Monday, September 18, 2017

A Shrub Is Not Just a Bush


In yet another example of the old saw "it isn't what you know, but who you know that counts" my neighbor Bill, he of the pickled onions, bourbon cocktails and massive garden, has been evangelizing on the topic of shrubs ever since I'd met him. No, not "shrub" as in a bushy landscaping plant, but a fermented vinegar syrup made by combining fruit and flavoring ingredients like spices or herbs with vinegar.

See? Not hard at all!

I was finally inspired to dive in when I visited him in his kitchen and he showed me a bowl of cubed cantaloupe he'd mixed with sugar that was sitting on the counter, and a separate bowl of mint that had been bruised and combined with some white wine vinegar.

"Okay, now, that doesn't seem to scary, " I said to myself. And when he mentioned that all that remained to do was to leave it out overnight, then strain the solids off, combine them in a jar, and let it sit for a couple of weeks in the fridge, I got that heady feeling I remember from my childhood when I rode a two-wheeler for the first time.

So stay tuned for more shrubs made with different fruit—I'm jonesing to try it with the Ayers Creek Farm's Chester blackberries I have stashed in the freezer—and ideas for using it in "acidulated beverages."

Bill's Cantaloupe and Mint Shrub

1 1/2 lbs. cantaloupe
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/2 c. mint leaves

In a medium-sized non-reactive mixing bowl, combine the cantaloupe with the sugar. Cover and allow to macerate on the counter overnight.

Put the mint in a small non-reactive mixing bowl, add vinegar and muddle lightly to release oils. Leave on counter overnight.

Strain off liquids from both bowls and pour into lidded quart jar. (Lid should be slightly loose to release gasses.) Place in refrigerator for two weeks. Shake periodically, tightening lid before shaking. Loosen lid again when replacing in refrigerator.

* * *

"Bring Me a Shrubbery"
From Bill Rash

2 oz. bourbon
1 oz. shrub (above)
1/2 oz. lime
Mint sprig (optional)

Fill a cocktail shaker 3/4 full of ice. Add ingredients. Shake and strain into coupe glass. Garnish with sprig of mint.

* * *

And for a non-alcoholic drinking vinegar-based beverage, try this:

Refreshing Shrub Soda

2 oz. shrub
Club soda
Lemon wedge

Fill beverage glass with ice. Pour in shrub, then fill with club soda and stir to combine. Squeeze lemon wedge into the glass and drop it in.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Setting a Big Table: Oregon Wine Comes of Age


In a recent edition of the New York Times, wine editor Eric Asimov waxes poetic about Oregon wine, saying that "Oregon is right now the single most exciting winemaking area in the United States," that "nowhere else does the level of quality seem so high, the perspectives so diverse or the experimentation so fierce as it is in Oregon right now." He goes on to extoll several of our best winemakers, especially Brian Marcy and Clare Carver of Big Table Farm. Here's an article I wrote about them seven years ago. Nice that Mr. Asimov has caught up!

* * *

Clementine, the Catahoula leopard hound, has been anxious since dawn, not wanting to be too far from her owner, Clare Carver of Big Table Farm. Clare has been moody for the last couple of days. Even Clare’s husband, Brian, has been giving his wife a wide berth. When Clare goes up to the hill pasture to sit with her pigs, Picnic and Pancake, Clementine stations herself with a good view of the road. She knows something is coming, something that is making Clare sad, and she wants to be ready.

Clare Carver sits in the pen with her pigs, scratching their backs when they lean their 300-pound bodies against her, snorting and squinting in the bright sunlight. Like a couple of big dogs, they dash off to play with each other or to chase something in the bushes or to root through the grass in the pasture, but eventually they come back to get more attention from Clare. She's raised them from tiny weaner pigs, and today is their last day.

An inspired painter whose subjects are the cows, horses, chickens, goats, pigs, old trucks and tractors that populate the farm she owns with her husband, Brian Marcy, in Williams Canyon outside Gaston, Oregon,she also has a large vegetable garden that supplies most of the couple’s food and the large farm dinners they host for people who buy the wines Brian makes under the Big Table Farm label.

Growing up in a large Catholic family (she has eight brothers and sisters), Clare heard stories about the farm in upstate New York that her parents had bought in the late 50s. They sold the farm when Clare was seven and moved their large family to the suburbs of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

She carried those tales of the farm with her into her career as an advertising art director for an East Coast ad agency, and one day a consultant for the agency told her, “You need to go out and see the world. You shouldn’t be doing this because your life is going to look exactly the same in ten years as it does now.”


“It was a complete wake-up call,” Clare said. She sold all her belongings and moved to San Francisco to start her own business. Shortly after the move she began dating Brian, who was transitioning to making wine after working for several years as a beer brewer.

“With beer, the whole goal is to take varying inputs and make the same product year in and year out without considering season or ingredients,” she said. “In wine it’s just the opposite, where people expect the product to be affected by season and ingredients. It felt more creative to him.”

Their move to Oregon was prompted, oddly enough, by a season spent harvesting grapes in Australia.

“It was a really romantic time for us and we started looking around at the land,” she said. “Honestly, that was the first time it started to creep into our consciousness that we could have a farm as well as have a winery.”

Their requirements for their farm were fairly simple: It had to be within an hour of a big city so Clare could continue her graphic design business, it needed to be located in a wine-producing area so Brian could be a consulting winemaker while developing their vineyard and, of course, it had to be within their budget.

The farm they found in 2006 fit their list to a T: Close to Portland, it was in the middle of a burgeoning wine region. It had perfect southeast facing hills and a charming Victorian farmhouse. Their bid was accepted.

“We didn’t really know anything about farming, and we read ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ by Michael Pollan when we were closing on the property,” Clare said. “It totally changed the way we thought we were going to set up our farm.”

While the book is mostly about what Pollan believes is the broken food system in the United States, where people are disconnected from the sources of their food, he also writes about a visit to Polyface Farm in the Shenandoah Valley and farmer Joel Salatin. Salatin calls himself a “grass farmer” and believes in rotating the animals on the land to keep the soil and the plants, and thus the people who eat the animals and plants, healthy.

With Salatin’s principles in mind, they’re transforming the nearly ruined hillsides and pastures of their Big Table Farm to an organic, balanced system. Brian made a trailer, called the “chicken bus,” to transport their laying chickens from one area to the next. Goats clear blackberries and scrub, watched over by a “guard llama” who challenges any predators who get too close. The cows, pigs and Clare’s beloved draft horses are confined by electrified tape that can be easily moved when the pasture needs a break from grazing.

When Salatain made a trip to Oregon, she asked him about organic feed, an important part of the system at their farm.

Salatin’s answer? “People can handle nudists and they can handle Buddhists, but they can’t handle nudist Buddhists.

“What he was saying is that people can handle the concept of pasture, they can get their head around that. But when you start talking about pasture and then you start talking about organic feed, they hold their heads and scream.”

She told Salatin that while that might be the case in his home state of Virginia, she felt that Northwesterners were able to handle that kind of information. Like the fact that she flat out refuses to send any of her animals to processing facilities to be slaughtered.

“The primary reason is because of the stress on the animal,” she said. “The stress and the adrenaline that goes through the animal changes the meat, and there’s hard science behind that.”

Take pigs, she said. They’re very smart and sensitive, so when they’re put into a truck for the first time in their life, it’s terribly stressful. And a pig’s sense of smell is even keener than a dog’s.

“Can you imagine what a processing center smells like to a pig?” she asked. “It makes my hair stand up just to think about it. Those poor animals.”

Because strict federal regulations require any meat that is sold to the public has to be processed in a USDA-approved facility, the meat from her pasture-slaughtered pigs can’t be sold in supermarkets or at farmers' markets. This is despite the growing demand for just the kind of pasture-raised meat she and other small-scale farmers in the region are producing.

With small processing plants closing down because of the recession, it’s hard for small producers to get their animals into larger slaughter facilities. With just a handful of USDA-approved mobile slaughter trucks in the entire Northwest, there isn’t one available for Clare’s farm.

Which brings us back to Clementine standing watch and Clare waiting with her pigs in their hillside pasture. When the truck from Frontier Custom Cutting finally pulls into the driveway in the late morning, Clemmie starts barking. She won’t stop until it leaves.

Richard, a burly man wearing orange rubber overalls and carrying a black rifle, walks up the hill. While Clare distracts Picnic with some fresh eggs, Richard puts the rifle behind Pancake’s ear and pulls the trigger. Then he walks over to Picnic munching on her egg and does the same.

Clare feels it’s the most respectful way to kill them.

“The bullet goes right to the spinal cord, but their heart is still pumping, so they’re essentially brain dead,” she said. “It’s a little violent but it doesn’t last very long. That part is the part I hate to watch, but dying is dying and it’s not pretty. It is what it is.

“I really hope when it’s my time I get afforded a respectful, quick death,” she added. “That’s what I would want. So I do the best I can for my animals in that sense.”

And each time she allows herself to feel the loss.

“It’s the way you feel when a human dies. They’re gone…really gone,” she said. ”I go out to their pasture the next day and I’m like, oh, they’re gone. It’s a reminder of how much power we have and how careful we have to be of that power, that we just created and took this life.

An observer could note that, in the way they run their farm and raise their animals, she and Brian haven’t chosen an easy route. And, like the move to Oregon and buying the land, it’s all been done without a business plan.

“If we had a business plan some things might be smoother for us,” Clare said. “But, like anything in life, it’s like, ‘Well, I’m going up that hill and maybe I’m not going to take the straightest path. But maybe I’m going to see some things I didn’t expect if I don’t have an exact map of how I’m going to get there.

“Sure, if we had a business plan we might get to the top of the hill faster,” she continued, “but we’re still going up there because we have the same goals and that hasn’t changed. Or if it does, we talk about it and we change it together.”

Asked about the best part of their lives on Big Table Farm, she thought for a moment, then answered.

“Almost every morning when I do chores I look around and this incredibly deep sense of satisfaction strikes me,” she said. “Being deeply happy with this path we’re on now.”

Top photo by Amanda Lucier for the New York Times.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Tomatoes Galore


"And now for your delectation, the delicious Tomatoes Galore will tickle your fancy with her juicy rendition of 'On Top of Old Smoky'…"

Forgive me, dear readers, but I'm in head-down tomato processing mode. I've got two baking trays of chopped tomatoes in the oven that need to come out in 30 minutes, so this is going to be quick. They're the tail end of 60 pounds of the red-ribbed beauties known as Astiana tomatoes from Ayers Creek Farm, the first round of the 150 pounds I plan to process (I know, crazy, right?) this year and squirrel away in the freezer for the winter.

Astiana tomatoes at Ayers Creek Farm.

Those tomatoes, with just the right balance of tart-to-sweet, the product of more than a decade of selecting for flavor, plant health and field-hardiness on the part of Carol and Anthony Boutard, began with a meal that the couple had in the Piedmont region of Italy. There they tasted a fresh tomato that Carol said they had to bring back to their organic farm in Gaston—Anthony would remind me that Italy's Piedmont is on roughly the same latitude as Oregon, meaning that the seeds could be adapted to our climate—and the story goes that she ran out to the dumpster behind the restaurant, diving in to gather enough seeds to bring back.

Roasted tomato soup (recipe below).

My method of roasting is super simple: preheat the oven to 400°, chop the tomatoes into quarters, load onto two sheet trays skin-side down and roast for an hour. Cool enough to pull most of the skins off (easiest by hand if you like chunky sauce; a food mill smooshes them too much for our uses), load into quart freezer bags and you're done.

Speaking of done, it's time to pull those tomatoes out of the oven. Here's a recipe for a fabulous tomato soup I made last year, one that I think rivals the best you're likely to have.

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter
2 med. onions, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. flour
2 qts. (8 c.) roasted tomatoes or 3 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes with their juices
2 c. chicken broth
1 Tbsp. kosher salt plus more to taste
1 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender and translucent. Add garlic and continue to sauté 2 minutes. Add flour and stir, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, for 3 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, salt, celery salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Remove soup from heat and, using an immersion blender,  purée the soup thoroughly until smooth*. Add more salt to taste, if needed. Serve.

* I don't mind a little texture from any bits that don't get totally blended in, but if you want a completely silky smooth finished product, you can press it through a fine mesh sieve, which will catch any remaining seeds or other bits.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Cocktail Class: Peach Caipirinha


Peaches are the most seductive fruit of summer: Their aroma, when ripe, is both tart and intensely, beautifully sweet. Just one sitting on my counter can perfume the whole kitchen. Apply slight pressure at the top, near the crown, and the flesh beneath the skin gives way slightly; peeling it is like slipping off the clothes of a lover.

Or as Wallace Stevens writes—so much more eloquently—in his poem, A Dish of Peaches in Russia:

With my whole body I taste these peaches,
I touch them and smell them.  Who speaks?

I absorb them as the Angevine
Absorbs Anjou.  I see them as a lover sees,

As a young lover sees the first buds of spring
And as the black Spaniard plays his guitar.

So the end of summer, to me, is about peaches. In cobblers and salads, stirred into the batter for scones, churned into sorbet, mixed into cocktails we carry out to the front porch and toast our neighbors passing by.

Peach Caipirinha

1/2 medium peach, peeled and pitted
1 heaping Tbsp. superfine (baker's) sugar
1/2 lime
2 oz. cachaca

Place half peach in a blender and purée. Add a few drops of lime juice to keep it from browning.

Trim ends off of 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. Add puréed peach. Put into shaker. Fill with ice. Add the cachaca. Shake. Pour with ice into tumbler.

See all my peach recipes here!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Wildfire Burns, Breaks Hearts in Oregon



There's no other way to say it: I am devastated.

The Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge is turning a lifetime of memories to ash. The geography of a life spent traveling its trails, byways, forests, streams and rivers is being consumed in fire. Childhood trips to Multnomah Falls to stand on the dainty Benson Footbridge gaping at the impossibly high water cascading over a cliff and thundering into a pool far below, then having a lunch of luscious salmon sandwiches—so much more decadent than our standard Bumble Bee—in its stone lodge.

Stonework on the old highway near Oneonta.

Driving up and down its length to Eastern Oregon for family holidays with grandparents, then, later, riding the Greyhound home from college after my folks moved to The Dalles. And after college, that drive, always fraught in the winter months, not sure what challenge we'd face between Cascade Locks and Hood River. Blinding snow and black ice, driving winds that would buffet my little car like it was in a pinball machine at the mercy of a demented player.

Oneonta tunnel, before the fire.

The stunning beauty of the soaring rock cliffs shooting up from the wide expanse of the river, sheer expanses carpeted in Douglas fir and dotted with little towns—Bridal Veil, Dodson, Warrendale—along the way. Growing up, a stop at the Charburger in Cascade Locks for coffee and, if we begged enough, a piece of pie, was de riguer; a tradition that Dave and I continued for years with our own son.

Spectacular woodcraft in Oneonta tunnel, now gone.

We'd see its hills change from the pale green of spring to the richer hues of summer, then explode into the vibrant palette of fall. A profusion of lupine, daisies, penstemon, vetch, buttercups, Douglasia, kitten tail and other wildflowers would dot creeks and roadways, trees cackling with birdcalls.

It was a gem that we'd reveal to visitors, saying, "Oh, let's drive to Hood River for a beer," then stun them with stops along the historic highway, listening to them gasp at its waterfalls, as we'd tell them about the Italian stonemasons who crafted its moss-covered parapets, railings and bridges.

Oneonta tunnel after the fire.

As my brother said, "A big part of a lot of our lives lies in ruins." It will take at least a generation, or more, to recover.

Donations can be made to Friends of the Columbia Gorge, designated to search and rescue operations, or to Trailkeepers of Oregon, which will be working on restoration efforts. Video at top from 2010.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Peach Sorbet, Take Me Away!


This summer is going down in the record books as a weird one, for sure. For the first time ever, I walked on the Oregon coast and, rather than the cool breeze wafting from the ocean, I felt a hot, suffocating wind blowing from the shore. For the last month we've had wildfires burning up and down the Cascades, bringing smoky skies for days at a time—last night the moon looked like a tangerine floating over the city—and today our neighbors' houses a block away are veiled in a grey haze.

Temperatures in the Willamette Valley have reminded me of my summers in Eastern Oregon more than the moderately balmy summers we're used to, and we've had to deploy fans and a window air conditioner to keep the house at a livable temperature for the pets and people inside.

The balm to all this Shakespearean drama in the weather has been, for us, the simple pleasures of late summer that we look forward to all year, exemplified by big, sweet tomatoes sandwiched between thick slices of country bread and the perfume of fleshy peaches eaten out of hand, bursting with sticky juice.

Just this morning I was down at our neighborhood farmers' market to pick up fresh corn, shiny deep purple eggplants and big heads of lettuce so alive I half expected them to speak to me. Dave had put in a request for fruit for sorbet, so a box of blushing Sweet Soleil peaches was dutifully purchased for that purpose. He's just finished churning the first batch, and I can't wait to have an icy dish on the porch after dinner as we wait for the first breath of the evening's breeze.

Bourbon Peach Sorbet

3 lbs. peaches
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. bourbon

Pit and quarter whole peaches, leaving skins on, and place in food processor with lime juice and sugar. Process until it's a fine purée. Pour it into a fine mesh sieve (in batches if necessary) over a large mixing bowl and, using a wooden spoon, stir and press the purée through the sieve. (This step is super easy and not time-consuming, so don't let it put you off.) Stir in the bourbon, then place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the purée. (This keeps it from oxidizing and turning brown.) Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours to chill completely. Put chilled purée in ice cream maker and process according to directions. Place in container in freezer for 2-3 hours (or overnight), then serve.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Farms and Mines and Salmon


Sandwiched between the eclipse and Hurricane Harvey, an environmental disaster of potentially devastating proportions occured just north of us in the Puget Sound. Up to 300,000 farmed Atlantic salmon were dumped into the Sound when their pens collapsed for as-yet-undetermined reasons. My friend Cynthia Nims, an expert on fish and the fishing industry, posted the following on her blog, Mon Appétit.

It’s been a big week for salmon, at least here in the Seattle area, with two sizeable stories in play. One new, one older but with a new timeliness.

Three king salmon on left, farmed Atlantic salmon on right. The farmed fish show signs of yellow mouth disease, a bacterial infection.

The new news was the terrible failure of farmed salmon pens near the San Juan Islands. I’ll admit to not having been aware of how many salmon farms operate in the Puget Sound area, so along with the massive dump of Atlantic salmon into the native habitat of wild salmon comes the wake-up call about how much more potential impact could come from other active farms. No limit of controversy looms in the days following the incident Sunday, with contrary perspectives on to what degree extreme eclipse-related tidal activity was at fault (and why those high tides proved surprising), on how much impact those nonnative salmon will have on native populations, on the likelihood of them perishing before they get very far into regional river systems.

[Update: In an article posted on Sept. 1 by KUOW in Seattle, reporter John Ryan reveals that "Cooke Aquaculture and state officials knew at least six months ago that the floating salmon farm that collapsed in August was 'nearing the end of serviceable life,' with accelerating corrosion eating away at its hinges and steel structure. Even so, they agreed to fill the damaged structure with a full load of 3.1 million pounds of Atlantic salmon in an area regularly swept by strong currents."]

Kurt Beardslee of the Wild Fish Conservancy and Bill McMillan testing for diseases on spilled Atlantic salmon.

One article I read earlier this week suggested the Atlantics would be as likely to survive out of their controlled farm environment as a dairy cow released into the Serengeti. But an article Friday noted that Lummi Tribe fishers have caught Atlantics in the Skagit River and the latest piece I read this morning says that Makah Nation fishers have netted Atlantics on the Seiku River near Neah Bay, suggesting their ability to survive may have been underestimated. Having spent time on Lummi Island with salmon-fisher Riley Starks—including a visit to the Lummi Island Wild reef-netting operation he’s part of—it’s been particularly heartbreaking to hear the extraordinary challenge the fish dump has been in that region.

[Update: The KUOW article mentioned above reports that as of Sept. 1, the Atlantic salmon have been found "throughout Puget Sound and into Canadian waters. Some have swum up to 150 miles away, into the Pacific Ocean off the outer coast of Vancouver Island." Top photo shows Lummi Nation fishers Jay Julius and Steven Solomon working in Deepwater Bay at Cypress Island to rid Salish Sea waters of spilled Atlantic salmon.]

Many times this week I’ve had flashbacks to a conversation I had with the manager of a salmon processor up on Alaska’s Kodiak Island the summer of 1997. He was lamenting the rapid growth of salmon farming and its effect on overall market price for salmon, even prized wild salmon. I recall saying something to the effect of “farmed salmon are clearly here to stay, can’t fight that wave of production, but we can make a point of celebrating the value and appeal of wild salmon as a premium product.” I was editor at Simply Seafood magazine during much of the 1990s, a time when farmed fish was a big and relatively new topic. Farmed salmon, and other fish, may be anathema to those of us who–for ecological or gastronomic reasons, if not both–will always choose wild, but they have become mainstream fare for much of the population. I’ve always considered that wild salmon stands out against farmed salmon the way a gorgeous piece of artisan cheese stands out next to a piece of commercial cheddar. They’re just entirely different products.

Farming fish in the same waters that are home to their wild counterparts never seemed like a good idea to me. Land-based closed systems of course require more work to establish than dropping pens into existing natural habitat. But they alleviate the potential issues that come with dropping pens into wild habitat, which introduces a hyper-concentrated population where impact (feces, excess feed, potential for disease) surely can’t be fully benign–even when everything goes as planned. Trying to stop fish farming is unrealistic and not the answer, the potential for healthy protein this aquaculture provides is important for feeding the planet. Taking those farms to parts of the world where the production of healthful protein would be most beneficial–and the farming operation itself an economic benefit to the region–always made the most sense to me. We should not be farming salmon in the land of wild salmon. The concept’s not bad, but the location certainly is.

On the old-but-new salmon news front, I joined a few dozen from the restaurant industry at Hot Stove Society downtown Seattle on Wednesday for updates on what’s going on with the Pebble Mine project that is being proposed for Southwest Alaska. We’d all been hearing quite a lot in recent years about the Pebble Mine, which is in the vicinity of Bristol Bay. The potential value of the copper and gold that could be pulled from the earth there is mind boggling (I’ve read in the hundreds of billions of dollars). But so is the potential for disaster that could beset the region if mining safeguards fail and this unique, pristine, vibrant watershed is ravaged….

Read the rest of Cynthia's post here.

Photos by Riley Starks, used with permission. Check Riley Starks' Facebook page for the videos he's been posting about the spill.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Big Milk: Big Issues for Local Communities


"Giant factory farms are moving to Oregon, bringing with them concerns about our rural communities, the environment, and how we want to grow our economy, as well as challenging long-held traditions of our state's agriculture as one based on small, family-scale farms."

My article for Edible Portland (above) will be available on newsstands starting Sept. 1 (the digital version will be on their website in November). Look for the gorgeous cabbage on the cover (left)!

Find your copy here or sign up for a subscription!

Salad Smackdown: BLT Salad!


When the heat of summer hits and tomato season finally rolls around, one of my favorite summer salads-for-dinner is a big ol' panzanella. Starting with a triumvirate of stale bread, juicy tomatoes—especially those squishy super ripe ones that have been sitting on the counter a little long—and leafy green lettuce, then tossed with any other garden veg you have (cucumber, beans, you name it) and dressing, it's dinner in a bowl! Here contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food adds his two cents-worth.

BLT Salad

I ate the first tomatoes from my garden this week, and I've got another week before a lot more will be ripe. But it's officially tomato season in Portland (almost always toward the end of August). Here's one way to add even more tomato-y goodness to your plate. (If you're not growing any, look for the dry-farmed Early Girls at New Seasons; they taste like home-grown tomatoes.)

To make this more than just a tomato salad with bacon, start by toasting the bread in bacon fat. Cook about a quarter pound of good bacon until it's crispy. Set the bacon aside and add a couple of handfuls of cubed bread to the bacon fat. If there's not enough to really coat the bread, add some extra virgin olive oil. Toast the bread on the stovetop or in the oven until it's lightly browned.

Chop a few tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, shred some iceberg lettuce—unfairly maligned but perfect for this; you could use romaine if you can't get past your iceberg prejudice—and crumble the bacon. Stir together about a quarter cup of good mayo, 2 tablespoons each of Katz Gravenstein apple cider vinegar [regular cider vinegar works, too] and extra virgin olive oil, and 3 tablespoons buttermilk. [I added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard just 'cause] Combine everything and toss well with flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper. BLT in a bowl!

See more Salad Smackdown recipes for easy salads with big, bold flavors.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Devilishly Delightful: 4 of My Best Deviled Egg Recipes


I don't know about you, but whenever I make deviled eggs, for my family or a gathering, the ooh-ing and aah-ing just won't quit. Maybe it's the eggs from pasture-raised chickens with their marigold yolks—I've been accused of using turmeric to amp up their color—but they invariably disappear without a trace.

This is the time to buy the best eggs you can get, so don't settle for store-bought eggs that may be up to a month old. (And be forewarned: their extraordinary flavor and freshness might just convince you they're worth the price to use all the time.)

Here's a pro tip: use my tried-and-true, easy-peel method to hard-boil those fresh-from-the-farm eggs. And another tip: if you don't have one of those deviled egg platters like the one in the top photo, slice lettuce or other greens into chiffonade and spread them over a plate (photo, left). The eggs sit up like champs!

Happy summer!

Mom's Mustard Deviled Eggs

6 hard-boiled eggs
2 tsp. dijon mustard, either smooth or seeded
1/4-1/3 c. mayonnaise
Paprika for garnish

Hard-boil eggs using my method. Halve hard-boiled eggs, removing yolks and putting them in a small mixing bowl and placing whites on serving tray. Mash yolks with fork until there are no lumps. Add mustard and mayonnaise and combine, stir well until smooth, adjusting mayonnaise to taste (you don't want it too dry or too creamy). Fill halves of whites with yolk mixture.

Place a fine sieve over a small bowl and add paprika. Carefully lift the sieve about 10" above the eggs and tap the edge to gently shower them with a dusting of the paprika. Serve.

* * *

All-Time Favorite Spanish-style Deviled Eggs

6 hard-boiled eggs
2 anchovy fillets
4 Tbsp. mayonnaise
9 green olives, preferably anchovy-stuffed Spanish olives
Pinch of smoked Spanish paprika plus more for sprinkling
Moroccan harissa or other chile sauce for garnish

Hard-boil eggs using my method. Halve eggs, putting yolks in small mixing bowl and placing whites on serving tray. Using long-tined fork, crush yolks until thoroughly mashed. Add anchovy fillets and mash into yolks. Chop six of the olives finely and add, with mayonnaise and pinch of paprika, to egg yolk mixture. Mix thoroughly. Fill whites with egg mixture and arrange on platter.

Slice each remaining olive crosswise into four rounds and top each egg with one, then put a small bit of the harissa on top of the olive. Put another pinch of smoked paprika into small mesh sieve and, tapping lightly, sprinkle platter with paprika. Serve.

* * *

Curry Mustard Deviled Eggs with Fried Sage Leaves

6 hard-boiled eggs
3/4 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. dijon mustard, either smooth or stoneground
1/4 c. mayonnaise (approx.)
2 Tbsp. canola oil
12 sage leaves
Smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton) and sage flowers, if available, for garnish

Hard-boil eggs using my method. When cool, halve hard-boiled eggs, removing yolks and placing them in a small mixing bowl and placing whites on a serving platter. Mash yolks with fork. Add curry powder, mustard, oil and mayonnaise and combine, stirring until there are no lumps. Fill halves of whites with yolk mixture.

In frying pan, heat oil until it shimmers but doesn't smoke (I always flick a few drops of water into the oil…when it spatters it's hot enough). Add sage leaves, a few at a time, and fry for a few seconds on each side. Like making crostini in the broiler, the key is to not turn away because they'll burn the instant you do. So stand there and wait. Remove to paper towel to drain and cool. Sprinkle eggs with pimenton (see method, above), top each with a sage leaf and scatter sage flowers on the platter.

* * *

Fresh Horseradish Deviled Eggs with Chorizo

6 slices Spanish-style chorizo*
6 hard-boiled eggs
1-2 Tbsp. fresh horseradish root, grated finely (a microplane works great)
2 tsp. dijon mustard, either smooth or seeded
1/4-1/3 c. mayonnaise
Paprika for garnish

In small skillet over medium-high heat, cook chorizo slices until crispy. Remove to paper towel to drain. When cool, halve and reserve.

Hard-boil eggs using my method. Halve hard-boiled eggs, removing yolks and putting them in a small mixing bowl and placing whites on serving tray. Mash yolks with fork until there are no lumps. Add mustard, finely grated horseradish and mayonnaise and combine, stirring well until smooth, adjusting horseradish to taste (it can vary in strength and heat depending on where it's from, how old it is, etc., so start light and adjust). Fill halves of whites with yolk mixture. Top each egg with a half slice of chorizo.

Place a fine sieve over a small bowl and add paprika. Carefully lift the sieve about 10" above the eggs and tap the edge to gently shower them with a dusting of the paprika. Serve.

* Spanish-style chorizo is a salami-like cured product. If you can't find authentic Spanish chorizo, Fra' Mani makes a Salametto Piccante, or you can use Olympia Provisions' chorizo.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Quick Trip: Astoria and Back


I have friends and family members (you know who you are!) who cruise airline reservation sites for deals and have plans made months in advance for getaways to celebrate special occasions. Dave and I are pretty much at the opposite end of that spectrum, waiting until the last minute to make a decision and often ending up staying home, though we usually manage to have a good time regardless.

River traffic view from the balcony.

Our anniversary this year was no different in terms of advance planning, but we were determined to take the bull by the horns and get out of town for at least one night. A favorite place of ours is Astoria, a historic port at the confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean that's experiencing a renaissance with breweries, restaurants and retail flocking to its downtown core.

Just inside of two hours' drive from Portland, Astoria is perfect for a day trip or quick overnight. On a previous trip we'd stayed at the Cannery Pier Hotel (top photo), and decided to return there to enjoy one of the rooms that sit right on (actually over) the river. With a balcony featuring a front row seat to the river traffic plowing by under the Astoria-Megler Bridge, it provided a romantic moment for a glass of champagne before we headed downtown for dinner.


View from Clemente's dining room.

Clemente's had just opened downtown when we first went there, then in 2015 relocated to a dockside location on the town's Riverwalk promenade. The new location, now calling itself a "café and public house," is more casual and relaxed, a better fit with the restaurant's reasonably priced menu showcasing fresh local seafood and produce, and the setting with its view out over the river is wonderful.

3 Cups Coffee House.

Another new discovery, which Dave ferreted out the next morning, was 3 Cups Coffee House, handily located just a short stroll across the main road from our hotel and featuring coffee from local Columbia River Coffee Roaster. A sweet, casual throwback to coffee houses of old, the brews are solid, the food hearty and simple and the service fast but friendly…definitely worth a stop any time of day.

A quick drive down Highway 101 got us to the beach, where we could take a walk in the surf for an hour or so before hitting the road for the drive home, feeling pretty smug that we were able to get ourselves out of town to celebrate. Who knows, with this success in our pocket we might start planning for next year!

Read more suggestions about what to do in Astoria!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Samfaina: Spain's Ratatouille


Contributor Jim Dixon's been on a tear lately over the cooking of Spain, inspired by the release of his pal Robin Willis's new cookbook from Bar Pinotxo in Barcelona. Here's his version of one of the legendary bar's signature dishes.

With basically the same ingredients and cooking technique, samfaina usually gets tagged as Spanish ratatouille. But Catalonians would argue that their neighbors to the north are really just making French samfaina. We can leave the wrangling to the nationalist gastronomes and just be happy it's the time of year when all of the produce used in making this summery dish are abundant and delicious.

Samfaina

To make samfaina, you'll need an eggplant, a zucchini or two, an onion, some kind of not-very-hot pepper (green preferred, but not a green bell pepper unless that's all you can find), a clove or two of garlic and a few good tomatoes. (If you're a fan of the version served at Bar Pinotxo in Barcelona, add raisins and pine nuts to the shopping list; add the raisins with eggplant, toast the nuts and add at the end.)

Start by chopping the onion and cooking long and slow in plenty of extra virgin olive oil. While the onion is getting soft and golden brown, cut your tomatoes in half (across their "equator" so the stem end is on one half). Most recipes, including Pinotxo's, tell you squeeze out the seeds, but the seeds and their surrounding "jelly" contain most of the umami-rich glutamates, so leave them in. Rub the cut tomatoes gently across the large holes of a box grater (over a bowl, natch) until all that's left is the peel.

Add the grated tomato to the onions with some salt and cook for about 15 minutes (or longer) until they've thickened. Cut the eggplant, zucchini, garlic and pepper into small pieces and add. Cook over low heat for at least an hour (or, if you have time, put the skillet in the oven at 200° for a few hours, checking and stirring every once in awhile).

In the end you want a thick, jam-like sauce. You can eat samfaina by itself, spread it on grilled bread, set a piece of fish on it, spoon it over chicken, or stir it into a bowl of garbanzos. It tastes like slow-cooked summer.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Food News: Big Dairies Threaten Family Farms


This month Friends of Family Farmers launched a new blog it's calling Corporate Ag Watch to highlight the difference and expose the influence that corporate agribusiness interests have in our state. It aims to connect the dots between lobbying, campaign finance activity and policy outcomes that don’t often get covered in the press.

Oregon agriculture is predominantly made up of small and mid-sized family farms. According to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture, of the approximately 35,500 farms in Oregon, 84% are individually or family owned. In terms of size, 81% of Oregon farms are under 180 acres, with over 61% under 50 acres. Additionally, 87% of Oregon farms have under $100,000 in sales per year. While some family farms may be larger in size or may be incorporated, smaller and mid-sized farms are the backbone of Oregon’s agricultural economy, our local and regional food systems, and many rural communities.

However, corporate agriculture is generally dominated by out-of-state companies whose primary concern seems to only be about profits, not the well-being of small and mid-sized farms. Despite Oregon’s small family farm reputation, large agribusiness companies spend a lot of money on lobbying and political activities here in order to make sure their interests are taken care of by the state’s policymakers.

Unlimited Corporate Campaign Contributions in Oregon

Did you know that Oregon is one of only six states with no limits on corporate money in politics? This means that corporations can give unlimited money directly to the political action committees (PACs) that fund candidates and elected officials as they run for office. Twenty two states ban corporate campaign money completely, but Oregon is not one of them.

At the risk of stating the obvious, this means that individual corporations with deep pockets can have a tremendous amount of influence over the political process in Oregon.

Cow standing in waste at Threemile Canyon.

For example, let’s take a look at Threemile Canyon Farms LLC (top photo and right), one of Oregon’s largest corporate farming operations and likely the nation’s largest dairy concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) with roughly 70,000 cows near Boardman, Oregon. With all those cows in confinement, Threemile Canyon Farms may be the state’s largest individual source of agricultural air pollution, including haze causing ammonia and methane, a potent climate change-inducing gas. Already a huge operation, Threemile Canyon Farms is actually owned by an even bigger company out of North Dakota called R.D. Offutt, which also happens to be the nation’s largest potato producer and a key supplier of McDonald’s french fries.

The face of Oregon’s dairy industry has changed dramatically since Threemile Canyon Farms arrived here in 2001, with many small and mid-sized farms going out of business. According to USDA data, in a five year period shortly after Threemile arrived in Oregon, the state lost nearly half its dairy farms, mostly small and mid-sized operations struggling to compete in a market increasingly dominated by larger and larger confinement dairies. Data from the Oregon Department of Agriculture shows a loss of over 140 permitted dairies in Oregon over the past decade—a nearly 40% decline—even as cow numbers have increased at large operations like Threemile.

Waste runoff at Threemile Canyon.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Threemile Canyon Farms has been a staunch opponent of new rules to require large factory dairy farms like theirs to control harmful air emissions, and it has also been a shameless advocate for a lucrative tax credit that it is the primary beneficiary of. We wrote about both these issues in a recent recap of the 2017 Oregon Legislative Session.

To represent its interests, Threemile Canyon Farms employs multiple lobbyists, one of the few individual farms in the state that has a lobbyist at all. According to filings with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, Threemile has spent nearly $200,000 on lobbying to influence the outcome of legislation in Salem since 2015. But Threemile also makes significant campaign contributions to Political Action Committees used to help elect and re-elect candidates for public office.

Marty Myers, General Manager of Threemile Canyon Farms.

According to filings with the Oregon Secretary of State, Threemile has given nearly 30 political candidates and elected office-holders of both parties more than $36,000 dollars combined for election campaigns since early 2016. Most of these contributions have been in $500 or $1000 increments and were primarily given to legislative leadership and legislators who chair key committees that help decide the fate of bills that could impact Threemile’s business interests. But the largest recipient of Threemile’s campaign contributions since early 2016 has been Governor Kate Brown, who has received $9,000 from the company so far.

In 2015, Governor Brown appointed Threemile Canyon Farms’ General Manager to the Oregon Board of Agriculture, a board that advises the Oregon Department of Agriculture on policy, regulatory and budget matters. In 2016, it successfully lobbied to extend a lucrative tax credit for animal manure digesters they benefit from that was set to expire at the end of 2017. With Threemile as the largest recipient of this tax credit, the Legislature’s decision to extend it will direct millions in public funds to their operation in coming years. In the 2017 Oregon Legislative Session, Threemile was also able to block a bill that would have enacted consensus recommendations for the creation of an air emissions program that would address air pollution from the state’s largest dairies.

Read about Threemile Canyon Farms and its connection to Tillamook Cheese.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Camp Stories: Kingfisher on Mt. Hood


As a native Oregonian, I'm sometimes embarrassed to admit that I haven't been to every corner of the state and seen every single sight from multiple angles. Such was the case several years ago when we finally decided it was high time to visit southeastern Oregon's magnificent Steens Mountains, staying in a double-wide trailer at the astonishingly beautiful Malheur Wildlife Refuge and gazing over the spare, parched landscape of the Alvord desert.

Sharing nature's wisdom. And sticks.

Closer to home, while we've tramped over a lot of Mt. Hood's forested east and west sides, I've somehow never managed to explore the area above Estacada on the road to Bagby Hot Springs. Fortunately a friend decided to organize camping trip to the area, and our group of five families was able to secure multiple reservations in the Kingfisher campground along the Collawash River.

Relaxing is the name of the game.

Small, with only 23 campsites, and fairly primitive—think narrow dirt track, unpaved sites, water from a pump, vault toilets and no electrical hookups—its basic nature scares away the big rigs with their generators and sound systems, but it was perfect for our veteran camping crew. Food was apportioned according to the talents and desires of each family, with dinners of hot dogs with trimmings the first night (Olympia Provisions and Old Salt Marketplace were featured), steaks the second night and, for those staying an additional night, it was "hobo packs" à la foil packets cooked in the fire (recipe here, perfectly adaptable for the home grill).

Steak night with the grill-master.

All the campsites are fairly private, well-spaced and screened from each other by trees, but the prime sites are those along the river, particularly sites 6, 8 and 10, which have nice shady stretches of river-front for setting up chairs and reading. When we were there, the river itself was pretty tame, with lovely shallow, wade-able stretches perfect for skipping rocks or for finding a perch midstream and contemplating the nature of the universe.

Who needs a stinkin' campstove?

If you're looking for some nice gear to add to your collection, I'd highly recommend a cast iron griddle for cooking pancakes, bacon, eggs and sausages over the fire. Dave threw together an ad-hoc stove from river rocks that MacGyver would approve of, though we've used it on the fire grate numerous times.

Fun with hammocks.

Another recent addition to our repertoire has been a nylon hammock. Simple to sling between a couple of trees and a must-have for a peaceful nap streamside, it's also sturdy enough for kids to play in (ours is rated for 500 pounds). Come to think of it, it might also be the perfect solution for teens who cringe at the thought of sleeping en famille.

Clocking in at just under two hours from Portland, this idyllic campground is justifiably described as a diamond in the rough and got the thumbs-up from everyone in the group. We'll definitely be adding it to our list of great spots for a quick weekend camping trip.

Read more Camp Stories including site recommendations, recipes and more!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bar Pinotxo in Barcelona: A Portland Connection



A fellow named Robin Willis, a former Portlander and a filmmaker, artist, writer, bon vivant and friend of contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food, was in town recently with his new book "Bar Pinotxo: God is in the Garbanzos" about the "history, stories, and recipes from the 17 stool chiringuito in the most famous mercado in the world." (See video, above, and be sure to turn on the closed captioning.) This legendary bar is in Barcelona, where Willis now lives, and he recently shared a recipe from that book.


As Jordi [Asin, the chef at Bar Pinotxo] says, “good food comes from poor cultures… a rich culture has everything they want but those with less have to get by, refine, reuse and make the best out of simple ingredients” and like the vast majority of Spanish and Catalan dishes it is the simplicity of the technique and the quality of ingredients that make this dish so magical, sensuous, tasty and in this case, a little bit... dirty.

"Now how do I eat this?”

Another aspect of life in Iberia is that people here are not afraid to touch each other, things and food... both theirs and that that technically belonging to others. When they cook they dive in with both hands as naked as the day they arrived in this odd and beautiful place. Poking, squeezing, wiping, tasting…sometimes licking. Obviously, here when it comes to microbes it’s the more the merrier and considering that Spain has the healthiest population in Europe it must be working.

With this in mind here’s a potential eating scenario: Undoubtedly you will start by picking the clams out of their shells with your fork… and you might just stab an errant chunk of briny egg. Soon you will realize that much of the egg has affixed itself to the shell and ultimately to the meat of the clam. The residual heat has pretty much melded their molecules or at least glued them together pretty damn well. What are you going to do, go for the low hanging fruit? The big chunks? The easy pickings…and leave the rest on the plate? You are not one of those people who leave behind pizza bones, are you?

God bless you for your propriety, and this plan of attack may be the correct and tidy thing to do but you will miss out on all of the good stuff and you will go away hungry and frustrated. Give up and give in…put down that fork, grab one of those tiny mollusks, spread the shells apart, stick out your tongue and get busy. OK…I could get really descriptive about the sea-i-ness and salt-i-ness and the firm rigid texture of the clams and how this contrasts with the warm soft suppleness of the eggs and how you have to use your tongue and your teeth to scrap them off of the rock hard shells…and how it seems oh so beautiful but at the same time oh so obscene and forbidden but just oh so right…but I shan't…I shall leave some things up to imagination. Just go for it.

Scrambled Eggs with Very Small Clams

Serves 2 as a main dish or more as tapas.

Big dash of extra virgin olive oil
300 grams (10 oz.) of really fresh tallerinas [1] [very small clams like littlenecks]
50 grams (2 oz.) of thinly sliced onions
2 or 3 high quality, free range eggs from very happy chickens [2]
Sea salt flakes [3]
Twist of freshly ground black pepper or a dusting of Pimenton de la Vera [4]

Secret cooking tool: 1 glass pan lid…and it has to be glass because you have to see what’s going deep inside the pleasure dome. (Jordi and company put the clams directly on the griddle and use an old pyrex bread pan. They also have a quarter inch of callouses on their fingers. Trust me, use the pan lid.)

Beat the eggs well.

Pre-heat a skillet to medium—relax, no matter what you do it will come out really tasty—unless you go for a half hour jog or something while it's cooking, now that's a different story. Add the olive oil. Let the oil heat up a second of two then lower the heat then fry the onions very slowly until golden and then add them to the beaten eggs. Frying onions at a low temperature is part of the "sofregit" Catalan karmic cooking experience.

Toss in a little more oil and add the tallerinas. Now quickly cover the pan with the pan lid (you are in effect making a steamer). Paying attention, you will notice that in a short while the tallerinas will open and release this amazing sea juice that was trapped inside their shells. Once all the clams have opened (and this is the tricky part because you want as many of them as possible to open but you also don't want all the juice to evaporate) remove the lid and toss in the eggs and onion mixture then lightly oscillate everything with a wooden spoon.

Cover the pan and watch closely. Once the eggs are just “cooked” (and by this I mean they have just turned opaque... undercooked is better than overcooked) switch off the heat. The residual temperature of the pan and the clams will finish cooking the eggs. Slide the eggs and the clams (which have now become one, more or less) into shallow bowls. Add a sprinkle of the salt, a crack of pepper or a very light dusting of the pimenton and serve while it’s still warm.

[1] These are very small clams. But bigger ones work fine too. OK... steamers... no geoducks! 
[2] In Spain we have amazing chickens. Small, wiry and happy and sadly for them, really tasty. They are sort of the Antonio Banderas of poultry... and they make amazing eggs that need no refrigeration. Nevera? Nevera? We don't need no stinkin’ Nevera!
[3] I once almost got into a fist fight over the concept of "finishing salt." Apparently it's the salt you finish with as opposed to the salt you start with. Nonsense! Any good, flaky sea salt will do. Maldon is great stuff as is the smoked stuff from Brittany. What you want is wispy little pillows of salt. No rock salt pellets, please.
[4] Oh my how I love this stuff. Smoky, round, dusky…Pimenton de La Vera is to generic paprika what bacon is to olive loaf. People have to stop me from putting it on ice cream. It comes but from one small county in the harsh and wild province of the aptly named Extremadura.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Simple Pleasures: Romano Beans, Cherry Tomatoes


A skillet slicked with olive oil, a few random, slightly crushed garlic cloves browned over a hot fire. Big, flat, meaty romano beans from a local organic farm, sautéed to a satisfying crunch. Halved red cherry tomatoes at their sweet peak, thrown in and melted with the beans. This not-really-a-recipe recipe requires no cheffy tweezers to zhoozh it to perfection, no cloth-napkined, candlelit table set with the finest silver. Though a spoon to drizzle the slightly reduced tomato juices over the top of your beans might be nice.

Sautéed Romano Beans with Cherry Tomatoes

2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
1 pint sweet, in-season cherry tomatoes
1 lb. romano beans
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté till browned on all sides. Add cherry tomatoes and beans and sauté until beans are tender but still slightly crunchy. Serve with a shower of salt.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Farm Bulletin: Grace, Gentleness and Chesters


First, a calendar note: Contributor Anthony Boutard announces that the Ayers Creek Farm harvest shed will be open the last Saturday and Sunday of July, with hours from 3 to 5 pm, at 15219 SW Spring Hill Road in Gaston. Chester blackberries, half flats ($20) or full flats ($38) must be reserved. Please e-mail with your request. Check for more details on what will be available at the end of this post. With that taken care of, Anthony updates us on another recent development in their lives on the land.

This will be a challenging fruit season for us. As some of you have heard, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in February. It is a terminal cancer of the bone marrow. I have been in treatment since, which will extend my "use by" date a matter of years. I have been approved for an autologous stem cell transplant. The transplant will be from my own tissue which reduces the complications associated with transplants. If all goes well, they will harvest those cells in a few days, depending on how fast the drugs stimulate their production. On the 3rd of August I will become a ward of the succinctly named OSHU Center for Hematological Malignancies for about three weeks. After release, it will take about 100 days to rebuild the rudiments of my immune system and I will be one of those fragile medical parolees walking around with a surgical mask and a diminished coif. The transplant protocol erases your entire immune history, from departing the birth canal, nursing, childhood vaccinations, to last year's flu shot. The first 30 days are the most hazardous. It is a challenge many of you on this list have already handled.

Given the aggressive treatment over the last few months, I am in good shape both emotionally and physically. One advantage of a strong academic background in biology and statistics/probabilities, I understand what is happening, how the doctors are managing the condition, and the framework of predictions. As a recent review article in Science pointed out, about 65% of cancers are the result of a chance mutation that has nothing to do with lifestyle or genetics, nor how much kale, quinoa and blueberries you consume, or meritorious your emotional disposition. A minority of cancers are a product of lifestyle, despite what some pious scolds and weird food marketers would have us believe. Multiple myeloma is one of those chance mutations.

I have managed to put in a day's work on the farm most days, and my gallows humor is in fine form. Staff have really extended themselves to make sure everything is moving smoothly and there are no loose ends, and the farm has never looked better. Linda Colwell and Sylvia Black have shouldered through, helping everything run better in a myriad of ways. Carol has taken over the very demanding delivery route and schedule. If you make it out to the farm next weekend, take a walk around. Down in the wetland, we have a tundra swan who lost its ability to fly but is content, along with a host of other birds including marsh wrens in the tule clumps, with bittern, coots, ducks, green and blue herons plying the channels carved out by beaver and nutria. It is a beautiful place to linger, and I often do. We will have our next open days in September when the Astianas and grapes are ripe.

The paradox of being diagnosed with a treatable but incurable cancer is that you have no choice but to root for it. After all, it would be a crying shame to go through several challenging months of treatment only to be run down by a distracted driver. I also hate all of the war metaphors that attend the diagnosis. From my perspective, it is a condition that is best addressed with grace and gentleness, and enjoyment of every moment of love and peace that comes my way.  

I hesitated to put this out to the public, but thought of rehashing it over and over again is not that appealing. This will be the last direct mention of the matter and I will return to pondering Pliny, Gerarde, the flavor variables of tomatoes, the virtues of late season chicories, Ave Bruma melons, and introducing our new bean—the peculiar Otello's Pebbles. Oh yes, and the return of all the other favorite beans.

* * *

Chester blackberry deliveries have begun, and by the end of the week they will be available at New Seasons, Food Front and Rubinette Produce. Our preserves are available at the Gaston Market, People's Food Co-op, Providore, and will soon be returning to both Food Front stores. Rubinette Produce, part of the Providore complex, carries our popcorn, cornmeal, barley and parched green wheat, and later on will have the full range of our legumes. 

For the open day, we will have parched green wheat, migration barley (milled and whole grain), Amish Butter and Roy's Calais Flint cornmeal, Amish Butter popcorn and preserves. We will also have some Imperial Epineuse prunes. A reminder that Chester blackberries (half flats, $20) or full flats ($38) must be reserved. Please e-mail us with your request.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In Season NW: Cherry, Corn & Poblano Salsa


Ripe, round, luscious Northwest cherries. An ear of sweet corn. A melon at the peak of ripeness. Add a little heat from a roasted chile and the zing from citrus, and you've got one of the great bites of summer.

My friend Michel put these brilliant ingredients together a few years ago, and it's become one of our go-to summer salsas with backyard grilled salmon. It just so happened that I stopped by Providore on Sandy, and Lyf Gildersleeve of Flying Fish was featuring bright orange Kenai salmon filets. Then I noticed Josh Alsberg of Rubinette Produce had just brought in some juicy dark cherries from Baird Orchards, so dinner was basically planned for me.

I might just have to stop by the farmers' market this weekend and get the makings for another batch!

Cherry, Corn and Poblano Salsa

1 c. corn kernels (about 1 ear)
1 pt. cherries, pitted and halved
1 mango, melon or ripe pear, cut in small dice
1 roasted poblano or ancho chile, chopped
1 serrano chile, seeded and chopped
2 green onions, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

Combine ingredients and serve. Amounts and ingredients can be varied depending on what you have on hand.

For more super summer recipes, check out my recipe for Pulled Pork with Cherries and Apricots or this Grilled Corn Salad with Cherry Tomatoes.