Sunday, November 18, 2018

So Much To Be Thankful For


Every month I send out an e-mail newsletter recapping the events (and posts) of the month before. November's newsletter expresses the multitude of things I'm thankful for, including my readers (that's you!).

I don’t know about you, but how it got to be less than a week before Thanksgiving, I have no idea! In any case, I’m making my list of things to be thankful for, and it’s practically endless.

Pot roast bourguignon.

First, we’ve had a stunning streak of great fall weather here in Portland with cool-but-not-freezing temperatures, which means that our growing season has extended well into the fall and the greens are still pouring in from local farms…I’ve even seen corn on the cob! But my thoughts are definitely turning toward braises, stews and soups—see the recently posted recipe for Fennel-Braised Pork Belly that would work just as well with a pork shoulder or the Pot Roast Bourguignon that makes a second dinner with the leftovers tossed with pasta!

Castelfranco chicory.

Second is the great fortune we have to be able to access fresh, locally grown food all year round at the many winter farmers’ markets in the region, filled with farmers who are in turn supplied by our regional seed breeders—I’m particularly thinking of all the varieties of chicories that have brought their peppery bite to our salad bowls of late, and the squash that are just now making their way onto our winter tables. Squash pie for Thanksgiving, anyone?

Anthony and Carol Boutard, Ayers Creek Farm.

Third are the amazing people who are part of our local food system, and without whom Good Stuff NW would be a dull and barren place, indeed. Folks like Anthony and Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm, Claudia Lucero of Urban Cheesecraft who’s on a mission to empower people through food, and the people who make up Friends of Family Farmers and the Culinary Breeding Network (thanks Shari, Ivan and Lane!) who are putting on the upcoming Fill Your Pantry and Squash Sagra event on December 9th celebrating the farmers, plant breeders and chefs who make this such a special place to live.

International trade is fun!

On a personal note, I can’t tell you how relieved I am that the election is over and thankful that there is some indication that the country is over the circus-like embarrassment and national humiliation that has been the current administration. There is still lots of work to be done, however, as outlined by Hillsdale Farmers’ Market assistant manager Azul Tellez Wright in her essay, Defining Food Justice. And I learned a tremendous amount—well, at least a smidge—about Oregon and its trading relationship recently from Dr. Lorenzo Terzi, European Union Minister for Food Safety and Animal Welfare, whose goal is to get back to his family’s farm in Italy. Bravo, Lorenzo!

Biscuits…mmmmm.

Oh, and how lucky am I to have found a husband, father, baker, bartender and the true muse for Good Stuff NW in my husband, who makes the most amazing To-Die-For, Sky-High Biscuits?

Also, many thanks and felicitations to the sponsors of Good Stuff NW that make it possible to bring this source of news and information to you, Providore Fine Foods, Hopworks Urban Brewery and Vino wine shop.

Happy holidays, and many thanks to you, as well, for reading!

If you would like to receive the Good Stuff NW monthly newsletter, just send me an e-mail.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Guest Essay: Defining Food Justice


The following essay on the topic of food justice was written by Azul Tellez Wright, the new assistant manager of the Hillsdale Farmers' Market, and was published in its most recent newsletter. If you would like to engage further in this topic, I would suggest volunteering or donating to the organizations that Ms. Wright lists below, or consider making a donation in the name of someone on your holiday gift list.

When you think of the term "Food Justice," what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s a vacant lot being converted into an urban farm or cooking classes at a local community center that are open to all. I wanted to take some time this week to flesh out the term and give some examples of local organizations that are doing good work in this area.

Healthy food should be accessible to everyone.

The food justice movement is a social movement that arose to address the inequities in our food system and is inextricably linked to the racial, environmental and economic justice movements. The term is said to have arisen in 1996 from the Community Food Security Coalition, which received criticism for not including the voices of those primarily affected by food injustices. Since then, the term has evolved to fit the specific food culture of our time. The organization Just Food defines Food Justice as follows: “Food Justice is communities exercising their right to grow, sell and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers and animals.

Farmers' markets support food justice in their communities.

This is a very broad definition of a term that is subjective to each community. I find that the best way to understand food justice is to offer some examples of organizations that are enacting change in their communities. Here are three local organizations that are dedicated to the cause of food justice:
  • Urban Gleaners. Based in SE Portland, Urban Gleaners addresses both food insecurity and food waste in their community. They pick up food that would normally be thrown out from restaurants, grocery stores, corporate campuses and farms and distribute it to people experiencing hunger. Their mobile market van travels to low-income housing complexes and 25 schools across the city on a weekly basis.
  • Adelante Mujeres Sustainable Agriculture Program. Adelante Mujeres, which translates as "rise up women," is a nonprofit in Forest Grove, Oregon, that works to support Latina women and their families in Washington county. One of their many programs is the Sustainable Agriculture program which provides local Latino farmers with training to grow and sell their produce in a sustainable manner. Through the courses and trainings they offer, farmers gain the skills to eventually run their own farm businesses.
  • Mudbone Grown/Unity Farm. Located on the Oregon Food Bank’s Northeast Portland headquarters, Unity Farm is run by the organization Mudbone Grown and the Black Food Sovereignty council. Unity Farm is a black-owned and operated urban farm that focuses on intergenerational, community-based farming. The food grown on the farm goes to several groups working to decrease food insecurity as well as to its CSA members. They also offer a beginning farmer training program for people of color in an effort to increase representation in the Portland farming scene.
The Hillsdale Farmers Market is also dedicated to food justice. By supporting local farmers and businesses, we are creating a resilient food system. We also accept SNAP benefits and offer a Double Up Food Bucks program in which SNAP recipients receive up to $10 to spend on produce each visit. [Watch this video about the program.]

The market is planning to expand its involvement in food justice issues in the following ways:
  • Expand our SNAP customer base in order to increase access to healthy, affordable food in our community.
  • Host cooking and nutrition classes at the market and at other sites in the community.
  • Engage our community in shopping at farmers' markets and debunk the myth that farmers' markets are more expensive than grocery stores.
Azul Tellez Wright grew up in Portland, went to Connecticut College, then worked at Greensgrow Farms in Philadelphia. She ran its CSA program for SNAP recipients and wrote the weekly newsletter. Azul moved back to Portland and worked at Adelante Mujeres in the micro-enterprise program. Azul is also a three-year fellow in 99 Girlfriends.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Winter Warmth: Fennel-Braised Pork Belly Stew


My husband makes bacon. So we go through a fair amount of pork belly in year's time, even when we're doing 12 to 14 pounds at a time. (Our friends are often happy recipients, and between trips to the beach and summer camping with big groups, we can go through a lot.) The thing is, he likes to square off the sometimes-raggedy ends of the bellies before curing them, which means there are several odd chunks of belly that pile up in the freezer.

Browning the belly.

Rummaging through the freezer the other day, I realized we had accumulated close to three pounds of these frozen ends, so I began looking up recipes that didn't require hours of prep time or, heaven forfend, a trip to the store. Luckily I'd picked up a couple of bulbs of fennel at the farmers' market, and when I saw a fennel-braised belly from Mario Batali in the list, I gave it a look. In typical Batali fashion (don't get me started) it was packed with loads of over-the-top spicing—three tablespoons of chopped rosemary plus three tablespoons of ground fennel seeds in the rub, then another tablespoon of ground fennel seeds in the braise. Really, Mario?

Greatly reducing the amount of ground fennel and cutting the rosemary by a third balanced out the flavors and avoided what could have been a bitter aftertaste in the braise. Oh, and the finished bacon? Spectacular, as always.

Fennel-braised Pork Belly Stew

For the rub:
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. fennel seeds, toasted and ground
3 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tsp. red pepper flakes

For the braise:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 lbs. pork belly (skinless)
2 bulbs fennel
2 carrots, quartered and sliced crosswise into 1/2” pieces
1 onion, chopped in 1/2” dice
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 12-oz. bottle beer (amber or not-too-hoppy winter ale is great)
Salt to taste

To make the rub, toast fennel seeds in a small pan over medium-high heat, moving the pan back and forth to keep them moving, until they just start to color and smell wonderful. (You want to avoid any smoke, which indicates burning.) Remove from heat, cool slightly and grind in spice grinder. (We have an inexpensive electric coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices.) In a small bowl, combine with remaining rub ingredients and stir.

Cut 1/2” deep, diagonal grid into both sides of the pork belly. Cover both sides with spice rub.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large Dutch oven until it shimmers. Add pork belly and sear on both sides. Remove to plate when well-browned. Add onions to pot and sauté until translucent, scraping up browned bits from searing the belly. Add garlic until it is warmed and fragrant. Add remaining vegetables and seared pork belly. Pour beer over the top, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hrs. Adjust salt to taste as necessary.

If you like, you can chop the nearly-falling-apart belly into biggish chunks before serving. I served it with roasted slices of garnet yam, but next time I'm going to give Hank Shaw’s squash dumplings (without the mushrooms) a try; you could make them while the stew cooks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Fill Your Pantry, Support Local Farmers!


I don't know about you, but I've been watching the squirrels in our neighborhood and they seem particularly frantic this year to collect and bury as many nuts as possible against the winter. (And is anyone else noticing a lot more of those little swirly holes in the lawn from the squirrel activity?)

Making a list, checking it twice…

It's got me thinking that maybe I need to follow suit and get my pantry stocked, too, which is why I got all excited when I heard about the Fill Your Pantry Winter Stock-Up event coming on Sunday, December 9th. Sponsored by Friends of Family Farmers, this one-day market is a unique opportunity to meet and support local farmers and ranchers who will be bringing a bounty of locally grown winter squash, root veggies, onions, garlic, cabbage, frozen pasture-raised meats, honey, beans, grains, fruit, and much more to Faubion Elementary School in Northeast Portland.

Hard to resist so much gorgeous produce!

Want to browse through some of the offerings and develop your shopping list? Check out this list of products available for pre-order from now through December 2nd if you'd like to get your shopping done ahead of time (and guarantee availability). You can pick up your pre-order at the event, but make sure there's room for impulse purchases, since most farmers will be bringing other must-have products the day of the market—think holiday gift-giving and host/hostess gifts for holiday parties!

Tips and tricks from pros will be on offer.

As if that's not enough to get you out, the Culinary Breeding Network and Friends of Family Farmers are co-hosting a Squash and Bean Sagra in conjunction with the market, a festival offering a chance to learn about, celebrate and taste the many different varieties of winter squash and dry beans being grown by Oregon farmers—many of whom will be at the market—through tastings, cooking demonstrations and more.

Fun for the whole family!

I went to these events last year and it was so inspiring to not only see the vast aisles of gorgeous products our farmers are growing, but the positive energy on display, the meetings-and-greetings of friends new and old and the delicious samples on offer made it something to remember. I'm thinking about picking up my eight-year-old nephew for a field trip, since it's great for kids (and their parents) to see what a thriving food community looks like.

Hope to see you there!

Fill Your Pantry event photos by Shawn Linehan. Check out more photos from last year's event.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Dave's To-Die-For, Sky-High Biscuits


We are rich with talented friends who also happen to be great home cooks. Bruce's pork vindaloo. Denise's Korean mandoo dumplings. Jeff's tarte tatin. Kathryn's shrimp and grits. Wendy's cakes. Dana's curried squash.

Here at home I have the good fortune to have a husband who smokes his own bacon, bakes six loaves of organic sourdough every two weeks and loves to make breakfast on the weekend, particularly if it involves baking up a batch of scones or biscuits to go with his Julia Child-worthy cheese omelets. (Did I mention he's also become quite the home bartender, whipping up cocktails at the drop of a hat?)

So when I stumble downstairs on Saturday morning and see him bustling around the kitchen with flour on his hands and the oven warming the house, I know by the time I get the dogs fed and finish my first cup of coffee he'll be pulling out a pan of his signature baked goods and setting them on the counter with butter and jam.

I know, how lucky am I?

Dave's To-Die-For, Sky-High Biscuits

2 1/4 c. (285g) all-purpose flour*
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/3 c. (75g) very cold butter
1 c. milk

Preheat oven to 450°.

Place flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in food processor and pulse for a few seconds to combine.

Cut butter into small pieces and add to food processor. Pulse half a dozen times and check for the size of the butter pieces. Repeat if necessary until the butter is in pieces roughly the size of peas.

Put flour mixture in a mixing bowl and add the cold milk. Toss together gently until barely combined. As soon as the dough holds together, turn it out on a lightly floured counter. Gently "knead" the dough a few strokes until it is a mostly a cohesive ball. The fewer kneads the better.

Pat out the dough with your hands into a rectangle 1/2" to 3/4" inch thick, depending on how tall you like your biscuits. Cut into 2-inch circles (you should get approximately 6 to 8), and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or sheet pan. Leftover dough can be gently combined and patted out again to make more biscuits.

Bake at 450° for 8 to 10 minutes until tops are lightly browned. Butter and eat while still warm, preferably with honey or a selection of homemade jams.

* Dave always weighs the flour and butter rather than measuring it in cups or measuring spoons.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Farm Bulletin: Our Garden Beans, a Dried Bean Primer


As contributor Anthony Boutard outlines below, he and Carol have been adapting their beans at Ayers Creek Farm to our Pacific maritime climate and the soil of their Wapato Valley location—not to mention their own tastes—for well over a decade. The roster, along with the beans themselves, has changed over the years, and it was time for an update. You can find all of these beans, raisins, popcorn and the farm's other products at two upcoming open farm weekends. Details at the end of this post.

Over the decade and half we have been growing dry beans commercially, we cultivated more than three dozen types. It has been an effort to find beans that will grow in the climate of the Pacific Northwest and appeal to our palate, and, equally important, succeed in commerce. We have trimmed our list to types with distinct qualities while avoiding pointless overlap.

Tarbesque.

We favor beans that are delicious on their own and yield a good stock on their own when cooked. No need to add stock or meat. Thin skins and a non-grainy texture are also important qualities. Many of our beans come to us upon recommendation of others. We acknowledge and are grateful for their generosity of ideas. We have been working with and eating these beans for 15 years or so. They have been shaped by and adapted to our approach to farming, our environment, our customers and our love of beans. Otello’s Pebbles is the exception; it was a new offering last year, but adheres to the overall idea.

As a general matter, we recommend soaking the beans overnight. This engages the enzymes in the beans which break down the proteins and carbohydrates into simpler units. There is an aesthetic to allowing beans to start the process on their own natural terms, rather than using brute force of heat alone, or worse, the extreme impatience of a pressure cooker. In our experience, soaking results in a sweeter bean when cooked. Nonetheless, plenty of people eschew our biological aestheticism.

Borlotto Gaston a la Ava Gene's.

Garden beans follow two forms of growth, types with a low bush habit and those with a tall vining habit requiring supportive structures. Then there are a handful that refuse to follow a binary habit, called semi-vining, which climb upon one another and the weeds but have no use for structures to guide their wayward nature. The pole types are more expensive because the vining habit requires the nearly simultaneous planting of thousands of bamboo poles and assembling a supporting structure. The poles and structures must be removed after harvest. The pole sorts are worth the effort because they have qualities that are missing in even the best bush types.

The finest beans, with their thin skins, require a gentle hand at harvest. They are far too fragile for a combine. Dry beans commonly found in stores have bred with thicker skins which allows mechanical harvesting and helps them keep their shape in a tin can.

Pole Sorts Described

Borlotto Gaston: A classic large horticultural type with a fine texture and flavor.

Borlotto Gaston.

A passing comment by [Nostrana owner and chef] Cathy Whims at a 2002 winter farms’ market noting how much she loved the beans of Lamon landed this bean in our mix. Over the last decade and a half, we have carefully selected for the lumpy, ugly pods that produce the best quality seeds, improving the quality of the beans in the process. We make the classic sauerkraut, potato and pork jowl soup fragrant with cumin from Trieste called La jota many times over the course of winter. It is the bean that has made Ava Gene’s "beans on toast" their signature menu item—the bean that launched a thousand of pieces of toast.

Tarbesque: A large flattened white bean of the sort most commonly associated with cassoulet. It is a bean for soups or stews where you want the bean to hold its shape.

The original seed stock came from Pascal Sauton when he was the chef at Riverside Hotel back around 2003. This sort of bean is grown around the area of Tarbes in southwestern France. There the Tarbais is protected as an A.O.C., so we deftly renamed it. Sort of like the Tarbais but not exactly. We don’t have the same soils and climate and, unlike the fair people of Tarbes, we pick the pods by the handful, not one by one.


Black Basque.

Black Basque: This black bean is best as a solo performer. Cooked on its own and finished with some olive oil, the stock and the beans make a delicious soup to accompany a bit of toast seasoned with garlic and a chunk of sausage or pork belly. Cathy Whims uses these for her version of Anne Bianchi’s "Bastard Soup." For complex or spicy dishes, the black turtle is a better choice.

Wapato White: A very fine textured white bean with a distinctly buttery consistency. Good solo, with lamb or in an escarole soup.

Wapato White.

We lived for several years in the Boston area. Our neighborhood was considered "integrated” because it included both Italian and Portuguese families. Somerville had its rough edges. One Halloween morning, while preparing breakfast, we watched a hit by the legendary Winter Hill Gang outside our kitchen window—apparently an uncollected debt precipitated the deed, though the debtor was simply shot up to jog his memory, not necessarily to kill him. He survived. The hitmen wore gorilla masks, appropriately, and dropped the revolver in the street. We called the police and they investigated. They told us in a perfunctory manner that the getaway car was dumped in Dedham, as if that might be expected, and the victim claimed he didn’t know anything or anyone—that was definitely expected. Notwithstanding this incident, it was a friendly neighborhood where children, our daughter included, played in the street.

In the Boston area, bean and escarole soup was a winter favorite of the Italian and Portuguese communities, and the supermarkets had mounds of beautiful escarole heads for the purpose. For those on the run, the Progresso company had a canned escarole soup available especially for the Boston market. Much to the dismay of many, they dropped that traditional soup. For a while, they offered an Italian wedding soup with escarole, but now it contains spinach, alas. The last week or so, we have been enjoying many variations on escarole soup.

Bush Sorts

Black turtle: Not much to add. The turtle bean has a distinct flavor well-suited to spices and garlic.

Woodblock label by Anthony.

Carol’s godmother was Cuban and the soup was a staple for us. We wanted a fresh, well-grown turtle bean, so we grew them. For several years, we just sold them at the farmers’ market as several chefs told us black beans were "tough to plate." Fortunately, that dainty sentiment has fallen by the wayside.

Purgatorio: For the most part, beans and fish are not a pleasing combination to contemplate. The flavor and texture are wrong. Purgatorio provides an exception. The small beans provide a better texture for fish and the flavor is neutral, i.e. not especially beany. As the name indicates, it was consumed on Fridays and during the Lenten fast, with fish. Use the bean stock as the base for a fish and beans soup seasoned with a hint of cumin. The Oregon bay shrimp is good as well. This small bean is excellent with lamb dishes.

Purgatorio in a stew.

Here is how it was introduced to us. We had dinner at Al Covo, a Venetian restaurant that specializes in fish. The person serving us noted that she was from Texas and wanted to know where we lived and what we did. On a whim, we introduced ourselves as bean farmers from Oregon. A few minutes later her husband, Cesare Benelli, emerged from the kitchen and told us how much he loved beans. The chef then turned serious and told us that we should grow the bean from Gradoli, as it is the best bean for serving with fish. He checked in the kitchen, but they had run out of the beans. A few months later, our sister-in-law Shirin sent us a gift box with several types of beans, by coincidence it included "purgatorio," the bean of Gradoli.

Zolfino: Another solo performer. Classic bean for a simple white bean soup. Provides a lovely stock during cooking. Cook with a sprig of rosemary, thyme or sage – just a light seasoning so as not to overwhelm their fine flavor. Remove about three-quarters of the beans, mash them into the stock and then return the whole beans. A bit of olive oil to top it off.

Dutch Bullet: This bean is a superior alternative to the kidney bean. It is thin skinned with much finer texture, but has a sweet, beany flavor we enjoy in the red types.

Dutch Bullet.

Given to us by a legendary Dutch plant breeder, the late Kees Sahin, when he visited the farm. He was insistent we grow it and it has been on the dossier for more than a decade. You will notice how thin the skin is relative to the modern red kidney bean, a bean skillfully modified to stand up to the combine and tin can.

Otello’s Pebbles: Excellent assertive flavor, the texture is silky and they cook down to a soupy beany broth. We have added them to the broth of lambs shanks and pork shoulder.

This is another bean that arrived uninvited. We were sent an irritatingly small package of beans by Nancy Jenkins, a food writer and author. The note in the package, written by another person, noted that the bean was grown by someone called Otello and praised the bean as growing well in poor soil. Not much of an endorsement, and not a word about its culinary qualities, worse the package contained what appeared to be an assortment of types, something bean growers work hard to avoid. The package would have been relegated to the ACF seed museum except that Myrtha Zierock and Anthony were planting a block of soy and had space for a few more seeds. We joked that the beans looked like pebbles and tossed them into the seeder. At harvest, we cooked up the beans and found they had their own redeeming qualities. They arrived unnamed so we have dubbed them Otello’s Pebbles.

* * *

From Anthony:

"We are planning a couplet of open days on November 10th and 11th. Our hours will be from 3-5 pm. We will have only a smattering of preserves available at this time. We will be processing the fruit over the following week and are planning another open day couplet on the 1st and 2nd of December. As a reminder, for those who find the journey out to the farm difficult, Barbur World Foods and Rubinette Produce, carry robust selections of our beans and grains in their produce departments. Providore probably has a better selection of preserves on the shelf than we do at the moment. We will have the full complement of our beans, grains and mustard seed. We will also have 'Ave Bruma' melons, escarole, beets, large white onions and demi-sec Lakemont grapes."

Photo of Lakemont grapes by Anthony Boutard. Rum raisin ice cream from Sarah Minnick's Instagram feed.

Farm Bulletin: Letters from Jail, Grapes and Literature


The crops grown at Ayers Creek Farm by contributor Anthony Boutard and his wife, Carol, have inspired Portland's chefs for years, including a rum raisin ice cream and raisin grappa ice cream, using the raisins described below—creations of the amazing Sarah Minnick at Lovely's Fifty-Fifty. You can find these raisins, dried beans, popcorn and the farm's other products at two upcoming open farm weekends. Details at the end of this post.

Carol’s father gave to each of his children a copy of Jawaharlal Nehru’s Glimpses of World History. The “glimpses" were a series of letters he wrote to his daughter, Indira Gandhi, during the years he was jailed by the British. As Carol’s father noted, it is a history from the perspective of a culture well-established and mature long before “Western Civilization.” Anthony grabbed the book to read on the way to Terra Madre [the Slow Food gathering of small-scale food producers] in Turin. In one of the letters, Nehru noted that the provinces of Kandahar and Herat are famous for their grapes, pomegranates and melons. He was pleasantly surprised upon arriving in Turin to meet two grape farmers from Herat, and taste their many different varieties of raisins.

Rum raisin ice cream at Lovely's Fifty-Fifty.

That encounter inspired us to push on the idea of growing table grapes. Funny how chance encounters shift one’s thinking. It was a photo from Uzbekistan of melons in storage on the Big Picture Agriculture site many years ago that prompted us to contemplate growing storage melons in a serious fashion. We are trialing two more types this year.

Herat and Kandahar have grown and traded grapes for millennia. With the rise of Islam about 500 years ago, wine production evolved into raisin production. At its peak, Afghanistan produced 10 percent of the world’s raisins. There is a huge diversity to be found there, and they have 24 different raisins that are sold commercially, with dozens more of the backyard variety. Raisins are important in rice dishes of the region. Consequently, there is great interest in rebuilding raisin production.

Laying the grapes on racks in September.

Recalling the beautiful green raisins displayed at Terra Madre, we started thinking about table grapes, both fresh and dried. Apparently, modern Afghan raisin growers dip the grapes in various chemicals to stop the oxidation of tannins in the dried grape, stopping the fruit from turning the raisins brown, not exactly in the realm of organic agriculture. Perhaps the original “green raisins” of old, before the expedient of a chemical dip, may have been simply demi-sec grapes (top photo), fruit on their way to becoming raisins.

Harvested at the end of September, the Lakemont grapes have been slowly drying, concentrating their flavor, sugar and acidity to a wonderful effect. Most grape varieties available to us would collapse in the process. However, Lakemont is particularly well-adapted for this post-harvest improvement, which is similar to that used to produce the sweet Italian wine Vin Santo. The grape is one the releases from the breeding program in Geneva, New York, and is named after a hamlet in western New York, consistent with naming protocol of that breeding program. The author and composer Paul Bowles is buried in the Lakemont Cemetery.

* * *

From Anthony:

"We are planning a couplet of open days on November 10th and 11th. Our hours will be from 3-5 pm. We will have only a smattering of preserves available at this time. We will be processing the fruit over the following week and are planning another open day couplet on the 1st and 2nd of December. As a reminder, for those who find the journey out to the farm difficult, Barbur World Foods and Rubinette Produce, carry robust selections of our beans and grains in their produce departments. Providore probably has a better selection of preserves on the shelf than we do at the moment. We will have the full complement of our beans, grains and mustard seed. We will also have 'Ave Bruma' melons, escarole, beets, large white onions and demi-sec Lakemont grapes."

Photo of Lakemont grapes by Anthony Boutard. Rum raisin ice cream from Sarah Minnick's Instagram feed.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Empowerment through Food: Claudia Lucero of Urban Cheesecraft


"The line I draw between my former career in nonprofits and my company, Urban Cheesecraft, is empowerment." - Claudia Lucero

Raised for the first three years of her life by her grandmother, who'd immigrated from Mexico and lived in a neighborhood near the border in San Diego, Claudia Lucero said that her grandmother was a huge influence on her life and that they shared a special bond, one bound up in culture and a common passion for good food. Lucero remembers regular visits to Mexico so that her grandmother could see relatives there, and that during those visits they'd go to the tortillerias and fresh cheese shops and make cheese tacos right on the spot. Another treat was the instant chocolate mix called Maizena that her grandmother used to make a drinking chocolate called atole.

Cheese maker and author Claudia Lucero.

There were also the doughnuts her grandmother would make using inexpensive rolls of biscuit dough from the store that she'd roll out into disks. She'd have Lucero rummage in the kitchen for a just-the-right-size cap from a bottle to use for cutting the hole, then she'd fry the disks in oil until they puffed up before young Claudia's eyes.

Large blocks of surplus government cheese were a staple that was always available and "kept us going," Lucero recalled. After the age of three, she and her sister lived with their mother, who considered herself "a modern woman and working single mother" who had no interest in cooking. Lucero took over the job and recalled cutting the orange government cheese into cubes and cooking them in the microwave until they melted, turning them into crunchy cracker-like crisps just like the frico that's so popular now on restaurant menus and at deli counters.

Fresh cheeses you can make at home.

For several years Lucero worked for nonprofit organizations in San Diego focused on providing support services to girls, women and the LGBTQ community, then came to Portland to work for the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls. For several years she'd been dabbling in home cooking projects like pickling and making bread, yogurt and simple fresh cheeses such as paneer, but it was feedback from friends at a weekly soup night that caused Lucero to take these pursuits more seriously.

The breads and cheeses she made and contributed to the communal meals got consistent raves, so when a friend's mother was visiting, Lucero put together a simple cheese making kit—containing citric acid, salt and cheesecloth—as a gift. With her nonprofit job barely covering her living expenses and with student loans to pay off, she had the timely epiphany that these home cheese making kits might be something people would buy for themselves or for a gift.

Queso blanco and paneer traditional cheese kit.

At the time, that meant getting her home kitchen approved for food production from Oregon's agriculture department, a process that has been made easier by Oregon's Home Kitchen Licensing law passed in 2016. Coincidentally, the website Etsy had launched a couple of years before Lucero formed her company, Urban Cheesecraft, in 2009, and it provided the creator-friendly platform she needed to get her business up and running.

A success almost from the start, Lucero was producing her kits solo, doing all the purchasing, promoting, packaging, sales and distribution out of her home. That's when she got a call from Whole Foods asking if she could supply their Pacific Northwest stores with her kits, to the tune of 20 kits per store, which added up to 500 kits per month. Shortly thereafter, New Seasons Market started requesting her kits for their stores. The good news? She paid off her student loans within a year. The bad news? After two years, she was exhausted and realized she could no longer do everything herself.

Lucero's first book on home cheese making.

Fortunately, at about that time Portland distributor Provvista Specialty Foods (sold in 2011 to Chef's Warehouse) stepped in to pick up the sales and distribution aspects, which took a huge load off of Lucero's shoulders. Then she was laid off from her job, giving her more time to focus on the business. Fortuitously, within a month of being laid off, kitchenware and home furnishings retailer Williams Sonoma came to her with an opportunity to develop custom kits for the chain's stores, and Workman Publishing offered her a book deal.

Her book, One-Hour Cheese: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Chèvre, Paneer—Even Burrata, was an almost instant hit with its simple instructions and step-by-step photos that guided even the most cooking-averse readers through properly heating milk, stirring curds, molding, kneading, and stretching the cheeses. One reader commented, "[Lucero] starts you out at the very beginning with a fast and easy farmer's cheese. This is so basic and easy that it encourages you to know you can do this and will keep people reading the rest. She also has many photos, so you can really see if you are on track. Very well thought out."

New dairy-free kits.

As the business grew, Lucero found a co-packer, DePaul Industries, which could put together the kits for her. She then switched to another outsourcing company, Relay Resources, to assemble the kits so she could concentrate on recipe development and work on her second book about making dairy-free cheeses at home. Called One-Hour Dairy-Free Cheese, it came about because of the questions she got "from day one" about using non-dairy ingredients with her traditional kits. (You can't.) She also hired a sales director to manage the business flow, and found a new distributor, Frontier Co-op, to handle the new dairy-free kits.

Urban Cheesecraft's dairy-free cheeses.

Lucero said that, as a person who loves cheese, it was interesting to start making the dairy-free versions. Judging from the types of vegan cheeses available in stores, she came to believe that most vegan cheese makers—understandably—don't know what real cheeses taste like any more. So her aim? To develop vegan cheeses that taste like real brie, fondue and feta, just a few of the many styles she's developing.

"Cheese is milk's leap toward immortality," she says in her video on Etsy, quoting author and media personality Clifton Fadiman. She adds, "Whether it takes an hour or a month [as with aged cheeses], I want to make it easy, accessible and empowering for people."

Saturday, October 27, 2018

EU Comes To PDX, Talks Turkey (and Hazelnuts and Wine and Olive Oil and…)


Perhaps the most surprising thing about the event I moderated the other night, A Taste of Europe, came toward the end of the evening when the featured speaker, Dr. Lorenzo Terzi, European Union Minister Counselor for Health and Food Safety, said that if he had his way there would be no barriers to trade between the European Union (EU) and the United States. Zero. None.

Dr. Lorenzo Terzi.

That's a pretty big bombshell coming from a guy who's spent his career negotiating trade deals, and he admitted it was a risky thing to say, but Terzi posited that if the EU and the US were to agree to drop trade barriers in both directions at the same time, everyone would benefit. (Obviously regulations on safety, health, etc., would still be in force.) I'll leave it to those more knowledgeable about world trade to hammer out the details, but I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.

With Center for Animal Law Studies Dir. Kathy Hessler.

Earlier in the day I'd joined Terzi for a lunch lecture to students at Lewis and Clark Law School's Center for Animal Law Studies where he discussed the EU's "Trade for All" policy, a vision for global trade and values described as having a "lighthouse effect" when it came to trade in animals, plants and food. One example of this effect is the EU position that all animals are sentient beings, and that animals used in the production of food in the 28 member states are entitled to what are termed the "Five Freedoms":

• Freedom from hunger and thirst
• Freedom from discomfort
• Freedom from pain, injury and disease
• Freedom to express normal behavior
• Freedom from fear and distress

Touring a hazelnut orchard.

At the evening panel discussion, the 100-or-so guests packed into the room sampled Belgian waffles from Offty Waffles, which were piled sky-high with whipped cream; pretzels from Urban German Grill; and cheeses and dips from Elephants Delicatessen, as well as beverages from Europe and the U.S., while Terzi presented his case for opening up trade with the EU. His main focus was the imbalance between the U.S. treatment of the EU as 28 separate entities, forcing the member states to individually work out separate export request files, a duplicative, expensive and time-consuming effort, rather than treating the EU—as the member states have since the Maastricht Treaty of 1993—as a "Single Entity" trading partner.

A regular Johnny Carson!

The evening also featured Alexis Taylor, Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, who outlined the extensive nature of Oregon's longstanding trading relationship with Europe. Katy Millard, owner and chef of Coquine and a 2018 James Beard Award finalist, discussed her view of the contrasts between her work in the kitchens of France and U.S., as well as the food safety environment in both countries, which she considers comparable if subtly different. Rounding out the panel was New Seasons Market's Oren Kariri, who gave an overview of the company's food safety program as well as covering the importance of foods imported from the EU in its mix of products.

Questions from the diverse audience ran the gamut from questions about Italian olive oils imported from Italy, Terzi's home country; to the ways that the EU and the US view the relationship between agriculture and climate change; to the potential value of seeking a career in food safety.

As for his response to his whirlwind trip to Portland that involved the lecture, several farm tours and the evening panel? It was summed up in a tweet he sent out when he got home: "It was a real privilege to talk the 'EU lighthouse' effect on food safety and animal welfare [to the Lewis & Clark students]. Let’s continue to change the world together!"

Read my interview with Dr. Terzi and find out why he says, "Farmers are my heroes."

Guest Essay: "Green" Your Farmers' Market Routine


The following essay by Jacqui Stork, assistant manager of the Hillsdale Farmers' Market, is full of helpful tips for making your farmers' market shopping more earth-friendly. (Hint: These tips also work for shopping at the grocery store!)

We farmers' market people tend to care a lot about the earth, and our impact on it. As such, we work hard to have a net positive impact in our actions and approach to food and always seek to pass that along to our customers. That being said, there are times when the drive for quality and convenience means that we use plastics or other disposable products. Because we want to balance our desire to be more green with the realities of running a public market, we thought we'd share six super simple ways you (the customer) can help green up the market every time you shop.

Reusable bags are the best!

Remember Your Market Bag(s)
This one is probably the lowest hanging fruit—most of us have a least one reusable bag hanging around at home. Keep it somewhere that you'll remember to bring it with you. If you forget, or just want to sport a new look, most markets have heavy-duty bags available at the information booth. They can hold a pretty hefty market haul and are machine washable. If you are doing an especially heavy shop, consider bringing a wagon (some markets provide wagons) to pack it in and out!

Decline the Plastic Bag
Along these same lines, you will likely be offered smaller plastic bags for produce at market stalls—you can always decline to take one. Just use your market tote as a carryall for the day's purchases. If you like to keep your items separated (or simply need to corral smaller items, like tomatoes) consider purchasing cotton or mesh produce bags.

Look for the recycling station.

Recycle the Right Way
One of the biggest challenges we face at the market is making sure that our recycling is "clean." We often find that things have been tossed into the recycling bins that we end up having to trash. The biggest culprits? Coffee cups, bottle caps, plastic straws and containers with food refuse on it. When these get mixed in with the recycling, our volunteers have to hand-sort and remove them (which is no fun at the end of a long day). If you aren't sure whether or not something is recyclable, ask before tossing it in.

Prioritize Plants
Eating a plant-based diet is one of the best things we can do for the environment. This doesn't have to mean eschewing meat and other animal products entirely—it can simply mean shifting your focus to prioritizing foods like vegetables, legumes and fruits. Stock up on fresh, seasonal items that fit this bill and use recipes that make these items the star.

A wagon can come in handy!

Rethink Scraps
A lot of the time we don't know what to do with those "extra" bits (like mushroom stems, corn cobs and onion peels). Try keeping a zip-top bag or airtight container in your freezer to fill with scraps for making stock. Once you get a full bag or two, dump the contents into a large soup pot and cover with about a quart of water. Add salt, pepper, bay leaves and any other aromatics you have on hand and let simmer for one to two hours to create a light broth to use in soups or other cooking projects.

Practice Durable Dining
If you plan on eating or drinking at the market, consider bringing (some) of your own dishes. While our hot food vendors can't fill your personal tupperware, you can use silverware you bring from home to eat your meal. (Anybody else love those camping sporks?) You can also bring your travel coffee mug to be filled at some coffee vendors' stands, and carry a reusable water bottle to hydrate at the info booth.

Small steps can make a big difference when we all practice—try some of the tips above to help us help the planet!

Photo of recycling station from Portland Farmers Market.

Monday, October 15, 2018

In Season: Check Out Chicories!


In the most recent Beaverton Farmers Market newsletter, market manager Ginger Rapport shared a comprehensive compendium of one of my favorite winter salad greens—though some tend to the reddish end of the spectrum. Their slightly bitter edge can be mitigated by soaking the chopped leaves in cold water for a couple of hours ahead of time, a trick I learned from Nostrana's Cathy Whims. Scroll down for a fantastic and slightly sweet dressing to serve on a salad of these lovelies.

Chicories are closely related to lettuces, but are heartier and have a bitter edge. They are cool weather crops that come into season in late fall and some are starting to appear in our grower’s stalls. They include Belgian endive, curly endive, escarole and radicchio.

Belgian endive.

Belgian Endive is grown indoors, in the dark, to maintain the extremely pale yellow, almost white, tightly packed head of leaves. Red Belgian Endive is technically a small, forced radicchio. They can be used interchangeably with traditional Belgian Endive.

Curly Endive (a.k.a. Frisée) has tightly closed, frizzy heads most commonly used in salads but it is also tasty when quickly sautéed with a bit of vinegar, such as sherry vinegar or balsamic.

Escarole.

Escarole is crunchy, green and bitter. It stands up to bold dressings in salads but is also good grilled or broiled for a powerful accompaniment to roasted or grilled meats, and is fabulous creamed or in soups.

Radicchio, possibly the most well-known chicory, grows in small heads that are brilliant magenta. It is often used in salads but also shines when cooked a bit. It pairs particularly well with assertive ingredients such as olives, blue cheese, apples, figs and walnuts.

Speckled Radicchio is a cross between radicchio and escarole. It has a mild flavor with delicate leaves that can be used in salads but is sturdy enough to stand up to a little cooking.

Arch Cape chicory from Ayers Creek Farm.

Treviso Radicchio is similar in flavor to regular radicchio but is a little sweeter and grows in longer, looser-leafed heads. One unusual type, developed from an Italian variety and available locally in early March, is the Arch Cape chicory developed by Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm. Use treviso leaves in salads. Whole heads can be quartered and lightly grilled, or even stuffed and sautéed.

Fig Balsamic Salad Dressing

1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1/3 c. olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped shallots
6 small brown turkey figs
4 tsp. honey, or to taste
1/8-1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until emulsified.

Top photo of chicories from Flying Coyote Farm at the Hollywood Farmers Market. List of chicories was distilled and edited from The Spruce Eats.