Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Citrus Sorbet: Tangerine Dream


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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

Tangerine Sorbet

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

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

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

Sunday, March 24, 2019

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


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

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

Grain-Free vs. Grain-Friendly Diets

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

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

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

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

Glyphosate and Aflatoxins in Pet Food

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

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

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

Re: Meat By-Products

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Care About Your Food? Then Show Up in Salem!


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

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

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

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

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

All you have to do is show up.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Celebrate Citrus: Blood Orange Margarita


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

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

The intensity of color can vary.

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

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

Blood Orange Margarita
Adapted from a recipe by Michael Schoenholtz.

Makes two cocktails.

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

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

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

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Guest Essay: How To Harvest Wild Onions


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

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

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

Ramps.

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

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

Here’s how you do it.

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

Wild onions in situ.

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

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

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

A patch of wild onions.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Your Food, Your Legislature: Report from the Halfway Mark


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Ciaffagnoni: Delicate Crepes from Tuscan Cowboy Country


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ciaffagnoni with Ricotta Filling and Pecorino Sauce

Ingredients to make about 2 dozen crepes.

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

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

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

Additional ingredients: honey, red chili pepper, black pepper

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

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

Preheat the oven to 350°.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Simply Spectacular: Jacques' Apple Galette


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

Into the oven it goes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preheat the oven to 400°.

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

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

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a 12" by 14" rectangle and transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Spread the chopped apples over the pastry to within 1" of the edge. Drizzle the honey over the chopped apples. Decoratively arrange the apple slices on top in concentric circles or in slightly overlapping rows. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the apples and dot with the pieces of butter. Fold the pastry edge up and over the apples to create a 1-inch border.

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

Monday, March 04, 2019

What the Heck is a CSA? Find Out at the Fair!


The CSA Share Fair on Sunday, March 10, is a chance to meet more than 40 local farmers, ranchers and fishers who offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares to the public. They'll be showcasing various options, including vegetables, fruits, pastured meats, wild fish, eggs, flowers, honey and more. To keep it simple for you, there's a matchmaking service where you can check off what you're interested in and a helpful volunteer will point you toward the best farmer for you! Time and location of this year's fair are at the bottom of this post.

Find the right CSA for your family.

If you're not sure what a CSA is or if there's one that might be right for you, here's a Q & A with CSA maven Katherine Deumling of Cook With What You Have that I posted earlier.

Why join a CSA?

Joining a classic CSA gives you a window onto a farm and what it takes to grow the delicious variety of things that you'll receive in your share each week. The farmer chooses what's best that week that  can relieve you of most of your decision-making, though more CSAs are giving members to order from a list of what's available. I actually love not having to make any decisions about what produce I'm getting because then I can concentrate on being creative with what I receive.

CSA farmers in our region tend to grow a staggering variety of produce and typify the saying, "What grows together, goes together!" Belonging to a CSA has expanded my repertoire and introduced me to vegetables I wouldn't have picked up at the farmers' market, though some people are not so keen on the "no-choice" bit. My online Seasonal Recipe Collection comes in handy, since the recipes are sorted by vegetable and there is a thorough introduction for each vegetable.

Watch local chef demos at the Share Fair.

I also subscribe to a CSA because it helps me budget, and when you calculate out the cost of CSA by the week it is quite reasonable. I pay up front or in a few installments, and then supplement from the farmers' market or the store with fruits or occasional vegetables I'm not getting in my CSA—like asparagus, artichokes and a few other things that aren't typically found in a CSA. If I know I'll be getting my gorgeous box of produce each week, I won't be tempted to buy other things, to make the most what I've already paid for.

What are the different kinds of CSAs?

Some CSAs focus exclusively on produce, some also include fruit like blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb, apples, pears, quince and so forth. Some give you the option to add an extra Salad Share for those who love salad greens; others might give the option to add eggs, honey, flowers or meat. Some CSA farms work together with other area farms to offer such a wide array. And then there are exclusive meat and fish CSAs as well as CSAs that focus on a single crop like apples or flowers.

There are so many local farms offering CSAs. What should I consider before joining a CSA?

Generally, if you want super-delicious produce and can't always make it to a farmers' market, a CSA is for you. If you like to cook or want to cook more and are typically home most nights of the week, a CSA is definitely for you. If, on the other hand, you travel a lot or are out a lot at night, you'll struggle to keep up with the produce.

Many farms, many options to choose from.

Think about the size of your household and your family members' eating habits to decide if a CSA is a good idea or not—do you all like vegetables or are open to trying them? How much do you think you'll eat? You might start with a half share (most farms offer two different-size shares) and see how that works, setting yourself up for success rather than the guilt of wasting some. Also consider if the pick-up site is convenient (some CSAs deliver to your door as well). But make sure you think about the logistics of picking up your share—make a plan with a friend or neighbor, either to share the CSA or both do it so you can alternate doing the pick up. This is great community-building in and of itself, and you can also share ideas of what to do with less familiar produce.

Does a CSA subscription make sense for a single person?

It very much depends on the person—if you are a vegetable lover and like to cook and entertain, by all means. If I were single I would buy a CSA but I do cook and eat more vegetables than almost anyone I know! And again, consider a half-share or splitting it with a neighbor or friend.

I'm afraid I'd be paying for produce I can't use or my family won't eat, and I know nothing about rutabagas or kohlrabi. What should I do?

This is an important factor to consider carefully. As I noted earlier, I have vastly expanded my appreciation of certain vegetables (rutabagas being at the top of that list) by becoming a CSA member and I've enjoyed that.

Some farms offer a single product, like flowers or apples.

There are a handful good cooking techniques and methods—think grated vegetable pancakes, like latkes—that are a critical to successful CSA cooking. In fact I added a grated rutabaga to fried rice the other night and it was delicious! And if you occasionally share an extra kohlrabi with a neighbor (I have definitely done that, too) the benefits of the flavor, nutrition and connection to your place and those growing our food may well trump the "kohlrabi hardship"!

I don't drive. How would I pick up my share?

I pick up my share by bike and it works well. Most CSA shares will fit into two typical panniers. Some CSAs have pick-ups at companies or farmers' markets so you might inquire if your place of work is linked up with a CSA farm or ask them if they might consider it. Colombia Sportswear, Intel, various Providence sites, Good Samaritan Hospital, Ecotrust and probably many others have CSA drops.

Details: CSA Share Fair, Sun., Mar. 10, 10 am-3 pm; free. Event at The Redd, 831 SE Salmon St. If you can't make it to the Share Fair, there's a listing of metro-area CSAs at the Portland Area CSA Coalition, and a listing of Northwest (and national) CSAs at Local Harvest.

Photos by Shawn Linehan.

Farm Bulletin: Musings on the Arch Cape Chicory Harvest


The farm in winter is often portrayed as a dormant time, with barren fields devoid of activity but for the stalks and dead detritus of the previous year's crops. Nothing could be further from the truth, as elucidated by contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm.

As we work our way down the row, it is clear the farmers are not the only organisms harvesting the chicory. We share the field with three different rodents: pocket gophers, voles and mice. We all have our own harvesting methods and challenges.

Our field knives: 6” and 5"produce (green, brown, white), lettuce and an 18” machete type.

Farmers use several different harvest knives. We maintain a fleet of ten six-inch produce knives and eight five-inch produce knives. These have straight blades and a square tip, the sort produce staff have in their holster at the grocery store. These knives are cheap (~ $14) and rugged. The six-inch knife is safe and easy to use in the field. The curved blades and sharp points of a chef’s knife are fine in the kitchen but a dangerous menace in the field. A lettuce knife is a more specialized tool, having two cutting edges. Carol and Linda use these to liberate the head from the ground, and shift to the produce knife for trimming. The five-inch knives, a bit too small for the field, are useful for the final trimming at the sink. For other tasks, the heft of the machete-style knives is useful.

Because the knives are used in the abrasive environment of the soil, after a couple of hours the edge is lost, and the knife is swapped out for a sharp one. We go through three or four knives in short order. Back at the shed, we put a fresh edge on the knives with an electric sharpener. A few years ago, a farm magazine had an absurd article telling farmers how sharpen their knives with an oil stone. Even with the mechanical sharpener, the effort takes  30 to 45 minutes. I sharpen my wood block tools with a series of Japanese water stones, but for a knife that will return to soil the next day it is a stupid waste of time. Staff prefer to use a mill bastard file which is a bit coarse for my tastes, but I always defer to them on the matter of tools they use.

Waterproof gloves round out the harvest tools. One hazard with field gloves is that it is easy to wind up with a community of left hand specimens. The cure is to name each pair and write the name on both gloves. For example, we have pairs named Jasper, Maine, Moscow and Olive. Once named, the left and right gloves hang together, a bit of magic I can’t explain.

A field vole.

Our most common companions in the field are voles. In literature, subterranean creatures shunning the sun invariably lack a sense of humor. Dwarfs and trolls, whether in Wagner, the Norse legends or Tolkien, are difficult characters. And so it is with the voles and gophers. During the winter, the gophers are lethargic and consume very little. They are a summertime menace. In contrast, voles become hyperactive in the winter.

Voles are aggressive hoarders, relentlessly caching food. In the chicories, they start with the root, working their way to the crown. Then they pull the leaves into their tunnel. (Top photo: A fine chicory hollowed out by a vole, a beautiful remnant.) Plant materials are masticated and then cached in hollowed out areas where the vegetation ferments, similar to ensilage. They aspire to no leisure activities, never ceasing in building their cache accounts. Voles excavate miles of tunnels, keeping them away from the eyes of predators. The voles have a short tail, small, beady eyes and their ears sit close to the head. They seldom leave the safety of their tunnels. In the winter they live communally in a hole lined with dry grass, conserving their energy. Even during the wettest weather, the underground nest stays dry.

A typical mouse run, where the mice leave the hole (right, near the snow) for a meal and chew on the chicory leaves.

We also encounter mice in the field. They don’t cache vegetation. Mice cache and consume seeds, and they seek out insect larvae and pupae. They eat some foliage to round out their diet. During the winter they also rest communally in grass-lined nests, with one or two sallying forth to feed while the others keep the nest warm. The live in underground burrows, or in hollow logs, irrigation pipes, bird houses, cars or any place providing shelter. They have long tails for balance, large ears to hear advancing predators and bulging eyes that give them a range of view, all valuable for an animal that forages above ground. They are adept climbers, and they have a more beguiling presence than their subterranean-dwelling kin.

A light snow highlights clumps of grass emerging from unused granaries.

The mouse seed caches are visible in both the cultivated and uncultivated areas of the farm. Not every store of seeds is consumed, and those left uneaten sprout. In the photo above, tufts of native grass betray an unused granary. In the field, clumps of chickpeas, wheat, corn and favas in a similar pattern are common.

What eats get eaten. A healthy population of rodents is the base for a healthy population of predators. We have barn and great-horned owls, kestrels, red-tail hawks, great blue herons and weasels all partaking of the fine rodent riches. The barn owls hunt in the open fields and the great-horned owls tend to stay in the cover of the oak savannah. No, predators do not control the rodent populations; it is exactly the reverse, rodent populations drive survival of the predator young. Without adequate food, the young languish and die.

Vole guts left on top of a birdhouse by a kestrel.

Both owls currently have chicks in the nest, and a good rodent year means more of these chicks will become adults. The owls tear apart the rodents, regurgitate a cast or pellet of fir and bones. The herons gulp down their prey whole. Red-tailed hawks and kestrels tear apart their prey. The kestrels don’t like the stomachs, so they eviscerate their prey, leaving a pile of guts near the feeding perch. The kestrels are more resilient than owls and other raptors because they feed happily on larger insects such as grasshoppers, frogs, worms and small snakes. As an aside, owls are more closely related to parrots than the hawks and falcons.

Aside from poison, which we would never use, there is no means of controlling these small rodents. Even poison baits are a stop gap measure of dubious efficacy, just a damaging outlet of the farmer’s anger. The gophers, mice and voles are part of the endeavor and, in their own right, remarkable creatures. A heathy ecosystem self-corrects. Rodent populations are cyclical. In 2013, we had intense rodent pressure and lost the entire chicory crop. As a concession prize, a young bobcat took up residence for several months. Tito was not happy about the matter, though. The following year, voles were scarce.

We are on a wildlife corridor, so various creatures, elk, deer and mink move through the farm. Thursday night, Abel saw a cougar and her kits near the barn. They are probably moving to the ridge dominated by Bald Peak in search of prey, deer in particular, but quite possibly small livestock as well.

Read more of Anthony's Farm BulletinsPhoto of vole from Wikipedia. All other photos by Anthony Boutard.

Friday, March 01, 2019

In Season: Galangal, Lemongrass and Turmeric


In the most recent Beaverton Farmers Market newsletter, market manager Ginger Rapport offered a primer on using galangal, lemongrass and turmeric. Normally thought of as exotic ingredients, they've been adapted to grow in Oregon's maritime climate and are now being grown by several local farms. Find them at your neighborhood farmers' market, as well as at Rubinette Produce or other stores that carry produce from local farms.

Galangal

This flavorful tuber (top photo) is the spicy cousin of ginger and is prized in Thai cuisine for the citrus-like flavor it imparts to soups and its burst of herbal heat in curry pastes. Usually found in Asian grocery stores, you can also find organic galangal at Denison Farms’ booth this Saturday alongside fresh lemongrass and turmeric.

Galangal’s knobby tubers are prepared much like ginger. To be recipe-ready, they are usually peeled and then minced, sliced or grated. It is possible to substitute ginger for galangal when it is unavailable, but we recommend you make the effort to use this zingy aromatic when it is in season. According to Cook’s Illustrated magazine, galangal’s distinctive piney flavor is best used in savory dishes as opposed to sweet dishes where ginger is a better option.

Since fresh galangal is not available all year round, we recommend putting a stash of peeled fresh tubers in your freezer for use when it is out of season. While you are thinking in advance, we recommend freezing lemongrass as well. Together, they provide the exciting flavors required for a variety of delicious dishes including soups, curries and sauces. To freeze lemongrass, trim stalks to the bottom six inches, then transfer to zip-lock bags and freeze.

Galangal is a critical ingredient in the popular hot and sour Thai soup known as Tom Yum or Tim Yam (above right). And, while it's possible to substitute ginger for the galangal, why bother when you are lucky enough to access the real thing? The combination of spicy aromatics, flavorful broth and tasty add-ins make this the perfect dish for our chilly winter days.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is a stalky plant that gives dishes a zesty lemon flavor and aroma. Look for stalks that are fragrant, tightly formed, and a lemony-green color on the lower stalk. To prepare lemongrass, remove tough outer leaves to expose the pale yellow interior that is softer and easier to slice. Use a sharp serrated blade to slice off the lower bulb, about two inches from the end of the stalk. Discard bulb. Stop slicing when you have cut two-thirds of the way up the stalk, or when it is no longer yellow and fleshy. Because lemongrass is so tough, the slices will need a to processed in the food processor on high, or pounded in a mortar and pestle for a minute or two.

Fresh Turmeric

Livelier than its dried form, fresh turmeric has bright orange flesh and is earthy, peppery and slightly bitter. Like ginger and galangal, it is usually peeled before using. Store fresh turmeric in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, or airtight container, or freeze it for several months. In recipes, one inch of fresh turmeric is equivalent to one tablespoon freshly grated turmeric, or 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric.