Monday, April 22, 2019

Simple Seasonal Supper: Pasta with Rapini & Pork


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

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

Pasta with Rapini & Pork

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

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

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

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

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

Put the cooked rapini in a bowl and set aside.

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

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

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

Monday, April 15, 2019

Side of Spring: Potato and Artichoke Heart Gratin


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

The mis en place.

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

Ready for the oven.

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

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

Potato and Artichoke Heart Gratin

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

Preheat oven to 400°.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Make a Difference in Our Food System: Join a Commodity Commission!


Love West Coast albacore? Passionate about beer? Want to do something to change Oregon's food system for the better? If you care about where your food comes from and how it's produced, please consider joining one of Oregon's commodity crop commissions. Most include a member of the public, so check out this list of the positions available and make a difference in our food system!

Oregon albacore.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is recruiting for 63 commodity commissions, with a deadline to apply on May 10, 2019. Oregon’s 23 grower-funded commodity commissions support promotion, research and education to improve market conditions for their commodity. A key point: they also give industry members direct access to key Oregon agricultural opinion leaders and decision makers.

Oregon strawberries.

Each commission has a board that includes producer and handler positions. Producers grow or harvest the commodity; handlers are the first to purchase the commodity from the producer and often are processors, distributors, or marketers. And most commissions also include a member of the public. (The dairy commission has a public member position available…just sayin'.)

Time commitment varies depending on the commission, but can be from four to 10 times a year, and phone participation is a possibility. Meetings generally last two hours, but can sometimes be as long as two days, with some expenses reimbursed. For more information, e-mail Kris Anderson. You can make a difference!

Click to see the list and apply.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Mega-Dairy Reform Bills Die, Threatening a Repeat of Lost Valley Disaster


I have rarely, if ever, republished a press release from any organization. But I was so appalled and ashamed by the spineless, kowtowing obsequiousness of the Oregon legislature when it comes to factory farms in our state that I'm making an exception in this instance. Instead of instituting a simple moratorium on approval of new mega-dairies in our state in order to get its regulatory house in order when it comes to our air, water and groundwater quality, animal welfare, human health, the survival of small farms and the vibrancy of rural communities—read my article on Big Milk Brings Big Issues for Local Communities for details—our legislators instead bowed to pressure from agribusiness industry lobbyists to kill the bill before it even got out of committee. This denies Oregonians the right to listen to a full airing of, and a debate on, the future of our state.

The following was released by the following coalition: Columbia Riverkeeper, Food & Water Watch, Friends of Family Farmers, WaterWatch of Oregon, Center for Food Safety, Farm Forward, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Humane Voters Oregon, Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, Humane Society of the United States

April, 12, 2019

(SALEM, Oregon) — Oregon is at risk of repeating the ecological and economic disaster that occurred at the Lost Valley mega-dairy in Eastern Oregon after three bills aimed at fixing the problem failed to pass this legislative session. This means the loopholes that allowed the Lost Valley mega-dairy (top photo) to rack up hundreds of environmental violations, threaten groundwater, and leave behind more than 30 million gallons of liquid manure can be exploited by the new owner of the property near Boardman. In the wake of regulatory and environmental failures surrounding the Lost Valley, which was permitted for up to 30,000 cows in 2017 despite significant public opposition, a coalition of nearly two dozen farming, consumer, animal welfare, and environmental groups had called for reforms, including a 'time-out' on state-issued permits for new mega-dairies.

Irrigating crops with manure slurry at Threemile Canyon Farm on the Columbia River.

Senate Bill 103 would have put a hold on licensing new mega-dairies to allow the Oregon Department of Agriculture and other state agencies time to ensure future industrial dairies wouldn’t cause similar unchecked damage. Senate Bill 104 would have allowed local governments to enact common-sense measures to prevent groundwater and environmental contamination from sewage and dead animals at new mega-dairies. Both bills received a public hearing but have died in committee without a vote

“The Legislature had an opportunity to place a time-out on new mega-dairies in the wake of the Lost Valley disaster, but failed to take any meaningful action,” said Tarah Heinzen, senior staff attorney for Food & Water Watch and a member of the coalition. “We will continue to call for a mega-dairy moratorium on behalf of all Oregonians—who value clean water, vibrant rural communities, and ethical business practices.”

A cow standing in manure slurry at Threemile Canyon Farm.

“Industrial mega-dairies are using loopholes in Oregon law to expand their operations while operating under the same rules as the small and mid-sized family farms they are driving out of business,” said Ivan Maluski, Policy Director for Friends of Family Farmers, another coalition member. “Unfortunately, even the most reasonable reforms were blocked by lobbyists representing the growing number of mega-dairy operators that are putting our family-scale dairy farms out of business.”

According to new data released this week from the USDA Census of Agriculture, the dairy industry in Oregon and across the US is consolidating into larger and larger operations. Nationwide, the number of dairy farms dropped by more than 17 percent in the last five years even as milk production and sales increased, with smaller dairy farms going out of business as the largest farms grow larger.

Another bill, SB 876, was requested by State Senator Michael Dembrow to tighten up rules to prevent unsustainable water use by new large dairies. An amendment focused on preventing pollution and overuse of threatened groundwater by new large dairies with over 2500 cows was offered in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources in the final days before a key legislative deadline, but even this modest proposal failed in a 2-3 vote with Senator Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) aligning with two committee Republicans, Senators Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) and Alan Olsen (R-Canby) to kill the reform.

A section of a 20-acre slurry lagoon at Threemile Canyon Farm.

"We participated in Senator Dembrow's work group for several months, and had hoped it would have led to reasonable industry groups working together with us to prevent the worst mistakes made at Lost Valley from happening again,” said Brian Posewitz, who worked on the issue both as a staff attorney for WaterWatch of Oregon and as a board member for the animal welfare group Humane Voters Oregon. “For example, lobbyists representing industrial dairies blocked a provision in an amendment to SB 876 to prevent unlimited exempt use of groundwater by new operations over 2500 cows in areas where other agricultural water rights are restricted by rule or order due to declining and limited supplies. They also prevented creation of a task force, which would have had equal representation from the industry, simply to talk about animal welfare issues at industrial dairies.”

"I think Oregonians would be shocked to know that the majority of dairy products now come from industrial mega-dairies like Lost Valley that raise cows in extreme confinement, where animals often stand in their own feces, with little to no access to the outdoors. While it's no surprise that Big Ag worked hard to defeat these bills, we're disappointed that three legislators on the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee didn't listen to the majority of Oregonians who value animal welfare and sustainable food,” said Erin Eberle, Director of Engagement for Farm Forward.

"Lost Valley threatened groundwater, racked up hundreds of permit violations, treated their animals inhumanely, and left 30 million gallons of manure and wastewater behind, and yet the State Department of Agriculture didn’t prevent it from happening when they could have,” said Scott Beckstead, Rural Outreach Director with the Humane Society of the United States. “With a new owner of the Lost Valley site likely planning to re-open the 30,000 cow facility soon, we will keep working to ensure this and other industrial dairies aren’t allowed to exploit the loopholes in Oregon’s laws again.”

* * *

Read my series of posts outlining the long history of problems at Lost Valley Farm since it opened two years ago, including cows standing in manure from overflowing lagoons and a leaking tank containing dead cows, plus massive groundwater pollution, lawsuits from the state of Oregon and the farm's creditors, and former owner Greg te Velde's own arrest for soliciting a prostitute and possession of methamphetamine in Benton County, Washington.

My article Big Milk, Big Issues for Local Communities reports on the issues mega-dairies pose to Oregon's air, water, environment and communities. You can also find out Why I'm Quitting Tillamook Cheese and read other coverage about factory farms in Oregon.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Your Food, Your Legislature: Take Action Now on Climate Change; Mega-Dairy Moratorium Fails


On the first day of the 2019 Oregon legislative session in January, more than 1,500 bills were introduced, and there are likely to be at least twice that many by the time the session ends. Here is the latest report on issues affecting the food we put on our tables. Thanks to  Friends of Family Farmers for their assistance with this report.

Clean Energy Jobs or Cap-and-Trade (HB 2020): As anyone who's paid attention to the news the last few days knows, there is historic flooding happening in the Willamette Valley, made worse by the effects of climate change. This bill attempts to deal with greenhouse gas emissions from the state's largest emitters of these gases by capping these emissions from most large industrial sources—those that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (or equivalent) per year—effectively putting a price on carbon.

Flooding in Benton Co.

Shockingly, the bill exempts the state's largest agricultural producers of greenhouse gases, and your voice is needed to amend the bill to include these factory farms under the cap. Sign here to send an e-mail to your legislator that Oregon needs to stabilize the climate by reducing industrial and other large sources of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as invest in climate-friendly agricultural practices.

Moratorium on Mega-Dairies (SB 103 and SB 876): Despite efforts on the part of a coalition of 22 health, environmental and animal rights organizations, both of these bills to tighten regulations on factory farm dairies, in part based on the egregious violations and environmental damage from the recent closure of Lost Valley Farm, were voted down in committee.

Toxic emissions into the air are not currently regulated in Oregon.

“Even the most reasonable reforms were blocked by lobbyists working with these big corporate agribusinesses,” said Ivan Maluski, policy director for Friends of Family Farmers, in an article in the Salem Statesman-Journal.

The article goes on to say that Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA), maker of Tillamook Cheese, and Threemile Canyon Farms, the Boardman-area factory farm dairy that supplies the bulk of the milk used to make Tillamook's cheese, testified against the bills, saying the entire industry should not be punished for the faults of one bad actor. It also mentions Easterday Farms, based in Pasco, Wash., which purchased Lost Valley Farm, has indicated it will reopen it as a dairy. The facility was previously permitted for as many at 30,000 cows.

Bans Sale or Use of Neonicotinoid Pesticides (HB 2619): Originally a statewide ban on the sale or use of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of powerful neurotoxic pesticides that is lethal to pollinators, this bill was amended to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that has been shown to damage children's brains. It no longer mentions neonicotinoids.

Bill to limit aerial spraying of pesticides failed.

Ban Aerial Spraying of Pesticides (HB 2493): This bill, one of three that dealt with aerial spraying of pesticides, would have prohibited aerial spraying of pesticides of land within the McKenzie River and Santiam River watersheds, which make up much a significant portion of the Willamette Valley. It died in committee along with the other two bills.

Family Farmer Loan Program (HB 3085): Provides low-interest loans to small and mid-sized farmers for land and equipment, including beginning farmers, is now in the Ways and Means Committee where funding will be decided between now and the end of the session.

Beginning Farmer Incentive Program (HB 3090): Helps beginning farmers with student loan debt and tuition assistance. It passed out of committee and is now in the Ways and Means Committee where funding will be decided between now and the end of the session.


Farmers market tokens.


Double Up Food Bucks (SB 727A): $3 million in funding for Double Up Food Bucks programming at farmers markets and other farm-direct locations passed the Senate Human Services Committee and is awaiting action in the Ways and Means Committee.

Restrictions on Canola in Willamette Valley (SB 885): Maintains current restrictions on canola production in the Willamette Valley, capped at 500 acres per year and only under permit to protect the region’s specialty vegetable seed industry. Passed out of committee and awaits action in Ways and Means.

Ability to Sue for GMO Contamination (HB 2882): Protects farmers by holding the patent-holders of genetically engineered crops financially accountable when their products cause economic harm to farmers who experience unwanted contamination. Passed out of committee and moves to the House Rules Committee for further discussion.

Find your legislators and let them know you expect action on the issues that concern you.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Eat 'Em to Beat 'Em: Purple Varnish Clams


I know, I know…just the word "invasive species" makes you shudder, right? Visions of monstrous, deformed aberrations don't generally sound like something you want to find on your plate, much less put in your mouth or serve to guests.

The Purple Varnish or Savoury clam.

But rest assured, gentle reader, that, in this case, the invasive species in question is simply just the wrong creature in the wrong place. Known as nuttalia obscurata, the Purple Varnish clam or just Varnish clam—sometimes marketed as the more delicious-sounding Savoury clam—was most likely sucked up as planktonic larvae into the ballast tanks of a large ship that was traveling from Asia to the Puget Sound. When the ship arrived and the ballast tanks were discharged, the surviving larvae found footing in the hospitable waters of British Columbia and the Sound.

Steamed and ready to eat!

In the waters of the Sound and the Hood Canal the Varnish clams have been displacing Manila clams, also natives of Asia that arrived here mixed in with Pacific oyster seed in the 1940s which soon began invading the territory of native Littleneck clams. The Varnish clams' success may be laid to their flexible nature, able to tolerate varied types of environments. Physiologically they may have an advantage because of their two feeding siphons and the ability to both filter feed and deposit feed (here's a fascinating deeper look at this clam). Both British Columbia and Oregon have established recreational fisheries for the clam, and a commercial market is developing.

And since April happens to be Invasive Species Month, it seemed appropriate to take them as an appetizer to a friend's birthday party. I drove over to Flying Fish in the Providore market, where I found them next to the regular Manila variety. In response to my question, the helpful clerk confirmed that the Savoury clam was an invasive species in Washington that was both delicious, as well as being a little less expensive per pound than the Manilas.

Sold!

Four pounds of clams more than fed a crew of ten adults as an appetizer when combined with fennel, garlic, chorizo and a cup of white wine, then steamed for ten minutes or so, and garnered raves for their size and flavor. So help out our Littleneck and other native species and eat more invasive-yet-tasty clams; they'll thank you for it.

Steamed Clams with Fennel and Chorizo

4 lbs. clams
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 fennel bulb, quartered, cored and sliced crosswise
3 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 oz. Spanish-style chorizo, sliced crosswise into 1/8" thick rounds
1 tomato, sliced thin
1 c. white wine

Pour olive oil into a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add fennel, garlic, chorizo and tomato slices and heat briefly. Add white wine and bring to a boil. Place clams on top and allow to steam for ten minutes until clams open. Serve with thin-slices of baguette for sopping up the delicious broth.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

In Season: Bound, Hop, Jump, Leap, Vault!


No matter how you say it, spring in the Northwest is a much-anticipated season. Gardeners are getting out their seed packets and determining how many yards of compost their backs can withstand—see this post about holding off on the tomatoes for now—and cooks are dreaming of the bright green herbs and greens that will soon festoon their tables.

Seeing nettles and fiddleheads already popping up in my social media feeds, I figured it was time to talk with produce guy and fruit monkey Josh Alsberg of Rubinette Produce about what he's seeing on his local farmers' fresh sheets. So grab a pencil, kids, it's time to make our spring farmers' market shopping lists!

Raab-o-Rama

Josh knows my weaknesses, so of course the first thing he pulls out is the list of the various raabs, rapinis and rabes on offer. We could both hear Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm snorting that the only true raab comes from turnips, the rest are the inflorescence of plants, defined as "a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch. Morphologically, it is the modified part of the shoot of seed plants where flowers are formed."

Raab with mushroom sauce.

So, with that, in alphabetical order, look for these inflorescences at the markets: bok choy, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, kale sprouts, mizuna, red choy, spigarello, tatsoi and turnips, among others. Josh notes that each tastes slightly different depending on the parent plant's particular flavor profile, but all have that amazing, vibrant flavor and crunch when pan-fried—I like to brown a little homemade bacon and chopped garlic first, then add the greens, chopped or not—or, in the case of the bigger sprouts, roasted quickly in a hot oven.

Whew!

More Greens

As for other greens, look for watercress, various mustards, mizunas both green and red, arugula, and a new one to me, wasabi arugula—Josh said it has the tangy bite of that Japanese root. (Note to self: must try.) Lettuces are just barely coming on but will be available shortly, and spinach, which is a bit more cold-tolerant, is here now.

Fiddleheads.

With spring running about a month later than last year, wild things are going crazy trying to catch up. Look for the aforementioned fiddleheads, as well as "triangle leeks" or wild onions, which have a curious folded vertical green, as well as nettles. These will be available at the markets, but if you're headed out on a hike, here's a guide to foraging wild onions and garlic.

Calçots, that spectacular Spanish scallion relative pioneered in Oregon by Manuel and Leslie Recio at their late, lamented Viridian Farms, are appearing, too, so make some salbitxada sauce and throw a spring calçotada! Spring onions like Walla Walla and red onions should be appearing soon, but green garlic is here now—use them like scallions or make a pesto to toss with pasta or serve it alongside grilled meats and fish.

Purple sprouting broccoli.

Dribs and drabs of local asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli—refer to it as PSB if you want to sound cooler-than-thou—are just now coming into season, but Josh advises that you need to get to the markets early to get the little asparagus available, at least for the next couple of weeks before the full harvest comes in.

Bundles of fresh spring herbs like parsley, oregano, chervil, thyme and chives are beginning to show up, so chimichurries and other herb sauces are definitely called for. Microgreens and shoots of favas and peas should also make your list and will only get more abundant as the season rolls out.

Roots and More

Radishes, spring beets and the small, white hakurei turnips as well as their greens are terrific roasted and served with the herb sauces mentioned above. Small local bulbs of fennel will be here toward the end of the month.

Rhubarb.

One of my favorite vegetables-that-cooks-like-a-fruit, rhubarb, is flashing its red stalks, and Josh said a green variety that, unlikely as it seems, is a bit more sour than the red variety, is also being grown locally.

Look for local mushrooms like maitake and lion's mane are coming in from forests and fields, and I've heard whispers that this year's morel harvest may be a big one. Though Josh warns that false morels, or verpa bohemica, a species of fungus known informally as a "false morel" is sometimes sold as a true morel, so be sure to ask your vendor.

Strawberries?

Still two to three weeks off, according to Mr. Alsberg. Look for them at the end of April or the beginning of May. He said that Unger Farms in Cornelius is the driver for strawberry season in the Willamette Valley, and the first to appear will be Albions, followed by Seascapes. The first Hoods will most likely be available around Memorial Day, though—and this is a mantra we should all take to heart—"everything is subject to Mother Nature."

Friday, April 05, 2019

Tomatoes? Hold Your Horses!


Blossoms are showering our sidewalks with pink snow, tulips and daffodils are out in full force, so it must be time to plant our vegetable gardens, right?

Patience is a virtue when it comes to tomatoes.

Not so fast, according to Ginger Rapport of the Beaverton Farmers' Market, a seasoned plant maven. "Now is the time of year to get your peas, kales, rhubarb, broccoli, beets, carrots and some lettuces in the ground," she said. "It is not the time for planting tomatoes and basil unless you plan on keeping them protected from the cool temperatures and rain."

Another voice of reason comes from Chris Hertel of Sun Gold Farm in Forest Grove. "Don’t be fooled and have patience," he cautions. "We can’t mess with Mother Nature! We can only work with her. Too much rain and cold weather will either harm your tomato plant or make it weak."

Radishes and greens? Have at it!

Those garden center tomatoes that are waving their leafy appendages at you, begging you to bring them home and plant them in some nice, richly composted soil? They're grown in heated greenhouses, said Hertel. "The plants are not conditioned to anything that Mother Nature is giving us now. If we wait and have patience, the nights will get warmer and days will be drier. That usually happens around Mother’s Day weekend."

So go ahead and get your spring yayas exorcised and plant rows of those hardy spring greens and root veggies, and wait until the soil temperature gets up to at least 55 degrees—60 is even better—to plant those tomato starts. Your summer will be that much sweeter with a little added patience along with that compost.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Citrus Sorbet: Tangerine Dream


I've said before that we don't go out to eat very much, preferring instead to cook here at home. For one thing, since Dave developed a lactose intolerance, eating out means barraging our poor server with a constant stream of "Is there butter or fresh cheese in that?" with inevitable trips to the kitchen for said server to inquire whether, for instance, the bagels have milk in them. (Lots do.)

We're also asked well-meaning questions, such as "Is mayo okay?" I've been puzzling about this one, since mayonnaise is just eggs, oil, vinegar (or lemon) and salt, but maybe people remember the old food pyramid where eggs and dairy were lumped in together.

But I digress.

When we do manage a meal away from home and get past the quiz show portion of the evening—"Bob, tell our contestants what they've won!"—there are often discoveries of new ingredients and nuances of preparation we can take home to experiment with. The other evening at Xico, for instance, the meal ended with a spectacular tangerine sorbet that was so fresh and bright it was like biting into a just-peeled wedge of citrus.

It was the perfect thing to bring home since, not only was it dairy-free, it was stunningly simple and delicious. With ice cream an obvious no-go in our dessert repertoire, Dave has become somewhat of a sorbet savant with his trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker, concocting variations on sorbets from berries, peaches and other seasonal delights. (Recipes here.)

A bit of paging through my collection of Mexican cookbooks and a scan through online recipes gave us a good base to start from, particularly David Lebovitz' version, though we eschewed his suggested addition of corn syrup sweetener.

Result? A fresh, bright sorbet we can make here at home that doesn't beg any questions!

Tangerine Sorbet

4 c. freshly squeezed tangerine juice
1 c. (200g) sugar
Zest of two tangerines
2 tsp. orange liqueur, such as triple sec, Cointreau or Grand Marnier

Mix 1 cup of the juice with the sugar and heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and pour the mixture back into the reserved tangerine juice. Add the zest and the orange liqueur.

Chill the mixture thoroughly (Lebovitz says at least 8 hours or overnight but I put it in the freezer for 45 minutes, then the refrigerator for 4 hours or so). Churn the tangerine sorbet mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Pet Food: Best Choices for Pets (& the Planet)


For some time I've been wanting to write a post about pet food, a $30 billion industry in the United States with many of the same problems as our human food system in its dependence on processed food made from corn, soy and grains—most genetically modified, requiring the use of pesticides and herbicides to grow them. With statistics on the incidence of cancer in pets reaching an alarming 50 percent, it is an appropriate discussion to have. This post from owner Christine Mallar of Green Dog Pet Supply sums up many of my own concerns about this industry, and it is posted here with her permission.

You may have heard something online or from your vet about the issue of dogs eating grain-free foods sometimes showing low levels of taurine in their bloodwork. At Green Dog, we’ve had a number of customers who have said that their vet told them to switch to a food containing grains. One local vet in our area just sent out an email about "Heart Disease and Grain-Free Foods," and also advocating the use of "meat by-products" in pet foods, and we’d like to address both of these topics to help you learn more and make educated decisions.

Grain-Free vs. Grain-Friendly Diets

The truth is, all processed dry pet food diets are compromised nutritionally due to high-heat, high-pressure extrusion and the need for starchy carbs to bind them and make those little crunchy nuggets. Critical amino acids like taurine that are found in muscle meats and organs are fragile and very heat sensitive, and so become damaged by processing. Another variable that might exacerbate these diet-related heart problems could very well be the overuse of legumes in dog foods. Some brands use a lot of them because they contain plant proteins that are less expensive than meat proteins, but plant proteins don’t contain those vital amino acids. Large quantities of peas may very well be blocking absorption of those important amino acids found in meat that do vital jobs in your dog’s body like support its heart function. (Article on health problems associated with grain-free pet food.)

One thing that frustrates us is that many traditional vets work closely with brands like Purina and Hills, companies that are eager to use this opportunity to switch nervous consumers back to their formulas that contain corn, wheat, and soy. Some of these well-intentioned vets are simply advising customers to switch to any food containing grains. Please note that foods made with grains also are using plant proteins to save the company money by taking the place of more species-appropriate proteins from meat, and these plant proteins also do not contain those valuable amino acids like taurine, just like in grain-free foods.

Both corn and wheat are high-carbohydrate and high-glycemic ingredients and can also cause food sensitivities and allergic reactions in dogs. We often see dogs with new troubles come to us after having been on a diet like this, and we are able to reverse these new issues when we remove the foods that contain corn, wheat, and soy and switch to kibbles that have higher quality sources of meat proteins.

More importantly, ingredients such as corn, wheat and soy are likely to contain contaminants that don’t cook out.

Glyphosate and Aflatoxins in Pet Food

Genetically modified (GM or GMO) crops are sprayed with large quantities of Roundup—its active ingredient is glyphosate [which in two recent trials was found to have caused cancer in the (human) plaintiffs]—with corn being especially problematic as it almost certainly contains dangerous [and carcinogenic] aflatoxins. These are dangerous grain molds, toxic to humans and animals, even in very small amounts. The most recent stats from 2017  show that 88 percent of all corn tested nationally was contaminated with aflatoxins, and in some previous years (2012) it was 100 percent contaminated. A testing agency stated: "With more than ten years of experience monitoring the occurrence of mycotoxins in livestock feeds, [animal nutrition company] BIOMIN has shown that co-occurrence of mycotoxins (the presence of more than one mycotoxin) is the rule and not the exception." The FDA allows mycotoxins to be at 20 parts per billion (ppb) in pet foods, however, studies show that even small amounts of mycotoxins can be dangerous to pets. From the International Journal of Food Microbiology, Drs. Herman J. Boermans and Maxwell C. K. Leung published the report “Mycotoxins and the Pet Food Industry: Toxicological evidence and risk assessment” in 2007. One of the biggest issues of concern discussed is that existing studies of mycotoxin contamination in pet food overlook the day-to-day consumption of small amounts of mycotoxins; resulting in “chronic diseases such as liver and kidney fibrosis, infections resulting from immunosuppression and cancer.” In 2005 a Diamond Foods aflatoxin recall resulted in 100 dog deaths.

We don’t have a problem with some grains in foods, and at Green Dog we carry a few lines that have ingredients like oats and barley and rice. All of the kibbles we carry generally have a high percentage of their protein content derived from muscle meats and organs and not plant proteins (even the ones that use some peas). However, you don’t have to run to a food containing grains.* The amino acids in all extruded kibbles suffer damage from heat processing. Ask your pet food store what percentage of your pet food’s guaranteed analysis of protein is derived from meat proteins (as opposed to plant proteins). If it doesn't have that information available, you can:

  1. Call the pet food company and ask this question. If they won’t tell you, consider switching brands.
  2. Look for a baked kibble (as opposed to extruded) as more of the amino acids survive baking intact. Stella and Chewy’s is one baked kibble we carry.
  3. No matter what, consider adding some fresh taurine-rich foods to your pet’s dry food. It’s easy, can be inexpensive, and your pet will love it! See here for suggestions.

Re: Meat By-Products

One thing we take issue with is the statement that "meat by-products” get a bad rap and are actually just good organ meats. Organ meats are desirable ingredients, and are far more expensive than what are generally termed meat by-products. Good organ meats would be listed on the label as their own named ingredient, i.e. “beef liver” or “beef hearts," etc., and would be USDA-inspected and passed for human consumption.

When you look closely at FDA regulations concerning pet food ingredients, meat by-products are defined as rendered product that is legally allowed to be a mix of any species of animal, including animals that “died otherwise than by slaughter." These include animals that died from disease, euthanized animals, condemned or spoiled meats, and roadkill. Rendering facilities are waste management facilities, with separate standards for handling and storing ingredients meant to be rendered. The FDA states clearly that these ingredients are acceptable in pet foods. When looking at your ingredient list, it’s important that you see the species of animal mentioned with the proteins and the fat, i.e. avoid “animal fat” and choose “chicken fat."

At Green Dog, we love human-quality organ meats for pets, and strongly advocate for their use to help supplement naturally occurring amino acids like taurine, cystein and methionine that support heart function, but we avoid by-products in pet foods, as even named ingredients such as “chicken by-products” are not handled with the same safety or quality standards as USDA-inspected and passed meats and organs.

Final Thoughts

It’s true that in a recent update the FDA says that between Jan. 1, 2014, and Nov. 30, 2018, it’s received reports of 325 dogs and 10 cats diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). Most were eating grain-free kibble, but some were on kibble with grains, vegan diets, and some homemade diets. The figures include 74 dogs and two cats which had died. At the same time, as the FDA notes, diet-associated reports of DCM have affected a very small proportion of the estimated 77 million pet dogs in the country. In the update on its investigation, the FDA said that "tens of millions of dogs have been eating dog food without developing DCM" and “based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors."

* An editorial note from Kathleen: I feel my two older dogs a diet of raw whole-body chicken—Mary's free-range chicken from Sheridan Fruit Co. that includes organ meat, finely ground bone and cartilage—and ground, blanched vegetables, plus yogurt and homemade bone broth.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Care About Your Food? Then Show Up in Salem!


In the last two years, we've all learned the value of just showing up. Two years ago, not showing up to vote cast this country into the nightmare we are living through right now. And showing up to a rally for women's rights demonstrated to the world the power and importance of women's voices. In the mid-term elections just last fall, sending postcards to complete strangers urging them to vote, and exercising our own franchise changed the balance of power on a national level.

Showing up, and learning the power of collectively putting our bodies where our beliefs are, has meant that from local school boards to state legislatures to the halls of Congress, our representatives are now more…well…representative of everyone in our communities.

Part of putting our energy into making change together also means getting involved in issues we care about, and I'd highly recommend that if you care about where your food comes from and about the small family farmers who work every day to produce the food we put on our tables, then you should make every effort to get yourself and your families to Salem on Wednesday, March 27. Not only will you get to meet many of those family farmers and show them you've got their backs, you'll have an opportunity to participate in the democratic process by meeting with your representatives in the legislature and tell them how important good, clean food is to your family.

If you're wondering what the heck the legislature has to do with your food, just take a glance at the issues before the current session: a moratorium on the factory farm mega-dairies that are spewing unregulated toxic emissions into the state's air and groundwater; a ban on aerieal spraying of toxic pesticides; bills that will support beginning farmers and encourage retiring farmers to keep their farms in food production rather than selling them for development; and a ban on the use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides that are at least partially to blame for the collapse of pollinators. And those are just a few of the dozens of bills under consideration.

If you've never set foot in the Oregon's Capitol building, it's high time you did. And what better reason than to support the farmers whose labor we all depend on multiple times a day? Get more info and sign up here, and you can sign up to join a carpool to the event from Bend, Grants Pass, Amity, Portland, Monmouth, Corvallis, Springfield and other communities around the state. You even get lunch in the deal!

All you have to do is show up.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Celebrate Citrus: Blood Orange Margarita


It's like a soupçon of waking up on Christmas morning when I was a kid. Or seeing crocuses blooming in the stubbly, scant grass of a city parking strip. That frisson of excitement that tells you good things are on the way.

That's how I feel about citrus season, that tart, sweet interlude that brightens the leaden skies of winter and whispers in my ear that spring is just around the corner. So when we knocked on the front door of our friends' home the other evening and it opened wide with an invitation to come in the kitchen for a just-mixed blood orange margarita, we had to restrain ourselves from engaging in a full-on footrace.

The intensity of color can vary.

A natural mutation of the orange, which itself is theorized to be a hybrid between a pomelo and a tangerine, the red flesh of a blood orange is due to the presence of anthocyanins, pigments common to many flowers and fruits, but uncommon in citrus fruits. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) The flavor is less tart than many other citrus fruits, with a distinct raspberry-like note.

The recipe below would be wonderful for a small gathering mixed right before serving, but you could also make a pitcher for larger crowds and shake the drinks up in a cocktail shaker or, even easier, serve over ice with slices of lime or blood orange.

Blood Orange Margarita
Adapted from a recipe by Michael Schoenholtz.

Makes two cocktails.

3 oz. reposado tequila 
3 oz. fresh-squeezed blood orange juice (straining out pulp optional)
1.5 oz fresh lime juice
1 to 1 1/2 oz. triple sec, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier (can vary depending on sweetness of oranges)

Salt the rims of two martini glasses (if desired).

Fill shaker two-thirds full of ice. Add all ingredients, shake for 30-40 seconds. Strain into glasses and garnish with orange wedge.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Guest Essay: How To Harvest Wild Onions


Now that spring is on the way, it's time to get out in our fields and forests and bring home some wild goodness. My friend, author Hank Shaw, is an authority on hunting, foraging and cooking all manner of wild things—his four books on those topics are considered definitive guides—and his post on harvesting wild onions is particularly pertinent to this season.

Ramps, wild onions, wild garlic. These are some of our best wild foods come springtime.

More than 100 species of wild alliums call North America home—allium being the genus covering both onions and garlic—but it is the Eastern ramp, Allium tricoccum, that has been all the rage among chefs in recent years. They’ve become so popular I even see chefs here in California using them with abandon; no native ramp grows within 2,000 miles of San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Ramps.

Locavore issues aside, perhaps the trendiest thing about ramps right now is to bemoan their overharvest.

Is this happening? Certainly, in some places. I’ve seen some startling before and after photos. But most professional foragers I know harvest the same patches of ramps every year — and some of these folks have been picking for 30+ years. They know, as well as any good farmer, that you don’t eat your seed corn. The sustainability of any bulb, corm, root or rhizome harvest all hinges on how you pick the plant.

Here’s how you do it.

First and foremost, you must find your onions. Ramps are showy onions with large, wide leaves. They’re pretty easy to spot, especially in Eastern woodlands, where they can literally carpet the forest floor for acres. Most wild onions are not so easily located, although one, the invasive three-cornered leek of California and Oregon, A. triquetrum, is almost as gaudy as the ramp.

Wild onions in situ.

There’s an onion for pretty much every environment, from deserts to forests to streamsides to lawns to high above the treeline in Alpine meadows. My favorite is the dusky onion, A. campanulatum, which is common in the mountains from California to British Columbia.

Onions, being bulb plants, send up grasslike shoots first. This can be as early as January in the Bay Area for the three-cornered leek, to mid-July for Alpine onions. Onions, in general, like to live in large troops: It’s weird to find just one onion.

A great many onions have a rosy blush to the base of their stems. But not all. Your nose is your best tool when trying to figure out if that grassy shoot you are looking at is an onion. Anything that looks like an onion that also smells like an onion is an onion. Lots of bulbs, some of them poisonous, can look like an onion, but none will also smell like one, too.

A patch of wild onions.

Once you’ve found your onions, look at the patch. Are there only a few onions there? Or does the patch have hundreds or even thousands of plants? If there are only a few, consider moving on. I like to pick patches with at least 100 plants, and preferably patches even larger than that. Regardless, follow these rules when you do decide to pick:

  • Pick only the largest individuals. See the photo on the left above? There are a dozen little onions in that image, and only the largest one is worth picking.
  • Stick and move. Pick that large one and move on. Look for another large one. By doing this, you will scatter your picking activity and leave the patch thinned, without large holes in it.
  • Take only 10 to 20 percent of any given patch. And that 20 percent number is only really for private ground or ground you have a very good idea that no one else knows about. Think about it: If I collect 10 percent of an onion patch, then you come along and take 10 percent, then two other people come… well, we’ve screwed that patch, haven’t we?
  • If you really need some wild onions, but the patch is pretty small, pick one large green leaf from each plant. That’s what I do with my Chinese garlic chives at home and they never appear to really notice it. It’s a good way to get that flavor you crave without digging up the whole plant.

Read the rest of Hank's post to get more suggestions on harvesting these wild bulbs, plus recipes for home use, including pickling!

Wild onion photos by Hank Shaw. Check out Hank's books here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Your Food, Your Legislature: Report from the Halfway Mark


On the first day of the 2019 Oregon legislative session in January, more than 1,500 bills were introduced, and there are likely to be at least twice that many by the time the session ends. Here is the latest report on issues affecting the food we put on our tables. Thanks to the Center for Food Safety and Friends of Family Farmers for their assistance with this report.

Moratorium on Mega-Dairies: Introduced by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee to address the impacts of factory farm dairies in Oregon. Take action here. Read more about mega-dairies in Oregon.
  • SB 103: Establishes a moratorium on new "industrial" dairies—defined as those over 2,500 cows or large dairies that don't provide seasonal access to pasture—while making sure environmental impacts to water and air, as well as impacts to smaller farms, are considered when permitting these operations.
  • SB 104: Allows stronger local rules over siting of these industrial facilities.
Management of Future Mega-Dairies: Two bills emerged from a work group organized by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
  • SB 876: Creates a two-step permitting process for large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to ensure greater scrutiny before they go into operation.
  • SB 886: Sets limits (not yet specified) on the use of groundwater for watering livestock at large confined animal feeding operations. 
  • HB 3083: Establishes a "Task Force on Large-Scale Dairy Farms" which would submit a report to the Legislature by September, 2020.
"Clean Energy Jobs" or Cap-and-Trade (HB 2020): Establishes a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s largest emitters—except for agriculture and forestry, two large sources of emissions and industries heavily represented by lobbyists in the Capitol—while creating an ‘allowance’ program intended to generate funding for climate adaptation and other programs. Public interest and small farm organizations are working to include agriculture and forestry in this bill.

Ban Aerial Spraying of Pesticides (HB 2493): Prohibits aerial spraying of pesticides of land within the McKenzie River and Santiam River watersheds, which make up much a significant portion of the Willamette Valley.

Ability to Sue for GMO Contamination (HB 2882): Allows farmers who have been harmed by contamination from genetically engineered crops to sue the patent holders of those crops.

Bans Sale or Use of Neonicotinoid Pesticides (HB 2619): Statewide ban on the sale or use of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of powerful neurotoxic pesticides that is lethal to pollinators.

Beginning Farmer & Family Farmer Land Access: Three bills that would support new and existing small farmers have been sent to the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources with a hearing set for 3 pm on Thursday, March 14. E-mail a letter of support for all three before that date (link for address and suggested verbiage).
  • HB 3085: Creates a new Family Farmer Loan Program managed by the state’s economic development agency, Business Oregon, to offer direct loans to family-scale farmers and beginning family farmers for land or equipment.
  • HB 3090: Establishes a new beginning farmer and rancher incentive program at the Oregon Department of Agriculture focused on issues of student loan and tuition assistance.
  • HB 3091: Reduces fees and costs to borrowers using the state’s existing "Aggie Bonds" beginning farmer loan program, which incentivizes private lower interest lending to beginning farmers and ranchers for land and equipment.
Beginning Farmer Tax Credit (HB 3092): Incentivizes landowners to lease land to beginning farmers and ranchers. Sent to the House Revenue Committee.

Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program (HB 2729): Provides $10 million in grants for farm succession planning and funding for both long term conservation planning and protection for working farmland at risk of development or conversion to non-farm uses.

Limits on GMO Canola in the Willamette Valley (HB 3026; SB 885; HB 3219): A 500-acre restriction on growing this crop is expiring in July, 2019. These bills seek to extend that limitation going forward because canola easily cross-pollinates with food crops in the brassica family, endangering organic growers and specialty seed growers. Contact your legislators here. More info on canola in Oregon.

Find your legislators here and let them know you expect action on the issues that concern you.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Ciaffagnoni: Delicate Crepes from Tuscan Cowboy Country


Elizabeth Petrosian, co-owner of Portland's (tiny) palace of Florentine cuisine, Burrasca, is a fabulous writer, and when I asked if she'd share their Portland Dining Month recipe for ciaffagnoni—one of three courses for $33 during the month of March—she agreed, and then offered to write the whole post. I was thrilled! Get their full Dining Month menu here.

Italy isn't really a country; it's a patchwork of regions held together by a common respect for carbohydrates. But more than this, Italy is a tight, often rivalrous amalgamation of micro-regions. Take Tuscany, for example (my adopted home for 12 years). There's the postcard Tuscany you're all familiar with: the burnished gold, cypress-dotted mounds of the Val d'Orcia; the undulating hills of vineyard-strewn Chianti; the smug stones of Florence and the empty-headed starlet that is Cortona. With a land area of just under 9,000 square miles—about the same size as New Jersey—it's a remarkable solar system of mico-regional planets, each spinning in its own gastronomical orbit, all revolving around one Tuscan culinary sun.

There's the taciturn Mugello, peppered with ochre-colored Medici hunting villas, with its neighbor Emilia-Romagna sitting just over the spine of the Appenine mountains and casting its long glance over the local cuisine; the heavily forested, chestnut-loving Casentino; the rugged Lunigiana, playing mountain-bred, culinary Romeo to next-door Ligurian Juliet; there's the impossibly lovely Etruscan coast, with many of its gastronomic tradtions—as is to be expected—rooted in antiquity. Then there's the Maremma.

An appetizer, a simple folded crepe (top) or a hearty main course (left), ciaffagnoni are infinitly flexible.

The Maremma is Tuscany's Wild West: a no-nonsense-talking, game meat-loving region of rustic beauty known for longhorn cattle, butteri (Maremman cowboys), hunters, and winemakers who know how to wrangle grapes in iron-rich soil kissed by Tyrrhenian sea breezes. It's the place to eat cinghiale (wild boar), either stewed with mele cotogna (quince) or with small black local olives and red wine. With its rolling hillsides and pastureland, it's also the place where fresh, deeply flavored sheep's cheese is a common ingredient.

If you're lucky enough to find your way to the small hill town of Manciano in the Maremma, you can eat tortelli mancianesi and be much an improved person for having eaten them. Every part of Tuscany has its version of tortelli, but in Manciano they exalt the excellent local sheep's ricotta in a filling along with spinach and a touch of cinnamon, dressing the pasta with fine local Chianina beef ragù. Likewise, sheep's cheese stars in another specialty of tiny Manciano: ciaffagnoni. These are savory crepes traditionally adorned with ricotta or pecorino. Leafy greens or even a bit of fruit are often added, as in this version we're currently serving at Burrasca all March long as part of our Portland Dining Month menu: the crepes are filled with ricotta and diced pear, along with a whisper of nutmeg and cinnamon, then folded into fagottini and topped with a sauce of pecorino toscano, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with chili and black pepper.

Contrary to what you might believe, crepes, or crespelle—a gift from Catherine de' Medici to France—are as Italian as Vespas, four-hour lunches, and crippling bureaucracy. Legend has it that they were willed into being as pilgrim-fodder by Pope Gelasius I in the late 400s, an early example of peninsular ingenuity when it comes to paltry ingredients. Regardless of origins, Manciano has a way with crepes that is, well, celestial.

As mentioned, ciaffagnoni lend themselves to a variety of fillings; we've also served them filled with ricotta and Swiss chard, topped with a bit of béchamel and truffled pecorino toscano, and served over tropea onions in dolceforte and oven-dried tomato. They make lovely appetizers. Use your imagination!

Ciaffagnoni with Ricotta Filling and Pecorino Sauce

Ingredients to make about 2 dozen crepes.

For the crepes:
4 eggs
1 c. (150g) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c. (300 ml) warm water
Pinch of salt

For the filling:
1 c. (250g) fresh ricotta
1 c. (250g) ricotta salata (or you can use all fresh ricotta if you prefer)
2 whole eggs, plus 2 yolks
1/2 c. (60g) grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 D'Anjou pear, diced small
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
A bit of salt and black pepper

For the sauce:
1/2 c. (100g) fresh young (not aged) pecorino, diced—Tuscan preferred but we won't hold it against you if you go rogue
3/4 c. (80g) grated parmigiano-reggiano
3 tsp. (10g) corn starch
1 3/4 c. (400 ml) whole milk
3 eggs

Additional ingredients: honey, red chili pepper, black pepper

The crepe batter has to rest for a half hour, so you can get the filling and sauce ready in that time. You'll need a 6" or 7" non-stick pan to make the crepes.

To make the crepes: Whisk the eggs, add warm water little by little, then add flour little by little. Add salt and whisk until smooth. There should be no lumps. Let batter rest for a half hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Over medium heat, warm your pan and grease it lightly with olive oil or butter. Ladle in just enough batter to cover the pan surface—don't make it thick; the crepes should come out very thin. When it begins to bubble and detaches from the pan, flip it; it should have a light golden-brown color. Cook other side until lightly colored. Make sure to leave them moist, not crisp, otherwise they'll crack! Set aside.

Prepare the filling: Simply mix all the filling ingredients well.

Prepare the sauce: Put the sauce ingredients into a bowl and blend with an immersion blender. Then, in a small pot on the stove, bring to 170 degrees, stirring constantly, and remove immediately once the temperature is reached.

Assembly: Take a crepe and lay it flat. Place some of the filling (don't put too much or overstuff it) on 1/4 of the crepe and then fold the crepe over it into a half circle. Then fold it over again into a triangle (one-fourth of the original shape). Once you've folded all your crepes, place as many as you can onto an oven sheet pan and bake for 4 to 5 minutes. They'll crisp a bit at the edges.

Drizzle the finished crepes with the pecorino sauce, some honey, and a tiny bit of red chili pepper if you like a bit of a kick, and/or a bit of freshly cracked black pepper.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Simply Spectacular: Jacques' Apple Galette


We're not picky eaters or fussy cooks around here. Simple recipes using good—preferably organic and locally grown—ingredients that don't take a lot of time to prepare are the ones we go back to again and again. Recipes by celebrity chefs are usually avoided, since they tend to be far too complicated and ego-driven ("Hey, watch me do a back-flip while I sauté these onions!") to make it onto our roster, plus we've found they are often not carefully tested for home cooks who may not have the equipment found in professional kitchens.

Into the oven it goes!

There are a few old-time chefs whose recipes I know I can depend on to be a success, like those from Julia Child, James Beard and Jacques Pépin. Pépin has been making a regular appearance in our kitchen lately, since Dave has been volunteering to make dessert when company comes or there's a gathering that warrants a little something post-feast.

Pépin's apple galette, from his book Heart and Soul in the Kitchen, is a stunningly simple feat, with a processor pastry crust that comes out of the oven a masterpiece of flaky crispness, and a filling that's just chopped and sliced apples sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with honey.

Light and lovely, with a charmingly rustic look—what can I say but, "Parfait! Et merci, Jacques!'

Rustic Apple Galette
Adapted from Heart and Soul in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin

For the pastry:
1 1/2 c. all- purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 c. ice water

For the filling:
4 apples (tart and flavorful heritage apples work well)
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. honey, preferably wildflower
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 400°.

In a food processor, combine the flour with the sugar, salt and butter and process for about 5 seconds. Sprinkle the ice water over the flour mixture and process until the pastry just begins to come together, about 10 seconds; you should still be able to see small pieces of butter in it. Transfer the pastry to a work surface, gather it together and pat into a disk. Wrap the pastry in plastic or wax paper and refrigerate until chilled, about one hour. (You can also roll out the pastry and use it right away or make it ahead and refrigerate overnight.)

Peel, halve and core the apples and slice them crosswise 1/4" thick. Set aside the larger center slices and coarsely chop the end slices and any broken ones; about half of the slices should be chopped. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a 12" by14" rectangle and transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Spread the chopped apples over the pastry to within 1" of the edge. Drizzle the honey over the chopped apples. Decoratively arrange the apple slices on top in concentric circles or in slightly overlapping rows. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the apples and dot with the pieces of butter. Fold the pastry edge up and over the apples to create a 1-inch border.

Bake the galette for about 1 hour, until the pastry is nicely browned and crisp and all of the apples are tender. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the galette cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.