Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Prunes or Just Plum Crazy?

Something just snapped in my head, I guess. Maybe it had something to do with that silky blue color that, when smudged, gives way to a midnight blue-black. Or the way they turn a deep ruby when cooked, looking lush and fleshy.

Italian prunes are my latest objet d'affection. And prunes they are, though some wimpy marketing types, because when people hear "prunes" they think "laxatives," are trying to relabel them plums, which they are not, or worse, sugar plums, which is insulting and just plain wrong. It's like what happened with hazelnuts. Which are, as every born and bred Oregonian knows, the humble filbert rebranded to sound more sophisticated. But I digress.

I've made prune tarts. And a crisp. But my favorite so far is a luscious fruit compote that has a light sweetness smoothed over with a layer of brandy, made even more perfect served with a slice of simple-to-make yellow cake alongside. Great for a company-type dessert, even better for breakfast the next morning!

Italian Prune Compote

3 lbs. Italian prunes
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. brandy

Slice prunes in half and remove pits. Place in medium saucepan with sugar and brandy and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer till tender.

Great Yellow Cake
Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 c. vegetable oil
1 c. dry white wine
2 1/2 c. unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

Beat the sugar and eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add oil, wine, flour, salt, baking powder and vanilla. Beat 1 min. Pour batter into prepared pans. Place on middle rack of oven and bake until cake has pulled away from side of pans and knife inserted in center comes out clean, 30 min.

Cool in pans 5 min. Turn onto wire racks and cool completely. Serve as is or top with prune compote. Can also be frosted or stacked and frosted.

Talk About Corn

My friend Rebecca Gerendasy of Cooking Up a Story recently caught GSNW contributor Anthony Boutard waxing poetic about his love of the cob. Remember to watch for an upcoming Farm Bulletin to find out when he'll have his amazing polenta at the Hillsdale market.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fritter Chronicles: Can't Get Enough

What's not to like about corn? It's sweet, it makes a fun sound and it's happy being a main course, side dish or condiment. Now contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food's foments on his fritter fascination with a recipe that includes this versatile vegetable.

I had some leftover corn on the cob, and while I’d planned to do a simple corn and tomato salad, I ended up making corn calas, a rice fritter we’d had when we ate at Cochon in New Orleans. I’ve said before how familiar the simple Cajun food seemed, and the calas sure seemed related to all the other fritters I make.

Calas traditionally were sort of rice beignets, deep fried and served with sugar or cane syrup. These are pan fried, more like corn cakes.

Corn and Rice Calas
Adapted from Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana

Combine the kernels cut from 2-3 ears of cooked corn with half an onion, finely diced, a diced frying pepper (like a Jimmy Nardello, although any sweet or even a hot pepper would work), a couple of eggs, a cup or so of cooked rice, and a few tablespoons each of flour and corn meal. Season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and healthy dash of cayenne.

Heat a heavy skillet and add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Drop spoonfulls of the batter into the skillet and flip when nicely browned. Sprinkle with flor de sal.

Cookbook as Cultural Milestone

I own a fair number of cookbooks. I've always thought of them as helpful tools and some, like the Time-Life "Foods of the World" series that my mother subscribed to when I was a child, even gave me an early glimpse into a foreign culture.

But it's rare that a cookbook by itself would represent a significant milestone in the life of a culture. So when I heard that a friend was working on the first cookbook of Hmong cuisine ever written, I had to know more. You can discover its importance for yourself in my article in today's edition of The Oregonians FoodDay section titled "A Hmong Journey."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Perfect Basmati Rice

There are good things to be said about growing up in a middle-class American family with all the white bread, WASP-y sterotypes that conjures up. Parents who stayed married till death did them part, family camping trips in the station wagon with my brothers fighting in the back seat, tuna casserole on Fridays (though it's my understanding that the Episcopal church left the fish-on-Friday tradition behind when Henry VIII divorced his first wife).

Adding the ground saffron salt to the boiling water.

But it's hard sometimes not to envy people who had a more adventurous path. Like my friend Kathryn, the child of Southern parents and an Army brat who ate her first cornbread and beans in Japan. She eventually married and spent several years in Saudi Arabia where, interestingly enough, she learned to cook Indian food like a native.

The holes, boss, the holes!

I've admired her saffron rice on several occasions with its perfectly cooked individual grains of golden rice. It's the idea match for all kinds of Indian dishes and is an aromatic accompaniment to anything braised. So when she offered to not only share her recipe but also show me how to make it, I was ecstatic.

Kathryn's Perfect Basmati Rice

2 c. basmati rice*
2 3/4 c. water (for cooking)
1 Tbsp. salt
Large pinch saffron (about 1/8 tsp.)**

Rinse the rice in several changes of water until the water is no longer cloudy. In large bowl, cover rice with water and let it soak for one hour. Drain.

While rice soaks, in a small mortar and pestle combine salt and saffron, in Kathryn's words "letting the salt do the work for you" and grind it to a powder.

Bring the water to a boil in a large, flat-bottomed pan. Add the saffron salt and return to a boil. Drain soaked rice and add it to the pan (top photo). When it returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and watch for holes to appear in the rice. When there is no visible water on the surface of the rice, turn down heat to lowest setting and cook for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat, take off the burner and fluff the rice with a chopstick or fork (left). Cover pan with a soft cotton tea towel, place lid of top of towel and allow to rest for 5-15 min. Serve.

* This recipe also works with jasmine rice.

** Great quality saffron is available for a very reasonable price at Rose International Market.

Diddle Diddle Dumpling

Ever since my brother went to Vancouver, B.C., and had dinner at Vij's, he's been on a tear through Indian cuisine, aided and abetted by their cookbook, "Vij's: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine."

Packaged in a (relatively) plain brown wrapper, he's already dog-eared several recipes and is reveling in the richly aromatic and delicious recipes it contains. Since we're equally enamored of the cuisine, we were thrilled when he invited us over recently for dinner. Being the polite person I am, I asked what we could bring with us. That's when he said something about bringing an appetizer to go with the theme of the meal.

Sensing my mind going blank…I'm not really experienced with Indian apps…I headed to the cookbooks to see what I could find that wouldn't require a trip to the store. When I stumbled across a recipe for corn dumplings that called for fresh corn, initially I was excited since I've managed to squirrel away a fair amount of the stuff in the freezer to use this winter. Then I saw that it required deep frying. Damn!

I'm one of those people that shies away from deep frying for several reasons. First off, the mess. Followed by b) the smell, c) the amount of oil it requires and d) what to do with that (now unusable) leftover oil. Oh, and did I mention the mess? And the waste?

But since I had very little time and a quart of canola in the pantry, I jumped in and was quite pleased with the resulting dumplings. Slightly corny, nicely onion-y with a hint of spice, they were quite lovely and had the desired effect on the other guests. That is, causing their eyes to roll back in their heads and moaning to issue forth. Perfect.

Next time I'm going to form them into tiny fritters and fry them in a pan, requiring less oil and less of that mess (but without losing the aforementioned effect). Oh, and I've heard that sticking the oil in the freezer and letting it solidify makes it possible to throw it away and not end up going down the drain and into the river, a much better outcome.

Corn Dumplings (Bhutte Ke Pakore)
Adapted from From Bengal to Punjab: The Cuisines of Indiaby Smita Chandra

1 1/2 c. whole corn kernels (fresh, canned or frozen)
1 c. water
1 med. onion, chopped very fine (the processor works great for this)
1/4" piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. fresh coriander leaves, chopped fine (optional)
2 Tbsp. flour
Salt, to taste
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. garam masala
Vegetable oil to reach 1" depth in saucepan

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook the corn in the water for a couple of minutes over high heat. Drain, let cool slightly and grind finely in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Add onion and ginger to ground corn along with coriander, flour, salt , cumin and garam masala. Mix well.

Warm the oil for deep-frying over medium-high heat to 365°. Lightly wet your hands whenever necessary to shape small balls (I made them approx. 1" in diameter) from the corn mixture. Drop gently into the hot oil, about three at a time, and fry the dumplings until golden brown on all sides. Drain on absorbent paper. Serve hot or room temperature with chutney or other dipping sauce.

Mysterious Kingdom

It was a little startling to see the line of quaintly clad men and women suddenly appear on the lawn of my neighbor Connie's house, almost like they'd been transported there by a time machine.

And, to be frank, it's a group some Portlanders try to ignore in this city that fancies itself as über-hip and cutting edge. It just doesn't fit with the magazine images of heavily tattooed creative classes hanging out at watering holes sipping cocktails and grazing on small plates of organic greens.

And for the most part the Royal Rosarians keep a pretty low profile in town, popping up during the annual Rose Festival celebrations and escorting floats in the parade. But once in awhile they'll appear in their ice cream suits, capes and straw boaters, virtually unchanged from the founding of the club in 1911 (left), to plant ceremonial roses with a special chromed shovel and watering can.

Connie was honored this summer with such a ceremony (right), and baked her renowned raisin cookies to mark the occasion. As one of the invited guests, I was able to cadge the recipe and was granted official permission to share it. But don't be surprised when you pull these babies out of the oven to see a hungry-looking gaggle of white-suited Rosarians waiting on your front lawn for first dibs.

Connie's Jumbo Raisin Cookies
Adapted from the KOIN (TV) Kitchen recipe from Oct. 14, 1969

2 c. raisins
1 1/2 c. water
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. vegetable shortening
2 c. granulated sugar
3 eggs
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Combine raisins and water in saucepan. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Pour off liquid, reserving 1/2 cup; add baking soda to reserved liquid, set aside.

Cream shortening, sugar and eggs with an electric mixer in a large bowl. In separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, along with the reserved raisin liquid. Add raisins. Add nuts, if desired. Mix and chill overnight (optional).

Preheat oven to 350°. Drop dough on cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray [or use non-stick sheet, etc. - KAB] and bake 10-15 minutes. Frost with lemon icing (optional).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Farm Bulletin: By the Light of the Silvery Moon

As the brilliant greens, reds and yellows of summer slowly fade into the muted palette of autumn, contributor Anthony Boutard waits for the moon to whisper in his ear that the time is right to plant his fall crops. You can find him at the Hillsdale Farmer's Market every Sunday from 10 am till 2 pm through November 22. The market switches to its twice-a-month winter schedule from December through April.

Like Norma Desmond, our summer crops are showing the ravages of time. The berries, once sweet and succulent are now bitter and seedy, molding even before they are ripe. Culled tomatoes are scattered along the rows like misapplied lipstick. August's verdant bean tresses are yellowing, the leaves dropping to expose drying fruits. The seasonal turbulence is palpable, as summer crops go to seed, autumn fruits ripen and winter greens emerge from the background.

October is a busy time for us. We have started harvesting and curing the winter squash. Ears of flint corn are on racks for the month-long drying. The sweet potatoes will come in next week, and will be put in a very hot, 90 degree room to start curing. It takes about ten days for them to develop the tough skin needed for successful dormancy, and another eight weeks to develop their full sweetness and flavor. The storage grapes need to be harvested and tied up in a warm room.

October is also a important planting month. Barley, wheat, favas and garlic must all go in the ground over the next few weeks. Garlic is planted upon the waning moon, late next week. We will wait to plant the grains as close to the waxing moon as possible, with an eye to the weather. The ground is ready and we have allowed the winter annual weeds to sprout. When ready, we will spread the grains and cover them with a disk harrow, killing off the emerging weeds. Done right, works like a charm, but if we jump the gun, unnerved by the forecast, we will have a weedy mess.

We are really looking forward to this winter's markets. Somehow or another, the plantings all fell into place and the growth of the winter greens and roots has been strong. We will have greater diversity and depth of crops than ever before. It will be great fun.

Anthony includes a note about plums:

Pozegaca is an eastern European prune used to make Slivovitz, the Slavic eau de vie of plum, and Slatko, a plum paste. The plum's flavor is strong and distinctive, and it probably has a fair dose of damson in its heritage, but the shape is pure prune. We have only three trees, so there won't be too many.

We will also have some Coe's Golden Drop (right), a fine dessert plum. It is a hybrid between a greengage and plum called Magnum Bonum. It was introduced to the trade by the famous nurseryman from Bury St. Edmonds, Gervais Coe, in the early 19th century. It is a difficult plum to grow, and we are lucky to have a few this year. Described by Edward Bunyard in The Anatomy of Dessert: "At its best it is a dull yellow green with frecklings of crimson, and at its ripest it is drunk rather than eaten; the skin is rather tough but between this and the stone float an ineffable nectar."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beat It!

It just goes to show you that the big guys are sometimes the last ones to catch on. I was skimming today's New York Times Dining section and saw a familiar-looking plant, one that was being trumpeted as the latest "exotic favorite of (New York) chefs."

Kevin Gibson's glacier lettuce with peaches and prosciutto.

Huh? Was that glacier lettuce they were getting all gotta-have-it about? I wrote a post about the succulent they're calling ficoïde glaciale, oh, let's see, a year ago when Kevin Gibson of Evoe served it as a salad with peaches and prosciutto. Grown by of-the-moment Viridian Farms right here in Oregon, who also grow the positively addictive pimientos de padron, it's apparently finally made the 3,000-mile trek across the country to the lofty tables of the Big Apple.

By the way, they recommend discarding the heaviest stems and tossing it with sweet grape tomatoes, halved, and shrimp or scallops in a light vinaigrette, or adding it to a seafood salad. Whatever. Just as long as they know we had it here first.

Top photo by G. Paul Burnett for The New York Times.

In Season NW: New Market, New Schedule & Farmer John

It was embarrassing. Here I'm supposed to be all up on farmers' markets around town, and I drive by a sign on NE Broadway announcing that the Irvington Farmers' Market happens there on Sundays. What??? The last I'd heard it had been canceled for the season! So Sunday found me walking the block-long aisle of this well-stocked little market, drooling over the humongous burritos at Canby Asparagus while Dave chatted with Morgan Brownlow of Tails & Trotters. Needless to say, we'll be going back!

Details: Irvington Farmers' Market. Sundays, 11 am-3 pm. NE 16th between Broadway and Weidler.

* * *

If you're at the Portland Farmers' Market on Oct. 3 and it looks a little, well, "different" (not that there's anything wrong with that), especially as you get closer to Norma Craven and Roger Konka's Springwater Farm booth, it's because Farmer John Peterson, star of "The Real Dirt on Farmer John,"will be there selling and signing copies of "Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables."Chef Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans will be there as well, cooking and handing out samples from his recipes. Rumor has it that there may be some flaunting of feather boas.

Details: Farmer John Peterson of "The Real Dirt on Farmer John" book sale, signing and recipe sampling. Sat., Oct. 3, 9 am-2 pm. Springwater Farm booth at the Portland Farmers' Market, in the South Park Blocks between SW Harrison & Montgomery.

* * *

A year-round farmers' market may seem like a contradiction in terms, conjuring visions of piles of muddy rutabagas and parsnips. But here in Oregon farmers are growing greens outdoors year-round and harvesting gorgeous bok choy, mushrooms, wildflower honey, garlic, squash, kiwis and shallots. Plus there are all the breads, jams, beans, meats and cheeses that you've come to love in warmer seasons. Now comes news that, in addition to the two year-round markets in Hillsdale and at People's Co-op, the Lloyd Farmers' Market will be starting a winter schedule on Tuesdays from 10 am till 2 pm, Jan. 5 through Mar. 16. Yay!

Details: Lloyd Farmers' Market. Tuesdays, 10 am-2 pm through Dec. 5, then Jan. 5-Mar. 16. Located in Oregon Square on NE Holladay St. between 7th & 9th Aves.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Beet Beat: The Wheels of Justice

Once in awhile the good guys win, and yesterday justice gave a big ol' smack upside the head to genetically modified seed developers and the people who regulate them. In the process it may help save organic seed growers in Oregon as well as consumers who don't want to eat genetically modified produce.

Harvesting organic seeds at Gathering Together Farm in Philomath.

A little over a year ago I wrote a post about a lawsuit filed by a consortium of organic-seed growers, organic farmers, and environmental and consumer groups against the US Dept. of Agriculture for deregulating the herbicide-tolerant "Roundup Ready" sugar beet seeds developed by Monsanto (read a summary I wrote at The lawsuit charged that the U.S. Department of Agriculture violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement before deregulating RoundUp Ready sugarbeets.

The reason this is important to organic seed growers and consumers of organic produce in Oregon? Because nearly all of the seeds for sugar beets in the United States are grown in the Willamette Valley. Nearly all of those plants and the seeds they produce are genetically engineered. Their pollen can travel on the wind as far as five miles from its source (read a 2001 EU study here), cross-pollinating with fields of organic beets and chard and contaminating the entire crop. And since Oregon only requires a 3-mile "isolation zone" between fields, the problem becomes evident.

Or as Federal District Court Judge White said in his ruling, "In light of the large distances pollen can travel by wind and the context that seed for sugar beets, Swiss chard and table beets are primarily grown in one valley in Oregon, Plaintiffs have demonstrated that deregulation may significantly effect the environment."

The decision was announced today on the Organic Seed Alliance blog, and you can now download a pdf of the full text of the decision. The remedy phase of the case will occur on October 30. I'll keep you posted!

UPDATE (9/24/09): Read the sugar beet industry's response to the ruling here.

Read the other posts in the series: The Beet Beat, In The Wind, The Fight Begins in Earnest, The Wheels of Justice, Part 2.

Photo of seed harvest by

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Farm Bulletin: Of Hornets and Men

Contributor Anthony Boutard has written eloquently about the wildlife, both vertebrate and invertebrate, that inhabit the fertile fields of his farm in the Wapato Valley and the graceful dance (a waltz? a tango? a tarantella?) that is required between a farmer and the native species that inhabit the land.

The showers Wednesday afforded an opportunity to mow the chestnut and walnut plat in dust-free comfort. We need to have low vegetation so we can find the nuts. At this time of the year, we run the tractor with the roll bar up, even though the operator gets a shower passing under low limbs, and a spiny chestnut burr or two in the lap.

This is yellow jacket and bald face hornet (above) season, and the plat always has a couple of yellow jacket nests in the ground, and an occasional a bald face hornet nest (left) on a low hanging limb. When disturbed, the wasps attack the highest point on the tractor; by instinct, they go for the head. The mower passed over two yellow jacket nests, the roll bar warded off the stings, and the locations were noted. It's now two days later and they are still on the alert. The bald face hornet nest is in the poplars adjacent to the plat, and is huge compared to other years.

These wasps are generally unpleasant to encounter, but they are also a valuable component of the farm's ecosystem, so we avoid killing them unless it is absolutely necessary. They kill a lot of harmful insect larvae. Social insects in the order Hymenoptera, which also includes bees and ants, but not termites, are described by the entomologists E.O. Wilson and Bert Hölldobler, as "super organisms." The wasp nest develops from a single queen who has survived over the winter. The nest's purpose is to generate as many queens as possible to over-winter and start nests the following spring. You will find the overwintering queens, large and mild mannered, in leaf litter, wood piles and any sheltered nook.

At this time of the year, the activity in the nest is feverish. Wasps are arriving and departing in a constant stream. They are bringing in fragments of fruit, aphids, caterpillars and carrion. They will even attack weak bee hives and have a yen for all manner fruit, especially grapes. For us they are a very minor irritation. The bald face hornets have more powerful mandibles, and seem to do more damage. Unless you stumble on the nest, the wasps are too busy with food collection to pay attention to nonfood matters. We are stung more frequently by honey bees. That said, a misstep can result in a dozen or more very painful stings. So we constantly scan for evidence of nests.

The yellow jacket meets it match in the skunk (right). Like the yellow jacket, the skunk is generalist. It belongs to the family Mustelidae, which also includes weasels, mink and badgers. Skunks are nocturnal and hide in burrows or under building during the day. From time to time, skunks will take up residence under the trailer that serves as our office. The skunk is a powerful digger, and will root yellow jacket nests. The animal is unbothered by the stings. They are pretty genial animals and give plenty of warning by stamping their feet before spraying. Unfortunately, some dogs never learn the cues. Although they will raid poorly constructed chicken coops, like the yellow jacket, skunks are a valuable part of any farm. Skunks mostly eat small rodents, grubs and adult insects.

And a final note (be sure to watch to the very end of the trailer):

On the 25th, 26th and 27th of September, the documentary "Ingredients" will be shown at the Bagdad Theater. Each night, the ticket sales will benefit a different local organization. These are: Multnomah County Food Initiative, Loaves and Fishes, and Ecotrust's Farm to School Program. We encourage you to see this documentary, as it has a lot of local Portland influence.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Xnipec! (Gesundheit!)

As Portland's farmers' market scene matures, the infrastructure that supports it does, too. One, the Montavilla Farmers' Market, has added the position of Resident Chef to its roster. The person who fills that position is contributor Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans, who recently wrote a post on making fig jam for GSNW.

The wind and rain welcomed me to the market on my first day as Resident Chef. Thankfully, so did all of the wonderful, brave vendors, holding tight to tents and umbrellas as they protected their bundles of homegrown sunshine from the gusts and gales.

After tooling about the market and visiting with the producers of some of the most spectacular produce, meats and fish that the city has to offer, my thoughts turned to dinner. After all, the Resident Chef has to eat. "And eat well," I thought to myself as I perused the catch of the day at the Wild Oregon booth. Chinook and silver salmon gleamed deep orange from within tidy sealed packages.

The market works in mysterious ways at times—or maybe it's obvious ways. I was thinking of my salmon dinner, and what to pair with this protein, when I glanced up and saw the most beautifully round, pinkish-red radishes nestled together in a bed of vibrant radish greens. Xnipec!

In the Yucatan there is a salsa made with radishes, cilantro, chiles, tomato and bitter orange juice. The Mayan word is xnipec (pronounced shin-ih-pek), which means "hotter than a dog's nose," and describes a salsa that is so picante that it is likely to make a dog's wet nose hot. It pairs beautifully with rich seafood; salmon, scallops and the like.

Perfect for a "Hey, it's still summer, what's the deal with all this weather?" kind of day, its bright, crisp, fresh flavor would be ideal over warm seared salmon. I was sold. I practically skipped away with my Wild Oregon salmon and Simplicity Gardens radishes (Vyasa and Gopal grow spectacular produce that they line up like glistening jewels at their booth) as I ventured off in search of more salsa ingredients. Recalling Derek's salsa demo earlier in the day, I headed for Hassing Farms to seek out some hot chiles. They have a wide variety from sweet roasting peppers to blow-your-brains-out spicy chiles.

I snatched a few serranos; spicy, grassy, skinny little pointed peppers. Directly across the row I gathered fresh, fragrant cilantro and sleek scallions (green onions) from Maryhill Orchards. 19th Street Farms had nice ripe tomatoes, rounding out my shopping list. Mid-afternoon, the sun peeked out, welcomed by shoppers who streamed into the marketplace.

At home, I assembled the salsa, substituting the bitter orange juice (from Seville oranges, available in the winter, but difficult if not impossible to find this time of year) with fresh squeezed orange juice and a little lime zest and juice. I sautéed the salmon, crisping the skin and searing the flesh golden brown. At the last minute, the salsa was added to the pan, sizzling and bubbling bright and vibrant. I paired the Salmon in Salsa Xnipec with the deep green radish tops that I sautéed separately with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Deeply satisfying, I felt summer linger longer that evening, sun-filled goodness flourishing on my plate.

Salmon in Salsa Xnipec

Serves 2

2 portions of salmon (about 6 ounces each)
Juice of 3 oranges
Zest of 1 lime, plus 2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 serrano chiles, chopped (less if desired)
5 radishes, trimmed and sliced into thin matchsticks, greens reserved
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 bunch cilantro, rough chopped
1 medium heirloom tomato, diced, or 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil plus more for sautéing the fish
Sea salt to taste

Combine the citrus juice and zest, serranos, radishes, green onion, cilantro and tomato. Stir in 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Season with salt and set aside to allow flavors to meld, about a half an hour, and up to 3 hours.

Season the salmon on both sides with salt. Over a medium flame, heat the skillet with enough oil to form a generous film on the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is hot enough to sizzle when the fish is added (the oil should be shimmering but not smoking), slip the filets into the pan and sear on each side, cooking to desired doneness.

When the fish are sautéed to your liking, drain off any excess oil that remains in the pan and all at once, add the salsa to the pan. It should immediately bubble up and boil. Turn the pan off and remove the fish to a serving dish, pouring the salsa over the top. Eat at once, served with sautéed radish greens.

Sautéed Radish Greens

Serves 2

Greens from 1 bunch of radishes, washed and drained
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a skillet. When the oil is hot, shimmering but not smoking, add the radish greens, tossing and cooking for a minute at most, until they wilt and are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Camp Stories: Shadow Bay at Waldo Lake

I dream of finding that perfect campsite, private and quiet, with a view of a pristine lake that seems to belong to me alone. Even better, and harder to find, would be a lake warm enough to swim in, not only washing off the dust but cleansing the soul.

My brother not only found such a place, but shared the information, and I'm passing it along for you to keep in your "gotta go there" file. Here's his rave:

"(It was) far enough away from the neighbors so you hardly knew they were there. A 100' walk to lake's edge, where two little islands sat just offshore, serenely and scenically awaiting our exploration. The weather was fabulous, the water warm enough to swim in and crystal clear. Waldo Lake, along with Crater Lake and some lake in Siberia, is one of the three purest lakes in the world. I almost felt guilty tainting it with my body. But I did and it felt goooood! Amazing!"

The details? Go to Shadow Bay Campground at Waldo Lake and hope against hope that site F-80 is available (or make a reservation). Grab it. Make a drink. Go for a swim. And relax.

Read other reviews in the series: Trout Creek Campground, Paradise Creek Campground.

Photo courtesy BB at WineGuyWorld.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Biketobeerfest Is Here!

It's one of those only-in-Portland but soon-to-be-all-over-the-country phenomenons. Bike enthusiast and Hopworks owner/brewer Christian Ettinger (above, piloting the monster) worked with Metrofiets of Portland and Steinbart draft technician Mike Moscarelli to build the first-ever Hopworks BarBike.

It's going to make its debut at this Saturday's all-bike, no-cars event at Hopworks Biketobeerfest at the brewery, featuring two new organic fresh hop beers as well as the regular Hopworks lineup, plus bands playing all day and lots of activities for kids and parents. Haul out the Schwinn and bike on down!

Details: Hopworks Biketobeerfest.
Sat., Sept 19, noon-10 pm; free admission (bikes only, no cars allowed). Hopworks Urban Brewery, 2944 SE Powell Blvd.

Thanks to John Foyston of The Beer Here for the photo!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Righteous Action

"While selling tacos might not seem an obvious choice for someone who wanted to change people's lives, he realized that providing jobs and health care for his employees, as well as giving back to his community, would make a difference on a local level."

I wrote an article about Bryan Steelman last February after he'd opened his second Por Que No restaurant on SE Hawthorne. Because he bought the building, he was able to redevelop it as a sustainable "green" project, building tables from salvaged wood, reusing rebar for bar stools and putting in energy-efficient equipment and solar hot water heaters.

Now comes word that he's unveiling his latest addition to the site, a mural on the side of the building (above) painted by a group of young people under the mentorship of artist Rodolfo Serna, who was recently awarded the Skidmore Prize for his work with young people. Sponsored by the Regional Arts and Culture Council and p:ear, Serna and this team of homeless and parent-less kids are painting murals all over the city.

Of Serna himself, Steelman writes, "Rodolfo is the type of person that you hear about on one of those NPR stories while you're driving to some mundane place and next thing you know you're welled up with tears and feeling that intense ache of being inspired to be a better person. He is living a life that impacts youth and adults alike on a daily basis. He is an artist. He is a mentor. He has a spirit that is calming. He speaks softly, but with incredible strength. He is single-handedly making our city a better place."

You can attend the unveiling of the mural on Friday, Sept. 18, from 6 to 7 pm, and meet Serna and some of the young people who made it happen. The party will also feature Aztec dances by Mexica Tiahui and the AIM PowWow Singers. Stop by if you can, or just take a look the next time you're in the neighborhood. I guarantee you'll feel better about the city and the people who make it such a great place to live.

The Skidmore Prize is dedicated to recognizing individuals committed to the non-profit sector and who inspire others to get involved. Read Serna's moving essay from his application for the prize here.

Details: P:ear Mural Project Unveiling at Por Que No on Hawthorne. Fri., Sept. 18, 6-7 pm. Por Que No Taqueria, 4635 SE Hawthorne. 503-954-3138.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gettin' All Crabby

My pal (and GSNW contributor) Laurie was regaling us with her latest adventure, a trip to the coast to go crabbing. I asked her if she'd write it up, and she graciously agreed to share once again.

This past summer, I partook in crabbing for the first time, which is more fun than a barrel of, well, crabs. I was a rookie crabber, but I was with a crew of seasoned amateurs who had done it before. We headed to Netarts and hit Big Spruce RV Park and Boat Rental, where you can rent a nifty little aluminum boat and crab cages complete with bait (frozen raw chicken and raw fish). You also get a special crab “ruler” which helps you determine which crabs are large enough to keep.

Crabbing is pleasantly straightforward in a physical sort of way: First, you fasten slimy frozen bait to the bottom of the cages, putt around the bay, hurl the cages overboard at staggered intervals and let them sit for about 20 minutes. Then you pull the cages back in.

And that’s when the real fun begins.

Several squirming, snapping crustaceans had clambered into the netted cages, and much squealing and swearing ensued as we tried to measure the “keepers”—large males—and toss back females and small ones, all the while trying not to getting pinched by agitated crabs hanging onto the cages for dear life. We found ourselves swinging between the thrill of the hunt and feeling bad for the little critters. At one point, I asked a fellow crew member (who happened to be a doctor) if crabs had feelings. She paused, then answered. “Well, I think it’s more like they have sensations." Somehow, this made us all feel a better, as if we weren’t causing them any “real" pain.

After our exhilarating expedition, we headed back to land with our haul, where the friendly and helpful folks at Big Spruce cleaned our crabs, explained the difference between Dungeness and Rock crabs, then sent us happily on our way with our catch.

Curried Corn Crab Cakes
Adapted from Cooking Light

Laurie's friend Peggy, who is "a seriously good cook," according to Laurie, made these crab cakes the next night.

3/4 c. fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
1/4 c. diced red bell pepper
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb. lump crabmeat, shells removed
1/3 c. mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 large egg whites
10 Tbsp. dry breadcrumbs, divided
4 tsp. vegetable oil
Lime wedges

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add first 5 ingredients; saute 4 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Place mixture in a large bowl; cool completely. Stir in crabmeat; set aside.

Combine mayonnaise and the next 5 ingredients (mayonnaise through egg whites) in a small bowl. Gently fold mayonnaise mixture into crab mixture. Stir in 7 tablespoons breadcrumbs. Divide mixture into 8 (3/4-inch-thick) patties. Dredge patties in 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs.
Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Place patties in pan; cook 4 minutes. Turn patties, and cover pan; cook 4 minutes or until done. Serve with lime wedges.

Details: Big Spruce RV Park, 4850 Netarts Hwy. West, Tillamook. Phone 503-842-7443.

The Things I Don't Know

I wish there was someone else to blame, I really do. Three-year-olds get to point their fingers with impunity as do prominent politicians (remember Sen. Larry Craig?) and corporate executives (Enron, Lehman Brothers, etc., etc.).

So I guess I'll just have to plead ignorance, hang my head in embarrassment and shame and admit that all these years I've been tossing out corn cobs after scraping off the golden sweetness of their kernels. Little did I know that you can take those sheared cobs, submerge them in water, simmer for a half hour or so and…voila!…you'll have the most wonderful stock for risottos, soups and sauces.

I can only plead for mercy and promise, cross my heart (and in my best Scarlett accent), never to let another cob go unused again.

Corn Risotto with Bacon and Basil

3 slices thick-cut bacon, sliced in 1/4" strips
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/2 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
2 c. arborio rice
1 c. dry white or rosé wine
2 c. corn kernels
5 c. corn stock
1/3 c. basil, chopped fine
1/2 c. parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
Salt, to taste

In 2 1/2-3 qt. heavy-bottomed sauce pan, cook bacon until its fat is rendered but it is not yet crispy. Add oil and butter and melt. Add onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat till translucent. Add rice and stir for about 30 seconds till grains are hot and coated with oil. Add corn and combine. Add wine and stir till absorbed, adjusting heat so rice doesn't stick. Stirring frequently, add stock one ladle-full at a time, allowing rice to absorb it before adding more. When rice is tender but still slightly al dente, stir in basil and cheese and adjust salt to taste.

Farm Bulletin: For the Love of Beans

One of the reasons I, and so many others, love Anthony and Carol Boutard is that they are passionate people. Committed not only to what they grow but how the crops are grown, they consider the stewardship of their land a sacred trust. And they've got opinions about consuming those crops, as well, as Anthony opines in today's essay.

It is the fashion to eat barely cooked snap beans and rave about their crunchy texture. Unfortunately, that is how you have to treat modern bush beans. There is barely any flavor in them to start, and cooking does not improve the flavor. The bush bean has been bred to be tough so as to survive mechanical harvesting, and then transported in a dump ruck with an eight-foot deep bed. An awful indignity for any fruit. The traditional pole bean was selected to be tender and sweet and survive, at most, a two foot drop into a pail, whining all the way.

We cook the Preacher bean in a pot of boiling water. It is absolutely tender in about five minutes. For freezing, blanch the beans in boiling water for a couple of minutes, scoop the beans out of the water and chill immediately in ice water. Small batches are better. Preacher freezes perfectly, as does Fortex.

"Garden of Eden" (left) is a fleshy Romano-type of bean of Spanish origin. There will be some of the Romanian "Gold of Bacau" in the basket as well. The flat beans are best cooked very slowly in little or no water. Toss the beans in oil and simmer slowly until dead tender, along with peppers if desired. The flavor is amplified as the beans cook. They are best when they are showing a fair amount of seed. Don't worry, they won't be tough. The seeds add sweetness and a depth of flavor to the bean. You can also cook the flat beans in ham, speck, bacon or among sausages. We don't particularly like the texture of frozen flat beans.

We have been trying to find a classic string bean that will mature in the Pacific Northwest. Most of the old classics, such as greasy cutshorts from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, are from the southern states and set their beans way too late, sometimes in the early October. This year we noticed that Sand Hill Preservation Center, where we get our sweet potato varieties, had a couple of shorter season string beans. Apparently if you separate the greasy and cutshort traits, the pods have less to think about and ripen earlier. Anyway, we are happy to offer them to traditionalists who enjoy the contemplative task of stringing beans.

As with the flat pod types, the string bean flavor is coaxed from the pod by long, gentle cooking. Harvested when fulsome with seed, they are tender and you have the added bonus of a shell bean flavor nestled inside. We cook ours until they are beginning to fall apart. We had one person look at us with derision as we suggested how to cook the beans. She shook her head and said that's how her grandmother cooked beans, and that they had all the nutrition cooked out of them. Upon further inquiry, we found out that her grandmother is 98 and still growing beans. No doubt the secret to old age is trying to find all that lost nutrition. The reality is that, although raw vegetables and fruits are an important part of the diet, long and slow braising also makes available certain nutrients that are not accessible in a raw or undercooked vegetable or fruit.

Bill Best, of Berea, Kentucky, is a leading voice for the preservation of traditional southern beans. He has set up the Sustainable Mountain Agricultural Center. You can read more about these beans on their website. He is a fellow evangelist when it comes to lauding the merits of the pole and string beans.

Photo, top, courtesy / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Photo of Garden of Eden beans from Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Livin' in the Blubs: Organic Week, CSAs & Words, Words, Words

Next week, Sept. 14 through 20, is the 21st (who knew?) Organically Grown in Oregon Week that will give all of us a chance to celebrate the folks who grow our food and maybe even learn a thing or two. For a complete list of events, go to the Oregon Organic Coalition, but here are a few to give you the flavah:
  • Fall Soil Building Workshop. Thurs., Sept 17, 6 pm-8 pm; $29, tickets available online. Luscher Farm, 135 Rosemont Rd., West Linn. 503-675-2549.
  • Portland Food Co-Ops Tour of Hood River Farms. Sun., Sept. 20, 9 am-5 pm; $25, lunch included, tickets available at Food Front or People's co-ops. Meet at People's Food Co-op, 3029 SE 21st Ave.
  • Applegate Valley Farm and Vineyard Tour. Sat., Sept. 19, 8:30 am-4:30 pm; $55, tickets available online or at the Ashland Food Co-op, 237 N 1st St., Ashland.
  • Ingredients: Who's Your Farmer? Documentary Film. Wed., Sept. 16, 7 pm, Club NW, 2160 NW Vine St., Grants Pass or Fri., Sept. 18, 7 pm, Medford Library, 205 S Central Ave., Medford.
* * *

If you love farm-fresh produce and don't have room (or time) to grow your own, a CSA subscription is the perfect solution. Two local farms are starting new CSAs, one for this winter and the other meant for a family of four to be able to can, freeze and preserve their share for whole year.
  • 15 Miles Farm and Red Tree Farm Winter CSA. Features a box of fresh seasonal produce, garlic, cheese, goat's milk soap, preserves and berries frozen over from the summer. $440 for eight boxes. Pick-up locations and sign-up on website.
  • Greenville Farm CSA. A year's worth of fresh produce that includes a farm kitchen, plus equipment and instruction, available for canning, preserving and freezing. $500 u-pick, slightly more for non-u-pick. Contact Sid or Louann Bone by e-mail or phone at 503-866-6152.
* * *

Join what I've been assured is a group of esteemed Pacific Northwest authors and chefs for the literary symposium and luncheon, "Eat My Words: Literary Food Writing That’s Good Enough to Eat." Sponsored by the Portland Culinary Alliance, it's a day-long word and food-fest to fill your brain and belly with writers the likes of Molly Wizenberg, Matthew Amster-Burton, Diana Abu-Jaber, Shauna James Ahern, Jennie Shortridge and Erica Bauermeister. The chefs preparing your lunch include local hot properties Benjamin Bettinger, Gregory Denton, Jeremy Frice and Lee Posey. Whew! Talk about full!

Details: Eat My Words: Literary Food Writing That’s Good Enough to Eat. Sat., Oct. 3, 8:30-2 pm; $65, tickets available online. More info available via e-mail.

Home Tour Goes Green

A family with three kids at home downsized from 3,000 square feet to just over one thousand. And it's happening all over the country as people start realizing that the McMansion model isn't sustainable, according to a story in today's New York Times titled "When Home Shrinks."

Here in the Northwest, we're going one better. Instead of a traditional "Street of Dreams" home tour featuring monster homes with bloated price tags and every expensive gewgaw the builders could stuff into them, there's a tour of 18 new and remodeled homes that utilized earth-friendly materials and techniques.

Called the "Build It Green Home Tour and Information Fair," you'll be able to talk with homeowners and contractors at each site who can fill you in on solar panels, rain water harvesting, ecoroofs, affordable housing, natural landscaping, eco-friendly building materials, co-housing, energy efficiency, alternative construction techniques, salvaged materials and healthy indoor air quality.

One of the homes on the tour is a recent green remodel in North Portland (video, top) that features 90% recycled and reclaimed materials. Owners Corey and Deb Omey used wood reclaimed from a bowling alley for countertops and re-used mortgage signs as sheathing, among other innovative ideas incorporated into the home.

A simultaneous information fair will be happening at Ecohaus that will feature green demonstrations, vendors and music. So check it out. It might be interesting to see how your home would look with a touch of green.

Details: Build It Green Home Tour and Information Fair. Sat., Sept. 19. Tour: 11 am-5 pm, $15, tickets available online. Fair: 3 pm-7 pm, free; Ecohaus,
819 SE Taylor. Phone 503-823-4309.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Protecting Your Investment and Eating Well

You may have decided that you want to taste a turkey that's closer to what our ancestors found running around the countryside, and you've ordered a heritage turkey for your table. If you're wondering how to cook this much leaner bird to get the best result from your considerable investment, Kookoolan Farms is offering a series of instructional classes on marinating, brining and using spice rubs to get the most out of your bird.

Each class will feature Chef Gareth Mark of Stumptown Savory who will prepare the turkey and side dishes, provide recipes to students and, best of all, the class will sit down for a full dinner including a wine pairing and dessert. Each three-hour class is $65 with a choice of three regional themes, Southern, Southwest and Northwest, and will take place from 6 to 9 pm at Kookoolan Farms, 15713 Highway 47 in Yamhill, Oregon. Reservations can be made by calling the farm at 503-730-7535.
  • Fri., Oct 23: Southern Holiday Dinner. Buttermilk-marinated Turkey, Turkey Gravy, Cranberry-Orange Relish, Cornbread and Bacon Dressing, Candied Yams, Waldorf Salad, Greens, Pecan Pie.
  • Fri., Oct 30: Southwest Holiday Dinner. Chipotle spice-rub Turkey, Turkey Gravy, Cranberry Salsa, Dressing, Whipped Chipotle Sweet Potatoes, Salad with Agave-Tequila Vinaigrette, Side dish, Dessert
  • Fri., Nov 6: Northwest Holiday Dinner. Apple-Brined Turkey, Turkey Gravy, Cranberry-Apple Chutney, Sausage-Mushroom Dressing with Apple, Sage, Hazelnut, Garlic Smashers, Salad, Roasted Carrots, Butternut Squash Pie
Photo by Mike Walters.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Real Cajun, Real Simple

Travel is not just good for the soul, it's good for the table, as contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food found on a recent trip to New Orleans. You can find Jim on Tuesdays from 4:30 till 6:30 pm at Activspace, 833 SE Main #110-111, on the ground floor in the inner courtyard and at the Portland Farmers' Market on Sat., Aug. 29.

Last week I picked up a copy of Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana by the chef-owner of Cochon in New Orleans (he also owns Herbsaint). We had an amazing meal at Cochon last month, one that featured local ingredients prepared simply. Like the corn calas, pan-fried fritters made with cornmeal, cooked rice, and fresh corn and served with tomatoes tossed in olive oil and vinegar.

I was struck by the similarities with what I like to cook. Many dishes use a base of aromatic vegetables to build flavor, and what they call the trinity in Louisiana—onion, celery, and bell pepper cooked in fat—is basically the sofrito that’s the start of many Italian preparations.

So I was already feeling a little Cajun when I saw the fresh okra at the Groundworks booth last week at the farmers market. I got some, along with some yellow paste tomatoes, and made this:

Tomatoes and Okra
Adapted from Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana

Link’s technique of cooking the okra separately in hot oil keeps it from getting that slimy quality.

Cut a few slices of bacon into small pieces and cook in a little olive oil until browned (you could leave this out and just use olive oil, but it won’t be quite as delicious). Add a chopped onion, a pinch of salt, and, if you like a little heat, all or part of a finely chopped jalapeno or other mildly hot-to-incendiary pepper. Cook for a few minutes, then add 8 to 10 coarsely chopped paste tomatoes (e.g. Romas or similar; you can use slicing tomatoes, but you’ll need to cook them longer to reduce the liquid, or you could use a can of tomatoes). Add a decent splash of Katz Gravenstein Apple Cider Vinegar and cook for 20 minutes or until it thickens a bit. Adjust the salt.

Slice the okra into one inch chunks and cook in fairly hot olive oil until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Add to the tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Photo by Bill Tarpenning, USDA.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


This is how I found them when I pulled up the last of the wonderful purple carrots called Purple Haze in order to plant a winter crop of greens. As a long (looooooooong) married person, and an incurable romantic, I thought it was enchanting. And, if we're lucky, maybe a good omen.

Camp Stories: Paradise Creek Campground

In the second in our series of great campgrounds around the Northwest is a spot just ninety short minutes from Portland in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

My brother swears by this place and is particularly enamored of campsite #29. And since he's as fussy as I am about his campsites, you can take this one to the bank. He guarantees that your tent will be tucked into old growth forest that gives you privacy from other sites, and he says there's terrific river access as well as great hiking on well-marked trails that originate from the campground.

It's 42 sites experience only light use in summer, according to the website, but it's still best to reserve a site online if you know what dates you plan to go.

Read the first review in the series featuring Trout Creek Campground.

Photo of Falls Creek (accessible from the campground) from the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance.