

In a time when government deregulation is rampant and environmental protections are getting tossed out the window, the U.S. has a seafood trade deficit that could be improving—that is, if American consumers are willing learn about where their food is coming from, and if consumers are willing to pay a fair price for seafood harvested and produced in the U.S.

Most of Oregon's fish are exported rather than consumed domestically.

Currently we import over 90 percent of the seafood we consume in America. More than 50 percent of those imports are farm-raised in unsustainable environmental conditions. Only two percent of these imports get tested for toxic residuals. That means that in 2015, 5.4 billion pounds of seafood entered our distribution channels without being tested for toxic chemicals. Most of the imported produce and seafood rejected in these random border inspections was cited for the appearance of potentially dangerous adulteration, including the presence of pathogens, illegal pesticides, chemicals and other sanitary violations. In addition, foreign seafood was more likely to be mislabeled and/or have slave labor involved at some point in the process of catching, harvesting, and growing it.

Along our own coastlines, fishermen are coming back to port hauling boatloads of seafood. Much of this seafood is getting purchased by foreign buyers and shipped overseas to consumers in Asia, while Americans are happy to import and consume cheap foreign seafood. This equation isn’t helping our coastal communities or the national economy.

Oregon albacore is exported for processing then shipped back to U.S.

Some of the seafood being landed by domestic fishermen is frozen after harvest, then shipped to China to be defrosted, filleted, packaged, frozen again, then shipped back to the U.S. to be sold to domestic consumers. This processing in China is cheaper than processing in the U.S. because of lower labor costs, with no import taxes on the products coming back in to the U.S.—until now. And, of course, the real cost of these products doesn’t include the carbon footprint of shipping products halfway around the world and back.

There are mixed opinions about the effects of the Trump administration’s trade wars with China. Recently there was a 25 percent tax slapped on seafood exports and a 10 percent tax on imported seafood products from China. Some seafood industries, including those in Alaska and Maine, have been negatively affected by import taxes. The export taxes have increased the cost to foreign buyers, which has decreased sales significantly due to higher costs with the new taxes.

Oregon anchovies are mostly exported but may be under threat from overfishing.

Some organizations state that the trade wars will lower seafood consumption in the United States because it will ultimately make those cheap sources of seafood more expensive. In my opinion, the price of cheap, imported seafood does need to increase. If the price of imported seafood and domestic seafood was more comparable, then consumers would take a harder look at their purchasing decisions. I believe that we all want to make good choices for the ocean, though sometimes we simply can’t afford expensive seafood.

In the seafood sector, cheap, imported products coming from overseas without import taxes are competing with our domestically caught seafood, which is far superior in quality and nutrition. Domestic seafood products also help financially support our domestic coastal communities and working waterfronts. Due to low wages nationally, some people have little choice but to purchase cheap food, which is why there's so much artificially low-priced imported seafood.

Oregon Dungeness, pink shrimp and albacore are MSC certified as sustainable.

In order to lower their costs and keep profits high, producers cut corners: slave labor, illegal ingredients, antibiotics, hormones, etc., are all consequences of these cost-cutting efforts. All these have negative effects on the environment, our health and that of our communities. It’s similar to U.S. agricultural policy, where our government has subsidies to help farmers who grow genetically modified corn, soy and wheat. These subsidies keep prices low for the consumer, creating an artificial price tag that makes certified organic food seem expensive. [Organic crops are not subsidized like conventional agriculture. - KB] This is the same equation in domestic versus foreign seafood—one is artificially priced lower.

It follows that subsidies make the price tag lower on the face of it, but we are still paying for them on the back end through our taxes. This artificial pricing doesn’t accurately reflect the actual cost of those goods when consumers buy them. When consumers see the price tag on local, organic, or farmers’ market items, they think it’s expensive; however, the real costs of commodity food would be more if the subsidies were not in place and the environmental impacts were included in the cost of the goods.

We have a choice every day to either make this world a better or a worse place in which to live. Some products are produced in sustainable ways for the environment and for our bodies, and some products are produced in ways that harm our bodies and the environment, the people, and the communities in which we live. I encourage you to be mindful of the food choices you make at the grocery store, restaurant and throughout your daily actions.

As a collective community I believe these choices will lead to consumers recognizing the value and nutrition of domestically produced fish. The new demand will absorb the excess production that once went to foreign buyers.

Eat domestic, support your local fishermen, and feed your body good food!

Read more about Oregon's sustainable fisheries and their importance to the state's economy.

Praising the Braise: Grass-fed Short Ribs Long on Flavor


I was in my usual zoned-out state at the grocery store the other day picking up a few necessities—coffee, pasta, milk—and trying to decide what to make for dinner. Walking past the butcher case, I saw chuck roast for $6.99 per pound from Oregon Country Beef, a co-op of ranchers that, despite the name, sources its beef from well beyond Oregon's borders, including ranches in Washington, Idaho, Nevada and California.

Oregon Country Beef cattle finished in a feedlot.

According to the company, the co-op's cattle start their lives on pasture and are raised on rangeland for most of their first 14 to 18 months,* then are shipped to a feedlot for "finishing" on a diet of non-GMO wheat, barley and potatoes (photo, left), a four-month process that fattens cattle to increase their weight before slaughter.

Carman Ranch cattle live their lives on pasture.

Then I saw there was a special on—be still my heart—short ribs for just a buck more per pound. Even better, they were from Carman Ranch, a grass-based ranch in Oregon's Wallowa County where Cory Carman raises cattle on the land that's been in her family for more than 100 years. Her cattle spend their entire lives right up to the point of slaughter on its broad pastures at the base of the Wallowa Mountains (photo, right), and the regenerative practices she champions sequesters carbon in the soil and produces more nutrient-dense, leaner meat.

While I commend the fact that the chuck roast came from cattle raised on non-GMO feed, those short ribs were singing their green-green-grass-of-home song. I brought four pounds home, sautéed a base of vegetables—call it mirepoix (French), sofrito (Spanish), soffritto (Italian) or even włoszczyzna (Polish)—then added roasted tomatoes and red wine along with the short ribs. Ninety minutes later this ultimate comfort food dinner was meltingly tender, and looked (and tasted) stunning served alongside my friend Kathryn's saffron rice.

Red Wine and Tomato-Braised Short Ribs

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped in 1/2" dice
3 stalks celery, cut diagonally into 1/4" slices
3 medium carrots, halved and cut in 1/2" slices
3 large cloves garlic, minced
4 c. roasted tomatoes
2 c. robust red wine
4 lbs. short ribs
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, stemmed and minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large braising pot or Dutch oven. When it shimmers, add onions and sauté until translucent, then add celery, carrots and garlic and sauté until tender. Add tomatoes and red wine and bring to a simmer. Add short ribs and herbs, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 90 minutes to two hours until meat is very tender and almost falling off the bones. Add salt to taste and serve over saffron rice or with boiled or mashed potatoes.

* Conventionally raised cattle—those that are born and live on pasture for their first few months and are then moved to feedlots where they're typically fed a diet of GMO corn and soy laced with antibiotics and sometimes growth hormones—are generally slaughtered at one year to 18 months old, depending on their weight.

Photo of Oregon Country Beef cattle at a feedlot from Newport Avenue Market in Bend. Photo of Carman Ranch cattle from its website.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Farm Bulletin: Inner Workings, Part Two: Horseradish


Contributor Anthony Boutard once expressed a desire to open a restaurant where the waiters would carry, not baseball bat-sized pepper grinders, but small microplane graters and a stalk of horseradish to shave judiciously over diners' plates. Here he shares his secrets for serving the root, as well as his planting method at Ayers Creek Farm. Please note that the farm will be open this weekend, December 1st and 2nd, from 1 to 4 pm, with horseradish as well as their other products (see Anthony's note below for details).

During the warm months, horseradish roots have an unpleasant earthy funk. With the return of frosty and wet weather, the horseradish roots develop their flavor. Over the last two weeks, staff harvested about 120 pounds of horseradish. We pulled out the largest roots for our restaurant customers. We are mindful that prep labor is expensive and the larger roots are more efficient to peel and grate. As a result we have a lot of excellent medium-sized roots. Following the lead of Filene’s Basement and Nordstrom Rack, we will have a crate of medium sized horseradish roots available at $1 each. There will be a mixture of roots at a great price. We encourage you to poke through the selection with a discerning eye and grab a handful of the best for the holiday season and beyond. The quality of these smaller roots is as good or better than the biggest. Wrap them up in a damp dish towel and store in a cool place such as the garage or under the eaves of the north side. They will store for weeks or even months. Pull a root out, peel and grate what you need.

Untrimmed horseradish.

One of the soups we prepared for staff at Sweet Creek [on processing day for Ayers Creek Farm preserves] was a simple potato and onion soup using grain brine as the base. We grated a big container of horseradish to stir into the soup. There wasn’t a drop left. At Thanksgiving, grated horseradish was available to stir into the mashed potatoes. A bit of horseradish is welcome in salads or over a plate of oysters on the shell. We recommend trying it fresh rather than putting it in vinegar or cream. Freshly grated horseradish is a very different and more agreeable ingredient than the sour preserved stuff in a jar. Read the label and you will notice that virtually all brands are fortified with mustard oil, an indignity that also afflicts cheap brands of wasabi.

Grated horseradish.

The smallest roots are put aside and used for replanting the patch. For some reason, people often assume the leafy crowns are best for planting, but this is not the case. The best crops are propagated using short root cuttings, about five to six inches long. The bottom is cut at an angle to orient it, as shown below. The cutting is poked into the ground at a 35° to 45° angle. That’s it. If you want to buy some roots for establishing your own patch, ask us and will happily sell you some cutting grade roots.

Bear in mind, once established, horseradish is notoriously tenacious and will hang around for a century or more. Not for the ambivalent. To maintain its quality, we add generous amounts of sea salt, gypsum and sulphate of potash.

Read Part One about producing Ayers Creek Farms justly-renowned preserves.

* * *

From Anthony: We are planning open days for the coming weekend, the 1st and 2nd of December. Our hours will be from 1 pm to 4 pm. As a reminder, we are strictly cash or check; we do not have the ability to process electronic payments. For those who find the journey out to the farm difficult or prefer the ease of electronic payments, World Foods' Barbur location and Rubinette Produce carry robust selections of our beans and grains. Pastaworks, which has carried our preserves since our first run in 2005, has a complete selection of our preserves at its City Market and Providore locations.

We will have a full selection of preserves, beans, and grains, as well as chickpeas, mustard and other odds and ends. We will have family-sized beets, horseradish, melons, tomatillos, spuds, big white onions and other stuff. Our selection now includes: Loganberry, Boysenberry, raspberry, golden gage, green gage, Italian prune, Veepie grape, blackcap, red currant, black currant, jostaberry, damson, tart cherry, quince jelly, crabapple jelly (available only at the farm).

Ayers Creek Farm can be found at 15219 SW Spring Hill Rd., Gaston, Oregon, 97119.

Farm Bulletin: Inner Workings, Part One: Preserves


Farms are not made solely of soil and crops; many also produce what are known as "value-added" products like salsas, sauces, flours or packaged goods that give the farmer additional revenue streams in addition to fresh produce. Ayers Creek Farm dries its corn for popcorn as well as grinding it for polenta, extending the season (and income) beyond the harvest. Here, contributor Anthony Boutard describes how they produce their (insanely) delicious preserves, as well as announcing the end of their blackcap preserves, which Carol Boutard and I came very close to producing as part of a line of food-oriented sexual aids. (Yes, it's that good.) Also, at the end of this post note Anthony's announcement of farm store days coming up this weekend, December 1st and 2nd.

About ten years ago, we were approached by a specialty food company that wanted to carry our preserves. After a lot of flattery, they asked us what about our wholesale price, then they asked what our price would be if we upped our production. We carefully explained that with a small run of preserves, there is no point at which they are cheaper to produce. All of our costs are per the jar; there are no variable costs at this scale. We explained that we are farmers who happen to make a few preserves, and are content to keep it at a scale where we don’t have to cut corners. For example, we could make cheaper preserves by adding pectin which would double the number of jars per pound of fruit, using frozen lemon juice instead of hand squeezing the lemons on the day of production, or buying machine-harvested fruit. We will leave that sort of production to professional preserve-makers, happy to defend our amateur status.

A wide selection (see complete list below).

This year will mark the last of the blackcap preserves. The raspberries as a group are tough to grow on a commercial basis as they are prone to a bevy of root diseases. Blackcaps and purple raspberries generally fall apart after four or five years, other varieties hang on a bit longer. By comparison, our oldest Chesters were planted in 1993 and are still going strong. This autumn we plowed the blackcap plants under and prepared the land for other crops. It was our third planting and, with a measure of sadness, we have decided against planting more. With increasingly uncertain weather and high establishment costs, it is no longer a wise investment. We will have a few jars of crabapple jelly this week. It is a lovely, subtle jelly that was once the domain of patient, elderly sorts, and one of Anthony’s odd fixations.

Paul Fuller and Carol Boutard in production at Sweet Creek Foods.

In 2017, early stone fruit was shy due to rain and frost during bloom. Too few to even bother harvesting for preserves. A relatively dry and mild spring this year allowed us to bring back green gage, golden gage and tart cherry preserves. The lack of any temperature spikes in June and July along with cool nights assured high quality currants and berries. Winemakers will rattle off their favorite years when everything seems to fall into place. It is no different with other sorts of fruit, though without the attending cachet. Good thing, too. We would hate the thought of people asking if we had any of the ’15 raspberry with its refined floral notes and delicate tannic finish.

The Hungarian-type cherries (Balaton, Jubileum and Danube) are morello types, meaning they have a dark red juice rather than the clear juice of the Montmorency-type. Staff froze 210 pounds of the cherries in July. In the past, we have made preserves from a mixture of the Hungarian and Montmorency cherries, but this year we decided to try the single sort.

Anthony with his prized Montmorency cherries.

In early November, the two of us pitted them, netting 164 pounds for processing. We have a fine cherry pitter collection, including an expensive stainless machine designed to pit 10 at a time. At the moment, we favor a cheap plastic sort that sits well in the hand. We take a few pounds out the freezer at a time, let them soften for 20 minutes or so, and then remove the pits. The pitter lasts for about 70 pounds and then something breaks. Even with hand-pitting, a few pits manage to find their way into the processed fruit.

When we started cooking the cherries last week, we discovered the fruit wanted to float in the filler, so some jars had no fruit, just syrup, and others all fruit. Not good. Fortunately, Paul was quick on his feet and set up a hand-filling station. Linda Colwell, who had dropped by Sweet Creek simply to observe the process, was quickly handed a hairnet, gloves and apron, and pressed into service.

Jostaberries.

Cherries are low in pectin relative to other fruits, so the set is quite loose. We have never added commercial pectin because it dulls the fruit’s character, as does longer cooking to concentrate the fruit. As with our other fruits, in cooking we only go to 222°F (105°C). Better bright and active than dull and sedentary is our operating principle. We are very happy with the resulting flavor. An excellent sauce on ice cream.

The Hungarians were planted at the suggestion of Trillium Blackmer, who bought our Montmorency cherries at the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market.* One day Trillium wistfully noted that she really enjoyed Balaton cherries and she wished someone would grow them in Oregon. Her plea was compelling. At the time, nursery stock for the Hungarian-types was almost impossible to find. Balaton had been released only a few years earlier in 1998 and the cherries were unknown outside of Michigan. We tracked down a couple dozen at Cummins Nursery, a very small operation in Ithaca, New York. We ordered every tree available over the next couple of years. The Hungarian cherries are registered varieties and the royalties we paid on our trees went to fund fruit research in Hungary.

Read Part Two, Inner Workings: Horseradish.

*Ayers Creek Farm no longer attends the Hillsdale market.

* * *

From Anthony: We are planning open days for the coming weekend, the 1st and 2nd of December. Our hours will be from 1 pm to 4 pm. As a reminder, we are strictly cash or check; we do not have the ability to process electronic payments. For those who find the journey out to the farm difficult or prefer the ease of electronic payments, World Foods' Barbur location and Rubinette Produce carry robust selections of our beans and grains. Pastaworks, which has carried our preserves since our first run in 2005, has a complete selection of our preserves at its City Market and Providore locations.

We will have a full selection of preserves, beans, and grains, as well as chickpeas, mustard and other odds and ends. We will have family-sized beets, horseradish, melons, tomatillos, spuds, big white onions and other stuff. Our selection now includes: Loganberry, Boysenberry, raspberry, golden gage, green gage, Italian prune, Veepie grape, blackcap, red currant, black currant, jostaberry, damson, tart cherry, quince jelly, crabapple jelly (available only at the farm).

Ayers Creek Farm can be found at 15219 SW Spring Hill Rd., Gaston, Oregon, 97119.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Livin' in the Blurbs: Cookbook Social, Gifts for Food-Lovers, & a PDX Food 'Zine


Portland has got to have one of the highest per capita populations of published cookbook writers in the country. For a city its size, we have some of the best-selling chefs and authors to be found anywhere. And—lucky us—we have an annual book sale and fête in their honor, the PCA Cookbook Social, fortuitously timed to coincide with the holiday gift-giving season.

The Portland Culinary Alliance gave birth to this event six years ago, and this year it's hosted by James Beard Award-winning Chef Vitaly Paley of Headwaters restaurant. To make it even more interesting, this year they've added an artisan food component. On Sunday, December 2nd, you'll find nearly 20 of our finest authors ready with pens in hand to personalize a book for you or that special food-lover on your list, with many lying in wait to capture your imagination with treats from the pages of their tomes.

The event, which is free and is open to the public, will run from noon to 2 pm downtown at the Headwaters restaurant in the Heathman Hotel, in their event rooms upstairs at 1001 Southwest Broadway. From sous vide cooking to Russian cuisine, and from a best-selling memoir about butchery to making gourmet camping fare, plus books celebrating our local bounty of wild salmon, pears, wine and Dungeness crab, you're guaranteed to find the perfect pairing for cooks and readers here.

* * *


Holidays are all about food around here, so Eat Oregon Now's slogan, "The Best Gifts Are Delicious!" hits all the right flavor notes for me. Plus, as I've said so often, those gifts that are self-liquidating and don't have to be dusted or take up valuable shelf space are perfect for those of us who are already guilt-ridden over not reading that book about the Japanese art of decluttering (not that I'm admitting anything here).

This festive holiday marketplace, which takes place on December 9th, will be jam-packed with nearly 90 of the state's hottest makers offering food, drink and culinary gift items, as well as ingredients for holiday entertaining and memorable meals with family and friends. Need host and hostess gifts for holiday parties? How about care packages of Oregon's finest to send to faraway friends and family? Want to stash away some goodness for your own holiday gatherings? You'll find all that and more here.

So grab your calendar and put a big red X on Sunday, December 9th, from 10 am to 5 pm, and plan to head to the Leftbank Annex, 101 North Weidler Street.

* * *


Keeping secrets is not my strong suit, and I'm relieved as all get out to share news that I've been holding onto for several months now: Portland is about to get a brand new food magazine. After the demise of so many publications, from Edible Portland (in two incarnations) to the late, lamented Northwest Palate and MIX magazines—not to mention the disgrace that is the Oregonian's current Food Day section—a fellow named Brett Warnock is about to throw his hat in the ring with a (gasp) print magazine that he's calling Kitchen Table.

Warnock and his son, Carter.

I first heard about it when he contacted me to ask if, in the first issue, he could feature a story that I'd written about my mother's recipe for Spanish rice. "Our moms sound almost identical in their ability to straddle two worlds to make great food from scratch," he wrote, "But also be early adopters of the convenience of, well, convenience food. The taco seasoning and other packets of spices; and Kraft Mac & Cheese with hotdogs sliced into it with a splash of ketchup."

On the magazine's website Warnock describes his vision of "a new print and digital publication that connects adventurous souls, curious cooks and enthusiastic eaters with talented writers, artists, cartoonists and photographers who explore not only the how-to’s of cooking, but the why’s of eating."

Warnock himself is a native Oregonian with a resumé that includes twenty years publishing comics and graphic novels, with titles like "March" about Congressman John Lewis; Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's "From Hell"; and "Blankets," a memoir from Craig Thompson, to his credit. He's just launched a Kickstarter to finance the first issue, scheduled for February, with plans to publish three issues in 2019, then move to a quarterly schedule thereafter.

Myself? I've pledged, and I'm wishing him the best.

Read more in my series Touching Up My Roots about reinventing childhood classics.