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spring pasta with salmon and peas

There are a few fresh ingredients I’m finding addictive this spring. Last year this time, I was living in French Guiana, an overseas department of France north of Brazil. The markets were great ––fresh-squeezed passion fruit juice, pastured chicken, purple dragon fruit–– but I missed peas, strawberry, and rhubarb. Now that I’m back and it’s springtime again, I’m devouring the things I missed. But now, of course, I miss passion fruit.

This pasta makes great use of any kinds of fresh peas you have around. English peas, snap peas, pea shoots; they all stand out with the lemon and smoked salmon flavors. Frozen would taste okay too, but this pasta is really an excuse to eat fresh spring peas. As if you needed an excuse.

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Spring Creamy Lemon Pasta with Smoked Salmon, Pea Shoots, and Peas

Serves 2

  • 1/2 pound or more of peas: chopped snap peas, shelled English peas, or a combination
  • 1/3 bunch of tender pea shoots, finely chopped
  • 2 small sweet spring onions, chopped small
  • 1/2 small head young garlic or 3 cloves regular garlic, chopped small
  • 8 mushrooms, sliced (wild mushrooms, especially morels, would be great. I used regular button mushrooms.)
  • Juice of 1–2 lemons (regular or Meyer)
  • A few ounces of smoked salmon (you can also use leftover pieces of cooked salmon)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk or cream
  • 6–8 oz of pasta (I used gluten-free fusilli)
  • Butter and olive oil
  • Salt
  • Optional: fresh spring herbs such as chervil or basil

1. Set pasta water to boil. Prepare pasta as you usually would. When it is cooked, drizzle with olive oil and set aside.

2. While pasta is boiling, chop all your vegetables as described above. Get the bowl you’ll use to serve the pasta ready.

3. In a sturdy pan with plenty of surface area, heat a bit of butter and olive oil. When it’s hot, cook the white parts of your onions and garlic on medium-high, saving the green onion shoots if you have them until the onions have turned clear and are starting to brown. Then, stir in any green parts. You can add some salt as the onions are cooking.

4. Add more butter and stir in sliced mushrooms. Cook on medium-high stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have released their juices and the edges are starting to brown.

5. Scrape out the contents of the pan into the bowl waiting to serve the pasta. (If the pasta is done and already in the bowl, that’s fine; you can add the mushrooms to the pasta.)

6. Put the pan back on the hot burner and add the peas, a little olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Stir a few seconds.

7. Add the pea shoots to the peas and stir until they are just barely cooked.

8. Scrape the peas and pea shoots into the pasta bowl (or, again, onto the pasta if the pasta is done).

9. If the pasta isn’t already done, wait for it to finish. Pour it into the pasta bowl and toss it with some olive oil and the awaiting mushrooms, onions, peas, and pea shoots.

10. Put your sauté pan back on the burner, but turn the burner off and just use the residual heat for this step. Add the coconut milk or cream to the pan and stir to pick up any remaining flavors or bits of sautéed vegetables. If you are using any fresh herbs, you can add them now too. Scrape this mixture onto the pasta and mix it in.

11. Add the lemon juice to the pasta. Crumble the smoked salmon over the pasta. Stir and serve immediately.

 

alaskan way garden
Updated: As I’m fairly sure all of you guessed, this was an April Fools’ Day post. I’m afraid ViaDuctTape® won’t be hitting the shelves anytime soon, and you’re probably not going to harvest zucchini on the viaduct. 
BREAKING NEWS
SEATTLE  April 1st, 2014
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With Bertha the tunneling machine stuck ––leaving plans for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement stalled–– Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced today a new plan for the aging highway: Turn it into a giant raised-bed vegetable garden.
Mayor Murray, Governor Jay Inslee, and leaders from Public Health – Seattle & King County will work closely with the P-Patch program and WSU Extension to cover the top level of the structure in dirt and compost, then fill it with charming rows of tomatoes, rutabagas, cabbages, and other healthy foods. City residents may apply for garden patches of their own, and schools without garden space will be able to apply for plots, but anyone is welcome in the garden. Classes in yoga, pilates, and giant zucchini hoisting will be available to help keep city residents fit.

The lower level of the viaduct, which gets no sunlight, will serve as a waterway for salmon climbing upstream to lay their delicious eggs. This level is funded as a gift by the city of Nantes, Seattle’s sister city in France. In honor, the fish released on this level in April will be called les poissons d’avril. The Seattle Aquarium nearby will host special overnight trips for city residents to snooze aboard a raft on the lower level of the viaduct, as a new adventure-level part of the Aquarium’s Sleep With the Fishes program.

mayor with lettuce

“Seattle is proud to be on the cutting edge of bold sustainable food innovation,” Mayor Murray said, nibbling on some lettuce from one of the beds slated for garden transfer. “We’re building a food forest. We’re changing food deserts. Why not make a food highway?” And speaking of food highways, Mayor Murray added, new farmers markets will be popping up on I-5 in 2015, along the shoulder or on the grassy meridian. Drivers need only screech to a halt and pull over to buy some blueberries.

Alice Waters, founder of Edible Schoolyard and pioneer of the farm-to-school, farm-to-table, and farm-to-carpool-lane movements, hailed the garden conversion. “We know the Edible Schoolyard idea works,” she said. “Why not Edible Freeway?” If ––like the Edible Schoolyard model–– the idea spreads beyond Washington, a new garden network might truly become interstate. Indeed, East Coast and Midwest regions are said to be considering a similar plan, but are questioning whether large-scale garden conversion would take a toll on an already weakened road system.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s planned giant raised bed is raising some concerns even among sustainable food advocates. “Achieving food security is already an enormous challenge,” said a regional farmer, who preferred to remain anonymous. “But doesn’t building a heavy garden that might topple in the next earthquake give a whole different meaning to ‘food instability’?” Local activists responded to the question with three days of consensus-driven meetings fueled by gluten-free pizza and kale chips, the end result of which was an agreement to hold a three-day community forum, also fueled by gluten-free pizza and kale chips.

But Governor Inslee dismissed the concerns. “Local entrepreneurs have already devised a solution,” he said. Indeed, ViaDuctTape® will be hitting area shelves this month.

Stability isn’t the only controversial element to the plan. Members of the Yes on 522 campaign that tried to mandate labeling of GMO foods in Washington have spotted rows of corn growing in the distance in the plan’s artistic rendering. “Is that GMO corn?” a representative demanded. Meanwhile, the state cannabis growers association is considering placing a high-dollar counter offer for the space. Their campaign, called Plant High, is expected to be unveiled later today. And partners from Public Health – Seattle & King County have had to fend off attempts by soda and fast food companies to try to get involved. “It’s been ridiculous,” said a spokesperson. “The Coca-Cola folks were offering to provide millions of gallons of Coke to fill the salmon stream. But young salmon exposed to sugary drinks face a much higher risk of health problems up the stream. The only healthy swimming liquid for salmon is water.”

Meanwhile, if the garden plan goes forward without interruption, Bertha the tunneling machine will serve a new purpose: churning the tons of compost needed to keep the garden going.

For more information on this news story, here is the official announcement.

American Latke

Amid all the things on my mind lately –– the amazing American Public Health Association (APHA) conference I attended in Boston, the jobs I’m applying for, the pears I’m addicted to –– my thoughts keep coming back to one upcoming and highly unique event:

Thanksgivukkah.

For those who have been living under a [Plymouth] Rock [of Ages], this year is the first time Thanksgiving and Hanukkah have overlapped since the 1800s, and the last time they’ll overlap for something like 79,000 years. It’s our only Thanksgivukkah ever, which means it’s also my only chance ever to write earnest pleas about eating local for Thanksgivukkah. Local potato (or sweet potato) latkes with local apple-cranberry sauce! Local brussels sprouts refashioned into a menorah! Local turkey fried in local, uh, oil? But in all seriousness, aside from the improbability of finding local chocolate coins or local pecans for pie, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are two of the easiest holidays to support local farmers and get the tastiest ingredients you need. Local turkeys are hard to find if you don’t plan in advance, but you can always try calling farms listed on Local Harvest as raising turkeys. Keep in mind that farms that raise turkeys one year may not raise them another year.

I wrote this humor piece about Thanksgivukkah for jew-ish.com (although the headline is not mine).

Also, while I never usually sell anything on this site, I am just this once marketing some parody art I made for Thanksgivukkah that’s for sale in the form of greeting cards, shirts, playing cards, wrapping paper, place mats, kitchen towels, mugs, etc on my Zazzle store here. I think you get a discount through Thursday with the coupon code HOLIDAYCOUNT. Some of the designs:

Oily Night

van gogh hanukkah crop

Thanksgivukkah Dinner

Norman-Rockwell Thanksgivukkah

American Latke

plate image

Mazel Tofurkey

(for the vegans and ironic-humored meat eaters)

mazel tofurkey

Hanu(turk)kiah

thanksgivukkah turkey

Dry and Ready 

shirt dreidel

A program called Fresh Bucks that matches up to $10 of purchases for Seattle farmers market-goers who use SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps) has been extended until the end of the year. The Seattle Times reports today that the program, which was supposed to expire this Thursday, will continue through December 31, 2013. The article includes details on negotiations to include the program in the 2014 budget as well. I hope it is both included and expanded.

4

U-District Farmers Market fans’ pet dogs probably always wondered why their owners came home Saturday mornings smelling like kale and sausage and talking about guitar players singing annoying 70s-era songs, and why they –– dogs, not songs, alas–– were always left behind. For the last two Saturdays, and all Saturdays forthcoming, the dogs are finally getting a chance to find out, and their owners are finding a surprise of their own: The market, which for about two decades was in the parking lot at the corner of 50th and University Way NE (the Ave), a space where dogs lucky enough to come close had to wait outside the gates and watch their owners trod around a square of booths within, has now taken over the full street on the Ave between 50th and 52nd. Vendor booths face a single wide aisle for market-goers and, yes, their dogs.

The change comes as the city prepares to develop the former parking lot into a park, and it may be serendipitous. To close a street for an event is to give that event a festive air. I’ve always liked that the Ballard Farmers Market on Sundays takes over a street, although unlike at the new U-District market, the Ballard stands are in the middle of the street and market-goers have to circle around them. I set out to see how vendors and visitors feel about the new U-District layout.

I was not able to get any feedback from dogs, although I couldn’t help thinking about how over at the Ballard market, David and Tim and Gene from Wilson Fish spoil passing dogs (and people) with bits of top-quality smoked salmon, and the U-District dogs aren’t yet quite so lucky. But if the dogs were staying quiet (and well-behaved), most farmers, vendors, and market-goers were forthcoming with opinions.

“Brilliant. We love it. It’s quieter,” said George Page, of Sea Breeze Farm. Becky, a customer at his stand, thought there was a street fair at first, and was happy to realize it was the market, even if she was a bit disoriented. “I’m so used to my pattern,” she admitted. “I realized I didn’t actually know who my egg person was; I just knew her by the spot she was in.” George set to work helping her identify the egg vendor in question.

Stina Booth of Booth Canyon Orchard was also happy with the change. “I think it’s great,” she said. “I feel like I’m seeing a lot of new faces. Logistically [for the vendors], driving in and driving out is much easier than in the parking lot because it’s a one-way traffic flow now.” For the market-goers, she added, “Everyone walks by everyone, so there are no dead-end corners. And there’s no car noise.”

Some of the vendors’ booths are larger or look larger than they used to be. A woman browsing winter squash at the Mair Farm-Taki stand commented to her friend, “This is so much more spacious than their old space.” A few people noted that the new layout offers very few corner stands, since the booths are all in a row with just a few walkways for an entrance to the food truck area and another to the parking lot.

I approached John Huschle of Nature’s Last Stand, who was preparing one of his new handmade pork sausage sandwiches for a customer, and calculating how long the sausage would take to grill. “Have you heard of the slow food movement?” he asked her. “Well, uh, you’re about to find out how slow food can be.” She didn’t seem to mind.

I asked what he thought of the market layout. “If the customers like it, then we like it, and everyone says they like it,” he said, adding, “It’s an important thing when they shut a street down.” He pointed out that we’ll know more in the summer season, when the market is more crowded.

“Although when I look at that parking lot,” he admitted, “I have a sense of nostalgia.” I felt it too. The U-District market was my first farmers market as an adult, where I got to know regional farmers and where I first bought things I’d never cooked, like fennel and fava beans. It’s easy to get sentimental.

Kurt Tonnemaker, of Tonnemaker Farms, was practical. “It’s a lot more visible,” he said, “and people find new vendors because they’re searching for the ones they know. It’s also a little more open in appearance because it’s open ended.”

Security guards standing at either end of the market have a unique view on the interest or confusion of passersby. Brian Delfir, a security officer at the north end of the market said, “People are getting used to it. Some people have asked if this is a permanent thing, and some have suggested that maybe there could be signs about the change in traffic. But overall, it’s been positive.”

Eiko Vojkovich of Skagit River Ranch was satisfied. “I have a lot of customers who love that they can finally bring their dogs here,” she said.

“And,” she added, “I finally get to see their dogs.”

A view from above:

from above

A street view:

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Olsen Farms decorations on display for passersby:

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Mike Verdi of Whistling Train Farm holds up a Halloween decoration and/or dietary recommendation:

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John Huschle displays the new sandwich:

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FoodDay_2013_poster_FIN_OL

Two years ago today, we celebrated the first national Food Day in the U.S. with policy projects, dinners, lectures, films, and events around the country. It’s Food Day again, and there are events going on throughout the area for the next few days.

Check out the 2013 Urban Food Fair this weekend at the Phinney Ridge Community Center. It’s part harvest party, part swap of homemade and homegrown foods, part demonstration. Plus pie and jam contest. (Facebook link.)

Speaking of pie, the Northwest Farm Bill Action Group is having a pie party, also this Sunday. It’s an opportunity to learn about the latest going on with the Farm Bill and other food-related policies.

There are a few more local Food Day events listed on the national website.

Whether or not you’re at a formal Food Day event, this is a very food-centric time of year. We’re still in fall harvest season, and the mild weather means some lingering summer produce alongside autumn foods at the farmers markets.

On a national level, Congress is still in the middle of fighting debating about the Farm Bill, including whether certain funds will expire or be cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). Meanwhile, in Washington State, 6.1 percent of households face hunger, a rate that’s higher than the national average. (Hungry In Washington report, pdf form.)

Also on a state level, we’re debating whether to require labeling of genetically modified food ingredients. My vote: Yes on 522, because it can help give us more information on health associations of eating GMO foods, because many GMO crops are more pesticide-intensive and have environmental consequences, because the anti-522 campaign is largely funded by wealthy corporations that don’t prioritize consumer health –– such as soda companies, and because many farmers of small, sustainable farms in our region support 522. Here is the full initiative text.

Whatever your perspective, there is a lot of work to do at the neighborhood, city, county, region, state, and national levels. This is what makes a movement a movement; it’s never exactly over, so we go on working patiently and strategically, and try to feed each other well as we go along.

On a happy note, I’m grateful to be back in Seattle after a year away in French Guiana and Canada. More on this topic another time, but I feel luckier than ever that Washington State produces so much great food, and so many people who care about preserving and improving our food systems and making sure everyone has access to the kind of healthful, tasty, and plentiful food we all deserve.

raspberries didn't do it

In the past week, you may have seen headlines about a frozen fruit mix that’s been linked to a Hepatitis A outbreak. It’s great that the news has spread so quickly, and by all means, follow the CDC advice if you think you’ve eaten this product.

The headlines keep making me cringe, though, and not because I’ve been whipping up hepatitis smoothies. (I haven’t.) The headlines I’ve seen circulating widely all contain the word “berry” or “berries” and most contain “Oregon” and/or “farm” or “producer.”

Except it seems the illness is not associated with berries, a farm, or food grown in Oregon.

In actuality, the ongoing investigation has found an association between the cases of hepatitis and consumption of a frozen so-called berry mix that contains pomegranate seeds from Turkey and berries from a few other countries. The company that produces this mix is based in Oregon and still operates a farm, but they’ve grown from being what we think of as a farm (plot of land in one region on which people produce food) to a larger company that sells food from their farm and from farms and companies around the world. (From their website, “We’ve expanded from our Columbia Gorge land to encompass like-minded family farms across the U.S. and around the world…”)

They sell other frozen berry products, but only the product containing pomegranate seeds has been associated with the outbreak. Currently it seems the virus is associated with the pomegranate seeds. The strain of hepatitis A associated with this product is found not in Oregon, but in the Middle East and North Africa.

Here are a few sample headlines from the week:

NPR: Keeping Hepatitis A Out Of Frozen Berries Starts At The Farm

Seattle Times: Berries blamed For California man’s Hepatitis A

Oregon Live: Hepatitis A outbreak linked to Oregon berry producer grows

Huffington Post: Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Oregon Berry Farm

If you skim headlines, or if you read the headline before the article, the words stick with you. It’s not particularly helpful to Oregon farmers or Northwest berry producers if the words that stick alongside hepatitis are Oregon, berry, and farm. I envision people going to their farmers markets this summer and asking berry growers whether the berries have hepatitis. I envision all the raspberries and blackberries and marionberries rolling their collective little eyes.

Preliminary results suggest the Oregon berries are innocent.

Hepatitis is one of many illnesses that’s typically spread when someone with the disease touches food without washing their hands first. The more people handle food between the plant and the plate, the higher likelihood of contagion.

That means any handling along the chain –– picking, handling, packing, packaging, cooking, etc –– may increase risk for disease. This means hand washing and food service gloves and vaccination are all pretty good ideas. But it also means that the fewer people handle a food, and the fewer people eat food from any one source, the lower and smaller the public health risk. Another point for food from small farms.

So I’m not concerned with Oregon berries. (Although since I’m in French Guiana right now –– in case you’re wondering why I haven’t posted in ages –– I’m very concerned that I won’t get to eat any berries in the immediate future.) I’m more concerned that our food system operates on the kind of scale where what may have been exposure to one source of disease may have led to at least 61 cases in seven states. And I’m even more concerned that when the problem comes from large scale distribution and very non-local food, we’re still thoughtlessly producing and reading headlines that give the impression a regional farm is to blame.

That’s bad for local food systems, it’s bad for farmers, and it’s bad for a system that makes food recalls and outbreak management so much easier and more affordable for large companies than small producers.

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