Saturday, May 25, 2019

A Trip to the Farm with Auntie: Picking Elderflowers


Saturday morning there was a a two-word e-mail from Anthony Boutard at Ayers Creek Farm. Under the subject line "Elders" it read "In bloom." That was enough for me to cancel my plans for the day, gather up my nine-year-old nephew—who was staying with us while his parents had a well-deserved getaway at the coast—and hit the highway.

Elderflower blossoms.

Arriving at the farm, Carol handed over the key to the Gator along with a bucket—my nephew asked if there were seat belts and I hollered, "Nope! Hang on!"—and we bounced along the track Anthony had mowed to a back field. I knew from previous trips that the elderberries were scattered among an eclectic collection of trees on a west-facing slope overlooking the farm's wetland. And sure enough, pretty soon I could see the white clusters of blossoms glowing against the bushes' dark foliage.

Mixed and ready to infuse for three days.

Pulling up to the nearest shrub, the flowery perfume of the blossoms enveloped us, and I set to clipping off the most mature clusters. Trundling through the tall grasses, flitting from shrub to shrub gathering blossoms like bees collecting pollen, the bucket quickly filled and we headed back to the house.

Strain into containers and freeze. Easy!

Back in the city that afternoon, I spent a good two hours pulling the blossoms from the stems, a tedious but necessary job since the dark stems of the flower clusters are toxic, though the tiny green stems attached to each flower aren't a problem. Last year I'd infused vodka with the flowers to make a liqueur similar to St. Germain, the artisanal French product. Since, after a year of aging it had just begun to be drinkable, I decided to make syrup this year, which only takes about three days to be ready to use. (Here's the basic recipe.)

I'd made the simple syrup earlier so it could cool while I picked the flowers from the stems, then I stirred the blossoms into it and covered it with a clean dish towel. Three days later, I strained it through a fine mesh sieve and it was good to go. Dave immediately started trying it out on cocktails, which you'll find below. With almost two gallons of syrup stashed in pint containers in the freezer, I've got plenty to experiment with, so I'll keep you posted as more uses come to light.

Elderflower Gin Spritz

2 oz. elderflower syrup
1 oz. gin
Soda water
Sprig of mint
Strip of lemon zest

Fill Collins cocktail glass two-thirds full of ice. Add elderflower syrup and gin, then top off with soda water. Stir briefly to combine and add mint and lemon zest. For a non-alcoholic but very refreshing drink, simply omit the gin.

* * *

Elderflower Gimlet

2 oz. gin
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
3/4 oz. elderflower syrup

Fill cocktail shaker with ice, add ingredients, shake very well and strain into martini glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Impossible Burger: Industrial Scam with a Side of Glyphosate


A couple of articles have come across my radar lately that are worth noting, and they fit in with some conversations I've been having, both casually and work-wise. Those conversations have to do with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), laboratory-produced synthetic meat products—the industry likes the hygenic "clean meat" label because it doesn't have the "dirty" association with farms and killing animals for food—and glyphosate, the active ingredient in the pesticide Roundup made by Monsanto, which has been found guilty of causing plaintiffs' cancers in three recent trials, as well as being labeled a carcinogen by the state of California.

Impossible burger.

The articles involve the Impossible Burger, which its manufacturer enthusiastically lauds as "making meat using plants, so that we never have to use animals again. That way, we can eat all the meat we want, for as long as we want. And save the best planet in the known universe." It claims to taste just like meat, too, and to "bleed" (i.e. leak juices) when cooked just like a normal hamburger.

All this good news has the tech-bros in Silicon Valley and the VC dudes weak in the knees and climbing over each other to finance products that can be industrially manufactured by the zillions and sold to a public clamoring for healthy, climate-friendly, humanely produced food.

Aerial spraying of pesticides.

What the manufacturer, Impossible Foods, has neglected to say amid all this hoopla is that the soy proteins used in its burgers are derived from soybeans that were genetically modified to resist applications of Monsanto's Roundup—sold as "Roundup Ready" seeds—that is used to kill weeds that might compete with the soy plants in the field and/or impede harvest. Roundup is also sprayed on fields just before harvest to dessicate, or dry out, the soy plants before harvest.

The organization Moms Across America, with a mission to educate the public about the dangers of GMOs and toxins in the food supply, recently published an article titled "GMO Impossible Burger Positive for Carcinogenic Glyphosate" that describes tests done by Health Research Institute Laboratories showing that the levels of glyphosate detected in the Impossible burger "were 11 times higher than the Beyond Meat Burger [a competing lab-produced product]. The total result (glyphosate and its break down AMPA) was 11.3 parts per billion (ppb). Moms Across America also tested the Beyond Meat Burger and the results were 1 ppb."

Monsanto's Roundup sold for home use.

"This new product is being marketed as a solution for 'healthy' eating, when in fact 11 ppb of glyphosate herbicide consumption can be highly dangerous," according to Zen Honeycutt, the founder of Moms Across America. "Only 0.1 ppb of glyphosate has been shown to alter the gene function of over 4000 genes in the livers, kidneys and cause severe organ damage in rats."

It must be noted here that almost no mention is made of agricultural workers and the dangers they and their children face from exposure to this toxic pesticide, which can cause damage during pregnancy and developmental delays in addition to causing cancer and other health issues.

The article goes on to list the ingredients in the Impossible Burger, which it says could contain as much as 80 percent genetically modified ingredients like sunflower oil, potato protein, yeast extract, cultured dextrose, modified food starch and many others in addition to the soy protein.

Another problem with the soy protein in the Impossible Burger is described in an article from the Organic Consumers Association. It states that "in the messy world of soy studies, where 'soy' can be defined as almost anything with soy in it, there are just as many studies showing no or only marginal benefits, and in some cases, potential for harm" from diets high in soy. Contrary to the beneficial reputation of fermented soy products like tofu or miso, these highly processed soy proteins are made from defatted soybean flakes that have been washed in either alcohol or water to remove the sugars and dietary fiber. "Alcohol is the most common process, as it produces products with a neutral taste. But the beneficial isoflavones in soy are removed by this method. Soy protein concentrate has the lowest level of healthful isoflavones—including daidzein, genistein and glycitein—of any form of processed soy."

But the biotech industry isn't taking all this lying down. An article describing the steps manufacturers are taking to undermine media reports states that "the biotech industry is particularly focused on taming controversies surrounding GMOs and the chemicals that are used on genetically modified crops, including Monsanto’s weedkiller glyphosate. The world’s most widely used herbicide, glyphosate is critical for the successful cultivation of GMO corn and soybeans. A recent study found that the chemical’s use by farmers has jumped fifteen-fold since 1996.

"One tactic industry allies employ to discredit questions about GMOs is to narrow the discussion to food safety. Pro-GMO scientists and writers mock experts and critics, by portraying them as loonies who think eating a bag of corn chips is akin to ingesting a bottle of arsenic. But this is a misleading line of attack, since GMO concerns are wide-ranging, including how well they are tested for safety, their impact on agriculture and the ecosystem, and the toxicity of glyphosate."

The article quotes author Michael Pollan as saying, "The industry’s PR campaign to reframe the GMO debate and intimidate journalists through harassment and name-calling has been remarkably successful in my view."

It remains to be seen if the recent guilty verdicts have any effect on people's willingness to subject not just themselves, their children and their pets to these pesticides, but their communities and the air, water and climate that we all depend on.

Photo of boxed burger from Wikipedia.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Dress for Success: Avocado Caesar Dressing


As often happens around here, this recipe started with leftovers: half an avocado from lunch and a few filets of anchovies floating in their jar in the fridge, a lemon that had been zested to death sitting in the bin, a few heads of Little Gem lettuces from Groundwork Organics I'd bought at the farmers' market last weekend. Plus scads of blooming chives waving at me from the herb bed.

Dave was jonesing to light the grill, and had bought some gorgeous Carman Ranch pasture-raised top sirloin steaks to throw on for dinner. So, since nothing pairs with medium-rare beef better than a hefty Caesar salad, I decided to try my luck with a from-scratch Caesar dressing using that avocado. Mayonnaise-y emulsified dressings are always a little fraught for me even with a recipe, since I've had a few that never "emulsed" (is that a word?) and remained a watery mess in the processor.

My favorite easy Caesar dressing is one from the classic Silver Palate Cookbook, so I adapted its basic proportions and crossed my fingers as I drizzled the olive oil into the processor's feed tube. And voila, the magic worked! Drizzled over those Little Gems and garnished with scattered chive blossoms, it looked—an tasted—fabulous. Next time I may not wait until I have the leftovers gathered to make it!

Avocado Caesar Dressing

1/2 avocado
1 egg yolk
1 lg. clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
6 anchovy filets
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Chive blossoms (optional)

Place avocado, egg yolk, garlic, salt, anchovy filets and lemon juice in bowl of food processor and process briefly to combine. While processor is on, drizzle olive oil in a thin stream through the feed tube until it emulsifies. Pour out into medium mixing bowl and stir in chopped chives and freshly ground pepper. Toss dressing with salad greens and garnish with chive blossoms.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Your Food, Your Legislature: Time to Take Action!


With just a few weeks left in the 2019 session of the Legislature, it's time to get in gear and let your legislators know where you stand. Type your address into the box at the top of the directory and write or e-mail your own letter (addresses are included in the listings for each legislator), or copy and paste the sample letter below each bill. If you want to take an extra step, click on the "Current Committee" in the listings under the explanation and send a copy to each member of the committee.

HB 2619 would ban the use of the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, a dangerous neurotoxin that affects brain development in young children. Here's a sample letter:

Dear [legislator],

I am writing to urge you to support HB 2619 and ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos in Oregon so that children living in our state may have a permanent reprieve from exposure to the highly toxic pesticide.

Current exposure levels to this developmental neurotoxicant, by children ages one to two, exceed the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own allowable threshold by a staggering 140 times.

Even at low levels of exposure by women during pregnancy, chlorpyrifos has been shown to alter brain functions and impair the learning ability of children into adulthood. Researchers at Columbia University have demonstrated that the presence of chlorpyrifos in the umbilical cord of developing fetuses is correlated with a decrease in psychomotor and mental development in three-year-olds. At high levels of childhood exposure, chlorpyrifos has been found to cause attention deficit, hyperactivity, slow cognitive development, a significant reduction in IQ scores and a host of other neurodevelopment problems. Children who live near farm fields experience the highest risks and impacts. A University of California Davis study found that women who resided within a mile of farms where chlorpyrifos and other organophosphate pesticides were applied had a 60 percent higher chance of giving birth to children with autism spectrum disorder.

Two states, Hawaii and California, have already passed bills banning this dangerous pesticide. I can only hope that the Oregon Legislature follows suit and declares our children are more important than corporations that profit from exposing them (and us) to toxic chemicals.

Thank you,
[your name]
[address]

* * *

HB 2882 protects farmers by making the patent-holders of genetically engineered crops financially liable when their products contaminate neighboring farmers' fields. Sample text:

Dear [legislator],

I am writing to urge your support for HB 2882, which would protect Oregon farmers by holding the patent-holders of genetically engineered crops financially accountable when their products cause economic harm to farmers who experience unwanted contamination.

Contamination from genetically engineered crops can make organic and conventional crops unable to be sold. When these genetically engineered crops escape their fields, the contamination can cost farmers not just the value of that season's crops, but can can take years to eradicate, with the potential that the farmer would be deprived of a livelihood.

Oregon's family farmers and the integrity of our food supply should not be at the mercy of corporate agribusiness giants.

Thank you,
[your name]
[address]

* * *

SB 727 supports the Double Up Food Bucks program that gives food assistance (SNAP) recipients assistance in purchasing locally grown fruits and vegetables from farmers' markets, farm share sites and retail outlets that participate in program. Note that very SNAP dollar spent at farmers market can generate $1.79 in local economic activity!

Dear [legislator],

I am writing to urge your support for SB 727, which supports the expansion of Double Up Food Bucks Oregon, a SNAP incentive program with a proven record of success.

For every dollar spent on SNAP-eligible foods at participating farmers markets, farm share programs, and grocery stores across the state, shoppers will receive a dollar to spend on Oregon-grown fruits and vegetables. State appropriations have successfully funded similar statewide SNAP incentive programs in CA, MA, MI, MN and NM. 

Passage of this bill would:
  • Allow 250,0000 low-income Oregon families will be able to expand their buying power and consume more fruits and vegetables 
  • Connect family farmers with new customers, giving them a financial boost 
  • Encourage our local economies will grow: every SNAP dollar spent at farmers market can generate $1.79 in local economic activity 
  • Enable all farmers markets in Oregon to accept SNAP, by providing technical assistance: currently 25% of Oregon’s farmers markets are not currently accepting SNAP
  • Enable all farmers markets in Oregon to offer SNAP matching programs: currently they exist at only 60 of Oregon’s 120 farmers markets. This leaves many rural markets without any SNAP matching program. 
  • Leverage future federal, other public and private matching dollars to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program.
Voting for this bill helps Oregonians in need to increase their access to fresh, local food, but it will also support family farmers and boost our economy.

Thank you,
[your name]
[your address]

* * *

HB 2020, the Clean Energy Jobs bill, would cap greenhouse gas emissions from most large industrial sources—those that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (or equivalent) per year—and effectively put a price on carbon. Currently large industrial farms are excluded from this cap, though one of the largest emitters of ammonia gas in the country is Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman.

Dear [legislator],

I am writing to urge that HB 2020, the Clean Energy Jobs bill, include large industrial farms in its cap on greenhouse gases.

Climate change is a growing threat to Oregon agriculture. From extreme, unpredictable weather and drought, to declining water supplies, our rural communities, farms, and ranches are experiencing dramatic changes to the climate. While we need to stabilize the climate by reducing industrial and other large sources of greenhouse gas emissions, we also need to invest in climate-friendly agricultural practices. Oregon needs to offer a framework for Oregon’s farmers and ranchers to be a part of the solution by providing grants to engage in climate-friendly agricultural practices.

Under HB 2020, emissions from agriculture are generally exempted from the cap on emissions, even for individual large sources that exceed 25,000 metric tons per year in CO2 equivalent like mega-dairies and feedlots with more than approximately 10,000 cows. Because they are exempt from the cap, these very large operations may also qualify for "offset" funding under the bill, which are for emissions reduction projects that most smaller farms are unlikely to qualify for.

I am requesting that:

  • A minimum of 20% of the Climate Investment Fund allocated for activities on natural and working lands.
  • Applying the cap on emissions to large agricultural sources that exceed 25,000 metric tons CO2 equivalent emissions per year (for example, mega-dairies or large feedlots with at least 10,000 cows).
  • The creation of a Healthy Soils Program and an Alternative Manure Management Program like those in California which have generated millions of dollars in grants for farmers to engage in climate friendly practices.
  • Sustainable agriculture or small farm representation on the Climate Investment Fund advisory committee.

Thank you,
[your name]
[your address]

Monday, May 13, 2019

Memories Found in a Puckery Lemon Tart


This past Mother's Day brought forth a flood of memories of the women in my family, many of whom have passed on but who left indelible impressions. Some are as sharp as the high heels my mother loved to wear, others as soft as the pastel-colored housedresses my father's mother wore. Many, for me—as I'm sure will come as a surprise to no one—involved food: my maternal grandmother's rhubarb sauce that my grandfather heaped sugar on; the batches of cabbage rolls that my dad's family called "hoblich," an invariable feature at any gathering; my own mother's love of fruit desserts and pies.

My mother in party mode.

The one dessert that she adored but never felt that she mastered, at least according to her exacting standards—my Kentucky-raised friend Kathryn would interject "bless her heart" here—was lemon meringue pie. I recall many of these cloud-topped confections parading through my young life, but for my mom there was always a meringue that pulled away from the crust, even if only a little, or it bore too many overly browned curlicues on its tips, or the curd was too sweet or too tart.

No matter how many compliments were showered on her efforts, she'd turn them away by pointing out its shortcomings or by saying, "Oh, you should try my friend Eleanor's, she makes the best lemon meringue." In other words, it was a fraught topic for her.

A simple lemon tart to love.

I, on the other hand, was more than happy to gobble up any and all "mistakes," major or minor. If the smooth lemony curd made the back of my tongue tingle, all the better. If its sweetness cut the lemon's tang, I can't remember minding. Ditto with any meringue issues.

These recollections came rushing back recently when Dave was experimenting with a lemon tart recipe from Cook's Illustrated, following on the heels of his apple galette epiphany. The curd is smooth and has just the right tang of lemon, the crust is short and not-too-sweet, and a dollop of whipped cream obviates any potential meringue traumas.

I think my mother would approve.

Lemon Olive Oil Tart
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz.) flour
5 Tbsp. (2 1/4 oz.) sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. water

For the filling:
1 c. (7 oz.) sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 eggs plus 3 yolks
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest plus 1/2 cup juice (approx. 3 lemons)
1/4 c. olive oil

Make sure that all your metal equipment—saucepan, strainer and whisk—is nonreactive, or the filling may have a metallic flavor.

For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°. Whisk flour, sugar and salt together in bowl. Add oil and water and stir until uniform dough forms. Using your hands, crumble three-quarters of dough over bottom of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough to even thickness in bottom of pan. Crumble remaining dough and scatter evenly around edge of pan, then press crumbled dough into fluted sides of pan. Press dough to even thickness. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is deep golden brown and firm to touch, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.

For the filling: About 5 minutes before crust is finished baking, whisk sugar, flour and salt in medium saucepan until combined. Whisk in eggs and yolks until no streaks of egg remain. Whisk in lemon zest and juice. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly and scraping corners of saucepan, until mixture thickens slightly and registers 160°, 5 to 8 minutes.

Off the heat, whisk in oil until incorporated. Strain curd through fine-mesh strainer set over bowl. Pour curd into warm tart shell.

Bake until filling is set and barely jiggles when pan is shaken, 8 to 12 minutes. Let tart cool completely on wire rack, at least 2 hours. Remove outer metal ring of tart pan. Slide thin metal spatula between tart and pan bottom, then carefully slide tart onto serving platter. Cut tart into wedges, wiping knife clean between cuts if necessary, and serve. (Leftovers can be wrapped loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

In Season: Shungiku, or Chrysanthemum Greens


When wandering through the stalls at the farmers' market or in the aisles of my local greengrocer's, I pick up the usual salad greens and vegetables (including those for my dogs), but I'm always drawn to any unusual seasonal gems that might be tucked into the displays. Chicories? Garlic shoots? Espellette peppers? Any new raabs?

On one of my last trips to Rubinette Produce, I ran across something called "shungiku" grown by Katie Boeh at Fox + Bear urban farm, who last year  expanded her offerings through a collaboration with Willow Bar Farm on Sauvie Island. (Check out Fox + Bear's impressive CSA offerings!)

An edible chrysanthemum.

Shungiku, while it sounds exotic, is actually the leaves from a type of chrysanthemum, Glebionis coronaria, a native of the Mediterranean that became a popular part of Japanese cuisine. The young leaves of the spring plant are often used fresh in salads, but it is sturdy enough to stand up to being blanched and chopped in dishes like sukiyaki. (I'd probably mix it into pasta dishes or stir it into a risotto.)

Adds a fresh zing to salads.

My copy of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, by Shizuo Tsuji, effuses that "its fragrance and distinct, light, astringent flavor harmonizes with meat or fowl, onion, and other vegetables," but warns to "take care not to overcook in one-pot dishes—a minute or two in the seasoned broth is enough. If overdone, chrysanthemum leaves tend to develop a bitter aftertaste." When purchasing, Tsuji advises looking for bright green leaves and stalks that are strong and perky. If they're showing buds or flowers, they're too old and may be tough.

Janis Martin, former owner of the idiosynchratic Tanuki izakaya—now chef at East Glisan Pizza Lounge—said that for a hot weather refresher, place a few sprigs of shungiku in a large pitcher of water along with a sprig of Chinese celery and a strip of yuzu rind (or lemon, if yuzu is not available). She lets it infuse at least three hours and serves it ice cold. (Thanks, Janis!)

Only available for a very short season in the spring, it's a plant that gardeners should check out for their spring gardens. Organic seeds are available from Andrew Still and Sarah Kleeger of Adaptive Seeds in Sweet Home, whose seeds are bred specifically to thrive in the maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest. Even better, they're dedicated to making available public domain, open pollinated (OP) seed, none of which are genetically modified (GMO) or grown with chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.

So get out there and find your own hidden gems, and maybe a new favorite garden green!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Organic Noodles Go To School


What comes to mind when you think of school lunches?

Once a week the cooks in my high school cafeteria served fresh cinnamon rolls baked onsite, as well as a lusciously gooey mac'n'cheese that can still make me drool when I think of it. That was before school kitchens were disassembled and preparation was centralized in an attempt to cut labor and food costs. Those of a certain age might remember when then-President Ronald Reagan's USDA attempted to (unsuccessfully) classify ketchup as a vegetable on children's lunch trays, and most of us probably think that low quality, commodity foods are still a common feature of school cafeterias.

Umi Noodle Day poster.

Dr. Betty Izumi, a registered dietitian and a professor in the School of Public Health at Portland State University, gets frustrated when she hears Portlanders talk about how gross school lunch is. “They are perpetuating a stereotype that is not true," she said. "I ask them, ‘How do you know? Have you ever eaten it?’ ”

In point of fact, for several years Portland Public Schools (PPS) has been working to make its lunches healthier and incorporate local food in its menus. Those efforts have benefited from state legislation that gives Oregon schools money to buy local food and create garden and farm education opportunities.*

Umi Organic's Lola Milholland.

As part of this funding, on Tuesday, May 14, PPS students will be served locally produced Umi Organic yakisoba stir-fry noodles for lunch as part of a traditional Japanese meal of fresh roasted cabbage, carrots and noodles in yakisoba sauce (with or without chicken), in all of the city's public schools. The noodles, made with 50 percent organic whole grains—Edison and durum wheat, to be specific—sourced from Camas Country Mill in Junction City, Oregon, were developed specifically for schools in cooperation with PPS nutrition directors.

Lola Milholland, co-founder and CEO of Umi Organic, studied Japanese language and culture since kindergarten in PPS. After college she worked at Ecotrust, where she focused on supporting the first Farm to School Bill in 2011. “To work with both PPS and the Farm to School Bill as a business is a dream come true and feels very full circle for me,” Milholland said. "We worked very hard to find the right flour mix to create a great, chewy yakisoba but without the typical preservatives, food dyes, and unidentifiable ingredients."

If these noodles are a hit with the kids, they will be featured regularly next year. What can we say but "Itadakimasu!" (The equivalent of "bon appetit" in Japanese.)

* The Oregon legislature is voting to renew funding for the Farm to School program later this month. House Bill 2579 would provide $5 million for Oregon schools to buy and serve Oregon foods, and districts and partner organizations to provide agriculture, nutrition, and garden-based educational activities. The bill renews the existing $4.5 million program and $500,000 in additional funding to serve more schools and students, and evaluate results. Let your Congressperson know how important it is for our children to have access to healthy, locally produced food. Find your legislator here.

Photos from Umi Organic.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Simple Seasonal Supper: Pasta with Rapini & Pork


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

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

Pasta with Rapini & Pork

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

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

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

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

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

Put the cooked rapini in a bowl and set aside.

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

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

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

Monday, April 15, 2019

Side of Spring: Potato and Artichoke Heart Gratin


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

The mis en place.

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

Ready for the oven.

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

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

Potato and Artichoke Heart Gratin

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

Preheat oven to 400°.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 13, 2019

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


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

Oregon albacore.

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

Oregon strawberries.

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

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

Click to see the list and apply.

Friday, April 12, 2019

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


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

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

April, 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

A cow standing in manure slurry at Threemile Canyon Farm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

Thursday, April 11, 2019

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


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

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

Flooding in Benton Co.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill to limit aerial spraying of pesticides failed.

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

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

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


Farmers market tokens.


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Eat 'Em to Beat 'Em: Purple Varnish Clams


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

The Purple Varnish or Savoury clam.

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

Steamed and ready to eat!

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

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

Sold!

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

Steamed Clams with Fennel and Chorizo

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

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

Saturday, April 06, 2019

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


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

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

Raab-o-Rama

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

Raab with mushroom sauce.

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

Whew!

More Greens

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

Fiddleheads.

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

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

Purple sprouting broccoli.

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

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

Roots and More

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

Rhubarb.

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

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

Strawberries?

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