Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ryan Magarian: Portland Boy, Cocktail Powerhouse

When I was asked to write a profile of Ryan Magarian, PDX's "King of Co-"—co-founder of Aviation Gin, co-owner of Oven & Shaker, co-owner of the Pearl's new watering hole, Hamlet—for The Pearl magazine, I was a little nervous. I mean, he practically jumpstarted the new distillery explosion in Portland with Aviation gin, his witty, not to mention crave-worthy, cocktail menus are among the most highly regarded in the city, and partnering to start two hot downtown restaurant/bars, well, a resumé like that is a bit intimidating. I needn't have worried…direct and down-to-earth, he was as forthcoming about his challenges growing up as much as his recent successes, which is why I'm publishing this extended interview.

Ryan Magarian calls it “The Big Box of Awesome.” Co-owner of Oven & Shaker with six-time James Beard Award-nominated Chef Cathy Whims and ChefStable restaurateur Kurt Huffman, Magarian is referring to the area from Northwest Everett to Southwest Morrison between 10th and 13th avenues.

“You’ve got the tightest grouping of amazing, delicious concepts from bars to restaurants of anyplace on earth right now,” he said. “You’ve got Clyde Common, Pepe le Moko, Multnomah Whiskey Library, you’ve got Kask, Oven & Shaker, Teardrop. Six world-class places right here in a small [area]. These are bars people in other cities and other countries know about.”

Whims (left) and Magarian of Oven & Shaker.

And he should know. This local boy from Portland’s West Hills went to Sunset High School, got a degree in political science from the University of Oregon and then headed to Seattle where he was mentored by Chef Kathy Casey and cocktail historian Robert Hess, eventually becoming an internationally renowned spirits and bar program consultant.

Describing himself as an insecure kid, he said, “I wasn’t good at sports, I wasn’t popular, so my identity piece was being the guy who went to parties and got drunk. Drinking was something that became an identity for me early, but for the wrong reasons.”

He credits Hess as the person “who really helped me change my thought process from seeing being a bartender as a job about alcohol delivery and more as a job about creating an alcohol experience. That was a shifting point in my life.”

The Convertible at Hamlet.

With that new focus and a keen eye for what works in the spirits industry, Magarian was instrumental in the development of Aviation Gin, working with House Spirits distiller Christian Krogstad to develop its unique flavor profile. Working on this signature product, he realized the next step was to create a flagship for his work.

“I needed a place you could come find my culture, [a place that] was under my control,” he said. “I wanted to create a healthy drinking environment and that meant you needed to have a strong food element, which would mean having a strong chef partner.”

Magarian had been “kicking the tires” with Huffman about opening his own place, and it had occurred to him that pizza and cocktails would be a fun and unique combination, one he’d seen done successfully in Sydney, Australia. A fortuitous meeting with Whims where she mentioned opening a pizzeria drove them to create a business plan for what would become Oven & Shaker.

He dislikes the term “bar chef,” preferring instead to describe what he’s done at Oven & Shaker as “liquid cooking.”

“You take spirits and fresh, raw ingredients and, through a change in temperature and dilution, create an entirely new and hopefully delicious culinary experience,” he said.

Believing in a strong culture of precise execution, Magarian’s goal is to make his customer smile.

“I want you to look at it and smile at the recipe, whether it’s the name of the recipe or just what’s in it,” he said of drinks like his Pepper Smash, a surprising combination of fresh mint, anise-flavored aquavit, lime juice, maple syrup and the juice of a yellow bell pepper. “I want it to be fun, I want it to be uplifting. I want you to think that Ryan makes fun, delicious cocktails.”

It’s a formula he plans to repeat in his newest venture, another partnership with Whims and Huffman called Hamlet around the corner from Oven & Shaker. With a menu focused on cured meats from around the world with traditional ham-friendly foods like collard greens, bocadillos, biscuits and pimento cheese, Magarian’s still-in-development bar program will introduce Portland to cocktails based on whiskey and fortified wines like sherry, madeira and port.

He feels that his partnership with a James Beard Award-level chef like Whims is yet another ground-breaking step in Portland’s food scene.

“It’s a quantum leap forward for the bar community that chefs will take someone like me to do this with,” he said. “I hope that it’s a template that will catch on in the industry, that more bartenders will partner with great chefs, not just as a consultant or a head bartender, but [in an] authentic partnership. Because if that happens, it’s going to create much more viability for this as a profession, bringing far more intelligent and passionate people into it.”

Read the edited version in The Pearl magazine. Photos of Magarian (top) from Oven & Shaker; Magarian and Whims by Amy Oulette for The Pearl magazine.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dinner Desperation Turns into Dinner Delight

In a rare occurence, I knew what we were going to have for dinner. I was going to make one of our go-to favorite dinners, pasta alla carbonara, with some of Dave's freshly made bacon. It's simple matter of boiling water (duh!) frying bacon, stirring up some eggs and a little parmesan, then mixing it all together with whatever pasta was on hand.

And that's where dinner took a sudden left-hand turn.

There was no pasta. I looked around for someone, or something, to blame. Had our son sneaked in a midnight snack with the last box of penne? Had one of the dogs dragged off a package and buried it under the couch cushions? Maybe the cat…but then I remembered I'd made a mental note to write "pasta" on the grocery list but was momentarily, and apparently permanently, distracted by who-knows-what (A glass of wine? A clump of dog hair? A shiny object?) on my way to write it down.

A quick trip to the store crossed my mind, but the grumbling of the family's stomachs made it clear that sooner was going to be preferable to later. So I punted. I turned off the pot of pasta water, grabbed half an onion, chopped it quickly then did a speedy sauté in a sauce pan, added rice, then started ladeling in stock until the rice was just past crunchy.

The idea was to roughly replicate a dish we used to make with rice that called for cooking the rice with onion and stock, then stirring in eggs when the rice was nearly cooked to make a soft, fluffy mass reminiscent of cheesy grits or risotto or…well, dinner.

After stirring in the garlic and bacon, adding the eggs and stirring some more, what came out might not have been our beloved carbonara, but something different and actually worth playing around with some more. Maybe some spring peas, or blanched asparagus pieces? A sprinkling of garden herbs? I'll keep you posted.

Risotto alla Carbonara

1/2 lb. bacon, sliced in 1/4" strips
1 Tbsp. garlic
1/4 c. white wine or dry vermouth
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 c. parmesan, finely grated, plus more for sprinkling at the table
1/2 onion, chopped fine
3 Tbsp. olive oil, or a combination of butter and oil
2 c. arborio or other short-grained white rice
5 c. chicken stock

Fry bacon strips in frying pan until fat is rendered but the bacon is still tender. Add garlic and wine and bring to a brief boil. Remove from heat.

In a small mixing bowl, combine eggs, egg whites and parmesan. Set aside.

In large saucepan melt oil and butter over medium heat. Add onion and sauté till it is translucent. Add rice and sauté briefly, 1-2 min. Add stock one ladel-full at a time, stirring regularly, until rice is al dente, just past the crunchy stage. Remove from heat and add bacon mixture, stirring thoroughly, then the egg mixture. Adjust salt to taste and serve.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Pollinator Garden: A Mother & Son Perspective

In honor of Mother's Day, which was marked earlier this month, the Xerces Society published this perspective on pollinator gardening. Alice Vaughan wrote a lovely narrative of her bee garden on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Alice's son, Mace, who co-directs the Xerces pollinator program and is a contributor to Good Stuff NW, added his memories of sharing in the garden.

Alice's View of Her Garden

I have always enjoyed gardening. I love being among the plants and the bees that come to visit them. A few years ago I saw that Xerces was offering plants for sale that attracted bees. I was very excited. We had a bit of land along our driveway on which orange daylilies and ivy fought for dominance; a rather boring area, I had always thought. So, as soon as I heard of the Xerces offer, I knew I had to clear that area and plant a bee garden.

In the years since, the garden has thrived. I have expanded it with the help of our son, Mace, adding not only more plants that attract bees, but some of my personal favorites, as well. (Who says all of the plants in a bee garden have to attract bees?)

This garden is a joy to me. I stand in it in the spring and summer, close my eyes, and the world around me hums and vibrates with the bees, large and small. They are amazing to watch going about their work every day, or curled up to rest occasionally. Each time I drive in, I pause and roll down the window just to say hello and listen in appreciation of their lives in our world.

Mace's View of the Garden

The bee garden my mom describes is a place—almost a sanctuary—that connects us across a continent. Spring, summer and fall, I love hearing stories about new bees or new plants in the garden—on the last call, I learned that the milkweed was already 4 inches high! My dad makes sure to send photos, always with the date and time attached. And, when I visit, I enjoy adding plants or pulling weeds under the direction of my mom, or just watching the bees and sharing their hidden stories with my family.

This garden connects us. This is not unusual: gardens bring together families, neighbors, communities, nature. The garden is a way to share work and place, whether it is families working in the backyard to raise a small crop, community gardens that bring a neighborhood together, or a wildlife habitat that attracts bees, butterflies, and birds closer to home.

We are a private family, and I worried that this peek at a gift that I share with my family would somehow violate a trust. As I've put these words down, however, I think that this glimpse into our lives is okay. I'm struck by how lucky I am to share this experience with my mom, and I hope it helps inspire you to create a garden for pollinators and share it with the people you love.

Photos by Mace Vaughan.

Summer Fun: Sunday Parkways, Cycle Rides and Express Walks

One of the things that makes this city such a great place to live is the enthusiasm people bring to their neighborhoods, and Portland Sunday Parkways has been instrumental in getting people out and exploring. By closing a few neighborhood streets and encouraging neighborhood organizations and businesses to join in, Portlanders flood the streets on their bikes and on foot for a few hours of non-automotive community togetherness.

This year the Parkways program is joined by Portland SmartTrips, a series of cycle rides, cycle classes and walks to encourage all of us to explore of alternative transportation choices—and, by the way, have fun in the process.

The best part? All rides are free. Here's the upcoming schedule:

Portland Sunday Parkways
  • Sun., June 21: North Portland along Peninsula, Arbor Lodge, Kenton, Columbia Annex and McCoy Parks
  • Sun., July 26: Northeast Portland along Woodlawn, Alberta and Fernhill Parks
  • Sun., Aug. 23: Southeast Portland along Laurelhurst, Colonel Summers and Ivon Parks.
  • Sun. Sept. 27: Tilikum Crossing/Sellwood along the new Tilikum Crossing Bridge, Westmoreland, Sellwood and Brooklyn School Parks.
Portland by Cycle Rides
  • Wed., June 10: Waterways Real & Metaphoric, aka Pedalpalooza celebrates the city's rivers through the work of artists and engineers.
  • Wed., June 17: The Wonderful World of Bike Non-Profits shows off our vibrant bike community.
  • Tues., July 7 & Wed., July 8: Sweet Summer Cycle visits Southeast Portland sweet shops.
  • Tues., July 14: Pretty Mellow Little Ride (PMLR) East and the 19th Neighborhood Greenway to Sellwood via new bikeways.
  • Wed., July15: NoPo Greenway Tour will visit several neighborhood Greenways and share some history.
  • Tues., July 21: PMLR West shows off new bikeways downtown.
  • Wed., July 22: 50s Bikeway Northeast will tour two major north-south routes.
  • Tues., July 28: Fly the 130s explores a new neighborhood greenway in East Portland.
  • Wed., July 29: SW Multnomah and More tries out a new cycle track and some hills.
  • Tues., Aug. 4: The Spirit of '77 blazes a trail to a new park via greenways in Roseway, Cully and Rose City Park.
  • Wed., Aug. 5: 50s Bikeway Southeast will tour two major north-south routes.
  • Tues., Aug. 11: The Dream of the 80s tours two north-south dow-traffic routes.
  • Wed., Aug. 12: St. Johns Park to Park uses low-stress routes to tour the area's parks.
  • Tues., Aug. 18: Butte of a Ride Up Council Crest takes a steep but slow climb to the spectacular view at the top of this landmark.
  • Wed., Aug. 19: Let's Bike to IKEA will find a way to the big store, meatballs optional.
  • Tues., Aug. 25: 150s or Bust explores a possible route for a new bikeway in East Portland.
  • Wed., Aug. 26: Butte of a Ride up Rocky Butte takes a steep but slow climb to the spectacular view at the top of this landmark.
  • Sat., Sept. 26: Autumn Adventure is a longer ride heading south via new bikepaths and greenways.
  • Sat., Oct. 10: Coffee and Donuts Ride is self-explanatory…bring a cup and cash for snacks!
  • Sat., Oct. 24: Art Along I-205 reveals the innovative art along the Green Line.
  • Sat., Nov. 7: Tilikum to Terwilliger Tour is a challenging uphill ride along this gorgeous route.
  • Sat., Nov. 21: Stormwater Cycling tours innovative street designs that protect our watershed.
Ten Toe Express Walks
  • Thurs., June 4: Westmoreland Park to Crystal Springs and Reed Canyon tours the rhododendron gardens and salmon habitat restoration.
  • Sat., June 13: Historic Piedmont and Woodlawn explores the history and sights of these neighborhoods.
  • Thurs., June 18: Ped Palooza Cat Walk is a cat-themed walk with prizes for best interpretation.
  • Sat., June 27: Overlook, Mississippi, Williams Loop tours new parks, developments and other projects.
  • Thurs., July 9: Gateway Plaza to Gateway Green tours the historic little city of Maywood.
  • Sat., July 18: Hillsdale to the River hikes a challenging route through George Himes and Willamette Parks.
  • Thurs., July 23: Slabtown with author Laura Foster highlights local history and showcases its renaissance.
  • Sat., Aug. 1: Westmoreland Park to Crystal Springs and Reed Canyon tours the rhododendron gardens and salmon habitat restoration.
  • Thurs., Aug. 6: Overlook, Mississippi, Williams Loop tours new parks, developments and other projects.
  • Sat., Aug. 15: Historic Brooklyn and Rail Yards explores pedestrian improvements and public art in this historic neighborhood.
  • Thurs., Aug. 20: Hillsdale to the River hikes a challenging route through George Himes and Willamette Parks.
  • Sat., Aug. 29: Gateway Plaza to Gateway Green tours the historic little city of Maywood.
  • Thurs., Sept. 10: Historic Brooklyn and Rail Yards explores pedestrian improvements and public art in this historic neighborhood.
  • Sat., Sept. 19: Tilikum Crossing Loop is a walk over the newly-opened bridge to the South Waterfront.
Check out the Portland By Cycle Classes and learn how to maintain and enjoy more time on your bike. Preregistration is required.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Report Those Swarms!

Did you know that Portland has a bee swarm hotline? Neither did I!

Portland Urban Beekeepers is an organization that "provides community, advocacy and education for those interested in raising honey bees and supporting their presence in the environment." They've established a hotline for people who run across bee swarms to report its location and have experienced beekeepers come and collect it. The swarms are then donated to beekeepers who are looking to start or add to their existing hives.

If you want to report a swarm, the hotline number is 503-444-8446 or you can report it online (the online form is a national organization, so you can report a swarm anywhere). If you're interested in getting a swarm for your hive or learning how to collect them, sign up at the website. The beekeepers also have monthly meetings that are held the first Wednesday of the month from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Check their calendar for the next meeting date.

Rhubarb Crisp: A Blast from the Past

"Planning, preparing and serving meals is an art which develops through inspiration and thought. It may look difficult to the beginner, but like driving a car, swimming or anything we learn to do without thought or conscious effort, it is a skill which grows easier with the doing."

Perky, positive phrases like these, along with recipes for "Wheaties Ting-a-Lings," "Hollywood Dunk" and "Veal Supreme"—described as "popular at Sibley Tea House, near the home of an early Minnesota governor"—littered the pages of my mother's 1955 edition of Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book.

Meant to bolster the confidence of a new generation of middle-class housewives like my mother, saddled with preparing three meals a day for a growing family and a husband who spent his days at the office and came home expecting dinner on the table, Betty was always there with her reassuring, confident wisdom.

"Good eating brings happiness two ways. First, there is the joy and satisfaction of eating delicious, well-prepared food. Then there's the buoyant health, vitality and joy of living that comes from a wise choice of foods. Both are important to good nutrition."

Of course, we now know that Betty was an invention of one of the six milling companies that became General Mills in 1928, created for the purpose of responding to recipe requests from customers. The company decided that having a woman's name to sign the return letters would be more personal, and so combined the last name of a retired company executive with the first name "Betty," which they felt was "warm and friendly."

I'm not sure my mother bought the whole ad-speak tone of the cookbook, but both it and her mother's 1944 copy of The Joy of Cooking—which was written by an actual person, Irma Rombauer—were her kitchen workhorses.

One of my mother's favorite "Betty" recipes was for apple crisp, though rather than the granola-esque crumble topping, it had a crunchy sugar topping that contrasted so satisfyingly with the soft, warm fruit under it. I've used it for many different kinds of fruit, most recently for a wonderful rhubarb crisp that brought back vivid memories of my mother's kitchen.

Rhubarb Crisp

4 c. rhubarb, sliced into 1/2" chunks
2 Tbsp. sugar plus 1 c. for the topping
1/4 c. orange liqueur like triple sec, Harlequin or Grand Marnier
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. frozen butter or margarine, in pieces

In medium mixing bowl, combine rhubarb, 2 Tbsp. sugar and liqueur. Set aside.

For topping, in bowl of food processor combine 1 c. sugar, flour and butter or margarine. Pulse until it is the texture of cornmeal.

Place rhubarb mixture in 9" by 12" baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Sprinkle with topping mixture from processor. Bake at 350° for 40-50 min. until fruit is bubbly and topping is slightly golden.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Calçots: Grilled Spanish Spring Onions

It all started with those little, bright green lantern-shaped peppers call pimientos de padron—more familiarly known simply as "padrons"—that only required a quick blistering in hot oil and shower of salt to melt my knees as soon as I popped one in my mouth. For awhile they were only available from Manuel Recio and Leslie Lukas-Recio's Viridian Farms stand at the Portland Farmers Market, but pretty soon they were being featured on the hottest chef's menus all over town.

A couple of years later I heard about another Spanish delicacy that had appeared on Viridian's roster, a giant spring onion called calçots (pron. cahl-SOH). In Spain they're harvested from November through April, and festivals known as calçotadas are held in towns all over the region.

Cooked on a hot grill until the outside layer is blackened but not charred and the inside is soft and creamy, the outside layer is peeled off and dunked in a tangy romesco-like sauce called salbitxada (sahl-beet-SHAH-dah). Then, holding the onion aloft by the greens, the trick is to lower the soft, saucy white part into your mouth and bite it off without having the sauce dribble all over your face. (This video explains it better than I ever could.)

With calçot season upon us—you can get them right now at Manuel and Leslie's new retail outlet, Conserva—we finally held our own mini-calçotada on the patio. Traditionally served with beer and a variety of grilled meats, for our home version of a calçotada Dave quickly grilled bone-in pork chops and I made an herbed rice pilaf with chopped tarragon, red-veined sorrel and parsley from the garden…though the drips on our shirts signaled that we may need some more practice on the eating portion of this spring festival.

Calçots with Salbitxada Sauce

For the salbitxada sauce:
4 Tbsp. blanched almonds
4 fresh bitxo peppers (or other mildly hot pepper)
8 cloves garlic
4 ripe tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the grilled calçots:
2-3 bunches (20-30) Spanish calçots or very young spring onions with long greens (when the bulb is very small)

Heat oven to 350°. Place almonds in hot oven to toast for 5-7 minutes. Place in a food processor and coarsely grind. Roughly chop the tomatoes, removing the seeds. Coarsely chop the peppers, removing the seeds and membranes. Peel and chop the garlic. Mash ground almonds, peppers and garlic into a paste with a food processor. Add tomatoes, parsley and vinegar. Pulsing the food processor, drizzle in the olive oil until sauce becomes thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grilled “calcots” (spring onions) or any other grilled vegetable. During summer months, consider serving this fresh sauce with grilled steaks or chops.

To prepare the calçots, simple build a hot fire in a grill. On the grate over the coals, spread out the calçots with the white end facing the center of the grill and the greens extending over the outside edge of the grill (top photo). Grill, turning occasionally, so the outside is blackened but not charred and the whites feel tender when squeezed.

To serve, pull the calçots off the grill and peel off the outer skin with your fingers. Grasping the greens in your hand, dunk the white part in the salbitxada sauce, raise the onion aloft and lower the white into your mouth, biting it off at the top of the white portion. When the calçots are all gone, whomever has the least sauce (or, I suppose, the most) on their person is the winner.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Your Food, Your Legislature: The Fight Takes Shape

The following is an edited version of an original report that was published on the Friends of Family Farmers' Muckboots in the Capitol blog. The numbered title of each bill (in bold) is linked to an overview on the state website. It is critical that you let your legislators know what you think about the issues that concern you. Find links at the bottom of this post to do that.

In the Good Corner

House Bill (HB) 3239: Also known as the "Aggie Bonds" bill, this is legislation that would expand loans to beginning farmers. It passed 58-1 on the House floor in mid-April, passed the Senate Business committee and is on the Senate floor awaiting action. Update: This bill passed the Senate on May 13, 2015, on a bipartisan vote of 30-0.

Senate Bill (SB) 341: This bill would protect agritourism providers from legal liability when they invite members of the public onto their property for both commercial and non-commercial activities, but will also require clear warning signs and outline other basic safety steps agritourism providers must take. It passed the entire Senate in a resounding bipartisan 29-0 vote.

SB 920: This bills seeks to limit the use of "medically important" antibiotics—i.e. those used on humans—on otherwise healthy animals by Oregon's livestock industry. (See my post, The Personal Gets Political.) It is now in the Senate Rules Committee, but is being strongly opposed by the state’s biggest corporate factory farms and out-of-state agricultural pharmaceutical companies. This is despite growing evidence of widespread problems and regulatory failures related to recurring outbreaks of antibiotic resistant disease as happened at Foster Farms, featured in an article by Lynne Terry titled A Game of Chicken: USDA Repeatedly Blinked When Facing Salmonella Outbreaks Involving Foster Farms.

HB 2723: This bill encourages the development of urban agriculture by giving tax incentives to property owners who allow small-scale urban agriculture on their property for five-year increments. It passed the full House on a 50-10 vote, and is now headed to the Senate where it will likely be amended to limit eligible farm size so that the new tax incentive primarily encourages smaller scale agricultural operations.

HB 2721: If passed into law, this bill would provide $5 million in funding for farm-to-school programs—a major increase from the $1.2 million currently—making funding available to every school district in Oregon to purchase local farm goods and locally processed foods for inclusion in school meal programs. It is currently awaiting action in the Ways and Means Committee.

SB 657: This bill would provide $16 million for OSU Extension and Ag Research Programs for small and beginning farmers support, pollinator health, food safety, water quality protection and help with research needs on crop rotation, reducing pesticide use, fermentation sciences and sustainable management techniques. It is currently awaiting action in the Ways and Means Committee.

SB 204: Originally a much broader bill to promote conservation activities on working farms and forests, it has been scaled back to create a task force to look at issues around working lands conservation and to establish a Clean Water Fund to support greater protection for riparian areas on farms, including through long-term easements. It is also in the Ways and Means Committee.

In the Bad Corner

HB 2674, HB 2675, SB 207: These bills, introduced by Gov. Kitzhaber, would have enacted some common-sense regulation to better protect Oregon’s vast non-genetically engineered agricultural industries from poorly regulated genetically engineered (GE) crops. They were essentially abandoned when Kitzhaber resigned, and there are currently no bills alive in Salem to strengthen state oversight over GE crops in Oregon.

HB 3382: Introduced on behalf of a handful of canola growers unhappy with a 2013 bill. Despite being only halfway through the bill's three-year research program and having no research results available, HB 3382 authorizes 500 acres of commercial canola production per year from 2016-2019. Worse, the bill says there will be no cap on canola acreage beginning in 2019 and contains no restrictions on genetically engineered canola, effectively putting the Willamette Valley’s specialty seed, fresh market vegetable and organic industries at great risk. (See my series on canola in the Willamette Valley.)

HB 2666: If passed, this legislation would place mining for aggregate (gravel) on farmland above agricultural uses on farmland, putting high value Oregon farmland at risk of being lost forever to mining activities. It is currently in the House Rules Committee and, because of idiosyncratic rules, is not subject to normal legislative deadlines, and may be the subject of behind-the-scenes negotiating and arm-twisting from mining interests.

It is critical that you speak up about the issues that concern you, so please consider contacting your legislators. Find your legislators and let them know what you think. And stay tuned for further updates as the 2015 session progresses!

Read the other posts in this series, Opening Salvos, The Good, The Bad and The UglyThe Personal Gets Political and Hanging in the Balance.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Makin' Bacon? Easy Peasy!

People who deny the facts of evolution completely puzzle me. Even putting aside the fossil record, DNA evidence and untold hours of programming on public television (Have you pledged yet?) do these people ever look around them? Stuff is changing all the time, for heaven's sake.

Cured and ready to smoke.

And I'm not even talking about the famous example of the beaks of Darwin's finches on the Galapagos Islands, where "an immigrant first settled on one of the islands [and] it would undoubtedly be exposed to different conditions in the different islands (where) it would have to compete with a different set of organisms. ... Then, natural selection would probably favor different varieties in the different islands."

You don't have to look any further than this blog, which in geologic time has only existed for a millionth of a nanosecond, but it has evolved from a simple food blog with restaurant reviews, farmers’ market reports and recipes to a forum for discussion of issues about our food system, from the fields to our plates. And the recipes have changed, too, as I've learned more and tweaked them to fit the way we're eating now.

In the smoker.

Take Dave's bacon recipe. On the recommendation of a friend, I bought him Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, considered the primer for those interested in learning about cured meat. In the five years since he cured and smoked his first pork belly, he's adjusted it to his own tastes, to the point where we have a hard time stooping to store-bought because even the most highly-touted examples simply don't measure up.

So if you're at all interested, it's incredibly easy. The only special equipment required is curing salt, large zip-lock plastic bags, a charcoal grill or smoker and a thermometer, then a week for the curing. Seriously, that's it.


And, of course, Dave's notes, which are here in his own words:

"The bacon recipe is based on the Michael Ruhlman recipe, with a couple of changes. I use half as much kosher salt as the recipe calls for—a quarter cup makes it way too salty. I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt (I understand that Morton’s is a bit different). I use a little more garlic than called for—8 to 10 cloves, maybe. I don’t think I’ve ever made it with the optional thyme. I have made it with the optional juniper berries once or twice, but most of the time not. I usually make 12 or 13 pounds at a time, so I double the recipe as I’ve altered it. I usually have two pieces of belly, each rubbed and placed into the big plastic bags in the fridge on a Saturday or Sunday for smoking the next weekend. I turn them once a day. I put it in my Weber Smokey Mountain smoker, on the grates over a water pan, at a low temperature—I try to keep it about 200-225 degrees—over Kingsford with four or five chunks of soaked maple or cherry wood (not too much or the bacon’ll be too smoky and bitter). I smoke it until it’s about 145 degrees internally, usually about three or four hours."

As this changes—and evolves—I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Toast for Breakfast

I need something quick for breakfast. A chore is calling me away from my computer, out into the day, and it strikes me that I haven't had anything to eat. Never mind that I'm meeting a friend for lunch in a little over an hour.

Yogurt? Not in the mood. Had eggs yesterday, and they'd take too long. Out of granola (make a note to pick up supplies for the next batch).

Toast will do, since there's nearly always a loaf of Dave's sourdough sitting on the counter cut-side down, its flavor deepening and its crust thickening, requiring some work to slice but giving it a lovely crunch when toasted.

The toasting is tricky, too, since long slices from the center of the loaf need to be halved and stood upright to fit into our old toaster, but today's is just the right length to slip in whole. It requires two punches of the toaster's knob to get the right ratio of browning, since we've neglected to adjust the timer to our requirements, though a full two cycles starts to burn the edges so I have to remember to pop it up just before the second cycle is complete.

Like I said, tricky.

Get out a plate, pull the butter from the cupboard and a knife from the drawer, slather the warm slice with enough butter to cover it, trying to avoid the inevitable airholes that will drip butter on my keyboard, the counter, the dogs who are lying at my feet eagerly hoping for just such an event. Being out of Ayers Creek jam (another note to pick some up soon) I rummage for honey in the pantry and drizzle the amber liquid, then sit down with the last half mug of coffee from the pot.

Crunching ensues, and I even remember to save a couple of bits of crust for the dogs, still waiting hopefully below me.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Romanesco: Math in Your Mouth

The first time I saw a head of romanesco I was blown away. The shapes! The color! My discovery happened to coincide with my son's fascination with Benoit Mandelbrot and his work in fractal geometry, so of course I had to grab one to take home. Contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food shares a recipe for this fractal food that will impress your family with its flavor as well as its beauty.

The bright green, fractal cones of romanesco broccoli look like something from Dr. Suess, and I like to preserve the shapes when I serve this striking member of the cabbage family. It's often called a cauliflower, but the flavor is a bit more delicate, a bit less cabbage-y. There are big, purple-tinged heads at the farmers market right now, examples of overwintered vegetables that thrive here in the maritime northwest. Inspired by Sicilian cauliflower salad called rinforzata (literally reinforced, invoking the addition of pantry staples to make more of the humble Brassica), this version combines crunch, salt, sweet, and sour.

Insalata di Romanesco Broccoli con Noce

Drop the whole head of romanesco, including the stem and leaves, if any, into a pot of well-salted boiling water; pull it out after about 4 minutes, drain and cool. Use the tip of a small knife to cut of the Fibonacci-numbered florets. Set them aside while you chop the stem, core, and leaves (about two-thirds of head) into smallish, bite-sized pieces. Combine the romanesco with a bunch of other chopped ingredients (some of which can come from jars): roasted red pepper, oil-cured olives, artichoke hearts or hearts of palm, green onion (or green garlic). Add a nice handful of coarsely chopped walnuts (the noce) and about the same amount of golden raisins. A couple of tablespoons of salt-packed capers from Pantelliera (rinsed of salt) and a few good pinches of the same island's oregano go in and the bowl is drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with red wine vinegar, then tossed. Good for a few days.