Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gracie's Graces

It used to be a room that reminded me of Bette Davis in her later years. Caked-on makeup that couldn't cover up the wrinkles, a smear of too-red lipstick, some crumbling at the edges that was only magnified by the brightness of the lighting. Now it's more like Ellen Barkin, sexy in middle age, all low lighting and diaphanous curtains, elegant but comfortable to be around.

Appropriate, if you think about it, since the hotel that shares its location is all about old movies. Gracie's in the Hotel deLuxe, formerly the dowager that was the Mallory Hotel and its dining room, had a coming-out party for its new head chef, Mark Hosack, to meet the local food media.

The new menu was solid and surprisingly upscale, obviously influenced by its membership in the Heathman group of hotels and their tony dining establishments. I knew I was in for a treat when the first thing offered was a choice between a flute of Violet Champagne with a housemade maraschino cherry or a glowing Ginger Drop (left, above) in a sugared martini glass, a skewered slice of candied ginger leaning against the rim.

Like the Oscars, everyone was on their best behavior for the show and the food looked and, for the most part, tasted maaaahvelous. It was all free, too, though menus with prices were provided, each section somewhat preciously titled as though it was part of a movie. The soups and salads, or "Introductions," were in the $5 to $9 range, with the not-so-small plates ("Center Stage") slightly more at $9 to $10. The big guns were "Featured Attractions" and ranged from $13 to $22 per.

My favorites, aside from that killer Ginger Drop, were the first two courses, starting with a light and refreshing take on the Caesar with whole spears of romaine to pick up with your fingers or, much less fun, cut up with knife and fork (sigh); gorgonzola cheesecake (to die for!) served with a whole head of roasted garlic and a balsamic reduction (photo, top); and a roasted beet salad topped with lightly dressed arugula and half a poached pear and a sprinkling of candied walnuts and goat cheese (right, above).

The entrées were well-executed and nicely plated but didn't quite have the charming flavors to earn an Oscar. My osso buco (left), which should have been succulent and on the verge of falling apart, was a bit dry and didn't have the expected beefy punch. A tablemate's gorgonzola ravioli with roasted butternut squash and hazelnuts was surprisingly blah-tasting and the pasta was a little thick and chewy.

The desserts, however, brought everything back into focus, starting with a deep-fried bread pudding and simple caramel sauce that had everyone licking their fingers and thinking it should be on the breakfast menu (which it is). The plate of assorted cheeses was fun, though it could have had more interesting choices, and the little platter of mini desserts (right), with baklava, chocolate mousse on a chocolate "plate," and a teeny shoe-fly pie, was a close runner-up for the statuette.

All in all, I'd give this particular place two thumbs up, though not waaaaaaay up, for its art direction and production values, though it would help if the characters and the plot were a little more developed.

The Driftwood Room's Ginger Drop

I raved to Michael Robertson, maestro of the cocktail shaker at the venerable Driftwood Room in the Hotel deLuxe, about this drink and begged him to let me share it with GSNW readers. He was kind enough to agree, and not only wrote it down himself but told me where to get the special ingredients. Thanks, Mike!

1 1/4 oz. good vodka [Mr. Robertson's emphasis - KAB]
3/4 oz. Domaine de Canton*
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. lavender simple syrup**
2 dashes rhubarb bitters***
Candied ginger, sliced 1/8" thick and skewered

Fill cocktail shaker half full with ice, add all ingredients and shake. Serve up in a martini glass with a sugared rim. Add skewered ginger.

* Domaine de Canton ginger liqueuer available at Uptown Liquor Store.
** To make lavender simple syrup, heat 1 c. sugar in 1 c. water in small saucepan till sugar dissolves and stir in 1 Tbsp. lavender flowers. Allow to cool and strain out lavender. Refrigerate.
*** Rhubarb bitters available at Uptown Liquor Store.

Details: Gracie's at the Hotel deLuxe, 729 SW 15th Ave. Phone 503-222-2171.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Walking His Talk

Bryan Steeman had his St.-Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment in a little taco joint in Mexico. It was full of life, a gathering place for the community and a vortex for good vibes. And he knew right then that he'd come back to Portland and recreate that same vibe here, with a green and socially conscious edge. Are we lucky or what?

You can read my article about him in today's Oregonian in an article titled "Tale of a Tacqueria."

Monday, February 23, 2009

What? No Bubbles?

These are three of the winning entries in this year's Champagne Chair Contest sponsored by Design Within Reach. From the press release: "Entrants were asked to create an original miniature chair design using only the foil, label, cage and cork from no more than two Champagne bottles" and were judged on "craftsmanship, creativity, character and innovative use of materials." See all 50 of the winners at the upcoming show and start planning your masterpiece for next year!

Details: The Champagne Chair Tour. Mar. 3, 4-7 pm. Design Within Reach Tigard Studio, 7475 SW Bridgeport Rd., Tigard. 503-684-2048.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Turnip Diaries, Part VII: WWPD (What Would Pliny Do)?

Gaius Plinius Secundus (Ad 23 - 79), or Pliny the Elder (never Old Guy) as he is known among the fields and vineyards of the Gaston agricultural district, wrote one of the first comprehensive guides to agriculture, Book 18 of his "Historia Naturalis." The book is full of good information from diverse sources. For example, in the section on purchasing a farm (vi. 26), Pliny cites Cato's advice that the most important considerations are water, roads and neighbors (aquam, viam, vicinum).

Pliny the Elder.

Solid advice two millennia later. His turnip sower's prayer "sibi et vicinis serere se," or "for me and my neighbors I sow" is a gentle, humble incantation. Agronomists today are taught to discount the power their own observations, relying instead on statistical theories to overcome "bias." You draw inferences from null hypotheses, never conclusions. Reading Pliny, you realize what a pity that is. All farmers, whether they have a deity on not, realize somedays a good prayer is needed, and good observations are far more useful than statistics with their nihilistic emphasis on the null.

Pliny ranks the turnip second after wheat in terms of its importance as a crop of his time. He notes that turnips were grown for human consumption and as livestock food. Some of the types grew as large as 40 pounds each. Norcia, famous for the quality of its swine, also commanded the highest price for its turnips. Pliny also remarks on the excellent flavor turnip shoots that have been blanched while stored in the dark. A bonus for those storing them as livestock feed.

The agriculturist Jethro Tull.

The next bloom of agricultural literature occurred in the 17th century. Robert Worlidge's "Systemae Agriculturae" published in 1669 and Jethro Tull's "Horse-hoeing Husbandry," John Evelyn's "Terra," are good examples. Similar writings were published in Germany, Holland and France, often translated with imperfect attribution. During this time, turnips played an increasingly important role in British agriculture as the "Norfolk rotation" took hold, probably abetted by Tull's seed drill. This four crop rotation started with wheat, followed by turnips, then barley and finally clover. Turnips are an excellent winter feed for livestock as they are high in vitamins and minerals. Two of the varieties we grew this year were the Norfolk red top and green top. Across Europe, turnips, chicory and beets served the dual purpose of human and livestock food. In the Norfolk rotation, you can also discern the ingredients of the northern latitude diet: a tankard of beer, bread, bangers and mash.

In the 20th century, ensilage made from maize displaced the use of roots as winter forage. Easier to harvest, investments in mechanization favored maize over the root crops. Ensilage, a lacto-fermented food for livestock, was developed in the late 19th century. Like packing a crock, filling the silo was an agrarian art. Today, it is a highly processed food with added sugar in the form of molasses to make it more palatable, urea to increase the nitrogen, gypsum and/or a slew of preservatives lest it go foul. It is the convenience food for dairies. As the cost of feed and fertilizers spiral upward, we expect the forage roots will see a resurgence.

We had a conversation with our neighbor about crops for their farm, and we mentioned forage roots as a possible crop. Cato would have appreciated Nellie McAdams. Nellie noted that her grandfather intercropped their young hazelnut orchards with turnips. Another member of the family raised cattle and dairy cows nearby, and that may have been the destination for the turnips. Feed is a huge obstacle to success for small organic livestock producers. Forage roots are a way for them to shake off dependence on corn and soybean-based feeds.

Fortunately, good advice lies in older references, such as "Our Farm Crops" by John Wilson, published in 1859, also celebrating its sesquicentennial. Written by a farmer and over 900 pages in length, it is a good map to Michael Pollan's call for re-solarizing the farm. Long live the earthy roots, and the sun.

Exeunt Turnips.

Read the other posts in the Turnip Diaries series: Part I: The Wapato Valley, Part II: Chestnuts, Persimmons and Turnips, Part III: Misery Loves Company, Part IV: We're In This Pickle Together, Part V: The Spicy Turnip and Part VI: The Turnip Also Rises

Blog for Food: The Final Push

Not to get too graphic, but for all of you who've been through (or been around) childbirth, the critical moment is when that baby's head is crowning and the final push needs to happen. For those of you who find that too squirm-inducing, think of football when it's fourth down and goal to go, or baseball when the batter's got two outs with the bases loaded. Or...well, you get the picture.

It's been three weeks of amazing developments in the Blog for Food campaign, and there's one week left to go. We've had Oregon bloggers signing up in droves, with 48 currently participating. One post from Food Dude at Portland Food & Drink recalls his own experience of need earlier in his life.

In addition, several bloggers have volunteered their businesses for food drop-offs:
  • Saraveza, 1004 N Killingsworth
  • Vino, 1226 SE Lexington in Sellwood
  • Gilt Club, 306 NW Broadway downtown
The amount isn't important - almost anyone can afford to donate $5 or a can of something - but it is important to help your neighbors who can't afford food for their families. Click here to donate and, when you make your donation, please remember to enter "blog for food" in the tribute section on the donation page so that it counts towards our campaign. Thanks in advance for doing your part!

We have a total! As of last Friday (2/21), $1210 has been donated to the OFB directly as a result of our efforts. Every $12 is enough for the OFB to collect and distribute an Emergency Food Box, which feeds a family of four for 3-5 days. $1210 represents over 100 food boxes. Thank you everyone!

Farm Bulletin: Last Chance to See

After this Sunday, Anthony and Carol Boutard are taking a well-deserved break from their station at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market, but will return on July 5 for their eighth season at the market. In his final bulletin of this season, Anthony ruminates on organic farming, Damson plums and the penurious pleasure to be derived from dried (vs. canned) beans.

We submitted our 2009 Oregon Tilth Certified Organic reapplication last week. Certification demands careful attention to record keeping, including the sources of seeds. We grow 206 different varieties of annual plants, and about 50 varieties of woody crops. Of the 2006 annual plants, 66 are generated on the farm by seed, bulb or tuber saving. The next biggest source is the 39 varieties from Frank and Karen Morton of Wild Garden Seeds down in Philomath. High Mowing Seeds, Seeds of Change and Seeds of Italy are in a tight cluster in the third position. Among the new experiments will be bitter melons, edamame upon Chef Naoko's insistence, and a more determined effort to grow okra successfully. We have located seven varieties of cane sorghum for trial; the plunge into syrup begins. We will also try some Honeycutt Pioneer Cutshort and Blue Greasy Grit beans from Sand Hill Preservation Center. The quest for an ever more tender and flavorful bean never ends.


A native Virginian told us that her mother always had a jar of Damson plum preserves on hand as a cure for hiccups. According to Sha, published accounts of this remedy go back to the early 18th century. The Roanoke (VA) Times gave a good account of support for this remedy in a recent article.

If, between now and July, you are afflicted with hiccups and find yourself short of Damson preserves, or family members are simply testy at the thought of no loganberry preserves for breakfast, immediate relief is available at following locations:
  • Steve's Cheese, 2321 NW Thurman
  • City Market, 735 NW 21st
  • Pastaworks, 3735 SE Hawthorne
  • Foster and Dobbs, 2518 NE 15th at Brazee
  • R. Stuart & Co., 845 NE Fith Street in McMinnville
Dry Beans

In a post at, Jim Dixon [a regular contributor to GSNW and proprietor of RealGoodFood. - KAB] noted that high quality beans are good value when compared with everyday canned beans. We decided to quantify his observation. We soaked and cooked a half pound of Ayers Creek red beans. The drained Ayers Creek red beans weighed 1.22 LB, costing $2.46 per pound. We purchased a 15-oz can of Brand X red kidney beans, conventionally grown, at $1.49. The drained beans weighed 0.44 pounds. The cost of the Brand X canned beans, when drained, comes out to $3.38 per pound. Under this comparison, the Ayers Creek Farm beans are roughly 90¢ a pound (27%) cheaper. Even the more expensive pole varieties, such as the Tarbais, which come in at $3.28 per pound, are still slightly cheaper than the conventional canned beans.

Top photo: Palla Rosso chicory by Karen Morton of Wild Garden Seeds.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Local Treasures: My Friend Steve

The caption of one of his latest photographs from my fave Portland photog, Steve Bloch.

"Before the internet, ready knowledge was stored in the minds of elite men and women at universities. The brightest students and faculty would reside in the bushes taking shifts answering questions. They were called 'Bobs.'"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Budget Cuts: My Porky Valentine

Have you noticed how all the food sections in the newspapers and magazines, not to mention the big food websites, have jumped on the recession bandwagon? Like the American auto industry, which, until just a few months ago, was still producing behemoth monstrosities that guzzled gas like it was Kool-aid but now is begging for money, the food media has switched from chateaubriand to casseroles.

The roast, unrolled and waiting to be stuffed.

Not to say that we're all not feeling pinched and more than a little nervous about our own personal fiscal security these days. But since no one's offering to bail us out, we're cutting back where we can while still keeping the quality-of-life quotient high.

So when Dave said he was thinking about grilling some meat for dinner on Valentine's Day, my first thoughts ran to lovely New York steaks searing over the fire. But when we cruised down the meat counter at the store and saw the price tag for one of those marbled beauties, we kept rolling, hoping for a better, yet still luscious, deal.

The stuffing, sautéed and chillin'.

Front and center just a little further down were some pink rolls of pork loin for just under $7 a pound, a much more manageable price, especially considering the leftovers would roll over into another dinner or so. We were about to ask for one when, leaning down, I noticed that the boneless pork leg roast just behind it was priced at $3.49 per pound, less than half as much.

Rolled and ready for the grill.

Having made a stuffed leg roast recently, I knew it would give us the tenderness and flavor of a much more expensive cut and make a wonderful centerpiece for dinner without busting our bank account.

Coming home and rummaging through the vegetable drawer for stuffing ingredients (how romantic is that?), I came up with a bunch of lacinato kale. Adding an onion, garlic, some pine nuts and a last-minute dose of a couple of Aci Sivri peppers, mildly spicy dried Turkish peppers from Ayers Creek, the stuffing came together.

With Dave's ministrations over the grill (and the requisite pint o' beer), some polenta and a butter lettuce salad, plus a sprinkling of candlelight and a bottle of an '06 Paul Autard Cotes du Rhone, our evening of romance on a budget was a success. And we didn't even miss the chateaubriand.

Stuffed Pork Leg Roast with Kale and Pine Nuts

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 med. onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 dried Aci Sivri peppers (or other mild red pepper), chopped
2 c. firmly packed kale, chopped fine
1/2 c. pine nuts, chopped
1 3-lb. boneless pork leg roast

Heat oil in skillet. Sauté onion and garlic till transparent. Add peppers and cook till they soften slightly. Add kale and sauté till wilted. Add pine nuts and stir till they warm. Remove pan from heat.

While vegetable stuffing cools, clip strings tying pork roast and unroll. If it's not an even thickness, use a sharp knife to make shallow cuts so it unrolls completely and becomes one even slab (see photo above). Reserving 1/4 c. of vegetable stuffing, spread remainder over surface of meat. Reroll and tie tightly with butcher's twine. Rub remaining filling on outside.

Grill over indirect heat until internal temperature reaches 125-130° (approx. 1 hour), then remove to cutting board, tent with aluminum foil and let it rest for 20 minutes. (Other recipes call for an internal temperature of 155°, but we find that the meat tends to be overcooked and dry at that temperature.) You can also roast this in the oven at 350° for 1 1/2 hrs. or so until it reaches the same internal temperature.

Look for other recipes in the Budget Cuts series: Chile-Marinated Pork Shoulder; Grilled London Broil; Pork Tagine with Pistachios, Almonds, Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins and Pork Leg Roast with Lemon and Prosciutto Stuffing and Roasted Vegetables.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Livin' in the Blurbs: Cheese, Beer and a Very Pink Sesquicentennial

Our pal Tami at Pacific NW Cheese says that it's Seattle Cheese Festival time. "If you go, you are guaranteed a complete cheese experience...there will be seminars about cheese. There will be cheese tasting booths as far as the eye can see, featuring local cheeses as well as cheeses from around the world. For the more cooking inclined, there will be chef demos. Want to try your own hand with cheese? The grilled cheese contest deadline is May 1st, and the winner will demo their own recipe at the festival. For the home cheese experimenters, there will be mozzarella making demos by the staff at DeLaurenti Speciality Food and Wine. You can also expect kids' events, wine tastings and more." 'Nuff said!

Details: Seattle Cheese Festival. May 16-17. Pike Place Market, Seattle. For more in-depth info about the festival including an event schedule and to register for seminars, see the SCF website.

* * *

If you, like my husband, think that beer is the perfect food, then this is the festival for you because not only is it all beer it's all organic, which makes it practically good for you, too! The North American Organic Brewers Festival, which last year gathered more than 75 beers under its tent flaps, benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Oregon Food Bank and Oregon Tilth.

Details: North American Organic Brewers Festival. June 26-28; Noon-9 pm Fri.-Sat., noon-5 pm Sun.; free with $6 for tasting glass, $1 per taste. Overlook Park, 1301 N Fremont St. 503-730-5597.

Photo by Umaya Urzaa.

* * *

Last Saturday morning, as usual, we were reading the paper and listening to NPR's Scott Simon when who should we hear but Thomas Lauderdale of our own Pink Martini. He was talking about some wacky radio show that comedian Stan Freberg wrote for Oregon's centennial celebration in 1959. Titled "Oregon! Oregon! A Centennial Fable in Three Acts," it was pressed into vinyl and promptly forgotten. Recently retrieved, revived and rewritten by Freberg and Pink Martini, it will tour the state as part of the Oregon's Sesquicentennial celebration and have four performances around the state in August and September 2009. No dates have yet been set, but you can listen to the original 21-minute performance and start memorizing the words. And stay tuned for details.

A Fritter Affliction

Contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood has been plagued, as happens often with those of the foodie persuasion, with a passion for fried hunks of dough. We sympathize and send our condolences, wishing him a recovery in due time.

My fritter affliction continues. They’re fairly easy, cook quickly and are perfect to eat in the kitchen while the rest of dinner is cooking. Lately I’ve been making the little fried things with squash and cornmeal (actually the finely ground corn from Ayers Creek Farm, available periodically at the Hillsdale Sunday Farmers Market). Here’s what I do:

Squash Fritters

Peel, seed and cube a butternut squash. Put the cubes in a glass bowl with about a quarter cup of water, cover and microwave for 4-5 minutes or until easily mashed (if you’re microwave-averse, steam them). Combine about a cup and half of the mashed squash with an equal amount (more or less) of ricotta, about a half cup each of cornmeal and bread crumbs, a couple of eggs, a handful of grated Parmigiano, a finely chopped shallot, and salt. The mixture should hold together but not be too dry.

Use two soup spoons or your hands to form patties about the size of an egg or walnut, slide them into a skillet slicked with a generous amount of good olive oil, flatten gently with a fork, and cook until nicely browned on both sides. Sprinkle with flor de sal and eat immediately.

Photo from The Leftover Queen.

A Tipple, Then Tapas

February, for most people, is something to survive, not enjoy. It's dark, the weather is usually at its worst and it seems like spring will never come. If it wasn't for Valentine's Day smack in the middle of the month, the prevailing sentiment would be to drop the whole thing and go straight into March.

But for me, February is the bright spot of the winter months and one of my favorite times of the year. Why, you might ask? Well, because it's my birthday, an oppportunity (some might say it borders on a gun-at-their-head threat) for everyone to express their love and devotion. At least that's how I like to think of it.

After an attack of indecision that went on for several days, we decided, on the excellent suggestion of my brother's lovely bride, to go to Toro Bravo with a pre-dinner stop at The Secret Society, the jewel-box of a bar on the second floor of the same building.

With a cocktail list straight out of the 1920s, its dark corners beg for illicit assignations and the quiet efficiency of the staff carries a "say no more" assurance. Since our visit they've also added more substantial offerings to their menu of bar snacks, so I'll be reporting back soon.

Then all we had to do was wander downstairs and take our seats when our shared table at Toro Bravo opened up. We immediately ordered a bottle of a slightly sparkling white called Txakoli and a plate of salty, perfectly fried whole anchovies with fried fennel and lemons. This is one of the best apps on the planet, and it vies with their salt cod fritters and aioli for my "best of the menu" rating.

But just because they're fabulous didn't stop us from ordering tons more, including manchego and paprika fritters, lamb rilletes, sauteed brussels sprouts with bacon and cream (almost too much goodness in a bite), squid ink pasta (another highlight), calamari a la plancha, oxtail croquettes, seared scallops with romesco and jamon-wrapped chicken with manchego. And somewhere in there we switched to red wine, a terrific bottle of '05 Finca Sandoval my brother had pulled out of his stacks that had an earthy gravitas befitting some of the heartier plates.

And since we're a family that just can't say "Enough, already!" (and, after all, it was a birthday celebration), we also went for desserts, starting with the churros, a fried wand of dough that you dip in the pot of dark chocolate alongside. Crisp and crunchy outside with a sweet, soft center, these are some of the best I've had anywhere. The olive oil cake was heavenly as well, light yet substantial enough to support the apple-pear caramel sauce and whipped cream that came with it. The best part of the panna cotta with caramel sauce was the sauce, the custard being too thick and slightly grainy, alas.

And I have to mention that, walking in, I almost didn't recognize chef and owner John Gorham standing at the grill in the back, since he's merely a whisper of his (formerly quite substantial) self. Apparently a bout of surgery caused the initial drop, then a combination of working out and training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society marathon has him in the "tall, svelte guy" club. But those tats still look hot, man, I gotta say!

Details: Secret Society Lounge, 116 NE Russell St. Phone 503-493-3600. Toro Bravo, 120 NE Russell St. Phone 503-281-4464.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Quick Take: Por Que No on Hawthorne

At first it seems silly, like putting a sweater on a Husky or taking wine to a dinner at my brother's. After all, our neighborhood is teeming with taquerias, bursting with burrito carts and swimming in salsa rojo. And there's even the original ¿Por Que No? right down the street on Mississippi.

But trying to get a seat at that tiny closet of a restaurant on a cold winter night is like the people I know who were thinking about going to the inauguration at the last minute. In other words, fuhgeddaboudit. Always hopping, even on early-in-the-week nights, we just can't seem to get there early or late enough when things (might) slow down.

Shrine to curandera Maria Sabina, practitioner of the velada, or healing ceremony.

So the new place, bigger by two or three times and with a large patio out back, makes more sense even though it's several times farther away. And not to mislead you, because it's busy, too, but the tables turn over quickly and we haven't had trouble getting a spot, even with a party of four at peak dinner hour. Plus, if you decide you have room for another taco or one more margarita, they have a second register for reorders so you don't have to stand in line. Brilliant!

I've raved the food before, so won't bother repeating that their carnitas are mind-boggling and the chicken asada is stunning (oops, did it again), so I'll just say that Bryan Steelman and his chef, Josh Kimball, work hard to take advantage of local, organic products whenever they can. And the renovation of this former upholstery shop has been a model of sustainable development, using recycled materials and the latest energy-saving technologies.

The next time you want some great chow and, at the same time, want to support a place that's at the forefront of Portland's enthusiasm for DIY green development, you can't miss by going here.

Details: Por Que No on Hawthorne, 4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd. 503-954-3138.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

In the News: Just How Many Maggots Are In that Tomato Juice, Anyway?

In a fascinating (if occasionally repellant) article titled "The Maggots in Your Mushrooms," E.J. Levy enumerates the "defects" that are allowed in our food by the FDA.

Like tomato juice, which "may average '10 or more fly eggs per 100 grams [the equivalent of a small juice glass] or five or more fly eggs and one or more maggots.' Tomato paste and other pizza sauces are allowed a denser infestation — 30 or more fly eggs per 100 grams or 15 or more fly eggs and one or more maggots per 100 grams."

Levy sums it up by saying, "In case you’re curious: you’re probably ingesting one to two pounds of flies, maggots and mites each year without knowing it, a quantity of insects that clearly does not cut the mustard, even as insects may well be in the mustard."

Thanks for sharing. I think.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Turnip Diaries, Part VI: The Turnip Also Rises

Contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm takes a literary turn in his next-to-last (or so he says) installment of the turnip chronicles.

The turnip was once the middleweight culinary champion of the kitchen. Do not think that most were very much impressed by that title, but it meant a lot to turnip growers. They cared not for cooking, in fact they disliked it, but they learned painfully and thoroughly to counteract the feeling of inferiority and shyness they had felt as those who toil in the fields and orchards. There was a certain inner comfort in knowing they could knock down as good a dish as anyone, although, being very shy and thoroughly nice farmers, their talents stayed in the fields. Their star dish was the soufflé. They were taught by their elders to treat the neep as a featherweight, whether the root weighed an ounce or a pound.

Papa's Turnip Soufflé
From Fannie Farmer, 11th Edition

3 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. onion or shallot, chopped
3 Tbsp. flour
1 c. milk or cream
1 c. turnip or rutabaga, mashed or riced
3 egg yolks, well beaten
3 egg whites

Melt butter in a saucepan. Add onion and cook slowly until the onion is yellow. Add flour and blend well, stirring until it loses its raw flavor. Add milk, stirring until sauce thickens. Stir in turnip mash and eggs. Cook over low heat for 1 minute. Season to taste, adding more onion if needed. Cool at least 10 minutes.

In non-reactive bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold gently into the vegetable mixture. Spoon carefully into a baking dish. Do not butter the dish unless the soufflé is to be turned out onto a serving dish. Bake at 350 degrees until firm, about 30 minutes.

Note: This simple recipe can be used for any vegetable, but it is particularly delicious with turnips and rutabagas. Excellent as a side dish to tongue.

Read the other posts in the Turnip Diaries series: Part I: The Wapato Valley, Part II: Chestnuts, Persimmons and Turnips, Part III: Misery Loves Company, Part IV: We're In This Pickle Together, Part V: The Spicy Turnip, Part VII: WWPD (What Would Pliny Do).

Friday, February 13, 2009

New Seasons Recalls Bulk Peanut Butter

Normally I don't post press releases on GSNW, but this one seemed particularly important.

New Seasons Market Recalls Bulk Peanut Butter Because of Possible Health Risk

New Seasons Market of Portland, Oregon, is recalling self-serve Bulk Peanut Butter sold prior to February 3, 2009, because the bulk peanuts used in our self-serve grinders have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. The peanuts used in the peanut butter grinders may have been produced by Peanut Corporation of America, who has recalled their peanut products because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The peanuts used to make Bulk Peanut Butter were distributed throughout the Portland Metro Area in all nine New Seasons Market locations. The recall applies specifically to the peanuts received from GloryBee Foods, Inc., then used in the peanut butter grinders sold before February 3, 2009. There are no specific codes or labels associated.

No known illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this product. The recall was initiated after it was determined that the peanut product received was manufactured by Peanut Corporation of America. New Seasons Market has informed the FDA of its actions and is fully cooperating with the Agency.

Customers who had purchased bulk peanut butter from the New Seasons Market peanut butter grinders before February 3rd, 2009, are urged to return the product to any New Seasons Market for a full refund. Customers with questions may contact New Seasons Market at 503-292-1987.

Breaking Pavement for a People's Garden

On the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, new Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack "broke pavement" today for a People's Garden in a ceremony at the US Dept. of Agriculture in Washington, DC.

Vilsack breaking pavement for the garden. Watch the video.

The garden, part of 1,250 square feet of unnecessary paved surface, will add 612 square feet of garden space adjacent to the site of the USDA Farmer's Market. According to a USDA press release, it "will showcase conservation practices that all Americans can implement in their own backyards and green spaces. As a component of the garden, pollinator-friendly plantings will not only provide important habitat for bees and butterflies, but can serve as an educational opportunity to help people understand the vital role pollinators play in our food, forage and all agriculture."

He also announced "the goal of creating a community garden at each USDA facility worldwide. The USDA community garden project will include a wide variety of garden activities including Embassy window boxes, tree planting, and field office plots. The gardens will be designed to promote 'going green' concepts, including landscaping and building design to retain water and reduce runoff; roof gardens for energy efficiency; utilizing native plantings and using sound conservation practices."

Now if we can just get that organic vegetable garden planted on the White House lawn...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Basics: Caesar Salad

Salads rock. From a classic potato salad that is almost a meal in itself, to a fruit salad like a Waldorf, to the signature radicchio salad served at Nostrana, I love them all. And don't get me started on salads made with beans, pasta or grains or we'll be here all night. Crisp, fresh and crunchy, they can cleanse your palate or fill your stomach.

My all-time favorite, though, has to be the Caesar, with its creamy, deep flavor from the emulsification of oil, egg, lemon, garlic and anchovy. For me, the definitive version was the one served at Zefiro in Northwest Portland in the 90s. The spears of romaine were left whole and diners were encouraged to pick up the leaves with their fingers, always a plus in my book.

I've had awful versions, too, both in restaurants and in the bottled dressings, some of which bear no resemblance to the classic recipe. My friend Kim makes a fabulously lemony Caesar, crushing the garlic cloves and mixing the other ingredients by hand in a salad bowl before tossing it with the lettuce and parmesan.

But my day-to-day recipe comes from the old Silver Palate Cookbook and is made in about five minutes in a food processor. Plus it easily makes enough for a week's worth of salads and can double as a dip for crudités if friends drop over for a glass of wine.

Garlic-Anchovy Dressing
Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julie Rosso and Sheila Lukins

3-4 anchovy fillets
1-2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
1/4 c. red wine vinegar or lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 c. olive oil

Put all ingredients except salt, pepper and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Then process, adding olive oil in a thin stream until the dressing becomes creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Read more recipes in The Basics series: 20 Minute Tomato Sauce, House Vinaigrette, Chile Sauce and Strata.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Farm Bulletin: Do Me a Fava

Until spring arrives (soon, so soon!) there are still the delights of the braising pot to explore. Contributor Anthony Boutard shares two recipes for a soup and a stew made from dried fava beans.

Here are a couple of good recipes for dry favas in the winter.

Adapted from Astray Recipes.

This traditional southern Italian dish is most often accompanied by wild chicory, but any fresh winter green will be delicious. We also substituted celeriac for the more traditional celery because it makes a creamier soup. Yield: 4 servings.

8 oz. dried fava beans, soaked for 12 hours
1 med. celeriac, peeled and chopped
1 med. onion, chopped
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. fruity olive oil, or more
12 oz winter greens, cleaned and chopped
1/3 c. water
1 Tbsp. salt
3 Tbsp. fruity olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced

Drain the beans and slip them out of their skins. If the skins cling too tightly, boil them for 5 to 10 minutes and then skin. Put peeled beans in a pot with celeriac and onion. Add just enough water to cover and bring to a simmer. Add the 2 teaspoons salt, cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the beans are very soft, adding more water if necessary. Drain and mash by hand, or in a processor, with the 2 Tablespoons olive oil.

Bring the water to a boil, add the greens and 1 Tablespoon of salt, cover & cook until the greens are soft but not mushy, 5 minutes. Drain. Warm the 3 Tablespoons olive oil in a skillet and slowly sauté the garlic just until it is golden and soft. Do not let it brown. Add the greens and swirl them around in the oil. Serve on a platter, spooning the garlic-infused greens over the favas.

Macco di Fave

The following is an adaption of a recipe for this dish on the website Cibo Che Passione. This dish makes a very thick, creamy soup and will feed 4.

1 med.-lg. onion, finely diced
1 c. dried fava beans
1/2 c. tomato purée or one ripe summer tomato, diced
1/4 cup olive oil, or to taste
Fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. dried egg noodles, or more
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp. sugar, optional

Soak the beans in plenty of water for 12 to 24 hours. Remove the skins, rinse the beans and put them into a heavy pot with the onion, tomato and salt. Add enough water to generously cover. If the puree is not sweet, you can add the sugar.

Bring to a simmer, lower the heat to low and cover. Cook until the beans are totally soft and disintegrating. Stir to break up the beans and mix the ingredients.

In a separate pot, cook the noodles in plenty of salted, boiling water till they are al dente. Drain them and stir in the oil. Add to the bean pot and cook gently until the noodles have finished cooking. Serve dressed with the pepper and grated cheese.

How To Make Dirt

It was one of those invitations you just don't get very often. Like meeting the queen of England (or, more to my liking, her Corgis).

So when David Kobos (left), whom I was interviewing about the history of coffee roasting in Portland for an upcoming MIX magazine article on local micro-roasters, mentioned that he has an annual gathering to make dirt and would I be interested, I jumped at the chance. I mean, how often do you get to find out that kind of thing? Plus the invitation included not only a tour of his organic farm but a big breakfast and some ass-kicking coffee to wash it all down with.

Last Sunday found me tooling out to the wilds of Clackamas County in, appropriately enough, Dave's old Toyota truck. I pulled up to the Kobos homestead, a gorgeous 1915 farmhouse that he and his wife, Susan, have spent the last few decades restoring. Out beyond it were his geese, a sheep and about 80 chickens, plus a huge organic garden with the most beautiful soil I've seen in a long time.

After a couple of mugs of strong coffee (a Kenyan estate roast, Kobos pointed out) to fortify us for the dirt-making, Kobos, his son, Adam, and I headed out to the little barn, which was the original home on the property. David had set out all the supplies, so we spent the next hour or so filling buckets, sieving the peat moss and compost to remove debris (top photo) and mixing it in his ancient wheelbarrow (right). By the end we had eight or so 50-lb. bags of gorgeous seed-starting mix, which Kobos said was also good for potting plants.

And that breakfast? I barely stopped eating long enough to notice what I was putting in my mouth, but I remember a lovely egg strata, light, sweet scones made by his daughter-in-law, Betty, and some authentic (and unbelievably delicious) Polish kielbasa that her parents had brought in their luggage from Queens. And of course, more of that wonderful coffee.

If you'd like to make your own dirt, Mr. Kobos has supplied the recipe. And check the "Note" below it for a hot tip on a great source for organic supplies (I'll be doing a separate post on it soon!).

Seed Starting Mix
From David Kobos of Kobos Coffee Company (and so much more)

Use a 2-gallon bucket for measuring:
3 buckets peat moss
3 buckets steer manure (best is Dairy Manure Compost from Boardman)
1/2 c. dolomite lime
1 bucket perlite
1 bucket vermiculite
2 c. organic fertilizer (see below)

If not using sifted peat moss and steer manure, dump buckets onto 1/2" framed screen (photo, top) and sift by hand to remove debris. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly using a shovel or garden hoe. Using bucket, dump into 50 lb. seed bags. Makes 2 1/2 cubic feet.

Note (from David Kobos): Perlite can usually be found at Home Depot. Vermiculite is harder to find but Concentrates, Inc. [a local source for organic agricultural supplies since 1938 - KAB] has it along with all the components of the organic fertilizer mixes. Dairy manure compost is available at Mt. Scott Fuel, Clackamas Landscape Supply and numerous other places. They will usually allow you to buy it by the 5-gallon bucket if you don't have a pickup truck. Most will deliver by the unit or half unit (a unit is 7.25 yards—who came up with that one?).

Perlite and Vermiculite prices have risen sharply because of high energy prices to process and then transport them. If you can't find Vermiculite, use double Perlite.

The recipe above makes a 2 1/2 cubic feet and costs little more than $4 per batch. Compare this with Whitney Farms seed starting mix. Most commercial potting soils are primarily bark dust—there's no comparison.

Organic Fertilizer Mixes
From David Kobos

I buy these fertilizer components at Concentrates, Inc., in 50-lb. bags. These mixes are by volume, not weight. I did the math a few years ago and the cost per pound of these mixes was less than 30 cents. The catalogs will charge you $6 to $7 for a 5-lb. bag.

Mix #1:
4 parts seed meal (cottonseed, soybean, linseed, etc.)
1 part dolomite lime
1 part ground phosphate rock (or 1/2 part bone meal)
1 part kelp meal

Mix #2:
1 part ground phosphate rock
1 part blood meal
1 part greensand

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Fine in Moderation?

The corn refiners are at it again. In an article titled "Are the Corn Refiners Hiding Behind Moderation?" filmmaker Curt Ellis, part of the team behind the documentary King Corn, informs readers that "a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health found detectable levels of mercury, a known neurotoxin, in nine of 20 samples of HFCS [high fructose corn syrup]. A second study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found that mercury appeared as a secret ingredient in nearly a third of 55 brand-name foods, most commonly in products that also contained HFCS."

Calling the study "outdated" (it was published Jan. '09), the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has pumped additional money into their "Sweet Surprise" campaign that touts high fructose corn syrup as "safe in moderation."

As Ellis says in the article, the fact that "America’s food and beverage manufacturers keep caustic soda, acids, and genetically modified enzymes in their cupboards" left him "with the sad realization that so much of what we eat in the industrialized food economy was designed and produced in something much more like a laboratory than a kitchen. There’s something distinctly unappetizing about food ingredients whose labels advise you to wear goggles and gloves when you handle them."

Oh, and he and the team made another amusing spoof of the CRA commercial:

Full text of the Environmental Health article here. Full text of the IATP report here.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Farm Bulletin: To Soak or Not to Soak

When not wrestling with the great issues of our day (or digging turnips), you can find contributor Anthony Boutard and his lovely wife Carol at the Ayers Creek Farm stand at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. Indeed, they will be there this Sunday, Feb. 8, from 10 am till 1 pm. You can see and hear the two of them in action in a new video from Cooking Up a Story.

In the eight years we have been growing beans commercially, the most frequent and persistent question is whether they should be soaked before cooking. What follows is our answer given from a botanical perspective, a different way to look at the question.

The dry bean, when you first address it, is a living plant in deep dormancy. When you soak the bean, and most other vegetable seeds for that matter, the water breaks the dormancy and starts the physiological process of germination. Enzymes are activated and meristems are awakened. The enzymes start to break down the complex storage carbohydrates into simpler sugars that can be transported to the growth points, the meristem tissues in the root and shoot. Meristem tissues are the botanical equivalent of stem cells; they can be transformed into any type of plant tissue given the correct guiding stimulus.

If fresh, the bean is springing to life within hours. About four months after maturation, the bean begins a slow aging process, and the spring in its step gradually dwindles. In the storage section of the bean, you have a mix of proteins and carbohydrates. These are long, complex molecules, and after a while they begin to cross link and polymerize. As they become entangled, it hard for the enzymes to do their work. The bean won't germinate as quickly or grow as vigorously because some of the food supply is too tangled to use. The bean starts to turn grainy.

The human gut encounters the same problem as the bean's own enzymes; the indigestible stuff creates a touch of flatus in us. Old beans are dead, the germination process will never start, and they will never cook. In our experience, the third spring after harvest, the beans are pretty much worthless as seed.

During the soaking, seed will release various compounds that serve to attract beneficial fungi and bacteria, and ward off attacks by seed predators and pathogens. Most notably, black turtle beans will turn the soaking water inky black. In some beans, these compounds released from the skin are bitter, and detract from the flavor. Others are pleasantly flavorful. For example, we always retain the soaking water from black turtle beans, and pour off the water from pintos. Every variety of bean is different. That said, for most varieties we toss the soaking water.

It is worth noting that the raw garden bean is toxic. A raw bean is unlikely to kill you, but eat enough raw beans and you will suffer. They contain a class of proteins called lectins that cause severe cramping and diarrhea. Blood in the stools, real "House M.D." stuff. Lectins are unaffected by soaking; it takes about ten minutes of boiling to denature those proteins. That is why recipes call for ten minutes of cooking at high flame before turning down the heat and simmering.

Some nutritionists claim that soaking diminishes the beans' nutritional quality, the minerals in particular. Seeds are carefully constructed to assure their survival; leaking precious minerals into the surrounding environment defies logic. The minerals are part of the structure of the bean, and are needed for the growing embryo. The seed coat is not a leaky sieve; it is a very complex living membrane that has evolved to protect the nutritionally rich contents. When seeds exude compounds, as noted above, they have a specific purpose, and the process is active and controlled. It is unclear how soaking would wash out minerals, or deplete the bean in any significant way. We suspect, there is confusion between the soaking water and the cooking water. The heated bean is no longer living, and the cooking breaks down the tissues. The cooking water is a tasty and rich broth of nutrients, in some varieties distinctly sweet, and we always use it.

With this perspective, we generally soak our beans, especially after the New Year. We feel the beans are a bit sweeter and the soaking also improves the texture. The difference is subtle. With soaked beans, it is also easier to judge how much water they need for cooking. This is important because cooking dry beans in too little water leads a bitter flavor.

25 Random Food Things

My friend, neighbor and cookbook author Ivy Manning just posted "25 Random Things About Food and Me" on her blog at

Number 13? "I don’t see why everyone makes such a big deal of beef tenderloin. Braise me a knuckle, tail or neck bone and I’m all yours." At number 20 she wrote, intriguingly, "I have shaken hands with Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, Charlie Trotter, Ming Tsai and Alton Brown. Only one really impressed me." But the one that made me laugh out loud was number 24: "My favorite quote is by Dolly Parton. When asked if she had a sweet tooth, she replied, 'Oh honey, I’d much rather have one little potato than a whole pie!'"

She asked others to post their lists, so here's mine:
  1. When I was around 10, I ate only Velveeta cheese for two weeks. I haven't touched it since.
  2. My downfall is eating when I'm not hungry. That said, I'm lucky I don't weigh 300 lbs.
  3. I'd be a vegetarian, but I can never turn down a nice steak.
  4. On that same note, I believe that the best people like their egg yolks runny and their steaks medium rare.
  5. I will pick up a piece of food that's fallen on the floor, blow on it and eat it.
  6. My favorite cocktail is the one I have in my hand. Given a choice, though, I'll take Dave's Negroni over any other.
  7. I still crave the Big Ol' Chocolate Cake from my brother's Shakers Cafe, but the Devil's Food Chocolate Cake at 50 Plates comes close.
  8. I got through my pregnancy in large part because of the (pre-Starbucks) decaf cafe au laits at the old Victoria's Nephew downtown.
  9. Red wine goes with everything.
  10. As a toddler, my son would name his broccoli after us ("This one's Mommy!") and then gleefully chomp the head off.
  11. I liked the food (and the people) better in Korea than Japan.
  12. I want to write about food and travel for the New York Times.
  13. My mom's tuna casserole (made with, yes, Campbell's cream of mushroom soup) is still my idea of the ultimate comfort food.
  14. I curse the day that Kettle Chips came out with their "Krinkle-Cut" salt and pepper chips.
  15. I would rather have a fruit pie or crisp than anything made with chocolate. (Not that I'd turn it down, mind you!)
  16. The perfect man? He grills me steaks and makes me cocktails. And he's my husband.
  17. The best time to try out a new recipe is when you have guests.
  18. People who are picky about their food (or, really, about anything) are exceedingly tiresome.
  19. Well-behaved pets should be allowed in restaurants and pubs.
  20. My brother is one of my favorite cooks. I'd reschedule almost any event if he invited me over.
  21. The best food is the simplest. That's why, currently, the best restaurant in Portland is Evoe on Hawthorne.
  22. I was devastated recently when I broke my great-grandmother's potato masher.
  23. Speaking of cookware, the good stuff (like Le Creuset) is worth the price. But it's even better if you get it on sale.
  24. I like my pot roast better than anyone else's, including those I've had in restaurants. Ditto for my paella (photo, top).
  25. Best quote: "Life itself is the proper binge." By Julia Child, the woman I want to be when I grow up.
Now it's your turn! What are your 25 random food things?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Biting the Chicken That Feeds You

There's nothing like spending a weekend with friends who are really great cooks, and it sounds like contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food is just the kind of guy you'd want as part of your weekend posse.

I spent Superbowl weekend skiing with some old friends in Bend. Bachelor was almost empty on Sunday, and the sun was shining. I cooked a big batch of red beans and rice one night, and chicken with vinegar another.

Chicken with Vinegar

Dredge a half dozen bone-in chicken thighs in flour (mix about a cup of flour with salt and pepper in a bag, add thighs, coat with flour, and shake off excess as you take out of bag). Add the thighs, skin side down, to a skillet of hot olive oil (enough to cover the bottom completely). Let them cook for five minutes or so without disturbing to brown the skins. When the thighs release from the pan easily, flip them over and cook for a few more minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the thighs and set aside.

Turn down the heat and add 4 to 5 chopped garlic cloves and 4 to 5 finely chopped anchovies to the same skillet. I use salt packed anchovies, which require both an investment and a little extra work. They come in large cans that cost about $20 at Pastaworks, and you must rinse and fillet each one, but that only takes a few seconds after you’ve done a couple; the anchovies will keep pretty much forever repacked into a glass bowl and kept covered with salt in the refirgerator. Salt packed taste better, but olive oil packed anchovies will work, too.

Cook the garlic and anchovies for a few minutes, but don’t let the garlic brown. Add a cup of good vinegar, preferably Katz Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, and stir to mix. Add the thighs, turning to coat with the vinegar but finally resting skin side up. Cover and cook until the thighs are cooked through, about 20 more minutes. Serve with something that can soak up some of the sauce.

Note: Jim informs us that, though it isn't listed on his website, he usually has the Katz vinegar in stock. E-mail him if you want some.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

On Top of Spaghetti

On top of spaghetti
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed.

It had been eons since I'd made meatballs, but reading yet another rave about Sellwood food cart Garden State's meatball sandwiches had me craving some of those orbs of meaty perfection smothered in marinara and served with spaghetti. And since my meat-loving brother and his bride were coming for dinner, it made a perfect excuse to whip up a batch.

I'd seen a recipe for meatballs from winemaker Athena Pappas of Boedecker Cellars in a recent issue of MIX magazine, so I pulled it out. Hers used cooked potato as the binder rather than bread crumbs and were all beef, whereas I tend to like a half meat-half sausage mix for the extra moisture and flavor the pork fat delivers.

So with that in mind, I made a batch of my Basic Marinara Sauce, plopped in the browned (but not cooked through) meatballs and simmered them for a half hour or so in the sauce, then served them over spaghetti. The meat juices added that just-right touch of meatiness to the sauce, pulling the whole dish together.

It's definitely not going to be another eon before I make these again, and the recipe could easily be tweaked with different ground meats, or tilted to other cuisines (like Indian, Mexican or Moroccan) by adjusting the spicing. Delicious!

Mama's Meatballs
From Friday Night Dinner Party, by Athena Pappas, MIX magazine, Oct.-Nov. '08

Makes about 42 1" meatballs

1 medium russet potato, peeled and quartered
2 tsp. olive oil
1 large onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 lbs. lean ground beef [I used a pound each of Italian pork sausage and beef - KAB]
1 egg, beaten
¼ c. grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
¼ c. roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying

In a small saucepan, boil the potato in generously salted water until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain, mash and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.

In a large bowl, add the mashed potato, the onion-garlic mixture, ground beef, egg, parmesan cheese, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix together thoroughly with your hands. Moisten your hands lightly with water and form rounded tablespoons of the meat mixture into small ovals.

Heat a thin layer of oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Fry the meatballs until cooked all the way through, turning to brown them evenly, a total of about 6 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Fifi Thomas Psihogios, in “Flavor It Greek!” by Philoptochos Society of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.

Seven Hundred???

Holy cats! Great Caesar's ghost! And, yes, even holy crap!

This is post number seven-oh-oh on GoodStuffNW. Thanks to all of you for providing a reason to keep at it and, if you can, take a moment to let me know what you'd like to see in the next hundred posts!

Woo hoo!

Turnip Diaries, Part V: The Spicy Turnip

Anthony Boutard, author of GSNW's Farm Bulletins, has developed a great friendship with Rahul Vora, a customer who has supplied him with recipes using fenugreek and for the traditional Indian dish known as Saag. Rahul just returned from an extended visit to India, and shares his recipes for his mother's turnip pickles.

Pickles, along with relishes and chutneys, are an important part of Indian cuisine. According to Rahul, every house has its own set of favorite pickles. There are regional variations, and virtually every fruit and vegetable is pickled. Pickling is an ancient art in India, and perhaps originated there. The great Russian botanist, Nicolai Valvilov, theorized that the place where a crop is most diverse is its center of origin. Under that principle, northern India is certainly the center of origin for pickles. The pickles range from very simple, quickly prepared recipes, to complex and densely spicy creations handed down through the generations. Even the noble turnip finds itself in a spicy pickle. Here are two variants.

The first is from Rahul's mother and uses lime juice. We made it using three aci sivri peppers for every half pound of turnips. The combination of lime juice and the ground peppers yields a mouthwatering fragrance, and the turnip offers a pleasant crunch.

Gujarati-Style "Fresh" Turnip Pickle

Cut turnips in half-inch dice. Mix with a little red chili powder (cayenne, paprika, or any other type) and salt (preferrably sea or kosher salt). Add lime juice and mix. Let it sit for one hour, mixing occasionally. It is ready to eat. This is good with dal and rice. Refrigerate. This pickle should be eaten within a week or so.

Murabba-Style Pickle

This style of pickle is typically, sweet, and dense with spices and pungent mustard oil. This style of pickle is also found in the Republic of Georgia. The mostardas of northern Italy also combine fruit and mustard oil, using grape must as the sweetening. Perhaps it is an Indian inflection picked up from trade with the east. The FDA has some reservations regarding mustard oil, so it is sold in Indian groceries and labeled "for external use only." We prepared the following turnip pickle this week, with the mustard oil carefully applied to exterior of the turnip per the label.

1 lb. turnips, peeled and cut in 1/4" thick chunks
1/3 c. salt
1 c. mustard oil
15 cloves garlic
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. onion seeds (nigella)
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. red pepper powder
3/4 c. sugar
15 dates, chopped
1/4 c. raisins
1 c. rice wine vinegar

Place chunked turnips in large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt and leave overnight. The next day, drain. Heat the mustard oil in a large frying pan and lightly brown the garlic, then add the turnip and cook for a short time to dry the chunks. Grind cumin seeds, onion seeds and black pepper, then put in smaller mixing bowl and combine with red pepper powder and sugar. In another bowl, combine dates and raisins and mix with rice wine vinegar. Then combine the turnips, spice mix and fruit, put in a jar and let it rest for a week.

Read the other posts in the Turnip Diaries series: Part I: The Wapato Valley, Part II: Chestnuts, Persimmons and Turnips, Part III: Misery Loves Company, Part IV: We're In This Pickle Together, Part V: The Spicy Turnip, Part VI: The Turnip Also Rises, Part VII: WWPD (What Would Pliny Do).  
Photo by Anthony Boutard.