Sunday, July 31, 2011
She's been a long time coming, but it looks like summer's finally decided to make her debut and a showstopper she is. Long, warm days are shepherding the long-delayed fruits and greens to market, and farmers up and down the valley are heaving a sigh of relief. Contributor Anthony Boutard brings us up to date on the season.
The heralds of August, the cicadas (above), started to emerge today with their reedy wing songs. They are also a tasty snack for the acorn woodpeckers and flickers. The birds dart back and forth trying to catch the cicada on the wing, a behavior called "hawking." When we first came here, there were no cicadas, but the same habitat improvements that brought the woodpeckers probably made it a good home for the insects as well.
The field will receive one last shot of foliar food. It is a witches brew of decaying kelp and nettles, gypsum, a sprinkle of sea salt and fermented fish. The field will challenge the nose for a day so, but at the end 48 hours, no trace of odor remains. By noon, we have acclimated to the aroma, and a tuna fish salad for lunch is our version of the "hair of the dog." We had hoped to apply it Friday morning, but a mere dribble was delivered by the sprayer. So in the cool of the morning when we should be working the fields, out come the spanners and sockets. The sprayer has a pair of innovative controls called hu-valves developed by Hugh Rear of Rear's Manufacturing in Eugene. After ten years, they needed some heat, penetrating oil and a ball peen hammer to free them up. The diaphragms were cracked and will need to be replaced, but a coat of silicone caulk will give them a few more hours of life. By the time everything was bolted down and the valves working, the wind had picked up and it was also too hot to spray.
The final step in dressing the field is setting up the pipes for the overhead watering. When the temperature breaks 90°, we have to cool it down during the day. One time early in berry growing we got caught with our proverbial pants down when a 100 amp fuse blew on a Sunday afternoon, and there was no spare. About 40,000 pounds of fruit was destroyed that afternoon, and we are completely neurotic about cooling the fruit. You barely move without find a fuse tucked in here or there.
Cicada photo by Bruce Martin from Wikimedia Commons.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
I once had the audacity to call the negroni "the best cocktail in the world," expecting an eruption of indignation from manhattan-lovers, martini-swiggers, even bloody mary true believers. Whether no one gives a fig about my opinion or the fact that I backpedaled to safety by admitting my love for other cocktails and saying it was just my favorite cocktail, I never heard a peep from the Angry Internet Men or anyone else, for that matter. Fine.
Other cocktails mimic the combination and have the decency to not fall in the "call it a negroni and people will be more likely to try it" camp. The Boulevardier is a terrific example, taking the basic negroni recipe and making it into something completely new and distinct.
Dave, bless his soul, in his neverending quest to find new and delicious beverages, ran across a recipe for a negroni-like drink called "The Unusual Negroni" on the Hendrick's Gin website. Unusual it was, made with Hendrick's, Lillet and Aperol. We tried it and…meh. So he made another version, this time using Cocchi Americano and a lemon twist and…aaaaahhhhhhhhhh! And while it will never replace our beloved negroni, it's a really good cocktail deserving of its own distinct identity.
1 oz. gin (Dave used Gordon's)
1 oz. Aperol
1 oz Cocchi Americano
Shake. Pour. Add lemon peel twist.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Walnut trees are ubiquitous on Portland streets and, along with horse chestnuts, are known for the heavy orbs they drop in autumn. Considering these trees can get more than 100 feet tall, I'll leave it to you figure out the terminal velocity of a green walnut plummeting from that height and what it might do to the roof of your car (or you) should you be unlucky enough to be passing beneath it when it falls.
Jason about 40 feet up the tree harvesting walnuts.
Though the history books are sketchy on whether it was intentional, the ancient Celts prevented the unripe green walnuts from launching their reign (or rain?) of terror on passersby by picking them and steeping them in alcohol to make a dark brown liqueur. The Italians thought this was a great idea and dubbed it nocino (pron. no-CHEE-no).
Cathy Whims using Zen-like concentration to find just the right leaves.
When contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood informed me that he would be making nocino one afternoon last week, I promptly invited myself over. Expecting to document a complicated process of harvesting and distilling, I arrived to find Jim presiding over a very Italian repast of vino verde, fabulous charcuterie from Marco Frattaroli of Basta's, bread and homemade pimento cheese (yes, I'm begging him for the recipe). Joining him were Cathy Whims and David West, who would be taking some of the walnuts back to Nostrana to make their own batch of the liqueur.
Halving the walnuts, filling the jar.
No fool, Jim had wisely arranged for his young friend Jason Messer of Madrone Arboriculture to climb the very tall tree and harvest the walnuts. Somewhat relieved I wouldn't have to shinny up the trunk myself, I was happy to scamper about on the ground, picking up the nuts that fell and untying the full buckets that Jason and his friend Nick lowered to the ground.
Adding the alcohol.
After several buckets were gathered, Jim pulled out his trusty cleaver and began whacking them in half and tossing them into a gallon-sized glass jar. When it was full, he stuffed in a few of the tree's resinous leaves for extra flavor, filled it with 180 proof grain alcohol and screwed on the lid. It will sit outside in his garden for a couple of months, then just about the time the weather starts cooling he'll strain out the nuts and leaves, add some simple syrup and have a lovely liqueur that he says is perfect to take skiing or to have in front of the fire on a wintry night. Sounds good to me.
1 gallon-size glass jar
30-40 green walnuts
1 gallon 180 proof grain alcohol, known as Everclear (in Oregon it's Clear Spring and is available from select OLCC stores)
Walnut leaves, optional
Simple syrup (3 parts sugar to 4 parts water mixture)
Halve walnuts and fill jar, adding a few leaves at the end if desired. Fill jar with alcohol and secure lid. Place outdoors. Within a few days it will look like used motor oil. Wait at least two months, then strain out nuts and leaves. Next, Jim says, "I'd recommend diluting the walnut-flavored alcohol with an equal amount of syrup, which gives you 90 proof nocino, then trying it to see if you like it 'hot.' If not, you can add more plain water and/or syrup to dilute it down. Around 80 proof (40% alcohol) is what I like, which is 2 parts alcohol to 3 parts syrup/water." Great as is or over ice cream for dessert.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
No one could write a lovely, looping sentence quite the way our friend Joel could. This, for instance, was how he described one of his favorite Portland places:
"Lone Fir is the resting place of an astonishing variety of those who’ve come to be the city’s natives: along with pioneers and their descendants, there are Russians, Cambodians, Japanese, and Chinese whose families immigrated—some of them generations ago—and stayed." And though we're known for our rain, hippies and volcanoes, he said that they are merely "minor annoyances when compared to the city’s surpassing loveliness. Actually, the hippies are part of the charm, like colorful garden dwarves scattered amidst the tall firs."
The Famous Publisher.
We'd known him since his days as a designer, writer, art and food critic and self-described Famous Publisher of a literary rag called Mississippi Mud that predated zines and graphic novels but was a precursor to them all. He and his ladylove Cheryl also lived a couple of blocks away from us in Sellwood, where he showed Dave how to barbecue a whole turkey on the grill (for which Dave honors him every winter holiday by standing in the rain or snow and raising a pint over our bronzed prize), offered advice on how to repair an aging Victorian and was always available for two parents who couldn't find a sitter and desperately needed a night off.
Pre-unveiling quilt made by artist friends in Puerto Rico.
When he passed away in Puerto Rico from a sudden diagnosis of what-the-fuck-do-you-mean-I've-got-lung-cancer in 2007, his ashes were buried in that same Lone Fir cemetery where a coterie of Portland's literary glitterati bade him adieu. Not to be outdone in the monument category, his friend John Laursen, himself a writer, designer, editor, typographer and printing maven of crazy capabilities, took it upon himself to coordinate, with Cheryl's advice, the design and production of a fitting monument.
Día de los Muertos, it's a simple yet, shall we say, "avant garde" design that will give others in the neighborhood a run for their money. With type by John, art by Sharon Bronzan and a proprietary color job by Elite Granite and Marble in Hillsboro (they wouldn't even let John watch as they applied it), it provides those of us who loved Joel a marker to wave at as we drive by on our daily errands.
And, maybe once in awhile, even a place to share a piece of pie.
Read previous posts about Joel: What Goes Around, about his publication Rotund World; Famous Publisher Has His Cake wherein the FP visits and I share a fabulous recipe for Chocolate-Orange Carrot Cake; and the self-explanatory An Appreciation: Joel Weinstein, Famous Publisher.
Monday, July 25, 2011
You gotta love food stories that start with a romance…they practically write themselves. Like when I was interviewing Ethan Bisagna for a story on great farmers' market meals and he mentioned that when he was a butcher at Clyde Common he met a kindred spirit in sous-chef Ashley Brown. I had to restrain myself from shouting, "Gold!"
He loved her passion for the foods of Spain and its Basque culture, developed over years of travel, cooking and eating there. Their mutual love of good food got them talking about building a business, which led to building a life together. Ethan recently left his post as head butcher at Laurelhurst Market to launch Feastworks with Ashley, selling their sausages and charcuterie at the Beaverton, Northwest Portland and Woodstock farmers markets.
One of the sausages they make is chistorra, a long, thin, richly spiced sausage packed with the flavors of her favorite region. I bought a few at a recent stop at Feastworks' Beaverton market stand and brought them home to throw on the grill for dinner. The question was, what to have with it that would complement but not compete with its lovely spiciness?
I was pondering making a rice dish, and when I mentioned it to Dave he said, "Oh, like paella?" and a brand new favorite was born. The grilled sausages alongside were fantastic, but you could just as easily treat them like traditional Spanish chorizo, cutting them into 1" chunks and throwing them into the pan before you sauté the onions and garlic.
10-15 threads saffron
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
2 c. arborio rice1 tsp. pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)
1/2 c. dry white wine or rosé
4 c. chicken stock
1 c. tomatoes, chopped in large chunks or hand-crushed if canned
1/4 c. piquillo peppers, chopped
10 green Spanish olives, chopped (I use Spanish anchovy-stuffed olives)
1 bay leaf
Put saffron and salt into mortar and grind until saffron is crushed. Set aside.
Heat oil in skillet and add onion and garlic. Sauté over medium heat till translucent. Add rice and stir for about a minute, then stir in pimenton and saffron salt. Add wine and stir until liquid is absorbed, then add stock, tomatoes, piquillo peppers and bay leaf. Bring to a strong simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook until rice is done. If it gets too dry, add liquid but don't stir; a little browned crust, called socarrat, on the bottom is a good thing. Adjust salt and serve.
* Basque version of "bon appétit."
I am in awe of contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood for so many reasons…he works hard, he has a fabulous garden, he's a terrific writer and he makes good food from whatever fresh ingredients are at hand. Oh, yeah, and he's a genuinely nice guy. Here's a cold grain salad of his that I'm going to be making this summer to go with grilled meats or to have all by itself.
The weeks I do the farmers' market are long. I’m at the day job all week, and then my days off are consumed by getting ready and actually being at the market. But I love the seeing my regular customers and meeting new ones, the folks who haven’t discovered how good real extra virgin olive oil can be. So despite feeling a bit ragged, I really don’t mind.
However, I’m writing this Sunday evening, and I have another long day tomorrow. All of which is rationalizing why what follows may not really qualify as a recipe. But it does taste good.
Sort of Pickled Farro Salad
I had some assorted vegetables from Groundwork Organics in the refrigerator and I needed to come up with something for dinner. I cut up a few radishes, red and daikon, a carrot, cucumber and a bit of green cabbage (smallish, bite-sized pieces). It all went in a bowl, and I poured in some Katz late harvest Zinfandel vinegar (the Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier Honey all have what Italians call agrodolce, a sweet and sour flavor). A healthy pinch of flor de sal, a quick stir, and I set the bowl aside for a couple of hours for a sort of quick pickle.
Just before dinner, I tossed the vinegared vegetables with a bit of leftover cooked farro and a substantial drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Quite tasty.
See the RealGoodFood website for his upcoming PSU market dates.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Last week I was fortunate to have the chance to go to Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston and watch the process involved in taking frikeh from field to table. Contributor Anthony Boutard is one of the only farmers in the United States producing this ancient foodstuff, and its extreme seasonality makes it an unparalleled treat.
The parched wheat.
Using fire to process green grains is also practiced in southern Germany where spelt is roasted to produce grünkern, and in the southwestern United States where unripe corn in the soft dough stage is roasted and dried to produce chicos with their own characteristic light smokiness.
Anthony loading the parched grain into the threshing machine.
To prepare frikeh, rinse well in couple of changes of water. Pull out any errant hulls or chaff. Drain and put in a saucepan. Add water to about double the depth of the grain, or more. Bring to a boil and then simmer 45 minutes to an hour. Drain, salt as desired and store in the refrigerator without liquid.
The threshed grain, called frikeh, is spread on screens to dry.
At this point, the grain can be used in many different dishes. It appeals to the most careful vegans and raw meat omnivores. In it simplest use, we use frikeh to build a seasonal grain salad along the lines of tabbouleh, using olive oil, lemon juice, mint, parsley, cucumbers, and tomatoes, and perhaps a bit sauteed summer squash. Chef Naoko Tamura of Naoko Bento adds frikeh as a topping for her seasonal salads using a traditional Japanese soy and rice vinegar dressing.
Stacked screens are spaced apart to facilitate air circulation; the grain dries for two weeks.
Frikeh is delicious with yogurt and buttermilk. Nostrana serves a buttermilk and frikeh soup based on a similar soup from Deborah Madison's "The Savory Way."Linda Colwell guided us in putting together an Ayers Creek version of this soup. It uses two cups of frikeh in a quart of buttermilk. Add a couple tablespoons each of fresh cilantro and dill, a tablespoon of ground coriander toasted gently in a dry pan, and two cups of purslane whole if very young, or chopped coarsely. Linda also brought a jar of her tuna, and we made a tuna and frikeh salad (recipe on her blog).
Cold frikeh and buttermilk soup.
Yesterday, we prepared the Middle Eastern dish kibbeh using frikeh. In its traditional form, raw lamb is mashed with bulgar wheat in a mortar with parsley, onion and mint. The mixture is dressed and served raw as a tartar. Unfortunately, the raw version is seldom served in restaurants, and it is more often roasted with addition of spices. In our version, we ran a half pound of lamb through a meat grinder and then mixed it in with the herbs and frikeh. We dressed it with olive oil and lemon juice, and served it with salad and Siljans, the round rye crisp bread. Linda brought a pan of dolmas, stuffed grape leaves, to complete the feast.
Frikeh and albacore salad.
Frikeh is also very good in heated dishes. Egyptians stuff fowl, usually pigeon and chicken, with frikeh. Add it to a mix of sauteed vegetables. Its gentle smokiness and grassiness is welcome summer fare. If you plan on storing the frikeh, we suggest pouring it into a glass jar and keep it in the freezer. This preserve its quality. It is shelf stable, but the flavor drifts away over time. For us, though, it is linked with the flavors and texture of summer, and we have no inclination to prepare it in the winter.
Local chefs went wild when Viridian Farms debuted their padron peppers and again when Olympic Provisions brought out their take on Spanish chorizo. And it looks like it's happening again with the pioppino or black poplar mushrooms that Roger Konka and Norma Cravens are cultivating at Springwater Farm. Always quick with a quip, Roger's dubbed it "the poor man's porcini," which trips off the tongue much more easily than its Latin name, Agrocybe aegerita.
Details: Pioppino mushrooms from Springwater Farm. Available at Portland Farmers' Market at PSU, Hillsdale Farmers' Market, Lake Oswego Farmers' Market and Westmoreland Farmers' Market. Links, hours and maps on the Oregon Farmers' Markets page.
* * *
Verde Cocina almost as soon as it debuted at area farmers' markets. Now it looks like the family business is going all bricks and mortar with a retail outlet in Hillsdale at the location recently vacated by Kurt Spak's blink-and-it's-gone Caffe Autogrill. Look for the fresh Mexican fare you've come to love like fajitas, chilaquiles and tacos made with local meats and seasonal vegetables, plus new menu items courtesy of expanded kitchen capabilities. And in the space next door vacated by Spak's Alba Osteria, rumored tenant Ramsay's Dram vanished without a trace to be replaced by Sasquatch Brewing, a new 7-barrel brewpub started by Portland native Tom Sims. Mexican food and beer? Sounds like a pairing made in heaven!
Details: Verde Cocina, 6440 SW Capitol Hwy. 503-750-2722.
* * *
Lloyd Farmers' Market. It began began in 2007 as part of a grant to promote active living and healthy worksites and was managed by Eamon Molloy, market manager at the innovative Hillsdale Farmers' Market. "Hollywood has the experience to further the growth and success of the Lloyd Farmers Market. Adding debit and EBT services [will be] a big plus to this market," said Molloy. Location and hours remain the same, and Lloyd will continue to serve office workers and neighborhood residents as well as giving the Hollywood Farmers' Market a mid-week presence. Hollywood also announced it will officially be going year-round on first and third Saturdays from December through April, fulfilling neighbors' requests and its vendors efforts to develop "cutting edge season extension techniques," according to market manager Sarah Broderick.
Details: Lloyd Farmers' Market. Open Tuesdays, 10 am-2 pm year-round; Thursdays, 10 am-2 pm, June-Sept. In the Oregon Square Courtyard on NE Holladay Street between 7th and 9th Aves.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Growing up in small-town Central Oregon had its advantages. Even in elementary school I could ride out alone on my bike to the edge of town, park it and spend hours climbing up and down the canyon walls looking for lizards without causing my mother a second of worry. In the summer I could walk or, if forced, shepherd my two younger brothers for an afternoon in the cool blueness of the local pool.
Our food choices, however, if it was more than canned or frozen vegetables and meat, were somewhat limited. There was a steakhouse for special occasions, and an A&W drive-in where waitresses would carry out a tray with our order of burgers and root beer (7Up for me) and clip it to the driver's window. The sole ethnic food available was dispensed from a Chinese restaurant called Johnny's that featured chow mein and egg foo young—exotica to me back then.
A place we could have taken them with no qualms at all, however, is Bambuza Vietnam Bistro, a three-restaurant chain owned by Daniel Nguyen and his wife, Katherine Lam (above left). She'd grown up cooking for her large family while her parents worked two jobs to support them, so when Daniel and his mother opened the first Bambuza in Seattle, Katherine quickly learned her mother-in-law's recipes. When the couple moved to Portland to be closer to Katherine's family and Daniel's mother retired, they decided to close the Seattle restaurant and open their own in Portland.
The other difference is the decor, all dark wood with dramatic lighting from oversized silk lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Like I said, a place my parents would have loved. I just wish that our small town had one like it when I was a kid…between that and the lizards, I might never have left.
Details: Bambuza Vietnam Bistro. Three locations: 19300 NW Cornell Rd., Hillsboro; 3682 SW Bond in Portland's South Waterfront; 7628 SW Nyberg St. in Tigard.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Can you really say you're roughing it when you have fourteen dozen raw oysters in a coffin-sized cooler? Not to mention martini glasses, cocktail fixin's for just about any drink in a home bartender's guide, anchovy-stuffed Spanish olives for the aforementioned martinis and enough wine to ride out (or would that be float out?) the apocalypse.
Now, I have to say that Dave and I have wowed camp neighbors over the years with margaritas shaken in a handy plastic tub and some mighty fine camp cookin' like the posole we made last year in Dave's brand new Lodge cast iron pot. But the crew we joined over the Fourth of July took it over the top and then some.
Only 167 to go…
My brother (that's him shucking, lower right) and his bride have always headed for the hills over the holiday to get away from the crazies who seem to think the city's streets are their own private bombing range. This year we decided to invite ourselves along and spare Walker and Rosey the panting, pacing, drooling trauma of staying in town.
The plan was to meet up in the no-fireworks-allowed pristine surroundings of the aptly-named Paradise Creek campground just north of Carson, Washington, in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest near Mt. Adams. A small, shady campground, its 42 primitive sites are dotted along the confluence of the Wind River, Paradise Creek and Juice Creek.
The creekside campsites are the most private and the largest, each capable of handling anywhere from one to three tents, though an additional fee is required for more than one vehicle per site. The best is site 29, but sites 25 and 27 are lovely, too (27 is next to the toilets, though buffered by trees and the creek). The camp hosts keep the pit toilets clean and well-stocked, and they also have firewood available, though after the first night you'll be going back down the road near the fish hatchery where an enterprising family sells dry, chopped wood for a much better price.
As for those oysters, our group consisted of five couples, two singles and a toddler, so appetizers on two evenings were taken up shucking and slurping both raw and grilled bivalves, though the toddler preferred consuming a fair amount of native terroir (that is, dirt) with his meals. Those were divvied up between the comings and goings of the various participants, with everything from beans and franks to steak and corn to, yes, our posole. Breakfast was a rotating affair that always started with coffee, then moved on to campfire hashbrowns and eggs or toasted bagels or scrambled eggs with chorizo sausage, then cold cuts, cheeses and salads for lunch.
Some amount of hiking and stream-walking was required to interrupt all that eating, and there are trails aplenty in the area including one hefty climb up Lava Butte from the campground, which ended with a somewhat disappointing non-view at the top.
The best part, though? As the sun went down on the night of July 4, the only crackling and popping came from the campfire, with no hissing from anything other than water flowing over the stones in the creek.
Read other Camp Stories in the series from Trout Creek Campground, Shadow Bay at Waldo Lake, LaPine State Park, Indian Crossing Campground, Frog Lake Campground, Patrick's Point State Park, Harris Beach State Park and Moss Creek Campground.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood knows a good thing when he reads it, and Anthony Boutard's recent rant about favas goaded him into action. I think he's onto something!
Grilled Fava Beans
I’d read about grilling favas for a few years, but didn’t try it until after reading this screed from Anthony and Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm:
“The American food establishment has deemed that favas are edible only when the seeds are peeled. In our experience shelling the beans raw, then blanching and peeling the seeds is tedious and unnecessary, and robs this amazing vetch of much of its flavor, nutritional value and fiber. Worse yet, a simple, hearty staple has become a fussy, special occasion food, and a daunting one at that.”
I turned them enough to get the exteriors pretty charred, then pulled open the blackened pods, swiped the unpeeled beans through extra virgin olive oil and flor de sal and ate. Amazingly good, and there is a lot more flavor.
The process is a bit messy, so I’d suggest doing this when you’re eating outside (like that’ll ever happen). Grill a few pounds for a party, put them on a big platter, and let everybody peel and eat.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I want to like you. I really do. Your blushing cheeks, your round perfection. Your peppery bite that gives a spicy twist to every encounter.
Then I heard about a way to mellow out those rough edges, even make you slightly sweet without totally losing your crisp appeal…I think we may have a future together after all. How about it?
x's and o's,
Roasted Radishes with Pasta and Radish Greens Pesto
For the roasted radishes:
2 bunches radishes
For the pesto pasta:
3 c. radish greens
1 c. Italian parsley
3 cloves garlic
1/4 c. pine nuts
1 tsp. salt
1/2-3/4 c. olive oil
1 c. parmesan, grated
1 lb. dried pasta
Preheat oven to 400°. Separate greens from the radishes. Set the greens aside, wash radishes and dry with a towel. Place in medium bowl and toss with enough olive oil to coat. Place in baking dish and sprinkle with salt and thyme sprigs. Roast in oven for 20-30 min. until skins are crinkled and radishes are tender when pierced with a fork.
While radishes roast, bring a pot of water to boil on the stove. Wash and dry greens. Put greens, parsley, garlic, pine nuts and salt in bowl of processor. Turn on processor and drizzle in olive oil, processing until mixture is smooth and slightly wet. Pour into medium mixing bowl and stir in cheese.
Cook pasta till al dente. Drain and mix in half of pesto or enough to generously coat pasta. Serve with roasted radishes alongside and extra parmesan for sprinkling.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
The ripening of the small fruit is gathering steam. The fruits we typically call "berries" are, in the botanist's lexicon, aggregate fruits composed of numerous small, single seeded individual fruits called drupelets. In you look closely, you will notice they are essentially tiny cherry-like fruits borne on a receptacle and fused on their flanks.
In the raspberries, the drupelets fall free of the receptacle, leaving a hollow fruit. In the loganberries and most of members of the group, the receptacle remains attached to the drupelets, and "the berry" detaches at the stem. Each drupelet retains a bit of the stigma that was pollinated to produce it. Damp, cool days during pollination result in fewer bee visits to each flower, and smaller fruit because fewer stigmas are pollinated.
Members of the genus Ribes, the gooseberries and currants, produce true berries. The general definition of a berry is "a pulpy fruit enclosing several seeds." Tomatoes and grapes are also berries in the botanist's world. The Ribes are very good for preserves and jellies. Red currants are often combined with raspberries to make jam because they have a high pectin content. Red and black currants produce good juice. For the best quality and yield, use a steam juicer such as the Mehu Liisa, developed by Finns desperate to preserve the essence of summer. Generally neglected in North America, the berries of Ribes are very nutritious and deserve a more prominent place on the table.
The individual currants (right) are on a raceme called a "strig" in the trade. The strig should be removed before the fruit is used. The stem lends an off-flavor and bitterness if it is cooked with the fruit. The classic kitchen trick is to use a fork to comb the individual berries off the strig. Works, but it gets tedious. A more efficient method is to put the fruit in the freezer, and when the berries are frozen, the stems can be rubbed off without making a mess of the berries. Insulated gloves are useful if you have a lot of currants to clean.
As an aside, the currants of the genus Ribes bear no relationship to the black, wrinkled raisins called currants. Those small, dried grapes originated around the ancient Greek city of Corinth, and the word "currant" as applied to them is merely a British corruption of that ancient city's name. The grape used to produce those raisin is also sold as the "Champagne Grape," though there is absolutely no connection between those grapes and the sparkling wine than lends its name to them.
Now I know what the Israelites felt like when they ran across that manna. Or being on a walk and running across a windfall of apples in an old orchard.
Linda. We were chatting when she suddenly crosssed to her refrigerator and said, "You've got to try this!" and pulled out a big jar that glowed golden in the afternoon light pouring into her kitchen.
She unscrewed the lid and held it up. I inhaled and my head was filled with the sweet bouquet of tropical flowers and citrus. Turned out it was elderflower syrup that she'd made from flowers gathered at Ayers Creek Farm the week before. She poured some of the golden liquid into a small jar and handed it to me.
On the drive home my thoughts turned to (no surprise here) the cocktails we could make with it. A little research indicated it would pair well with a dry London-style gin, and mint seemed like it might counterpoint the syrup's heavy sweetness. Dave thought a technique we'd used with a drink called a Cooperstown might be appropriate, that is, wiping the inside of the glass with a mint leaf to give just a whisper of its flavor.
I think he's onto something here:
2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. elderflower syrup
2 mint leaves
Chill a martini glass.
Pour a splash (approx. 1 tsp. or less) dry vermouth into chilled glass. Place 1 mint leaf in glass and rub mint leaf and vermouth around inside. Discard mint leaf and vermouth.
Fill mixing glass (mixing pitcher) 1/2 full of ice. Add gin and elderflower syrup and stir 30 seconds. Strain into prepared martini glass. Garnish with second mint leaf.
See this recipe for making the elderflower syrup and another cocktail.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
While it's no secret how much I love writing about food, from the farmers who grow it to the cooks who put it front of us at our favorite restaurants to how to make it at home, I'm also crazy about beer, wine and cocktails and our local crew of brewers, winemakers and distillers. Here's a write-up I did for a recent issue of MIX magazine on David Shenaut, plus the recipe that didn't make it into the magazine. The perfect cooler for a summer gathering, it's simple, light and refreshing.
Zeus Café in the new Crystal Hotel downtown, where he's planning to shake things up with his signature Souracher cocktail. Named after a brilliant kitchen staffer he worked with at Brad Root’s eponymous restaurant in Camas, Washington, who liked to end his shift with a combination of lime juice, Campari and whiskey, Shenaut was intrigued enough to spend five years perfecting it. He describes it as “incredibly balanced and packed with flavor, with both masculine and feminine qualities.” I call it irresistible.
3/4 oz. Campari
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. rye whiskey (100-proof)
3/4 oz. Carpano Antica
1/2 tsp. rich Demerara sugar syrup (2:1; no heat)
Spicy ginger beer
Tools: shaker, strainer
Garnish: long lime peel
Shake first 5 ingredients with ice and strain into a Collins glass filled with an Ice spear or large ice cubes. Top with ginger beer and garnish.
Monday, July 11, 2011
The patty melt has a long and storied history in American diner culture. Contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood shares some of that legend and gives his version, created in the familiar moment when the buns you thought were in the freezer were nowhere to be found.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, almost everything I make and write about includes olive oil, salt, and probably one or more of the other things I sell. Sure, I want you to buy them, but I sell those things because I need to have them in my kitchen to make the real good food I like to eat. But I eat other things, too.
Here’s one of them. No olive oil.
Grilled Cheese Burger
Not “grilled cheeseburger.” This is basically a modified patty melt sans onions* that I started making when I wanted a burger and had the beef but no buns. (There's info on the patty melt on the internet, but for those who’ve never had one at the basic American roadside cafe/diner there’s not much info here, and what is needs editing; the whole Northwest variant can’t be that popular since I’ve never seen one.)
Rather than go to the store or dig through the freezer (could be buns down there yet), I made the burgers to fit the bread I had, my usual New Seasons wheat levain, so they were more oval than round. The usual burger making also applies: 20% fat freshly ground chuck (New Seasons make this easy), gently formed and patted to be slightly thicker at the edges. Salt fairly heavily (I used flor de sal). Cook however’s most convenient (cast iron skillet, broiler, or grill…my choice), but only enough to brown the exterior. You want these very rare inside since they’ll cook a bit more during the grilled cheese phase.
Slice your bread, apply your condiments (for me, mustard; ketchup on the side after cooking), add a slice of good sharp cheddar (I’ll use other cheese if I have to, but cheddar is best for burgers), and grill in a cast iron skillet over low heat with another skillet of about the same size balanced on top. Brown well on both sides, which should also result in melted cheese. Eat immediately.
*You could take this closer to a patty melt. Cook some sliced onions in olive oil as long as you can, hopefully until slightly caramelized; add to burger. Rye bread is the usual for a patty melt, but if you go the store for rye you might as well get buns.
Top photo by pointnshoot from Oakland, California, USA.
Saturday, July 09, 2011
Contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm has been working his land for many years and has experienced most of the seasonal weather patterns endemic to his corner of the Wapato Valley near Gaston. This year's cool, wet spring and early summer has been at turns puzzling and frustrating.
Farming is a waltz with nature, and although we try to work with her, we are reminded, more often than not, that she is a powerful lead. Among the farmers at the market, the discussion is whether this second late year in a row is the beginning of a trend, a cyclical moment or a stochastic event and as significant as drawing two jacks from a deck of cards.
Blessedly, the number of people who tell us the old family secret of spreading berries carefully on a cookie sheet so they don't touch each other, and then putting them in the freezer without jiggling the masterpiece of spacing, are now far and few between.
The best way to freeze our berries is to leave them in the container or flat, and place the whole thing in the freezer without touching the fruit. (The berries we sell are picked especially for you at the Hillsdale market, not hauled from one market to the next, and they are picked over to remove the berries that start to rot. We sell at one market only, so every pint of fruit is less than 24 hours from the field to your good custody.) A day or two after being placed in the freezer, when berries are fully frozen and you feel like a spot of work (but not too much), take out the hallocks and give them a gentle squeeze while pouring the berries into an airtight container. They will be perfectly frozen as individual berries.
During the ripening season for each fruit, berry quality changes. The early fruit have a higher natural pectin level and acidity, making better preserves than later fruit. We make our preserves from the first run, and they do not need added pectin. As the season progresses, the pectins and acidity drops, and for cooking the berries have less oomph. However, for fresh eating, the later berries will be sweeter and just as flavorful in the mouth. In preparing preserves, it helps to macerate the fruit in the sugar overnight and heat it up the next day.